Google+ Badge

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Faith and Mental Illness by Michael Horton

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: This article originally appeared in the [insert current issue date] edition of Modern Reformation and is reprinted with permission. For more information about Modern Reformation, visit www.modernreformation.org or call (800) 890-7556. All rights reserved.

Faith and Mental Illness

Printer Friendly Version Email Link to a Friend
Image for Article
"On one hand, a naturalistic perspective reduces human beings to a mass of physicochemical accidents. On the other hand, a hyper-supernaturalistic reaction is to treat physicochemical problems simply as spiritual maladies. Good theology is not enough, but bad theology kills—literally, physically and spiritually."
According to a 2013 survey by LifeWay Research, one-third of Americans agree that "prayer and Bible study alone can overcome serious mental illness." Nearly half (48 percent) of evangelicals agree. (1)
Why on earth would Modern Reformation imagine that it had something important to say, from a distinctly Reformation perspective, on mental illness? That was a big question we discussed in our editorial meeting. By the end, though, after sharing our own experiences, the answer became clear. To the extent that evangelical attitudes reflect theological imbalances—and even errors—we think we have something indeed to contribute.
Like their neighbors, Christians acknowledge that people suffering from cancer, AIDS, migraines, or cerebral palsy are still responsible for their actions. Their suffering does not entitle them to hatred, self-loathing, or the mistreatment of others. And yet, we allow room. With even a modicum of sympathy, we recognize they are miserable in ways that are not just limited to their physical distress. First, we want to relieve their immediate pain and, as much as possible, the effects of their disease; we seek every possible medical treatment for them. If a brother or sister has cancer, diabetes, or a stroke, we pray that God will give the doctors and nurses wisdom and skill to relieve their suffering. We realize there is an important place for caring for their bodies and souls, for their medical needs—which are beyond the church's competence—and for their relationship with God.
And yet, when it comes to mental illness, we still don't really believe that it is a medical problem. Many of us were raised in an era when "it's all in your head" meant that mental illnesses weren't real—at least not as real as a broken arm. This tendency reflects not only a lack of appreciation for the rapid growth in medical diagnosis and treatment of such disorders, but a cluster of theological misunderstandings. So here are a few introductory theses to consider.

1. We are not souls incarcerated in bodies, but body-soul creatures.

Contemporary brain science has shown the remarkable extent to which our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and actions are connected to our bodies—specifically, our brain and chemical interactions. This leaves no room for the soul if we reduce ourselves to what can be subjected to observation and repeatable experiments. The fact that body and soul are so intertwined is elementary for a biblical view of humanity.
"Mind over matter" betrays a pagan rather than biblical view of human beings. We've all heard stories of the Christian Science or neo-Pentecostal family that fatally withheld medical treatment from a child in expectation of a miraculous recovery. As much as we—that is, more traditional Christians—shake our heads at such folly, much of evangelical Christianity differs only in degree. It's amazing that at a time when many churches, including evangelical ones, turn the gospel into a form of personal therapy, psychiatry itself is seen as somewhat threatening.
According to Scripture, reality is not divided between spirit/mind and matter, but between God and everything else. There is the Triune Creator—and his creation. Angels and human souls are no more divine than antelopes or fingernails. In the totality of our existence, we are not God and yet we are like God: created in his image—that is, in true holiness and righteousness.
Because we are psychosomatic (body-soul) unities, physical and spiritual issues intersect in ways that can't be easily pulled apart. A person suffering from a spinal cord injury will be especially susceptible to bouts of spiritual depression, doubts, and even anger. The same is true of mental illness. On one hand, a naturalistic perspective reduces human beings to a mass of physicochemical accidents. On the other hand, a hyper-supernaturalistic reaction is to treat physicochemical problems simply as spiritual maladies. Good theology is not enough, but bad theology kills—literally, physically and spiritually.
It is therefore a biblical view of the human person that cautions us against dismissing physical trauma as an illusion or spiritual and moral responsibility. We may rush to the emergency room after a skiing accident, but when it comes to mental illness, we're more reticent. We wonder if mental illness is on a par with heart disease and spinal injury. We're justly wary of a scientific naturalism, known as "reductive physicalism," which excludes spiritual and sometimes even moral factors from behavior. But we are in danger of also rejecting the overwhelming scientific evidence of the role that brain chemistry plays in our lives. This is threatening only to a body-soul dualism that has far more to do with pagan philosophy than the Apostle Paul. The "real you" is not just your soul but you as a body-soul unity: distinction without separation.
While reductive physicalism flies in the face of Scripture and lacks any scientific evidence, the biblical view of human beings as body-soul unities should already prepare us to accept that every spiritual problem has a physical component—and vice versa.

2. Sin is a condition, not just actions.

According to a 2008 Baylor study, 36 percent of church attendees with mental illness said that they were told by their leaders that it was the result of sin; 34 percent said they were told it was a demon; 41 percent were told they didn't have a mental illness; and 28 percent were even told to stop taking medication. (2) "Deliverance ministries" make a lot of this second point. Many believe that demons bring "generational curses," passed down from generation to generation.
This astonishing perspective is as theologically aberrant as it is medically dangerous. It comes from a theological tradition that reduces sin to specific things that you do or don't do—or perhaps something you inherit, not genetically but by intergenerational demonic activity. There is simply no appreciation for the biblical gravity of the sinful condition in such a view.
In a biblical perspective, sin isn't just something we do or don't do. It arises out of a sinful condition. Just as the whole self is created in God's image, the whole self is fallen in Adam. Consequently, we are sinners and sinned against, victimizers and victims. We are caught up in a maelstrom of living on this side of the curse, and many of its effects are in no way dependent on a specific sin, demonic attack, or anything else for which one is personally responsible. That is not to say that we are not personally responsible for our sin, but that the sinful condition is far greater in its extensiveness than that.
But even in conservative churches where Pentecostal excesses are eschewed, there is often a tendency to blame physical suffering on specific sins. We can be like Job's counselors, assuming that he had done something to deserve his calamities. If he would only ferret out the sin and come clean with it, then God would restore his fortunes. But neither Job nor his friends had access to the first chapter, where God permitted Satan to test Job so that something greater than physical health, wealth, and happiness would appear. Satan meant it for evil, but God intended it for good. Job's suffering brought him to the confidence he expressed in chapter 19: "As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold, And whom my eyes will see and not another. My heart faints within me!" (vv. 25-27). Neither his friends nor a modern naturalism would be able to explain the ultimate purpose for Job's suffering from the available data. And in our own suffering, we do not have access to "chapter 1" either. All we see are the natural causes and the divine revelation that God works all things together for our good, because he has already triumphed over sin and death in Jesus Christ.
When combined with a mind-body dualism that places mental illness exclusively on the spiritual side of the ledger, this linking of suffering to particular sins (and therefore its remedy of simply more faith and obedience) is toxic—both spiritually and physically. If psychology (more than psychiatry) as a discipline reflects an obvious bias toward reductive physicalism, many conservative churches tilt toward a reductive spiritualism or moralism. That leads to the next point.

3. God works through intermediaries or providence (i.e., what theologians call "common grace"), not just directly through miracle (or saving grace). Science is a gift of God when it recognizes its own limits.

We never tell people with cancer, "Just pray more and read your Bible more." Why, then, do nearly half of evangelicals believe that mental illness can be cured only by more prayer and Bible study?
Traditional Christianity affirms the importance of secondary causes—that is, natural causes—through which God orchestrates every detail of human existence. Ordinarily, God does not act immediately and directly, but indirectly through secondary causes. It's interesting that in Genesis 1 and 2, we have not only the direct command, "Let there be...!" followed by the report, "And there was...," but also the command, "Let the earth bring forth...!" with the report, "And the earth brought forth...." Even in this mighty act, God created the world out of nothing (ex nihilo), and he worked through the physical elements and processes he himself had created to bring about their fruitfulness. Both are God's acts. When he sustains the world each moment even now, in the Son and by his Spirit, the Father ordinarily guides the natural processes he put in place rather than acting as the only cause, as he did in bringing everything into existence in the first place.
Ironically, many conservative Christians share with their secularist nemeses a false dilemma: God is either active in the world in obvious and miraculous ways, or not at all. In reaction against an atheistic pseudoscience, we risk creating our own hyper-supernaturalistic pseudoscience. Instead of seeing medical science as addressing natural causes, both naturalists and hyper-supernaturalists expect their theories to explain everything. Human beings are only bodies or only souls. There are either natural remedies or supernatural remedies. This is a dangerous standoff and it results from false theological premises.
What's missing is a robust doctrine of providence where God is at work in every moment and in every atom, but through secondary means. Naturalism says that there is nothing beyond the natural means; hyper-supernaturalism downplays the natural means that God uses. All that's left is to see God in the miraculous—his direct activity in the world—or not at all. My wife and I prayed for God to heal our triplets when they were born prematurely with various complications. We didn't care whether it was a miracle or God's providential work through excellent physicians and nurses. As it turned out, it was the latter. Either way, God answers prayer. Why can't our prayer be that God would work through the skill of the physicians looking after us and our loved ones? Is that any less God's work than the parting of the Red Sea? Our tendency to hesitate—or even to answer no—betrays a weak view of providence, as if to say "God did it" means that he didn't do it through ordinary channels that he himself also created and gifted.
Among the means through which God brings his plans to pass is prayer. And yet prayer isn't magic. The Reformer John Calvin noted that God still determines the outcome, based on his loving and wise counsels. But we don't know his secret plans, and he works ordinarily through natural means. Just as Christ himself in Gethsemane did not "turn His eyes to the divine plan but rested His desire that burned within Him upon His Father's knees," we too "in pouring out prayers do not always rise to speculate upon the secret things of God." (3) Instead of trying to decode God's hidden purposes, our prayers should focus on the good he has published concerning us. We should be as bold in our prayers as the biblical examples repeatedly encourage. Once more the fatherly image dominates in Calvin's exposition: "We are permitted to pour into [God's] bosom the difficulties that torment us, in order that he may loosen the knots that we cannot untie." (4)

4. Christ came to heal the sick, not those who are well (or who think they are).

"Pray more" and "Read your Bible more." In itself, this is good advice. But what suffering people of any type need most is good news! When you're depressed, being told that you just need to "trust God more" or be more devoted to spiritual exercises simply drives you deeper into yourself. Because of your body's chemistry, you're not in a position to get out of bed and face the day. Apart from the gospel, calls to more prayer and Bible reading become burdensome laws that drive us farther from resting in Christ. It's the proclamation of the gospel in word and sacrament that pulls us out of ourselves to cling to the Father of all mercies in his Son, by his Spirit, and to seek his revealed purposes and will for our lives.
Here's the key point: Prayer and Bible reading aren't therapies at all, much less replacements of or competitors with medical prescriptions. Ironically, many Christians like to quote the latest study indicating the psychological benefits of prayer, even while downplaying the legitimacy of psychiatric treatments. Prayer is simply talking to God the Father, in the Son, by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Reading the Bible may be "therapeutic," but only because we're looking for something more: namely, the truth about God, ourselves, our world, our hopes and fears, and reconciliation with God in his Son.
When the focus is on the Christ, who is proclaimed to us in the gospel, we can pray with honesty, casting ourselves on God's mercy. We aren't coming to a judge, or even to a therapist, but to our heavenly Father who has accepted us in his Son. We're not rubbing a lamp and making a wish, but we are children crying out to the sovereign God who cares for us and answers our feeble, half-hearted, and even intemperate rants with love, wisdom, and compassion.
Furthermore, Calvin notes, "Our prayers are acceptable to God only insofar as Christ sprinkles and sanctifies them with the perfume of his own sacrifice." (5) He adds, "The one true aim of prayer consists in the fact that the promises of God should have their way with us." (6) As the gospel is the soil of faith, faith—this "firm assurance of mind that God is favorable and benevolent to them"—is the root of sincere prayer. (7)

5. Christ saves the whole person, but sanctification is a process that is never finished in this life.

Just as the whole person is created in God's image—neither divine nor demonic, and wholly fallen in body and soul—the whole person is justified and is being renewed daily in Christ's image. This renewal at present is evident spiritually. While the body wastes away toward the grave, the "inner self" is being renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16).
We would all like to reach a safe haven, a plateau of health, where we no longer struggle with sin or the physical and emotional pains of daily dying. But we don't find this safe landing place in our experience—either physically or spiritually. The only safe haven is Christ himself, who has objectively conquered sin and death, and who intercedes for us at the Father's right hand until he raises us bodily for the everlasting Sabbath.

6. Triumphalism sets us up for a fall; the theology of the cross and the resurrection give us faith, hope, and love.

Job's friends were as plagued with a theology of glory as Job himself was with whatever physical ailments he suffered. As said above, triumphalism ignores the reality of sin as a condition. Everything is easily explained: Good people live healthy lives; if you're suffering, you need to figure out where you've failed God.
Yet Scripture teaches otherwise: We are baptized into Christ. What was the pattern of his life? Instead of taking the easy way out—Satan's offer of glory now—he embraced the cross, not out of Stoic resolve, but out of "the joy set before him": namely, our salvation (Phil. 2:5-8). By his suffering, the sting of death (the curse of the law) has been removed (1 Cor. 15:56-57). But we still follow him from death to victory, but that victory over the pain of sin and death does not lie on this side of glory (Rom. 8:18-25).
A robustly biblical theology of the cross and resurrection fixes our hope on Christ, who knows our suffering more than we do and who has overcome it objectively. We live in our Christian families and in our churches in that in-between time, awaiting the day when we share fully—in body and in soul—in Christ's glory. Our churches have to be a place where we "wait for it with patience" together. In the process, we need better soul care that appreciates the extent to which physical—and mental—suffering can be relieved in the meantime. Christians should welcome these advances as signs of God's orderly providence and compassionate care for his creatures. There will always be a central place for spiritual care—especially the faithful ministry of preaching, teaching, sacraments, prayer, and discipline. But, like a kid with a broken leg, getting people to the "emergency room" may be the first order of business.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Musings on Life and Psalm 139


Psalm 139 3-5: Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.  For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;  it is high, I cannot attain unto it.  
For me life has been a mystery, why do some suffer even extremes and others seem to have it all together. As for myself I have to wonder why I have had to suffer with epilepsy and depression from my youth. Was it part of some divine plan? Or was it just fate? Life is hard, more specifically, everyday living is hard I have found no peace in pleasure seeking, nor escapism ( so easy to do with modern social media and movies). In fact when talking to a friend the other day, I they commented “ everything seems so futile” there is no lasting pleasure in even the noble pursuit of work.
I think that is absolutely right, Scripture tells us in Romans 8:20 “for the creation was subjected to futility, not voluntarily, but on account of the One who put it under subjection …”

All my life I had been taught in one form or another, that in order to get a reward, you have to perform, you have to achieve, in order to find favour with God and men. The gospel presented me with something else however, Romans 5:8 says “ But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”  It speaks to me of something that the Psalmist also says in Psalm 139:4 Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me…..
I think the Psalmist also came to the conclusion that God indeed there is no escape from God and everything that has happened and will happen, in full view of God. There is nothing God does not see, not one thing that happens in all the created order that He is not aware off. This is the scope and Nature of Omnipresence to be “ Everywhere at the same time, in equal parts and with equal force.” In one way it is comforting to know that God sees and God cares, in another sense given our human sinfulness and frailty, it is terrifying. Who can understand it, God who made us, planned from eternity past and bought us to the very time and place we now occupy. This is a hard concept to grasp, especially for those who believe the self-help guru’s and those who say claim to be masters of their fate, what did Descartes say “ I am master of my ship and captain of my destiny” In the end I do not think he really believed that anymore, either. I like the verse from Ecclesiastes 7:13  Consider the work of God:  for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked? 
It explains a lot, it tells me that God makes and bends every man to His will, God will not bend to the will of man, and it has been said that unregenerated man will not bend even to the will of God. There is war between the unregenerate soul and its Creator, men will have it that they create themselves in their own image. Yet in all the history I have read I see men onl bent on destruction, their own and others. Men left to themselves are no recommendation to anybody. Romans 1 illustrates such a picture, Romans 1:  “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them;  for God hath showed it unto them.   For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead;  so that they are without excuse:  Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful;  but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.   Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves”
There you have it for a man to remain in a state of spiritually dead state, all that really has to happen is that God has to let him alone, a man left to himself will self destruct in one form or another. But then we have this wonderful verse in Ephesians 1: 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ….” There it is God is not a spectator in our human predicament, He is very much a partaker, in that God in the person of Jesus Christ became man, and tasted death for us all, why was this needful? Well for one as was mentioned, the souls of men in their natural state are at war with God, and He with them. God was wrathful because men consistently broke his commands and men persisted in breaking them. There seemed to no way repair the breach, in fact so much so that in all ancient stories there is no heaven. Ancient civilizations new nothing of a merciful God, all they knew were gods who demanded their very lives and gave nothing in return.  But God, our God gave His only Son that we may be reconciled to God through His propitiary death for our sake. Being our substitute to save us from the just punishment due to us because of our incessant sin against each other and against God’s commands. We are reconciled by the blood of the divine Son of God. This mystery is too wonderful for me, it is my hope and my anchor, aside from this I have no hope.

 

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Lost in Niceness - Alistair Begg

http://www.youtube.com/v/U8ZsNSRUlMs?autohide=1&version=3&attribution_tag=Z7rgBQ3tCpNKUMYTx6B9jw&autoplay=1&showinfo=1&autohide=1&feature=share

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Our God does whateve pleases Him


Psalm 115:3 But our God is in the heavens:  he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.  

If ever there was a text that highlights for us, just how sovereign the Lord our God is, this has to be it. Or it at least one of the many. I have so many folks who just go through their day without a thought for God, or about God. Just living as they please. But seen in context this is something we can do in a very finite context. The prophet Jeremiah says as much in Jeremiah 10:12 12 He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion…

In other words God does things because it pleases Him to do it. It pleases Him to save some and to leave others to their own choices. This is not a popular doctrine because most people want a God they can manage. I understand something of the fear of the Lord because I know God does whatever He pleases. This teaching is difficult because it gives fatal blow to human pride. Many people like to hang on to the belief that their free will is what determines their destiny but the Bible has another opinion Psalm 37: 23-24 “ The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD:  and he delighteth in his way, Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down:  for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand. Romans 9 elaborates this point even further showing that not only uphold the ones He chooses  He sustains them by His mercy  Romans 9:20-21 states “Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? 

This brings us back to our text in Psalm 115:3 Our God is  the heavens, He does whatever pleases Him. When I was very much younger the older folks used to tell us “ we will go here or there as the Lord wills” to a young mind that did not make sense. But it is the very truth that will save us, Our God does what pleases Him, if we have a saving interest in Jesus Christ, then it is the Lord’s doing and it is marvellous in our eyes.

The gospel then becomes to us who are being saved, the very power of God. To think upon Christ and what He has done for us is exceedingly precious. Not only Has He chosen us in the Beloved, he sustains us.  Nothing can be added to this, God in Christ has reconciled us to Himself and we will one see Him as He is, without fear since perfect love casts out all fear.  This is the Christian hope, God was pleased to choose us and reveal His Son to us. Why? Because it pleases Him. Let us then fear Him for He has loved us with an everlasting love.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Living your life with the end in Mind


 

 

Eternity! "What is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:18)   "A subject stands out on the face of this text which is one of the most solemn and heart searching in the Bible. That subject is eternity.  The subject is one of which the wisest man can only take in a little at a time. We have no eyes to see it fully, and no mind to grasp it; and yet we must not refuse to consider it. There is a depth of stars in the heavens above us, which the most powerful telescope cannot pierce; yet it is well worth it to look into them and learn something, even if we cannot learn everything. There are heights and depths about the subject of eternity which mortal man can never comprehend; but God has spoken of it, and we have no right to turn away from it completely."--J. C. Ryle  (Chapter 21 of J. C. Ryle's book "Practical Religion" with updated English)

Truthfully from what I observe with my interaction with people on a daily basis, most of them care only for the things seen. Thoughts about God, Eternity, Heaven and Hell, these things are shifted to a place of non-importance. We care for our mortgage, and our “stuff” more than we care for thoughts of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Of course you should about everyday things but they should not be your consuming passion. Your soul is of infinite more value than where you stay of what car you drive.

I despair when I see how wrong my focus has been for many years. I don’t think it is out of place to evaluate how we live our life.  It is good to remember that we are mortal, many live like the best life they will have is the one they live now. That of course is not true, We are to be mindful that we will meet our God in the not too distant future. I see young people throwing away precious years on frivolous activities, our generation has been bent on being entertained, we are prepared for nothing! Yet the world around us is creaking under the weight of the sin of the people. Do we not see it? The world and its entertainments are passing away. Those things we cherish most now, will meaning nothing when we are deposited in our grave. And just like the generations before us, this fate will befall us maybe sooner than we realize.

Maybe you thing I sound morbid,  the preacherin Ecclesiastes tells us however that this is realism “One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh:  but the earth abideth for ever.’ (Ecclesiastes 1.)

That is our reality, we must face, if the Lord does not come in the meantime to fetch us to Himself, we will suffer the fate of sinful humanity. Maybe it is hard to think about, it certainly is hard to write about. When you have never faced death, how will you know how to handle it? Certainly not by staying awake endless days and wasting your precious life with endless amusements. So then what are we to do. I once heard someone advise ‘ begin with the end in mind” He was not talking about things relating to God, but it is nevertheless good advice. Maybe if we live with the view in mind that we will one day stand before the Judgement Seat of God, to receive either his reward or His punishment for our sins. These things bear thinking about. I let the preacher in Ecclesiastes here have the last word  Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them”

Monday, 12 August 2013

Understanding Depression- a Christian perspective


 
 
One of the things that need to done when approaching the topic of depression is realizing that those who suffer from Depression, really suffer. Some believe you just “need to pull yourself together” and other say you “just need a positive mental attitude” while these may be contributing factors it does not nearly cover what depression is about.

One of the first things that need to be looked at is how does it make you feel when you suffer from depression. Just off the top of my head there are a couple of things that a person will feel that help to identify what kind of treatment is needed. There are at least nine symptoms that most people will identify with.  Common signs and symptoms of depression are:

·        Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.

·        Loss of interest in daily activities. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.

  • Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month.
  • Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping (also known as hypersomnia).
  • Anger or irritability. Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, your temper short, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
  • Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
  • Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
  • Reckless behavior. You engage in escapist behavior such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.

These symptons set out like this do not however begin to describe the darkness I know you feel when you are in the throes of a depressive episode.  The important things to recognize what triggers it for you. Once your feelings start spiralling no amount of positive talking can help you come out of that. But one thing I have learnt is that your feelings belong to you, they are belong to you, no matter how frayed and tattered you feel, your feelings are yours. Only you can do something about them.

I understand the darkness of depression, having gone through that in a almost yearly cycle, where I have felt in some instances a that “ a darkness would wrap around my soul, and I would despair even of life for many months. Many times such seasons in the soul would start with periods where I was sleep derpived for long periods of time. It is hard to keep your wits about you when you are chronically tired!
Many times there is not much you can do when are so chronically tired, but you have to realize this Is a fight, if you are a Christian it is a fight for your soul, you must realize is your friend and who is your enemy. John 10 :10 say “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy:  I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly

Friend, Jesus is the Good Shepherd, if we are going to win this fight at all, we need to realize that first of all it is a spiritual battle. The affliction of the depressed is particularly painful because in many cases it affects your mind. So believing right is very important, it is important because wrong believing will cause you many times to do wrong things, C. H Spurgeon who himself was a sufferer of depression once said “ Your affliction is not the thing that will get you into heaven, you cannot plead your pain to a Holy God, just like others, you need to come God in faith and confess your sin and weakness to Him. Having said that , we need to be very careful to not to Bible Bash people who are suffering with this particular malady. Isaiah 42:3 says very plainly that A bruised reed He will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out. Our Lord is a faithful and compassionate High Priest who is touched with the feelings of our infirmities. Yet we are not excused when we use our sickness as an occasion to sin.
Coming back to the depression itself, very often have good self-understanding is helpful as we deal with this illness.  Some of the symptoms of more severe forms of depression like Bipolar or Major depression is likely to involve irritability, guilt, unpredictable extreme mood swings, and feelings of restlessness. It is important to note that you take care of yourself and very often taking care of yourself in this area is to get the correct medication to alleviate some the stress bought on by such symptoms. Doing sensible things like avoiding the things that triggers depressive episode can also help, avoiding exesive amounts of television, getting the right of sleep you need and amending your diet are all things that can help.

Richard Baxter, Puritan Pastor and write who lived in in the 16th century had this to say in advising his congregants what to do about when they suffer from depressive episodes.
If you cannot otherwise command and turn away your thoughts, rise up and go into some godly company, or to some employment which will divert you, and take them up. Tell me what you would do, if you heard a fiend in the Street reviling you, or heard an atheist talk against God, would you stand still to hear them, or would you talk it out again with them, or rather go from them, and disdain to hear them, or debate the Case with such as they. Do likewise in your case: When Satan casts in ugly or despairing or murmuring Thoughts, go away from them to some other thoughts or business. If you cannot do this of your self, tell your Friend when the temptation comes, and it is his duty who hath the cure of you, to divert you with some other talk, or works, or force you into diverting Company. Yet be not too much troubled at the temptation, for trouble of mind doth keep the evil matter in your memory. And this is the design of Satan, to give you troubling thoughts, and then to cause more by being troubled at those, and so for one thought and Trouble to cause another, and so on as Waves in the Sea, do follow one another.

In short, if you suffer from depression, remember it does not take a day off. Depression is a bit like the devil, it does not take time off. Do not let your guard down, in times of peace there will be time for that but this is not time for peace until you walk into the arms of Jesus. The battle is set and you are at war, Proverbs 4 says well “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it Reach out and you will be helped.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Does God Exist? a defense of the Faith.



 
Today maybe more than in other times, truth has become relative yes the fact of God’s existence needs to be defended sharply by all believers we are to give and account of the hope that we have.  There are at least three useful approaches that we can use in conversation and evangelism to break down the arguments of atheists and evolutionist alike. Why would we do this ?  1 Peter 3:15 says plainly “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts:  and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.

These approaches assume that the person or persons it is addressing has no respect for the Bible as the Word of God and therefore a more philosophical approach is pursued to engage the mind of the enquirer on their own playing field.

 
1. The first approach  is the  Ontological Argument . Fist penned by St. Anselm (11th to 12th centuries A.D.) In a priori fashion, Anselm's Ontological Argument attempts to prove the existence of God. The arguments start by deeming God the greatest thought of which could be thought. Therefore, God exists as an idea in any individual subject. However, an idea that also exists in reality is much greater than a mere subjective idea. If we confine God only to the mind, then we can think of something greater than God. Since no thought is greater than God, it necessarily follows that God must exist.

2.Then there is the Cosmological argument for the existence of God that looks something likes this.

 Everything that began to exist has a cause. The universe began to exist. Therefore from and the universe has a cause.

However, at this point we notice that this argument doesn’t actually say anything about whether a God actually exists or not — it just says something about the universe. But when you are evangelizing a unbeliever who has no point of reference greater than the nose on his face. This a good place to begin. Francis Schaeffer a Christian philosopher who lived in the last century said that “today’s people regard themselves as a point of reference, but this can never be, just a look at the created universe will show you plainly that man can not do this, because is a part of created order, he is not above it”

Cosmology of this kind shows us that the fact that something that has come into being, that has a first cause. It can therefore be safe to say any cause of the universe must have existed prior to the universe, or anything that existed prior to the universe cannot be part of the universe it is above the created order and cannot be equated to the physical order. God in this argument is the primary cause for the created universe coming into being and therefore the primary cause of it.

 To solve this, some theologians have filled in some additional premises, which I will summarize as follows:
Anything that existed prior to the universe cannot be a part of the universe. Since the created universe is a physical entity. We can safely say that whoever made it in the first place was a non-physical being.


 The matter of the universe and the maker of the universe are not of the same substance. Therefore the universe is not physical and its Maker is of another kind.

 At this point we identify God as our Maker and point out that only God, who cannot be equated with His creation, can cause the universe to exist. No nonphysical object except God can cause a universe to exist. God caused the universe to exist.The logical deduction from this line of thought is that God exists.

I remember trying to explain this idea to a budding agnostic. Who acknowledge that  somehow that there had to be a God, but he was not sure he was any relevance. This way he could be shown that not only does God exist, He caused everything that does exits and therefore has ownership of all He made.  

3. The next argument for the existence of God is called the”Teleological argument” This argument or defense for the existence of God is the premise that if there is a design there has to be a designer, nothing creates itself out of nothing. There has to be a an intelligent designer behind the order in wee see in the universe. The name “the teleological argument” is derived from the Greek word telos, meaning “end” or “purpose”. When such arguments speak of the universe being ordered, they mean that it is ordered towards some end or purpose. The suggestion is that it is more plausible to suppose that the universe is so because it was created by an intelligent being in order to accomplish that purpose than it is to suppose that it is this way by chance.

The teleological argument was used by St Thomas Aquinas as one of his Five Ways of knowing that God exists, but the most cited statement of the argument is that of William Paley. Paley likened the universe to a watch, with many ordered parts working in harmony to further some purpose. Just as the complexity, order, and purpose of a watch implies intelligent design, he suggested, so too the complexity, order, and purpose of the universe implies intelligent design.

It is useful to have a knowledge of at least the basics of these appraoches in proving the Existence of God when speaking to those who deny the Scriptures as the Word of God.  There are at least three questions that most thinking people ask at some time or other. The one is a) Does God exist b) If He exist what is He like? c) If God exists what Has He said? This short intro is meant to give an evangelist edge when speaking to those who query the first.
Please leave a comment I want other views on this subject too:)