Psychiatry and a Spiritual Cause of Mental Illness – John Boruff

Let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.                        –James 1:6-8

Psychiatry and Christian Experience

I am not a psychiatrist, but I have experience sitting in on counseling sessions where psychiatrists treat the mentally ill. I have been around psychiatrists, on and off, since 2009. I have sat in on their sessions, and seen them counsel others with schizophrenia, fears, and anxieties, and phobias, hallucinations, and psychoses. Painful experiences that these have been, I also see these times as gifts from God, in allowing my perspective to broaden regarding the health or sickness levels that can affect the human brain. I have also seen the interaction that brain states, health, and sickness can have when mixed with strong Christian faith, the experience of the human soul, and the Holy Spirit. If anyone has a thorough understanding of the human brain and its interaction with the spirit world, and of psychiatry, I think I would be one of those rare people who is not a licensed Christian psychiatrist, but yet understands these dynamics pretty well.

As with all modern science, there is the true, the half-true, and the false. I believe this applies to psychiatry, as much as to evolutionary biology, and the gay issue. To me in matters of absolute truth: THE BIBLE IS FIRST, and SCIENCE IS SECOND in priority in determining truth, especially with regard to what is moral or supernatural. It is a sad admission that all of the modern sciences have been sabotaged by agnostic materialists, who reject the existence of spirits. While there are liberal Christians, universalists, and New Agers who work in the sciences, these individuals do not accept the Bible as their supreme authority in all areas; and plus, even if they do have some supernatural views, they are often quenched or overridden by a predominantly secularist, natural interpretation and explanation, materialist, or agnostic view of the supernatural.

The Brain and Spiritual Experiences

Psychiatry is the modern scientific study of the human brain. Most of psychiatry, sadly, is interpreted from a secular materialist perspective; this is regrettably true, because I believe the human brain is the main place that spirits interact with people. St. Teresa of Avila called the head “the highest place of the soul” (Interior Castle 4.1.10). Sure, the Holy Spirit interacts with the heart (Galatians 4:6), but even feelings in the heart have to be neurologically processed through the nervous system, which is centered in the brain. When people have visions, dream dreams, or hear spiritual voices, they will own that the experience centers around the head or the brain. Daniel referred to dreams as “visions of my head upon my bed” (4:13). The real issue is not whether these experiences happen, but how to interpret them, and what to claim about them. The Biblical view is that they come from spirits, whether from the Holy Spirit, angels, demons, or your own soul within you. The secularist view says there are no spirits; all these experiences are “hallucinations” or products of the brain itself. The Biblical view would lead us to see the brain as a TV and radio antennae, a receiver of information. The secularist view would have us to see the brain as a projector or broadcaster. I think reality suggests the brain is capable of both receiving information and releasing information. Julia Loren said, “All of our religious experiences cannot be explained by neuroscience or brain chemistry. Just because areas of our brains light up with activity, it doesn’t mean that the specific experience or activity was pre-programmed into us, encoded prior to birth” (Shifting Shadows of Supernatural Experiences, p. 41). Especially in the case of “paranormal” hallucinations: I think these really call into question the secularist view of hallucinations. How is it that these experiences can provide new information to the person that experiences them? This is left to shows like Unsolved Mysteries to explain, and sadly, they are always from a psychic or New Age point of view, that never takes the Bible into account. Such experiences are called “revelations” in the Bible (2 Cor. 12:1); and in Catholic mystical theology they are called “private revelations.”

Mental Illness and Christian Experience

Psychiatry was developed to treat mental illness. Not merely because people like to study the brain. It arose because of the pressure to find remedies to treat the mentally ill. The one area where psychiatry has validity, truth, and strength–is its development of psychiatric medications (pills). While not all of these are completely safe, and some can be very risky and dangerous to take, if taken improperly–they can also save people’s lives. These pills are being improved upon year after year to meet the overwhelming demand for treating people who are suffering from debilitating diseases of the brain. While psychiatrists are not entirely certain why many people end up with brain diseases, the one thing they are fairly sure about, is that certain medications can fix mental problems. And we should thank and praise God that such remedies are available to the public.

Rebellion Against God: A Spiritual Cause of Some Mental Illness

I want to end on this note: from my experience talking to psychiatrists about a number of issues, occasionally I have come across the concept of a borderline personality disorder, which is what I see referred to by James in the Scripture above. Such people, I believe, get into this state because they are impenitent, lukewarm, Pharisaical, unbelieving, and yet have a “form of godliness, but deny the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5). Rebellion against God’s moral laws in the Bible has this curse affixed to them: “The Lord will afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind” (Deuteronomy 28:28). These are sometimes religious church going people, but they are not spiritually minded. They are always on the fence about the Word of God. They know the Bible tells them this or that, but they only accept half of it. And so, in a multitude of areas, their impenitent and unbelieving orientation towards the Bible leads to a spirit of “rebellion” which is like “the sin of witchcraft” (1 Samuel 15:23); and yet, these slaves of the devil, “two-fold more the children of Hell” but “proselytes” (Matthew 23:15), are not in the good graces of God’s Spirit, but are constantly reminded every Sunday that they are not walking in line with the Word of God. “The hypocrite’s hope shall perish” (Job 8:13); mental illness is often accompanied by hopelessness; until they “submit to God and resist the devil” (James 4:7), they will be double-minded, like the schizophrenic, and unstable in all their ways (James 1:8). Instead of abiding in love, they have phobias. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18); fear is a demon spirit that has to be cast out by the love of God dwelling in the heart (2 Timothy 1:7); and so the mind of the doubtful church person, who is not a true follower of Jesus in their heart, is given over to such tormenting fears! But this can all be reversed by prayer, lifestyle, and sincere intentions of the heart being renewed in repentance, faith, and obedience to God and His holy ways.

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About John Boruff

John Boruff is the founder of WesleyGospel.com, a husband, father, and sometimes an open air preacher. He graduated from UNC Pembroke in 2008 with a B.A. in Philosophy and Religion and views himself as a Wesleyan-Arminian Reformed Pentecostal. As a Christian, he feels connected with all members of the body of Christ, but can identify the most with churches like the Assemblies of God and the Vineyard. In 2015, he released "The Gospel of Jesus Christ," which is meant to be a Bible study for open air preaching. For his other writings, search articles on this site or see the E-Books section.
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