Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Is Science Bad for Your Faith - Part 2

Therapeutic Christianity

Magic Christians insist that all salvation results in healing, wealth, happiness and joy. If that’s not happening, you must be doing something wrong because obviously God can be letting you suffer all this if you’re a good person. Mental illness, the argument goes, is just an excuse for not having prayed hard enough or said the right combination of words. If mental illness exists, then the Magic Christian’s idea that the soul exists separately from the body gets knocked back on its pins. If mental illness exists, then how in the world can God hold you accountable for sin (and more importantly, how can the preacher stand up and frighten you into submission by telling you God will burn you forever in hell). If your brain can be damaged and cause you not to be able to think properly, then how can God (and Mrs. Bertha Betterthanu) judge you properly.

Well, if the soul is linked inextricably with the human machinery in which it is housed, all it means is that God has a rather more complex job of redemption to do. Fortunately, I think He’s up to it. Since He can tell you how many hairs are on your head, it could be easily supposed that God knows what he’s doing when dealing with folks damaged by mental illness and that he judges with fairness and mercy and keeps your limitations in mind.

In the past 3 decades, scientists have learned more about the human mind than we have in the whole long history of the world. During my graduate studies in psychology and in my long experience in the mental health field, I have worked with mental illness in a wide variety of forms and studied the cause and effects of mental disorders on their victims.

The idea that a person with a mental illness can just buck up, make some right choices for a change and be healed is ludicrous. Even the Apostle Paul made no such claims for the out and out sinner. He complained in his letter to the Romans that he, himself, did things that he did not want to do and what he wanted to do, he often did not do. Paul recognized that the Christian walk was a process of healing that occurs over time and with the help of God. Paul also told us he bore a thorn in the flesh that God had chosen to let him live with. We don't know what it was, but Paul struggled with it daily. If there were magic words that force healing to happen, surely if anyone knew them it was the Apostle Paul.

We often treat Christianity as though it were some sort of magical practice—that if we could say the right words or pray the right prayer, the world would order itself to our will. Jesus said if we had faith, we could move mountains. He never said we mightn't need a bulldozer or two to get the job done.

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