|"Most boring book ever written"|
I lie somewhere in the middle of this debate, since in practice I see the benefit of the traditional medical model being applied to mental illness. So that having reached a diagnosis, a treatment plan appropriate to that patient and their diagnosis, can be formulated for that them. And this may well include prescription medication. However I also recognise the complexity of human beings, with all the various differing influences placed upon us. These range from our genetics, to our learned and copied behaviour, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and much in between. Neat categorisations are not appropriate, and in this sense much of psychiatry is merely descriptive of constellations of symptoms with the blurring of boundaries between one diagnosis and another.
In the Christian understanding there is one fundamental diagnosis, but a myriad of presentations and symptoms. Underlying all our frustrations, relational difficulties, disappointments and much more beside, lies the single diagnosis of sin. This is the inherited bias within all of us which resists the loving rule of the God who made us. Oh yes there are plenty of other 'secondary causes' along the way, and much of psychiatry and counselling aims to alleviate them. But the root remains.
I was reminded of this recently when a female patient, struggling to cope with her husband's infidelity, said to me, 'Forgiveness is so hard'. I guess there may be some psychological approaches which might alleviate some of the difficulty of forgiveness, but since all of our wrongdoing is also against God as well as each other, there remains what you might call the divine dimension. It's this that lead Dietrich Bonhoeffer the German pastor who was executed by the Nazis to say,
Only by recognising in penitence God's mercy for you will you yourself then also be capable of forgiveness.There will never need to be an updating of this old diagnosis of sin, it's as old as the ages and will continue until there is a new heaven and new earth