4

Mental health is an essential component of a person's well-being and, as everything else in life, it is subject to a plethora of potential maladies, some of which are quite difficult to cure even for the best mental health professionals out there.

Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of mental disorders. Some examples include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Trauma and Stressor Related Disorders
  • Neuro-Developmental Disorder
  • Neuro-Cognitive Disorders
  • Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders
  • Paraphilias
  • Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders
  • Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorders
  • etc.

The secular world has devised different therapeutic techniques and treatments, many rooted in psychology, psychiatry and neuroscience research, to heal or at least mitigate to some extent the effects of these mental health issues. A few examples that come to mind:

Of course, no amount of concerted secular human effort can even come close to the supernatural effectiveness of the Holy Spirit, who (or which, for the non-Trinitarians) should be more than capable of restoring a person's mental health instantly, miraculously, even in the face of the most challenging mental disorders for modern science. Is this, actually, the case?

Question: Is there any evidence that people are actually getting healed of very severe mental health disorders in contexts where the Holy Spirit is believed to move more (e.g., in Church services), at a rate significantly higher than in secular settings, even when all the options in terms of secular treatments and therapies have been exhausted and tried?


Related C.SE questions:

Related Psychology.SE question:

10
  • Within the Christian worldview, healing (just like existence itself, for that matter) is always considered to be the work of God, regardless of whether its object is aware of the latter's existence or not. Trees, for instance, are completely unaware of anything, including themselves; and there is no such thing as a religious vs. secular watering of their roots; yet, their growth is considered to be the work of their Creator.
    – Lucian
    Oct 15, 2021 at 3:07
  • @Lucian - then what is your definition of miracle? EDIT: according to the 'miracles' tag's definition, miracles are actions of God not explained by normal laws of physics, chemistry, biology, or the natural sciences. Oct 15, 2021 at 3:09
  • There is no meaningful difference between miracles and non-miracles, since God is the author of both. It's like someone who only knows you in your work suit comes to your home, and he's never seen you in your pajamas, and thinks that's odd, for some reason.
    – Lucian
    Oct 15, 2021 at 3:47
  • @Lucian - how does having a same author render the differences meaningless? Apple is the author of both the Macbook Pro and the IPhone. Does that mean there is no meaningful difference between IPhones and Macbook Pros? What is your definition of 'meaningful'? Oct 15, 2021 at 4:16
  • 1
    @OneGodtheFather - Probably of interest regarding the definition of the word miracle: Do miracles violate the laws of physics? Oct 15, 2021 at 11:47

5 Answers 5

2

Mental health means ‘a mind that is healthy’. From this standpoint, a Christian would easily agree that the ideal mind was that of the god-man Jesus Christ.

However, in the world, mental health usually means a mental imbalance possibly caused by internal chemistry such as hormones, etc., or a complete inability to function in a professional career, or a criminal. In other words, mental health in the world consists in physical imbalances or handicaps as well as sinful dispositions that lead to extreme behavior such as murder, etc. On the other hand, a self-righteous, seeming balanced worldling that does not live in any criminal lifestyle, and does not have any physical handicaps but has a ‘healthy’ view of himself, might under a Christian perspective, be the most wicked of all types – so doctrinally the least healthy minded of all. Such a wanton sinner is only appearing balanced because all their lusts are getting equal attention in their lifestyle, whereas a criminal might chase only after a single lust.

As we try to look at those two groups, those with physical handicaps and those with sinful dispositions, the Bible has some obvious things to say. First, the world is in what could be described as in a state of an unhealthy tormenting stress response through fear of death. The whole world has a mental problem on this account because the Devil is a tyrant that tortures a sinners soul through fear:

14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (Heb 2:14–15) NIV

Second, one cannot underestimate the healthy influence on the mind freed from that fear and a mind reconciled to our creator, thereby obtaining peace, a clear conscience and a strong sense of the deep love God has for us:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Ro 5:1–5). NIV

Even a secular psychologist can understand what healthy effects ‘feeling loved’ and ‘feeling forgiven’ has on the mind and being ‘at peace’. Is this not the main element of mental health? Are criminals not often abused as children – not knowing a stable loving environment? Not only these healthy foundations but all the fruits of the Spirit strike meaning into exactly what mental health is:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Ga 5:22–23). NIV

Furthermore Jesus himself taught the beatitudes and lived them by example, saying ‘Blessed is he who…’ where blessed literally mean ‘happy are those’. Now how can one experience happiness without series benefits to mental health?

In summary, to answer the question, some problems do have physical elements and a spiritual answer may not be available. For example I never heard of someone with Down Syndrome being healed and that must introduce some 'mental challenges'. Another example is that some people with high levels of anxiety can have their electron pulses from their nervous system, actually measured with instruments, as the pulse creates higher than normal signals to the parts of the brain that look for dissimilarities and create higher than normal risk assessments. Medication might help in situations like that, and good physicians are also gifts from God. However, broadly speaking of course justification by faith, the resulting new birth, the practice of meditating on God’s word, and the revelation of His love for us through the comforting Spirit, must and does produce greater health benefits for the mind than any mere mortal or human effort can ever attempt to provide. If this were not true God does not save sinners.

3
  • [...] must and does produce greater health benefits for the mind than any mere mortal or human effort can ever attempt to provide. If this were not true God does not save sinners. - is there any evidence in support of these last statements? Oct 15, 2021 at 11:35
  • In summary, to answer the question, some problems do have physical elements and a spiritual answer may not be available. - do you mean God (who is spiritual) cannot heal Down Syndrome? Oct 15, 2021 at 11:58
  • 3
    @Spirit Realm Investigator - the evidence I am referring to is God’s word, there is less value trying to obtain evidence from the words of humans, although one could collect all the testimonies of individual believers and jot them down as evidence. Every bible believing local church provides this evidence in their members. There is no encyclopedia of testimonies from the faithful. Regarding Down Syndrome, of course God could heal that - it just appears he chooses not to, otherwise there would be a known case of such a healing.
    – Mike
    Oct 15, 2021 at 14:39
2

Although it may "resolve" on it's own, many secular mental health professionals consider Multiple Personality Disorder, now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder, to be incurable. There is speculation in the literature that at least some instances of demonic possession, whether in Scripture or currently in environments amenable to such a diagnosis, are actually cases of D.I.D.

This link provides a free download in PDF form of a book called "The Shining Man With Hurt Hands.". In it the author, Ellis H. Skolfield, describes his experience and success/progress in helping individuals who have multiple personality disorder to approach and even occasionally achieve integration.

While he finds, along with secular medicine, that the vast majority of D.I.D. cases are the product of extreme past trauma (most often abusive or sexual in nature), his diagnosis is that of the incursion of spiritual entities (both good and bad) into a personality as it is fractured. He does not consider all such incursions to qualify as demonic possession.

He finds that many multiples discover a "person" inside them that they describe as a shining man with hurt hands, hence the book title. His therapeutic techniques are entirely spiritual and centered upon the name of Christ.

1
+50

Is the Holy Spirit more effective at restoring people's mental health than secular therapeutic approaches and treatments?

In Christianity, creation, which includes the inanimate, plants, animals, and people, is NOT a closed system. Occasionally God causes a change WITHIN the system, which

  • may appear miraculous or not; and
  • may be observable empirically or not.

In Summa Contra Gentiles Book 3 (Providence), Chapter 101 (On Miracles) Aquinas lists 3 ways of how God's action can appear to us in contrast with the law of nature (i.e. the natural workings of creation):

  1. Most obvious: nature can never do. Examples: an amputated leg was restored, sea open up and offer a way through which people may pass.

  2. Less obvious: nature can do, but not in this order. Examples: a patient who has been brain-dead longer than 10 minutes came back to life without permanent brain damage, a blind person from birth can see (and his vision stays for the rest of his life). Jesus's resurrection would most likely be in this category.

  3. Least obvious: through the usual operation of nature but beats statistical probability. Examples: a person may be cured by divine power from a fever which could be cured naturally, rain suddenly poured down when all weather scientists say it's extremely unlikely, etc. About the sudden reversal of Joy's bone cancer in Nov 1957 C.S. Lewis wrote in a letter: "the cancerous bones have rebuilt themselves in a way quite unusual and Joy can now walk" and regarded it as a miracle, even though the cancer came back about 2 years later.

It is VERY IMPORTANT to keep in mind that God can work through all 3 modes above and we have good reasons to suspect that statistically God especially likes to work through mode #3, which then gives a much larger role for a person's subjective faith to determine whether this "miracle" comes from God or not. A skeptic will can say that it's a coincidence but a Christian can say that this intervention is timed so precisely in a soul's condition (let's say after intense 'crying to God' or in a much needed phase in someone's life) that he/she frames the intervention as a miracle.

When considering God's operation on the human psyche under mode #3, it is EVEN MORE MURKY to distinguish Holy Spirit's operation (treated in Christian theology) from normal human psyche operation (treated in Christian psychology). This is because in Christianity, a human being consists not only of the material body but also a spiritual soul. I distinguish Christian psychology from non-Christian psychology in that Christian psychology does NOT make the assumption that human psyche is 100% matter / effect of the brain but in fact has a broader conception of what a human IS by postulating:

  • how the soul is dependent on the brain, yet in a way irreducible to it. The relation maybe a certain configuration that survives death, which in the resurrection can configure our glorified bodies
  • how the soul has conscience which witness and judges a human moral action
  • how the grace of the Holy Spirit operates on the soul forming virtues which in turn interfaces with reason, emotion, and will and how repeated sin can cause vices to form
  • how the soul has fundamental human desires with built-in teleological direction to reach for God under the aspect of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful; although these desires can be influenced by the brain and chemicals causing impairment in reason, emotion, or will

CONCLUSION: The question is defective from anthropological and philosophical grounds, since:

  • God can work on both the soul and the brain. In addition, God can work in mode #1, #2, or #3. If God works through mode #3, how do we distinguish the CAUSE, whether it is from grace (soul only), bodily "miracle" (brain only) or God's working through secular therapy?
  • A Christian usually performs a regular regimen of spiritual exercise (prayer, meditation, Bible reading, repentance, self-examination, sacraments) which affects the soul while undergoing secular therapy which affects both soul and brain (especially psychoanalytic treatment). Christian notion of mental health requires the healthy functioning of both the soul and the brain, which from our point of view is an indistinguishable unity. So how can we distinguish whether the EFFECT is due to grace (Holy Spirit), secular therapy, or both? If we cannot distinguish, how can we compare which agency is more effective?

Therefore, within a Christian framework, the question is unanswerable.

11
  • What about cases in which God works through modes #1 or #2? Would the question still be unanswerable? Dec 15, 2021 at 16:13
  • Good question about therapy after exorcisms. I don't know. But reflecting about it, would you say that the Gerasene demoniac needed post-exorcism therapy? What about the slave girl who was delivered from a spirit of divination by Paul (Acts 16:16-18)? Do you think she needed therapy after the fact? If you count discipleship as "therapy", then I would say "yes". Dec 15, 2021 at 16:25
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator I think it's comparing apples and oranges. FIRST, consider proper use of exorcism (mode #2) when secular therapies have failed. Are we going to say that there is no need at all for secular therapy after the demons have been exorcised? SECONDLY, unlike heart surgery, psychological healing usually requires the patient's active involvement via willful & long-term cognitive change (forming a habit of reframing the situation) post mode #1 / mode #2 miracles, drug treatments, etc. While the patient is doing his/her part, is it fair to exclude Holy Spirit's assistance? Dec 15, 2021 at 16:28
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator About those miracles in the Bible, there are a LOT unsaid, since the purpose of the gospels is to highlight the theological aspects ONLY. Therapies in the modern period, like medical science, is simply a technological refinement of natural methods (like Chinese medicine, or natural "counseling" by priests / family members). Therefore I would think someone who has been delivered from a "mental demon" needs to form natural defense and natural healthy psychological habits so that the demon doesn't come back. Spiritual and psychological neglects are REAL risks! Dec 15, 2021 at 16:30
1

I found this review "Religion, Spirituality, and Schizophrenia: A Review" which shows links (both good and bad) between religiousness / religious practice and outlooks for schizophrenic patients. Nothing supernatural to see here, but I have a hard time figuring out how a study for what you are actually interested in would have to look. There are a lot of papers linked in that review, maybe one of those can help answer your question, although I doubt it's properly answerable.

I want to point out what was included as "positive religious coping" and "negative religious coping", which may give a hint how, as a religious community, these people can be helped better.

Religious coping is multidimensional and refers to functionally oriented expressions of religion in times of stress. Religious coping is operationally defined as “the use of religious beliefs or behaviors to facilitate problem-solving to prevent or alleviate the negative emotional consequences of stressful life circumstances.”[52] The concept of religious coping has been refined and categorized as helpful or positive, harmful or negative, and with mixed implications. The positive religious coping strategies include religious purification/forgiveness, religious direction/conversion, religious helping, seeking support from clergy/members, collaborative religious coping, religious focus, active religious surrender, benevolent religious reappraisal, spiritual connection, and marking religious boundaries. The negative religious coping strategies include spiritual discontent, demonic reappraisal, passive religious deferral, interpersonal religious discontent, reappraisal of God's powers, punishing God reappraisal, and pleading for direct intercession.[53] The religious coping strategies with mixed implications include religious rituals in response to crisis, self-directing, deferring, and pleading religious coping.

Regarding outlooks:

Researchers have shown that religion/religiousness in patients with schizophrenia is associated with increased social integration, reduced risk of suicide attempts,[38,41] reduce risk of substance use,[38,42] decreased rate of smoking,[43] better quality of life,[10,44,45] lower level of functioning,[26] and better prognoses.[46] With regard to the relationship of religion and psychosocial adaptation, the findings are contradictory, with some reporting better psychosocial adaptation[47] and others reporting poor social and psychological status in a majority of patients.[9] Religious support and spirituality has also been found to be associated with better recovery[42,48,49] and reduced relapse rate.[47,50] However, in some patients, higher religiosity has been linked to higher risk of suicide attempt.[38]

1

You may want to look into this study on the effectiveness of the ministry Be In Health's flagship class at curing depression. They take the hard cases of Christian healing, and over the years The Holy Spirit has taught them a lot of things about a lot of deep and otherwise incurable diseases, disorders, syndromes, etc.

Effect of a Faith-Based Education Program on Self-Assessed Physical, Mental and Spiritual (Religious) Health Parameters

The study found that a year after participants took their class, 90% of those with depression were fully free of it. Also, although I don't have a study for it, my mom and took their class, and it has been a significant step in her journey toward recovering from chronic fatigue and my journey toward recovering from Autism.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .