The Bottom Line - Jesus

This last week I have been met with two great organisations (Mercy Ministries and Biblical Counselling UK) and also continued my job as a General Adult Psychiatrist. On the face of it, these three things run on different models:
-- Mercy is overtly charismatic, with an emphasis on believing for change
-- BCUK are all about the Bible and human heart,
-- My NHS day job is all about brain illnesses and psychological models...

The first two are actually more simple that you realise. Mercy Ministries know that it is not just a matter of having more faith - and if there was going to be an easy-looking miracle it would have happenned by now. Likewise BCUK know that it is not just a matter of reading a passage of the Bible and understanding/repenting/hoping because mere mental effort is not enough - nor is it possible in severe depression. Instead, both come down to the bottom line of theology - that [amazingly] God is reaching out to us so much more than we are reaching out to him. Our role is to turn [even if only a fraction] back to him. Sometimes this requires us to come back to the same issue again and again and again - with the belief that God is too wise to make mistakes and to good to do us wrong - and that if He is calling us then He will give us the strength to walk.

But how do you fit this with the biological and the psychological? Some people talk about different parts of us - body, soul and spirit. You can replace body with 'mind' or 'brain' if you wish. But this is a problem when these three areas are partitioned off to different people. The body is for the doctor and the soul for the priest - this can emphasise a dualistic divide that is not there. Inspead, I prefer to think of this as concentric circles like below. Our heart is in the centre [and perhaps this is a better word that spirit], our nature is our brains/body/physicality and this encases or embodies our soul. Our nurture and upbringing encase this again, and outside it all is God - who longs to change our hearts.

embodied soul

This model is quite sensible if you think about it.
-- My upbringing affects how I see God - eg if i have had a poor relationship with my father
-- My upbringing also affects my brain - as environmental stresses trigger genetic predispositions to cause illness
-- My brain affects my heart- if I am depressed it is so, so hard to hear the loving voice of God
-- My heart affects my brain - for if it CAN hear this voice then it can give hope and lift some of the depression
-- My heart and brain [as they change] help me make sense of and reappraise my upbringing
-- And God is over all...

CCEF call this model the 'embodied soul' - and they do this as their way of integrating the models. It allows them to see the value in [for example] psychiatric medications of cognitive therapy to relieve depression - but not forgetting that neither of these will turn our hearts towards God. It is this inner work that has to be our eventual goal, for God is calling us to him. At the end of the day, whatever your model, the 'bottom line' is Jesus. He gives us the 'why' and the deepest 'how' in our journeys of recovery, but has given us doctors and psychologists too.


Rob Waller, 31/03/2015
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