David Murray and Bob Kellemen have been having a conversation about Biblical counseling and medication. Bob writes at http://biblicalcounselingcoalition.org/
I was mentioned in the last article that David Murray wrote and I decided to blog about it. You can find David’s blog from today at www.HeadHeartHand.org
Hello Pastor Murray,
I don’t know you as we have never met. I suppose that must change now since you have mentioned me in print. I am Charles Hodges the author of Good Mood Bad Mood. I have practiced medicine for 38 years now as a family physician and I write the prescriptions for the anti depressants that your friend was going to discuss with his doctor. I have been teaching and counseling from a Biblical viewpoint for a couple of decades. I am not Ken Ham. Ken Ham is far better suited for that than I am. J
I do think we should get to know each other. I think there are many people like me in the Biblical Counseling movement and if you knew me better you would know them better too. So, let’s take a run at it.
Yes, there is controversy (You used the word war) going on in the field of depression. Frankly, the argument is not yours. It is happening in my field of medicine. And, researchers are currently airing their disagreements about the effectiveness of antidepressants as they are being used today. There is also a considerable argument going on about the diagnosis of depression and DSM criteria whereby it is made. This is not an argument in Biblical counseling. This is an argument among psychologists and psychiatrists without regard to religion! I outline that research in my book. I did so because current research would indicate that the diagnosis of depression is ambiguous and applied far too often to people who are grieving loses.
We in the medical profession have caused this by consenting to a process of making a diagnosis of a disease (depression) with no means to validate it. The chemical imbalance theory of depression is fading because after 50 years of looking there is no objective scientific evidence that it exists. This is not an opinion arrived at from examining the scriptures or biblical counseling folklore. It is the current statement of the scientific literature and I wrote about it in my book with abundant footnotes.
Perhaps it is true that many of us in Biblical counseling view the “observations of secular psychiatry” with skepticism. It is not because we are afraid of encountering scientific fact. It is as Ronald Reagan once said of his political opposition. It wasn’t so much that they were uniformed. Reagan said, “It's just that they know so many things that aren't so.” So it has been in the psychiatric part of medicine. We have been operating for 50 years with “facts” that are proving not to be true! And, that it is good because, now we can start looking for a better answer. And that is what medicine needs today; a better definition of the changes at the cell level that cause depression. If we get that we can make a better diagnosis and we can find better ways to treat.
If you are looking for evidence that someone in the Biblical counseling movement is reading current research and writing about it, I invite you to read my blog at goodmoodbadmood.com. I write there every week about the science of medicine that applies to Biblical counseling. A couple of weeks back I wrote about a fascinating study that showed that taking religion seriously made a huge (90%) difference in the risk a person faces for depression if he came from a family that had a history of it. This morning I posted about the connection between sleeping less than 6 hours a night and depression. This is current published research that I write about.
I note that you mention Ed Welch’s book, “Blame it on the Brain.” There is a good quote in that book that applies to this chronic recurring controversy over taking antidepressants. I remember that he said something to the effect that taking medicine for psychiatric disorders was not a matter of right or wrong. Instead it was a question of whether it was “wise or unwise.” In that sense I have been trying to tell people for 20 years that taking medicine for psychiatric diagnoses is a Romans 14 issue of Christian Liberty. I have also said that the idea that taking antidepressants is a right or wrong issue has been the wrong question. What we should have been asking was, “do these medicines work and are the side effects worth the benefit!” The research today does not clearly tell us that these medicines work very well for most of those who take them.
I have little use for debates. It is not that I fear the controversy, but I do not like arguing with my brothers and sisters. I have a family of pastors whose denomination enjoys inviting pastors of other denominations in for a good round of debating their theological differences. They asked me once if I would come and do it. I told them no! When they asked me why, I said it was because I liked them.
So, I know that you are a brother and that we likely disagree about some things. But I suspect that if you knew me better, you would criticize me and those like me less. We should get together and talk about this.
Charles Hodges M.D.