HA note: The following is a transcript of Voddie Baucham’s sermon “Nebuchadnezzar Loses His Mind.” Baucham delivered this sermon on the subject of mental health on April 8, 2012 to Grace Family Baptist Church. It provides his answers to the following 2 questions: “What is the Biblical view of mental health? How should we as Christians (and especially Pastors) look at the ‘mental health’ industry?” Baucham is the Pastor of Preaching GFBC; GFBC is the host of Baucham’s Voddie Baucham Ministries and a member of the Southern Baptist Convention. This transcript was created by HA Community Coordinator R.L. Stollar.
Click here to read other transcripts by and posts about Voddie Baucham.
See the “highlights” from the episode here. Content warning for transcript: mental health denialism and blaming mental illness on personal sin.
We cannot walk through Daniel, Chapter 4, and avoid the topic of mental illness. We cannot look at a picture of a man who, had he walked into a hospital today, would have immediately been diagnosed with schizophrenia and medicated until he was drooling, left there without any hope. We cannot read this text that ends far differently than that and starts for reasons other than those supposed according to our contemporary psychological and psychiatric models without asking the question, “What does this mean for those of us who are born again, blood-washed followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, and yet live in this real world where people have real problems and real difficulties?”
Do we just act like Daniel, Chapter 4 is not here? I mean, you can. You can act like Daniel, Chapter 4 is not here and we can not deal with the question of schizophrenia. But then you gotta read Job and you gotta deal with clinical depression. “Oh we’ll just act like Job is not there.” That’s fine. We’ll deal with the Apostle Paul and the murders he oversaw and then we can talk about post-traumatic stress disorder. “Well, I don’t really want to talk about that.” Ok, fine, if you don’t want to talk about that, let’s talk about Jesus, shall we? In the Garden of Gethsemane, where he experiences a classic instance of anxiety. Or better yet, when he comes to the tomb of Lazarus, weeping, there in depression, but then resuscitates Lazarus, and they celebrate — now he’s bipolar. Let’s not even talk about the Psalms, where you find every manner of what we would define as “mental illness” expressed by the psalmist himself.
So even if you want to avoid the subject here in Daniel, Chapter 4, which you absolutely, positively cannot, and must not, you have to face it somewhere. And you have to ask the question, “What are we as Christians supposed to do?”
We’ve got a couple of possibilities. Possibility Number One is we can simply say that that is not a place where we belong. “We don’t understand it, but there are other professionals who do. So let’s just leave it alone.” Well, that’s an untenable position because it’s right here in the Bible. So we can’t leave it alone.
Well, what’s our other option? Well, the other option, there’d be a ditch on the other side of the road, where we acted like we understood things completely just because of what we have here in the text as it relates to what’s going on in people’s minds. The Bible’s not designed as a mental health textbook, so to speak.
So what do we do? Well, we take this little excursus and we talk about the main issues involved here. Let me tell what I’m not here to do this morning. I am not here to give you an exhaustive understanding of the way the Bible deals with the issue of mental illness. I am not here to give you an exhausting understanding of psychology and psychiatry. That’s not my goal here. My goal here, however, is to give you a basic lay of the land so that we can at least talk about this in a way that honors our Lord Jesus Christ, recognizes what it means to be born again, to be saved — and that recognizes what it means to be “bipartite human being”: having physical and spiritual abiding simultaneously together.
Now, let me just say, full disclosure: It’s a blessing, in a church this size, I was able this week to pick up the phone and have conversations with: one, a family-practiced specialist; two, a psychiatrist; and three, an emergency room physician — all of whom are members right here in this church. Imagine that!
So I did that. Why? ‘Cuz this is not my area of expertise. And yet because this text is in the Bible, and because I shepherd real people with real problems, it is incumbent upon me to know something about this. It is not an option for a pastor to see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil when it comes to this issue of mental illness. That is not allowed. That is dereliction of duty. We’re responsible to walk with people who have real difficulties.
So why is it so hard for us to talk about this issue? Several reasons:
Number one, because of our psychologized culture. There are presuppositions with which we live that make it difficult for us to talk about this passage or even think about this passage in the right way. For example, the number one most completed class in college is Psychology 101. More people complete that course than any other course on the college level. Everybody takes psychology. Very few people — I’ve talked to a couple engineers who said that they didn’t take psychology, but I mean, some people, just a few people, will get away with not taking psychology. But more likely than not, if you took any class in college, you took Psychology 101. And it’s terrible, because you think you now know psychology. It’s like people who take one class in philosophy and think that they can philosophize about everything in the world. We take one class in psychology and think we know psychology.
Secondly, the acceptance of psychiatry into the medical community has changed the way we think about this issue of mental illness and has gone a long way toward psychologizing our culture.
Thirdly, over-diagnosis. All of us know someone who has been diagnosed with something. I can give you a brief list and it would hit most of us in the room when it comes to the people whom we know. We start with the one that is most popular today which is bipolar disorder. Secondly, depression. Thirdly, anxiety disorder — or social anxiety disorder, known as “SAD.” Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — ADD or ADHD. Post-traumatic stress disorder. As long as we’ve been engaged in wars across the world, this one has become huge. It’s on everybody’s list these days.
And of course, the ubiquitous “chemical imbalance.”
All of us know somebody with one of these diagnoses. Many of us are somebody with one of these diagnoses.
Another reason that we’re psychologized — because of these drug commercials. [in mocking voice:] “Where does depression hurt? It hurts everywhere.” K? We see these commercials and they come at us — and folks, we believe that mental illness is actually the new norm. Movies and television programs, dramas, police dramas, where the psychologist is the one who knows everything about the person who’s doing this crime. Why? Because if you’re a psychologist, you are all-knowing. “This person is probably this age, and he probably grew up like this, and he probably has the” — all the while, you over here are looking at the other part of the movie that the cops are not seeing and what are you being told? The person with the psychology degree is god.
And “destigmatization”? Far from there being a stigma anymore with mental illness — and I’m not saying that it’s good or bad or whatever, for stigma — but there was stigma attached to mental illness — now we’re proud of our mental illnesses. We wear them like a badge. We won’t tell people our phone number but we’ll tell them our diagnoses.
We are living in a psychologized culture. Not only that, but there has been a marginalization of the church in this regard. How so? The overwhelming number of pastors who have any theological training have basically been given this kind of training when it comes to mental illness and mental disorders: “If somebody has a small problem you can help them. If they have a big problem, call a professional. Because God cannot handle mental illness.”
Pastors are taught that. Christians are taught that. And we believe that with every fiber of our being. And so we will run to a mental health professional, go get treatment, get put on psychotropic drugs, and not even consult our pastor. Why? “None on his business. Not his area.”
We’re gonna talk about how dangerous that mentality is.
Then of course there’s the history of psychology itself. We can spend a lot of time talking about this journey but let me just give you a picture because I want you to understand something. We believe that psychology and psychiatry are “sciences” like chemistry or physics. We believe that if somebody says you have a chemical disorder or a chemical imbalance that actually what has happened is they’ve given you a test and they have tested the level of chemicals in your body and because of that scientific test they now know your outside of ra—[cut off] we think about it, we think it’s sort of like blood pressure — “your systolic ought to be between here and here, your dystolic, you know, ought to be between here and here, and we, we can test you with a machine, and you’re not between here and here, therefore you have high blood pressure, you have low blood pressure.”
We think about the term “chemical imbalance” in that exact same way. Because we assume that these people are doing science. And most Christians don’t know that there is no such thing as chemical imbalance. There’s no test for it. There never has been a test for it.
Here’s the other thing: everybody’s chemistry is different. It’s like blood pressure, where you can go, “Here’s where these chemicals are supposed to be in your brain and here’s where they are in—“ — No, not like that.
Had a dear friend of mine over my house, we were having a discussion about this. Almost lost a friendship over this because somehow this issue came up, this whole chemical imbalance, bipolar, whatever. And I just sorta alluded to the fact that there’s no test for it and that it is not a scientific diagnosis. It’s not a medical diagnosis. And he said, “No, no, it is! Because I have a family member who has this and they’re treated for this and their doctor tested them for this!” And I said, “No, actually, they didn’t. They had a conversation about how they feel and how they function and then they were drugged.” “No!” Picks up the phone in the midst of the discussion, calls his friend who’s also his family physician, and says, “Listen, I got, this is my buddy, my real buddy, but I think he’s out to lunch ‘cuz he’s trying to tell me that, there’s this chemical imbalance thing, that there’s no test for it, that it’s not scientific, that you guys, you know, treating my family member and you haven’t actually done any real medicine in order to determine that this —“ and you can just see him on the phone, his whole countenance changed. “What? What do you mean there’s no way you can test for that? What do you mean that there’s no way you can know for cert — what do you — what are you telling me?”
It’s a fact, folks. That’s why we use the term “syndrome” or “disorder.” There is no test for it. And if you look at the history of psychology what you see is a movement historically from one world view to the next to the next to the next to the next. And we believe a certain school of psychology, we start with structuralism and Wilhelm Wundt, then we moved to functionalism and people like William James, and of course psychoanalysis with Sigmund Freud, and — Why do we move from one of these to the others? Because we prove that they don’t work. And then Freud is found to be fraudulent and so we come to behavioralism. And in behavioralism we know people like Pavlov and B.F. Skinner and we, we’re there, and we get that, and we understand that that’s the new school of thought. Eventually you move from there to humanistic psychology. After that you move to Gestalt. All of these based on differing roles, norms, and morays within the psychological community.
Lot of people also don’t realize that the way these diagnoses come about — is, again, if it’s not through testing, ‘cuz here’s what you’re saying to me, “Now wait a minute, you’re saying these doctors aren’t testing people to determine that they have the — how do they come up with these diagnoses?” They vote. The psychological community gets together, they talk about groups of symptoms that they see, they give it a name, and if enough people in the room raise their hand, it gets into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and it becomes an official diagnosis.
Why is that important? Because that’s the only way that you can get insurance companies to pay for it. That’s it.
Can you imagine doctors voting on whether a heart attack is a heart attack? Taking a poll as to whether high blood pressure is high blood pressure? Opening you up, taking things out, hoping it solves your problem? “You feel better? We stay here. You don’t? We’ll go take something else.” We would not stand for it. But in the mental health community, we don’t even question it. That, my friends, is a huge problem.
Well, what’s the main problem with psychology, psychiatry? I don’t argue they’re of absolutely no value. But there are problems. Let me give them to you. And then we’ll look at Nebuchadnezzar and talk about some of the implications of these things.
Number one, it’s quasi-scientific at best. It’s quasi-scientific at best. That’s a problem.
And it’s really a problem because of the second problem, which is a lack of accountability. You see, if a physician, an MD, a heart specialist or whatever, if they go in and take out the wrong thing, you sue them for malpractice. Because they were supposed to test you, they were supposed to take images, they were supposed to know what they were doing — if they go in there and do the wrong thing, you’re in trouble. They make a mistake, you’re on the table, you die, they’re in trouble. There’s a malpractice lawsuit.
If a psychiatrist, based on a syndrome that was voted upon another group of psychiatrists, gives you a diagnosis and then gives you a drug and then as a side effect of that drug you go and commit suicide, you cannot sue them. Why? Because it wasn’t a scientific diagnosis in the first place. Therefore, they cannot be held specifically accountable when there is no specific thing they’re dealing with. And they hide behind this thing called “standards of practice.” Estimated that as many as 40,000 deaths a year are directly related to psychotropic drugs. And yet psychiatrists are not held accountable. Why? Because they’re not doing actual scientific tests. They’re not treating actual medical illnesses. Therefore, there’s a lack of accountability.
There’s also an absence of results. Let me say this and please hear me clearly: Psychiatry and psychology have never cured anyone of anything nor do they claim to be able to. Let me say that one more time slowly. Psychology and psychiatry — and they’re not the same thing, one’s a medical doctor who goes to medical school, a psychiatrist, gets a medical degree, k? And they can dispense drugs, and, and that’s pretty much all they do, just dispense drugs and [unintelligible] drugs — and the other one, a psychologist, you don’t go to medical school, that’s a complete different degree, k? But in both instances, psychology and psychiatry have never cured anyone of anything. By the way, in order to cure somebody, you need to be able to diagnose them accurately, right? If you can’t diagnose someone accurately, and there’s no test to demonstrate what a person has, how could you know if you cured them? You can’t. They’ve never cured anyone. They don’t claim to be able to cure anyone of anything. These things are important to know, folks. I’m not telling you my opinion, by the way. Everything I’ve stated for you up to this point is just pure fact.
Fourth problem. Dangerous side effects. Dangerous side effects. Just listen to one of the drug commercials. Dangerous side effects. “Here’s an antidepressant medication, k? You’re depressed so we want to give you this medication. By the way, if you start thinking about wanting to kill yourself or somebody else, call us immediately.” “Why?” “Because it’s one of the side effects of your medication.”
Wrong worldview. This is a problems with psychology and psychiatry. Wrong worldview. It’s based on a materialistic worldview that sees nature as a closed system and man basically as a machine. It does not account for the bipartite nature of the human being — that there is a physical side of him and that there is a spiritual side of him. They only treat the physical side, are not equipped to deal with the spiritual side. Don’t acknowledge it. Don’t account for it. They can’t.
And then there are the theological inconsistencies. Listen to this. Thomas Szasz, by the way, is a psychiatrist who is sort of at variance with his profession. ‘Cuz some of you right now are a little uncomfortable with the things I am saying. ‘Cuz we don’t talk about this about psychology and psychiatry. They get a free pass. They’re not questioned. Somebody says you’re bipolar, you’re bipolar. Somebody says you have clinical depression, you have clinical depression. Somebody says you have a chemical imbalance, you have a chemical imbalance. No questions asked. “Take this pill.” “Yes sir.” So we’re not used to talking like this. So, again. And who am I, right? I’m just a pastor, just a Bible-teacher guy, ok. Thomas Szasz is not a pastor. He’s not a Bible-teacher guy. He’s a psychiatrist. In 1961, he penned the classic “The Myth of Mental Illness,” where he refuted the idea that mental disorders were on par with physical illness and could therefore be treated with medication. In his view mental illness does not constitute actual disease but rather problems in living. I didn’t say that. A psychiatrist said that. I wouldn’t dare say that ‘cuz that’s not my field. I don’t have the authority to say that. He sorta does. And that’s what he says about his field.
And there’s no way to prove anything other than that.
Now as we move forward, let me help you here real quickly. If I want to say something this morning, I will say it. If I don’t say it, I didn’t mean to say it. Amen? I didn’t say there’s no such thing as mental illness. I didn’t say all psychologists and psychiatrists are going to hell. I didn’t say that nobody has real problems and that there’s nobody outside of the church who can help people — I didn’t say that. If I want to say that, I’ll say that. If I don’t want to say that, I won’t say that. But when a psychiatrist says something like this, I pay attention to it. ‘Cuz it’s his area that I am trying to understand.
But I also know that my area has a great deal to do with people’s problems. And whereas I recognize these folks, they don’t recognize me. That means they’re in the weeds, as far as I am concerned. Not because I’m anybody worth recognizing, but because this [picks up Bible] is not just worth recognizing, it demands recognition.
And so let’s look here at Nebuchadnezzar. We’ve looked at part of this and for the second time, let’s read over the main issues. First, let’s look at Nebuchadnezzar’s warning. Going down to verse 19, we’ve looked at much of this, but let’s go over verse 19. We’ll repeat some of the things that were there before:
“Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while—“ again, the king’s had a dream, he’s called his guys in, he finally calls Daniel in again, tells Daniel what the dream is, he’s amazed for a while and his thoughts alarmed him.
“The king answered him and said, ‘Belteshazzar, let not the dream or its interpretation alarm you.’ Belteshazzar answered and said, ‘My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies! The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all; under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived — it is you.”
So that tree, that’s you. That’s the first part of the dream, there’s the interpretation. So far, so good, right?
“It is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth. And because the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it,’”
— not so good anymore —
“‘— but leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field; and let him be wet with the dew of heaven; and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven periods of time pass over him’; this is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king, that you shall be —“
— by the way, it’s a decree from the Most High. This is not God telling Nebuchadnezzar what is going to naturally happen to him because of a defect in his brain. This is God telling Nebuchadnezzar what He is going to do to him —
“— that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field; you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven. Seven periods of time shall pass over you,” —
— seven years —
“— till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men, and gives it to whom he will. And as it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be confirmed for you for the time that you know that Heaven rules” —
— Or, “from the time that you know that Heaven rules” —
“— Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you; break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”
The warning is due directly to Nebuchadnezzar’s sins. Directly because of his sin. Period. End of discussion. “This is what’s going to happen to you because you have sinned against God. This is what lay ahead for you because you have sinned against God.” And so here in Daniel we see a direct link between sin and mental illness. And when I use the term “mental illness” I’m using the term that we all understand. And you’ll, you’ll see why I make that clarification here shortly. A direct link between his sin and what in an emergency room or in a primary care physician’s office would clearly be diagnosed as schizophrenia. A direct link to his sin.
Does that mean that everyone who has this issue has a sin problem? Well the answer to that of course is yes. Because we’ve all got a sin problem. But does that mean that everyone is struggling with this as a direct result of this sin problem? I couldn’t say that. I couldn’t say that.
But here’s what you also can’t say, and this is what psychology and psychiatry say: “People aren’t struggling with this because of a sin problem.” I would never say that everyone who has this, this, this, and this going on, it’s directly related to a particular sin. I wouldn’t be that arrogant. But psychology and psychiatry are arrogant enough to ignore the spiritual dimension of this altogether.
What are those sins? Well, particularly: pride, rebellion, a lack of repentance, and ultimately, mistaking God’s kindness for weakness. We see that beginning in verse 28:
“All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, and the king answered and said, ‘Is not this Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?’” —
— Now, don’t miss this. It’s twelve months later. It’s a year later. You know this is what happened. Nebuchadnezzar probably got real scared for a little while. “This is what’s going to happen to you, King” — and then it didn’t happen. He probably changed his ways for while. And nothing happened. But his heart wasn’t changed. So twelve months later, what does he do? He’s walking around and he says, “Look at my kingdom and my greatness that I have built.” —
— “While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field; and you shall be made to eat grass like an ox; and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you have learned that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.’”
There is a direct correlation here, is it not? Nebuchadnezzar says, “Look at what I have done! Look at what I have created! Look at how great I am!” God says, “I could make you eat grass, man. I could make it so you don’t even recognize this place anymore. I could make it so you don’t even know your own name anymore. Who do you think you are?” And that’s precisely what he does. God humbles this proud man and because his pride was inordinately large, his humiliation was inordinately significant.
Let’s look at Nebuchadnezzar’s “symptoms,” shall we? Verse 33:
“He was driven from among men, and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.”
He’s gone. He’s living out in the woods. That’s the idea of him being driven from among men. Hair’s not being taken care of, it’s just growing long and wild. Nails growing long like claws. And the man is literally eating like an animal — just stuff on the ground, and grass, and bugs and whatever else.
Now I alluded to this earlier. But go with me in your mind’s eye for a moment to today, when a man shows up in the emergency room — or in his primary care physician’s office — probably be the man and his wife, or maybe just the wife ‘cuz he’s over in the woods somewhere — and she says, “I was kinda wondering if somebody could come check on my husband.” “Well, what’s wrong with him?” “He’s lost his mind.” “Ok, m’am, that’s kinda of, you know, broad. Can you be more specific?” “Yes, he lives in the woods and he eats grass.”
Immediately they’d go get him. And then there would be a team assembled. What would the worldview of that team be? The worldview would be naturalistic materialism: “Nature is a closed system and everything we know, we know from our observation in nature.” That’s the worldview that guides this team. It is not biblical theism, but naturalistic materialism.
What is their anthropology? Their anthropology is that man is the result of evolutionary processes and that ultimately, though there may be a mind-body dichotomy, it is all physical. All physical. That’s their anthropology and that’s their doctrine of man. There is a mind-body dichotomy but ultimately all of that is physical. They do not see him as a bipartite human being, they don’t see the world as having a spiritual component, a supernatural component and a god, therefore they do not see man as having a spiritual component that relates directly to God.
And so what’s the team? Well, the primary care physician or the emergency room physician, they’d first go and talk to a neurologist. Somebody’s acting like this, you want to get a picture of their brain and make sure there’s not something in there pushing against their brain that’s making them act like this. And in that case, you go in there and you get it out. And there can be a cure. That’s what happens with medicine. But in this case, it’s not a tumor. Then you would get a psychiatrist.
Remember: a psychiatrist has one tool and one tool only, and that’s psychotropic drugs. To the man whose only tool is a hammer, everything in the world looks like a nail. Psychiatrist has a single tool — and it’s these powerful psychotropic drugs.
A clinical psychologist and a social worker, or a case worker. Why do you need a social worker or case worker? Because you’re going to have to house this man somewhere and that individual is going to oversee that part of it, where this person goes, where they’re housed while they’re being treated.
What about the treatment? Well, a psychotropic drug cocktail. Not a single drug, but a fistful of drugs in order to control and maintain this man to give him palliative care. In other words, to maintain him, to keep him from harming himself, and to give him some sort of reasonable expectation of a decent life.
What about the outlook? Here me when I say this: This team will have absolutely no hope of anything other than keeping this individual comfortable. They will not speak in terms of cure because they cannot speak in terms of cure. They cannot even speak in terms of accurately and scientifically diagnosing what this is. So how on earth could they speak in terms of cure?
Here’s the question we have to ask. Again, we understand and we believe in the sovereignty of God — amen, hallelujah, praise the Lord! — and that God brings this individual to his right mind. But can you imagine trying to get truth and the Gospel through to an individual who is on a cocktail, a fistful of powerful psychotropic drugs, has a flat affect, and stares off into the distance when you talk to him? Do you think that makes it easier or more difficult for a person to hear and heed and comprehend the Gospel?
Again, all things are possible with God. Amen? But we cannot ignore what would be done to an individual in a circumstance like this, can we? Do you notice anybody who’s not on this team? There’s no Daniel on this team. And Daniel is the only one who has an accurate diagnosis and any hope for this man to ever be cured. But he would not be allowed on this team. He would not be consulted by this team. Because his worldview doesn’t fit into this worldview.
Am I saying there’s no such thing as a doctor or a psychologist or a psychiatrist who has a right worldview? I told you consulted three people — remember, right here in this church — so no, that’s what I’m saying. But I’m saying those three people I consulted? They think the way they think in spite of their training, not because of their training. And all of them will tell you that they have been Christians practicing their craft longer than they have been Christians practicing their craft and applying a biblical worldview to it.
Let me explain what I just said. All of these individuals were wonderful, trained Christian physicians who would deal with the circumstance like this — all these individuals whom I consulted — Christians who think through this, who would think through this today biblically — every last one of them will tell you that for a large part of their professional career they were Christian physicians — psychologists — psychiatrists — or whatever — but they were not applying their biblical worldview to their work and their treatment of people like they are today. What that means is, if somebody came to them simply because they go to church and have their name on the roll, they would not have been getting someone who has operating in anything other than this worldview when it came to treatment.
Please understand that just because somebody is a Christian who’s a psychologist or a Christian who’s a psychiatrist doesn’t mean they understand the significant worldview implications and how to apply those in the treatment of people with so-called “mental illness.” So many Christians would lose it at that point: “Oh this person’s a Christian, and they told me to take this, therefore” — they might not know anything about how to apply biblical theological reality to handling these particular issues. And all they’ve got is their training.
They’re not going to put a Daniel on the team. As your pastor, I’m telling you: you need to. You need to. ‘Cuz they won’t. You need to. You need to bring that piece to bear. You have to bring that piece to bear. If you don’t, you are bowing to this worldview that negates your God. You can’t do that. You can’t do that.
Does that mean that this [tapping head] — it’s all good, it’s all fixed? No. That’s not what I’m saying. It was still going to be seven years, even with a Daniel on his team. Amen? Nor am I arguing — let me say this quickly — nor am I arguing that it’s wrong to help people and ameliorate their symptoms where we can. Saul is having when we would probably call anxiety attacks. What does he do? He goes and he gets David to play for him and he helps him with his symptoms. That’s a good thing. That’s mercy. That’s kindness. We don’t have to just let people run around and eat grass. Amen?
If you can help someone not run around and eat grass, let’s help someone not run around and eat grass. But there has to be something between turning him into a basic vegetable with a flat affect and allowing him to run around and eat grass. Can we at least agree on that? There’s got to be somewhere between those two. Amen? I am nowhere — by no means suggesting — that I am the one who knows for certain where that place is.
There is restoration. First, his reason is restored. Look at 34:
“At the end of the days—“
— And I just, you know, sometimes you read the Bible, and unless you’re careful, you just miss it. If, if you’re not, if you don’t read the Bible carefully, you just, you know, you read this “seven periods of time” and then the next verse, the next verse says, “At the end of the days.” And you and I read that within a couple of seconds. It took years. It took years. Don’t miss that fact. It was years. It was hard. There was pain and heartache for everyone who knew him and watched him go through it. They probably did everything they knew how to do. There was embarrassment, there was fear, there was shame, there was — on and on and on and on — all of that between those two verses. Don’t miss that. Please don’t miss that.
“At the end of the days, I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven,—“
— There’s hope, just there. —
“—and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives for ever; for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing; and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’—“
Ha, you know what? When you’re in your right, when — First who’s he talking about? Me, me, me, me, me. He gets in his right mind and it’s God, God, God, God, God. I’m in my right mind because I know who God is. I know my reason has returned to me because I understand the nature of God. The person of God. The attributes of God. I get who God is. That’s where you want to be, folks. But that’s not even what we seek when it comes to these “mental illnesses,” so to speak. What do we seek? [mocking voices:] “I just want to feel better.” “I don’t feel good.”
And unfortunately we’re not talking to people who will take us by the hand and say, “You know what, sweetheart? In light of the way you’ve been living you shouldn’t feel good.” Turn to God. ‘Cuz I can give you stuff to mask the way you feel but it will not deal with the underlying problem. But we don’t believe we should ever not feel good.
God was so merciful — by the way, that’s enough right there. He also restores his fortune:
“At the same time my reason returned to me; and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of heaven; for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”
Amen, hallelujah, praise the Lord! When you get in your right mind, you don’t turn around and say, “How dare God to that to me for seven years!” You turn around and say, “God is good! I didn’t deserve it as good — he gave me grass to eat! I didn’t have to have grass!” God is good. He even restores his fortunes.
What do we take away from this? This, this is what’s important. Please here this carefully. ‘Cuz again, I said to you, this is not about me giving you all the answers today. So what do we take away from this?
Number one, you are a bipartite human being. You are physical and spiritual. Do not ever, ever, ever allow anyone to treat you like you’re not. Not even your doctor. You are physical and you are spiritual. Don’t forget that.
Secondly, remember you live in a fallen world and you’re going to have bad days. You’re going to feel bad. Stuff’s not going to work. As we get older — how dare we think, “I’m going to get older, and my muscles and my joints are not going to work like they used to, but my mind is not going to have any of the effects of the Fall as I get older”? God help you if you believe that! That’s a mental illness right there!—Believing that your mind is not going to deteriorate in myriad ways as you get older. Believing that you’re supposed to be happy all the time. That’s a problem! That’s not the real world! Things happen and we’re supposed to feel bad about them!
I mean, for example, you hear all this talk about “post-traumatic stress disorder” — with the guys coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq. Can I just sorta give you a little bit of perspective on that? Here’s what we’re saying, and unfortunately we’re not thinking this through: A guy goes to a place for a year or two years where it’s kill or be killed everyday. He takes countless human lives, he sees his friends and comrades fall by his side, he sees more than one man who placed his life in his hands go home in a box, he has to kill people — sometimes very young people — who are trying to kill him, he comes back, he has night sweats, he has nightmares and he’s jittery and we say he has a disorder! No, I say the man who comes back and doesn’t have that response is the one with a disorder! That man’s human. We’re not made to do that to other human beings or see it done to human beings in our presence. And when we respond like a human being should respond to seeing something like that, we say it’s a “disorder” because we believe that human life is supposed to always be at peace. We have a problem.
Death comes to your door. You’re supposed to mourn. And we want to drug you so you don’t. You hear me? Teenagers are up one day in the stratosphere, down the next in the doldrums, as teenagers always have been, and we want to drug them. Boys are taken to a school where they are told, “Sit in that chair, be still, look at me, don’t make noise, don’t tap your foot, don’t tap your pencil, don’t hum, don’t look out the window, don’t daydream” — and when they don’t reach that, we drug them — as children, for years, with a drug whose long term side effects we don’t yet know.
We have a problem, people. We live in a fallen world and we act like it’s all supposed to be a bed of roses. “Man, born of a woman, lives but a few days, and those days are filled with trouble.”
Thirdly, your sin has physical and emotional consequences. Your sin has physical and emotional consequences. I did not say everything that everyone ever deals with, is, always, go back to a verse that they need to — that’s not what I said. Hear what I’m saying. Your sin has real physical and emotional consequences. Proverbs 26:13: “The sluggard” — by the way, that’s sin — “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion in the road, there’s a lion in the streets.” The sin of slothfulness — contributing to anxiety! Must need a pill! No, it’s a sin problem at the root of that! Proverbs 28:1: “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as lions.” The wicked are fleeing when no one’s pursuing — there’s paranoia, directly related to wickedness! Psalms 31:10: “For my life is spent with sorrow, my years with sighing, my strength fails because of my iniquity and my bones waste away.” Physical consequences because of sin. James 5, beginning at verse 13. We talk about this every week: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord and the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed.” And another one that we read every week, 1 Corinthians 11, beginning at verse 27: “Whoever therefore eats the” — this is talking about the Lord’s Supper — “Whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of who are weak and ill and some have died.”
Four, we come away from this recognizing that there is real evil in the world. There is real evil in the world. And often times — and we haven’t talked about this — often times what we’re dealing with is some of that real evil in the world. Ephesians 6:11 and 12: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” That’s real, people. And there’s no pill for that. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6: “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience when your obedience is complete.”
Five, a psychiatric disorder is not a medical disease. A psychiatric disorder is not a medical disease. One more time: a psychiatric disorder is not a medical disease. And I know there are people who will fight you — literally who will fist-fight you over saying this ‘cuz their physician, psychologist, psychiatrist told them they have a diagnosis and you better not challenge that ‘cuz a medical professional said it. How dare you say otherwise? Actually, I’m agreeing with the medical professional. The reason they said “disorder” or “syndrome” is because it is not a disease. The reason they didn’t give you a test for it, is because it’s not a disease. It’s not the same thing. Now, here what I didn’t say. I didn’t say there’s nothing wrong with you. I can’t say that. What I did say is that you do not have a medical diagnosis. It’s not a disease. And, and it’s time to, to, to expose the man behind the curtain on this one. Because he’s been parading as the great and powerful Oz for far too long.
Again, Thomas Szasz (a psychiatrist, not me): “My view is that there is no mental illness and hence also no therapy, psychotherapy. Therapy, then, is a particular kind of human relationship aimed at helping people cope with their problems in living. This makes it necessary to reframe some of the questions you pose.”
Amen! That’s just honest, folks.
Six, there is no evidence that psychotropic drugs cure any problem or disorder. To my knowledge, there is not one recorded cure of a mental illness anywhere on Planet Earth ever, ever, ever, ever, ever — which makes sense, since there’s never been an actual, accurate, scientific diagnosis of anything to cure.
Seven, psychotropic drugs mask or ameliorate symptoms and have severe, potentially deadly, long-term side effects. Again, these drugs don’t cure anything. They mask symptoms or they ameliorate symptoms. They lessen the symptoms but they do not cure anything. And by the way, psychology and psychiatry are not the only places where this is true. Those of us who take high blood pressure medication — that doesn’t cure anything. It’s helpful, keep your blood pressure down, better than have your blood pressure up, but it will not cure blood pressure. So they give you blood pressure medication, you don’t take that and come back to see if you’re cured. You take that and come back and see if you got enough of it — ok, so I’m not, there’s a lot of places where you’re not experiencing cures. In fact, there are very few places in medicine at all where you experience a cure. A surgeon — you got appendicitis — they can go in, they can cut you open, and take out that appendix — that thing’s cured, you’re not going to have appendicitis anymore, k? But there are very few things like that, you know? If there’s, there’s, a bacterial infection, and they give you antibiotics, antibiotics go in there and do their thing, attack that infection, help your body fight off that infection, you can cure that particular infection. Other than that, in most of medicine, there’s only management of symptoms and not cure. K? So I’m not even being unduly harsh here on those who dispense psychotropic drugs by saying that. And let me say again, this is an indisputable fact, not an opinion.
Here’s the other thing. This is what’s really scary, and I really want you to hear this: Psychotropic drugs are often highly addictive and difficult, even dangerous, to quit. I am not telling you today to go get off from whatever somebody put on. Amen, somebody! I’m not telling you that. I’m not telling you that, I can’t tell you that. It can be dangerous for you to go off that stuff. And that’s part of what’s so horrible about this — ‘cuz you never just get one, it’s like Lay’s Potato Chips, you can’t eat just one. They give you a drug, that drug has side effects, so they give you another drug to balance out those side effects. But of course the drug to balance out the side effects of the first drug has side effects, so they give you another drug to balance out the side effects of the drug they gave you to balance out the side effects of the first drug. And so on and so forth and so forth. And then all of a sudden, these drugs are no longer effective, so they have to go find other drugs that will go and will, will, will, you see? You try to get off something like that and your body will rebel and it might shut down. In fact, you can’t even get off of a drug like caffeine without side effects.
There’s some of you in here who are addicted to caffeine. By the way, it’s the exact same principle: I get up in the morning and I don’t feel good. I’m supposed to feel good. There is a drug with which I can self-medicate to make myself feel good. I will get this drug into me so that I feel good and then I will be able to go throughout the day. If I don’t get this drug into me, I will sin against you but I won’t call it sin, I will refer to my self-diagnosis of a lack of caffeine and you must understand that it’s not me, it’s the disease. If you can’t say amen, you ought to say ouch! It’s the exact same thing, people.
So if you can’t just get off of caffeine without headaches and blurred vision, your crankiness and all this other stuff, don’t try to go get off Paxil by yourself, Zoloft, whatever, ok? Don’t do that. Those things are powerful, powerful drugs and they’re addictive drugs.
By the way, you put these together — I can’t give you an actual, real, scientific diagnosis ‘cuz I can’t really test you for what your problem is; I can, however, give you some very powerful, addictive psychotropic drugs that will make you feel differently, not necessarily better, but differently, and if you don’t like the way you felt before, then you will think it’s better but it’s not better, it’s just different, but it will make you feel differently, then we’ll give you some other drugs to balance out those drugs, by the way, there’s no cure, which means for the rest of your life I’m going to have you on these powerful psychotropic drugs — ah, don’t you, somebody’s gotta be making some money off of that, huh?
Most mental problems — know this — are caused by underlying spiritual or physical conditions. Do you know, for example, that a lack of sleep, dehydration, poor diet and exercise, tragedy and loss, sin and immorality, all these things can lead to depression? And if you take medication for depression, none of those things goes away. You just mask the symptoms. If you go see a doctor, and they don’t ask you how much sleep you’ve gotten in the last 7 hours, or 7 days, or, they don’t ask you how you’re eating and how you’re exercising, but they’re going to give you some psychotropic drugs — run.
Finally, I said this before, and I’ll say this again: psychotropic drugs are not the only possible solution. They’re not the only possible solution. We see that here in Nebuchadnezzar’s life. We see it also throughout the Scriptures, do we not? If you feel bad, there might be something causing you to feel bad. You can get to that without drugs. You have a problem focusing? They’re might be something causing you to have a problem focusing. Deal with that. You can deal with that. It’s not the only answer.
You have these kinds of issues, I encourage you to see your primary care physician. We got folks here in this church: biblical worldview, medical training who can help you. There might be something pressing against your brain, making you hear voices or see things that aren’t there. There’s treatment for that. Real medical treatment for that. But there also may be some other underlying issues.
If you’re here today and you’re being treated by someone for a mental illness, and you have not informed your elders — first, I want to ask you a question. Why on God’s green earth would you do that? Why? By the way, I can tell you the answer: Because you’ve bought the lie. You’ve bought the lie that says there’s that side of the world that deals with real problems and there’s this side of the world that gives you pep talks once a week — and that this side of the world has nothing to offer for those real problems that there’s no test for and no cure for on that other side of the world.
Don’t buy that lie. Don’t buy that lie. Again, here’s what I didn’t say: You come to us and all that stuff gets fixed. Back of the room, five minutes, slap you on the forehead, you fall down, you got — [laughter] — that’s not what I said. I would never, ever, ever suggest that. Remember what I said about the time between those two verses? It’s seven years there. Some of these things take a long time but here’s what I’m not willing to accept: the idea that you would walk through all those years treating some sort of mental illness with people who will never even be open to the possibility that there is a spiritual root cause and a spiritual answer and that you at least owe it to yourself to pursue it.
‘Cuz here’s what I know. The God I serve gave his son to die for sin. And he didn’t kinda die, he really died. Three days dead. Resurrected on the third day. Has ascended to and is seated to the right hand of the Father in glory. And as I’ve said before and will say again as long as I live, whatever you are facing is not bigger than a dead Jesus. And if the power that raised Christ from the dead is available to you, how dare you be hopeless! We can be a lot of things. Hopeless? Not allowed. Not if we know Christ. But if you don’t know Christ, here’s what I want you to hear today: You have bad days. You have bad feelings. You have bad thoughts. You have physical manifestations because of the sin in your life and your only hope is psychotropic drugs to treat a problem that cannot be accurately or scientifically diagnosed for the rest of your life — that’s you apart from Christ. There is no hope there. None whatsoever.
But here’s what’s worse: Even if you and I both spend the rest of our lives in despair, mine’s going to end one day at the throne of grace where all will be made right. What are you looking forward to? Run to Christ. He is your only hope. There is hope in none other. Call on him while there is time. Cling to him with everything you have. Turn from your sin and turn to the only one who can redeem you, forgive you, heal you, and make you whole.
Finally, if you’ve been upset or offended by anything I’ve said today, I want to ask you a question: Why? Why? There was merely the assertion of fact rooted in a biblical understanding of the way we are created. What is that you are clinging to that would make you chafe against the Word of God when applied to the most significant things in your life? Be free.