Science in Christian Perspective
P. D. Marquart, M.D.
From JASA 9 (March 1957): 17-18.
Can Jesus Solve Maladjustments?
Among Christian believer, I frequently hear some form of this rather unthinking question:
Is not all psychoneurosis due to sin in the life?
Is not neurosis always a reaction or response to
Doesn't it prove that a man lacks spirituality if he is neurotic?
The answer to all these questions is "No," though guilt is, however, a frequent response accompanying neurotic behavior. Some mental trouble is due to organic factors, in fact such organic and physical causes can in their turn increase a person's stress and tension. Not all functional (i.e. psychological) maladjustments are due to sin either.
I am reminded of the remark of a church member when asked whether he might be interested in a Gospel witness group who were actually working with patients inside a mental hospital. He said, "I'm not at all interested in such a group. All that mental disease is due to sin, you know." His remark was not necessarily true, but, if it were, that fact should tend to accelerate the efforts of true Christians to witness-and some of these mental cases were actually improving under this testimony.
What are the facts about this difficult question? just what relationship is there between maladjustment and sin? Even though it is true that much of maladjustment is sin-involved, if not sin-caused, we must refrain from making any generalizations which include all cases. Dare we point the finger of scorn, and would this not be an accusation? If so then who is the "accuser of the brethren?"
Maladjustment is an illness. We cannot say "You naughty person, you must be sinning or you wouldn't have appendicitis." Neither dare we say: "If you are neurotic, it must be because you are not walking close to the Lord."
Not every evil is evidence of sin and guilt. Consider job. He was not a sinlessly perfect man, but he was spiritually mature. Nevertheless, he showed some signs of psychoneurosis while under stress, such symptoms as-despondency, reactive depression, complaints, emotional outburst, and anxiety tension. Facing the Lord in. Job 42, brought about the cure.
Anxiety is now known to be the starting point of all maladjustments from hangnails to suicide. Every neurosis is fear-derived. However, the Lord's most frequently repeated commandment in the Bible is: "Fear not." Yet we can have anxiety without being gross sinners. The Lord is able to chasten, if there is sin, but he scourges every son, regardless of guilt. God allows evil circumstances in the lives of His own, but these same evil circumstances may be used by Him for the prevention of sin, or to draw His child close to Himself, as well as in a correctional manner. Nevertheless, many maladjustments are sin-involved, if not sin-caused.
One of the best ways to know that your patient is guilty, is by his very denial of the matter, used as a defense reaction. How often I hear these neurotics say; "Now my trouble is purely psychological and not spiritual at all, so you don't need to bring any of your Bible stuff into this discussion." Such contentions reveal a conflict over guilt itself. Usually they are aware of this guilt in their lives, but they refuse to admit its dire effect upon them. Incidentally, one seldom sees problems like this in a child of God, which are purely psychological or purely spiritual. Most of these problems are mixtures of both together. With that attitude, there is no use to proceed further, nor to cram Christian doctrine down his throat. He must suffer, and then he will learn better.
What then do we do for the Christian neurotic? S
ecular methods often help them, but they are not
quite as effective as in the world. Dare we say that
"Christ is the answer." If we do, some Christian will
call us fanatic. They surely will. not saying that the patient has guilt
in his life, nor that
he is a spiritual failure. e Yes, he probably has such
guilt-but so have you.
Again, we rehearse, in psychoneurosis, "Christ is the answer," and for every maladjustment. Is it impossible to say the same for every organic trouble? It seems too simple to say that "Christ is the answer," and we need to do so with care, lest the patient feel that we are too trite and that he is being given the "brush-off." No. We mean more than that.- Christ is the over-all answer to our maladjustments. He shows us in His Word how to overcome those very things which lead to neurotic fear, at the same time that he is getting purely secular help. The well-known hymn says, "Jesus can solve every problem." Can He? Do you really believe that line? I do.
February 5, 1957