Kathy Schoonover-Shoffner, PhD, RN, serves as editor of JCN and with Nurses Christian Fellowship USA. She lives in Wichita, Kansas with her husband and teens, works as a staff nurse, and is active in church and Bible study.
The continuing education (CE) feature in this issue of JCN, "Mind, Medications, & Mental Disorders: A Spiritual Approach" (pp. 76–83), makes a revolutionary claim—that the Bible is adequate to treat the root causes of mental disorders that are not otherwise physiologically caused. The idea that spirituality impacts mental health or that mental illness could have spiritual underpinnings is widely accepted. What seems radical is the idea that the Bible contains the information and principles that can treat and even cure mental disorders. Why would Christians, including myself and the author, Dr. Valerie Oji, think this?
The basic premise underlying this thinking is that the Bible is God's Word, meaning the book we hold in our hands and study today is literally information, thoughts, principles, and guidelines for life—straight from God. Although humans were the channels through which the Bible came to us, Scripture explains the writing was literally a "breathing out" of God (2 Timothy 3:16–17). God's words are powerful; his words spoke heaven and earth into being (Genesis 1); his power formed man from mere dirt and breathed life into him (Genesis 2:7). A second premise that naturally follows is belief that the Bible is true (valid), and reliable (internally and externally consistent). If the Bible is God's Word, then the words are powerful and life changing (Hebrews 4:12).
The Bible itself claims to be God's Word, but this alone does not prove it to be true. There are many other reasons to believe the Bible is God's Word. For example, the Bible has unparalleled unanimity. Despite the fact that it is a collection of 66 parts or books written over 1500 years (approximately 1450 BC to 90 AD) by over 40 different people from myriad walks of life, from beginning to end the Bible is completely unified. The history, doctrine, ethics, and principles consistently hang together. Imagine just two or three people writing about a topic or event over a period of 5 years and maintaining accuracy and consistency. Then think about 40 people writing over 1500 years and yet telling the same story and message (without computers, Internet, newspapers, or telephones!). Is it possible there was one unseen Author directing it all? Christians would say yes!
The Bible also has uncommon accuracy. Archaeological findings substantiate the reliability of biblical facts, along with numerous ancient documents (plaques, tablets, the Dead Sea Scrolls, writings of Josephus, etc.). Furthermore, the preservation of the Bible through the centuries, despite great opposition and translation into hundreds of languages and multiple versions, is nothing short of mind-blowing. Amazingly, translations today are consistent with copies of Scripture from antiquity.
Another astounding fact about the Bible is the fulfillment of prophecy. Biblical writers foretold things like the near destruction, dispersion, and regathering of Israel; the rise and fall of other nations; general and specific events that, in some instances, happened to the day they were prophesied to occur. The most detailed prophecies are about Jesus Christ. The timing of Christ's appearance (Daniel 9:25–27), the place of his birth (Micah 5:2), the family to which he would be born (Jeremiah 23:5–7), conditions of his family (i.e., Isaiah 7:14), how he would be received, and specific circumstances of his death, burial, and resurrection (Isaiah 53) were prophesied in minute detail and fulfilled with exacting precision by Jesus of Nazareth.
Perhaps the greatest proof that the Bible is God's Word comes from those who have studied and interacted with Scripture and found the Bible to be life changing. Our belief is based on personal, deep, life-changing experience. Many books have been written and stories told of lives changed through the centuries. Scholarly books critically examining Scripture offer many proofs of the claim that this book is God's Word (i.e., Baba, 2008; Boice, 1986; McDowell, 1999).
So can the Bible really treat mental illness? Read the CE article and see what you think. More importantly, take an honest, careful look at the Bible and see for yourself what God's Word can do in your life.
Baba, P. (2008). All the evidence you will ever need: A scientist believes in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock.
Boice, J. M. (1986). Foundations of the Christian faith: A comprehensive and readable theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity.
McDowell, J. (1999). The new evidence that demands a verdict. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.