“Is it wrong for a Christian to be depressed?”


Is it wrong for a Christian to be depressed?

Depression is somewhat of a charged issue among Christians. Some flatly declare it to be a sin. The thinking is that depression reveals a lack of faith in God’s promises, God’s judgment on sinful behavior, or just laziness. We know that God is good and loving and that we are secure in Him, so what is there to be depressed about? Others flatly declare depression to be a medical issue. The thinking is that all depression is a result of chemical imbalances in the brain, so depression is no more wrong than having the flu. And then there are those in the middle who aren’t really sure what the ugly beast of depression is. Faith seems somewhat related, but so do brain chemicals. Of course, there are also the depressed Christians, left to feel guilty, defensive, confused, lost, or simply too depressed to even care what the church thinks. So is it wrong for a Christian to be depressed?

The term depressed is a fairly loose one. It can refer to a diagnosable medical condition (clinical depression), but it can also refer to a temporary feeling of sadness or apathy or to a nebulous, lingering malaise. This article will attempt to briefly consider several of these meanings of depression.

For some people a chemical or hormonal imbalance triggers a depressed state. This is most typical for women experiencing post-partum depression or people on certain medications. Other times, depression is situational, caused by adverse circumstances, life changes, a spiritual crisis, etc. Our emotional response to those crises can in turn trigger a chemical imbalance. Truly, humans are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), and it should come as no surprise that our biology interacts with our emotions and vice-versa. Once a person is depressed, the cycle of hormonal imbalance and negative emotions can be difficult to break. Whether the emotions cause the biology to change or the biology causes the emotions to change, the resulting symptoms are the same.

Having a medical condition is not a sin. However, what brings a person to that condition could be rooted in sin. For instance, it is not wrong to have diabetes, but it is wrong to be a glutton (and the two are sometimes related). Also, how a person responds to a genuine medical condition could also be sinful. For example, it would be sinful for a person with diabetes to use his disease to manipulate others or to adopt a “victim” mentality or an attitude of entitlement.

Yet, often, we hold those with diabetes or other medical conditions less culpable than we do people with depression. For some reason, mental illnesses—especially depression—are associated more often with sinful causes than are physical ailments. Depression is notexclusively a medical issue, and it is not exclusively an emotional or spiritual issue.

Depression is often viewed as a persistent feeling of sadness. Of course, it is okay to be sad. We live in a world of pain (Genesis 3:14-19; Romans 8:20-22), and Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus (John 11:35). There is no need to always put on a happy face and pretend that things are okay when they are not.

There are many biblical examples of men of God struggling with sadness, even to the point of depression. David wrote, “Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll—are they not in your record?” (Psalm 56:8). David, a “man after [God’s] own heart” (Acts 13:22), did not gloss over his sadness; he expressed it to God. Both Moses (Numbers 11:15) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:3-5), two heroes of the faith, confessed to God that they preferred to die than live in their current reality. Neither was rebuked by God for his feelings; rather, both were met with God’s love and provision. The Bible is not shy about admitting the realities of human emotion. Sadness is part of life, and it is not condemned.

As believers, we are exhorted to see the greater reality of God’s plan even in the midst of our sadness and depression. Yes, this world is fallen and often painful. It can be depressing. But God is far greater. He is at work, victoriously. Moses and Elijah received God’s provision and experienced His refreshing. Shortly after pouring out his sadness, David praised God. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Christians are permitted to call trouble for what it is. At the same time, we take heart in God’s care. Taking heart does not mean pasting on a smile or ignoring the feeling of emptiness that depression brings. It does not mean neglecting to treat depression through counseling or medication. It does not mean ignoring the relational hurts or the misperceptions that have led to depression (Satan’s lies, if we believe them, will lead us to despair). It does not mean denying the fact that depression could be a lifelong struggle.

What taking heart does mean is bringing all our pain to God. It does mean continuing to trust in Him. It does mean believing that what He says about Himself and about us is true, even when we don’t feel like it is. It does mean getting the help we need, battling depression rather than giving in to it. We acknowledge the depravity of the world, but we also acknowledge the sufficiency of God.

It is not wrong to be depressed. But it is wrong—and not especially helpful in overcoming a depressed state—to give up on God when we are depressed. “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 43:5).

 

 

Posted in Apologetics, Guest Contributors

“How old was Mary when Jesus was born?”



While the Bible does not specifically state how old Mary was when Jesus was born, most Christian historians speculate that she was around 15—16 years of age at the time of Jesus’ birth. According to Jewish customs at the time, a young woman might become betrothed to a young man as early as 12 years of age, though the consummation of their marriage through ceremony and physical intimacy would not happen until they were legally married, many months or even years later.

In Luke 1:39-56, we learn that Mary traveled from Galilee to Judah to visit her relative Elizabeth. She would have had to cross a great distance though the territory of Samaria. We do not know if she traveled alone, with servants, or in the company of other family members. However, there is a great likelihood that, even with adult escorts, Mary would have needed to be both physically and emotionally mature enough to handle such a journey.

No matter what Mary’s age when Jesus was born, her spiritual maturity is indeed evident. The mother of Jesus is described by God as “highly favored” (Luke 1:28). When presented with the news that she would conceive the holy Son of God, Mary responds with pure faith and obedience by saying, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:35-38). Her song (Luke 1:46-55) is full of Scripture—by some counts, there are 10 quotations of and allusions to the Old Testament in the Magnificat—another strong proof of Mary’s learning and spiritual maturity.

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“What is holy magic hair?”



The holy magic hair (HMH) doctrine is the rather sarcastic name given to the teaching that long, uncut hair on a woman provides her with supernatural power, protection, and authority. This aberrant teaching has gained momentum in the Apostolic, Holiness, and Oneness groups within Pentecostalism. The holy magic hair doctrine is based largely on 1 Corinthians 11, which discusses head coverings for women, and especially verse 10, which says, “It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels.”

It is best that 1 Corinthians 11 be interpreted within the context of the culture at that time. However, some Pentecostals firmly believe that Christian women should not cut their hair. Usually, the hair is kept up in a bun or braided. Of course, there is nothing wrong with a woman not cutting her hair, and we would never advocate a teaching that a woman must cut her hair; however, Paul’s words to the Corinthians should not be used as a mandate for all women. In fact, the wordhairis not even found in 1 Corinthians 11:10.

According to the holy magic hair doctrine, a woman with long hair is being “watched by angels” because of the “glory” of her long hair (see 1 Corinthians 11:15). And, when she lets down her hair, her glory increases, as does her supposed spiritual power. Believers in holy magic hair say that a woman can unravel her hair for greater miracles. If she lays it over an altar or over written prayer requests as she prays, her prayers are more likely to be answered. If she spreads her hair over a person, that person can receive the Holy Spirit more readily—the “laying on of hair,” as it’s called. A woman “shaking her hair in the wind” can guarantee all kinds of miraculous results, from the salvation of lost loved ones to the healing of diseases to the winning back of lost romantic affections. Holy magic hair even has power over evil spirits, and the devil fears the power of uncut hair.

According to the holy magic hair doctrine, if a woman cuts her hair, she loses her identity as an “apostolic woman,” loses authority in the spiritual realm, and puts herself and her family at risk. Women are warned that to cut their hair is to bring themselves to misery and regret. After the hair is cut, there is no way to get the original “anointing” back.

It should go without saying that the holy magic hair doctrine is unbiblical. The problem is there are sincere and well-meaning people who believe it. The practice of letting down one’s hair in order to receive more spiritual power has absolutely no scriptural authority and has more in common with Wicca and occultism than Christianity. External conditions do not automatically correspond with the internal. A woman with long hair can be eaten up with lust, hate, or envy on the inside. A woman with short hair can be filled with the fruit of the Spirit.

Power belongs to God (Pslam 68). Any power that we possess comes through the agency of the Holy Spirit in our lives. To trust in hair length, circumcision, or any other physical characteristic is to take away from our reliance upon God and our faith in Jesus Christ. Even in Samson’s case, the power was not from his hair but from the fact that “the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon him” (Judgest 15:14). There is always a tendency to lean on our own understanding and rely on ourselves. No matter how much anecdotal evidence is presented in its favor, holy magic hair is a deviant teaching that has no basis in Scripture. Let us be careful not to be “blown here and there by every wind of teaching” (Ephesians 4:4).

 

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“What are the beliefs of New Calvinism?”


New Calvinism is not a new branch of theology or a denomination. Rather, it is a “revival” of sorts—a revival of traditional, “old”Calvinism. The movement is sweeping through American evangelical churches of all denominations, attracting young people from Free Church, Episcopal, Independent, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches alike.The Gospel Coalition, started in 2007, is the national network for the New Calvinist movement.

Calvinism promotes the authority of Scripture and the doctrines of God’s sovereignty, the total depravity of man, and predestination. These biblical doctrines are proving attractive to many in the younger generation today, and churches in the Reformed tradition are seeing a general increase in numbers. Thus, the influence of “New Calvinism.”

The resurgence of Calvinism might seem surprising, given the popularity of the feel-good, bubbly theology of health-and-wealth preachers and books such as You Best Life Now. However, the New Calvinism could also be seen as a theological corrective to errant doctrine—the pendulum is swinging back to a more biblical approach. Young people who have grown up in an increasingly secular culture are looking for churches teaching the “meat” of the Word (Hebrews 5:14) instead of seeking to entertain them. In the process, they are rediscovering many biblical truths about God, salvation, and grace.

Contributing to the “newness” of New Calvinism are “seeker friendly” styles of worship, an openness to dialogue with other Christian traditions, and an embrace of continuationism. Given the diversity of the various churches embracing New Calvinism, it comes as no surprise to discover the emphasis is less on the finer points of theology and more on engaging contemporary society. Mark Driscoll, a pastor identified with the movement, says, “New Calvinism is missional and seeks to create and redeem culture.” Driscoll is somewhat vague on some theological issues. In a recent interview, he suggests that some issues need not be fought over “because bigger things are at stake, such as the evangelizing of lost people and the planting of missional churches.” Flexibility, he says, should be allowed in “spiritual gifts, baptism, communion, worship styles, Bible translations and sense of humor.”

Some see two factions emerging from within New Calvinism: the New Puritans and the New Calvinists. The New Puritans focus on the sovereignty of God in salvation are identified with Driscoll and John Piper. The New Calvinists focus on the sovereignty of God over creation and are identified with Tim Keller and Gabe Lyons.

One criticism of New Calvinism—usually coming from traditional Calvinists—is that it’s not really Calvinism. Just accepting the five points of Calvinism does not a Calvinist make. It is suggested that some New Calvinist teachings on infant baptism, covenant theology, and the continuation of the miraculous gifts of the spirit are out of step with the Reformed tradition.

There are many good aspects of the New Calvinism, including its emphasis on the fundamentals of the faith and its ability to attract young people into the church. It remains to be seen whether this new movement will prosper and flourish and have a major impact on post modern society.

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“What does the Bible say about Bipolar Disorder/Manic Depression?


THE WALL: a blog of Baptist Voice Ministries

Note: as with many psychological issues, there are often both a physical and spiritual aspect of manic depression / bipolar disorder. While we believe psychologists often miss the true spiritual nature of the sickness, we strongly encourage anyone suffering with a mental illness to seek medical attention and counseling.

Answer: “Bipolar disorder” is a name that first appeared in 1957 for a severe mental illness. Before that, the same illness was called “manic depressive illness” or “manic depression,” though that name only dates back to 1921. Neither term appears in the Bible, but the Bible teaches us a number of lessons we can apply to bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness characterized by severe mood fluctuations. These fluctuations go far beyond simply being “happy” or “sad.” The “manic” symptoms can include feelings of extreme euphoria, marked increase in risk-taking, racing thoughts, forced speech, and increased energy. The…

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“What does the Bible say about Bipolar Disorder/Manic Depression?


Note: as with many psychological issues, there are often both a physical and spiritual aspect of manic depression / bipolar disorder. While we believe psychologists often miss the true spiritual nature of the sickness, we strongly encourage anyone suffering with a mental illness to seek medical attention and counseling.

Answer:“Bipolar disorder” is a name that first appeared in 1957 for a severe mental illness. Before that, the same illness was called “manic depressive illness” or “manic depression,” though that name only dates back to 1921. Neither term appears in the Bible, but the Bible teaches us a number of lessons we can apply to bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness characterized by severe mood fluctuations. These fluctuations go far beyond simply being “happy” or “sad.” The “manic” symptoms can include feelings of extreme euphoria, marked increase in risk-taking, racing thoughts, forced speech, and increased energy. The “depressive” symptoms can include feelings of extreme sadness or hopelessness, fatigue/lethargy, changes in appetite, inability to concentrate, and suicidal/morbid thoughts. There are several types of the disorder, usually defined by the severity or intensity of the symptoms. The most severe type can even include psychotic symptoms such as auditory or visual hallucinations.

The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown, although science has demonstrated a genetic component to the disorder. There is also no proof-positive test for bipolar disorder. It is diagnosed based on the symptoms displayed by an individual, which has led to some controversy. In popular culture, “bipolar disorder” has been used as an excuse for destructive or sinful behavior, and the label has even been used as a source of pride among the entertainment elite. “Bipolar” has become chic, but to those who truly suffer from the disease, this has done more harm than good.

A Christian who suffers from bipolar disorder should treat it like any other physiological disease. While God certainly has the ability to work miracles and cure any malady, He often lets us continue our journey with a “thorn in the flesh” to remind us that He is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). If a believer had diabetes, he would seek medical advice from trained doctors, take prescribed medications, and seek godly counsel on how to deal with both his physical and emotional symptoms. The same holds true for a believer with bipolar disorder.

Because bipolar disorder affects the way a person thinks, finding godly counsel (Proverbs 1:5) and spending time in God’s word (2 Timothy 3:16-17) are essential. In order to do what is right, we must know what is true. Bipolar disorder alters a person’s perceptions of reality, so a strong foundation in truth is a necessity when dealing with its symptoms.

Someone with bipolar disorder might give in to the misperceptions caused by the disease and commit sinful acts. A person with bipolar disorder must treat those sins like any other person would. He should recognize his actions as sinful, repent, and seek forgiveness. Believers with bipolar disorder should never blame their illness for their actions (John 15:22).

Believers should treat a person with bipolar disorder with the same compassion they would show toward everyone else (James 2:1). The church offers people with bipolar disorder something they desperately need in their lives—truth (John 17:17). One thing people with bipolar disorder need more than anything else is the hope that is in Jesus Christ. Even though their illness tries to steal their lives away, they can have an abundant life in Christ (John 10:10).

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“What is the origin of the Easter bunny and Easter eggs?”


It is thought that the word Easter comes from a pagan figure called Eastre (or Eostre) who was celebrated as the goddess of spring by the Saxons of Northern Europe. A festival called Eastre was held during the spring equinox by these people to honor her. Of interest is the word’s relation toeast(ostin German). The name for a celebration of the sunrise and a change of season was eventually applied to the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Christ and the new era He heralded.

The goddess Eastre’s earthly symbol was the rabbit, which was also known as a symbol of fertility. Since rabbits and hares give birth to large litters in the early spring, it’s understandable that the rabbit is the symbol of fertility.

The legend of the Easter Bunny bringing eggs appears to have been brought to the United States by settlers from southwestern Germany. The German tradition of the Easter Bunny or “Oschter Haws” migrated to America in the 1800s, likely accompanying German immigrants, many of whom settled in Pennsylvania. Over the past 200 years, the Easter Bunny has become the most commercially recognized symbol of Easter.

In legend, the Easter Bunny, also called the Easter Hare and the Spring Bunny, brings baskets filled with colored eggs, candy, and sometimes toys to the homes of children on the night before Easter, in much the same way as Santa Claus is said to deliver presents on Christmas Eve. The Easter Bunny will either put the baskets in a designated place or hide them somewhere in the house or garden for the children to find when they wake up in the morning, giving rise to the tradition of the Easter egg hunt.

Should Christian parents allow their children to participate in traditional activities that refer to the Easter Bunny? This is a question both parents and church leaders struggle with. There is nothing essentially evil about the Easter Bunny, unless it is used to promote the goddess of spring or fertility rites. What is important is our focus. If our focus is on Christ and not the Easter Bunny, our children will understand that, like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny is merely a symbol. As with Christmas, Easter should be a time to reflect upon and celebrate the incarnation, the resurrection and the risen Christ.

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