-The American Civil War divided the nation unlike anything before. In the years preceding and during the war, all of the major Christian denominations experienced massive church splits due to slavery and the politics involved; the Methodist Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches experienced North-South division.
When the war finally ended, the disunity that was rampant throughout American Christianity, prevented the church from being the source of solace and unity the fractured nation sourly needed. Thus, as throngs of men and women experienced massive levels of depression and mental breakdowns of sorts, at a rate never before seen in America, because the church was so divided, the secular community developed an entirely new field to “help” all of these men and women who were looking for answers. Psychology was birthed during this period as a method of addressing the social and mental problems of America that the divided church was ill prepared to solve.
Of course, more than a hundred years later we see that psychology was an abysmal failure. Rates of depression, suicide, mental illness, and other abnormal psychosomatic behaviors have not been reduced in America, but the exact opposite; all of these problems and more have increased exponentially.
As Christians, we know that the only true answer for the body, mind and soul is Christ, and Christ crucified. It is only through the new covenant that our souls find solace. As Saint Augustine said, “The soul is restless, until it finds it’s rest in Thee”.
True discipleship looks nothing like the psychological counseling that William James and Freud developed. Psychological counseling fails the individual, true discipleship transforms the individual.
It isn’t surprising that the secular world developed a methodology of counseling, in which the therapist becomes a guru of sorts, that the patient turns to for answers to their discontent in life, since most pagan religions throughout history always tended toward a method in which the people look to a guru for answers.
True discipleship is not about a young person sitting across a table from a minister who counsels them regarding their life. True discipleship is a living, breathing, relationship, in which the mature Christian lives life along side their disciple daily. Discipleship is not something that merely occurs once a week in a one hour session- that is what the secularists and pagans do; true discipleship requires a sacrificial lifestyle, in which the mature Christians opt out of spending their evenings watching television, or pursuing their myriad of hobbies. True discipleship, involves our a forfeiture of our life to Christ; because our calling in Christ requires us to “pick up our cross daily”, this means we seek to serve those in our community, and make disciples of all men.
Psychology has failed, just as all pagan religions have failed, because there is no redemption for the brokenhearted, the prisoners, the captives, and sick. When Jesus began His ministry, He read these powerful words from the prophet Isaiah to announce the purpose, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” [61:1, ESV].
Thus, the mission of the church, to make disciples of all men, includes redemption, healing, and solace for the whole man; that is, depression, abnormal psychosomatic behaviors, and a other disturbing manifestations among men and women, are all to be addressed through the redemptive work of Christ on the cross. Sadly, a church that relegates discipleship to something that only occurs at church meetings, or across a desk from a minister once a week, is a church that is ill prepared to truly have a transforming gospel for society.
Paul said, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” [Romans 12:2, ESV]. Thus, real discipleship literally transforms us, by renewing our mind from the darkness of this world; depression and the whole host of disorders created by sin, psychology and secularism, are only solved via Christ’s commission to the church, to disciple all men.
This does not mean that churches who practice real discipleship, will not experience real suffering. Christ is not a vending machine in which you put in your prayer, and you get what you want. The Apostle Paul himself, had an ailment that he had prayed to God multiple times, but in God’s sovereignty, Paul did not receive healing.
True discipleship is the only real answer to the problems that exist among Christians living in America. Paying psychologists, therapists, psychiatrists, or the like, is nothing more than the sophistry of 2000 years ago, where self-proclaimed “wise” men, offered people their philosophical acumen for a price. Discipleship is not something you receive by an exchange of money. Discipleship is the command given to all Christians, “Go out into the whole world and make disciples of all men”.
*Stock image Nik Shuliahin unsplash.com