Friday, November 5, 2010

Mental Illness

I've been on vacation for the last couple of weeks, trying to get a break from things.

I wanted to ask a question and see what you guys think.

This is a 3D spect scan of a normal brain, looking from the top down.

Here is the same view, but of the brain of a bipolar person.

Here is another bipolar patient.

How does this emerging arena of research fit into the broader Christian worldview about the relationship between the mind and body? Are these bipolar people who don't have properly functioning brains morally responsible for their actions? (The answer to that question has broad implications for litigation and prosecution.) If being bipolar has a genuine physiological component, what would be an appropriate response from the local church to the mentally ill and their families?

The biblical account of the mentally ill mostly represents them as being demonically afflicted. How should that factor into our worldview thinking about mental illness?

These are some of the questions on my mind. I'd love to hear your thoughts.


alastair blake peters said...

I love that you are addressing this question. I struggle with it much myself. I really wonder how much the physical comes first, and if at some points, a habit of sin, worry, and hate would also yield physical manifestation in a brain. I feel that there certainly is physical cause in many cases instead of an individual's choices causing it. There are so many diseases of the brain that would show physical evidence... its a hard question to handle....

Theology Mom said...

I agree. There is an obvious genetic component to mental illness. It runs in families. However, it's not inevitable that one become mentally ill. Environmental factors and behavioral choices do seem to play some role. The problem is, we don't know to what degree. And the research is still in its infancy so it's hard to make definitive statements. I see this as a real area in need of real apologetic research and development for Christians. Unfortunately, I don't see much happening in this realm.

Karl said...

I would propose that since our brains operate on electro-chemical principles and are deterministic in nature that no one is "responsible" for their actions. When you experience a "thought" it is the "result" of an electrical impulse not the "cause" of one. Therefore the entire concept of "free will" is unraveled. You cannot "choose" anything, you can only become aware of the choices already made as a result of electrical impulses. There is no mechanism outside of the brain to cause a choice of impulses to occur, they simply happen in response to the electrical/chemical state of your brain.

Theology Mom said...


If that's true, how does that affect your view of the legal implications of those crimes committed by the mentally ill? Are they not culpable?