Is PTSD Possible Within Biblical Doctrine? Biblical Scholars Say Yes
While the church is making progress on recognizing and providing support to those who experience mental illness, there is still a great amount of work to be done. PTSD has faced recent struggles with being appropriately recognized within the Christian community, especially as numerous evangelists have proclaimed that “Good Christians” can’t experience post-traumatic stress disorder within the past year.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work like that.
Just as good Christians can come down with a cold, get cancer, or experience depression, those who have given themselves to God can still be plagued by traumatic experiences. It isn’t a matter of lack of faith, but one of observable alterations in the brain, as Christian counselor H. Norman Wright wrote in Trauma and the Brain, Suggested Steps in Helping Those in Trauma.
“Traumatized people have alterations in their brains,” Wright said. “This is not just an emotional response to the troubling events; it’s the expression of a persistent deregulation of body and brain chemistry. And brain chemistry can be altered for decades. With this change arousing events can trigger flashbacks. Trauma creates chaos in our brain. Trauma causes an emotional as well as a cognitive concussion.”
Importantly, it isn’t just the science journals arguing for the validity of PTSD. Several biblical scholars also agree that PTSD is consistent with biblical doctrine.
As Reformed Biblical Coaching explained in a blog about the condition, “theologically it seems fitting to admit that Wright’s description is very probably because we live in a fallen world that is deformed in sin, which means that ectopias (that is abnormalities in the brain) most likely could and do develop (2 Corinthians 4:16)”.
Dr. Edward T. Welch, from Biblical Theological Seminary, Ph.D., puts it more simply when he says it seems reasonable to conclude that “brain weaknesses do influence the person.”
While there will always be those who seek to dismiss or discredit mental health, it is a serious issue and it is important the church recognize these conditions as they exist within our communities. More importantly, claims like those that say mental illness is the result of failures in our faith forget that we are all fallen. Our bodies are fragile and we as Christians are susceptible to illness just as any others are. However, God is there to support us and lead us through the trying times.