(July 18, 2007)

I finished reading the book and still think it has serious problems and is dangerous for Christians to be reading, especially Christians who want to be supportive of those suffering from depression and other mental illnesses.

Neil Anderson spiritualizes everything.

  • In one place he talks about a woman who had been hospitalized several times for paranoid schizophrenia. He claims that she was cured as a result of his counseling. There is no mention of whether she was on medication or not. If she was being treated for schizophrenia, I very much suspect she was. But Anderson makes us believe it was simply spiritual counseling from him that made her well.
  • In another place he relates the story of a man who had a breakdown and was committed to a mental hospital against his will by his parents. When he was released he carried on dialogue with voices in his head. Assuming the role of psychiatrist, Anderson claims the man’s problem was due to his suppressing his emotions, not willing to admit that he was angry at his parents for having put him in hospital.
  • Anderson also says that we have the power to control what we think. When we think right, our emotions follow suit. But what if our brain isn’t working the way it should? So many people, like him, believe that our mind is something that we can always control. They don’t recognize that the mind is housed in an organ, our brain. Like other organs, things can go physically wrong with it, affecting our thinking, feelings, and behavior.

Neil Anderson has a lot of good things to say. It’s only too bad that he doesn’t look on our emotional and mental health in a holistic way. Too bad he tends to think that anything affecting our minds has a spiritual basis.

Did I already say that this kind of preaching is at the root of the harm Christians are doing to themselves (if they have a mental illness) and to their mentally ill friends? Thinking that mental illness is the result of spiritual problems adds to the shame and guilt people feel. The pain this causes is often worse than the pain caused by the symptoms of the disorder. And these people then do not go for medical help, believing that would be an expression of lack of faith – a further reason to feel guilt and shame.

So, if I were to speak in a balanced way about Neil Anderson’s approach–trying not to fall into the same all-or-nothing trap that he is in–I believe his teachings on how to counsel people about some of their emotional problems are valuable. But if a person were going to follow these teachings, he would at the same time have to come to an understanding of what mental disorders are and the medical treatment needed. He would have to study information on depression, bipolar disorder, and other mental illnesses at the same time. Only then could he read this book and come to a responsible conclusion on what material to accept and what to reject.

It’s time for Christians who are interested in helping friends with emotional problems (as so many are) to start reading other books – books that will give them some understanding of the medical issues.