Thoughts from a Christian Psychiatrist

Welcome to my website.  This section allows me to 'journal' (or blog, if you prefer) thoughts that may be of use both to my patients as well as our society at large.  As a Christian, I believe in absolute truth, and much of the work I do as a psychiatrist is a search for truth.

In the months ahead I will broaden the areas that I will be discussing.  Under the general category of "Christian Worldview" virtually anything can be examined, and so I will move beyond specific mental health issues and Christian thought to some commentary about the world that we find ourselves living in.  Please join me as I journey along in this journal.

For specific information about my practice, please use the links to the right of the page

Thursday
Apr042013

Brain Mapping 

The President has announced his desire to pursue a publically funded project of "brain mapping."  Although there is certainly a correlation between the structure and function of the brain and the cognitive and emotional processes of the mind, this research is based on the faulty premise that we are NOTHING but physical beings.  They approach this from examining the brain (which is a physical organ), but then proceed as though there is nothing but brain, that is no mind (which is non-physical or immaterial).  From an atheist worldview that begins with the premise that ONLY material things exist (matter, energy, space, and time) all they can hope to do is study material properties.  This is incorrect thinking due to a faulty premise.  Let me give you an example:

We know that light of a certain wavelength triggers a physical reaction in your eye.  This causes electrical impulses to travel to part of your brain (the occipital lobe).  You can perceive the color green...but does this fully capture "green-ness" in your mind.  If you recall a beautiful spring day in a green field during a picnic with your fiance, where does this experience happen?  This re-experiencing is not something localized within a physical structure, it is a non-physical event that occurs in your mind.  Certainly your optic nerve is triggering electrical activity in your occipital cortex.  Memory association areas in your brain can be triggered.  Damaging those structures in your brain may even impact your ability to experience this memory.  BUT: the memory experience you are having is immaterial (that is non-material or non-physical).

If you are still reading at this point AND you believe that God exists, ponder this.  We understand God to be this immaterial, intelligent, loving, righteous, eternal being.  All of these characteristics are aspects of the MIND.  God can be understood as Mind (including thought, emotion, and morality) taken to the ultimate degree.  An Immaterial Being of unfathomable intellect, power, and goodness...that frightens those who would make themselves "gods" or All Powerful Leaders.  They cannot do battle with an immaterial being.  So they choose to believe in a world that ONLY includes physical objects which they can attempt to control and influence.  And so it is with the mind.  They think that they have "ultimate" knowledge of brain structures and know everything.  Funny thing is, the ONLY knowledge God did not want us to have was the knowledge of good and evil, as the ONLY way to know this was to DO EVIL (disobey Him as rebels).  These same people have been working for years to redefine good and evil to suit their purposes.  May God have mercy on their souls!

Progress in neuroimaging has certainly been useful in addressing some disease states.  Further research is always needed.  But in my cynical mind I believe that the underlying motive here is not necessarily purely altruistic, but about furthering a particular worldview, and perhaps seeking ways to control what we think.

Friday
Mar292013

Reflections on Good Friday

As a psychiatrist I am permitted to observe (and in some ways, participate in) a range of the experiences of my fellow human beings.  People seek out the services of a psychiatrist when the pain of their lives cannot be tolerated alone.  They need relief which may come via physical means (medications) or non-physical means (the realm of psychotherapy).  An integral part of psychotherapy is the relationship between doctor and patient, a 'coming together' in a very personal way in which I am invited into the life of my patient.  Over the years I have shared in a great deal of suffering.  

We all have moments of suffering that seem intolerable and unjust.  Why must I hurt so much?  When will this end?  Where is God?  These questions reverberate deeply within our souls and demand answers.  The presence of evil and pain in this world is very real.  Contrary to what some systems of belief would tell us, suffering is not an illusion.  We all know this in the depths of our souls.  We don't make it up.  We hurt!

Traditional Biblical teaching explains that man is in rebellion from God.  Most world religions acknowledge this but then try to offer a way that we can 'make things right with God' which clearly different from what the Bible tells us.  The New Testament authors describe the redemption of man by God.  This redemption is commemorated today on Good Friday.

God is a God of love but also a God of justice.  We all innately understand this, and inside of us we cry out for justice.  In the movies we rejoice when the hero wrecks havoc on the bad guy, when evil is punished.  This is how we are made.  We know that evil MUST BE PUNISHED.  Movies often focus on the evil that one man does to another.  But what about the evil we perpetrate in our rebellion from God?  What is to be done with it?

Contrary to other religions, Biblical Christianity says that there is nothing that we can do to make things right with God.  We have rebelled and the punishment is death.  In his Letter to the Romans Paul writes For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Rom 6:23)  Without the word 'but' we would have no hope.  That one word, and the phrase that follows, gives us all of the hope that we require.

In the Old Testament the nation of Israel was given instructions for the performing of sacrifices of animals.  We are told that it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Heb 10:4) and so even back in the days of Moses the sacrifices were not paying for their sins, but were reminders of the bloody nature of sin.  Even then, they were trusting God in faith that He would forgive their sins.  The price hadn't been paid but they believed God that they would be forgiven.

To reconcile fallen humanity to Himself, God did the unthinkable.  He took on human form.  He lived as we could not live, a perfect sinless life.  Jesus taught his followers, but they believed that He had come to rescue Israel from Roman occupation.  When He was arrested, beaten, and nailed to a Roman cross they were broken men.  They had lost hope.  Why had this happened?

The disciples did not understand that God had prepared the ultimate sacrifice.  A Lamb was to be slain to pay for sin.  But it was not any Lamb, it was the Lamb of God.  As a professor in seminary told me, the entire Bible is really just The Story of the Lamb.

Today we commemorate the death of the Lamb.  Jesus ministry was ushered in by the words of John the Baptist: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29)  The final words spoken by Jesus on the cross are translated "It is finished."  As He died, the ultimate price for man's rebellion from God was paid.  Once and for all, sin was defeated at the cross.

At that moment none of His followers really understood what was happening.  One of my favorite characters in Scripture is the thief on the cross being crucified next to Jesus as told by Luke:

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:39-43

This was the first person to really 'get it.'  His eyes had been opened by God to give him understanding of what was actually taking place.  The rest of the disciples would not understand until the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus.

Today few people understand what it is that we are commemorating or why it was necessary.  Jesus said that the path to life was narrow.  May this season be a time when many will come to understand that path and accept the free gift offered through the atonement of Christ on the Cross.

Monday
Mar182013

Winter can be beautiful!

Just a couple of images that remind me that God is an incredible Artist, and that He will meet our needs, including that for serenity and peace of mind.  Slow down and unwind...it's good for the soul.

Monday
Mar182013

Time to redecorate the site

I guess now that I am going to get busy writing, a bit of a 'dressing up' is in order.  How about this look for the site?  I may change the appearance from time-to-time as I see what looks good.  Feel free to leave your comments and suggestions!

Sunday
Mar172013

Sandy Hook and mental illness

Like so many people, I struggle with prioritizing my time.  There are always more things that I wish to do than I can find the time for.  There are so many thoughts that I truly wish to share, and yet I don't seem to take the time to come here and write.  After several hours of therapy at my office, I am drained and won't discipline myself to sit down and put a few thoughts together.  Most of the writing I do ends up being in emails to people, or perhaps on an internet forum.  Much of what I write for selected audiences would also be appropriate to share here (if modified for privacy reasons at times), but it takes discipline!  So, without further ado, let me try once more.

After the Sandy Hook shootings, I had many people wish to discuss these issues with me.  I spent a half-hour on air with Michael Hart (local conservative Christian talk radio host) talking about mental illness and violence.  It saddens me to see this tragic event being used to further the political agenda of many elected officials.  The recent gun control push misses the mark so badly, and yet that is the dialogue that comes out of this.  Seeing the surviving children used to sing at a sporting event appeared particularly callous.  WHY would we want to make them 'celebrities' because of what they experienced?  This is NOT the way to deal with trauma.  It just makes them feel MORE abnormal.  Their fame comes with the death of the schoolmates.  This makes no rational sense.

Similarly the approach of producing more and more laws about guns doesn't get at the issue.  Almost none of the proposed laws would have even prevented the massacre.  When these mass murder events happen, they are virtually always perpetrated by mentally ill people.  One suggestion is to lock up all mentally ill!  But that doesn't work, as very few mentally ill ever engage in such behaviors.  We won't incarcerate a criminal until proven guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt" as determined in court (and these are people we KNOW commit crimes) so to limit the freedom of a mentally ill individual for far less evidence is unjust.

Resources for the treatment of mentally ill persons have been declining for many years, and given the changes in healthcare, it continues to further restrict reimbursement for mental health treatment.  Here in Alabama I am being told by my patients that their insurance companies are refusing to provide ANY coverage for out-of-network providers (like me).  Control over healthcare by the government and a few large insurance companies is wrong, but this is the trend.  Wouldn't it be great if psychiatric care got even a fraction of the attention of "gun control?"