A friend sent me a copy of an article entitled Genetic Study Provides First-ever Insight into Biological Origin of Schizophrenia. My friend wanted to know what I thought about it as a biblical counselor. Are these findings good? Are they bad? Can a Christian worldview explain these findings? Before answering these questions, let me cast a vision. I need to describe what biblical counseling seeks to accomplish in the big picture. After that, I will summarize the main findings of this article. I will finish with three things we biblical counselors should do in response to this research.
What We are Trying to Do
Biblical counseling means many things to many people. This being so, I want to clarify its meaning by first casting a broad vision of what biblical counseling seeks to do on the macro level. In the big picture, biblical counseling seeks to glorify God. It understands that God created human beings in his image. It argues that God created humans as good. It holds that humanity fell into rebellion against God. It believes that God offers redemption through his Son Jesus Christ. Biblical counseling contends that problems in living flow from our failure to glorify God. We fail to glorify God when we don’t apply the gospel to our hearts and lives. The mission statement of biblical counseling might be the following: Biblical counseling reorients disoriented people to God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Biblical counseling, at least on the macro level, is worldview persuasion.
Francis Schaeffer said that “Christianity offers a unified answer for the whole of life.” In a sense, biblical counseling says the same thing. It is the practical outworking of Schaffer’s proposition. With this in mind, how then can we understand this latest research?
What They Found
First of all, researchers did not find a cure for schizophrenia. Instead, they discovered a correlation. Individuals with schizophrenia tend to have a certain variant of a gene. This gene handles something called “synaptic pruning.” Synaptic pruning is a normal process whereby the brain eliminates unnecessary connections between neurons. In people with schizophrenia, these genes do not work in a correct manner. Schizophrenics experience far more “pruning” than do typical people.
What This Means
This means that we now understand the complexity of a difficult malady better. We now know that there is some type of biological influence in scizophrenia. This does not eliminate a person’s responsibility before a holy God. But it does help biblical counselors focus on certain aspects of the schizophrenic’s experience. Now that we know a little more about the problem, we are in a better position to think theologically about this research.
How Should Biblical Counselors Respond
There are three things that biblical counselors should do in response to this research. First, biblical counselors should praise God for this discovery. These findings confirm what biblical counselors have known for a while. There is something misfiring in the brains of schizophrenics. Those biblical counselors who dismiss schizophrenics as “blame shifters” haven’t worked with them. True schizophrenics need pastoral ministry. And although they are sinners (as we all are), there is something more than sinful behavior going on in them. As such, this research encourages biblical counselors to minister to schizophrenics in a more holistic way.
Second, biblical counselors should praise God for his common grace. To my knowledge, these researchers are not believers. Yet, by God’s common grace, they have started figuring out something valuable. They have discovered something that has eluded our understanding for well over 100 years. Their efforts will help us develop more effective treatments for schizophrenics. This research should help counselors of all approaches. But it might help biblical counselors the most. Why? Because it will help us select and apply the Bible in a more effective way. We have the most effective therapeutic remedy possible (God’s word). But, it is only as effective as its application. This research teaches us more about the functioning of the schizophrenic. It stimulates our thinking. It points us to more appropriate biblical themes. It helps us bring God’s word to those with this affliction. It helps us balance the spiritual and the physical. We still don’t have all the answers about treating the schizophrenic. But, who knows? Maybe God is about to reveal that to us soon. Regardless, we should praise him for allowing these researchers to discover what they discovered.
Third, biblical counselors should praise God for giving them a robust theology of sin. Despite what our critics say, biblical counseling’s understanding of sin is not superficial. Our theology teaches us that sin is not just a behavior. Sin is also a state of being. In the fall, sin permeated every aspect of creation (Rom 8:18-25). When we fell, our fall was not just moral. It was biological as well (Gen 3:19). As such, death came upon all men (Rom 5:12). Viewed this way, improper synaptic pruning is a direct result of the fall of Adam.
Join the Conversation
How does this research help you better understand a schizophrenic’s experience? What are some ways that you can minister to this person? How might the Bible speak to this experience?