Voddie Baucham on Mental Illness

Voddie Baucham recently preached a sermon entitled “Nebuchadnezzar Loses His Mind”.  Baucham is a Baptist pastor in the Houston area and is very well-known in the homeschooling world, where he does presentations on a wide variety of topics including apologetics, the family, and homeschooling issues.  A transcript of the sermon is available here, or you can watch it online here.

Baucham uses as his jumping-off point the text of Daniel 4, in which the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar has a crazy dream.  Daniel interprets the dream for him as saying that he will be driven insane for several years and then will be restored.  Sure enough, the whole thing plays out exactly as Daniel said it would.

Baucham notes a disturbing similarity between Nebuchadnezzar’s experience as described in the biblical text and what clinicians today would diagnose as schizophrenia.  He then seeks to dismiss schizophrenia and other forms of mental illness by placing them on the same level as other things recorded in the Bible which fall within the scope of normal human experience:  The book of Job, Paul and the murders he oversaw prior to his conversion, Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane and his wild mood swings in the Lazarus episode, and the Psalms, in which the Psalmist expresses every manner of what we would consider mental illness.

From there he launches into a withering diatribe against the entire mental health profession, throwing terms around in an attempt to show that the whole thing has no scientific basis whatsoever (unlike physical illness).  One gets the impression that there is some crazy conspiracy where psychologists and psychiatrists are in league with the Devil himself.  His opinions are remarkably similar to those of Thomas Szasz, who strongly critiqued the profession back in the 1950s and whose ideas still have a great deal of traction among anti-psychiatry advocates.  While Szasz’s views may have had merit back in an era when the profession was strongly dominated by Freudian theorizing, today’s psychiatric profession is much more scientifically grounded and Szasz’s views are now ridiculously out-of-date.

Many parts of evangelicalism have a poor track record on dealing with mental health issues.  Baucham’s sermon only contributes to the problem.

For an honest personal reaction to Baucham’s sermon, read “A Personal Response to Voddie Baucham on Mental Illness” by R. L. Stollar at the Homeschoolers Anonymous blog.

A few years ago Michael Spencer did a series of posts on the Christian and mental illness which examine several aspects of mental illness, how the Church interacts with it, what the Bible has to say about it, and how the Gospel applies to it.  This is a jumping-off page from which you can access all the articles in the series.