BLAME IT ON THE BRAIN? BY EDWARD T. WELCH
[REVIEWED by Peter J. Lindstrom]
As a parent and leader in the church, Blame It On The Brain? comes with high recommendations to help orient us how we should approach difficulty situations.
And these difficult situations, at times, seem to show up everywhere, including when we are doing our ONE Thing in our homes. In my time of family worship last night, for example, how do I respond to a child as he creates a disturbance? To be sure, the age of the child has to be considered when addressing the problem. Is he three years old or thirteen? How about other factors to consider?
The Bible speaks of us being both a physical and spiritual being. Simple enough. But issues in our lives are not quite so. Dr. Edward T. Welch in his expertise helps us see more clearly when counseling others (and by application, our children included) as problems muddy our perspective.
Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1998.
Provided in this book review are some highlights about how Dr. Edward T. Welch, counselor at the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation, grapples with the issues surrounding chemical imbalances, brain disorders, and heart disobedience. Welch astutely sorts out some of the important issues of the day in terms of people’s physical and spiritual maladies.
The heart of the book is this: be a wise counselor in terms of knowing the Bible and dealing with the muck of sin and physical shortcomings. Like it or not, a counselor is deficient in addressing the problems of today if he does not understand the complex dilemmas in which people find themselves.
TWO-FOLD DIVISION OF BOOK
The divisions of the book are twofold: first, biblical foundations for understanding various mind-body questions; second, brain problems as understood through examining Scripture.
In the first section, Welch briefly establishes the ground-work that God is the Creator of both the body and mind (i.e., soul, spirit, or preferably, heart). From Scripture, there is no doubt that the heart is responsible before God. And it is this heart that Welch states is the “initiator of all moral action” (37).
The important criteria for establishing what is moral or not is this simple question: does it conform to the Word of God? A helpful metaphor in understanding how this heart and body relate is seeing it as a computer: the body is the hardware and the heart is the software. Conceptualizing these differences between body and heart (mind) is helpful in sorting out the complicated sin and/or sickness issue that a pastor is bound to confront.
HOW TO DEAL WITH PROBLEMS: FIVE STEPS
Welch suggests a helpful grid or filter when dealing with problems. Five steps are mentioned.
First, get the information needed. That is, just because you have read your Bible through and you have a college diploma, you don’t know it all. Study the situation; study the Bible; get over the fact you don’t know it all.
Second, distinguish between spiritual sins and physical problems. They can be quite related, but they are also very different. Again, know the Bible; understand the situation.
Third, address the heart issues (the ones pertaining to the sins) and, at the same time….
Fourth, maximize the strengths of the person.
Finally, correct or minimize the weaknesses. This lay out is important so that when the pastor (or, parent) is in the thick of the battle against the problem(s), he is better able to sort out and distinguish heart and body issues.
Welch does not shy away from the difficult issues. He addresses everything from Alzheimer’s disease to homosexuality. Several principles or lessons can be learned from the reading:
1. The given physical problem will often explain why a person’s sin may become more expressive and apparent in his life. For instance, a brain-injured victim has difficulty in anticipating consequences, whether bad or good. In this example, though the counselor already understands that his counselee is a sinner, the brain injury better explains why the injured person may do things (i.e. sins of commission) he would not have otherwise done in the past.
2. In terms of the above lesson, the counselor has a better grasp of how to help as well. In other words, the counselor is better equipped to teach, grow, and mature this person so that he will glorify God- the ultimate goal.
3. In terms of psychiatric problems, medication cannot change the heart of the person. It can, however, alleviate physical symptoms with psychiatric problems. In light of this perspective, Welch does not condemn psychiatric drugs that may help achieve improved behavior, but he rightly stresses that before anyone rushes to get the drugs that are apparently needed, first understand the situation and see if the problem can be corrected without the use of them.
4. There are many reasons for what causes a depressed state. In other words, don’t just assume you know why. Investigate. Ask good questions. Be sensitive to what the person says and doesn’t say.
5. In terms of analyzing an individual with the label of ADD, be sure you understand the difference of what is sin and what it isn’t (i.e., Ask the question, “Does this behavior transgress God’s law or not?” “Is this an example of a sinful heart or just an energetic person?”)
More lessons can be gleaned from Welch’s study of Scripture and observation of human nature. It is most appropriate to say that the pastor (and let’s not forget the parent) must continually see the need to study- both the Bible and the people. He must have wisdom- applying the truths of God’s Word.
CONCLUSION OF THE MATTER
For the pastor, parents and other concerned counselors, this book is a “keeper” because it wisely parses complicated problems and instructs us to see the issues at hand with greater objectivity. Sin is complicated. The antidote required is therefore patience, prayer, investigation, and the study of His Word. Everyone must understand that everyone falls short of the glory of God (i.e. we’re all rank sinners), and that only by the grace of God, are we not all in perplexing problems. With this perspective, by God’s strength, we go to help.
If you have read this book, what insights would you share to help in counseling our children?
What are some of the challenges you have in parenting difficult situations?
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