This week, I co-taught with a counseling professor an undergraduate course titled Theological Implications of Mental Illness. It is an elective course at Leavell College, on the campus of NOBTS.
Every human is a complex and special creation of God, made in his image. But God’s creation was broken in various ways by the first couple’s sin, and that brokenness includes physical and mental disorders among people. Theological issues I addressed in the course included: human constitution, the image of God, providence, evil & suffering, moral accountability, demons & demonization, identity in Christ, and sanctification.
I recommend the primary textbook we used in the course, Grace for the Afflicted, for anyone serving in Christian ministry. The author, Matthew Stanford, holds a PhD in neuroscience and is a professor of neuroscience and psychology at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. The book provides a clinical analysis of various mental disorders, using the DSM-IV-TR (Diagnostic & Statistical Manual, 4th edition, Text Revised) to present prevalence, symptoms, causes, and most effective treatments of selected mental disorders. Illnesses addressed in Stanford’s book include: bipolar, anxiety, eating, and depressive disorders. In addition to briefly describing the clinical nature of each illness, Stanford identifies biblical characters who seem to display symptoms of each disorder as well as how churches can support individuals and families that deal with mental illness.
Mental illness is a complex issue which is prevalent in our culture and churches. Stanford’s book is one resource that can equip pastors and leaders to help those suffering with mental illness get the help they so desperately need.
On April 7, 2016, Dr. Chad Thornhill, chair of theological studies at Liberty University School of Divinity, presented a summary of his book The Chosen People: Election, Paul and Second-Temple Judaism (IVP Academic, 2015). In this graduate-level study, Thornhill examines extra-biblical Jewish literature of Paul’s era to answer this question: “How did Paul understand election?” The presentation was hosted by the NOBTS Baptist Center for Theology & Ministry and the Theological & Historical Studies Division, and begins at the 2:00 mark, followed by Q&A at 1:09:00.
My friend and colleague at NOBTS, Dr. Robert (“Bob”) Stewart, has edited another book. What is a monumental achievement for other scholars has become a common occurrence for this professor of Philosophy and Theology. Bob has edited the following books: The Resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and N. T. Wright in Dialogue (2006); Intelligent Design: William A. Dembski & Michael Ruse in Dialogue (2007); The Quest of the Hermeneutical Jesus: The Impact of Hermeneutics on the Jesus Research of John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright (2008); The Future of Atheism: Alister McGrath and Daniel Dennett in Dialogue (2008); Memories of Jesus: A Critical Appraisal of James D. G. Dunn’s Jesus Remembered, edited with Gary Habermas (2010); The Reliability of the New Testament: Bart Ehrman and Daniel Wallace in Dialogue (2011); The Message of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and Ben Witherington III in Dialogue (2013); Can Only One Religion Be True? Paul Knitter and Harold Netland in Dialogue (2013); served as general editor of B&H Studies in Christian Apologetics, Jeremy Evans, The Problem of Evil: The Challenge to Essential Christian Beliefs (2013); and he has contributed to several other works, including the Cambridge Dictionary of Christianity. Also, Bob has several books in the pipeline.
His latest release, God and Cosmology: William Lane Craig and Sean Carroll in Dialogue (Fortress Press, 2016), is a compilation of essays from the 2014 Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum. Funded by donations from William and Carolyn Heard, the annual forum “is designed to provide a venue in which respected scholars of differing opinions dialogue on critical issues in religion, science, philosophy, and/or culture from their differing perspectives.” (Click here for more information on this annual forum, including future speakers and dates.)
Stewart explains in the first chapter, “The primary question in this book is this: Does the evidence of contemporary cosmology render God’s existence more probable than it would have been without it?” (p. 3). The leading contributors to the book are Sean Carroll, research professor of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology, and William Lane Craig, professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and Houston Baptist University. Also contributing chapters are: Robin Collins, Tim Maudlin, Alex Rosenberg, Robert Stewart, and James Sinclair.
Videos of the 2014 Greer-Heard presentations are available on YouTube. Even so, the book is a valuable resource for several reasons. First, Stewart’s introduction sets up the discussion, and that content was not presented during the forum. Second, Maudlin’s essay in the book is slightly different than the paper he presented at the forum. Third, the footnotes allow readers to track down sources, substantiate claims, and glean information not provided in the body of the text. Fourth, it is helpful to slow down and re-read the complex arguments in the book.
Philosophers, cosmologists, theologians, and students, regardless of their religious perspective, will benefit from this interaction among Carroll, Craig, and others on the universe and the probability of the existence of God.