Tenth Annual Mental Health Institute* at Worthington, Ohio

The sharing of concern about religion and mental health.

W. G. C. MURDOCH, Dean of Theological Seminary. Andrews University

 This tenth annual institute gives us a fitting opportunity to express to the five pioneers in this field our admiring appreci­ation for service they have rendered to the ministry of this denomination, and through them to many thousands of our lay people. These five pioneers are Charles E. Wittschiebe, Harold Caviness, Charles Anderson, Harrison Evans, and George Harding, Sr.

The sharing of concern about religion and mental health has given all the par­ticipants, ministers, teachers, deans, admin­istrators, psychologists, and social workers a keener awareness of what constitutes ma­turity and emotional health in the life of the Christian, and particularly in the life of the Seventh-day Adventist.

Healing and Salvation

In the New Testament the Greek word for salvation has medical connotation sug­gesting that healing and saving are closely allied. Many times we hear the Master say, "Thy sins be forgiven thee. Thou art healed." What a challenge Christ has left us. His whole life on earth was spent in teaching, preaching, and healing. Wherever He went the blind received their sight, the lame walked, and the sick were healed. The majority of His miracles were miracles of healing. As we follow in His steps it is our responsibility to point men and women who are sick in mind and body to the One who can heal their sin-sick souls in addi­tion to caring for their physical condition.

Since the medical and ministerial profes­sions are closely allied, their service to hu­manity should complement each other. The greatest scientific skills should be combined with spiritual power. Healing should be a ministry as well as a profession.

Our view of anthropology is holistic. This means that we do not think of man as composed of several compartments which are separate and distinct, but that man must be looked upon as a unit. Because man is an individual unity, physicians and clergymen must work together on a pro­fessional level by discussing jointly the whole personality or the whole person of the patient. When Christ said to the sick, "Thy faith hath made thee whole," He meant, "Thy faith has made thee a whole man." This holistic viewpoint of man's na­ture is most important for the doctor and the minister. I grew up in the Victorian Age in the old country, where the minister and the doctor had little in common The minister would wait at the door of the sick­room until the doctor came out or should the minister be visiting with the patient, the nurse would say, "The doctor is here. Now you must leave." Thus the minister and the doctor moved in entirely different spheres. The minister was supposed to look after the soul of the sick, because of the belief in the immortal soul, and the doctor was expected to care for the body. During the past decades this concept has been gradually changing.

Interrelationship of Religion and Health

The world has awakened to the impor­tance of the relation between the physical and the spiritual. The American Medical Association has just appointed a chairman to be responsible for a new department known as Religion and Mental Health.

Years ago Ellen G. White wrote of the interrelation between good physical health and a sound Christian experience. We have been slow to accept the interrelationship of true religion and physical health. The religion of Christ, Ellen White maintained, instead of being the cause of ill health is one of the most effectual remedies for ill­ness, for it is a potent soother of the nerves. The mind becomes free and happy from a consciousness of rightdoing and helping others. This sense of satisfaction in bring­ing happiness to others reacts upon our­selves. It creates a cheerfulness that reacts upon the whole system, causing a freer circulation of the blood and the toning up of the entire body. The prophet Isaiah wrote about the healing balm that comes from unselfish ministry: "And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day" (Isa. 58:10).

Ministers and doctors occupy positions of deepest trust with humanity. In the great crises of life both are faced with the same tremendous problems. How encouraging to see among the clergy a growing apprecia­tion of the new developments, especially in the field of psychiatry and the understand­ing of troubled minds. There is also a grow­ing interest among the medical doctors in the religious experience of the patient. There is an increasing utilization of uniquely religious sources of help and heal­ing. These cooperative ventures of minis­ters of religion and doctors of medicine are to be warmly applauded. Such are bound to produce, in fact are already pro­ducing, most constructive results.

There is, however, a note of warning lest there come a form of hyphenated fusion or possibly of confusion in the role of the doc­tor and the pastor. Such a plan as out­lined at the Worthington Hospital will help to avoid this, and will serve to set the stage where the two may more profoundly meet, rendering more proficient service to needy humanity.

Cooperation Between Doctor and Minister

This modern cooperative effort between the doctor and the minister is not really new. It reaches back to the beginning of the Christian Era and the times of antiq­uity. Did not Paul the preacher have as an associate the beloved physician Luke? A real bond of fellowship existed between these two great leaders of the gospel. Both of them were enriched by this comradeship. Think what this friendship meant to the Chris­tian church! Luke wrote the most carefully documented life of Christ, while Paul set forth the great doctrines of salvation, and together they produced more than half of the New Testament. This was cooperative ministry at its best. The world and the church today need men of the caliber of the apostle Paul and doctors like Luke. Such humility, such selfless sacrifice and courage, were never more in demand.

The work of the hospital chaplain is now greatly respected, and hospitals have appointed full-time clergymen to care for the spiritual needs of patients.

Theological education today needs to be made more relevant to this new age to which we have come. The pontifical, author­itarian idea of preaching does little to solve the tensions of this modern time. We must get away from the monological conception of communication and enter what is called the dialogical. Here the minister and doc­tor can do much cooperatively to help troubled souls to live happily with their tensions when it does not seem possible to solve them.

Sickness and Guilt

There is confusion and tension today be­tween sickness and guilt. Because of the medical and psychiatric orientation re­cently acquired, pastors tend to think of human troubles in terms of sickness, and they minimize the reality of guilt. Some psychologists take guilt more seriously than do ministers. While many pastors are caring for their parishioners as if they were sick, certain psychologists are taking seri­ously their patients' sense of guilt and are beginning to think in terms of sin. This is why ministers and doctors need to counsel together. There is the tension between ad­justment and forgiveness. Here a pastor who accepts the reality of guilt and sees its significance in the process of redemption thinks in terms of forgiveness as the source of healing. This releases men from the bondage of their alienation from themselves, from one another, and from God. There are further tensions, such as pater­nalism versus guidance. Pastors are often paternal in their approach to the problems of others and have not come close to those in need so that they can help them solve their difficulties.

Let us avoid being slaves to obsolete forms and ideals. We have been called to the most important task of giving the last message of mercy to the world, and we must use every means available for the accom­plishment of the task. There is too much preoccupation with the church as an insti­tution and not enough with her responsibilities to the world. Let us never forget that the church's mission is to the world. If the church is to speak to this present generation, her message must take cogni­zance of the present pressures around us. Instead of being defensive in response to the new insights and discoveries of this day, let us courageously enter into dialog with them in the confidence that 'out of this a living and relevant concept of the ministry will appear.

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W. G. C. MURDOCH, Dean of Theological Seminary. Andrews University

May 1965

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