“Direct Link Between Sin and Mental Illness”: The Mental Health Denialism of Voddie Baucham

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Click here to read other transcripts by and posts about Voddie Baucham.

I recently listened to Voddie Baucham’s sermon “Nebuchadnezzar Loses His Mind.” Baucham is a popular speaker at Christian homeschool conventions — particularly as an advocate of corporal punishment for shy children and the stay-at-home-daughter movement. Baucham is also the Pastor of Preaching at Grace Family Baptist, where he delivered this sermon on April 8, 2012. Using a tenuous and strained exegesis of Daniel 4:4-37 and an extraordinarily outdated 1950’s anti-psychiatry worldview from Thomas Szasz, Baucham attempts to answer the following 2 questions: (1) What is the biblical view of mental health? And (2) How should Christians think about what he calls “the mental health industry”?

Here is Grace Family Baptist’s full description of the sermon:

It is difficult to go through Daniel chapter 4 without realizing that, in our day and time, Nebuchadnezzar would have been diagnosed with some type of mental disorder, medicated to the point of absurdity, and put in an institution with little or no hope of returning to a normal life.

But, what is the Biblical view of mental health? How should we as Christians (and especially Pastors) look at the “mental health” industry? In this sermon, Pastor Voddie gives a Biblical look at these issues.

I transcribed the entire sermon, which you can view here. Below are a few of the “highlights” from it (in other words, the more disturbing and triggering parts):

Baucham using Jesus’s simple emotional changes to make light of mental illness:

Let’s talk about Jesus, shall we? In the Garden of Gethsemane, where he experiences a classic instance of anxiety. Or better yet, when he comes to the tomb of Lazarus, weeping, there in depression, but then resuscitates Lazarus, and they celebrate — now he’s bipolar. Let’s not even talk about the Psalms, where you find every manner of what we would define as “mental illness” expressed by the psalmist himself.

Claiming there’s no such thing as mental health stigma:

We’re psychologized — because of these drug commercials. [in mocking voice:] “Where does depression hurt? It hurts everywhere.” K? We see these commercials and they come at us — and folks, we believe that mental illness is actually the new norm. Movies and television programs, dramas, police dramas, where the psychologist is the one who knows everything about the person who’s doing this crime. Why? Because if you’re a psychologist, you are all-knowing. “This person is probably this age, and he probably grew up like this, and he probably has the” — all the while, you over here are looking at the other part of the movie that the cops are not seeing and what are you being told? The person with the psychology degree is god. And “destigmatization”? Far from there being a stigma anymore with mental illness…now we’re proud of our mental illnesses. We wear them like a badge.

Denying the real existence of chemical imbalances:

Most Christians don’t know that there is no such thing as chemical imbalance.

Baucham belittling psychologists and psychiatrists:

Psychology and psychiatry — and they’re not the same thing, one’s a medical doctor who goes to medical school, a psychiatrist, gets a medical degree, k? And they can dispense drugs, and, and that’s pretty much all they do, just dispense drugs and [unintelligible] drugs — and the other one, a psychologist, you don’t go to medical school, that’s a complete different degree, k? But in both instances, psychology and psychiatry have never cured anyone of anything.

This wild claim:

Everything I’ve stated for you up to this point is just pure fact.

Claiming sin and mental illness have “a direct link”:

The warning is due directly to Nebuchadnezzar’s sins. Directly because of his sin. Period. End of discussion. “This is what’s going to happen to you because you have sinned against God. This is what lay ahead for you because you have sinned against God.” And so here in Daniel we see a direct link between sin and mental illness. And when I use the term “mental illness” I’m using the term that we all understand. And you’ll, you’ll see why I make that clarification here shortly. A direct link between his sin and what in an emergency room or in a primary care physician’s office would clearly be diagnosed as schizophrenia. A direct link to his sin.

Trying to make the above “direct link” more palatable by reminding everyone of original sin:

Does that mean that everyone who has this issue has a sin problem? Well the answer to that of course is yes. Because we’ve all got a sin problem. But does that mean that everyone is struggling with this as a direct result of this sin problem? I couldn’t say that. I couldn’t say that.

Worrying more about preaching the Gospel to someone who’s having a medical emergency than getting that person medical help:

Can you imagine trying to get truth and the Gospel through to an individual who is on a cocktail, a fistful of powerful psychotropic drugs, has a flat affect, and stares off into the distance when you talk to him? Do you think that makes it easier or more difficult for a person to hear and heed and comprehend the Gospel?

Encouraging people to tell mentally ill individuals that they shouldn’t feel good:

I get who God is. That’s where you want to be, folks. But that’s not even what we seek when it comes to these “mental illnesses,” so to speak. What do we seek? [mocking voices:] “I just want to feel better.” “I don’t feel good.” And unfortunately we’re not talking to people who will take us by the hand and say, “You know what, sweetheart? In light of the way you’ve been living you shouldn’t feel good.” Turn to God.

Again claiming sin leads to mental illness, and that people should pray their illnesses away:

Your sin has real physical and emotional consequences. Proverbs 26:13: “The sluggard” — by the way, that’s sin — “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion in the road, there’s a lion in the streets.” The sin of slothfulness — contributing to anxiety! Must need a pill! No, it’s a sin problem at the root of that! Proverbs 28:1: “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as lions.” The wicked are fleeing when no one’s pursuing — there’s paranoia, directly related to wickedness! Psalms 31:10: “For my life is spent with sorrow, my years with sighing, my strength fails because of my iniquity and my bones waste away.” Physical consequences because of sin. James 5, beginning at verse 13. We talk about this every week: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord and the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed.” And another one that we read every week, 1 Corinthians 11, beginning at verse 27: “Whoever therefore eats the” — this is talking about the Lord’s Supper — “Whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of who are weak and ill and some have died.”

Baucham linking evil spiritual forces with mental illness:

There is real evil in the world. And often times — and we haven’t talked about this — often times what we’re dealing with is some of that real evil in the world. Ephesians 6:11 and 12: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” That’s real, people. And there’s no pill for that.

This bizarre analogy between caffeine and mental illness:

There’s some of you in here who are addicted to caffeine. By the way, it’s the exact same principle: I get up in the morning and I don’t feel good. I’m supposed to feel good. There is a drug with which I can self-medicate to make myself feel good. I will get this drug into me so that I feel good and then I will be able to go throughout the day. If I don’t get this drug into me, I will sin against you but I won’t call it sin, I will refer to my self-diagnosis of a lack of caffeine and you must understand that it’s not me, it’s the disease. If you can’t say amen, you ought to say ouch! It’s the exact same thing, people.

Baucham shaming everyone into telling their pastors about their intimate medical histories:

If you’re here today and you’re being treated by someone for a mental illness, and you have not informed your elders — first, I want to ask you a question. Why on God’s green earth would you do that? Why? By the way, I can tell you the answer: Because you’ve bought the lie.

Claiming that if you’re upset about any of the above statements, it’s because you just don’t like God’s Word:

If you’ve been upset or offended by anything I’ve said today, I want to ask you a question: Why? Why? There was merely the assertion of fact rooted in a biblical understanding of the way we are created. What is that you are clinging to that would make you chafe against the Word of God when applied to the most significant things in your life?

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