a review of Welch on depression

Donn Arms reviews Ed Welch’s book, Depression, A Stubborn Darkness here.

I have been positive of Welch in the past, especially for his book on addictions. I have read several of his other books as well. However, if this review is accurate, Welch is basically an integrationist and an unreliable guide for Christian counsellors. Arms is quite severe in his criticisms.



  1. Larry says:

    I wouldn’t put much, if any, stock in Arms’ review. I think Arms is borderline dishonest in this review, or at least didn’t read carefully with an open mind to see what was actually being said. Reading the book does not give the same impression that Arms does. It makes one wonder if we are talking about the same book.

    Numerous examples could be cited, but take the statement on fear as an example. Welch actually says, “When fears are left unattended, then can lead to depression” (p. 143). I think Welch is a good deal more nuanced than Arms allows. On p. 152, Welch says “There are two basic steps in dealing with fear. First, confess them as unbelief. Isn’t it true that much of our fear is our hearts saying, ‘Lord, I don’t believe you,’ or ‘Lord, my desires want something other than what you promised?’ Second, examine the Scripture and be confident in the love and faithfulness of Jesus.”

    To me, that gives an entirely different view than Arms gives.

    Arms seems too dismissive about the breadth of depression. Welch properly describes the varying levels or intensity of depression. Not all depression is of the same intensity.

    IMO, Arms uses “causes” in a way different than Welch does. Again, Welch says, “All pain is interpreted pain” meaning (as I understand it) that the pain of depression is from the way you interpret life.

    Welch is correct that we cannot say that sin is automatically the cause of depression. Many people have sin who are not the least bit depressed over it. And there is the possibility that there is physiological causes of depression. As Welch says (both here and elsewhere), you can’t test for physiological causes (meaning you can’t exclude them), and if you could determine it, you don’t know whether it is a cause or a result of depression.

    In an interview with Mark Dever, Welch commented on anti-depressants: “If there are issues of the heart, the person won’t be able to mask them. Physical treatment will affect physical symptoms. So medication can’t give you hope. It can’t give you more love for God for your neighbor but it may have you feel a little bit different. You might feel perhaps cognitively a bit more clearer if you take medication, at its best.”

    So, I would discount Arms’ review. I think Adams and NANC have something stuck in their craw with CCEF.

    • Thanks for the note, Larry. Your comments are in line with the comments I posted in a follow-up from a friend.

      However, I have not been entirely comfortable with Welch in his later books. Have you noticed any problems in your reading of him? I have read parts of all of Welch’s books, and read several of them in full. He has had some helpful stuff, but I wonder at times whether he gives too much credence to psychology.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  2. Larry says:

    IMO, you have to read Welch like everyone else, with some discernment and careful analysis. But on the whole, I am not greatly troubled. I think Welch/Powlinson/Tripp/CCEF is a good deal more nuanced, and is actually better able to get to actual root problems.

    To me, NANC seems a little too behavioristic. Perhaps that’s just me. I think both NANC and CCEF have a lot of good.

    • Thanks for the comment, Larry.

      I have been somewhat frustrated with the counseling methods I have been taught (not the philosophy!). Methodologically, there seems to be quite an emphasis on written assignments of self-analysis. Often these use a good deal of Scripture, but I have found them quite ineffective, either because people are non-academic, or because they are too academic.

      It seems that what works best is to get them to talk long enough so that you can figure out the real problem, then point them to a reasonable solution to the problem. This can be mind-numbingly wearisome, however.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3