a follow-up on Welch

A friend takes me to task a bit for the review I linked to here. I thought his comments were worth posting. He agreed to let me do so, as long as I kept him "Annie Mouse" (my term), which I am happy to do. He starts off this way:

Arms review was interesting but I think he misses the boat.  I’ve read all of the Adams, Bobgans, etc. type books. Very helpful stuff, but to them, fear, anxiety, depression, etc. are always due to a spiritual problem. I disagree. Berg comes the closest to my position by recognizing that there can be a physical component.

Arms says, "For Welch, depression can be caused by… our own bodies…" While I don’t subscribe to his "low self-worth" mantra or have any affinity for the psychiatric profession, Welch is correct about the body factor. If Spurgeon’s physician knew more about gout, Spurgeon would not have needed to cry in his wife’s lap after the services every Sunday evening or take extended trips to the south of France for his health and sanity. In the same way, I firmly believe depression can be organic in nature especially as we often observe, in many, many cases, such a strong familial, genetic connection.

"Annie" continues:

So Arms is somewhat right and somewhat wrong when he says, "None of these things can cause depression, they are only occasions for depression."  There can be both a cause and effect. I believe diet can be a huge cause. Lester Roloff proved that over and over again.  Why is it that a believer can pray diligently, read his Bible, fast, receive godly counsel, have no unconfessed sin in his life, etc., etc., and yet struggle with debilitating depression or some other mental malady? [Another preacher] wrote to me some time ago and said, "It’s hard to be ‘spiritual’ when you’re feeling lousy all the time!"  Is it possible that some material deficiency or short circuit in the brain can make someone feel lousy?  We still groan, whether physically or mentally  in these bodies, but I’m thankful, due to medical advancements, that I probably don’t groan as much as the Apostle Paul did.

Now, in and of itself, no change of diet or anything else can ultimately change the heart. But what if the believer found he had an organic deficiency or changed his diet, and then that allowed him to feel better so he could focus more clearly on the scriptural prescription. Prayer and surrender are still the ultimate key to the spiritual problems but I strongly believe that the medical community is going to discover more and more that many of these mental/emotional problems definitely have a physiological basis. A number of preachers are beginning to realize it’s not all due to just sin… well, fear  or anything else is sin but even the OT speaks of provision for sinning unawares. Okay, I’ll stop my ranting!

I guess I would say, especially counselling believers who don’t seem to be helped by our counsel (granted our counsel is adequate), "Find out first if there is some specific, unconfessed sin in their lives and if there isn’t, look at the organic."

All of that, is good, helpful commentary. To clarify, I asked "Annie" this:

I agree that physical problems cannot be ruled out. So I am not totally buying Adams viewpoint, but I have noticed some things in Welch’s books that give me a little concern. It seems that your conclusion is that  if there is no spiritual cause (no ongoing unconfessed sin problem), then look for physical causes, whereas Welch and his colleagues seem to emphasize rule out the physical, then consider the spiritual. Or am I missing it?

Last word to "Annie", who replied:

Your summarize it correctly. In my opinion, Arms and Welch represent two unbalanced factions of the spiritual counselling movement. They both have some good things to say and some philosophy that is not so good.

In this conversation, I agree with my friend. We can’t ignore the physical, but be careful of those writers who say "check the physical first" and give a good deal of credence to the instruments of psycho-babble. On the other hand, those suffering debilitating conditions can also suffer depression. And they can also compound their debilitating conditions and depression by reacting sinfully (irritable, angry, etc.) and spiral into real spiritual difficulty unless they choose to walk by the Spirit in spite of their circumstances.



  1. I haven’t read all of it, but I think that Ron Horton may be on to something in Mood Tides (Amazon) where he suggests that periods of depression may actually be part of our natural make-up and an instrument of God for spiritual good.

    If so, then a further realization may be that depression, though commonly the cause/result of spiritual sin, may instead cause spiritual growth if properly managed.