Guest Post by Dr. Nate Brooks
See the end of today’s post for Dr. Nate Brooks’ bio.
A Word from Bob
In our modern biblical counseling world, some folks have a strong reaction against any concepts that they assume arises from the world or specifically from secular psychology. One example of this is with the concept of “depression.”
Recently, I came across a wonderful tweet-string from Dr. Nate Brooks on a biblical view of depression.
- Nate does an excellent job of building a succinct but powerful case for depression as a biblical category.
- More than that, Nate models how to think biblically about real-life categories.
- Nate is a wonderful example of truly biblical counseling—counseling that is comprehensively biblical and compassionately biblical.
Enough from me. Here’s Nate’s tweet-string. In just 500 words, he builds a rich foundation for a biblical understanding of depression—and of the value of descriptive collation of a cluster of symptoms.
Remember, as you read the first few tweets, Nate is stating the views of others. Nate is not stating his own views until tweet #4.
From Nate Brooks, 10/12/21: Twitter Handle: @natejbrooks
Is depression an unbiblical construct?
It’s sometimes argued that depression is an invented construct, as depression is only diagnosed by a set of symptoms that are the real issue. Depression isn’t a thing, but lethargy, downcast mood, loss of interest are.
Depression is thus a description of descriptions and is not descriptive of an individual’s actual experience. Nobody has depression…it’s just a construct that gets in the way of real care and help for the person.
There are several troubles with this argument. First, it fails to understand how labeling issues works. Yes, it’s a descriptive label. However, it’s a descriptive label of a certain cluster of symptoms that go together.
We could list out series of symptoms and know what we’re talking about because we understand that certain experiences cluster together in certain patterns—people struggle with troubles that often go together. Fluttery heart, jumpy nerves, pervasive worry, avoidance—that’s someone who is anxious.
That it’s a description of a description is no reason that it’s invalid.
Second, we have to recognize that most of our theological words are constructs. “Trinity” is a construct, in that it’s a description of a description. We do this because descriptions of descriptions give us a shorthand way of describing complex things.
Imagine if we had to use “Father Son and Spirit who are One God” evert time we wanted to refer to the Three in Oneness of God. Clunky! But because we know “Trinity” refers to a certain orthodox idea, we use the constructed word to stand for the full biblical picture.
Third, the reason “depression” isn’t typically a biblical word is because the English Bible translators picked a different word (often “downcast’). We have to remember that strictly speaking, every word in our translated Bibles fails to be a “Biblical word” as they’re all translations.
Translation attempts to take one concept and put it in a different language. Translators and editors make decisions, but there’s often more than one word they can use to faithfully represent the original concept.
Additionally, there is a history of using the word “depression” in English Scriptures, and not just in the most contemporary versions. The NASB began using “depression” within the text in 1977. So if depression is a description of descriptions, it’s one the Bible is comfortable with.
What’s the point of all of this? The point is that speaking biblically about problems doesn’t just mean using language that appears in the Bible. Nor is language that seeks to summarize certain identifiable human experiences invalid just because it is a description of a description.
Getting stuck on language often distracts from caring for the actual person in front of us. The issue isn’t what word we use to describe their trouble; the issue is their troubles and suffering.
Care involves moving towards them with God’s kindness and compassion, so that they may be comforted and grow.
Join the Conversation
What do you think? What makes a word, concept, or construct “biblical”?
Nate was simply doing a quick tweet-string. Much more can be said about the Bible and depression. How would you develop a biblical view of depression?
How would you develop a biblical case for depression as a legitimate human experience in the Bible?
Dr. Nate Brooks
Dr. Nate Brooks is an assistant professor of Christian Counseling at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC. He joined the faculty in 2020 after serving for four years in a staff capacity. Dr. Brooks teaches both introductory and specialized counseling courses, covering theology, history, and the evaluation of psychological theories as well as the supervision of students throughout their practicums. He is a member at Lake Wylie Baptist Church and was ordained in 2021.
Prior to joining the faculty at RTS, Brooks earned an MDiv at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, where he served for several years as a teaching assistant and co-instructor with Dr. Jeremy Pierre. He writes frequently for the Biblical Counseling Coalition and other organizations. Dr. Brooks also teaches biblical counseling overseas, most recently in Medellin, Colombia and Kyiv, Ukraine.
Dr. Brooks’ research interests focus primarily on the intersection of theology and counseling, with special reference to abuse and trauma. His dissertation examined the anthropology inherent to second-wave cognitive behavioral therapy through the lens of Reformed theology. This work was the first academic, full-length evaluation of a singular psychological system within the field of biblical counseling. His first co-authored book, Help! Our Sex Life Is Troubled by Past Abuse, was published in 2020.
Dr. Brooks and his wife, Kate, live in Rock Hill, SC on their mini-farm with their three children.