Robert Preus on Mental Illness

I don’t generally think of Robert Preus as the source of all knowledge when it comes to mental illness, but I ran across this article recently. It is well done. Very Preusesque, but he really understands the relationship between faith and mental illness. Here’s one citation to pique your interest:

Pastors who suffer stress and affliction, like any Christian in similar circumstances, may be tempted to look to their faith as a reason for self-esteem and assurance, rather than to the only object of faith, Christ and His pardoning Word. They conclude that failure and inability to cope are due to weak faith or the lack of faith altogether. They are viewing faith as their act rather than as their reception of God’s mercy.

Robert D. Preus, “Clergy Mental Health and the Doctrine of Justification,” Concordia Theological Quarterly 48, no. 2 & 3 (1984): 120.

I recommend this little essay very highly. Check it out. I actually think that LCMS World Relief has this online somewhere, but I can’t find it right now. Can anyone help me out?


6 thoughts on “Robert Preus on Mental Illness”

  1. Thank you for making this paper available and pointing it out DMR. The importance of the doctrine of justification when battling mental illness and any other problem is needful. I really appreciate reading this paper. There was a lot of very good application of the doctrine of justification here.

    The one thing that I questioned in Pr. Prues paper was the way he limited the reason for stresses and strains in life and mental illness to chastisement from God. I would have liked to see the causes expanded and the reality that there are some questions that will not be answered here on earth addressed. If mental illness is narrowly limited to chastisement then cerebral palsy and other ailments would also need to be limited to chastisement.

    Preus’ premise on cause does not seem well thought out. Is mental illness a chastisement from God? Or is it a result of being abusively sinned against (eg: child abuse)? Or is it a result of having a genetic predisposition to mental illness just like any other disease? Or is it the weakness of my own frame that becomes ill mentally from too much stress and strain just like my physical body will become ill from being overworked? Is catching a common cold a chastisement from God or a consequence of living in a fallen world?

    To limit causes to chastisement does not seem to explain why God allowed Satan to rip through Job’s life and kill Job’s family members. Nor does it explain why a woman would experience rape or a child would be gassed at Auschwitz or child is aborted by their mother. Is God chastising a woman through a rapist? Or chastising a child through Nazi hatred? Or chastising the fetus through abortion?

    There seem to be possibilities other than chastisement. Jesus said that there was a man born blind for the glory of God. When a tower fell, Jesus told the disciples to look at themselves and repent of their own sins. He did not tell them to be sin inspectors to find out why some men died when the tower fell and killed them. Jesus did not always answer the disciple’s ‘what caused this’ questions.

    Regardless of the cause of mental illness: God is good and everything we experience falls within his providence. Perhaps we are to accept that we will not always understand the specific causes for illnesses/troubles and are to trust in God’s good will towards us in all things.

    Again, I appreciate Pr. Prues’ thoughts on the application of the doctrine of justification as another component of the promises of God to be applied to difficult situations. Thank you DMR.

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