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Deceptive Diagnosis

The book, Deceptive Diagnosis: When Sin is Called Sickness, explores the major shift in how Christian evangelicals view and deal with sin. The authors, Dr. David Tyler and Dr. Kurt Grady, believe that the Church stopped calling sinful and deviant behavior “sin,” and started calling it “sickness” beginning in the mid 1960’s. The sexual sinner Apostle Paul wrote about became the sex addict. The thief became the kleptomaniac.

The drunkard became the alcoholic. The rebellious child became afflicted with “Oppositional Defiant Disorder.” A family in which the husband will not work, the wife will not keep the home, and the children will not obey is no longer considered sinful; it is dysfunctional. The liar became a compulsive liar. The gambler became a compulsive gambler.

The “deeds of the flesh, which are immorality impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing” (Galatians 5:19-21) were all redefined using psychopathological words. Tyler and Grady believe the landscape of evangelicalism today is very disturbing. Christians have jettisoned their commitment to the Bible and embraced psychology. Biblical definitions and categories have changed and a new vocabulary has emerged within the Church. Behaviors and attitudes once regarded as sinful have undergone a dramatic change. Sin is called sickness and confessing sin has been replaced with recovering from sickness. The word “sin” has nearly disappeared from our vocabulary. As such, the impact of the Gospel to a non-believer is less pronounced and the need for progressive sanctification in the believer is minimized. Although we try to make ourselves feel better by calling sin by another name, it is always there. It never fully goes away.

“Deceptive Diagnosis” claims that in 1946 the federal government took responsibility for promoting American’s mental health. Some of the initiatives included the National Mental Health Act (1946), the National Institute of Mental Heath (1949), the National Mental Health Study Act (1955), and the creation of the Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health (1955). It was believed that American society would be dramatically transformed with the building of new mental health centers, the incorporation of training programs as well as countless locations disseminating mental health principles. On February 5, 1963 President John F. Kennedy delivered a national speech on mental health. He referred to mental health as the nation’s number one health problem. In order to confront what was considered a mental health care crisis, Kennedy signed into law the Community Mental Health Centers Act on October 31, 1963. This gave Federal Government backing to the diseasing of America and calling sin sickness. In 1977 President Jimmy Carter organized the Commission on Mental Health. The agency studied the state of the nation’s mental heath and concluded a quarter of all Americans needed mental health services.

In the 1980’s an eruption of twelve step programs provided a disease label for virtually anyone who wanted one. The television talk shows capitalized on and added to the success and growth of the disease model. From Donahue to Oprah, common everyday people and celebrities alike pour out their heart-wrenching stories of codependency and other addictions, disorders and compulsions. No segment of society was exempt. Therapeutic holidays such as National Depression Screening Day, National Anxiety Disorder Day and National Eating Disorders Awareness Week were created. Local malls provided a convenient venue on these special days where people could be diagnosed and learn more about their disease. For those who were too busy to go to the malls, a program of mental health education and screening for early detection and intervention was available online or by telephone. The authors’ of Deceptive Diagnosis believe that if a person thinks he is morally fine though physically sick, he will not repent. If one’s bad behavior is a disease, he will not go to Christ for cleansing. If, on the other hand one decides to call sinful behavior, sin, he has made a major shift in his perception of reality.

He has acknowledged, like the prodigal son, something is wrong with himself. Confession of sin requires responsibility on one’s part. Tyler and Grady believe that evangelicalism has opened its gates to a Trojan horse by introducing the teachings of modern psychology. Some Christian psychologists have become so beloved that to criticize them would be almost like criticizing the Bible itself. While their intentions may be good, intentions are not the issue. The issue is whether today’s Christians are mixing men’s ideas with the Bible. Amazingly, most of today’s Christian leaders who rightly cry so fervently against so many false teachings are saying little if anything about subtle shifts in biblical interpretation that undermine the faith of millions. In many cases, it reflects a lack of awareness and understanding of the teachings of psychology. The book states there is a tendency today is to forget the roots and ignore the essentials.


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