“The LORD will strike you with madness and blindness and confusion of mind” (Deut 28:28) “evil appears as good in the minds of those whom gods lead to destruction.”(Sophocles c. 441 BC)
Turning and turning in the widening gyre/The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/The ceremony of innocence is drowned;/The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity. (W.B. Yeats “The Second Coming”)
The gospel has power to convert pagan societies, and nominally Christian countries have experienced many revivals. No one however quite seems to know God’s plan for mass conversions in a post Christian nation like our own. For sure however there is no going back to the sort of society I remember in the 1950’s full of people who believed they were “good Christians” headed for heaven. I have long been teaching that the death of Western Christianity needs to be accepted as part of great divine design, but what might come next? “Surely the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7). So here is one of my expectations. Given that our nation will only turn to God through some terrible national crisis, the crisis coming, and in fact already upon us, is mental illness. This is a very painful subject, as there is mental illness on both sides of our family.
A Mental Crisis
The Beyond Blue website testifies that “3 million Australians are living with anxiety and depression” (https://www.beyondblue.org.au/). In each year approximately one in five Australians will experience a mental illness, there are increased rates of psychological distress in youth and children, and so on. This is a crisis whose roots secular culture dare not diagnose. What does it do to the stability of a child’s mind to be told gender is purely a choice and there are no boundaries to having sex, as long as the partner is consenting? Such manifest moral insanity is escalating. Pro-choice advocates insist that as the foetus is part of a woman’s body she has a sovereign right to terminate. With proposed Queensland legislation allowing for abortion up to nine months discussions emerged as to whether the cut off point to kill or save the child is when the head or head-and-shoulders have emerged from the mother’s body. All around us addiction to social media is a breeding ground for pathological relationships in the place of genuine human intimacy. “Living on line” is a form of self-medication with “likes hits and clicks” an effort to self construct personal significance. This is a recipe for misery as humans created in the image of God were made for unmediated face-to-face relationships. The sociology is straightforward, the spirituality very difficult.
Idolatry and Judgement
The prophets see idolatry as a crazy action creating a form of spiritual insanity, “A drought against her waters…For it is a land of images, and they are mad over idols….7 Babylon was a golden cup in the Lord’s hand, making all the earth drunken; the nations drank of her wine; therefore the nations went mad.” (Jer 50:38; 51:7 cf. Hos 4:7; Zech 12:4). Paul is categorical on the consequences of idolatry, “they…exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man….24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to (all manner of moral and mental confusions)” (Rom 1:23-24). When humans attempt to remake themselves after their own preferred image they are severely punished by the wrath of God. The biblical writers are not ashamed to testify that insanity can be a sign of direct divine displeasure; “The next day a harmful spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house” (1 Sam 18:10). All this is rather general, but beneath so many of the mental troubles of our time is a primary act of rebellion.
Starting with cultural elites and popularised through the media “manhood” has become a symbol for domestic violence, sexual harassment, oafishness and a controlling patriarchy. The real target in this spiritual battle is God the Father. Since it is through “the Father…every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:14-15) the ultimate source of all personal identity comes from God’s Fatherhood. Defame F/fatherhood and we are left floating about untethered from the eternity of our destiny. Post-modernisms heavy burden of having to create your own identity, to “name oneself”, is too much to bear; it will drive you strange. Neither progressive nor conservative values can heal our heads, only Jesus gives a “sound mind” (1 Cor 2:16; 2 Ti 1:7).
Jesus was so filled with the presence of his all loving Father that his godliness even led to his family wanting to seize him, saying, ““He is out of his mind.”” (Mark 3:21). Christ’s power to return crazed demoniacs to their “right mind” however proved that he alone is the true Normal (Mark 5:15). But it is his death-and-resurrection that alone can restore our moral, mental and spiritual soundness. Jesus’ cry of dereliction, ““My God…why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34) is the cry of a perfectly whole person enduring the maximally distressed state of mind of those in “the outer darkness where men…weep and gnash their teeth” (Matt 8:12). Christ takes into himself the horrors of hell. I have friends who when involuntarily admitted to insane asylums knew they were not alone in their cells. But Jesus had to suffer his mental torments cut off from the true source of all identity, the Father. For empower our re-identification Jesus was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, the Son forever perfected in wholeness of mind on our behalf (Rom 1:4; 6:4). This has profound implications for life and ministry in the coming decades. I foresee a paradoxical/strange move of God.
With the intensifying fear of global warming, uncontainable epidemics and nuclear conflict, with a persistent drug problem, ethnic violence, and melting sexual identities etc., the mental disturbances of our time can only accelerate. The ungodly have always accused the saints of stupidity. “The prophet is crazy! The ‘man of the Spirit’ is nuts!” (Hos 9:7, The Message); ““Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.”” (Acts 26:24.) I foresee a time coming when only a Church whose values and lifestyle is utterly weird in the eyes of the world can provide a safe sanctuary for those being driven out of their minds by a demented culture under the wrath of God. Once Western men and women slept soundly in the “simple” knowledge that God’s in his heaven/All’s right with the world. (Robert Browning). We can never return to that time, but in Christ we can know for sure who we are and where we are going. By turning a mad world “upside down” the gospel message can once again impart sanity to the perishing (Acts 17:6). However something very difficult is required of us.
The coming of the Spirit in power brings a dreadful mental anguish of conviction of sin (Acts 2:37; 16:29-30; 2 Cor 7:9-11). The Church will only become a sanctuary for the crazed when it willingly accepts a mental agony from the Lord breaking her from comforts, controls and worldly securities (1 Pet 4:17). Then the resurrection power of the Father will heal many minds, inside and outside of the community of God.