Is it ethical for a Christian to treat depression with anti-depressants?

Jooste, Simon (2018)

CITATION: Jooste, S. 2018. Is it ethical for a Christian to treat depression with anti-depressants?. Stellenbosch Theological Journal, 4(1):179-198, doi:10.17570/stj.2018.v4n1.a09.

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In this essay I consider whether it is right for a Christian to use an anti-depressant to treat depression. All human beings are responsible to image God in a moral and dignified manner as mortal creatures living in a broken world. It is not easy to do so in our modern culture of narcissism and therapy, which encourages the abuse of medicine. The calling of the Christian, however, extends beyond the ethics of a common humanity. The disciple of Christ suffers by virtue of living in a fallen world, but also because of her baptism into the death of Christ. Like Jesus, believers suffer first and then find glory. Suffering and death are, paradoxically, God’s means of accomplishing and furthering salvation. In light of the body and soul components of depression, and in view of the Christian vocation of suffering, the use of anti-depressants invites careful reflection. In this essay I argue that in some cases it is appropriate to incorporate the likes of Prozac into a holistic approach to treating depression. I set forth my case in four parts. First, I show how depression is part of the plight of humanity broken in body and soul, but not without God’s mercy extended through health care and the cross. Secondly, consideration is given to the Christian’s call to and benefit from a life of cross-shaped suffering. Thirdly, I argue that the Christian mind must guard against a theology of glory clothed in the therapeutic narcissism of our age. Finally, I set forth a recovery programme grounded in the sacred means of the church and the God-given helps of modern medical science.

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