What is the Relationship Between Sin and Psychopathology?

It's Complicated

What exactly is the relationship between sin and psychopathology? Dr. David Powlison, counselor and faculty member at Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF), explains the complexity of psychopathology and how sin is one of several factors in it. 

David Powlison has been doing biblical counseling for over 30 years and has written numerous articles on counseling and on the relationship between faith and psychology. His books include Speaking Truth in Love, Seeing with New Eyes, Power Encounters, and The Biblical Counseling Movement: History and Context. 

David said that sin isn’t just related to psychopathology—it is a psychopathology. Sin isn’t just our wrongful actions—lying, stealing, killing—it’s part of who we are. It’s the inner kink we all have that skews our perceptions, goals, and choices. Ecclesiastes 9:3 does a great job of describing how far-reaching sin can be. 

Ecclesiastes 9:3 (ESV)

3This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Do you often associate your sin with mere actions? Why do you think it’s so common to do that?
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Though sin is psychopathology, it’s not the only factor. Certain biological conditions such as getting your thyroid removed, suffering a brain injury, or having Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can affect psychopathology. These various conditions greatly affect people’s moods, ability to make decisions, self awareness, thought processes, and more. 

Have you or someone you know suffered one of the named biological conditions mentioned? Have you been able to see how it’s affected behavior? Can you see how the dysfunction could be wrongly associated with that person’s sin?
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Sin and biology aren’t the only factors involved in psychopathology. The wider context of culture and community also plays a role. Body image issues for example, though they can’t be blamed on our culture, are certainly made worse by it.  

In what ways do you think culture makes certain disorders like alcoholism, eating disorders, drug abuse, and others worse?
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Essentially the relationship between sin and psychopathology is a complex one because there are many different factors involved. David said it’s wise to hold all of the factors together and in view at the same time. Human sin, certain biological dispositions, and our wider culture all play a role.  

Did you learn anything new in this video and post? If so, what? And what do you plan to do with this new knowledge?
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It’s easy in today’s world to oversimplify people’s actions and behaviors. We often blame our culture for the shame women feel over their bodies, or we blame an individual for lashing out in anger when there might be some biological basis instead. It’s wise to consider many factors when trying to understand the lives of others. Christ was slow to condemn and patient in loving people. Let Him be our model as we minister to others. 

This video is a publication of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF). All content is protected by copyright and may not be reproduced in any manner without written permission from CCEF. For more information on classes, materials, speaking events, distance education and other services, please visit www.ccef.org