Graham Heslop
Graham Heslop Graham has an insatiable appetite for books, occasionally dips into theology, and moonlights as a lecturer in New Testament Greek at George Whitefield College, Cape Town. He also serves on the staff team at Union Chapel Presbyterian Church and as the written content editor for TGC Africa. Graham is married to Lynsay-Anne and they have one son, Teddy.

John MacArthur on Mental Health

John MacArthur on Mental Health

From time to time, John MacArthur says something so sensational that I’m left to conclude he’s either generating income through web-traffic or growing senile. Given his most recent comments about mental health, I hope that it isn’t the latter. Because—as MacArthur implies—there’s no such thing as mental illness and the conditions associated with that fictitious label shouldn’t be medicated, lest you want to end up homeless and hooked on drugs.

I’m not exaggerating. Maybe read my slightly edited transcript below, if you think I’m overstating things. But a statement like the one below and others similar to it made by John MacArthur are indefensible.

Transcript of John MacArthur on Mental Health

There’s no such thing as PTSD. There’s no such thing as OCD. There’s no such thing as ADHD. Those are noble lies. To basically give the excuse to, at the end of the day, medicate people. And Big Pharma is in charge of a lot of that.

Take PTSD for example. What that really is is grief. You’re fighting a war you lost a buddy you have certain amount of survival guilt. How do you deal with the grief? Grief is a real thing. But grief is a part of life. And if you can’t navigate grief you can’t live life. But if you clinically define that you can give them a pill, a series of medications. And they end up in L.A. homeless on the sidewalk.

In regard to children it’s the most deadly thing that’s been unleashed on children. Medication. We’re trying to make clear to parents that behaviour is essentially the result of choices that kids make. And if you parent them properly they’ll make right choices. But if you blame it on something other than their choices. And you identity them as having something they can’t do anything about, but medicate it, you literally are turning your child into not only only a potential drug addict, but maybe a potential criminal. Because they never learn how to navigate life in a socially acceptable way.

So Much Could Be Said

It’s impossible to know where to start. I mean, what is MacArthur doing referring to “Big Pharma”? At his age he undoubtedly depends on the benefits of modern medicine and therefore pharmaceuticals. Then there’s his reduction of PTSD to grief. Imagine telling a rape victim that they just need to better navigate their guilt; or warning a child-abuse victim about the “noble lies” mental health practitioners peddle. Grief is part of our struggles; no psychiatrist I know is denying that. Clinical definitions are a means of prescribing medicine, not some bogeyman.

I could go on. Others have. Think about the guilt MacArthur has heaped on parents of children who’re struggling with mental health. Or what about others who did ‘parent properly’ only to have their children make terrible decisions? “Train up a child in the way he should go” isn’t an unconditional promise (Proverbs 22:6). Just read Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead series if you need persuading. But I’ll stop there.

About two decades ago Alister McGrath and his wife Joanna wrote a book titled Self-Esteem. One of their stated aims was to demonstrate that while the cross of Christ must always be the Christian’s primary source of confidence and greatest hope for change, we don’t banish psychology or psychiatric therapy. Alister McGrath is a theologian of the highest order and Joanna McGrath is a clinical psychologist. John MacArthur is neither. Pay no attention to what he says.

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