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Review – Mad, bad or sad? – Dominic Beer & Nigel Pocock – Christian Medical Fellowship

August 2007 | by Katherine Glover

Mad, bad or sad?
A Christian approach to antisocial behaviour and mental disorder
Dominic Beer & Nigel Pocock
Christian Medical Fellowship
250 pages; £12.00; ISBN: 978-0906747353
 

Are the mentally ill responsible for their actions? Do health professionals make excuses for antisocial behaviour? Are psychopaths beyond help? These are some of the questions that this book seeks to address.

Antisocial behaviour is a hot topic at present. Sociologists, psychologists and politicians have plenty to say on the subject, yet their efforts to address it seem inadequate. The gospel provides a crucial understanding of human behaviour, but the contemporary church frequently has little to say on the subject. This book provides an introduction to the issues involved, and a springboard for further debate and study.

The relevant research findings are clearly explained for the lay reader and critiqued from a Christian standpoint. Elizabeth Guinness’ excellent review of the childhood origins of antisocial behaviour is particularly valuable. This makes tragic reading, highlighting the dire consequences of our abandonment of God – the destruction of the family, societal disintegration, child abuse and dysfunctional educational systems. It challenges Christians to confront the dilemma of antisocial behaviour resulting from severe deprivation and abuse.

Other chapters helpfully explore personality disorder and mental illness, responsibility in the mentally ill and addiction. A compassionate approach is advocated throughout, emphasising that professionals should acknowledge their own sinfulness and need of grace, as well as place a biblical emphasis on personal responsibility.

Unfortunately the subject of demon possession is poorly handled, presenting a confusing collection of views both Christian and non-Christian. One is left wondering which viewpoints the author is advocating. A clear presentation of evangelical belief on the subject is lacking and some of the author’s conclusions would trouble many Evangelicals.

The approaches outlined (albeit quoted from other writers) seem to have been influenced by a post-modern pluralistic world view – which is disappointing because many helpful points are also made.

Despite these reservations, readers in the health and criminal justice fields will find much in this book that is helpful, informative and challenging. But it needs to be read with discernment and its conclusions subjected to further debate.
 


Katherine Glover
Beverley

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