The Metaphysics of Mental Health

In January I devoted a series to some of the paradoxes regarding the intersections of faith and mental health. 

A baseline observation is that faith is, in review after review, reliably associated with mental health. God is good for you. Faith makes you happier and healthier. 

And yet, some puzzles surround this trend. Specifically, why is it that people of faith can struggle with mental health problems despite having God in their lives? Also, why is it that people without any faith can be psychologically healthier than people of faith? 

Basically, it appears that God does aid mental health, but the relationship isn't 100% clear. Is there a way to describe why faith is reliably associated with mental health while also accounting for the paradoxes noted above? More precisely, how can we solve these paradoxes without blaming people struggling with mental health issues (e.g., saying they don't have "enough faith")? And also recognize the role of God in mental health without becoming overly triumphalistic in our expectations  (e.g., a "name it and claim it" approach to mental health)?

My answer, if you read the series in January, was to attend to metaphysics. 

Specifically, how should we think about the relationship between the Infinite and the finite, between Being and being, between Creator and creature, between Grace and nature?

The argument I made, borrowing from many different theologians, was that we tend to frame the relationship between God and creation in competitive terms, God as one cause among many causes, one being among many other beings, one creature among many other creatures. A powerful creature, to be sure, the most powerful, but still, a creature. By contrast, theologians from apophatic traditions have argued that God cannot be located "within" creation or found "alongside" creatures or causes. God is present directly to all of creation--in God we live, move, and have our being--but the relation is non-competitive and non-rivalrous. God doesn't nudge creatures or causes aside to do God's work.

To be sure, the relation between Infinite and finite, the "causal joint" to use Austin Farrer's term, is shrouded in apophatic mystery. And it is likely making your head spin. It makes my head spin.

So I've continued to think about all this, wondering if this train of thought is apophatic or just incoherent. And is there a difference? 

But I do know what I'm trying to get at, and I think I can state that simply. 

I think what I'm wanting to say is that we need a metaphysics of mental health that doesn't create "either/or" paradoxes but allows for "both/and."

For example, I think a lot of the paradoxes described above are created by a metaphysics of either/or. It's either God or therapy/medication. If it's all God we get the triumphalism of the prosperity gospel, just name it and claim it. We also get the blaming, that if people are unhappy they simply haven't yet turned to God. Swinging to the other side, if it's all just therapy and medication then there's no room for God.

So it would seem that the answers we're looking for should be both/and. God and therapy/medicine. But we need a metaphysical account that can support this both/and. That is what I'm trying to locate and describe, a metaphysics of mental health that recognizes the intrinsic creational potency of therapy and medicine but that doesn't reductively eliminate God from mental health. Relatedly, we're looking for a metaphysics of mental health that recognizes God's supranatural presence and agency in our mental health journey without this power simply overriding or overwriting our creaturely integrity. We need a non-competitive metaphysics of mental health, where God and therapy/medicine are not pitted against each other in an either/or, zerosum game.

To be clear, I'm not saying that what I sketched out in January and glossed here is sufficient to this task. I'm just describing what I'm hunting for in a metaphysics of mental health.

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