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February 27, 2014

Perry Noble and the Ongoing Discussion Regarding Psychotropic Medication

By Anthony Wade

Perry Noble openly advocates for psychotropic medication. What is the responsible Christian response...


The light of a lamp shall not shine in you anymore, and the voice of bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore. For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived.  - Revelation 18: 23 (NKJV)

For those who do not know him, Perry Noble is a mega church false teacher who pastors NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has a brash style that is often crude and dismissive of the very people he is in charge of pastoring. He is on record multiple times as telling his people if they do not like something he says they should leave. He routinely twists Scriptures to suit his agenda, especially when it comes to tithing - a subject he loves to brag about from the pulpit. He calls non tithing Christians greedy and has even blamed them for homosexuality, saying there would be less if they gave more. This is really just skimming the surface of his "ministry" and only presented as a spiritual backdrop to what we need to discuss today. I say spiritual backdrop because there are two areas Christians routinely abandon the Word of God reflexively in and one of them is the realm of psychology (the other being love). It seems that for most Christians everything is super spiritual. Marriage not going well? You need to pray more. Children not behaving? You need to read more Scripture. Bad doctor report? Jesus is your healer! You're depressed or anxious - here take this pill. What?

This link is a blog recently submitted by Perry Noble where he admits that he has struggled with anxiety for many years now and feels he has finally regained some control through the use of anti-depressant medication. This is not an indictment against people who struggle with feelings they cannot control. The spiritual backdrop is presented for spiritual reasons. It does not surprise me that someone who preaches a gospel contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and routinely fleeces his flock would end up suffering from spiritual issues. I take no joy in saying so and my concern is that his blog article contains so many factual errors both secular and spiritual that to leave it unanswered is not responsible. Some may wonder why I would feel warranted in responding so let me be clear. I have a four year secular degree in Psychology. I have a secular Masters Degree in counseling. I have an accreditation from the Assemblies of God to be a Minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I routinely wrote about psychotropic medication before and after I was saved. I suffered for seven years from a panic disorder myself. Recently, I watched the devil, using psychotropic medication, take the life of someone very close to me. This is not just a random devotional spoken by someone who does not understand. The above key verse is from Revelation. They are words spoken by an angel regarding the finality of the fall of Babylon. I chose it as the key verse for this discussion because of one word - sorcery. Great men of this earth - Babylon - deceived many through sorcery. The root word here in the Greek is actually  " Pharmakeia ", where we get the modern word  "pharmaceuticals" from. The New Testament Greek Lexicon defines this as the administering of drugs and directly relates it to the seduction and deception of idolatry. It is not some small matter to God and we need to stop treating it as such. 

That said, let us look at what Perry Noble had to say and compare it to reality. He begins by stating that years ago he held the opposite belief regarding what the world refers to as mental illness and the medications that go along with it. He states:

"In a completely illiterate and uneducated manner I told them that people with 'weak faith' are the ones who needed such meds, that godly people did not struggle with feelings of anxiety and depression, and that taking such medication would essentially be screaming to God, 'I don't trust you,'"

So first we see that the entire premise he originally had was also incorrect. It is not Biblical to assume that someone struggling with feelings of anxiety or depression are somehow weaker in faith. Maybe they are but we cannot say that as a blanket statement. Further, the notion that godly people do not struggle with these feelings is absurd on its face. Jesus Himself gave us counsel on anxiety:

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?   If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?  -  Luke 12:   25-26  (ESV)

This is only one verse of many from the New Testament. He tells us to cast our anxiety upon Him for He cares for us. Also from Noble's wrong foundation it is not screaming to God that you do not trust Him if you take medication. It may be a sign of desperation, deception, or believing in the world system too much, or but not screaming that you do not trust God. I would liken it more to screaming at God that you simply do not know what to do anymore. Perry then goes on to exclaim that he doesn't feel that way anymore! He then recounts his first bout with "mental struggles."

"It was brutal. I even gave suicide serious consideration. However, through a series of situations in my life that needed to be changed, along with some intense and excellent biblical counseling, I was able to come through the storm that had dominated me for so long," wrote Noble.

Hallelujah! Note here what he had to do. There were things he had to take stock of in his life and change that were contributing to his suffering. That along with excellent and intense BIBLICAL counseling allowed him victory over that storm. He decided after this victory to do a series on stress, anxiety and depression and then start a book about it. It was during the course of writing the book that the feelings began creeping their way back into his life. Is this surprising? Of course not! You just won a tremendous deliverance from extreme anxiety and the first thing you want to do is write a book about it? Dredge up all the old demons you had just so successfully cast out? What followed this victory? Was it genuine repentance for all of the false preaching and leading people astray? No, instead the first thought was to write a book. Jesus told a parable about someone who had an unclean spirit leave them but returns only to find the place swept. So they bring seven more unclean spirits and the new condition was worse than the old. Here is the commentary from Matthew Henry:

Here is the condition of a hypocrite. The house is swept from common sins, by a forced confession, as Pharaoh's; by a feigned contrition, as Ahab's; or by a partial reformation, as Herod's. The house is swept, but it is not washed; the heart is not made holy. Sweeping takes off only the loose dirt, while the sin that besets the sinner, the beloved sin, is untouched. The house is garnished with common gifts and graces. It is not furnished with any true grace; it is all paint and varnish, not real nor lasting. It was never given up to Christ, nor dwelt in by the Spirit. Let us take heed of resting in that which a man may have, and yet come short of heaven. The wicked spirits enter in without any difficulty; they are welcomed, and they dwell there; there they work, there they rule. From such an awful state let all earnestly pray to be delivered.

Sometimes our victory is not complete because our efforts were not sincere. I cannot say what happened in the case of Perry Noble but as he notes, as soon as he started writing about it, the attacks came back and this time they were worse. Even though he claims that his inspiration for writing the book was because he had learned "about Jesus and His faithfulness" he gave in and went on antidepressant medication. Do you get that? He beats it the first time by correcting things in his life and biblical counseling so when it reoccurs he chooses medication? He goes on to call it one of the best decisions he has ever made and that it clarified his thinking and made him less of an emotional basket case. While I do not dispute anything regarding how he feels, that does not make the decision correct, nor Christian. The world offers up all sorts of solutions to mask symptoms and make us feel better but that doesn't make them right and certainly not righteous. We then see this in his defense against those who would disagree with his new found faith in psychotropic medication:

If your liver was shutting down and you were going to die as a result and you went to the doctor and he said, "here is a pill you can take to fix the problem," you would be considered negligent and insane for not taking the medicine. The brain, just like the liver, is an organ in the body. And scientific research has proved over and over again that chemical imbalances in the brain can lead to cases of anxiety and depression. If you would take a pill to cure the liver then why would you not do the same for the brain? 

Now be careful to follow along because there is so much wrong here mixed with some partial truths. Yes, if there was a pill to cure a liver condition and you refused to take it, I would call that negligent or even stupid. This is not about being anti-medication. If you are sick and take an antibiotic, you are not exhibiting weak faith. That is just silly. The problem comes in when you take a concrete cause and effect scenario, such as an antibiotic and conflate it with psychotropic medication which has zero observable proof of cause and effect. Also realize that you only take antibiotics for several days to resolve the problem, not a lifetime to manage a condition. While the brain is an organ like the liver there is absolutely no scientific research proving that there is ever a chemical imbalance in anyone. That is why it is referred to as a theory. It was a theory designed to sell pharmaceuticals. Ask any psychiatrist what chemicals are specifically out of balance and they cannot answer because they do not know. The only research they do is anecdotal. If enough people in a study claim to have relief of symptoms then they apply to the FDA to market the drug for the alleviation of those symptoms. Never mind how many did not get relief. Or how many became worse. Or how many died. Listen closely to those commercials with the calm voice over guy or read the fine print in their advertisements. They can only say it is "believed" to work by doing something. The stark truth is they have no idea and they are playing Russian roulette with patients hoping that their desperation for relief will produce a placebo effect of cure before the medication convinces them to take their own life. And by the way, if they do take their own life the treating professionals will just shrug their collective shoulders and say, "well they were depressed." 

Also realize that in his example the liver pill cures the liver condition and he then pretends that the psychotropic pill cures the brain. That is also untrue and any honest professional will tell you so. This is not about curing it is about coping. It is about covering up symptoms to provide relief from the negative feelings. Have you ever listened to the side effects of these medications at the end of those cartoon commercials? Here is a listing of just one pill's effects. I call them effects because they are not "side" effects. They are the actual effects of the drug:

More common Difficulty with speaking drooling loss of balance control muscle trembling, jerking, or stiffness restlessness shuffling walk stiffness of the limbs twisting movements of the body uncontrolled movements, especially of the face, neck, and back .

Less common Blurred vision dizziness headache inability to move the eyes increased blinking or spasms of the eyelid nervousness pounding in the ears slow or fast heartbeat sticking out the tongue trouble with breathing or swallowing unusual facial expressions .

Now I ask you in all sincerity. Is this the way Jesus solves our problems? Show me the verse that says perfect Prozac casts out all fear and I am on board but until then to pretend that this is right is simply wrong. Perry tries to do his final sell:

What I am saying is this"The church has used, "pray and read your Bible more" as a "cure" for anxiety and depression for far too long. And we have placed people who use medication to treat the issue in a category that is way less godly than those who do not use it. 

I am not sure I agree that this is true but if this has been the church answer I would agree it is wrong. The answer is not as easy as reading your Bible more and pray, although those are always great starting points. As for the charge of treating some people as less "godly"; well the church does that as a whole on so many levels and it is wrong on every one of them. Those admissions of course lend no credibility to the position that psychotropic medication is somehow a good or godly thing. 

I do not wish Perry Noble any ill will. I wish he would realize his grievous errors and correct them and repent. Perhaps then he would find spiritual relief instead of medicated relief. I wish I had all of the answers and I can tell you that the feelings of anxiety, panic and depression are very real. What I do know is that the Bible does have all of the answers even of we do not apply them:

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.  - Galatians 6: 2 (ESV)

The sad truth is that we do a very poor job of bearing each others burdens. We would rather say - "I'll pray for you" - than actually stopping our lives to pray with our brother and sister. We pay lip service to loving one another but shrink back when it requires heavy lifting. I have heard pastors defend medication for mental illness because they simply did not want to deal with the problem anymore. No discussion about spiritual warfare. No discussion about demonic attacks. I heard a pastor once say that a woman saved over 25 years who had attempted suicide did not suffer from demonic attack - just mental illness. With such a poor understanding of the spirit realm, is it any wonder that now we have a pastor leading a flock of 26,000 people openly pushing psychotropic drugs? When Jesus confronted the man who was dealing with demons that caused him to cut himself with rocks did He fall back on the p harmakeia  of His day or did He cast out the demons? Why is it that if any Christian has as much as a hangnail we all respond with a chorus of "by His stripes" but the second someone says they are depressed or anxious we send them off into the Babylon system seeking the Babylon solution? 

We can approach these problems like the woman with the issue of blood and seek the world answers for 12 years only to find ourselves broke and still suffering. At some point we have to seek out the hem of His garment knowing He has the power. 

Reverend Anthony Wade - February 28, 2014

Authors Bio:
Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.