The Concept of Abnormality and the Bible
While the concept of abnormality may seem simple enough to identify at face value, in reality, it is a complex topic with ambiguous boundaries. Nolen-Hoeksema (2020) describes psychological abnormality as falling on a continuum, with various factors involved in identifying it such as cultural, socioeconomic, age, and more which make an impact on how deviated from the norm a behavior or state of being is. Furthermore, there are four dimensions, known as the four Ds of abnormality which attempt to narrow down what precisely makes a mental state or behavior abnormal. These are: dysfunction, distress, deviance, and dangerousness. Nolan-Hoeskema (2020) indicates that higher levels of the four Ds found in behavior in comparison to culture, age, gender, and more help professionals recognize abnormality in an individual.
Factors and triggers can be biological, social, or psychological in nature and different combinations can form disorders (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2020). Some psychopathological disorders include anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addictions, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amongst many others. Wielgosz et al (2019) note that practicing mindfulness meditation can have a notable positive impact on psychological abnormalities such as these.
The Bible often addresses those displaying behavior that is considered abnormal in some fashion, often focusing on sin. From the perspective of the authors of the Bible, however, abnormality is not necessarily permanent. For example, in Mark 2:13-17, Jesus willingly eats and drinks with tax collectors, who were considered to be sinners by societal norms at the time (King James Bible, 1769/2017). He did this with the intent to help them repent and improve their “abnormal” behaviors, as a doctor would tend to the sick. In modern western society, tax collectors are not seen as sinners, despite being perceived as inconvenient, to put it mildly. Jesus teaches that imperfect humans must be looked at as exactly that – imperfect, but with the ability to improve with the help of love and compassion. The Bible also describes how abnormalities rely heavily on culture and time period. It would not be frowned upon today, like it would have been 2,000 years ago in Israel, to eat with someone who is employed to call in debt because that person is perceived as just doing his/her job. In summary, the Bible does address the existence of abnormalities, but it does so with the understanding that abnormalities, for the most part, are reversible or redeemable.
King James Bible. (2017). King James Bible Online. https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/
(Original work published 1769)
Nolen-Hoeksema. (2020). Abnormal Psychology (8th ed.). McGraw-Hill Education.
Wielgosz, J., Goldberg, S. B., Kral, T. R. A., Dunne, J. D., & Davidson, R. J. (2019).
Mindfulness meditation and psychopathology. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 15(1), 285-316. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-021815-093423
(WC with references: 399)
(WC without references: 450)
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