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Durham University

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Cook, Christopher C.H. (2020). Mental Health and the Gospel. Zygon 55(4): 1107-1123.

Author(s) from Durham


Mental health has become a domain of professional and scientific endeavor, distinguished in the modern mind from spirituality, which is understood as a more subjective, transcendent, and private concern. This sharp separation has been challenged in recent decades by scientific research, which demonstrates the positive benefits of spirituality/religion (S/R) for mental health. Increasing scientific interest in the topic is to be welcomed, but the contribution of theology to the debate has been neglected. It is proposed here that Jesus’ life and teaching are presented in the synoptic Gospels as fundamentally concerned with what we now call mental health. Jesus’ teaching on worry, for example, offers various psychological strategies for dealing with anxiety. Moreover, it presents prayer as an effective and constructive response to worry, involving disciplined attention rather than avoidance. Critical interdisciplinary conversations between science and theology on matters such as worry offer a constructive approach to understanding the human condition in the context of adversity.