Pathological Saints

By Barry Bryson

“S. is a thirty-five year old male of Middle Eastern origin with a long history of deceitfulness, physical violence, compulsive gambling, and other forms of unacceptable behavior. He is an only child; his mother had to be warned not to drink alcohol during pregnancy. The subject is known to be inordinately fastidious about his hair. His libido is powerful and indiscriminate. He is a non-smoker. His life culminated in a spectacular mass murder/suicide.”

This case study, which appeared in the “Archives of General Psychiatry” diagnosed S. as having “ASPD”, antisocial personality disorder.1 “S.” is Samson, son of Manoah, whose career as God’s Judge is recounted in the book of Judges, chapters 13-16. It was noted, in that scholarly tome, that Samson clearly meets the criteria of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for being ASPD.


But then which of the Judges, other than Deborah, didn’t have similar problems? What about the prophets? And the Patriarchs? What about Moses and Aaron? What about the kings of Israel? Is there one among them that any of us would cast as Ward Cleaver, Pa Ingals, or Howard Cunningham? Would any of these guys be appropriate subject matter for a Norman Rockwell “Saturday Evening Post” cover?

Noah passed out drunk?
Abraham sending his wife to another man’s harem?
Jacob gluing goat hair to his arms in order to lie to his father?
David looking the other way after is daughter is raped – by her older brother!
Even the afternoon soaps haven’t gotten this bizarre – yet.

What would the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual conclude about the whole lot of the men and women mentioned in Hebrews 11? How many would be prescribed Prozac and Haldol? How many would be evaluated as needing inpatient intervention? How many would become permanently institutionalized?

And yet, what does the Bible say about Abraham David, Moses and the rest?

“…men of whom the world was not worthy…having gained approval by their faith…” (Heb. 11.38-39)

How can this be? Don’t we have to be perfect and together for God to love us–for God to save us–for God to use us?

“But God demonstrates His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5.8

“Therefore, I am well-content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak then I am strong.” (1 Corinthians 12.10)

Evidently not.
1 Colleen Murphy, “Innocent Bystander” Atlantic Monthly, June 2001, p.16.

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