Original Research

Suicide as a sin and mental illness: A dialogue between Christianity and psychology

Hundzukani P. Khosa-Nkatini, Wonke Buqa
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 42, No 1 | a2318 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v42i1.2318 | © 2021 Hundzukani P. Khosa-Nkatini, Wonke Buqa | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 June 2021 | Published: 13 October 2021

About the author(s)

Hundzukani P. Khosa-Nkatini, Unit for Reformational Theology and the Development of the South African Society, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Vanderbiljpark, South Africa
Wonke Buqa, Department of Practical Theology, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

Christian doctrine has by and large held that suicide is morally wrong, however in psychology, suicidal tendencies and suicidal ideations are a major health problem, and for every suicide, there are many more who attempt suicide every year. In this article, we seek to advance the knowledge on suicide by identifying particular psychological characteristics and Christian spiritual controversies. This research proceeds to a transversal interdisciplinary conversation where practical theology and psychology reflect their voices about suicide. A transversal interdisciplinary approach articulates that theology and science can share concerns, and converge on commonly identified issues like suicide, although they differ in discipline. We aim to create a dialogue between psychology and the Christian faith concerning suicide. Christianity has always viewed suicide as a sinful act, and anyone who commits suicide would go straight to hell. Even though there are no direct scripture texts on suicide being a sin, biblical texts are used to prove that it is. However, God’s Word makes clear the sanctity of life, thou shall not murder. According to psychology, suicide is a highly complex and multifaceted phenomenon, and amongst others it can be a result of mental illness. We attempt to balance the non-theological interpretation with the theological discipline. This research challenges the Christian ideology of suicide as a sin; this perspective remains a challenge among our fellow ministers. This study is relevant for both theology and psychology because both the disciplines deal with the well-being of people.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: The contextual perspective challenged by this research is the understanding of suicide according to theological and psychological perspectives. This research is done using a literature review on suicide according to both Christianity and psychology.


Keywords

suicide; sin; theology; Christianity; psychology; mental illness; health; psychology; suicidal

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