Book Review – Dr. Peter Bellini’s The Cerulean Soul: a Relational Theology of Depression
My first introduction to Dr. Peter Bellini was through his earlier book, Truth Therapy: Renewing Your Mind with the Word of God. I wish I knew who I lent my copy out to! I absorbed those words like a sponge. Finally, someone who would speak to me transparently regarding the things I was learning in my own walk with God, namely that the truth of science reveals the truth of God. I was going through sanctification, not shame. I was also pursuing the right path in the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy I was undergoing in order to heal from my past trauma.
Peter is one of our graduates, and after reading that book, I actually interacted with him a bit on social media and in person at some conferences we both frequented and found we had mutual friends. We even ended up ministering prayer for someone together once. He’s a pretty solid guy and someone I like to call a friend.
Imagine my interest when Baylor University Press contacted me and let me know he had a new publication! I was quick to snag my copy of The Cerulean Soul: A Relational Theology of Depression. Can I just pause to marvel at the timeliness of things that let you know Jesus had a hand in it? There it is, on my desk! So now, I am in the midst of reading his newest book, and it is definitely one you want to pick up. I haven’t gotten all the way through it yet, but the intelligence with which he addresses the intersection of theology and mental health is like solid food to a hungry soul, particularly for me having suffered my share.
Anybody in the helping professions, especially clergy, absolutely need to understand some of the critical dynamics of depression Peter outlines in this book. Due to the astounding scope of the topic of mental health, he limits the scope of his book to depression as a sample of the larger field of mental health and address how it can be healed with an appropriate theology and interdisciplinary approach to care well for those who experience mental disabilities. This really should be a required text for seminary.
He explains that “depression is an all-consuming experience” and emphasizes the lack of control a sufferer truly has over their feelings of spiraling out of control. Peter offers sage caution against viewing depression too simply as the result of a single problem (such as genetics, weak-mindedness, or sin) and explains it as a complex dynamic that may be a result of the combination of many problems. Throughout, he offers the hope that “the holy love of God in Christ through the Spirit can create a new order amid cognitive chaos” (The Cerulean Soul, 13).
The second half of Peter’s final introductory paragraph gave voice to the hope in my heart and hit me right in the soul:
[…] Persons who experience depression, anxiety, or other mental disorders in their weakness are being renewed by the Spirit daily. Society and the church are offered redemption from their prejudice and unjust acts of oppression against those with psychiatric disabilities (14).
That is our hope!
Y’all head on over here and snag a copy of this book. It will change your life and the lives of the people all around you.