The Cerulean Soul
A Relational Theology of Depression
Studies in Religion, Theology, and Disability
Imprint: Baylor University Press
309 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.00 in
- Published: August 2021
Depression is difficult to define. It is commonly described as a chemical imbalance, a subjective experience of despondency, or even a semiotic construct. The various theories of depression—biochemical, psychological, cultural—often reflect one’s philosophical anthropology. How one defines the human person is telling in how one defines mental disorder. Philosophy and the sciences tend to offer reductive explanations of what it means to be human, and such approaches rarely consider that we may be spiritual beings and so fail to entertain a theological approach.
Peter J. Bellini invites us to reimagine the person in light of the image of God in Christ, the divine enfleshed in human weakness. The Cerulean Soul responds to real challenges in the sciences and philosophy and offers a relational theological anthropology shaped by a cruciform framework that assumes and affirms human contingency, limitation, and fallenness. With reference to Christ’s incarnation, Bellini reveals how depression is inexorably tied to our relationship with God as his created beings: original, fallen, and renewed. Despondency serves as a biosocial and spiritual marker for our human weakness, brokenness, and spiritual struggle for meaning and wholeness. Further, it is a call to grow, to be restored, and to be made holy in the image of God in Christ. What emerges is a therapeia of the imago for depression that fills the gaps in our present attempts to determine the malady’s etiology and treatment.
Taking the missio Dei of union with the risen Christ as its goal, The Cerulean Soul opens up the perennial problem of human despondency to an eschatological trajectory of hope and peace, redemption and transformation, given freely in Christ through the healing and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Christoformity, informed by the subversive kingdom of God, gives new form to all persons, "abled" and "disabled."
I Introduction to Melancholia
2 Ontology of Melancholia: Definitions, Ontologies, and Anthropological Problems
II Theological Anthropology
3 Models of Theological Anthropology and Depression
4 The Relational Image of God
III Etiology of Mental Disorder: The Theological Types
5 Theological Type 1--The Natural
6 Theological Type 2--The Consequential
7 Theological Type 3--The Purgative
IV A Trinitarian Theology of Melancholia
8 The Melancholic God: Does God Get Depressed?
9 Toward a Trinitarian Theology of Depression
A bold and refreshing book. Bellini brings together testimonial reports and hard data about depression and related disorders and goes to work as a theologian to provide illuminating connections with the themes of classical Christian teaching. Anyone acquainted with depression in their own lives or in that of loved ones will find this book fascinating and illuminating. Bellini is honest, clear, insightful, informed, and pastorally sensitive. This deserves not just one, but several, readings, and it opens up a whole new line of invaluable investigation.~William J. Abraham, Outler Professor of Wesley Studies, Southern Methodist University and Director of the Wesley House of Studies at Baylor University
Dr. Bellini’s text provides nuanced insights about many interdisciplinary issues which emerge at the intersection of scholarship regarding Christian theology, human nature, and mental disorder. Supported by philosophical, historical, psychological, and theological insight, he offers a unique conceptual framework by which to understand mental health conditions, informed by relational and Christocentric explorations of the imago Dei. I am most encouraged to note his commentary on the potential for the redemptive mission of the triune God in and through these challenging disorders. His book includes a wealth of discussion that will enlighten and expand contemporary, and much-needed, dialogue about theology and mental health.~Marcia Webb, Department of Psychology, Seattle Pacific University
In his encyclopedic, erudite, and fascinating work, Dr. Peter Bellini reminds us of the multitude of elements in Western writing about melancholy that are inescapably linked to religious questions and assumptions, no matter the present era’s reductionistic concerns with the biomedical. Serving to complement that limited focus, his relational theological anthropology is generous, embracing, and sophisticated. As well as providing a comfort to those afflicted with mood disorders and their incumbent disabilities, The Cerulean Soul will prove a scholarly resource and treasure for believers and non-believers alike.~Jennifer Radden, emerita Professor of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts Boston