Perry Noble’s Overwhelmed book is dishonest and dangerous 47

Perry Noble has garnered himself a lot of positive press lately for his acknowledgement that he takes antidepressants to deal with his long-term depression. I assumed that the antidepressant news was a teaser for a more detailed account of his decision in the book.

Not so.

Perry Noble wants to teach you how to have good mental health

Perry Noble wants to teach you how to have good mental health

Perry Noble’s book on dealing with depression contains not a single reference or acknowledgement to his decision to take antidepressant drugs. Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature allows you to read excerpts from Noble’s book, though it also lets you do word searches on the entire text, and shows a sentence or two surrounding those words. I did searches for words like antidepressant, depression, medicine, prescription, doctor and found nothing that indicated that Noble either considered or decided to start taking prescription medicine for his depression.

Wary that I might have missed something, I asked NewSpring’s public relations director about it, and she confirmed that the Overwhelmed book does not mention Noble’s antidepressant use.

This is an astonishing omission, especially knowing that Noble suffered severe depressive episodes while he was writing the book that necessitated consultations with his doctor who prescribed the pharmaceutical help that he needed.

Here’s what he said in his blog post, with emphasis added:

As I began the writing process the feelings of anxiety and worry began to slowly slither back into my life like a snake sneaking up on it’s prey. I remember writing a chapter in the book, driving home and having a panic attack in my living room.

About three days later I took my daughter to a restaurant for lunch and found myself feeling like I could not breathe and that the walls were closing in on me.

What was going on?

I thought I was done with this, that I had whipped it and that I was going to be able to tell my story and inspire other people to do the same.

But…that wasn’t the case.  Anxiety was a fight, and I was losing.

I called my doctor and we had a long talk about my options.  He spoke to me honestly and openly about anti-depressants.  When he first mentioned them I blew him off; after all, I had defeated this one time without the “drugs for weaklings” and figured I could do it again.

However, the anxiety in my life continued to increase to such an extent that I distinctly remember calling him one afternoon and telling him I could not take it anymore and that I needed something to help me.

I can honestly say that making the decision to take an anti-depressant during this time period in my life has been one of THE BEST decisions I have ever made.

It is obvious from this account that Noble began taking the antidepressants while he was writing the book. His depressive episodes were worsening as he was giving advice on how to deal with them. As I’ve said before, I’m glad that Noble is getting professional medical help, so my criticism is not of him or others who rely on medication for mental health issues. The problem is that he hides the ultimate source of his help from readers of his book, and that is profoundly dishonest. How can he accept money from needy readers who expect his book to help them through their own depression when one of “THE BEST” decisions he has ever made is kept from them?

Not only that, but the advice in the book directly contradicts Noble’s actions and words. Compare:

Perry Noble's Overwhelmed BookPerry Noble's Real Life
Is there a way to reduce the stress and anxiety in our lives so we don't have to walk around in a medicated, zombie-like state of mind?I also believe in the miracle of modern medicine and am very thankful for it. The brain is an organ in the body, just like the heart or lungs or the liver. If there was a pill I could take to make my heart, lungs, or liver more healthy but refused to, people would call me irresponsible. Why not apply that same logic to the brain?
If that's the case for you [struggling with depression], I would simply encourage you to read your Bible. The church has used, “pray and read your Bible more” as a “cure” for anxiety and depression for far too long.
If God can bring me through the three painful years of depression I went through, then God can bring you through whatever you're experiencing too. I remember the very first time I ever had to deal with someone who told me they were struggling with anxiety and depression. I did not understand and could not relate—so, I told them what I thought was the typical “Christian” answer to all problems…they should pray more, read their Bible more and memorize more Scripture.

The book seems blissfully unaware of Noble’s actual life, though so does his recent preaching. NewSpring’s summary of his sermon last Sunday taught that “Healing will never be found in another … pill, ” yet his antidepressent blog announcement touted the healing power of pills:

[If] you went to the doctor and he said, “here is a pill you can take to fix the problem,” you would be considered negligent and insane for not taking the medicine…. If you would take a pill to cure the liver then why would you not do the same for the brain?

What makes Overwhelmed especially dishonest is that it’s based on Noble’s personal experience, so it doesn’t claim to be an objective or scholarly evaluation of the spiritual, physical and psychological aspects of depression. He tells us, “After a lot of prayer I decided to write a book about my battle and what I learned about Jesus and His faithfulness.”

Here’s the thing. Even while Noble was thinking most intently and clearly about what he understands about Jesus and his faithfulness as it relates to depression, that very thinking was insufficient to keep him stable. When you write a biographical advice book, the reader ought to be able to assume that the advice actually worked for the author. In Noble’s case, it didn’t, yet he, his church, his publisher and his famous friends continue to promote it as a life-changing book. For example, Noble quotes Brian Houston’s endorsement of the book:

My friend, Perry Noble, shares his honest struggle and ultimate victory over his battle with depression and anxiety; and I believe that because of his story, because of his relationship with Christ and because of the grace of God, you can see these principles bring freedom to every area of your life.

Mark Batterson also praised Noble’s helpful honesty:

Perry Noble speaks openly and honestly about his battle with depression and how it IS possible to overcome in his book Overwhelmed. I’ve known Perry for some time and appreciate his willingness to be so open and honest in order to help see people find hope.

Maybe Houston and Batterson don’t know that their praise is based on an incomplete truth, but Noble does. The advice in the book did not bring Noble victory over depression, which means that the principles in it are unlikely to bring anyone else freedom, either.

Integrity required that Noble should have called the publisher and told them that he needed to either cancel the book or rewrite it. At the end of one of his chapters, he imitates transparency by assuring the reader: “I need to be honest with you as I conclude this chapter. The battle over depression still rages in me at times.” His honesty is selective. Transparency would have produced a sentence like, “I need to be honest with you as I conclude this chapter. Most of what I have said is horsefeathers. The battle over depression still rages in me at times, and when it does, I find it best to put this book down, see my doctor and take my medicine.”

As part of his antidepressant blog post, Noble talks about how he sometimes felt suicidal, which means that he is intentionally marketing his story to other people who are suffering from similar self-destructive impulses. That’s not something you take lightly. We’re talking about life and death, yet he is inviting them to pay him for advice that he knows doesn’t work. By Noble’s own standards, that’s not just insane, it’s negligent.

In the last few weeks we’ve been dealing with publishing scandals that focused on actions that wasted a lot of money inflating pastors’ egos and bank accounts. Overwhelmed is a publishing scandal of a higher order, though. Noble and his publishers are selling advice that they know is incomplete and ineffective, and they’re marketing it to people who are potentially suicidal. This is a book that can kill.

Noble ought to recall the book from stores and refuse to offer it for sale until he rewrites it to address the helpful role of medicine or adds a warning label to the cover. Something like,

This book may be hazardous to your health, as it was to its author. If this advice doesn’t work for you, as is likely, you should consult a medical professional who is qualified to help you.

47 thoughts on “Perry Noble’s Overwhelmed book is dishonest and dangerous

  1. Junius Apr 2, 2014 11:13 pm

    Here are some of the employee five-star reviews. I’m sure there are more:

    Chris Dunagan

    Barron Cooley

    Kelsey Norton

    Josh Charles

    Joel Tippitt

    Kaleb Carl White

    Tadd Tatum

    Nick Charalambous

    Caleb Jordan

    How is this any different than the money changers in the temple?

    • Frank Apr 3, 2014 5:13 pm

      There is no diffrence between this and Money exchanging in the Temple. I inquired to New Spring about why they felt the need to sell shirts and merchandise in the loby and how this was ok. The response I got was they do not sell anything for profit it is just to make up for the money it cost to produce the products. I do not know what their excuse is for selling the book in the lobby. It would be one thing if they were just selling the book and all the book proceeds were going to the church but Noble is only giving 15% of the revenue he makes off the book back to the church. Also is their really a need for all those props and stuff? We get it Perry Noble wrote and book…….Just another example of Jesus being a way to get what you want. If you want to not be overwhelmed Jesus can help, If you want financial freedom Jesus can help. Jesus is rarely the prize at New Spring it seems to mostly be about what he can get you. I know they will tell you its all about Jesus but their actions show its what you can get from Jesus.

  2. Mark Apr 3, 2014 10:38 am

    The way this book seems to be flopping proves my contention. Nobody really knows who most of the these celebrity pastors are. The average Christian has never heard of Perry Noble (unlike Driscoll or Warren)and the pushing of their books to best selling status is for making them seem far more important to their congregations than they really are.

  3. Junius Apr 3, 2014 11:29 am

    I find it very inauthentic and disingenuous for NewSpring employees to be boosting the perceived quality of their pastor’s book on Amazon by writing fluffy five-star reviews which do nothing but pump up Perry and put Jesus on the level of a mascot. High, glowing Amazon reviews undoubtedly correlate with sales. It’s a very duplicitous ploy to ultimately put money in Perry’s pocket.

  4. Frank Apr 3, 2014 5:15 pm

    Does anyone have a link to how the book is selling so far? I saw that someone said it was flopping?

    • James Duncan Apr 3, 2014 11:39 pm

      Frank, you can roughly track the sales by looking at the sales ranking at Amazon. Did they email you the answer about only selling for cost? It would seem to contradict their claim that selling PN’s books makes the church big money.

  5. Frank Apr 4, 2014 5:16 pm

    James they told me they only sale the clothing and the other merchandise for how much it cost to make them. I assume this does not include Perry Noble’s book sales. I have read somewhere that Noble will be giving 15% of the Revenue he makes off Overwhelmed back to New Spring. Suzzane Swift has told me this is very kind of Noble because he is not obligated to give any of the money made off book sales to the church. My argument would be if it were not for New Spring how many books would Noble actually sell. The only reason he is a viable author is because the size of New Spring Church. I would like to see the number for sales to people that do not attend New Spring. I would assume they are the majority that is buying the book. New Spring is very good at twisting things to where they are always right….

  6. Frank Apr 4, 2014 5:44 pm

    Perry Noble’s “Overwhelmed” has some very underwhelming sales on Amazon this kind of explains why so many New Spring staffers are giving it five star reviews…….Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,267 in Books

    • James Duncan Apr 4, 2014 6:46 pm

      With numbers like that, Frank, NS staff may be the only people who are actually reading it, so of course they’re the only ones reviewing it.

  7. Frank Apr 4, 2014 8:57 pm

    Yeah James I agree with you on that one. It really frustrates me. The book is not about Jesus!!! Yeah I am sure it has some verses and mentions God but again it follows the New Spring script of “Jesus is the way to get what you want” I read alot of Christian books and my favorite author is Timothy Keller. Kellar’s books and writing style is amazing. He breaks down scripture and points everything back to Jesus. It’s not an opinion fueled how to guide like alot of Noble’s writings

  8. Frank Apr 7, 2014 6:16 pm

    I have been reading Perry Noble’s book overwhelmed I wanted to form an opinion on it for myself and I have only read 30 or so pages but I would like to clarify some things James you posted this:
    If that’s the case for you [struggling with depression], I would simply encourage you to read your Bible.

    This is not a full quote from the book and is not really what Noble is saying in the passage. The actual passage in the book says ” I know some people who have trouble with the idea that someone who is a true follower Christ would struggle with depression. If this is the case for you I would simply encourage you to read your bible, not just the uplifting stories but also the parts that get so real it makes us squirm a bit”

    What Perry is saying is not for people who are actually depressed to just read their bible and not see professional help what he is saying is if you don’t think a Christian can struggle with being overwhelmed you should look to the bible and some of the situations Christ followers faced. Perhaps we were a bit premature to criticize the book. Also in the beginning Perry Acknowledges taking meds to help him sleep. He has not mentioned antidepressants which I feel he should have but there is some practical advice in the book. He referees the story of Daniel in the bible as someone who is overwhelmed. Now the bible never actually uses the word overwhelmed or says Daniel was stressed or depressed so I guess Noble is just assuming that because of the situation he was in he must be stressed. I guess this is an example of what some people have said is Noble finding things in the scripture that aren’t really there. All I think he is doing is applying human nature to Daniel. So yes there is some practical knowledge in the book and the book never claims to be more then a self help book that points people to the bible and uses biblical stories and passages as encouragement. It is a very easy read and very basic in terms of Christian principles, but they are good reminders all the same. My only issue with the book so far is that in the beginning Noble says “There is not a specific formula to get you out of a place of depression and anxiety but in the following chapters he outlines different ways that you can overcome anxiety and depression that is more or less a formula. This is just me being picky but like I said it has some good points and reminders but is very basic. Even if he does not mention his use of anti depressants no where as he said that you should not take meds. He said “Is there a way to reduce the stress and anxiety in our lives so we don’t have to walk around in a medicated, zombie-like state of mind?”

    I don’t think this means don’t use any medication I think it is saying don’t only rely on medication. You can use meds along with the biblical principals outlined and prayer. I am not saying Noble is the next Tim Keller or C.S. Lewis but so far its a good book for a young Christian that is new or unfamiliar with basic Christian Principals or a seasoned believer that needs a reminder of the basics and an easy read.

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