A Biblically based commentary on current issues that impact you
Healing of Memories or Cleansing of the Conscience?
by Bob DeWaay
“How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?.” (Hebrews 9:14)
In the 1940’s, a missionary’s daughter disillusioned with traditional Christianity invented a new ministry called “inner healing.” Agnes Sanford claimed that during an out-of-body experience that supposedly brought her back to before her birth as a pre-existent soul, Jesus asked her to come into the world to relieve suffering.1 As documented by Jane Gumprecht in her book about Sanford’s life and teachings, Sanford gained her inspiration from very questionable sources such as Theosophy, New Thought, the depth psychology of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, and Emmet Fox of the Unity School of Christianity (New Age). Sanford became the mentor of John Sandford, whose inner healing theories are still followed by many. She was also associated with Morton Kelsey, a mystic who was a proponent of the theories of the occultist Jung.2 The theories and practices of nearly every popular inner healer can be traced back to Sanford or can be shown to be based on the same premises.
The primary idea of inner healing is that undesirable aspects of one’s life are caused by conscious or unconscious memories. This thesis is propped up by theories such as the pristine “inner child,” the unconscious mind, the collective unconscious, repressed memories, or more recently “interpretations of first memory events” (Theophostics). A corollary to these theories is that some newly discovered process (not found in the Bible) must be used to deal with memories. From Sanford’s original heretical teachings until today, dozens of ministries have arisen to heal memories, the need for which was not even discussed by most Christians until the 20th century.
What apparently is lost to many in the church is that the Bible never asserts that identifying or discovering memories for the purpose of “healing” them is important or even desirable. Ignoring the Biblical doctrine of sanctification, inner healers even conscript a spiritual “Jesus” to walk through their past to heal or re-interpret their memories. In this article I will address the false premises of this movement, describe what the Bible teaches about sanctification and memories, describe the harm that false inner healing teachings inflict, and propose a Biblical alternative.
False Premises of Memory Healing Theories
All healing of memory teachings are based on the false premise that memories must be identified, accessed, and somehow manipulated for a Christian to find inner healing. The proof for this is not Biblical, but anecdotal. People testify that they are truly Christian, have “tried” the typical Christian answers like Bible study, prayer, and attending worship services, but that none of these “work.” What they mean by “work” is that they still feel emotional pain or varying degrees of unhappiness which they attribute to events in the past. So, based on testimonies from distressed or unhappy Christians, counseling theories are devised to cure people of their bad memories.
This is deemed so important that in many cases people attempt to “recover” forgotten memories. It is assumed that if someone feels present emotional hurt and cannot identify a particular memory that is causing the hurt, a repressed memory must be the cause. This is all based on pure assumption—neither Scripture nor valid scientific evidence gleaned from general revelation proves this tenuous theory. It is not unusual for healers to seek to regress a person even back into his or her mother’s womb to find “memories” considered to be the cause of their present problems.3 New Age versions of this even assume events in previous lives might be the problem. Dr. Gumprecht points out that medical research has shown people are unable to remember things in the womb or at the time of conception because of brain development issues.4 This being the case, there is no actual memory to “recover” from this period.
One side effect of “recovered memories” has been the therapeutic creation of false memories. I have interviewed several people whose families were destroyed because a family member submitting to “Christian” counseling “recovered” memories of events like child abuse—but the events never happened. The false accusations destroyed ministries and lives of innocent people. One Web site contains dozens of articles about incidents of false recovered memories, people jailed and subsequently released, and other horrible consequences of recovered memory therapy.5 No Christian should be involved in this disreputable practice, but many have been.
Another false premise is that emotional pain is a “disease” that must be cured. I have addressed this before when I wrote about Theophostic Ministry which is linked to many of the errors I am addressing in this article.6 The Bible promises us that we will have grief and sorrow in this life. Paul said, “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart” (Romans 9:1, 2). Paul’s sorrow and grief were caused by the lost condition of many of his Jewish brethren. According to the remainder of Romans 9, that situation was not going to change because God had promised only to save a remnant. Many other factors cause “pain:” our own sinfulness compared to God’s perfect righteousness (Romans 7:24), the memory of our former wicked ways (1Timothy 1:13, 15), the fact of having been mistreated and abused by others (the lament Psalms like Psalm 13), and the “groaning” that attends our present weakness (2Corinthians 5:2-4). This life is filled with sorrows and grief, but God will one day wipe away every tear (Revelation 21:4).
Assuming that the Biblical word “sorrow” is what inner healers mean by “emotional pain” (terminology not found in the Bible), we can see that sorrow is a good and necessary thing because it can lead to repentance: “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2Corinthians 7:10). That we can remember how painful and wicked sin is (ours and that of those around us) is a gift from God to help us find repentance. This “emotional pain” doesn’t need to be “cured,” it needs to serve as a reminder that God used it to lead us to eternal life if we are saved—or to yet drive us to repentance and faith if we are not. Remembering how painful and evil sin really is helps us find sanctification.
I have been a Christian since 1971. During the years of serving the Lord and fellowshipping with many Christians, I have met a good number of people who have used their painful pasts as motivation to live much differently. I have seen loving parents who invested in their children because they grew up with parents who never did so, or who came from broken homes. I have seen people living sober lives whose fathers were drunkards. I have seen people stick with difficult marriage situations because they witnessed their parents getting divorced. God uses our painful memories to motivate us to NOT inflict pain on those around us and avoid the type of sins (ours or others) that destroy lives.7 God doesn’t heal memories; He providentially uses them for our good to conform us to the image of Christ. Memories are not “sick or healthy,” they just “are.” What has happened will not change. But what can change is how we live the rest of our lives.
That leads to another false premise of the healing of memories teachings: memories can bind us and prevent our sanctification. This is blatantly false. It is a tacit denial of this section of Scripture: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Romans 8:28-30). Surely “all things” include our memories. God will insure our final glorification if we truly know Him, whatever our memories have been. They cannot prevent God’s work of grace in our lives.
The Bible Teaches the Cleansing of the Conscience, Not Healing of Memories
The emphasis on inner healing in many of today’s churches corresponds to a de-emphasis on guilt, propitiation, redemption, and sanctification. The problem of the human race is not emotional pain, but moral guilt before a holy God. If people’s guilt is removed through the blood of Christ they are assured that one day all pain will be gone, both physical and emotional. We have guilty consciences because of our own sin. No therapist or counselor can ever cleanse the conscience. It may be possible to delude people into feeling good about themselves and their own sin, but it is not possible to cleanse that sin by any man-made methodology.
Consider this teaching from Hebrews:
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:11-14)
The author of Hebrews is drawing an analogy from the Day of Atonement. Once a year the high priest, after making all the required preparations, entered the Holy Place to sprinkle blood on the mercy seat. Christ, our High Priest, has offered His blood once for all (as opposed to over and over), in the heavenly sanctuary (as opposed to the earthly one), to cleanse the conscience (as opposed to cleanse the flesh), all to make His people fit to serve the living God in holiness. The conscience was defiled by sin, not memories.
Martin Luther offers astute commentary on Hebrews 9:14:
This means that a man is not bitten by the recollection of his sins and is not disquieted by the fear of future punishment, as Ps. 112:7 states: “The righteous shall not be afraid of evil tidings.” For, as the prophet says, an evil conscience is caught and troubled between a sin committed in the past and future punishment as between difficulties, just as the apostle says in Rom. 2:9: “There will be tribulation and distress.” For since it cannot change a sin committed in the past and in any way avoid the future wrath, it cannot escape being distressed and troubled, no matter where it turns. Nor is it freed from these difficulties except through the blood of Christ; and if it looks at Him through faith, it believes and realizes that its sins have been washed away and taken away in Him. Thus through faith it is at the same time purified and made calm, so that out of joy over the remission of sins it no longer dreads punishments. Accordingly, to this purity no law, no works, and nothing at all except this blood of Christ alone can contribute; nor indeed can the blood itself do this unless the heart of man believes that this blood has been shed for the remission of sins.8
This great application of the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith cuts to the heart of the matter. The problem with memories is that we remember we have sinned and unless there is a solution, we know we must face God’s wrath against our sin. Luther explained the joy of knowing remission of sins through the blood of Christ.
We have drifted so far from Reformation doctrine that today people too often are unconcerned about God’s wrath against their sin. In that condition the offer of a solution seems trivial and impertinent. Instead, people are conscious of feeling hurt and pain because they are unhappy with the life they have experienced thus far. So, wanting to meet “felt needs,” the church offers “healing of memories” so that people can feel better about life. BUT, what if this actually worked? How would they ever “tremble under the law they spurned” (thinking of a great hymn) and flee to Calvary where there is cleansing of the conscience? Trying to salve the conscience with man-made therapies and processes is hopeless and misguided.
We can gain a better understanding of this by considering Paul’s discussion of his own past. In Philippians 3:3-6 Paul described his life in “the flesh” as a Pharisee and persecutor of the church. What he says after this description is revealing: “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7, 8). Even things he previously considered “good” (zeal for God according to the terms of the Old Covenant) were “rubbish” compared to what he received from Christ. He lived for Christ and the resurrection, not his religious past. He furthermore stated, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13, 14). Paul means by “forgetting” that those former matters no longer determined his present life. His life was now “in Christ.” This does not imply a literal inability to recall the past. Paul did not need healing of memories, he left the past behind and pressed on with his calling in Christ.
1Corinthians 6 deals with people’s past and their new situation as Christians:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God. (1Corinthians 6:9-11)
Notice that the solution for every sinner was the same: “you were sanctified . . . you were justified.” Paul offered no sin-specific sanctification process. Sanctification does not change depending on a person’s past sin. Paul did not set up a fornication recovery group, an idolater recovery group, and an adulterer recovery group, etc.
Various inner healing and healing of memory therapies assume that Christians must avail themselves of some process tailored to their own specific past in order to find healing. Worse, many churches arrange fellowship groups based on people’s past sins through various “recovery” processes and 12-step groups. Our fellowship is based on our mutual relationship with Christ, not on the distinctiveness of our past sin. Paul saw all true Christians, whatever their past sins happened to be, as justified and sanctified. Thus there is one body and one basis for fellowship. The unrighteous need to repent, not join a sin-specific fellowship group.9 Paul wanted people to quit living in the sinful manner they did in the past and to live as justified sinners, living differently as blood-washed children of God.
Paul makes this clear in 2Corinthians 5:
and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. Therefore from now on we recognize no man according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2Corinthians 5:15-17)
New creatures in Christ are not known “according to the flesh.” This is true not because of some therapeutic process, but because of what Christ did in dying for them and giving them a life that is not lived for “self,” but for Him. False memory healing puts people’s minds back on themselves as they were in the flesh. They assume that their present spiritual well being depends not on their new status in Christ, but on discovering emotional hurts linked to memories of the past and devising a means to heal these. Furthermore, these false teachings tacitly deny that “the old things passed away” because of what Christ has done through the gospel and suggest they only pass away through therapeutic processes unknown in Biblical times.
The key difference between the Biblical doctrine of sanctification and the theories of the inner healing and healing of the memory teachers is that sanctification is entirely dependent on the blood atonement and Christ’s continuing work of grace through that atonement. Conversely, healing of the memories theories teach that locked in one’s supposed “unconscious mind” are memories and hurts that continue to influence us unless somehow brought to the surface, identified, and “healed.” God’s plan of sanctification supposedly is being thwarted by what we were in the flesh, so we have to keep studying ourselves “according to the flesh” to find out why. This is false. In the Bible, sanctification is never seen as dependent on the details of the fleshly mind of the person before they met Christ. This fact in itself invalidates the need for healed memories for those who know Christ. Our conscience is cleansed by the blood of Jesus.
How False Inner Healing Teachings Harm People
False teachings are never without consequences. Healing of memories is no exception. The versions of these teachings I have read—and I’ve read many—focus largely on memories of traumatic events or abuses people have suffered at the hands of others. The type of distress Luther spoke of (caused by our awareness of our own past sins and God’s wrath directed against them) is not discussed. What happens is that those seeking the healing of memories are not seeking forgiveness for their own sins but are seeking healing from what others did to them, or what unfortunate events they may have experienced. The teachings of the inner healers reinforce a victim mentality that keeps the focus on everything but our own sins. If the problem was distress over our lost and sinful condition and God’s wrath, we would find relief through Christ’s shed blood and would have no need for the services of the memory healers. But people are focusing on the wrong problems.
The implication of healing of the memory theory is obvious: people cannot be adequate Christians because of what others have done to them. It is assumed (especially with the versions of this that posit an inner child) that we come into this world pristine, unsullied, and poised to live a wonderful, happy life. But, we have bad parents, bad siblings, meet bad people when we attend school, have bad experiences, etc. and the pristine “inner child” retreats into the background. In place of the real self that has now retreated, we put up a façade, a false “self” to present to the outer world. Various survival mechanisms make this necessary. The memories of hurt and abuse cause the false self to prevail and the true inner child to remain hidden. The healing of memories practitioner has the job of removing the false ideas that traumatic events caused to be attached to the false “self.” The hope is to gradually remove the hurts and “recover” the true self, the higher self, the inner child, (the terminology varies) and become the pristine, happy, full-orbed person God designed one to be.
Jane Gumprecht has a good chapter in her book about inner child theory where she shows that it came from the occultist Carl Jung.10 Agnes Sanford imported Jung’s ideas into her inner healing teachings. Gumprecht explains: “The influence that Jung had on Sandford is apparent by her many references to him and her use of his terminology and concepts of the collective unconscious and archetype and dreams. Her pastor, Morton Kelsey, and her son, John, are avowed Jungian counselors especially using dream therapy.”11 From Sanford and Kelsey, these ideas have multiplied through the church during the last fifty years. Most Christians who embrace these ideas fail to realize that one key Christian doctrine invalidates them: original sin and the consequent sin nature. Gumprecht explains, “I have cited Sanford and Jungian counselors to illustrate their belief that the inner child is innocent, divine, created in original holiness. If we are this divine inner child, it follows that we are denying the basic Christian belief in original sin. . . The inner child is a mechanism to rationalize sin.”12
The Christianized versions of the pagan inner child teaching often advocate visualizing Jesus traveling through time back to the moments where the inner child was wounded. Gumprecht explains the common scenario, “Jesus introduces you to your inner child and asks you to receive the little child in His name, to welcome it into your heart, to love this child free from your defense mechanisms. You are to ask this inner child for forgiveness for rejecting and hurting it. Jesus puts His arms about the child and loves and comforts it. Or you may visualize Jesus tenderly taking your inner child onto His lap.”13 There are dozens of variations of this, but they are all based on the same basic concept.
When Christians use the term “recovery” they are wittingly or unwittingly buying into this unbiblical teaching. The assumption is that there is a pristine person in there somewhere to “recover.” But if we believe the Biblical doctrine about the sin nature, the “recovered” person is a rebellious sinner who is by nature a “son of wrath” (i.e., characterized as being under God’s wrath). Rather than being redeemed and forgiven, people are “recovered.” This is unbiblical, false, and harmful. Rather than Godly sorrow leading to repentance, people head down a path looking to recover a pristine inner child that never existed. We practiced sin not because of bad parents, bad environment, bad teachers, bad experiences, bad friends, and whatever other influences we imagine; we went into sin because we were always sinners, we loved sin, and were looking for excuses to do more sinning.
The process of trying to peel away the negative influences to find and recover the true “self” or inner child is doomed. This is so because the wicked sinners we became were our true selves! Finding deterministic excuses will never lead us to repentance. This is why false inner healing teachings are ultimately harmful. However much verbiage is assigned to telling people to take responsibility, the theories themselves scream to people: YOU ARE A VICTIM. Add to this the ideas of the Freudian or Jungian “unconscious” that may be filled with an unlimited amount of negative, causal memories and ideas (especially with the collective unconscious of Jung—now the whole world is adding material to the individual’s inner person) how could anyone hope to complete the journey back to the perfect inner child? The amount of possible victimizing influence is unlimited.
The search for the inner child will never find anyone but a sinner bound for Hell at any stage in life. Do we need to repent of someone hurting us, or do we repent of our sins? The Biblical teaching, though in some ways painting an even bleaker picture, is ultimately hopeful. Here is what I mean: worldly determinism is disingenuous because those who propose it claim to have discovered ways of getting “undetermined.” If they did not they would have no therapies to peddle. For example, if our present responses are determined by past memories, it truly is hopeless. The past will never change. Probing around in it will only uncover more bad memories. During the process of sorting through memories, we are still gaining new ones, day by day, potentially harmful ones at that. It is a hopeless fool’s mission to think one could complete such a process. The Bible, on the other hand, starts out by telling us it IS hopeless. God’s holy requirements of perfect righteousness are unattainable. Paul devoted most of the first three chapters of Romans to tell us it is hopeless—unless, that is, God does what we cannot do.
The inner child is a rebellious sinner, but Jesus who existed as God and with God from all eternity, was born of a virgin, and lived a sinless life. He is the only pristine child that ever came into the world. He shed His blood on the cross to avert God’s wrath against our sins. Those who repent and believe the gospel find full forgiveness and new life in Christ. They are new creatures because of what Christ has done, not because they discovered a new self by peeling layers of the past. This new self is “put on” not discovered or recovered: “and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (Colossians 3:10).
False healing of memories teachings point people in exactly the wrong direction: back to the old self that is to be laid aside (Colossians 3:9) rather than to the process of sanctification and certainty of glorification. In doing so they harm every Christian who embraces them. The harm comes in many forms. Mysticism and false “Christs” who appear in people’s minds and provide secret information or even assist in necromancy lead them away from the true Christ who has spoken once for all. In some cases people become obsessed with self—narcissistic. In other cases false memories are “uncovered” and Satan uses these to plant lies about family members in order to destroy families. I have talked to people who experienced all of these harmful outcomes and more. False teachings are insidious and dangerous.
Pain and True Gain
The Bible never promises freedom from pain in this life, emotional or otherwise. What it does is give us comfort and hope through the gospel. The relative degree of pain we might have does not prove that some people need unbiblical therapies because their situations are more pathological. The means of grace that God uses to sanctify us are the same for all Christians.
People have suggested to me that the reason I reject healing of memories teachings is that I had a relatively pain free childhood and therefore never needed such healing. It is true that I had fabulous parents and grew up in the 50s and 60s on an Iowa farm in a delightful community that was predominantly Christian. But the greatest pain is the memory of cursing and blaspheming God in front of friends and co-workers because my fiancé had become a born again Christian. In spite of a wonderful situation that could have inspired a Norman Rockwell painting, I had become a wicked blasphemer. To think that God granted me repentance on July 18, 1971 when I deserved to be wiped off the face of the earth is overwhelming. None of the “good memories” of tractors, cows, 4-H, the county fair, grandparents, sweet corn, etc. would have meant anything had God left me in my lost and sinful condition.
Jesus said this: “And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal fire” (Matthew 18:8). This does not mean that literally cutting off a limb could deliver anyone from sin. It means that what happens in eternity is infinitely more important than whatever handicap we may go through in this life. The rich ruler in Luke 18 thought the present comfort he had with his riches was more important than eternal life (Luke 18:18-25). It matters not whether one has comfort or pain now; riches or poverty now; good memories or painful ones now; but whether one finds eternal life through the gospel. Jesus warned about the danger of having it go well now: “But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep” (Luke 6:24, 25). This does not mean that being poor, hungry, and weeping will, in and of themselves, save anyone. It means that many who are rich, well-fed, and happy now will fail to see that unless they repent and believe the gospel, their enjoyment of life will be short lived. Others, filled with sorrows and seeing no hope in this life, flee to the gospel for hope.
Surely some people have more painful memories than others. Some people suffer sorrows because of broken families, abusive parents, traumatic childhoods and other such things. This is a reality of life that no healing of the memories practitioner can change. If, however, you are one of those people, and the pain you felt caused you to see that this world is cursed with sin and that there is no hope in this world, and by God’s grace you have found eternal life through the gospel, then you are far richer and happier than any glamorous, happy, wealthy person in the whole world. It really IS this way. This is not hyperbole. Paul said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). Let us take that literally and let it change how we view life.
What God Has Provided
The Book of Hebrews describes the many benefits all Christians have through their great High Priest. We are delivered from Satan and the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14, 15); we have entered true Sabbath rest (Hebrews 3:9, 10); we have access to the throne of grace to find help in our times of need (Hebrews 4:16); we have hope as an anchor for the soul (Hebrews 6:19); we have a High Priest who will save forever those who draw near through Him and He intercedes for us (Hebrews 7:25); we have our consciences cleansed by the blood of Christ (Hebrews 9:14); we have the promise that Christ will return for those who eagerly await Him (Hebrews 9:28); we are perfected forever by His one offering for sin (Hebrews 10:14); we have a Father who disciplines us that we may share His holiness (Hebrews 12:10); and we have a promise that He will never leave us or forsake us, so we are free from the fear of man (Hebrews 13:5, 6). In spite of all these glorious benefits, the Hebrew Christians were tempted to apostatize. Why? Because of unbelief. Faith is the evidence of things not seen, and Jesus and His shed blood fit into the category “not seen.” So they longed for the earthly high priest, earthly temple, earthly sacrifices, etc. because these were tangible.
So today many are tempted to fall away from God because of the same type of unbelief. Being dissatisfied with the blood atonement and High Priestly ministry of Christ they want something more tangible, but in a spiritual way. They long for mystical experiences because rather than finding help in time of need, they want God to speak to them beyond His words found in the Bible. They long for freedom from emotional pain now, which would be tangible, rather than rejoice that their consciences have been cleansed from dead works by the blood of Christ. This does not seem so tangible because the threat of God’s wrath never seemed all that real. The Bible says, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Since the reward is eternal, we must believe that it is real because God, who cannot lie, made the promise.
God has provided everything we need for life and godliness (2Peter 1:3). The Accuser of the brethren is overcome by the blood of the Lamb, not man made processes. The mind is renewed through the Word of God, not memory-manipulating therapies. Broken relationships from the past may never be healed, but God gives us fellowship in the body of Christ. The means of grace are what God uses to sanctify and preserve us.14
Various mystical, memory healing therapies are a hindrance to sanctification because they focus on the particulars of a person’s life “after the flesh” rather than on their status as new creatures in Christ. These therapies came from very bad sources, particularly the pagan theories of Carl Jung. The idea is preposterous that Christians for centuries lacked what they truly needed (healing of memories) until a pagan spiritualist concocted the idea of the collective unconscious and then taught it to Agnes Sanford, Morton Kelsey, and others.
The antidote to these spiritual poisons is “the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” A thorough study of the Book of Hebrews would be hugely profitable for Christians today. Though the type of apostasy warned against in Hebrews appears to be different (returning to the Old Covenant), the issues are the same. Are we willing to trust a Savior and High Priest who is in heaven, seated at the right hand of God, who has spoken in full and final revelation through His apostles, who has shed His blood once for all, and who can only be known through faith, or must we have something more tangible that promises more immediate benefits now? The Hebrews in Exodus wanted something more tangible once Moses was out of sight: “Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron, and said to him, ‘Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him’” (Exodus 32:1). Like them, since Jesus has ascended into heaven and has thus far “delayed to come down,” we are tempted to look for more immediate help from something more tangible. This is found in man-made processes that promise to do what people apparently think Christ’s blood failed to do: heal our memories. But the blood has cleansed our consciences from dead works to serve the living God. We must rejoice in this and not insult the Spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:29).
Issue 96 - September / October 2006
- Jane Gumprecht, Abusing Memory, The Healing Theology of Agnes Sanford; (Moscow, Idaho: Canon Press, 1997) 30.
- See http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue83.htm “Contemporary Christian Divination” Where I cite the teachings of many Christian mystics, including Sanford and Kelsey, and show their similarities.
- I am purposely not citing case after case of this from various inner healing teachers as I did in Issue 83 in order to keep this article focused on the key issues, and not individual cases. Having read various versions of inner healing for many years, I know that people really do make these claims.
- Gumprecht, 137.
- Charles Dickens wrote a fictional story called The Haunted Man and The Ghost’s Bargain in 1848 in which a man, Mr. Redlaw, was troubled by the memories of many sorrows. A ghost in his own likeness appears to him and offers to remove his sorrowful and painful memories, and furthermore gives him the power to relieve others of their painful memories as well. As the story unfolds, he is much worse off in his new state and he is harming others as well. Dickens writes, “Where he felt interest, compassion, sympathy, his heart turns to stone.” In this interesting piece of literature Dickens illustrates that our sorrowful memories serve important purposes.
- Luther, M. (1999, c1968). Vol. 29: Luther's works, vol. 29 : Lectures on Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (29:208). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
- I am not disparaging groups that reach out to alcoholics, homosexuals, or other types of sinners to reach them for Christ and help them change. I am, however, saying that in the church we should not group people together based on the specifics of their former sin. I also question the validity of therapies within the church that are sin-specific. I see no Biblical basis for this.
- Gumprecht, 109 – 119.
- Ibid. 110.
- Ibid. 118.
- Ibid. 111.
- See http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue84.htm
Critical Issues Commentary
Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1988, 1995 The Lockman Foundation.
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