A variety of psychotherapies masquerading under Christian terminology are devastating the church by turning Christians from God to self. Among the most deadly are regressive therapies designed to probe the unconscious for buried memories which are allegedly causing everything from depression to fits of anger and sexual misconduct and must be uncovered and "healed." These offshoots of Freudian and Jungian theories rooted in the occult and which have destructively impacted society for decades are taking their toll within the church.
One popular variety of regression therapy is called "inner healing" and was brought into the church by occultist Agnes Sanford (see The Seduction of Christianity). It was carried on after her death by those she influenced, such as lay therapists Ruth Carter Stapleton, Rosalind Rinker, John and Paula Sandford, William Vaswig, Rita Bennett and others. At first most prevalent among charismatics and liberal churches, inner healing has spread widely in evangelical circles. There it is practiced in a more sophisticated form by psychologists such as David Seamands, H. Norman Wright and James G. Friesen as well as a number of lay therapists like Fred and Florence Littauer. The Littauers' extreme insistence that rare is the person "who can say he truly had a happy childhood" would seem to condition their counselees to recover unhappy and traumatic memories.
Even if it were safely and accurately possible, should one probe into the past in order to dredge up forgotten memories? Memory is notoriously deceitful and self-serving. One is easily talked into "remembering" something which may never have happened. Inner healing, like other forms of psychotherapy, creates, by its very nature, false memories. Furthermore, why must one uncover memories of past abuse in order to have a right relationship with God? Where does the Bible say so? And if parts of the past must be "remembered," why not every detail? That task would be hopeless. Yet once the theory is accepted one can never be certain that some trauma is not still hidden in the unconscious—a trauma holding the key to emotional and spiritual well-being!
In contrast, Paul forgot the past and pressed on toward the prize (Philippians:3:13-14) promised to all those who love Christ's appearing (2 Tim:4:7-8). The past is of little consequence if Christians truly are new creations for whom "old things are passed away [and] all things are become new" (2 Cor:5:17). Searching the past in order to find an "explanation" for one's present behavior conflicts with the entire teaching of Scripture. Though it may seem to help for a time, it actually robs one of the biblical solution through Christ. What matters is not the past, but one's personal relationship to Christ now.
Yet many people claim to have been helped by regressive therapy. Finding the "reason" in a past trauma (whether real or a "memory" implanted by suggestion in the therapy process) can bring a change in attitude and behavior for a time. Sooner or later, however, depression or anger or frustration or temptation returns, leaving one to renew the search into the past to find that "key" trauma, the memory of which has not yet been uncovered. And so it goes.
In keeping with the Freudian foundation of all "inner healing," Fred and Florence Littauer's book, Freeing Your Mind from Memories that Bind, presents the thesis that uncovering hidden memories is the key to emotional and spiritual well-being. They suggest that any "memory gaps" from childhood indicate one has probably been abused (and very likely, sexually). By that definition we've all been abused. Most of us can't remember each house we've lived in, each school attended, every teacher and classmate, every family vacation when we were children. To teach, as the Littauers do, that these "memory gaps" indicate periods of abuse that have been covered up by the mind is contrary to common sense and is without scientific verification or biblical support.
The Littauers, like so many others in this field, base their approach upon the so-called four temperaments. This long-discredited personality theory evolved from the ancient Greek belief that the physical realm was composed of four elements: earth, air, fire and water. Empedocles related these to four pagan deities, while Hippocrates tied them to what were considered at that time to be the four bodily humors: blood (sanguine), phlegm (phlegmatic), yellow bile (choleric) and black bile (melancholy). These characteristics were connected to the signs of the zodiac.
There never was any scientific basis for the four temperaments. Yet many Christian psychologists and lay "healers" swear by them today, making them the basis of "personality classification" and the key to behavioral insights. As the Bobgans point out, however, in their excellent latest book,"Four Temperaments, Astrology & Personality Testing":
The word temperament itself comes from the Latin word temperamentum which meant "proper mixing." The idea was that if the bodily fluids were tempered, that is, reduced in their intensity by balancing the humors with each other, then healing would occur....
Even the positions of various planets were thought to alter the fluids for better or worse....
The four temperaments had virtually been discarded after the Middle Ages ...until a few lone souls discovered them among relics of the past and marketed them in twentieth-century language.... [Recently], the temperaments have been enjoying a revival...among astrologers and evangelical Christians....[T]he four temperaments are that feature of astrology made palatable to Christians.
Like other Christian psychologists and lay inner healers, the Littauers do not derive their theory and practice from a careful exegesis of Scripture, but quote an isolated verse now and then in an attempt to give the appearance of biblical support. For example, they quote part of a verse "I, the Lord, search the minds and test the hearts of men" (Jer:17:10, TEV)—beneath their second chapter title, "Searching Ourselves." In fact, this scripture opposes the idea of searching ourselves. It declares that only God can search and understand our hearts: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart...to give every man according to...the fruit of his doings" (17:9-10, KJV).
The context of these two verses gives the lie to the application made not only by the Littauers but by other well-meaning "inner healers." God curses those who trust in anything else and blesses those who trust only in Him. He promises that those who trust in Him "shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that [never shall] cease from yielding fruit"(Jer:17:8). A fruitful life (love, joy, peace, etc.) is produced by the working of the Spirit of God in the lives of those who surrender their otherwise deceitful hearts to Him! And nowhere does the Bible say that taking personality tests and learning one's "temperament" aids His work in us.
The Littauers have extreme difficulty finding scriptures even remotely appropriate and thus are forced to misapply the Bible. As a further example, the chapter titled "Earliest Memories" (p 141) is headed by the verse, "My heart breaks when I remember the past" (Ps:42:4, TEV). In fact, David is not referring at all to "earliest memories" but to the current ridicule and criticism he is receiving from those who "say daily [i.e., presently] unto me, Where is thy God?" The verse, "Write down in a book everything that I have told you" (Jer:30:2, TEV), is quoted directly under the chapter heading "Ready, Aim, Write." That chapter is about taking a "thorough look into your past" and "writing down one's feelings"—about as far from Jeremiah recording Scripture under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as one could get!
The Littauers are only one example among a host of inner healers, whether licensed Christian psychologists or lay persons, who, though they may be sincere, are leading Christians astray by the millions. Best-selling pop-psychology authors Gary Smalley and John Trent, heavily promoted by James Dobson, came up with their own four temperaments based upon animal types: lion, beaver, otter, and golden retriever!
One's "personality type" or "temperament" is allegedly discovered through a personality profile test such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis (TJTA), Personal Profile System (PPS), Personality Profile Test (PPT), Biblical Personal Profiles (BPP), etc. Though popular, personality tests are unreliable. Human personality with its power to choose and a heart that God says is "deceitful above all things" defy predictive formulas and are far too complex to neatly categorize. Even the once-promising classifications of persons as Type A Personalities, (susceptible to heart attack), Type B (less susceptible) and Cancer Personalities, etc. are being discarded because no scientific correlation can be found between disease and "personality type."
These inaccurate and destructive tests are promoted by a host of popular Christian authors and speakers such as psychologist H. Norman Wright and financial analyst Larry Burkett. Four-temperament and personality-classification theories trivialize the human soul and spirit and provide excuses for un-Christian behavior. The focus is on self, analyzing one's feelings, personality, childhood, and trying to find out why one thinks and does what one does.
In contrast, the focus in the Bible is upon God and Christ and His Word, turning from ourselves to Him, turning from the past to present service, and the hope of His return. Instead of seeking to identify one's personality and temperament by reference to speculative systems related to psychology, astrology and the occult, one's thoughts and actions need to be governed by God's inerrant and sufficient Word. God promises that if we heed the doctrine in His Word, He will by "reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness" direct our lives (2 Tim:3:16). As a result, men and women of God become mature, perfected and prepared unto every good work (v 17). Peter assures us that God "hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue" (2 Pt 1:3). Jesus declared that those who continue in obedience to His Word are His true disciples who "know the truth" and whom the truth makes free (Jn:8:31-32). Only those who doubt such promises or are unwilling to take the way of the Cross turn to manmade theories and therapies.
The Bible never even hints at personality types, nor does it categorize individuals as to strengths and weaknesses as a means of identifying their abilities and predicting their success or failure in God's service. Rejecting Saul's armor, with a sling and five stones David went up against the heavily armed Goliath who had terrorized the entire army of Israel. What was his secret? "I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts....This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand" (1 Sam:17:45-46). David's confidence was in the Lord, not in himself. Even had David not been an expert with the sling, God would have enabled him to hit the mark. Paul went so far as to state that God told him that His strength was perfected in Paul's weakness. Thus Paul declared, "...when I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Cor:12:10). Such statements refute the entire rationale of personality testing, temperament identification, and self-esteem and self-worth enhancement.
The Bible is filled with examples of men and women who were hated, abused and cast out by their own families––men and women who were loners, friendless, lacking in talents or abilities, yet who triumphed over the greatest adversity because of their trust in God. These heroes and heroines of the faith give the lie to the unbiblical and humanistic focus upon self that underlies all of the pop psychologies of inner healing. Moses is but one example among many.
When God called Moses to go to Egypt to deliver His people, Moses pleaded that he was incapable of such a mission and asked God to choose someone else (Ex 3:11, 4:10-13). Did God administer a personality test to show Moses that he was well suited? Did he deal with Moses' poor self-image or abysmal self-worth? Did he prescribe inner healing to deliver Moses from those buried memories of being abandoned by his parents and raised in a foster home and the lack of self-identity that resulted? Did he give him a course in self-improvement, self-confidence and success? On the contrary, God made this promise: "I will be with you!"
The well-meaning "counsel" of those who attempt to help Christians understand themselves, by focusing upon self, actually robs counselees of the divine presence and power which Moses knew. Human strengths and weaknesses are beside the point. What matters is whether or not the power of God's Holy Spirit is manifest in one's life. Many if not most of the great Bible characters as well as the more recent heroes of the faith, from the early martyrs to the great missionary pioneers of the nineteenth century, would probably fail today's personality profile tests.
In fact, God did not choose Moses because he was highly qualified. He was chosen because he was the meekest man on the face of the earth (Num:12:3). Why would God choose such a person to confront the mightiest emperor of the day on his turf, in his palace, to deliver Israel from his grip? He did so to teach the Israelites to trust in Him rather than man for their deliverance!
Never is there a hint that Joseph, David, Daniel or any other hero of the faith needed the therapies which are considered to be so vital and effective today. It was when Job got such a glimpse of God that he said, "I abhor [hate] myself" and repented in ashes (Jb 42:5-6) that he was restored by the Lord. It was when Isaiah also had a vision of God and cried, "Woe is me! for I am undone" (Isa:6:1-8) that God was able to use him. We need to turn from self-analysis to look at the Lord.
Thirst for God! Get to know Him! The fruit of the Spirit does not come as the result of understanding ourselves through the use of humanistic analyses or techniques (though clothed in biblical language), but through the manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit in our weakness. Be weak enough for Him to use you! TBC