Monday, March 2, 2015

My Finger Pointed Away From Me

As both the ministry I served and the church I attended increasingly blended psychology into their doctrines, I grew more comfortable with introspection and self-analysis. Too often, for example, I'd demand that my mom "'validate my feelings" when we had a conflict. Of  course, I had absolutely no interest in  "validating" her feelings.

The teaching I received (and regurgitated through my  counseling letters) almost always blamed parents for a person's sin patterns. While such teaching included the obligatory instruction to forgive (as befits Christians), such instruction didn't receive nearly as much attention as exploring our "wounded" pasts in order to understand our current struggles with habitual sin. We emphasized endless examinations of  childhood traumas, most of which emanated from relational problems with our parents.

I remember a particular Monday night women's meeting in which the leaders wanted us to list ways that our parents had "damaged" us. One lady left her sheet of paper blank. All of us tried to coax her into remembering something. When she insisted that there simply wasn't anything to remember, we concluded that she was "in denial." We should have rejoiced in how  beautifully she obeyed God's Word!
“Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” ~~Ephesians 6:2-3 (ESV)
Once or twice, after reading Ephesians 6, I felt as if the leaders discouraged obedience to this command. But my friends successfully brought me back to the premise that we couldn't freely honor our parents until we "worked through" all the "issues" caused by our "dysfunctional" relationships with them.

Puh-leeze!

The disconnect with God's command to honor parents stands out as the predominate way psychology influenced our understanding of Scripture. We also, however, took various personality tests which allowed us to explain away certain sins. Case in point: one of my tests "revealed" that I tend toward melancholia, thus providing me with a convenient excuse to engage in self-pity.

Naturally, we gave lip-service to concepts like repentance, and most of us did fairly well at abstaining from genital sex outside of marriage. We avoided obvious sinful behaviors, wanting to demonstrate our "Biblical" morality. But when we fell, we dug deep into our psyches trying to understand the reasons we failed rather than simply repenting and letting Scripture transform us.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ~~Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)
By His grace, the Lord has changed my heart, showing me that He alone gives me power over sin because of His resurrection and His Spirit living in me. The causes for my sin really don't matter; He is the solution.

Thirty years later, I readily see that the ministry and the church corrupted the clear teaching of Scripture by synthesizing it with psychology. I believe psychology's emphasis on self-exploration undermines worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ. It produces a  self-centeredness that hinders us from truly loving others. I know this because it hardened my heart toward Mom.

3 comments:

  1. Great post. I, too, read books and dug around in that arena. The greatest conviction I had came when our Sunday School teacher started teaching in depth on the Ten Commandments. I was so anxious about the "Honor your mother and father" one that I couldn't sleep. I wept during the lesson and afterwards, I begged him to help me understand what it meant to "honor" them - a concept that I still struggle with 6 years later but now understand that it does not include me working through what they did to me.

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  2. You really hit this at the very roots of this problem, DebbieLynne. Much there that I think still infects my thinking.

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  3. "...simply repenting and letting Scripture transform us." This was really good. My mother abandoned my father, siblings and me as a young girl and through the years I have been through it all with regard to counseling, Christian theophostic ministry (don't even get me started), and books by the Eldredges that want you to address those "wounds" from parents (I am SO over that stuff) but this basic truth is the only thing that makes any sense. Thanks a great essay. I enjoy your blog. Melissa

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