Psychological theories and therapies greatly influence how Christians think and act. Much of the influence is antibiblical. Such theories often provide explanations and excuses for doing what is forbidden in Scripture. The following scenario illustrates how psychology twists the thinking of Christians in such a way as to supply the basis for divorce and thereby supplant the Bible as God’s handbook for living.
In an interview in the April, 1993 issue of Contemporary Christian Music, Sandi Patti gives a psychological justification for who she is and hints at why divorce was an option for her. Patti says, "I brought so many wounds with me into my marriage" (p. 40).
She describes how she discovered those wounds: "That process really started about four years ago, when a friend of mine gave me a book. . . . It talked about behaviors in adults that indicate there might be some buried memories of some abuse."
The reading of such books has initiated many into blaming real or imagined early life experiences for present life problems. Patti says that she related to behavior problems described in the book. Then, after listing a number of them, such as "relationship problems, problems with intimacy on a physical level, overeating, an addictive personality as it relates to clinging to people and being dependent on what they think, not being able to speak up for what you feel, avoiding conflict," she concluded that "this is totally me" (p. 42).
We disagree with it being "totally" her. With all the self-help books, it is typical for individuals with various problems to read a book that describes generalized symptoms and to see themselves in the descriptions. Then they receive the explanations as to their origins and follow the prescriptions for what to do, whether that book or the application to their own life has any actual validity or merit.
The book cited by Patti contained one explanation for her present life. But, there are hundreds of other possible explanations. And those explanations are merely guesses; they are opinions. But the book’s descriptions, explanations and prescriptions were what made sense to Patti.
It is difficult to tell whether a real or false memory of abuse is involved. Patti says that a woman in a Bible study asked her the "right questions" which led her into about two years of counseling, during which she "began to uncover a week" of being abused by a babysitter while her parents were out of town.
If her memory was discovered and uncovered in a two-year process of therapy after she had already been indoctrinated by a book that fosters such mind expeditions, then we question the validity of such a memory.
Whether the memory is based on early history or on recent therapy, the alleged abuse is now how she is explaining her life. Thus far no biblical explanation has been given for the divorce—only psychological jargon related to "remembered" early life abuse.
Sandi Patti is a highly visible person in the evangelical church. She needs to come up with a biblical, not psychological reason for her divorce. Either she or her husband is in grave biblical error, and one or both should be confronted. Instead, she is being treated as a victim, survivor, and even heroine.
Besides being interviewed by Contemporary Christian Music, Patti was interviewed on TV’s "Entertainment Tonight." Her popularity is bound to influence others to look for memories of abuse to explain their present problems. And to follow psychology rather than Scripture.
Caveat emptor: Be wary of any "recalled memories" that are first remembered by means of psychological therapy, hypnosis, or support group interaction or that come during or after reading a self-help book on sexual or ritual abuse.
The Biblical Way
There is a biblical way of dealing with problems of living. Every one of the behaviors listed by Patti, which led her into thinking she must have been abused, are behaviors that can and should be corrected through biblical means.
Instead of searching the past to explain present sinful behavior, a Christian is to put off the old man and walk in newness of life (Romans 6-8). By turning to Christ whenever one is tempted, a believer can trust God’s faithfulness according to the promise of I Corinthians 10:13.
The Lord has provided the means to deal with and correct sinful behavior through confessing that sin (I John 1:9) and turning from it by the enabling power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Christ lives in believers to empower them to walk in newness of life according to the Spirit. It is through knowing Him in each situation that a Christian becomes conformed to the image of Christ. It is by studying the Word of God and actively applying that Word daily. We are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds according to the Word of God, rather than popular opinions of men.
Even if one has been sexually abused in the past, that does not explain the present condition of a Christian who has become a child of God and who has been given a brand new life. Innumerable Christians who lived during the early years of Christianity came from a culture in which incest and other horrors were common. Yet there is no mention in Scripture that one must resurrect forgotten memories to be healed and transformed.
Even if one has truly suffered sexual abuse, Christ is still the answer. We have received letters from numerous people who testify to the faithfulness of Christ and the effectual working of Scripture in their lives and who declare without reservation that Jesus Christ is the answer to life’s problems, including the ravages of abuse.