October 25, 2009

Grow up!

Ed Bulkley, PhD. , says in his book Why Christians Can’t Trust Psychology, that some of the characteristics of childishness are an unwillingness to accept change, pouting or crying at disappointment, a preoccupation with self, a tendency to lie, shirking of responsibility, shifting of blame, demanding instant gratification, throwing temper tantrums, and a host of other symptoms that coincide with the labels of psychological disorders, such as “infantile regression.”

He goes on to say that psychology often blames parents for the adults that do not “outgrow” these things, and gives those adults reason to believe that they can blame their parents and are permanently stuck with this behavior.

In contrast, the Apostle Paul wrote, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11).

I look through the list and easily can list the above “childish” behaviors as characteristics of my sinful nature. The Bible leads me to the conclusion that these are not psychological problems that flow out of childhood issues, but matters of the sinful human heart.

For instance, blame-shifting began in the garden of Eden. God asked Adam if he’d eaten from the tree He had commanded them not to eat, and Adam replied, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate” (Genesis 3:12)

Adam was an adult. His parent had never mistreated him. There was no child abuse. His environment was perfect. Yet after he disobeyed God, he hid, lied, and blamed both Eve and God (who gave her to him) for his behavior.

It still happens. I’ve heard people blame everything and everyone for their sins. The devil gets it most often, but God is blamed too. They say if their life situation was different (and who is sovereign over life’s situations?) then they would never have been tempted nor would they have sinned.

The New Testament is clear about the source of temptation and sin. It is not God. James wrote:

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. (James 1:13)
God controls all things, but unless it is yielded to Him, the sinful human heart is in charge of its own responses to temptation. I can decide all by myself whether to sin or not. Satan appeals to us with lies and the world appeals to us with all sorts of promises, but no one can blame God for temptation or falling into it.

Rereading what Bulkley said, I have to rewrite it like this: the characteristics of my sinfulness are an unwillingness to let God change me, pouting when I don’t get my way, preoccupation with self, a tendency to avoid the truth, shirking my responsibilities, blame-shifting, insisting on instant gratification, getting annoyed at everyone and everything, and a host of other me-me-me symptoms that coincide with the labels for sin that are clearly spelled out in the Word of God.

There is no human cure. Growing older does not change the sinful heart. The only way out of this “infantile regression” is to admit that I have a sinful heart and admit what I do wrong. Only then will the One who is called Counselor forgive me, cleanse my heart, and enable me to put away my sinful nonsense.

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