Do Christians have an inner child they need to know and nurture? Many who have been influenced by psychology believe they must know, understand, and nurture their inner child and re-experience the pain of the past that their inner child might have suffered. The well-known TV preacher Charles Stanley says that “if the little boy or the little girl within you has not been dealt with, you do not know the God of this Book [Bible].” Stanley did not learn that from the Bible but from his experience with psychology. But, since he was preaching long before he “dealt with” his so-called inner child, he explains, “I’m telling you that you can be saved by the grace of God and not know the God of this Bible.” Stanley, along with other pastors influenced by psychology, blends in a gospel of psychic determinism, healing the inner child, increasing self-worth, forgiving self, and learning that “the little boy in me doesn’t have to control me,” and that “I am SOMEBODY in the eyes of God.” These are typical ideas associated with the inner child mythology.
In her book Abusing Memory, Dr. Jane Gumprecht describes some of the background of this deceptive inner child myth. She refers to a book titled Reclaiming the Inner Child, which, she says, “traces the evolving concept of the Inner Child from mystical traditions of the child-god Hermes, the alchemist Philosopher’s Child, the Hindu child Krishna, to the depth psychologies of Freud, Adler, Jung, Reich and Reik.” She relates that the editor of the book credits the popularity of the inner child as being due to a growing fascination with Jungian ideas. Gumprecht also attributes much of its popularity to W. Hugh Missildine, who “brought the inner child into ‘pop’ self-help psychology with his book, Your Inner Child of the Past.”
Another influence encouraging Christians to get in touch with their inner child comes from John Bradshaw’s popular television series and books. He teaches that people must reclaim their “wounded inner child” and nurture it with whatever comfort it needs, including teddy bears and the like. In her book A Way that Seems Right, Debbie Dewart says, “To John Bradshaw, the so-called innocent ‘inner child’ is the foundation of a psychological recovery system that demolishes basic biblical truths while attracting many Christians.”
The current notion of the inner child comes primarily from psychological theories that explain present behavior as being caused by past circumstances and unmet childhood needs. However, the inner child image is absent from Scripture. Everyone is born with a sinful nature. The Bible refers to the inner person of the past in terms of the “old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (Eph 4:22), rather than in terms of an innocent hurt child, now hidden within a powerful unconscious that supposedly influences behavior.
The inner child myth is appealing because most of us have a fondness for that dear little person we think we once were. However, that little person we once were was a sinner by nature and also by practice. Christians were once under the rule of self and law of sin, but, after being born again by the Spirit of God, they have been justified and regenerated and are enabled thus to walk according to the Spirit rather than according to the flesh. Instead of being condemned under the law of sin, they live by the life of Christ and His law written on their hearts. To look for answers in the so-called inner child or in past hurts buried in a Freudian or Jungian type of unconscious is a deceptive distraction leading away from the very life of Christ in the believer. Christians should be encouraged to follow the biblical way of change, which includes the following admonitions from Scripture:
But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him (Col. 3:8-10).
That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness (Eph. 4:22-24).
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20).
The answers are found in Christ, not in finding and nurturing an inner child. They are found in God’s Word, not in the psychological opinions and concoctions of men.
(from PAL V6N3)