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Welcome back to week 48. We hope the past week has been a blessed one for you. Last week we briefly examined the ministry versus the professional model in counseling. This week we will briefly consider the topics of healing the memories, visualization techniques, 12-step and other recovery programs, and self-image.

The concept of healing one’s memories is completely unbiblical. The concept was born in the 1940’s through a woman named Agnes Sanford. She called it, “inner healing.” The main idea of inner healing is that undesirable aspects of one’s life are caused by conscious or unconscious memories that produce feelings of guilt in one’s life. This idea is supported by theories such as: the inner child, the unconscious mind, collective unconscious, repressed memories, etc. 

The endgame is to use extra biblical methods to heal one’s memories so that he or she can feel better, and be a better person as a result of his feelings.[1] However, Scripture never teaches that identifying one’s memories for the purpose of healing them is the goal. On the other hand, Scripture does teach that one has guilty feelings because he or she is guilty of sin (cf. Rom. 2:15; 3:19, 23). 

Man is not a victim of bad memories. He is a perpetrator of sin. That is both good news and bad news. It’s bad news because we are guilty of sin. It’s good news because the Bible teaches the only true remedy for the healing a person needs. And that remedy is the confession and repentance of one’s sin (cf. Gen. 4:7; Ps. 32:9-10; Prov. 28:13; Matt. 3:2, 8; 4:17). Healing one’s memories amounts to sinful practices based upon psychological junk science. It completely overlooks the need for repentance in favor of feelings. 

Next, what about Visualization Techniques? What exactly does that mean and is it biblical? The practice of Visualization Techniques (a.k.a. Christian meditation) proposes a journey inward to explore the realm of the spirit. This concept grew out of a medieval Roman Catholic form of mysticism.[2] The purpose in visualizing is to see the inner light inside oneself that connects the visualizationee to the larger spirit realm. 

The purpose in this is to enable the visualizationee to gain greater understanding of self and God. However, there is one big problem with visualization’s foundational presupposition. It ignores sola Scriptura.[3]

Scripture alone is where God has revealed everything about Himself and man that we need to know (John 6:68; 2 Peter 1:19-21; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Heb. 1:1-3). Scripture alone has all the answers mankind needs to be made right with God and others. On the other hand, Visualization promotes divination because it encourages one to seek truth outside of Scripture by way of the spirit world. Scripture warns against such evils.[4] Clearly, both the theory and practice of Visualization Techniques are unbiblical and not to be employed by believers. 

That leaves 12 step programs and self-esteem practices. What about those? Many people seem to have been helped by 12 step programs. Let’s examine the concept of 12 step programs, first.

The “12 step” and other recovery programs have a lot of good sounding ideas. However, these good sounding ideas are a lot like a baited hook. It looks good on the surface, but much danger lurks below the morsel’s surface. These good sounding ideas actually amount to danger for the recovery seeker.

In Alcoholics Anonymous, for example, the 12 steps sound godly, but lack true gospel power. In order to see why this is true let’s examine the steps. In step two it teaches the recovery seeker to seek God. That sounds good on the surface, right? The problem comes once we learn that their idea of God can be anything one wants him or her to be (cf. steps three and 11). This amounts to nothing less than idolatry. 

Steps one, five, eight, and nine also lack conformity to biblical truth. These steps teach the perpetrator to recognize the wrongs committed toward himself and others.  That’s sorely lacking in truth, but replete in falsehood! Scripture doesn’t warn us about sinning against ourselves or wronging ourselves. That is because we already love ourselves too much (Matt. 22:39; 2 Tim. 3:1-2). Scripture teaches that we sin against God and others! Yet, that life-changing truth is omitted by these steps. 

However, that’s not where the problems end. Not only is their definition of God wrong, their definition of sin is wrong, too. Sin, here, is minimized and called “defects in character” and “shortcomings” (cf. steps six and seven). So, we have a god of our own making and sin is not so bad because it’s simply a shortcoming. This amounts to nothing more than self-centered pride. In this scenario the recovery seeker is god because they can identify god as anything “they” want. If you choose who god is then you are actually your own god, by default, because you have the power to decide who or what god actually is, to you. Furthermore, the recovery seeker is not really that bad because he or she only has shortcomings instead of high treason against the King of all creation. That kind of mindset will not lead to biblical living or eternal peace. 

Lastly, we have step 11. Step 11, again, sounds good on the surface, but is problematic and dangerous. Step 11 encourages prayer. Great, right? No, not in this context. Step 11 encourages prayer to the person’s higher power. That is so dangerous because their higher power, once again, can be whatever they want it, him, or her, to be. 

In addition to that sinful way of thinking this is also very naive and foolish on the part of 12 step programs. Step 11, along with prior steps, are predicated upon the individual’s desires. If one desires their god to be a doorknob, fine. If one desires their higher power to be a president, friend, parent, or a pencil sharpener, so be it. Just make sure you pray to it. The problem with this thinking is that it assumes the individual will desire the right thing. Yet, that is exactly why the person is there in the first place. They desire the wrong things! Men’s hearts are naturally evil and go towards sin left unchanged. 

Then, let’s not forget about the 800-pound gorilla in the room. What about prayer to the only true Power –the God of Scripture? He is the only One worthy and capable of answering prayer.

The reason for this foolish thinking in 12 step programs is because they operate from the same erroneous foundation. They all assume that there is something in each person worth recovering. Scripture teaches that there is no pristine inner person inside worth recovering. Scripture teaches that there is only a rebellious sinner, who by nature, is a still under God’s wrath (Ps. 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Eccl. 7:20; Rom. 1:18-23; 3:9-18). 

Recovery programs deal with addictions. However, addictions, as they define them, are not the problem. They are a symptom of the problem. Scripture does not allow for such fallacious psychological notions. Scripture deals with and defines the real problem. Scripture teaches that we are enslaved to sin, not addicted to wrong doings. Enslavement to sin is man’s real problem (Rom. 6:15-17). That’s good news because Jesus Christ is the only true answer and hope to man’s problem (Rom 6; Eph. 2:1-5, 8-9). Christ came to save His people from their sin because sin is the issue (Matt. 1:21). There is no hope for recovering addicts, but there is hope of being set free from your sin and being made into a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17). Sadly, 12 step programs offer no real hope for its attendees.

Lastly, what about gaining better self-esteem? What is self-esteem and from where has it come?  The idea, in our current culture, is a worldly psychological concept. The self-esteem model teaches that an individual should have feelings of worth based on their skills, accomplishments, status, financial resources, appearance, etc. 

Thus, self-esteem focuses on, self. The problem with that focus is exactly what got mankind into trouble in the first place. In Genesis chapter three Satan tempted Eve and Adam to focus on self. He tempted them to focus on what they felt they needed, but did not have rather (i.e., the knowledge of good an evil, like God), than on God.

Self-esteem is prideful and idolizes self. Self-esteem brings God’s judgment (Gen. 4; James 4:6). In fact, Scripture warns us not to think highly of ourselves, but to love God first and esteem others as better than ourself (Lk. 17:10; Matt. 22:36-40; Rom. 12:3; Phil. 2:3). A Christian should have a humble sense of self-worth because of the worth God gave him when He purchased him to be one of His own people (Ps. 16:2; 2 Cor. 5:21; Eph. 1:14). 

The Bible warns us against having high self-esteem, or self-love. In 2 Timothy 3:1-4 Paul says, “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self… rather than lovers of God.” Paul calls this kind of thinking (i.e., high self-esteem), as opposition to “the truth” (v. 8), and “folly” (v. 9). Being foolishly in opposition to the truth of God’s Word and will is no way to greater righteousness. It is the path to eternal destruction. Higher self-esteem is not advised, or to be practiced by believers. 

None of these programs or thought systems are safe. They all are in contrast to God’s Word. Therefore, they are all impotent and incapable of effecting real change or providing real hope. Christian brothers and sisters are supposed to avoid all such worldly philosophies. 

We hope our short time considering the topics of healing the memories, visualization techniques, 12-step and other recovery programs, and self-image was helpful. Lord willing, next week we will briefly examine Christian Counselors. Should we join and agree with them? Until then may our Lord bless you and keep you.


[2] Chris Armstrong, “The Future lies in the Past” in Christianity Today, February 2008, 13-15.

[3] Additionally, Visualization Techniques fallaciously presupposes that there are any answers worth discovering within oneself. Man is naturally evil and has nothing good withi9n himself (cf. Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:10-18)

[4] Lev. 19:26; Deut. 18:10; 1 Sam. 15:23; 2 Kings 17:17; 21:6; 2 Chr. 33:6; Jer. 14:14; 23:16; Ezk. 13:6-10, 23; Acts 16:16-18.

Foundations of Biblical Counseling: The Ministry vs. Professional Model of Counseling Foundations of Biblical Counseling: Christian Counselors