Reformed Articles

The healing of memories
“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”–the things God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor 2:9).

Many human beings, including many Christians, suffer great emotional damage in this life. Emotional damage that’s irreparable in this life. 

There are “ministries” that specialize in the “healing of memories,” but what humans can do for each other in this regard is quite limited. We can’t make someone forget horrific memories. 

Examples are endless, but to pick one at random, suppose an 8-year-old boy watches soldiers shoot his parents to death right before his eye. They do it deliberately to be cruel, and they keep him alive so that he will suffer from that horrific, unforgettable memory. 

For Christians, how can God repair the psychological damage in the world to come? Any proposal will be speculative, so we shouldn’t be dogmatic. On the other hand, many things are possible in a Christian worldview which are impossible for atheism. 

1. Craig has proposed a divine memory-wipe solution:

The saints will simply forget about their lost loved ones. But I have two problems with that proposal:

i) I don’t object in principle to the idea that God might cause us to forget certain painful memories. But to forget the existence of your mother or father or brother or sister is too disruptive to memory in general. Memories of individuals who’ve figured so centrally in our lives can’t be erased without erasing our personal identity, by leaving huge gaps in memory, like lost amnesiacs in movies. 

ii) It also seems unethical to forget about your parents or siblings. Unless we had hellish parents or siblings, it’s thankless to forget they were ever a part of our lives.

2. Another possibility is the implantation of false memories. Dark City is a science fiction example. That, however, puts eternal bliss on a foundation of illusion. 

3. A third option might be a do-over day. How many times have people exclaimed, “What I’d give to do go back to that day and do what I failed to do or take back I said or did!”

Suppose, in the intermediate state, the saints have do-over days. They wake up on a particular day in the past, which has always haunted them. But this time things go differently. They take a different fork in the road. 

And that new memory replaces the old memory. It’s not a false, implanted memory. It’s a genuine experience of a day in the intermediate state. It really happened to them. Taking the road not taken, the second time around. A second chance to seize a lost opportunity. 
It’s not that they literally wake up in the past. Rather, it’s about their remembered past. An opportunity to change the remembered past by having a better experience that takes the place of the traumatic memory. 

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