“How does a Sociopath – a person with anti-social personality disorder – understand and experience God’s love and get saved if they are incapable of experiencing love? They have no perception of what it is. They are fearless and show no remorse for lawlessness and inflicting pain on others…This person is not typically going to think they need forgiveness – they think they are right.”
To answer this question, we establish three givens:
- Salvation in the understanding of being spiritually born again is of God, and of Him alone, regardless of the fact the Believer appropriates the gift of salvation through absolute faith.
- Sociopathic behaviour is a mental condition, which, even though it renders a person antisocial and has a negative mental impact, does not incapacitate a person.
- A sociopathic condition in itself is not sin, but behaviour resulting from such a condition may be sinful and the root thereof stems from sin.
The Sociopath’s inability to experience or express love almost always stems from an upbringing where love was withheld or wrongly expressed. The sociopath typically defends himself from hurt through the subconscious blocking away of affection toward him, and has therefore not developed normal interaction toward others. Even though this is a condition which is limiting and controlling, the sociopath is not left incapacitated – they get jobs, buy cars and get married.
When God expresses His love toward us it is not the same love that individuals share; it is a love that is complete in the fullest sense from His position of absolute Holiness. God’s love exposes, covers and expels sin; in other words it accepts without hesitation. What’s more is that whilst God’s love may manifest in the soul, it is birthed in the spirit and is therefore not limited by psychological behaviour or expression. The Holy Spirit convicts us firstly of sin, and not of shortcomings or disorders. That initial conviction is what exposes our fallen condition before a holy God who reaches into our condition with His complete love. That is where rebirth takes place – in the spirit.
An individual’s psychological abnormalities are therefore not a hindrance to the acceptance or understanding of God’s love, neither of that person’s need of salvation. It certainly can have an effect of an individual’s initial perception of God’s love and his need to accept it, but it cannot ultimately lock God out. The decision to remain unmoved by God’s love will be a cognitive one, just as with any other person who chooses such an action, as the sociopath still functions with a cognitive mind.
Having said that, we need to recognise the severity of sin; ultimately sin is at the root of any and all socio-disorders. If the sociopath’s behaviour stems from experiences earlier in life, those experiences are the result of the misconduct of others, and are therefore sin-based. All too often mental disorders are seen as psychological malfunctioning whilst all the while it is sin that is at the root of it.
This we see from the instance where Jesus healed the demon-possessed man. That man certainly had a host of behavioural disorders and could well have been described as being a sociopath. The cause or root of his problems was demonic influence, which in turn stems from sin – in other words he could not have been a saved Believer who became demon-ridden to the extend that he was. We read that the man was ‘in his right mind’ once the demons were exorcised.
All people who are without Christ are under the influence of demonic activity one way or another although it does not mean that all persons are demonically possessed, in other words, unwillingly controlled by demons and in need of exorcism before salvation can take place. The Bible tells of many instances where people accepted God’s offer of redemption and of many others where that same invitation was refused. Never does the Bible make mention of individuals who refused God’s grace because of social disorders. If that played a decisive role in the process of salvation then surely the Bible would have offered instructions for such cases, but there is none.
In as much as salvation comes by grace and ultimately finds completion in the spiritual, an individual of sober mind has the ability to reject grace. Whilst recognising that so-called chemical imbalances do exist and that physical infirmities are a part of this life, due to a variety of Biological and other reasons, and without downplaying its effects, psychological disorders are always the result of earlier abnormalities in life and are curable, or at the very least containable.
The healing power of God should not be underestimated and neither should psychological treatment of problems overshadow Biblical directives.
In summary; sociopathic behaviour does not render a person beyond salvation once he is brought to realise his desperate need for redemption; and once saved such a person is indwelled by the Holy Spirit just like anyone else and can and should grow in progressive sanctification through the laying off of sin, just like anyone else, all be it with some added complications and with the probable need of guidance and counselling.