The “Christian” Abuser and Hebrews 6:4-8
UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.
[July 1, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
(Hebrews 6:4-8 ESV) (4) For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, (5) and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, (6) and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. (7) For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. (8) But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.
What do you think? What I want to discuss here is the possibility that an abuser who has chosen to wear the mask of Christianity is what theologians call a “reprobate.” The subject relates to the common question — is he really a Christian, this man who says he believes in Christ and who appears as a pious saint in his church, yet is consumed by a lust for power, and control? And the question goes further — is it possible that such a man, if we assume that he is not saved, ever can be? A reprobate is a person like Pharaoh, raised up for the very purpose of demonstrating the justice of God, a vessel appointed to destruction (Romans 9). Let me emphasize that it is NOT my goal here to suggest that we can know with certainty who such people are. Ultimately they are known only to God. Rather, the purpose here is 1) to warn all of us of the dangers of persisting in hypocritical, false Christianity, and 2) to encourage abuse victims to consider why waiting and waiting for her abuser to “get saved” is probably not a very wise way to deal with an abusive situation.
I know a lady who is focused upon her abuser’s salvation. She is wise and has separated from him. But she believes Christ is going to save him. May her faith increase and if she believes this is her calling, then blessings on her. But I would not advise it in general to abuse victims. In fact, most survivors will tell you that their eyes began to be opened to what was happening to them when they came to realize that their abuser was never going to change.
When a person decides to embrace Christianity as a mask to hide behind, they commit a sin that is very odious to the Lord. Consider what the writer of Hebrews is saying in the verses above. There are people, he says, who have been in Christ’s visible, local church, people who have eaten the bread and who have drunk the cup of Christ in the ordinance of communion, people in whom the Holy Spirit has worked so that they really know the Gospel is true and that the promises of Christ are sure, but who then reject it all. Christians differ a bit on their interpretation of this passage, especially in respect to whether it is possible to be a Christian and then fall away from Christ and end in hell. For myself, I do not think this is possible. Christ does not lose one of His sheep whom the Father has given Him (John 10, John 17). But that aside, at least we know that there are people who are in the very midst of Christ’s body, His church, who reject what they know to be true.
Now, notice what the Scripture says of them. It is impossible to renew them again to repentance. They are Esaus. Their end is to be burned. This is why I have often told our church here that the pews of the Christian church are the most dangerous place in the world if anyone who sits in them, listening to Christ’s truth week after week, rejects it.
Yet this is precisely what the “Christian” abuser does! Many of you could give first hand accounts, and I have heard many of them, of how your abuser played the game in church. How he deceived and even continues to deceive the church. He is an apostate – having rejected what he knows to be the truth, but he remains in the church anyway. What kind of mind does it take to do that and still be able to sleep at night? It is the mind of the sociopath – the mind with no conscience. In some way, this kind of person is especially wicked in God’s sight because he holds up Christ to open shame, just as the mockers did when Christ was crucified. They mock him by their evil façade.
My point is this — the abuser who is pretending to be a Christian is the hardest and most treacherous of all abusers. And we are told by the Apostle John that there is a category of person for whom he does not require us to pray —
(1 John 5:16) If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life — to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.
I think John is speaking of the unpardonable sin, and I think that this sin is committed just as Hebrews 6 describes it. It is committed by a person who, by the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, has come to KNOW the truth of Christ and even, you might say, have been given a glimpse and taste of the glories of heaven, but who, like Esau, despises it. And I submit that the abuser who plays the Christian is exactly such a person.
Now, someone might point to Saul of Tarsus and how he horribly abused Christians, yet God gloriously saved him and we know him as the Apostle Paul. But I would simply answer — Saul of Tarsus believed and repented when Christ appeared to him. This is something the abuser does not do. Paul even said of himself —
(1 Timothy 1:12-13) (12) I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, (13) though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief… [Emphasis added.]
I do not presume to know the final word on all of these things I have discussed here. I would love to hear your comments. But I do think that I am correct in saying that victims of abuse need to at least have the information that their abuser, if he is playing Christian, is one of the hardest, most evil kinds of sinners. The likelihood that he is ever going to repent and come to faith in Christ is very slim. That he has already had truckloads of God’s mercy shown to him through hearing the Gospel, and probably through the faithful testimony of his wife. Yet he rejects it all. She needs to know these things in order to make an informed decision about her future.
And, once more I am the bearer of bad tidings: she probably will not hear these things from her church. Instead, she is going to be given a false hope. “God loves everyone, even your husband. Just be faithful and pray for him and be patient and Jesus will save him.” I have concluded that these kinds of things are not only bad advice, they are bad and unbiblical theology. God’s Word tells us differently.
[July 1, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to July 1, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to July 1, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to July 1, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (July 1, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]