More on Abuse from John MacArthur – Double Aaaargh!

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.


[February 13, 2023: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]

Well, what can I say? This speaks for itself. Once again this comes from the Grace to You website. Read it for yourself at Dialogue on Divorce (24 June 1979).

I think that John MacArthur needs to be called to task on this. We quote him saying these things in our book, A Cry For Justice.

John MacArthur from this point on (after the question) —

Question: Adultery is not the only extremely painful ingredient in a marriage, what do you recommend in your counseling where there is child molestation or wife beating or extreme alcoholism or some of those situations that — that become not just marginal but really intolerable for a wife we’ll say?

John: I think 1 Corinthians 7:10 says, very simply, I’ll read it to you, that there is an answer to that, and I think perhaps that’s what is in view in this text. It says, “If she divorces” — and it doesn’t give you any reason here, just says if she divorces — “let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband, but don’t let the husband divorce his wife.” What it is saying there is there may be a situation without adultery where you divorce, and it may be — in my mind, it’s one of those situations. You know, I can’t counsel a mother who says, you know, “What am I going to do? This man has committed incest with my child and he beats me up and etc., beats up the children and so forth and so on. Do I just sit there and take it? And the chairs on my head, and the stuff he throws at me, and the cigarette burns on my arm” — battered wives and all this stuff. What do I do? Well, certainly there is nothing in the Bible that says you just stand around until you’re beaten to a pulp. You know, God has built into the human being a certain sense of self-preservation, right? And it’s normal to separate yourself in that kind of situation. And maybe that’s what Paul is thinking about. There may come circumstances where divorce occurs, but if it isn’t on biblical grounds, that’s it. I mean, you can remain unmarried or be reunited. But I would say that’s only a possibility in that text.

I really feel that if we are obedient to the Word of God in that kind of a situation, God would give us the grace to endure a lot more severe things than we think. So what we do is this, we counsel people this way: If you’re in an abusive situation, there’s not adultery involved, it’s just abusive, cruelty, or something like that, I don’t think, you know, alcoholism is necessarily in the same category. But where there’s beatings where it affects you or the children, there’s nothing to say you shouldn’t step away, get away to preserve your own health and your own safety and your own security. You don’t need to stay there and just be beaten to a pulp. God’s given us a self-defense mechanism. But I don’t think that that’s grounds for divorce biblically. I think you have to hang in there, and that’s what makes great prayer warriors, people who can turn that kind of a thing into a draw-nigh-unto-God kind of relationship. You know, when all your family has forsaken you, the Lord will be your family.  [Emphasis added.]

[February 13, 2023: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to February 13, 2023 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 February 13, 2023 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 February 13, 2023 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (February 13, 2023), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]


Further reading

Grace Community Church Rejected Elder’s Calls to ‘Do Justice’ in Abuse Case — Christianity Today, February 9, 2023.

Former Elder at John MacArthur’s Church Confronts ‘Awful Patterns’ of Endangering Abuse Victims — The Roys Report, February 9, 2023.

18 thoughts on “More on Abuse from John MacArthur – Double Aaaargh!”

  1. JUST abusive, cruelty, or something like that [Capitalization done by the commenter.]


    But I don’t think that that’s grounds for divorce biblically.

    I disagree. He says that you don’t need to stay there and “be beaten to a pulp”, then three sentences later says that we should “hang in there, and that’s what makes great prayer warriors”. Maybe he needs to see a few videos on domestic violence and listen to a few stories from survivors?

  2. Well, I used to think that too, and when I left, I thought I would just remain separated. No need to divorce. Until I found that an abusive man will use EVERYTHING he can to abuse, even the fact that you are not divorced. When you are not divorced, you are legally still married and the law cannot do anything it if he steals from you or claims he is your husband when he wants something. There is no separation in the eyes of the law. In fact, I would say it is more unbiblical to be separated because a married partner should be obliged to meet the needs of the other person unless there is an agreed time for separation. Otherwise, a wife, even a separated one, has no right to be uncommitted or be unavailable emotionally or physically. I divorced because it was unbiblical to remain separated indefinitely.

    1. Yes, this “separate” business is just a way to try to avoid dealing with the real issue. Oh, I know that many victims try separation and try and try, and I applaud them for it. My problem is with the churches and pastors and theologians who are telling these women that “all they can do is separate”. Sure, then the abuser can keep doing all the nasty stuff you are talking about, ruin her credit, and so on. So glad you have divorced. Good job!

  3. Your book can’t be published fast enough. We need to get a copy of Barbara’s book, and yours, to him ASAP. I’ll pay postage.

    It is more than time to call him to task. This breaks my heart that Christian men, who have such influence, send the innocent back to her cell.

    1. Morven – I am not an organizer, but someone among Christian abuse victims needs to organize a conference or at least a “summit” where some serious planning can be done about sounding the alarm loud and clear. Personally, I don’t think many pastors and theologians will read our books — some will of course and a few will probably be changed. But I think the key here is to turn up the heat on the church by ministering to Christian women and educating them. Final revisions are now being made to the A Cry For Justice [Affiliate link] manuscript and I plan to send it to the publisher in 2 weeks. Barbara Roberts has helped Anna and I tremendously by editing and reviewing it for us.

      1. If you have faith like a mustard seed….God needs to provide a wealthy, caring and courageous sponsor. Let’s all make it a matter of prayer. We certainly have the speakers taken care of. 😉

  4. Infuriating! As a victim of emotional, verbal and (only sometimes) physical abuse, this just gets my blood boiling! I can’t count how many times I have been told “Perhaps this is just your cross to bear. Just think of what a wonderful witness you will be to others for having endured this all with grace!”

    1. Heidi: As a pastor, I have experienced abusers in the church who parade as eminent saints, duping everyone, and craving power and control over me, the pastor, so they can gain self-glory. It took me years to understand what was really going on. Years of self-doubt, false guilt, depression, and….well, I bet you know the whole list. One of the things these people do is tell victims of their abuse, or victims of other abusers, that “suffering is good for us” and we “just need to be kind and merciful to those who abuse us”. When I would confront evil in the church, these kind would land all over me for being “too harsh” and “mean”. By the Lord’s enablement, I survived and eventually came to have two wise Elders to stand with me. We no longer buy into the lies and we confront abusive people. They don’t stick around long.

      There is nothing wonderful in the Lord’s eyes about enduring abuse. In fact, He calls us to be wise to the enemy’s tactics and do battle. That means confronting abusers, especially the ones parading as Christians. So yes, MacArthur’s nonsense is indeed infuriating. He is very influential and has been disseminating this terrible teaching among conservative churches for many years now. I wish I knew a really good way to confront and correct him.

  5. It is frightening when John MacArthur suggests that continuing to endure an abusive situation will make people into “great prayer warriors”. Where is the Scriptural support for this statement? Trauma research has shown that continued severe trauma actually causes many people to lose their faith.
    The approach of the evangelical church to victims of family violence is scandalous and cruel. The secular world shows more justice.

    1. Kay – I love Christ, I love His Word, and I love genuine Christians. Nevertheless the church has its share of wolves among the sheep and Christians who perhaps have more Pharisee in them than they realize. As a result, I have often told my wife that I was treated more fairly when I was working as a police officer than I have been as a pastor in the Christian church. At least then I had some recognized rights as an employee. You are right – the secular world shows more justice in many cases, and here in regard to victims of abuse we have another example. It IS a scandal and it is cruel. The more I learn about abuse in the church and injustice to victims, the more convinced I become that a “New Pharisaism” has infected Christ’s church and, whatever that may look like, it is time for a thorough cleansing of the Temple!

  6. Without wanting to sound like a stuck record, I want to say that my book demonstrates that divorce and remarriage ARE biblical and fully permitted / allowed / justified in cases of domestic abuse. I have no idea whether John MacArthur is even aware of my book. After getting my hopes raised and dashed several times when I tried to interest “big shots” in my book, I gave up trying. It’s discouraging (not to say expensive) to be sending free copies off to all the big men in the USA, when I live in Australia and I’m not even sure they (or their minders) will open the package.

    I had my hopes raised by Ligon Duncan when I handed him my book personally a few years ago (he was speaking in Melbourne) and he told me at another venue two days later that he’d read half-way through it already and was impressed, and would contact me when he’d finished….but never did. I politely emailed his secretary many times, but gave up trying in the end. No answer. Not even an apology. And I sent a copy to John Piper’s ministry as well, but only got back an email from one of his minders months later “Thanks for sending us the book” (with no other comment or feedback).

    But why should I complain? We victims are used to being ignored, are we not?

  7. I also want to say that I’ve lost a good friend just recently, when I asked her to read and comment on a talk I’d written about domestic abuse in the narrative of The Levite’s Concubine. My friend was so critical of my piece she wouldn’t even go in to her reasons why. I bet I’m not the only one to have lost friends over this stuff. Sigh.

    1. Barbara – I have lost friends for 30 years in the pastorate. It isn’t fun, but it is to be expected as I am sure you know already. In the end, we have very few true friends who stick with us. That was Jesus’ experience and the same for Paul. If we suffer, and the reason we suffer is for being a Christian, then we can count all else as loss and press on. Your friend in this case is a woman.

      Here is a phenomenon that we haven’t written or spoken much about — women who are supporters of abusers. Sometimes they can be victims themselves and out of fear or other reasons they side with him against those who try to help them. In other cases I have seen professing Christian women raise the standard for abuse (in the name of supposed “biblical headship and submission”) because, I believe, their motive is to exalt themselves as eminently pious “submitters”. I know, for example of one pastor’s wife (he is a huge abuser) who boasts that her husband “won’t let her sin” and “sends her to her room” if she does. She boasted about that at a conference, and the people she boasted to were women. She told them “none of you could be married to my husband.”

  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.


    Double Yikes! (About that pastor’s wife.) That’s cringe-worthy!
    Jeff, the sad and inexplicable thing was that my friend understands cult abuse very well, so I always thought she ought to be able to understand marital abuse because there are so many parallels (initial charm, subtle escalation, coercive control, blame-shifting, guilt-tripping, Scripture twisting, brainwashing, isolation, the deliberate induction of self-doubt in the victim, lying, re-writing history…. But no. She didn’t get it. I felt I was going crazy, when she reacted like that. It called into question everything I’ve been working on for the last ten years. How could I be so wrong? Thank God my husband kept me from tumbling into a vortex of self-doubt.

    1. Barbara – I wonder how the enemy got to your friend? I just watched “Lord of the Rings” again. The scene where Gandalf goes back to seek the advice of his old, trusted mentor wizard — whatever the guy’s name was. There is that point when Gandalf realizes that his “trusted” mentor had in fact gone over to the enemy. I don’t mean that is necessarily as far as your friend has gone, but the question is, what turned her?

  9. MacArthur doesn’t appear to actually listen to himself when he talks. Incest IS adultery as well as gross and sick child abuse. A man’s sexual self is to be shared only with his wife. Not another woman, man or animal, and certainly not a child. I think this has to be an example of the way the letter-of-the-law thinking produces a live play of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” in the name of Christian obedience. Jesus did say that the Pharisees tended to strain out gnats but swallow camels! Arrrggggh.

    1. Well said. I’ve heard of other church leaders who prevaricated about whether an actual case of incest was a type of adultery. It boggles my mind! How can they have any doubts about that?

      1. Eughhhghhhhhh, it just says to me are you saved?? Where’s the leading of the Spirit in all this?? Are you so stuck in your ideas you cannot see stuff? Spiritual blindness or spiritually dead mmmm I tend to say both.

        In saying that, my pastor who gave our rubbish (I refrain from rude thought) re my divorce, within [a short time] had it laid at his own backdoor in his beloved family. Soon changed his tune, but has he come and apologised? Has he heck!! Eughhhhh

        I say again: Days you just have no words. I am getting that’s how Christ felt when standing before His accusers like a lamb to the slaughter. I’m sure inside, although He knew He had to do it for us and fulfil prophecy, He was saying yuk and eughhh maybe even aaaarghhhh in disgust anguish and inner pain. Just so so sad.

        Can a Christian be angry grrrrrrrrr too right we can!!!

        [Length of time airbrushed. Editors]

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