Why an Abuser Cannot be a Christian: The Argument Re-stated
Jeff Crippen ♦ 23rd April 2012 ♦ 42 Comments
I want to re-visit and re-affirm the fact — and it is a fact — that the abuser is not and cannot be a Christian. A person who is ruled by a mentality of entitlement, of power and control over others, who so lacks a conscience that he feels absolutely justified in the evil tactics he utilizes to get what he wants and to rule over his victims, is not a new creation in Christ. And I need to continue to affirm this because it is being denied in our churches. I know it is being denied because I continue to receive first-hand reports from Christians who are victims of terrible, ongoing (usually for decades) abuse who verify that their pastors and elders and fellow Christians are insisting that the abuser IS a Christian.
In this article then, I want to re-post Scripture which emphatically declares in plain, obvious terms that a truly re-generate person does not walk in the mentality and practices that the abuser does. A Christian can mistreat someone; but a Christian will repent of that sin and turn from it. Abusers do not. In their grandiose narcissism they refuse to receive correction, they will not acknowledge their sin and take full responsibility for it, and though they will claim repentance, their claim is a lie. They continue to walk in their sin. It is their nature. It is who they are. And that nature is the nature of the flesh, not of the new creation in Christ. Abusers are not Christians, and yet victims are being criticized and chastised by their pastors and fellow believers for making this conclusion.
Here is a description of the abuser and his goals taken from Lundy Bancroft’s lecture, the transcript of which is now posted on the Not Under Bondage [Internet Archive link from Barbara’s old website. Editors.] website:
“I certainly know couples where the man is the nice guy and the woman is the not-nice person. It has nothing to do with who is nice people or who’s not nice people. It’s not that image of the world where somehow men are bad and women are good. But it’s about tyranny and it’s about fear and intimidation and it’s about the belief that you have the right to create fear and intimidation, and that you can count on other people to back you up.”
Surely no one who knows the Word of God is going to try to maintain that a person whose life-goal is to exercise tyranny over others, who craves instilling fear in others through intimidation and who absolutely believes they have the right to do this and that everyone else needs to back you up in your reign of terror, is a redeemed, regenerated child of God! Anyone who insists that an abuser is a Christian, or who even leaves the door open to the possibility, is either woefully ignorant of God’s Word, clueless as to the nature of abuse, or both.
There is no such thing as a “carnal Christian (i.e., someone who claims to be a Christian but habitually and characteristically lives according to their sinful flesh). That is a fallacy.
Romans 6:16-18 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
Nor is there any such thing as a Christian who believes in Jesus as Savior but who refuses to obey Him as Lord. These distortions of Scripture have been taught and spread about widely in various forms, but they are totally antithetical to the Word of God. If you are married to an abuser, as we are defining him, then you are married to an unsaved man. Of that you can be sure. A huge amount of your confusion will disappear once you realize this.
Here are just some samples of Scriptures that affirm this and that are as “unclear” as a Mack Truck bearing down upon you! Read through them, BELIEVE them because they are the Word of God, and be sure that you look to them and not the traditions of men that are so abundant in the church today:
Matthew 7:16-21 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
Luke 6:43-46 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”
John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
1 Corinthians 2:14-15 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
1 John 4:6-8 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
1 John 4:20-21 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
1 John 5:1-3 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
You know that I could go on and on and on from Genesis to Revelation, citing verses that affirm these things about the Christian.
Why don’t we get this straight then?
In light of this mountain of Scripture that even defines a Christian as someone who has been re-born, how is it possible that we teach that a new creation looks like the same old person? There are several reasons, and none of them are good.
First, the gospel is often turned into a message of what we call easy-believism. A person walks forward in a church service or prays a simple pray asking Jesus into their heart, or signs some kind of pledge form at an evangelistic event. Voila! They are a Christian. But old things don’t seem to have passed away. Time goes on and they are the same old person they have always been, only now they are told that they are on their way to heaven.
Let me introduce you to another errant system of theology known, among other names, as the Federal Vision (or the New Perspective on Paul or Auburn Avenue Theology). We need to understand why this teaching is very likely to promote the suffering of an abuse victim in her church. The FV is not by any means the only source of the terrible counsel being pressed upon victims, but it certainly will produce that bad counsel — so we all need to be very much aware of it. FV takes different forms and nuances and goes by different names, but this is what is normally says, at least in part: A Christian’s assurance of his salvation is his baptism. The Christian should not look to himself for assurance that he is righteous before God, but to the objective fact that he has been baptized. The church consists of people who are in a covenant standing with Christ, and they got into that covenant by baptism. Even if their baptism was when they were an infant, it is that baptism that puts them into the church. They are to be considered a Christian until they prove otherwise by failing to perfect their justification by working out their baptism.
Now I realize that I will probably get slammed from the various proponents of FV theology here because their system is very, very difficult to understand and they are all the time claiming that we just don’t understand what they are saying. Well, I can understand the Word of God, and if I cannot understand someone’s system of theology, then I suggest that they need to make it understandable. But I have had enough personal contact with FV adherents that I know that these things are present to a greater or lesser extent in the FV. One of them came up to me once and said, “Jeff, our problem here is that you and I just don’t agree what a Christian is, or what the church is.” He was right. We don’t agree. And it wasn’t long before we confronted him with what he was spreading around our church and he went out from us.
What does this description of FV theology sound like to you? I hope that many of you are saying “Roman Catholicism.” Catholic folks are more than welcome on this blog and if any of them are in an abusive relationship, we want to help them. But we do not believe Roman theology is biblical and we do not believe that there is salvation to be found in its definition of justification.
Alright then, why is this FV system the enemy of abuse victims? Because pastors and Christians who adhere to it will insist that if an abuser has been baptized, he is to be considered a Christian. He is viewed by them as truly in Christ’s church. Therefore, they will tell his victim that she has no right to conclude that her abuser is an unsaved, unregenerate man. And all of the counseling will be based upon this assumption. By the way, FV theology crops up in paedo-baptism churches (infant baptism). It is an error that is spreading through Presbyterian churches. The PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) has determined that it is incompatible with the Westminster Standards (Confession of Faith and Catechism) which are the doctrinal standards of conservative Presbyterian churches. To his credit, R.C. Sproul and others in the PCA have stood solidly against the FV. But I do not know if any pastor or elder or church has been put out of the PCA at this point for embracing FV.
Does all of that sound complicated? You know, man-made systems are complicated and confusing. God’s Word can be deep and profound and His nature is incomprehensible in the sense that we can never completely plumb the depths of the knowledge of God and His truth. But His Word is nevertheless plain. And I ask you, in light of the Holy Scriptures, can a man who believes that the universe revolves around him, that he is therefore entitled to the very worship of his wife and children, that he is entitled to a god-like power and control over others, and that with no pangs of conscience he can rest completely justified in exercising his evil tactics to maintain that power and control – I ask you…. in spite of what men say, even if they have theological degrees and are highly regarded in their religious communities as great scholars… in spite of what they say… I ask you — what does the Word of God give as an answer to this question?
We implore you to be a Berean. Search the Scriptures and hold to Christ’s truth as your anchor. Then take heart and know that what God says is true, even if every person on earth is lying to you.
Romans 2:28-29 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
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.
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Jeff, I especially like the first part of this post. My wife, Faith, was raped and molested for years by her father who was a pastor at the time. We chose to assume that dad had repented, that Faith was his only victim and that he was a changed man, although he had never asked Faith for forgiveness. It wasn’t until years later when we realized that our misguided assumptions had allowed dad to continue hurting others. God woke us up 6 years ago when dad molested one of Faith’s nieces. He was 72 at the time. After much thought and study of the scriptures as to whether dad could possibly be saved or not, we came to the conclusion that there was no evidence that the Spirit of God resided in him.
Jude is a great book that deals with sexual predators. Most preachers that I have heard speaking on Jude simply say that it is talking about false teachers. But the danger to the faith that is mentioned in verse 3 is explained in verse 4 as those who use the Grace of God as lewdness or NIV says ‘License to sin’. Later it says that they use flattery to ‘gain advantage’. Men have crept into the church for the purpose of preying on the people for sexual gratification….sexual predators. Speaking Truth in Love [Internet Archive link]
Dale & Faith – Very, very hard experience for both of you I am sure. I visited your website and it is great, as are your articles. When you travel to various churches and speak on sexual abuse and domestic violence in the church, what kinds of reactions are you getting? Do you receive many invitations to come and speak? And your observations on Jude’s Epistle are excellent – warnings that we have been far too lax in heeding.
Thank you so much for your comments. Whenever we have had the opportunity to speak in churches we have received a very good response. Churches are the ideal venue for taking this message because everyone is there; the victims; the enablers; the uninformed; the leaders who need to do more; even offenders. It is getting the churches to have us come that seems to be the most difficult hurdle. I am still currently pastoring a church in upstate NY and they have been so good about giving us the time to travel and speak. Faith has grown so much since we started this ministry and it has been a blessing to see how God has worked in her life. When Faith is sharing her testimony and we are speaking on this issue, I have such a sense that this is what God is calling us to do. We have been praying that the doors will soon open so that we can devote our whole attention to this work.
Do you have the time to visit on the phone? If so let’s set up a time to visit.
I haven’t heard of the “Federal Vision” before but it sounds like nominal Christianity which is practiced in environments where it is socially necessary to be a Christian. In Catholic countries everyone is nominally Catholic, even if they never to church. This was probably true in countries with official Protestant churches, Anglican or Lutheran, up to maybe 50 years ago. If you come from a Mormon family you are a Mormon until you have your name officially removed from the roster. Christianity, of whatever kind is professed, is serving a function of social identity in these cases. To say somebody is not a Christian is removing them from respectable social identity, which people don’t want to do.
Jim – Yep, it costs all to follow Christ. John 9:21-22 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” (22) (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.)
Thanks, Jeff. It is something that I still struggle with. But I must take my cues from the infallible Word of God, so thank you for those verses.
I can believe what you post as a principle in general, but I still find it hard to apply to my personal situation. The thought entered my head when we first got serious, but I soon dismissed it because not one single elder, deacon, pastor or leader gave any hint that they doubted he was a Christian. Even now, if I were to put that to those who seem to be supportive and get it about him, they would be reluctant to draw that conclusion. Clueless, yes. Unsaved? Not so sure.
If I were to draw on my own experience of him, I would say that he has no idea that he is entitled and seeks to rule his wife and kids. He would not consider his actions evidence of a lust for power and control, rather that his actions are what godly fathers do, so he gets doubly provoked, not only for the infractions against him, but also for being told that his actions are wrong.
But here’s where it’s gone pear-shaped. He has tried to change his actions. He thought that by controlling his anger, he would address the marital and family issues. People who look at outward behaviour commend him on the change (instead of physically shoving, he walks away, instead of being a pew-warmer in church, he seeks God in prayer meetings, etc), encouraging him in the belief that he is on the right track. They don’t confront his entitlement because they don’t know he is – the words he uses have different definitions. Eg if a pastor were to ask him, what does loving your wife mean, he would say to care for her, cherish her, provide for and be emotionally supportive. And he would mean it. But the way the way he carries them out belies his entitlement. But he thinks that everyone is like him, so he is on the right track, and he is quite justified in that thinking because we have been surrounded by abusive marriages for many years. Besides, if you believe what you are told, eg that black is white, how would you know it is false and how do you know who to believe if you are told by some that it is false, and yet others agree with you?
I don’t know if it makes one bit of sense. Unless one lives with it, it is just too hard to put into words. I’m just trying to articulate why it is so hard for victims to draw that conclusion, and why it may be for others in the church community too.
Anon- I absolutely understand the “fog.” The fact is, we are what we are by nature. As sinners apart from Christ, look at how Paul tells us we used to live — Eph 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins Eph 2:2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– Eph 2:3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
See it?” By nature. We walked in our sins, according to the devil’s kingdom. His spirit led us, and we lived in that fleshly passion. We carried out the desires of our sinful mind. It defined who were were, and it defines the person who is still apart from Christ. That is the terrible blinding of it all — you don’t have to think about it, you just do it and think it because that is who you are.
These are great insights. Thank you MUCH for them.
Dear Anonymous, thanks so much for articulating this dilemma (how hard it is to see one’s abuser as an unbeliever, when he displays many of the outward behaviours that are expected of Christians). I think this is a really hard nut to crack for many victims / survivors.
What your account makes me think of is the “wide road that leads to destruction, and the narrow road that leads to life.” If many people in that church, even your supporters and confidantes, see your ex as a Christian, or at least are reluctant to label him an unbeliever, I would be asking “How many people in that church understand true Christianity? How many are actually able to discern spiritual truths?” If the majority can’t see below the surface of your ex’s behaviour, then what else can’t they see in the Kingdom of God? Are we prepared to conceive of the possibility that many in the church are not real believers, but only nominal Christians?
You say of your ex-husband: “He would not consider his actions evidence of a lust for power and control.”
Hang on and think for a minute. Is that what he would tell you? Or is that what he thinks inside his heart? Remember, Lundy Bancroft says abusers know what they are doing, and they do it on purpose. They love manipulating us so we think they are not purposefully hurting us, because that way they can take advantage of our goodwill and generosity.
I recall the accounts I’ve read from a few more honest abusers. For example:
“As her partner, I knew her most intimately so I knew exactly how to hurt her the deepest, and I did,”
Read the full article here
‘I see now – emotional violence cuts to the bone’ [Internet Archive link]
I’m re-visiting this and processing a bit more, so please bear with my questions.
“He would not consider his actions evidence of a lust for power and control.” No, I actually think he wouldn’t because he sees others doing the same thing, or because he actually tells mentors/counselors/pastors of his actions and some don’t recognize it either, so they validate him. If he thought his actions revealed abuse, why would he tell others? Those things that he knows are wrong, he wouldn’t tell others. In fact he is always careful to do things he thinks are right, like pay taxes (never pays cash), tithe, visit the sick, spend time with kids, etc. I think Lundy Bancroft once noted that abusers will stop at what they consider morally wrong. But because they consider (I mean genuinely here, not as a cover-up) their wrongs right, they do them.
So the question is, can a person be saved and not have his mind renewed because his thinking is following old familiar patterns laid down by family or society? He does what he is told is right but if he has never been told by the church about domestic violence being about power and control, he has no idea. He knows physical violence is wrong, so he doesn’t do that any more. But he doesn’t know that he shouldn’t be contacting me, because his “mature” friends not only tell him to “reach out”, they sometimes help him by being the go-between.
I agree with the article above, but I must admit that most evangelicals are taught that some Christians have unrenewed minds. Some are more fleshly than others (and the scripture quoted is I Corinthians, where the Apostle Paul calls the Christians there carnal). Some believe that you can have weaknesses or blind spots in certain areas so that you may be a great preacher, or administrator, or mercy-giver, or prophet, but not have revelation about power imbalances in relationships. A friend of mine insists that he is not unsaved but deceived in that area. I just don’t know how to reconcile these beliefs with the argument put forward in the article above.
Anon – The carnal Christian teaching is unscriptural. What we find in Scripture is that every Christian is a new creation. Each one has been taught by Jesus and is being led by the Spirit (Romans 8). Our mindset has been changed (see Eph 2:1ff), we now love Christ and the Law of God. At the same time, sanctification is a continuing process, but it is in process in every real Christian. It is impossible for a person to be a Christian and not have these things true of them. We are taught by Christ to love one another (1 John). Coming to understand these things is what started making the Bible make sense to me, and also led me to embrace Reformed Theology, discarding the particular brand of dispensational theology I had been taught all my life and which kept me from making sense out of Scripture. This is why I am confident that I can say that there is no way a person who is driven by entitlement to power and control over others and fully justified in using whatever means are necessary to get that control can be a Christian. The thing is totally foreign to the whole definition the Bible gives of the child of God. Note also John 13:34ff in which Jesus tells us (John makes this a huge theme in 1 John as well) that the ultimate test of our profession of Christ is love. If a person does not love his brother, yet he says he loves God, he is a liar.
Okay Jeff, so if the carnal Christian teaching is unscriptural, can you please exegete 1 Cor. 3:1-3 for us so we can understand it for ourselves. I get stuck over the fact that Paul refers to these people as ‘babes in Christ’. He calls them carnal/worldly, but he nevertheless calls them babes in Christ.
Anon, I resolved it by simply giving it to God.
Is the woman who was formerly my spouse a very weak, very immature, very fleshly believer with a lot of addictions? Or is she an unbeliever masquerading as a believer?
God knows. Only God truly knows the human heart and only God knows what is required to bring us to Him.
God knows and I can entrust it to Him. Either way, there is nothing further I can do about it. God has relieved me of the burden of feeling responsible for that which is beyond my control.
Joe, thanks for your reply. I don’t know where this reply is going to be placed because I couldn’t hit reply to your post!
I don’t feel responsible for his changes. The reason why I am re-visiting this is because I need to resolve it with my fellow survivors in our advocacy work. My concern is to base everything on scripture because experience is not good enough to build theology on, and people keep arguing about their cases (some say they were abusive and Christian so if they can change, we shouldn’t conclude that other abusers are not saved). If we can’t agree on this it is hard to be on the same page when talking to Christians about how to deal with this in their churches. If pastors keep ministering to perpetrators on the basis that they understand the Word of God when they have no relationship with Christ, then it is going to terribly ineffective.
But yes, I agree with you that on a personal level, there’s nothing I can do about his life, so I just give it over to God. His perfect justice will always prevail.
Yes, I agree that for church leadership more may need to be looked at, both in terms of church discipline and protecting the flock.
Wouldn’t the same principle apply, though?
We’re told to treat unrepentant believers as unbelievers.
Let God judge the heart. Our job is to inspect the fruit and act accordingly.
“Treat unrepentant believers as unbelievers.” Bingo!
Yes, I get what you mean. But how does that explain the fact that I have relatives who are unbelievers, and by nature walking in fleshly passion, and yet, they are not entitled and treat their wives well? On the other hand, my husband believes that his problem was that he wasn’t close to God and walked carnally. So now he attends everything and reads his Bible, etc. My unsaved relatives don’t do that, but yet they aren’t perpetrators of abuse. (I am thinking of a particular person who is very considerate and gentle, not just to his family but just in general.) Entitlement is not part of his belief system, unlike that of my abuser, who doesn’t know he is entitled (he believes that his thinking is what it should be).
I don’t mean to argue the fact that if a person professes to love Christ and live/die for Him, it would just not make sense that such fruit could come out of his/her life. I guess we see too many examples of perpetrators of abuse who are considered Christians and we don’t question it because we accept that one can be flawed in that area and still be a Christian. You know, the oft-repeated “forgiven, not perfect”.
Good questions for sure. I think that the answer lies in the fact that sin evidences itself in different forms. The nice fellow you speak of, if he is truly unsaved, is hostile to God and hates the Law of God. Strange, but true. If pressed far enough with the truth of the gospel, he would reject it as foolishness. He just happens to have a personality or a philosophy that enables him to appear kind and good. But apart from Christ, the human heart is evil. It prides itself in its “goodness.” So, such a person can be successful in a marriage, treating his wife and children well and providing for them well. But be sure that his sin is there, and that the light of the gospel will expose it. Try, for instance, explaining to him from Scripture that he is headed for hell unless he turns from himself to faith in Christ. See what happens.
Now, as to your husband – his sin takes a different form, though at its heart it is the same. An unsaved man hates God, though he be ever so religious. Think of the Apostle Paul, for example, when he was still the Pharisee Saul and breathing out threats against Jesus. Yet a more religious man you would never find.
Here then is the contrast. You could have a successful marriage with the first kind of guy (your relative), but not with the second one (your husband). The first may make no profession of Christ at all. The second makes all kinds of Christian profession. Yet both (I don’t know your husband obviously so I am speaking of an abuser here) are very much unsaved and under God’s wrath.
Perhaps this final thought might help you. You don’t need to know beyond a shadow of a doubt if your husband is unsaved (I think as time progresses that becomes clearer). But what you do know is that he has the abuser mindset – the entitlement – and that means that he serves self, not others.
The difference is in the abuser’s motivation. A believer who is eager to please God, who is rightfully fearful of God, who attempts to love his neighbor as himself , does so out of the love for God that overflows from the love of God he has received. The narcissist is able to display an “an if” life, acting as if he were a Christian but doing so in order to receive “narcissistic supply” which he feasts on as a vampire (if there were such as thing) does blood. This NS, admiration, adoration, lusty attention is what he feeds on and is all he cares about,…not the suppliers, not the Lord, just the NS.
Right on, Pippa. That is why Jesus said: Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (22) On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ (23) And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
This confused me for years and years too -how could someone appear to be ‘a good Christian’ and yet be really cruel.Now I realise there’s a simple difference in viewpoints.
I see myself as a horrible sinner, completely unable to avoid sinning except for Christ.When inevitably I do cause hurt to someone, I try to put it right but don’t necessarily expect to be forgiven or trusted by them.I know I don’t ever deserve God’s forgiveness.
My husband insists he is a good person who just makes a few mistakes.Because once he made a mental decision to be a Christian,he believes he has his ticket to heaven. He believes that now whatever ‘mistakes’ he makes, God automatically forgives him when asked,that’s all he needs to do. And he says because God has forgiven him, so must everyone else. It took me a long time to see that he is able to maintain a good image by strength of will, but has never truly repented of anything.
I have read all these comments. It confuses me that a man who has claimed to be a born-again follower of Jesus, has been a pastor, knows Scripture very well; I saw evidence of him walking in true repentance and obeying God for periods of time, he even shared Christ with people and they got saved, how could this all be pretense and not true Christianity? I believed I married a man who wanted to love and serve God. The years of abuse caused much confusion for me and I questioned if he was truly born again. This is very difficult subject for me. Maybe I just need to give God some time to help me wrap my mind and emotions around this truth.
It is confusing – and that is the devilish part of the thing. Consider the following – which I believe is speaking of a person who was never saved. But think on these verses and how incredibly far an unsaved person can go in regard to apparent “godliness” – Hebrews 6:4-6 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.
Jonathan Edwards wrote much on this subject.
If anyone can find an online version of what Jonathan Edwards wrote on Hebrews 6:4-6, can you please post the link here so we can all read it?
I also had much confusion about whether my former husband was a Christian or not. After about fifteen years of marriage I suddenly realised that I was married to an unbeliever and I was shocked that I could have done such a thing. Then it all made sense. I was so careful not to marry an unbeliever. I was a young Christian myself and believed he was a Christian without thoroughly checking him out. The elders and pastor were convinced that he was a Christian. No-one told me that they believed that he wasn’t born-again before I married him. He had deceived us all. He attended church and bible studies regularly. He made friends with elders and pastors. At home he didn’t open his bible, didn’t speak of the things of God, wasn’t interested in them at all. He was cruel and abusive. When he was in the company of Christians he managed to turn the conversation around to his illnesses or his mechanical achievements. He didn’t know the word of God so he had to change the subject. He was very cunning and I don’t think anyone realised he was doing it. It was only after I understood that he wasn’t born again that it all made sense. I was SO CONFUSED for years.
It is not an easy thing to discern. It takes years to even recognize patterns as patterns and not isolated incidents. Then there is the sorting out what was completely lies and manipulation versus what was honest failed attempts.
I finally reached a point of saying that is between her and God, to work out her salvation.
“… there is the sorting out what was completely lies and manipulation versus what was honest failed attempts.”
THANK YOU Joe! This helps me a lot. You’ve articulated something I’m mulling over right now.
And you’re right: in the end, when it all washes up, we have to consign it to God. We can never know for sure, regarding each incident or pattern, how much was deliberate evil manipulation, and how much was honest failed attempts. The abuser is so clever they can leave us guessing interminably. In fact, I don’t think most abusers are all that clever, but Satan the father of lies, is. It’s him, ultimately, who does this. (Not to exonerate the abusers)
“I don’t think most abusers are all that clever”
Clever, yes. Wise, no.
They are very good at deceiving. They are very poor at recognizing they have been deceived much more deeply than those they, themselves, have deceived.
It is easy for someone to believe they are enlightened when they have managed to deceive everyone else. Yet they have fallen for the greater deceit by the father of lies…
Isaiah 28:14-22 has much to say about those who make falsehood their refuge and conceal themselves with deception.
Thank you, Barbara!
“Abusers are very good at deceiving. They are very poor at recognizing they have been deceived much more deeply than those they, themselves, have deceived. It is easy for someone to believe they are enlightened when they have managed to deceive everyone else. Yet they have fallen for the greater deceit by the father of lies…”
Thanks to you, too, Joe. Great to bounce off each other as we probe into the truth. In the movie business they use fog machines. I feel like we’re developing anti-fog machines here!
I started writing down the isolated incidents and maybe I’m not crazy after all. Is it ok to consider the things in the past as still part of the problem now?
SJR – absolutely!
Absolutely! It is essential to consider the things in the past as part of the current problem, for two reasons.
First, it is important to look at overall behavior patterns and cycles. Any given specific event may seem explainable…plausible…even excusable…able to be overlooked. It is when viewed in the context of overall behavior patterns and cycles that we begin to see the abuse in all its evil ugliness.
Second, there really is no such thing as current behavior by which to judge another person’s heart and motives. By the time another person acts and I perceive that action, the action is already in the past. Therefore, all we have on which to base our decisions of levels of trust of another person is our experiences of their past behavior.
This position may seem somewhat theoretical or philisophical. However, it is an important concept, because abusers are so good at deceiving and so good at convincing their victims to forgive the past and focus on the present. By the time we figure out how evil their actions are, some of those specific actions are likely to be months or years in the past…yet they are our most current information of that level of depravity…and they represent a recurring pattern of behavior that can only be seen across multiple months and/or years.
Joe, I’ve thought along those lines too. Abusers are deceitful, but they themselves are being deceived by Satan.
I see how confusing this has been to me, as I am one who is enduring this type of theology. It begins to make me wonder if I am displeasing God, by holding to the thought that if we are in Christ, we are a “new creation” and the old has passed away. To me, that would include abusive behavior. So, when I say my husband cannot be born again, because of this vast difference between him and me, my pastor says that I cannot judge, HE will be the one to judge, because the abuser has been baptized and then he goes into this equal balance of both of us being to blame, because we are all sinners. I am left guilt ridden for whatever gets blamed on me, about being a poor wife and not submitting enough or finding my place or role in life, or maybe “things” are just sin to me and not really sin at all. Our Church denies that they are associated with FV, but when Catholicism is mentioned, it gets the nod of approval. Lots of our folk are people who used to be Catholic. I get so confused by all of this, that I just weep, because it causes me to be unable to think straight. It seems that they are just trying to blend everything together.
Anyone ever heard of not being able to leave a Church without being put under discipline, unless the new Church you attend is just like the one you are currently in, meaning holds to the same doctrines and teachings? If so, is there anything you can do about this?
Yes, I’ve heard of places like that. The normal word for them is ‘cults’. And of course, if you ask the people in the cult “Is this a cult?” they always say “no, we are not a cult!” You might like to look up the marks of a cultic church. There are many websites that address this.
Cults generally (always?) have (1) wrong beliefs – which in the case of Christian cults means their theology on at least one of the fundamentals of Bible believing Christianity is wrong; and (2) cultish group dynamics – the pressure to conform to certain norms that are not biblical or are only secondary issues, the unstated but implied expectations about how people must interact with each other. Often, the unstated stuff is completely in contradiction with the rhetoric of what they say they believe. But the unstated rules are what really counts; the rhetoric is just window dressing.
Anon- This is the heresy of the Federal Vision theology. It really is nothing more than Roman Catholic doctrine and says that baptism makes a person a Christian and places them in the church. Then it is up to the person to “work out their justification” or they can fall short of it. The Bible teaches no such thing of course. We are justified by faith alone in Christ alone and when we are justified, regenerated, and renewed, there will always be a change from the old person to the new. Not perfection, but a progressive sanctification into the image of Christ. If there is no fruit of justification then there has been no justification.
You have a right to attend any church that you desire. If your original church (which, as Barbara says sounds like more of a cult) does not approve of your new church then they can have their opinion. But unless you are renouncing Christ in making that change and joining a heretical religion of some kine, there is no basis for church discipline and any efforts on their part to put you under discipline should be disregarded by you. Such an action would be meaningless and without the endorsement of Christ.
It sounds to me like, if you have not done so already, that it is high time for you to get away from your “church” which has apparently embraced a false gospel of faith plus works, the very thing that the Reformation worked to free us of.
Does baptism necessarily imply regeneration and entrance into the Kingdom of God? If a person has been baptised, does that necessarily mean they have the Holy Spirit indwelling in them? No. Look at Simon the Sorcerer:
“You have neither part nor lot in this matter…” Sounds to me like Peter was saying to Simon, “You’re not in the Kingdom!”
Consistent abusers are definitely not Christians for the fear of God does not abide in them.
The article in this link speaks of abusive-parents —
but it seems apt to this topic as well since churches
so often falsely tell BOTH abused-children and also
abused-spouses to “honor” the abuser by tolerating
the behavior as a part of their “christian duty” to
be “long-suffering”, “submissive” and “forgiving”.
Luke 17:3 Ministries: Some more thoughts from my upcoming book Narcissistic Confrontations.
Yes, we must also qualify “children obey your parents” with “in the Lord.” We must take care not to send children back to an abusive parent, telling them the Lord wants them to obey and submit. If we do that in an abuse situation then we are contributing to the “provoking” of these children to wrath.
Reading these old posts is wonderful because it shows that the truth was here from the beginning. I’m so grateful!
I’d like to share an experience my daughter had. She was in high school–only attending part-time as she was doing home-schooling and we had only recently moved to the area–so she only knew a few of her classmates. She was a quiet student and would go in for class and then I would be there to pick her up. One day a girl in one of her classes randomly walked up to her and asked her if she was a Christian. My daughter replied that she was, and this girl proceeded to ask her if being baptized as an infant meant that she was saved and if this would protect her from demons. My daughter bravely and kindly said “No.” She briefly explained that it was a choice a person had to make when they were able to make this decision for themselves. The girl went on to explain that she thought she was possessed by demons, that she thought it was due to the many T.V. shows she watched about the paranormal and that she could often see them now in her room. My daughter reassured her that this was a possibility and this girl was so relieved to be able to talk about it and not to be considered crazy or lied to by being told that baptism as an infant protected her. (We’d encountered much demonic activity while we were overseas so we were familiar with the truth and reality of this.) My daughter saw her a few times after this and we did buy her a Bible, but it was the end of the school year and she didn’t see her after that. (In our own life God was waking us up to the truth about psychopathy and abuse and we could barely keep our heads above water due to PTSD and oppressive financial debt.)
God prepares us doesn’t he? He uses all of our experiences to prepare us for a future he alone knows about but one that will richly bless his children. My daughter was able to speak biblical truth to this girl which provides Godly comfort and hope.
This wrong teaching that baptism as an infant protects a person is so dangerous and it’s another one of those things that keeps us from coming to and growing in the Lord. Thank you for addressing this–another lie exposed!
What a great story, Anonymous. Give your daughter a hug from me. 🙂