A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Abuse and Divorce: The “No Divorce Allowed” Position of Debi Pryde

What to do When You are Abused by Your Husband (Iron Sharpeneth Iron Publications 2003) is co-authored by Debi Pryde and Robert Needham.  In the “Questions Abused Wives Commonly Ask” section, this is a question posed and the answer the authors give:

Question: I often feel like I hate my husband when he berates me and pushes me around, but I don’t want to divorce him.  Will scaring him by threatening to divorce him or separate from him help him know how I feel when he rejects me and make him more serious about changing?

Answer: If you expect God to bless  your efforts, you must take every step in redemptive love. Never must the motive of revenge or retribution be allowed a moment’s lodging in your heart.  Your only goal must be the restoration and biblical restructuring of the marriage.  Although separation may be necessary, divorce is NOT [all-caps emphasis is Pryde / Needham’s] an option.  You must be jealous to articulate that whenever the subject of separation is brought up.  Only what is done in Christ-like love will last and bear fruit.

Pryde has quite a few other titles published under the Iron Sharpeneth Iron logo: Secrets of a Happy Heart; Happily Married; Why Am I so Angry?; Why Am I so Depressed?; What is Modesty? and others.  I would be interested to know her prescription for anger and depression.  If any of our readers are familiar with her writings, perhaps they could share in the comments here.

As to the no-divorce position she states:  this is just really, really terrible.  It sounds like the same old mantra we hear from “biblical counselors” and which, as nouthetic counseling does, places abuse victims in a hopeless and even dangerous position.  Consider what the question/answer formula quoted above does:

  • Denies the validity of the victim’s anger to being berated and “pushed around.”  What is being “pushed around” anyway?  Violence!
  • Pryde stamps God’s authority on her position: “If you expect God to bless your efforts….”
  • Lays the duty of “redemption” upon the victim! Aaaaarrrgh!  Redemptive love?  Please!  We are hearing this “redemptive” business tossed around all over the place it seems.  WE ARE NOT REDEEMERS!  JESUS IS!  Pryde communicates in these words that it is the mission of the victim to “redeem” (fix, repair, save) her abuser.  Bad, bad, stuff.
  • NEVER must the motive of revenge….!  So when a victim finds herself wanting the Lord to bring judgment upon her abuser, is she sinning?  Was David sinning when he wrote the imprecatory Psalms?  I realize that Pryde seems to be talking here about the error of taking revenge into our own hands, but she also communicates pretty clearly that ANY desire for vengeance to be brought upon the wicked abuser is never right.  And that is just wrong.
  • The victim’s ONLY goal is to be restoration and biblical restructuring of the marriage!  Second aaaaarrrrgh!  How about the goal of saving her life and the lives of her children?  And, Debi, just exactly how are you going to “restructure” a non-marriage with a wicked spouse into a “biblical” marriage?  I suspect that Debi’s answer is that the victim will, by functioning as redeemer, save her abuser…and they all lived happily ever after.
  • So nothing at all that the victim does will ever be consistent with Christ-like love unless Pryde’s formula is followed.

I don’t know Debi Pryde.  She may be a genuine, fine, godly woman who truly desires to help.  But sincerely wrong is still wrong, and what she says here is wrong, wrong, wrong.

P.S. –  Here is the first part of Debi Pryde’s article What is Biblical Counseling? which can be found on her website at Debi Pryde What is Biblical Counseling?

Psychology approaches human behavior from a secular, humanistic perspective. Accordingly, Biblical revelation is irrelevant to understanding or changing human behavior. Psychology seeks to describe and explain human behavior apartfrom what God has clearly revealed. Its premises are derived from man-made theories, human wisdom and research conducted without a corresponding search for truth as God defines truth. The end result is a field of study that has yielded hundreds of conflicting theories, constantly changing hypotheses and a plethora of widely opposing “experts” who disagree from one school of thought to the next as to the cause and cure of man’s behavioral difficulties. Worse still, it is a field of study that produces endless therapy with little lasting help. It is satisfied to control rather than conquer destructive behavior and mitigate rather than eliminate its devastating effects.

By contrast, the emphasis in Biblical counseling is exactly opposite. Whereas secular psychology begins with a study of man’s ideas, Biblical counseling begins with a study of the Word of God as it relates to human behavior and human need. It is dependent upon the revealed mind of God rather than the easily deceived mind of man. Yet it does not just begin with God, it follows a path that is in constant harmony with the Word of God and addresses man’s problems in light of God’s answers. God’s truth is the focal point of Biblical counseling because it is God’s truth obeyed that enables believers to know the truth that sets them free, as Christ describes in John 8:31-32. The desired end of Biblical counseling is a life filled with God’s goodness and the good outcome of spiritual maturity, which includes not only wisdom and understanding, but the character qualities of genuine love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness (humility), temperance (self-control).

The fruit of God’s Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23 is essentially what secular psychology strives to duplicate, but can only imitate– for one can learn to act loving, joyful, longsuffering or self-controlled without actually being any of these things. Because of our sinful nature, human beings cannot be truly transformed and changed into a person motivated by God’s love and characterized by His love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, humility or self-control apart from conformity to the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit. An accurate view of man cannot be attained apart from God’s Word, for the Bible is filled with instruction and enlightenment that addresses man’s true needs. These are the very same root issues psychologists attempt to explain and resolve without recourse to God and his principles.

What God reveals about Himself and His creation profoundly affects our understanding of human emotions and behavior. For instance, though psychologists are able to easily observe the devastating emotional and behavioral effects of unresolved guilt, the Bible alone provides man with the criteria necessary to reject false guilt and at the same time, resolve real guilt stemming from specific violations of God’s laws. There are not three hundred and fifty different ways to resolve genuine guilt. There are not even two ways to resolve guilt—God provides only one. Apart from repentance and faith in God’s promises to forgive, human beings are left to “manage” guilt, but have no means to actually remove it.

We cannot presume to think counseling can be “neutral” or can be separated from one’s world view, for even a silent counselor makes a statement as to what he or she believes will help those who come for assistance. Because God’s conclusions may not bear any resemblance to man’s conclusions, man cannot possibly hope to respond to life’s adversities, interpersonal relationship problems, human frailties, perplexities or injustices without the broader view of man’s purpose and eternal existence as designed by God. To think one can resolve his problems without the help or enlightenment of God’s Word is as foolish as believing one can learn to fix his car by consulting with a chef and reading a cookbook. The chef might know how to cook, and the cookbook might have some great information about food preparation, but they aren’t going to help someone learn the mechanical complexities of a car engine much less how to fix it. For that you need to consult an owner’s manual written by the car manufacturer or enlist the help of a good car mechanic who is experienced fixing cars.

This is the very kind of thing that we discussed in our recent blog post on nouthetic counseling.  Pryde does not use the term nouthetic, but her approach is the same, and with the same damaging results.


  1. Kim Guevara


    Rev. Kim

  2. joepote01

    “…you must take every step in redemptive love.”

    The one phrase she got right!

    God’s redemptive grace redeems us from covenants of abusive bondage into liberty in Christ!

    Yes, “take every step in redemptive love,” starting with the first step of leaving the abusive spouse, then continue to walk in the liberty and grace of Christ Jesus, our Great Redeemer!

    • “…you must take every step in redemptive love”

      When I hear “redemptive love” I think of the book “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers. It was my ex’s favorite book and is supposed to be a relatively modern retelling of Hosea. I haven’t read it (though I did try at one point), but from what I understand the idea is that Hosea takes this broken and abused girl and loves her into redemption, even as she causes him pain. I really think that this is what she expected me to do- she knew she was broken and wanted me to fix her. The flaw in her plan is that I am no redeemer, and I’d argue neither was Hosea.

      Hosea is not about how awesome he was at redeeming a broken, sinful women- it is about him living out God’s tumultuous relationship with Israel. The thrust of the message is that Israel abandoned God. There is an eye toward restoration and redemption, but it is Gods’ redemption (and possibly with a NEW bride), not Hosea’s faithfulness that restores. And Hosea suffered greatly for this prophecy, a clear calling of God to do so. Is every broken marriage intended to be a prophetic example of Israel’s abandonment of God?

      I can’t tell you how many times Hosea was brought to me as example of how I was supposed to love my wife.

      • Laurie

        My ex husband had a book, also. Written by a man who has since had to step down from the ministry due to infidelity. Basically, the book said, “When you feel bad about yourself and what you have done, just keep telling yourself, ‘Jesus died for you.’ ” That put whatever he did into the realm of “You can’t touch me. I cannot be corrected.” (The latter statement is a direct quote.)

      • joepote01

        Yes, Hosea is often misconstrued as an example to be followed. I dealt with that, too.

        And yes, the phrase “redeeming love” is often misapplied to place mere humans in the role of redeemers…as Debi Pryde was doing in this case.

        I intentionally lifted that phrase, out of context and turned it around to mean the opposite of Debi’s apparent intent.

        My reverse-application of her words rightly places Jesus (rather than the victim of abuse) in the position of Redeemer.

        Even in the Old Testament law, where statutes are recorded in regard to redemption, right of redemption, and kinsman redeemer, scripture makes it clear that the REASON for retaining right of redemption is because they belong to the Lord.

        GOD redeems those who are His! He retains right of redemption, for His children from ALL covenants of abusive bondage.

      • no name please

        Can I just say, my ex still thinks his affair is the reason I filed for divorce and won’t let him back in the house. He stole all my emails where I documented the abuse and my relief of not being on eggshells ( and justified to his pastor why he had a valid reason to enter my house when I wasn’t there and “accidentally” download all my emails) . He doesn’t get the abuse!! Not that the affair thrilled me but a one time thing I could have gotten over, but the daily emotional, psychological and sexual abuse…no, one does not easily put that aside especially when the perpetrator denies it!!

  3. no name please

    Screaming with you! Argh!! Doesn’t that go against the “you can only change yourself ” philosophy of nouthetic counseling? I was very frustrated with those counseling me offering me “ways to communicate” and “things to pray about” . Does see not think I haven’t tried anything and everything at some point in the 17 years?!?!? I did things I felt totally disgusting doing, even talking about them to anyone has me still embarrassed today. I was so frustrated last year I had to do a study on anger…and do you know what…God gets angry all the time! He destroys wicked people! I’d rather get out of the way and let Him deal with my ex then try to “save him” with another round of submission.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Go for it! Totally right. May the Lord strike down the wicked and deliver the oppressed.

    • Laurie

      NNP…On the subject of doing things that embarrassed you: I still cry over what I have done to my children in an effort to “save” the marriage. One oar in the water won’t get you anywhere but dizzy from the circles you keep making. BOTH partners have to want to save the marriage, and the other can’t decided to finally try after your heart has had enough–I’ve got 22 years and 2 years of separation into this thing.

  4. Lynette

    How many times have we heard “you can’t change him.” But in the next breath we hear ‘what are you doing to keep him happy?’ THAT is trying to change him into a happy person. I so tire of people who care more about the IDOL of marriage than the people in the marriage. If we are to compare our marriages to Jesus and His relationship with the church…this is a pretty sad example….who on earth would want to be part of it?

    • Jeff Crippen

      Right on, Lynette. Idolatry indeed. Marriage was made for man, not man for marriage.

    • no name please

      “IDOL of marriage” Exactly!! And suffering to save someone…is that not work based salvation!

    • Lynette, you nailed it. The contradictory commands are enough to drive anyone crazy:
      “You can’t change him.”
      “But what are you doing to keep him happy?”
      You can’t change him … but you should be trying to change him into a happy person.

      We need to really eyeball this illogic in the stark light of day, so that we can call out people when they use it. Tell them they are contradicting themselves.

  5. Laurie

    “I suspect that Debi’s answer is that the victim will, by functioning as redeemer, save her abuser…and they all lived happily ever after.” (Jeff’s point, well made and definitely the undercurrent to Pride’s ideology.)

    The only way this could happen is if the “redeemer” lives a life that is a lie…”in the Lord,” of course. And you can see how far lying to the Holy Spirit got Sapphira.

    I wonder, sometimes, why I am not dead.

    MERCY, LOVE, PATIENCE, why I cannot do anything BUT love Jesus! 🙂

  6. The end result is a field of study that has yielded hundreds of conflicting theories, constantly changing hypotheses and a plethora of widely opposing “experts” who disagree from one school of thought to the next as to the cause and cure of man’s behavioral difficulties.

    Oh yes. I can certainly see the wisdom in this since theologians NEVER disagree.


    • Not only theologians, but what about medical doctors? I mean, how long have we been practicing medicine for physical ailments with some seriously warped ideas about how the human body works? We have centuries of people doing stuff we know was terrible in efforts to heal, but I’m sure glad they did or we wouldn’t have the understanding a medical advances we do now.

      There’s a LOT wrong with mental health approaches these days and a lot we don’t know. So is the answer to stop doing it or to study and learn how to do it better?

  7. Jeff Crippen

    Ha! Sarcasm noted and heartily approved!

  8. Kay

    I decided to e-mail Debi Pryde and ask her about her belief about abuse and divorice. Here is her response:

    Hello Kay,
    Sigh. This is a tough question that can’t be summed up in a simple quote out of context. As a general rule, I don’t advise divorce–not because I don’t believe it can sometimes be a wise move (husband turns out to be a rapist etc.), but because in the vast majority of cases it isn’t necessary or prudent. Not all abuse cases are alike so there is no hard fast rule, but most of the time a legal separation is the wisest course of action–for several reasons. First, it gives the offending party an opportunity to repent and demonstrate a changed life (which can happen). Second, when the offending party will not repent or feigns repentance, he or she will not typically tolerate the kind of prolonged separation which is necessary for the protection of victims and any true change of character in the perpetrator. The woman who refuses to subject herself or her children to abuse (as she should) ought NEVER to go back into an abusive relationship without PROLONGED separation and counseling by someone who is well experienced with the deceptions of abusers. When women insist on this kind of arrangement and are not quick to capitulate to the coercions of a perpetrator who wants back into the home quickly, they almost always find that the perpetrator files for divorce. It is a clear red flag that he or she is not repentant (no matter how much he or she protests). In these cases I advise such a wife to get the best lawyer possible and protect the assets that are legally hers and her children’s. I never advise women to fight a husband who wants a divorce after she has properly followed the Matthew 18 principle. So why not file divorce first? Because it has been my experience over the past 30 years of counseling that women often regret the decision later down the road and often suffer with guilt when they didn’t allow the situation to unfold but took matters into their own hands too quickly. They also have to deal with children who often ask why their mother divorced their father and are resentful or confused (even though wrongfully so). Not filing for divorce protects women and children in the long run. But, remember that I began this paragraph by stating that this is a general rule that is prudent for the vast majority of cases. Yes, there are exceptions to this rule, but in my 30 plus years of counseling women, I can count on one hand how many exceptions to this rule I’ve come across! So often, women want to believe they are the exception when in fact they are not, and filing for divorce is not the best course of action for them or their children. Many times a legal separation (long term) is a far better solution that protects women from unnecessary guilt, protects assets, gets the legal system involved so everything is well documented (which is wise in all abuse cases) and sends a clear signal to the abuser that life is not going to go on as usual. Keep in mind, too, that a legal separation makes better provision for a woman’s financial welfare during the separation time and can make a huge difference long term.


    • Lynette

      Well, which is it then? Cause this response it clearly contradictory to what’s in her reply to the woman being abused.

      • Lynette

        Just went back and re-read….she never does tell the women to divorce even after long term separation and if there’s no repentance. She tells them to leave it up to the husband. Most abusers won’t file either, they’d be giving up control. I don’t know where she gets that idea. So she is still saying divorce isn’t an option….just not using those words.

      • no name please

        Yes, filing for abuse means the abuser is giving up control. He is not going to voluntarily or willingly give up his drug of choice. And staying married but legally separated did not protect me enough . He would not recognize boundaries and still being “legally married” I couldn’t enforce a lot of them.

      • Yes, staying married allows the abuser to be the cock crowing from the top-most perch in the farm yard. Quite apart from the extra avenues of abuse that remain available to him while he is still legally married to his victim, it gives him in his own mind (and in the minds of naive Christian bystanders) a psychological advantage, a superiority, and (false) righteousness that is very hard to dent.

      • no name please

        oops! I meant “filing for divorce” …sorry, was on call, little sleep.

    • Laurie

      So…money is the bottom line. Funding is, in my opinion, why Sapphira agreed with and hid Ananias. And the love of money is the root of all evil….

    • mlieder

      Kay . . . . I love that you emailed her! Ha! I can tell you’ve got moxie! I am trying to follow her reasoning and I just don’t know how she can make such sweeping generalizations. . . . . I mean . . . . with my separation (which lasted for one year) . . . . my ex was not required to support the children and me in ANY WAY financially. . . . . granted, it was an international divorce but still. The children and I had to go for one year, fending for ourselves while my ex INSISTED that we were/are his property and must obey him before God as we were still legally married. He used his “authority” over and over again to manipulate us. I couldn’t WAIT to be divorced. The longer our separation, the more opportunity he had to abuse us! I am just not sure about how a lengthy legal separation could, in any way, protect a woman. It seems to me that it just draws OUT the guilt and confusion more than anything else. It seems like each case is so different. I, for one, am grateful for those who protected us by giving us good advice, helping me find a lawyer, etc. For us, THAT was our protection. We needed to get faaaaaaaaaaaaar away from my ex in oder to be protected. Any sort of run in with him was highly dangerous. I would have been remiss and incredibly irresponsible if I allowed the kids and myself to continue in such a toxic marriage/family life. I believe that a husband/ex husband can manipulate a wife for the rest of her life — separated, divorced or not . . . . . it is almost disturbing what she wrote up there because it is like she is insisting a woman stay in a position to be abused/manipulated. I could be wrong . . . . that is just what I see.

    • “When women insist on this kind of arrangement and are not quick to capitulate to the coercions of a perpetrator who wants back into the home quickly, they almost always find that the perpetrator files for divorce.”

      This appears to be the goal of getting a divorce but not taking ownership of the decision.

      I’m familiar with how setting boundaries can have a dramatic outcome. However, one thing I think should be clear about setting boundaries- you set boundaries to protect yourself, not to control another person.

      “Keep in mind, too, that a legal separation makes better provision for a woman’s financial welfare during the separation time and can make a huge difference long term.”

      I wonder how true this is. As I understand it taking initiative makes it a lot easier when fighting for custody and seeking spousal maintenance. Of course, that perspective was mostly from my lawyers who had a vested interest in me filing first.

      Still, the overall tone of this response sounds very different from “Your only goal must be the restoration and biblical restructuring of the marriage.” It seems she does have the health and well being of the abused woman as a goal (which I would count as a good thing).

    • Just Me

      Hmm. Legal separation doesn’t exist in my state. I wonder what she would say then?

      • In my state we don’t have “Legal Separation”, but we do have “Separate Maintenance” that allows the court to rule over areas of the marriage. My lawyers told me that this kind of arrangement would not provide me financial protection if she decided to run up the credit cards, for instance.

    • When women insist on this kind of arrangement and are not quick to capitulate to the coercions of a perpetrator who wants back into the home quickly, they almost always find that the perpetrator files for divorce. It is a clear red flag that he or she is not repentant (no matter how much he or she protests).

      One big huge problem this could generate: what happens to the assessment of the abuser if he does NOT want to file for divorce himself? Does that then suddenly make him the good guy? Does this necessarily mean the abuser wants to change himself (or herself), or does it mean they are unwilling to be left and will do whatever it takes to get their way? Is Pryde unfamiliar with stalking, for example? Did she ever see Fatal Attraction? “I will not be ignored, Dan.” This is almost an idealized view of the abuser. I mean, it sure would be convenient if after all the trouble he’s caused he would suddenly start cooperating like this, wouldn’t it? People who file for divorce are bad, therefore only the abuser would file since he’s the one who’s bad. If he doesn’t file that means he’s not really bad or is almost certainly repentant, especially if he agrees to a PROLONGED period of separation. I mean, what abuser is going to do that, right?

      So why not file divorce first? Because it has been my experience over the past 30 years of counseling that women often regret the decision later down the road and often suffer with guilt when they didn’t allow the situation to unfold but took matters into their own hands too quickly.

      Oh. So, how long is long enough? What parameters define “too quickly”? And who decides what “too quickly” is? We’ve already gotten that this thing is supposed to take a PROLONGED time. Where in this PROLONGED time does the decision it’s been PROLONGED long enough fall?

      And what does “take matters into their own hands” mean? Whose hands did they take it out of? God’s? Or the abuser’s?

      Yes, there are exceptions to this rule,

      So divorce for abuse IS a legitimate, Biblical option.

      Now, who decides when the situation is an “exception” for which filing for divorce due to abuse is a legitimate Biblical option? What are the qualifications to be considered an “exception” and who determines if those qualifications have been met?

      (husband turns out to be a rapist etc.)

      This would be adultery. Not relevant to the discussion, which is limited to divorce for abuse.

      I hate to say it but this line of reasoning can absolutely be used AGAINST the victim, who has likely mulled this thing over day and night for years, by claiming she (or he) did not wait long enough to see how God was going to work.

      • no name please

        I wonder what she would say about spouse rape….does that count as a “rapist”

      • OK, I just assumed she meant wife rape- am I assuming too much?

      • I didn’t think she meant spouse rape because she said he “turns out to be a rapist.” Maybe it’s the way it struck me but that she didn’t personalize it like, “he raped you” or something made me think she was thinking outside the marriage.

        It does make you wonder if she understands there is such a thing as marital rape.

      • The very fact that Debi Pryde mentioned ‘rape’ so ambiguously, shows she doesn’t really get it. If she’s the expert she makes herself out to be, she ought to know that marital rape occurs quite commonly in domestic abuse, and therefore she ought to have made it crystal clear whether she was referring to marital rape or other rape.

  9. “…though psychologists are able to easily observe the devastating emotional and behavioral effects of unresolved guilt, the Bible alone provides man with the criteria necessary to reject false guilt and at the same time, resolve real guilt stemming from specific violations of God’s laws. There are not three hundred and fifty different ways to resolve genuine guilt. There are not even two ways to resolve guilt—God provides only one. Apart from repentance and faith in God’s promises to forgive, human beings are left to “manage” guilt, but have no means to actually remove it.”

    So the thing is, I agree with her point of view that the Bible tells us how to resolve genuine guilt. Where I disagree is characterizing secular therapy as having a chief end of attempting to resolve said genuine guilt.

    Someone dealing with schizophrenia- what is the genuine guilt issue?
    Someone suffering from PDST- what is the genuine guilt issue?
    Someone suffering from being beaten by their spouse- what is the genuine guilt issue?

    See, the problem with Biblical/Nouthetic counseling is when all you have is a hammer, you treat everything like a nail. And Christianity is one awesome hammer at dealing with guilt.

    • Jeff Crippen

      PTSD = sinful fear and lack of faith. Being beaten = sin of not submitting. Unwilling to suffer for Christ. Guilt, sin, guilt, sin. You can always find what you want to find and nouthetic/Bible only counseling does just that.

      • no name please

        I know my pastor, who is a great guy and supportive, and the other two people involved in the counseling, even my lawyer don’t get my fear. My ex’s pastor and my friend actually did call it sin! I know it’s wrong, I know I have to work through it but after 17 years of him losing jobs and arbitrarily emptying out the bank account for some new electronic toy he “needed” I am terrified to look at my bank account. this is not how I want to live and just by an act of my will I cannot will the fear away. I am getting better but I need support and handholding not being told how sinful I am!!

      • no name please

        I think they don’t get it because they have not lived through it. My friend who has gone through a similar situation has different fears but UNDERSTANDS what it is to be afraid.

  10. Kay

    I looked Debi Pryde up online. She is speaking at a conference on sexual abuse at Bob Jones University next month. I so wish I could hear what the BJU people have to say about abuse in marriage. My experience with them has been there is much legalism.

    • Good question.

      20/20 did a special on some abuses within Fundamentalist churches. I don’t recall if they said anything about BJU specifically. But it’s pretty bad. Here’s the first video.

      • Wow, that video makes me ill. Stuff like this makes our faith look like a joke. What a horrible testimony, and it’s out there for everyone to see. Who would want to be a part of anything like this? What a distorted view of God this abuse must have created in her life.

      • The rest of them are on YouTube as well. It’s worth watching. Doesn’t get better, though.

      • Laurie

        I watched the whole interview (5 parts). Tough stuff…but she ends very well. Not mad at God, “God is still good.”

      • I watched all 5 videos too- what is scary is that the interviewer didn’t realize that this isn’t just denominational stuff restricted to the IFB.

        I didn’t read too many of the comments, but there was one cynical comment that caught my eye after the last video; the video showed her happy and clapping in church along with the music and the comment said it won’t end well because the abuse will happen again as long as she’s in an evangelical church. I wish such comments could easily be dismissed.

      • That particular series on 20/20 may only have been about IFB churches. But I believe 20/20 has done at least one other program about predator preachers and church malpractice on a different denomination – the Southern Baptists. I read about this in Christa Brown’s book “This Little Light”.

      • Laurie’s making me think I should clarify my comment. 🙂

        I was thinking of how much more they expose in the other videos and how awful it all is when I said it doesn’t get better. In other words, there’s more stuff to come. Things do get better for the main victim though.

      • Laurie

        Barnabasintraining…isn’t it likely that the 20/20 folks are right? that it won’t end well? There will always be some other problem that the “church” will not be able to accommodate, like creationism. It is well past time that Jesus Christ be the head, or source, of our churches instead of this putrid Laodicean mess that we have going right now. But these things are all evidences of the nearness of Christ’s return.

  11. Anonymous

    I think the bottom line here, is that if this woman or any of the others who hold to this unbiblical permanence view of marriage, were to suffer for one day, under what some of us have suffered (or did) for years and years, they would run like mice, get to the nearest police station, file their restraining orders, drive to the lawyer and file for divorce, all the same day, and all while saying, “well I was not married to a Christian–he couldn’t have been!”; “Jesus would never want me to suffer that way”; “I don’t think the Bible supports me being treated that way”; and whatever else has been said by we victims, but add to it, “I have Biblical reason for MY divorce” and then make certain that was their story for the rest of their lives. People who write the kind of things that Pryde has written, are plainly blind to the truth. I think we are just seeing more and more people like that, who believe they are spreadin’ the love and God’s Word, who do not have the mind of Christ. They may be good intentioned, but they are truly hurting tons of people and I don’t believe that God sees it as good, no matter how well-intentioned someone is. They are wolves sent to deceive us, and they appear in the nicest wool you have ever seen. I mean after all, they are “peacemakers”.

    Pryde says: “The fruit of God’s Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23 is essentially what secular psychology strives to duplicate, but can only imitate– for one can learn to act loving, joyful, longsuffering or self-controlled without actually being any of these things. Because of our sinful nature, human beings cannot be truly transformed and changed into a person motivated by God’s love and characterized by His love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, humility or self-control apart from conformity to the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit.”

    So, I guess what she is really saying here, is that all of our abusive husbands/wives, are not and cannot possibly be believers, even though they can “act” like they have the fruits of the Spirit, but only by imitation, which leaves us open to divorce according to Scripture in 1 Cor. 7!! She is saying that they could have a phony repentance that could lend a brief yield to what looks like change, ie the fruits of the Spirit; but in fact, it is all false! Thank you Ms. Pryde, for this fine Christian evaluation! (snark-snark)

  12. Jeff Crippen

    My question is, “where does the guilt for being the one to file the divorce papers come from?” Of course the victim is going to feel guilty for doing so if her church has taught and taught her “God hates divorce.” These words sound like a self-fulfilling prophecy. But the overall tone I have gotten from all of our readers here is that they are soooo grateful that they finally were able to see what was happening to them and to leave and divorce. I am not seeing a whole crowd of Christians here who are overwhelmed with guilt about divorcing. Why is Pryde’s take on it so different? Well, if she makes statements like she did in her book and which we quoted, then obviously those women are going to have the guilt piled on them.

    Her response, while I don’t have any reason to doubt her good intentions to help victims, sounds like a Pharisee “end-run” in order to avoid the letter of the law by “not swearing by the temple.” That is to say, “well, since divorce is hated by God and is a bad thing, the way we are going to get it is to separate and manipulate the abuser into divorcing her!” Pretty slick.

    And frankly, this business of abusers being so willing to file for divorce themselves when the victim separates from him is news to me. I have been hearing just the opposite from victims these past two years. Abusers love power and control. They don’t readily give that up and divorce. Some of you readers are separated right now from your abuser and you haven’t seen him filing for a divorce yet.

    • Not to mention that I don’t see any biblical justification for a long term separation- Jesus did not say “you may divorce in the case of adultery, but first go live somewhere else for a while and see if you can get them to go first- you’ll feel less guilty then”. Interestingly enough, I learned somewhere that the best answer to guilt is found at the Cross, not through legal games of chicken.

      She appeals to her knowledge and experience to justify her answer. Now that I really don’t have an issue with, except that she is going outside of scripture which she made a pretty big deal of not doing. Why is her knowledge and experience valid and when for others it is not?

    • mlieder

      Yes — Exactly. My husband used our year of legal separation (you have to be legally separated for one year in my state to divorce) to build a foundation for his victim-ness. He made a great big show of how he was waiting for me to come home (still does, actually) and made himself out to be a great big martyr. He wasn’t about to be “the one” who filed for divorce!

      • no name please

        Mileder…are you sure your’s not me and married to my ex, same here!!!!!

      • mlieder

        Ha! IRK?!

  13. Jeff Crippen

    Check this out. It is from an Oregon Law Office web page: Notice in particular the “religious reasons” for separation paragraph. As I said, this sounds to me like just a way to do an end run around what the victim has probably been taught all her life in her church – that the person who files the divorce proceedings is the guilty one:


    In an informal way, people are “separated” when they are not living together. However, people are only “legally separated” when a final judgment has been signed by a judge which is a judgment of legal separation. This raises the question of when and why a person might prefer to have a legal separation rather than a divorce.

    A. Three Types of “Separation.”

    1. Informal Separation. Separation can be informal, where the parties live apart and no Judgment of Legal Separation is entered by the court signed by a judge.

    2. Limited Separation. A legal separation where a judge signs a Judgment of Legal Separation can be for a limited period of time, and is known as a “Limited Judgment of Separation.” This type of separation for a limited period of time is rarely used, and it has only limited value under any circumstance because it costs a lot of money to get a legal separation (unless the parties can accomplish this on their own), and it only lasts for a short time (leaving you back where you started when the duration of the separation stated in the judgment comes to an end).

    3. Unlimited Separation. The third type of separation is the unlimited legal separation. This is the most common type of formal legal separation and is the result of an agreement by the parties to a resolution of their marital issues for an unlimited period of time.

    B. Nature Of The Procedure.

    Before anyone should consider a legal separation, they need to understand that the process of obtaining a legal separation in every meaningful way is identical to the process of obtaining a divorce. The paperwork filed with the court is virtually identical. The filing fee paid to the court is usually identical. The work put into the process both by the parties and their attorneys is identical. All of the same issues have to be resolved, custody, child support, spousal support, property division, debt division, etc. Everything is the same except that the final document, a judgment (the document which resolves all of the issues between the parties), leaves the parties married if the parties agree to a legal separation whereas the final document leaves the parties divorced if the parties do not agree to a legal separation.

    C. Reasons To File For Legal Separation Rather Than For Dissolution of Marriage.

    So if everything is so similar between a divorce and a legal separation, why would anyone want to have the legal separation, and what are the advantages and disadvantages? There are four primary situations in which people decide to agree to a legal separation. I say “agree” because legal separation only happens when the parties agree. A court cannot order a legal separation over the objection of one of the parties. People in the state of Oregon have an absolute right to a divorce if they wish to have a divorce, and a divorce will be granted at the request of that party even over the objection of the other party who would prefer to have a legal separation. Although there are other situations in which the parties might agree to a legal separation, the following are the four primary situations:

    1. Health Insurance Reasons. Sometimes one of the parties is in poor health, sick, or injured, while the only medical insurance available to that party is through the other party’s medical insurance plan. If a divorce takes place, the party in poor health might lose medical insurance and might not be able to get other coverage, or other coverage might be cost-prohibitive. The parties might agree to have a legal separation rather than a divorce because, sometimes, medical insurance companies will allow the spouse in poor health to remain on the medical coverage at no additional cost even though the parties have a legal separation. Historically, this is not always the case.

    2. Religious Reasons. People sometimes have religious or moral beliefs which compel them not to agree to a divorce. It is important to note that the person who holds this belief can initiate a legal separation proceeding which ultimately results in a divorce; the person who initiated the legal separation proceeding did not cause or apply for a divorce. The responding party in this scenario applied for the divorce. It is very common for a religious organization to find a party without fault who initiates a legal separation even if the proceeding ultimately ends in divorce because the person initiating the filing of the first court documents did not request or initiate a divorce. When a person initiates a legal separation proceeding rather than a divorce proceeding because of their religious belief, the responding party almost always responds by asking for a divorce.

    3. Financial Reasons. Sometimes people have a motivation to preserve their estate or their financial resources, but they do not necessarily want a divorce. Perhaps one of the parties intentionally or unintentionally is exposing the family to difficult negative financial stresses which caused one or both of the parties to want to have a legal document signed by a judge which protects and preserves the assets of each. They might want to stay married and live together, or they might want to live separately, but they simply do not want to be divorced for whatever reason. In this circumstance, if the parties are living together, they absolutely need to have a “living together agreement” signed by the parties. This is something which needs to be prepared by an expert in family law. Only an expert would know how to protect the parties from all of the seen and unforseen problems which come from continuing to live together after a Judgment of Legal Separation has been entered.

    4. Jurisdiction and Protection of Children. Under certain circumstances, a parent would like to have the court quickly issue orders which protect children. Orders cannot be signed bya judge until a case is filed in the court. If a parent has moved to Oregon recently but has not lived here long enough to establish jurisdiction for the filing of a petition for dissolution of marriage, that person might want to file for a legal separation (for which a lengthy presence in Oregon in not required). The parent filing then may request immediate assistance from the court regarding children, support and other issues depending on the facts of the case and on the type of jurisdiction that applies in the case.

  14. “When a person initiates a legal separation proceeding rather than a divorce proceeding because of their religious belief, the responding party almost always responds by asking for a divorce.”

    I was told this exact thing by my lawyer.

  15. Jeff Crippen

    Jeff S – Ha! A “game of legal chicken!” Have you considered stand-up comedy:):) Excellent phrase!

  16. Pippa

    Definitely, abusers are very unlikely to be the ones filing for divorce. My experience is that they insist that one file for divorce, mock one for not doing it more quickly or somehow “better.” They will berate one for any bit of it that they can and make each step as difficult as possible to the point of making one irrationally fearful of setting the final hearing date. (Yes, I know that no one can MAKE me fearful but that is my emotional response.) They will do anything to attempt to prolong the torture and control. But I have yet to hear of one to rush to filing. They don’t need to get a divorce. They were never married.

    • Believer

      You speak the truth. Wicked men who pretend to be Christians in order to manipulate believing women into marrying them are LIARS. Were a wolf and sheep ever truly married if the wolf was pretending to be a sheep and that was the basis on which the sheep committed herself to him? She said her vows to a fake persona. The sheep she thought she was marrying never existed. It was a decoy purposely created and utilized by the wolf to entrap the sheep so he could exploit her. He never loved her; the truth is the opposite of what he professed–he hated her, from the very beginning, with a diabolical hatred. He LIED that he wanted a love relationship with her to get her to marry him, in order to USE her for his own selfish gain. He wanted a position of power and a source of narcissistic supply. He is a child of the devil. He is a liar and a murderer, he despises God. Brazenly, without conscience, he pretended to love God in order to accomplish his malevolent agenda, which is the same as his father’s: to lie, steal and destroy. He masqueraded as an angel of light, just like Satan. He is a criminal, a spiritual terrorist who blows his victim up, not at all minding that he blasts himself into hell in the process. The reality of who this man is and what he has done to the woman he entrapped is unspeakably horrifying.

      If she knew the true identity of what she “married” she would have fled in terror.

      Was their union a legitimate marriage, ever, in any sense?

      My mind is boggled by Ms. Pryde’s line of thinking. She is saying obedience to Christ means the child of God must continue to grant a measure of validity to her union with a son of Belial (thank you Pastor Sam Powell for helping me understand the “Christian” abuser’s true identity is this). On what basis does she believe this? Believers are commanded to walk in the truth, to not participate in the evil deeds of darkness but rather to expose them. Out of FEAR of almighty God a believer must obey Him. Once a believer realizes the truth of her abuser’s identity, she must acknowledge her “marriage” is invalid. It is a contract based on lies, illegitimately bonding her to a devil, and such unholy union is forbidden by Scripture so with fear and trembling before God she must end it. To obey the Scriptures: Depart from evil! Do not be yoked together with unbelievers! Come forth and be separate, for I have called you to be holy! There is absolutely no obedience in granting any validity to a contract made with evil–is there? Am I missing something? Given that she was conned into the contract she made, annulment, not divorce, strikes me as the most appropriate remedy. But of course that option is often no longer available legally once she realizes the full truth so what she must file for is “divorce.”

      Does Ms. Pryde want to leave room for the possibility that some so-called Christian abusers are not actually children of the devil? I think ACFJ has proven that they most certainly are. Is the room she says ought to be granted (only separate, do not divorce him!) just in case God decides to transform the pretend-Christian abuser into a child of God? Does that ever happen? Are not all sons of Belial destined for destruction? Or are not all pretend-Christian abusers wicked enough to be classified as sons of Belial? If they are sons of Belial I do not see any justification for maintaining any bond of any kind with them for any reason for any length of time. I am happy to be corrected.

      I have been so helped by Pastor Crippen and Pastor Powell’s sermons. Thank you SO much. Pastor Crippen, I am in the middle of “The Foggy Deception of Sin” and it is such a fountain of truth. Thank you, bless you. May all of us true sheep of Christ fear God and God alone, never man.

      • Anonymous

        I was thinking of this very thing–that my husband knew going into the marriage that he was a psychopath–there should be some responsibility here. After all, if I had married someone even though I was married to someone else–I would be held liable for this and it is against the law plus it would make the second marriage invalid. Or if I were underage and lied about that in order to get married, again I would be legally responsible for that and depending on the state, it too would make my marriage invalid.

        My husband promised many things when he said his wedding vows–in full knowledge that he was a liar. He deceived me (and everyone) when he promised to love me.

        The sad thing is that if the marriage were voided–it would only harm me and the children. He is not harmed at all by this. A person’s mental health, hymen, and children can’t be given back or “undone,” even if they were vindicated legally.

        It’s why we need to reach people BEFORE they commit themselves to a child of Satan. Not only did God NOT want His children to be married to Unbelievers, He CERTAINLY didn’t want them to marry people who were “done for” spiritually and who wholly belonged to the evil one!

        John 8:43-44, “Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies…”

        The word for “truth” as it is used here means, “”truth as a personal excellence; that candor of mind which is free from affectation, pretence, simulation, falsehood, deceit”:” The word “affectation” means, “behavior, speech, or writing that is artificial and designed to impress….a studied display of real or pretended feeling.”

        With this in mind–a person of the nature of his father the devil has NONE OF these good attributes AT ALL–there is not a DROP of goodness in them. AND, what’s more–THEY ARE COMPLETELY OPPOSITE—there is not ANY truth in their soul AT ALL and once you fully realize this biblical truth, it does help to set you free. Because you understand that you are not dealing with a person who is able to fulfill a contract–it goes completely against their nature. 2 Tim 3:3 “irreconcilable” is only used once in the bible and means, “áspondos (an adjective which is the negation of spondē, “a libation-sacrifice” used for making treaties and covenants) – properly, unable to please (placate) someone; implacable….without a treaty or covenant; of things not mutually agreed upon, e. g. abstinence from hostilities (THEY CANNOT ABSTAIN FROM HOSTILITIES—ARE WE GETTING THAT YET?) truceless — implacable, truce-breaker.” http://biblehub.com/greek/786.htm

        It’s said AGAIN AND AGAIN on this website but God has PLAINLY shown us the TRUTH in His word and it’s so obvious once you start praying and searching the scriptures. And it’s also that much more obvious how wholly evil Satan is and that he has so many pastors preaching his lies and denying justice for His true little ones. Thank you Believer for bringing all this up…we need to remember the truth of what we’re dealing with.

  17. Little Miss Me

    Can’t tellyou how grateful I was to have my lawyer tell me that separation was a waste of time – I gnawed on that nugget for a while before filing for divorce right out of the gate.

    Within a week of having two residences people kept randomly telling me how good I looked, without any conscious change to my clothes, hair, makeup, etc.

    No regrets here for taking ownership of my own fate!

  18. Jeff Crippen

    Well, just one more thing: Does Pryde really think that someone who has been so guilt-burdened by what they have been taught in God’s name is not going to suffer from guilt just because they initiated a legal separation and not an actual divorce proceeding? “Well, if I hadn’t separated from him, he would not have divorced me. It is still my fault.” The problem here doesn’t rest with the particular form a person fills out at the courthouse. The guilt comes from the religion of the Pharisees shoveling load after load of guilt on people.

    I’m sorry, but color me pessimistic here. So much of what Pryde said in her email response above just does not square with the reality we have experienced over and over again.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Barnabas: So let’s just spit it out there. THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM IN ALL THESE SITUATIONS IS THE CHURCH”S REFUSAL TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT GOD PERMITS AND EVEN BLESSES DIVORCE FOR THE GROUNDS OF ABUSE. We should be celebrating victims getting free and giving the boot to the unrepentant bad guy. And that issue is what Pryde and people who hold her position have to dance all around when questioned about their position. That is what Pryde’s email response is — a verbal dance, trying not to step in “it.”

      • Jeff Crippen

        Did you note the opening “sigh” in Pryde’s response? That speaks volumes.

      • mlieder


      • I think that even those who do acknowledge it are fearful it will open the floodgates of divorce if they “make it too easy”.

        To be honest, the idea that people who are getting casual “any cause” divorces are going to stop because the church is being so strict is laughable. The real answer to stopping casual divorces is for people to care about the things of God and for the church to take actions to build up marriages. Why did Paul spend so much more time talking about how to live in harmony than he did dealing with the prevention of divorce?

        But we err “on the side of caution” by not being too permissive. And of course, the “caution” is to protect the marriage, not the abused. Better to have 10 abused women stick it out than let 1 non-abused women flee her marital vows for no good reason.

        I remember telling someone that the only reason that I struggled over the divorce is because I dared to care about the things of God. If I didn’t care, I’d have been out the door with no grief at all. The only ones you can control with “no divorce” policies are the ones you don’t need to. They aren’t going to be the ones making up excuses to casually get out of a marriage.

      • Lynette

        I honestly don’t know ANY christian women who just ‘easily divorced’. It IS a big struggle for them. One woman I know was abused for 18 yrs. She stayed because she had it pounded into her that “God hates divorce.”

      • Except that she did acknowledge that. If there are “exceptions”, then divorce for abuse IS a legitimate Biblical option. She does this in the midst of a verbal dance hoping no one will notice.

        Now the question is, who is the dance for?

        The Christian community, so she can keep her cred with the faithful? So she doesn’t have to “go outside the camp” on this?

        Herself, so she can pad her own heart against the truth because she doesn’t want to see it?

        The suffering victim, lest she accidentally goad one to do what would really be a bad thing for them, as it would turn out later? (I will grant this could happen, in theory. There are better ways to guard against it, though.)

        Personally, I suspect all three.

        I would respect her far more if instead of dancing around she had said she realizes sometimes these things do end in divorce but she likes to try and see if reconciliation is at all possible first to avoid any regrets that may come later. However, the victim is going to know when enough is enough and if the abuser doesn’t file before that point, she is free to file herself. Unless she wants to recant her exception statement, that does reflect her view as I read it, but without the fancy foot work.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Barnabas – You hit on some very significant points here. Yes, we are hesitant to admit that victims of abuse can indeed divorce their abuse and God approves! Why are we hesitant? Because it goes against the company line and it is going to mean that the old crowd is going to reject us. But then, that sounds a whole bunch like the very thing Christians have always had to do — go outside the camp because that is where Jesus is. So yes, we pad our hearts so we don’t see what keeps nagging at us. If we see it, then we have to deal with it. And then your third point: yikes! What if we tell a victim to divorce and it turns out she should not have? What if she lied to us? What if our take on things is wrong? What if….. But physicians take those kinds of chances all the time because they really aren’t so risky after all. I for one have chosen to believe victims. Can a fake one dupe me sometime? Of course. But you know what? That falsified victim is going to have to give account to the Lord, not me. And by believing victims, I am going to end up with a much higher rate of “cures” than the “no divorce for abuse” people ever will.

      • Jeff, I think it’s fair to say that IF someone falsely claiming to be a victim did dupe you, then they were already planning to divorce, anyway. Otherwise, why would they invent such a story?

        We cannot share a gospel of grace while constantly preaching legalism lest someone take too much liberty with grace.

      • And then there are people who just aren’t even sure what they are supposed to do.

        At the time that I left my prior church I was not yet convinced that a divorce was necessary, but I remember telling the pastor “I don’t know what to do, but I know that I cannot trust your judgement. If you would not allow a divorce for the worst cases of abuse, you can’t help me”. I had this huge decision before me- I’d already researched and understood that divorce was permissible biblicaly in abuse cases, but I did not know if my situation “met the standard”. After all, the worst physical violence I endured was having pillows thrown at me.

        So I had no one I could trust to help me make that decision. I didn’t even trust myself.

        By taking a permanence view of marriage, a pastor takes himself completely out of the shepherding role of someone in a difficult situation.

    • In fact, as I’ve said before one of the main reasons I didn’t go the separation route was that I knew I would both still be bound AND have to suffer the guilt of not behaving like a proper husband. I don’t see how separation removes any guilt.

      • Anyone who has ever removed a band-aid knows that separation is less painful when done quickly. Slowing the process just needlessly increases and prolongs the pain. 😉

    • Anonymous

      Jeff S October 4, 2012 – 12:05 pm wrote, “The only ones you can control with “no divorce” policies are the ones you don’t need to.”

      Yep. And because of this and that we are living in the end times with many who are as those described in 2 Tim 3—we few who ARE controlled by what Jeff S wrote just prior to the above quote, “I remember telling someone that the only reason that I struggled over the divorce is because I dared to care about the things of God. If I didn’t care, I’d have been out the door with no grief at all,” are held to impossible to fulfill standards that are not only unbiblical—they could be classified as demonic. (Stay married to one with the same nature as the devil, and LOVE him, CATER to him, WORSHIP him as your god! This is HEAVILY LADEN with the evil one’s influence!)

  19. Jeff Crippen

    I heard George Castanza advising Seinfeld about how to beat a polygraph test. He said “Remember, Jerry, it isn’t a lie if you believe it.”

    So everyone who is working so hard to keep believing that God refuses to permit the oppressed to escape their “Pharaoh,” is doing so to keep a clear conscience. If they can believe the lie, it isn’t a lie. For all who fit that description, I recommend big, round eyeglasses and white t-shoes.

  20. Just Me

    It’s so frustrating to encounter this Pharisaical attitude of women being told to allow abuse, and Christians making the bigger issue to be a wife leaving her husband’s authority rather than her husband’s mistreatment of her. I’m currently in the midst of a situation on a Christian forum. A woman came seeking advice because her husband is living lavishly, yet not allowing her sufficient money for food and clothing. She’s wearing flip flops in the winter and barely eating. And her clothing is too ragged for her to wear out in public. I posted that she should check out your blog, call a domestic violence hotline and separate from him. My post was picked apart by a man saying that her brothers and father should speak to her husband. And she should go home, “reverence” (yes, he said reverence, not respect) her husband, trust God and not give way to fear. He also called me a “professing Christian” with quotes.

    How do ya’ll handle this? I’m seeing red! Do you stay away from Christian forums? I’m still trying to shake my own legalistic attitude. I don’t think I’m strong enough to put myself out there to defend my beliefs against the Pharisees yet. I’m full of anxiety now. I never should have read that man’s response to my post. I tried my best to refute his post with biblical examples. But I don’t think I should check it to see if he responds. I think I should just let it go and pray that the woman finds your blog.

    • Jeff Crippen

      JM- well you are getting battlefront experience and going there enabled you to help her. As far as spending time arguing with the guy there, I don’t waste my time.

      If a website or pastor or church or individual is adamant against divorce for any reason or refuses divorce for abuse then most often they won’t listen. There are exceptions.

      I think we just need to stand firm in our convictions, become well versed in maybe just two or three key Scriptures like 1 Cor 7, and tell people we used to think like they do but learned we were wrong. If they want to hear more then fine.

      But you know what? I am in this battle primarily for the victims. To validate and affirm th em and help them see Christ as He really is and help them get out of the religion of the Pharisees, which so much of conservative Christianity has become. Target your energies there. You will find a grateful and listening audience!

      • Just Me

        Thank you. I’m not going to respond to that man anymore. Tempting though it may be. And yes, I was in it for the victim, not to change the Pharisees. Thank you for reminding me of that. I love your blog!

    • Anonymous

      JM, I used to have that problem on Christian forums too! I once got into a long debate with an abuser, and in the end, the moderator wrote to both of us to reprimand us, as if we were equally guilty. What astounded me was that I was left to fend for myself. Later, someone commented, claiming to have considered both our points and rationale and congratulated the abuser, asking him to stand on the Word of God and not give in to those who don’t want to acknowledge the Word of God!!

      If it is something that triggers you, or arouses anxiety, then for your own sake, you might like to consider avoiding such people or discussions. I still put in my two cents worth in the blogosphere, but where I detect “abuserese”, I know it’s a waste of time because clarification is not what they are after. All they want to do is “bash” you out of contempt. And to think that they are allowed to freely roam in those sorts of forums.

      Speaking of which, I just got reminded that an ex of a friend, who was ordered not to have contact with her, or her kids (thank God the judge saw his violence), got “converted” and is active on a Christian forum. This friend, who is not a Christian, will not go near churches in case she finds him there. Can you imagine if a person like him just happened to lurk and respond to a post of yours? You’d definitely feel triggered and anxious. These people just should not be allowed on Christian forums.

      Praying for the woman you have a heart for, that she would find this blog. In the meantime, keep safe, and hugs to you…

      • Just Me

        Thank you. Yes, I think it’s best to avoid forums for now. I’m still too in the thick of it to not get triggered by the Pharisee talk. This blog is a much safer place.

    • Anonymous

      You know, Just Me, I would post the Scriptures on Divorce, say Deut. 24, Matthew 19, and 1 Cor 7, and then add that you are not willing to say that you know more than God Himself, by changing God’s Word and saying that He never allows divorce, when He obviously does, and not just for adultery. (Note-I am not close to my Bible now, but there are a couple more that Barb posted that are in the OT, I believe in Ex and Deut, that were very good as well) Let them have to read that and deal with it, because that is exactly what is happening. Christians are making claims that they know how to do this better than God did. It sickens me. We are not to add to the Word of God, nor take away from it.

      • Those extra scriptures are Ex. 21:10-11 and Deut. 21:14.

    • Just Me,

      It sounds like he’s been imbibing at Doug Wilson’s trough or something.

      He is acting like she is not allowed to have a voice. I can’t imagine what that guy thinks her father and brothers (assuming she has either) would be expected to say if she is not allowed to address him herself but is only to “reverence” (!) this “husband.”

      And I know exactly what you mean by those kind of people causing anxiety. They can be brutal. Especially on the “Christian” forums (since we’re at putting “Christian” in quotes).

      • mlieder

        Oh my goodness. Doug Wilson. His father, Jim Wilson, counseled my ex and me for 3 years . . . . . do I have stories to tell . . . . it is a MIRACLE I found any voice at all.

      • Oh, wow. Doug Wilson’s father, eh?

        Well, if you want to tell any of those stories, I’d sure like to hear what you have to say, Mlieder!

  21. Kay

    WOW! Thanks for all the discussion. It is helpful for me. Healing from abuse – including spiritual abuse, takes lots of time. Reading her e-mail brought back painful memories of my times of separation and how Christian leaders didn’t help me and shamed me back to my husband. My ex at one point in our final separation, said he wasn’t willing to have an indefinite separation, which I had said I would be willing to do, because I still thought God would not approve if we got a divorce AND I still had an ounce of hope, he would change.
    He said he was going to file. Guess what? After two months he hadn’t filed. He had tried to manipulate me AGAIN! I FILED! and I am at peace and living in freedom and God isn’t “mad at me”! And I do not feel any guilt! Praise God for rescuing me and my kids!

  22. In both Roman and Jewish law in Jesus’ day, there was no such thing as a ‘legal separation’. The legal situation was different in many respects from ours. There was Roman law, Jewish religious law, and there were differences according to a person’s status – slave, emancipated slave, woman, man, Roman soldier, Roman citizen, Roman aristocracy, not to mention the other cultures and local customs that existed across the Roman empire, not all of which were completely replaced by Roman law.

    Under Roman law, there often was not a need for a legal divorce process resulting in a divorce certificate. Divorce was deemed to have taken place when one party to the marriage decided they no longer wanted to be married to the other person. (Sounds quite like what happens in cohabiting relationships today: when one person says “It’s over,” then it’s over.)
    Under Roman law, the father always had custody of the children, though with slaves it could be different because children born to slave parents were the property of the slave owner.

    In many marriages in the Roman empire, the wife’s property remained in her own name when she married. Also, a married women could remain under the legal cover her father or the male head of her extended family, and it was easy for her to keep this arrangement going so long as she stayed under her father’s roof for a few nights each year.

    Roman soldiers were not permitted to marry because that was seen as making them less likely to be committed to their soldiering duties. So many Roman soldiers took what we would think of as common-law wives: cohabitation.

    Under Jewish law divorce sometimes but not always involved the return of the woman’s dowry, and it always involved a divorce certificate. So there were legal procedures for Jewish divorce, as we hear of in Deut. 24 and Matthew 19 and Mark 12. But it was still not the same as our modern divorce.

    Most Christians have little idea of this complex legal and social background to the 1st century AD, and they try to simplistically lay the template of our modern laws and customs over the Bible. The notion that separation is different from divorce, and that one can take out a legal separation without committing the “sin” of divorce, is, biblically speaking, a load of nonsense.
    But try telling that to Pharisees who are intent on their verbal dance, trying not to step in “it.” They won’t hear you because their eyes are on their fancy footwork.

    PS My memory of this historical and social background to the 1st Century may be a little imperfect: it’s been some years since I researched all of that for my book. So if some scholar comes here, feel free to correct me.

    • Just Me

      Wow. Barbara, you’re knowledge in impressive.

  23. When women insist on this kind of arrangement and are not quick to capitulate to the coercions of a perpetrator who wants back into the home quickly, they almost always find that the perpetrator files for divorce.

    Where is the proper statistical research demonstrating this ‘almost always’ assertion?

    • Anonymous

      What a great discussion. I agree with everyone above!

      I tell people that I divorced because separation is unBiblical. If one is married, one should be available to the spouse and not withhold affection or emotional closeness. It is not fair to the other spouse. You are either married, one flesh and one spirit, or you are not.

      Debi is misinformed about unrepentant abusive spouses wanting to divorce. Cloud and Townsend perpetrate that same myth in Boundaries in Marriage – they caution against the victim divorcing, instead waiting for the abuser to divorce, which if he is unrepentant, he supposedly will, and that way, the victim would not have caused a divorce, which would have been sinful. Well, someone should tell Debi that not only do churched abusers not initiate divorce, but my secular DV counselor tells me that most of her secular clients had to file for divorce because their abusive spouses didn’t want to spend the money doing it!

      The downside of being the one to initiate the divorce proceeding is that he gains the sympathies of ignorant bystanders. When I see the need to to remind him that we are divorced, his retort is “I didn’t divorce you!” And he often tells the kids that he didn’t divorce their mother. However, this is a small price to pay for freedom. As long as we were only separated he could use all sorts of means to abuse me – physical distance was never a deterrent. I have removed one of his weapons – is that not a good thing?

      • That is disappointing about Townsend and Cloud, as I found the “Boundaries” book immensely helpful. They do imply this view in a single line but do not expound on it.

      • I was disappointed in Cloud and Townsend because of that too. I got so much out of their Boundaries series and find I use those principles all the time. They were the beginning of major emotional and spiritual healing for me back in my 20s. I am still surprised they hold this and especially over abuse!

        And it’s even worse if they are advocating a game of chicken with this divorce thing. It’s like a technicality at this point because they are saying divorce is fine as long as you don’t pursue it, even though you are the one who wants it and it’s clearly necessary. Isn’t that a kind of laundering of guilt? How is that right?

      • “Laundering of guilt”
        Wow, Barnabas in Training! You’ve just given me a gem for my sound bites file. Thank you!

      • I’m not surprised at all, actually. I think they are holding to the “party line” as much as possible. To be honest, the book read to me as if it was learned secular truth with the Bible grafted on (some of the scripture quotes they used didn’t seem to fit). Since I’m completely fine with an approach that looks at secular wisdom and filters it through the Bible, this didn’t really bother me, but I always wondered how much of the “Biblical” part was done so that they could gain endorsements from Focus on the Family and such.

        I may be too cynical, but I think the content is excellent, and logically applied it may be sometimes necessary to create a boundary with divorce, even if the authors don’t go that far.

      • Barbara Roberts

        “Laundering of guilt”
        Wow, Barnabas in Training! You’ve just given me a gem for my sound bites file. Thank you!


  24. Jenny

    I guess my case is unusual. In Australia, you can finalise financial and parenting arrangements without divorcing. The divorce is a seperate legal formality only that you cannot apply for until you have been seperated at least 12 months. After I initiated the separation he spoke to me of dragging me to family court int the next few days and puting me on trial and how court can break people, and he was very quick to file papers to finalise our financial and parenting arrangements. He was very disappointed that I could afford to buy him out of the family home as he wanted to force a sale and for me to end up living in a carboard box or out on the streets. He tried every trick possible to drag out and stall our case in order to increase my legal costs. Even though I offered to buy him out of the family home he tried to force me to sell. He raised the issue of divorce at around the 11 month mark of our separation . This may have been due to the fact that I had a court order banning him from communicating with me unless it was by text message and related to the children’s welfare. I think it was a pride issue with him also coupled with the fact that weeks after the divorce he announced his engagement to the ‘flatmate’ he had been living with since we seperated after our 20 year marriage.

  25. I tried to do it the Debbie Pryde way. I dragged it out over 4 years. The result was that I had no child support until I finally filed for divorce, and when all the debts got split up legally, they included a trip he had taken during our separation. I was glad to start paying off my half by the way, even if it rankled a bit paying for that post-separation trip of his. I was finally able to pay my way out of debt. It took me a few years and I was broke but I did have the child support finally. When my ex died (really sad, he pretty much killed himself off with a combo of legal and illegal drugs) he was still deeply in debt even though he had a huge salary by then.

    I should have just filed sooner without dragging it out. Hindsight is so much clearer. But I had a lot of confusion and fear and it too me a long time to get up the courage. And I had many “counselors” saying things like Debbie Pryde.

  26. Anne

    These comments have been very helpful. But would you agree that there is a timeline/spectrum of altering one’s beliefs on this sad issue? To be very honest…being in a church that doesn’t even recognize verbal abuse as a valid reason for separation, Debi’s book came as a breath of fresh air to me. My thoughts were ‘who cares about divorce? finally I have read a biblical basis for escaping the torture of the verbal abuse (which recently escalated to physical). I thought, ‘even if i don’t agree that divorce is prohibited in scripture, my church leaders cannot dispute Debi’s biblical dissertation on the validity of separation for abuse — not that they would even consider reading her book’. But now, I thought, at least I have a resource that I could place in their hands. I guess what I’m wondering is whether it is unjust to disparage her entire book There are larger issues at stake here, I know, like–for example–can I even stay in this church?; can I in good conscience make myself subject to the leadership of the elders? Even for myself….it has taken me several years to conclude that I can in good conscience separate because of the abuse. Can I expect the learning curve for church leaders who may have never experienced abuse, to be any faster than mine? [I am still in the stage of being convinced that divorce is a biblical option–this may take time.] Thank you for letting me share my heart. I value everyone’s thoughts.

    • joepote01

      Anne –

      It sounds like you have had much pain and sorrow to deal with and have committed to studying God’s word to learn as much as possible on this topic. You are to be commended!

      Yes, it is a major paradigm shift from what your church leaders are teaching to what I understand to be a biblical perspective of God’s heart of love and redemption toward His children who are enslaved in abusive relationships. I know how major a shift it is, because it is a shift I have personally made, as the Holy Spirit guided and comforted me through a divorce.

      Can the shift be more easily made in smaller steps? Should we promote a little lie because it is better than a big lie? Should we promote partial biblical truth because some may not be ready to hear the full truth?

      I don’t think so.

      Granted, major paradigm shifts are difficult…but to try to gradually shift perspective only gives the listener more opportunity to reject the truth in smaller doses…all without having their own perspective seriously challenged with a better perspective closer to God’s heart.

      Now, that does not mean that there may not be some valuable truth in Debi Pryde’s writing. I have not personally read her books, so I would not be qualified to say. However, based on the above quotes, it sounds like she clearly advocates that abuse targets must remain in intimate covenant relationship with their abuser. That position is both unbiblical and dangerous…as such, we are compelled to speak out against that position.

      For my part, I feel God has led me to speak out on this issue. Whether any church leaders listen or how quickly they respond is outside my control. My task, with God’s help, is to speak my understanding of God’s truth as clearly as I can.

      I am praying for you, today, that the Holy Spirit will continue to encourage, strengthen, and guide you.

    • thepersistentwidow

      Anne, You have asked some pertinent questions here:

      “There are larger issues at stake here, I know, like–for example–can I even stay in this church?; can I in good conscience make myself subject to the leadership of the elders?”

      I wish I would have stepped back and looked at my abuse situation as clearly as you have done here, instead I trusted that the elders knew how to handle it and I was very wrong. They subjected my children and me to danger, emotional turmoil, and financial harm by dragging me through their lengthy and irrational “process”. Despite my presenting the elders with Barb and Jeff’s books and the recommendations of professional abuse specialists, the church still blamed me for walking away from their bad counsel. I was vilified by them before the church, my local community, and threatened with church discipline for refusing their efforts to force the unrepentant abuser back into our home.

      It was through this nightmare that I seriously scrutinized the theology of that church and realized that their response was a symptom of their legalistic doctrines. Through God’s mercy, I would up in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod where I can now look back and see how faulty the last church’s theology was. They had no intention to learn but were arrogant and abusive themselves. It is possible you may be met with the same response.

      The LCMS has excellent resources on domestic abuse available and this post gives links to them: https://cryingoutforjustice.blog/2014/12/08/domestic-abuse-project-by-lutheran-church-missouri-synod-lcms-now-online/

      Should you wish to approach your elders, I suggest that you print out the LCMS position paper, When Homes are Heartless, and take it to them. Ask them if they agree with it. If not, I suggest moving on to another church and not engaging with them at all.

      Praying for you as you move ahead.

    • Anne I understand the thoughts and musings you’ve expresed here.
      Yes, we victims often hope that our church leaders will awaken and start to get it, even if only partially, by increments. However, I think that hope is often too sanguine, too optimistic.

      You said:

      My thoughts were ‘who cares about divorce? finally I have read a biblical basis for escaping the torture of the verbal abuse (which recently escalated to physical). I thought, ‘even if i don’t agree that divorce is prohibited in scripture, my church leaders cannot dispute Debi’s biblical dissertation on the validity of separation for abuse — not that they would even consider reading her book’. But now, I thought, at least I have a resource that I could place in their hands.

      Yes, you could have placed Debi’s book in their hands, but as you say, they probably wouldn’t read it. Why? — because they do not have the same burning questions you had. They do not feel any great need to find a biblical explanation of separation for abuse, or an exegesis that justifies escaping the torture of verbal abuse. They almost certainly assume that if it were to occur, separation must be only temporary and short term because the goal is always to reconcile the parties.

      And so even if they did read Pryde’s book and become convinced that Scripture does allow separation for abuse, they would still persecute you for not being willing to be reconciled with your abuser. The abuser would manifest enough signs of ‘repenatance’ to con them into thinking he was genuinely repentant and reforming, and the leaders would close the pincers on you for being reluctant to reconcile.

      That is why we say that getting the doctrine of divorce right is essential in this ministry. Anything less that a complete Biblical understanding of the victim’s liberty to divorce the abuser, is going to sooner or later end up compounding the bondage and persecution of the victim.

      • Anne

        Thank you, everyone, for taking the time to respond to my question.

        Debi does effectively address in her book (in her appeal to pastors/counselors) that the abused person needs to be cautious about pre-mature reconciliation; in fact, if I remember rightly, she even implies that reconciliation may never be possible. The ONLY thing that I can see that she differs with Jeff on is the subject of divorce.

        I am grateful that I have come to the realization that it has been delusional of me to even think that I would have any influence on the leadership of my church to change their ideas.

        I will carefully consider what you have all written. :o)

        PS: Joepote01…Quote: However, based on the above quotes, it sounds like she clearly advocates that abuse targets must remain in intimate covenant relationship with their abuser. Unquote. Debi does not endorse this concept in her book.

      • joepote01


        I have not read Debi’s book, and would not pretend to understand her full counsel. To be honest, I am really critiquing just one quote from her book, “Divorce is NOT an option!”

        From my perspective, which I believe to be a biblical perspective, marriage is an intimate covenant relationship. That’s what God designed marriage to be. By saying, “Divorce is NOT an option,” Debi is requiring the abuse target to remain in intimate covenant relationship with the abuser.

        Unless the quote has been lifted completely out of context…which you would know better than me…this admonishing statement compels the victim to remain in intimate covenant relationship with the abuser, by denying the possibility of dissolving the relationship through divorce.

        Blessings to you as you traverse this difficult path. May the Holy Spirit continue to lead and guide you.

  27. Gracie

    Joepote01 said-By saying, “Divorce is NOT an option,” Debi is requiring the abuse target to remain in intimate covenant relationship with the abuser.

    It is not a covenant relationship with an ‘abuser’…it is forcing someone to remain in covenant with evil. Plain and simple. God had quite a bit to say about that in the Bible.

  28. Anne

    Joepote01, Do you then believe this is true for legal separation as well? That is the difference I was making. Legal separation doesn’t mean you must remain in intimate covenant relationship does it?…..(when Debi says “Divorce is NOT an option,” Debi is requiring the abuse target to remain in intimate covenant relationship with the abuser.)

    Thank you for your encouragement. I look forward to reading your blog.

    BTW Does Pastor Crippen counsel online?

    • joepote01

      Fostymom –

      Thank you, for the thought-provoking questions! 🙂

      I think separation can be a very beneficial step, as a temporary measure. I do not see separation as a valid long-term solution, nor do I see any biblical basis for encouraging abuse targets to seek legal separation while telling them they must not divorce.

      As a general rule, most of the folks who would counsel an abuse target to separate without divorcing intend it as a temporary measure, with full intent of later pressuring them to seek reconciliation. I see this as both unwise counsel and unbiblical.

      I see separation as a state of limbo with poorly defined boundaries. The couple is still husband and wife. They are still legally married. They are still family. The covenant still exists at least from a legal perspective. The level of relationship is, of course, up to the individuals…however, the fact that they are legally separated implies minimal relationship…which begs the question of why one would want to remain legally bound to someone with whom they have no relationship and no trust.

      Divorce is messy for a while. It takes a while to sort out separation of finances…both assets and debts. It takes a while to convince creditors that you are not responsible for your former spouse’s debts. It takes a while to sort out child custody agreements and responsibilities. It takes a while to convince schools, doctors, etc. of what the new legal boundaries are. It takes a while, but you do eventually get it sorted out.

      Separation without divorce prolongs that state of limbo indefinitely. So long as one is separated but not divorced, they are still legally bound, at some level, to the abuser. The abuser still has some level of access. And the abuser still has some level of legal claim, “You’re still my wife…” Depending on the state (I’m told some do not even recognize legal separation) the abuser may still have full access to finances and the abuse target may still be fully responsible for the abusers debts.

      When God delivered Israel from Egypt, He not only delivered them, but He also redeemed them. He did not leave them legally bound to Pharaoh in any way. They were free! Free to live a life liberated from slavery and abuse…free to worship God as He called them to.

      Similarly, our deliverance from sin began with Jesus redeeming us from the kingdom of darkness. First he severs the legal ties, then He delivers us. We cannot be free from the power of sin without first being freed from legal relationship with the kingdom of darkness.

      It’s how God works in our lives. He redeems and delivers. Redemption dissolves the legal ties and deliverance is His walking with us as we leave the fog of abuse and toxicly poor theology to enter His rest.

      God does not leave us legally joined to evil while leading us to walk in liberty with Him. He first redeems us! And in the case of an abusive marriage, that redemption is divorce.

      You can find more on my understanding of covenant and redemption on these two pages:

      May God continue to lead, guide and comfort you throughout this difficult journey!

      • loves6

        Sadly…. the country I live in.. we must be separated for 2 years before we can get a divorce.
        My husband would never agree to a divorce and would not sign papers if they were served to him.
        As far as he is concerned I am his wife and he would do everything he could to make life hell for me.
        I weigh up all this and I am doing this at present….. I am in a prison. I am miserable

      • If your country has that time limit before getting a divorce, isn’t there a way you can separate from your abuser and then after two years apply for a divorce? Maybe the professionals at a domestic violence support service can give you some tips in this regard. Or a legal aid service. Or even an online search.

        In my country, Australia, you can leave your spouse whenever you want and straight away apply for custody and property settlement through the Family Court, without applying for a divorce. To apply for a divorce one has to wait twelve months since the separation. The divorce application is pretty straightforward (so long as you don’t have stumbling blocks in serving the papers on the stbX). And the divorce hearing in the court takes only a few seconds. Not even a minute, if it’s cut and dried. But if there are kids from the marriage, you have to have the arrangments for the kids sorted out before you go for the divorce.

        The tough part, in Oz, is the custody and property settlement or agreement. If the abuser battles you on that, it can be arduous and full of unexpected traps. Getting a good lawyer is a help, if you can beg or borrow the money. If you can’t get a good lawyer, you can still do it though. Seek as much advice and support and tips from those who have more experience than you, those who have been through it, or those who have observed other victim’s journeys. Don’t assume that non-lawyers know it all, but they can sometimes alert you to things you may not have otherwise thought of.

        The process in Australia is quite a different process than it is in the USA, I believe. In the USA, divorce, custody and property seem to all get settled together. And other countries may do it differently again. So I suggest you bear that in mind when reading other people’s comments and suggestions on this blog.

      • joepote01

        Loves6 –

        How hard!

        I don’t know how to advise you other than what Barbara has already said. Seek legal counsel and make as much use as possible of domestic violence support services.

        I am praying for you, this morning, that God will strengthen you, comfort you, and give you wisdom in seeking wise counsel.

      • very well said, Joe. To it, I would add that in the time of the NT, the secular culture did not make the distinction b/w separation and divorce that we make today. Separation by one party with intent to end the marriage was equivalent to divorce.

    • joepote01

      Oh…and I don’t know about Pastor Crippen’s counseling. I do know he is pretty good about responding to e-mail in a timely manner. His e-mail address can be found under the ‘About’ tab at the top of the blog screen.


      • Anne

        Thank you once again. This is so difficult. It helps when I know the response is not pragmatic but based on sound theology as well as sifted through the heart of empathetic experience. Of course it goes without saying that the reason I am still married is because I thought it was the right thing to do. The more I see the negative results in my children (those are the ones I cry for the most) the more I know that something is wrong with the traditional view of ‘no divorce’.

        One of the missionaries I respect the most tells about what the leaders in the church down in Argentina do as soon as a male converts to Christ—they hold discipleship classes on the topic of domestic violence. Third-world countries have it over on us!!

        Thanks for your kindness.

      • joepote01

        You are so welcome!

        Yes, it is hard…very hard.

        But God is faithful!

        Blessings to you, Fostymom!

      • twbtc

        Hi fostymom,

        If it is safe for you to receive an email from me, would you email me at twbtc.acfj@gmail.com. I have a question about your screen name. Thanks.

      • Anne

        Yes. It is safe. Email sent.

      • One of the missionaries I respect the most tells about what the leaders in the church down in Argentina do as soon as a male converts to Christ—they hold discipleship classes on the topic of domestic violence.

        Wow! What a good idea. Such classes wouldn’t do any harm and would hopefully be exceedlingly helpful. Those who aren’t abusive would be more alerted to the ways other men can be abusive, and therefore hopefully more able to see the subtle signs in families they know and better able to resist the abusers’ invitations to collude. Those who are abusers would be hit between the eyes with the fact that it is totally UnChristian to abuse your wife. Okay guys, you’ve come to Christ. . . now let’s tell you what that involves! And no funny business, no blurring the lines, no shilly shallying.

    • joepote01

      Anne – Your questions got me thinking more about why I believe what I believe on separation and divorce…so this evening I posted a discussion of my understanding of the Apostle Paul’s instruction on separation, divorce, and remarriage, in 1 Corinthians 7.


      Blessings to you!


      • Thank you so much for this post. Very enlightening!

      • joepote01

        You’re so welcome, Loves6!

        Thank YOU!

  29. Gracie

    I would like to know what people like Debi has to say to those of us who live in states where, if my husband wants a divorce, he can get one. It doesn’t matter if I want it or not, the courts here will grant it eventually.

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