CCEF say that victims of abuse need redemption
[July 19, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
Similarly, you should typically expect to find two sinners embroiled with each other, not one irredeemable monster oppressing one innocent victim who needs no redemption.
The above sentence is by David Powlison, Paul David Tripp and Edward T Welch, men who are or have been leaders of CCEF — Christian Counseling Education Foundation. It is part of the guidance they give to pastors and counselors who are trying to help domestic violence. The quote comes from p 10 of the CCEF booklet Domestic Abuse, How to Help.1 That is the booklet which Peacemakers Ministry recommend [This link is broken and there is no replacement. Editors.] for pastors who are inexperienced in dealing with domestic violence, as Persistent Widow discovered in her research after having been badly hurt by Peacemakers and a PCA church (link).
The guidance that Powlison, Tripp and Welch give suggests that abuse victims wrongly convey to pastors and counselors that they, the victims, are totally without sin (are innocent victims who need no redemption). These three men imply that counselors and pastors need to be on the lookout for where the victim is sinning in the relationship.
Let me show you the whole paragraph in which the quoted sentence occurs, so you can see for yourself1:
Similarly, you should typically expect to find two sinners embroiled with each other, not one irredeemable monster oppressing one innocent victim who needs no redemption. God will be at work in the lives of both people. So explore incidents of violence in detail. You will usually find places where both parties need God’s grace to change. Perhaps one spouse draws most of the attention because he acts with his fists; but on closer inspection the other spouse may skillfully wield her tongue in ways that seek to bring hurt through use of words. Outbursts of violence are usually extreme instances in more widespread, low-grade patterns of conflict. Look for the common sins that both parties share, as well as for the unique outbreaks of sin in one party. You want to help both people become more loving, wise and peaceable.
Several posts could probably be written about this one paragraph. There are so many things wrong with it.
- The potential for sin levelling is in that paragraph for sure. (Though to give them a modicum of credit, their next paragraph warns counselors not to accept the abuser’s blame-shifting distortions.)
- They assume that God is working in the abuser, implying the abuser is a believer (an assumption which we reject).
- They lampoon the idea that an abuser is an ‘irredeemable monster’. At ACFJ we do not say that abusers are irredeemable; all we say is that it’s best to (a) assume that abusers are not Christians, and (b) recognise that their entrenched character disturbance, their mentality of entitlement and responsibility-resistance, means they are very unlikely to humble themselves and repent unto saving faith.
- They call it ‘conflict’ which is a misnomer. It’s abuse. Not conflict. Conflict implies differences contested and debated between two individuals of relatively equal power. The word ‘conflict’ implies there are issues or points of disagreement, and / or fighting. In abuse, there is power-over and intimidation and subjection and control. ‘Issues of conflict’ are random, they shift and change at the whim and craft of the abuser; the victim cannot make peace because every attempt she makes at negotiation and appeasement is being made on shifting and sticky quicksand. And what outsiders may perceive as a ‘fight’ or ‘conflict’ is usually the victim trying to selectively resist the wicked oppression of the perpetrator, and the perpetrator escalating and intensifying his control tactics in order to push the victim back down, deprive her of dignity and personal liberty, and make her confused, bewildered, exhausted and scared. But enough of that. We write about that a lot.
What I really want to focus on in this post is:
CCEF say that victims need redemption
They say the abuse victim must not be seen as an innocent victim who needs no redemption. Let’s clarify this by turning their double negative into a positive. These men are implying, “The victim needs redemption.”
Christianity 101: Who needs redemption? Collectively, fallen man needs redemption from original sin. But when we speak of individuals, we only say that unsaved people need redemption. Those who have been born again do not need redemption, they have come to faith in Christ so the price that Jesus paid on the Cross has been effectually applied to them. They have been redeemed. In Him we have redemption (Eph 1:17; Col 1:14) — we do not need it, we already have it. We have been bought back, redeemed by the blood of Christ from the domain of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God, having received adoption as children of God in Christ Jesus.
Side note: The only time the New Testament talks about redemption as something future, something yet to occur, is when it refers to the redemption of our bodies (Rom 8:23; Eph 4:30). And it talks about our future redemption not as something we ‘need’ in the here and now, and (hem hem) need to be admonished about so we don’t get cocky and forget that we need it (as CCEF would imply), it talks about the redemption of our bodies as something that is promised and surely will be given to us in Christ Jesus on that Day, to the praise of His glorious grace.
Never once on this blog or in our books do we say that a Christian abuse victim needs redemption. If an abuse victim is not a Christian, sure, she needs redemption, like every unsaved person does. But a believer in Christ has been redeemed.
At ACFJ we may talk about how a Christian victim of abuse — like all Christians — is called to sanctification: the Bible exhorts all believers to develop a more and more Christ-like character throughout the rest of their days on this earth. But we never say the victim needs redemption. And it is insulting for CCEF to talk about Christian victims as ‘needing redemption’ because it means that the victims are not saved — that they are still dead in their sins and heading to hell without Christ.
I believe that CCEF, Peacemakers and their ilk have been using the word ‘redemption’ very sloppily and without any concern for how their use of it insults Christian victims of abuse.
What do you think? Do you hear the statement that ‘Christian victims of abuse need redemption’ as an insult? Do you see it as besmirching victims?
1The full text of the CCEF booklet has also been published as ‘Pastoral Responses to Domestic Violence’ (Chapter 14 of Pastoral Leadership for Manhood and Womanhood, Wayne Grudem & Denis Rainey, eds.) The sentence I quoted at the start of this post can be see on p 271 of that volume in Google books.
[July 19, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to July 19, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to July 19, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to July 19, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (July 19, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]