Two doctrines: one will set you free, the other will enslave you
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)
For this Sunday’s post, we have adapted a comment made by Persistentwidow (link).
Read, learn, and be free.
In my opinion, I see two differing doctrines propelling how Christian books/programs deal with abuse. The first is a belief that abused Christians need to tough it out and continue to live with an abuser. This is a work that the abused offers to God by suffering and allowing the family to suffer in the hope that the abuser may someday stop harming his family and convert. There is no end to the amount of books, advice, counseling sessions, or expense with the emphasis being on what the abused is doing to trigger the abuse. These sources consider abusers to be Christians despite acting in ways that prove they are not. Because followers of this perspective claim that God hates divorce and society will degenerate because of it, they do not allow divorce for abuse. Or they may give lip service to it, but in practice they pressure victims not to divorce. This legalistic focus is on preserving the “marriage” despite the abuse; the focus is not necessarily on the well-being of people suffering because of it. Needless to say, that is not our perspective here at ACFJ, rather, we work to warn people of how dangerous that perspective is.
The other perspective is clearly articulated in both Barb and Jeff’s books and this blog. In an abusive marriage, the problem is with the abuser who has broken the marriage covenant through abuse. He should be held accountable for his own sinful actions and the victim may divorce and remarry. The focus is on God redeeming his people, not on human works of suffering (asceticism) to please God:
Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations — “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used) — according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:18-23)
Christian abuse resources and church positions fall into these two independent categories. One category believes that abuse is grounds for divorce; the other believes that abuse isn’t grounds for divorce.
Although those in the second category may not diminish the plight of the victim, they likely push for the victim to effect change in her abuser, and that makes things worse by stringing victims along with no end in sight. We disagree with their tactics and theology. We believe that the only way to end abuse is to remove oneself from it and we don’t consider divorce for abuse to be a sin. In fact, we maintain that filing the paperwork is just an acknowledgement of the already destroyed marriage covenant, the destroyer being the abuser.
The bottom line is that one view is based on Works, the other Grace. The type of counselor/teacher one seeks in this matter is dependent upon what one’s view of Christianity is. So if one is looking for laws to follow, go to a legalistic teacher. If one is looking for Grace, go to a teacher who understands the Gospel.
Why sift through the teachings of those with a theological agenda that we don’t agree with, when there are many trustworthy sources in our Resources tab at the top of the page?
. . . the LORD will thresh out the grain, and you will be gleaned one by one, O people of Israel. (Is. 27:12)