A Cry For Justice

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

Wise as Serpents: The Seductive Beauty of Evil  (Part 11 of sermon series)

UPDATE  Sept 2021:  Barbara Roberts has come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches.  He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.


As we continue to consider the nature and tactics of evil and those who are its emissaries, we must once again remind ourselves that this darkness cannot overcome the Light of Christ.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

Let’s always remember as we walk through this life in the presence of evil and do battle with it, that a Day is coming when we will never see evil again:

But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Rev 21:27)

In a sense we have never known ‘normal’.

Evil often appears in seductive beauty, and this is the aspect of it that we are going to consider this morning.

My name is Janice and I’ve been free from my abuser for almost 2 years now.  I want to share my story because the attempted public shaming of Naghmeh Abedini is a trigger for what my husband did when I tried to leave.  My ex husband is a well-known “Christian” musician.  His worship songs are sung by quite a few churches, he’s played at most of the Christian music festivals around the world.  When I met him, I already knew his worship songs, just not his name.  When I met him he was the most incredible person.  When I left him  years later I had finally unraveled his outside appearance and found what was really underneath.

I was in my 20’s when I met my husband and he was in his late 30’s.  I had no family in the new place I was living, and had found it hard to make many meaningful friendships.  I met him in another state while I was home for a weekend.  He was on tour.

We spent the evening talking and I was amazed at how incredible this man was.  I had always felt out of place in the church.  A little too wild, too independent, too weird.  I’d returned home from missions in Europe the year before but I missed the country I had served in terribly and I wanted to move back.  He wanted to move to Europe, within the next couple years!  He considered music his ministry and had a burden on his heart to reach atheist Europe.  He loved all the same bands that I’d grown up on and liked to go out dancing once in awhile at clubs that catered to that music.

He loved some well-known Christian theologians and claimed to have read every book by one of my favorites. He had tattoos (like me), piercings (like me), and we enjoyed a couple glasses of wine over the course of the evening.  He told me he wanted me to sing on an album, he couldn’t wait to get home to take me out dancing, and we made plans to see each other in a month.

I couldn’t believe how lucky I was. It seemed so incredible it must be God ordained. How could it not be, with so much in common, meeting on the other side of the country, and I really believed I heard God speak to me that night and tell me he was The One.

But Janice had not heard the Lord that evening. The voice she heard was, in fact, the voice of the evil one disguised in seductive beauty, as she would soon find out. It would be over a decade before she was able to get free of this wicked man and she would suffer much at his hands. He continues to this day, incidentally, to be a leader in a church, adored by many and has selected another victim. His abuse tactics and perversions are so hellish that most of them I could not even describe for you here.

This is the second person this week who has written these very kinds of words:

“I just know this is the Lord directing me. Look at all of the details and how they came into place. And this man, this man is so godly, so charming, so kind and loving toward me! I have never met anyone like him before. Thank you Lord.”

Well, the thank-yous will change as the years go by. The seductive beauty of evil, you see.

Read about sociopaths, psychopaths, and narcissists and you will find consistently that their victims found them very charming at first. Unusually charming. Being wise about evil means knowing these things. It means listening carefully, perhaps more carefully than ever before, to the warnings of God’s Word:

Proverbs 5:1-6
My son, be attentive to my wisdom (listen up!) incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge. For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it.

Think again about these verses. Ask some searching questions.

  • What does it mean that her lips drip honey and her speech is smoother than oil?

It means far more than physical attractiveness and seductive behavior. It means that this evil comes speaking charming, flattering words that make you feel more than good – exhilarated. Here is someone whose words are saying that they believe in you, that they love you, that you have value to them. They are words and behaviors that are extremely potent and powerful like a soothing, energizing drug. And it seems so beautiful. So right. So…of the Lord.

But it is not. The reality is:

  • Bitterness
  • The piercing of a sword
  • Death

In those verses from Proverbs, in these warnings of a father to his son, the evil is depicted in a very common form that it comes to a young man in – the wicked, evil woman. But the principle and application is much wider than that:

  • a charming, evil man speaking such words to a young woman
  • an evil charlatan selling his fraudulent “investment” package
  • a candidate for a pastoral position in a church with a knack for charming his way into such positions of trust
  • a pastor or church leader who is considered the most charming person you have ever met.

We must be wise. The church is the favourite target of the enemy. Many times if you could ask these people “Why do you target churches?” they would say “Because Christians are easily duped. They believe in love, mercy, generosity.”  We must be wise as serpents. Evil loves to show up in seductive beauty.

I don’t know if Jane Austen was a Christian, but she had a handle on the seductive beauty of evil. From Elinor and Emma:

Pride and Prejudice – Wickham is handsome, cheerful, always ready to talk, and very charming. It’s small wonder that Elizabeth almost fell for him. But he has a rotten side to him as his elopement with Lydia and his near-elopement with Georgiana shows.

Sense and Sensibility – John Willoughby is everything Marianne ever dreamed of. Handsome, witty, and romantic.  But he lets Marianne think he will still marry her while he courts Miss King.  She almost dies because of his treachery.

Mansfield Park – Henry Crawford is charming, kind, and attentive.  He is devoted to Fanny. But she sees through him and remembers his treatment of her cousins, Julia and Maria. Even when he is kind to her and her uncle pressures her [to marry Henry Crawford], she still holds fast to her refusal of his proposal.  Her instincts prove right when he scandalously elopes with the now married Maria.

The Serpent in the Garden

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Gen 3:1)

Crafty. What does that mean? It is variously translated in English Bibles as:

  • Crafty
  • Subtle
  • Intelligent
  • Sneakier
  • Clever
  • Cunning
  • Astute
  • Shrewd
  • More able to fool

Think this through carefully then. Would such a being come in a repulsive, fearsome form – like we think of when we imagine “serpent”? I doubt it. The crawling on the dust came after the fall. I suspect that whatever the serpent looked like before the fall it would have been attractive. Strikingly beautiful. The seductive beauty of evil, you see. Eve, then Adam, was seduced by evil.

Here is the Lord Jesus’ describing the serpent in truth:

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)

THAT is who that “beautiful” creature really was in Eden.

Many times I have had women write to me and tell their sad story of how they had met the most wonderful man they ever knew, married him, and literally on the honeymoon that man went away and another man, an evil man they had never seen before, took his place.

A sobering warning

Once you allow yourself to be charmed by the seductive beauty of evil, you will not listen to any words of warning your parents or your friends might say. You will be blinded and deafened to reason. And you will only awaken from this seduction after experiencing the sad outcome.

By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Gen 3:19)

He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. (Gen 3:24)

And of course the Lord in His mercy provided a Redeemer, but no doubt every day Adam and Eve experienced regrets.

My companion (my companion!) stretched out his hand against his friends; he violated his covenant. His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords. Psalm 55:20-21

Many times we have experienced this in this church and you’re trying to tell people: “Look, this is who this person really is!” but they won’t listen!

With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life. (Proverbs 7:21-23)

Here are some examples from Robert Hare’s book, Without Conscience

A woman in Florida bought him a new car. A woman in California bought him a motor home. As a newspaper article describing Leslie Gall’s cross country exploits aptly pointed out, it’s all in the name: Gall says it all.

The ‘sweetheart swindler’ as one of his victims referred to him, made his way from widow to widow, bilking them out of all he needed and far more. They opened their hearts and checkbooks to him. With never, charm, and a suitcase full of false ID’s, he allegedly stole thousands of dollars from elderly women he met at senior citizens dances and social clubs. (chap 4)

Now, what if a guy like that decided to target a church, and what if his goal was not chiefly money, but power.

And another-

Elyse met Jeffrey in the summer of 1984, and she was never to forget that day. She was at the beach with some friends when she spied him and was completely charmed by his huge, bright smiles. He walked right up to her and asked for her phone number, and his effrontery somehow disarmed her – she just gave in to his smile and utter lack of self-consciousness. He called her the next day and then somehow showed up at her job. So it began…with a smile. (chap 5)

“It” was a nightmare of evil that would affect Elyse the rest of her life. The seductive charm of evil had buried its fangs in her.

By the way, Seven Red Flags in a Toxic Christian Dating Relationship [called Deal Breakers: Advice to Unmarried Women (and Daughters) when this Wise as Serpents post was published] is a very good blog post by Natalie Klejwa [now Natalie Hoffman]. You can also get it as a PDF which you can print off and share. [The link to the PDF is broken and the is no replacement. Editors.]

The Apostle Paul warns us of these things. Christians are warned over and over again about the ability of evil to appear beautiful and charming. In fact, that is the very form of choice when Satan’s ambassadors work to gain acceptance and power in Christ’s church. Listen to it-

2 Cor 11:1-4, 12-20
I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough…

And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.

And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.

So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not as the Lord would but as a fool. Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face.

Those are the words directed to people who have been seduced by seductive evil. People (people who profess Christ!) who won’t listen to truth. They put up with the evil. Paul is teaching us and warning us as follows:

  • Satan is that beguiling serpent who deceived Eve and he is at work trying to deceive us as well.
  • His goal as he creeps in among us in the church is to lure us away from Christ, from our freedom, and put us into bondage to HIM.
  • He creates a culture of power. I will be like the most high — that’s what Satan wants. Every move, every tactic, is designed to obtain power and deify itself.
  • Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light! Think carefully about that! That is a pretty good disguise!
  • Evil, in its seductive beauty, puts on the disguise of an apostle of Christ, of a servant of righteousness. By these tactics evil people deceive many.
  • Christians who fall for these tactics receive such evil ones gladly, even when such a wolf mistreats them! And then just TRY to tell them “he’s a wolf!” They won’t listen.

Here is another case study:

‘John’ and his wife have been influential members and leaders in their church (400-500 people) for something like three decades. His wife has been the music director for most of that time. John is a former military professor, very much respected in the community. This man and his wife show up every time when someone has a need. And John has the ear of the pastor; the pastor doesn’t do anything without consulting John. Some people in the church think things are just great. Others are really confused. THERE is the problem. That’s how evil is directing this thing. John actually pulls the strings. But if you accuse John of being a Diotrephes (= always liking to be first) he has plausible deniability —because the pastor is the official leader. That is the seductive nature of evil. There is this culture of power, hidden behind an exquisitely beautiful facade.

The Woman on the Beast

Rev 17:1-6
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.”

And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. When I saw her, I marveled greatly.

You see it? Here is this filthy, vile, evil power, the source of all idolatries, murderer of Christ’s people, and yet (and I think this is partly why John is marvelling at this) she is seductively beautiful. With this false beauty she has seduced many. Perhaps this is why John is marveling “greatly”? Babylon here is the world economic and religious system which, with false beauty, seduces myriads of people to embrace her rather than Christ.

No doubt this is why the Apostle John warns us:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. (and here’s the reality of all this seductive beauty:) And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. (1 Jn 2:15-18)

Evil often appears in seductive beauty, just as the serpent appeared in Eden. Lips dripping with honey, words smoother than silk. Do not be deceived or charmed. Its way is the way of death.

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men… (Mat 10:16-17)


Audio and PDF of this sermon here. It’s always worth listening to the sermons because they contain more than the written version; Jeff extemporises and elaborates on the written sermon he had prepared.

Go to Part 12 of this series

A list of the entire series can be found at our Wise as Serpents tab on the top menu.



  1. Ng

    Wow. This is so spot on. Thank you for the insightfulness and truth!
    I have come across such ‘charmers’, some I could spot beforehand, with some the dark side emerged only later.
    Years ago, in a country X, a charming pastoral candidate managed to come, sweep many people off their feet and take over the church.. while the godly pastoral couple was practically kicked out to the curb (the Lord did NOT abandon them, though!).. I recognized him as a charlatan – and many others noticed some alarming signs in his conduct. Being a radical in my faith, I almost rebuked him to his face once he tried to talk something unappropriate to me ..
    It took several years, but he was eventually found out and told to leave – the overseeing board had had enough. Not before he succeeded to create lot of havoc, though…

    Another such charmer from the beautiful side of evil came to my life in another country, another time: this man was specifically introduced me as a possible relationship candidate! and I found him thrilling – such handsome, godly man, who knew the Word and oozed with anointing! What came to the surface, though, was his incredible narcissistic ambition and hunger for power & adoration… he played people very cruelly for his own advantage – and took Westerners ‘to a ride’ for financial and spiritual profits… and also played people against each other, to get more adoration and benefits to himself.
    That incident was heartbreaking, as I had been so sure God had sent my husband to my life… having to have my dreams crushed and mocked was cruel – but I learned so much – more than any Bible school EVER taught me. That taught me to disregard the outward signs of anointing and spirituality… Anyone can have them, but not everyone has a kind, loving heart…
    That’s why someone preaching abilities impress me very little these days. Humility and gentleness are what count.

    • Better Equipped

      I love that you said “humility and gentleness”. James speaks about this contrast in chapter four: the wisdom from above compared to the wisdom that is worldly, unspiritual, demonic. He is also speaking to those ‘who would become teachers’ for in that role, many vied for power over others. True humility can never be disguised because the prideful heart cannot maintain a pretense of it.

      • Hi Better Equipped, I changed the screen name in your comment to make it the same as the name you have used here previously. Please be careful about what is written in the “Name” field when you submit a comment. You might want to review our New Users Info page.

  2. Beauty

    Oh, how I needed to be challenged by this message this morning. As I sift through the abuse in my past, and sift my own desires today- God’s timing is perfect! What I am still wondering, resisting the idea of casting all God’s beauty aside, how do we discern between holy beauty and evil beauty when both present as light?

    Sometimes I have the sense that I should unsensibly leave my reformed husband. No looking back – lest I be sucked in forever like a pillar of salt…. that doing so is reaching toward God, embracing the terrifying pain of loneliness, and carving out an uncertain future that leaves behind the engagement of figuring him out. … all the entanglement of “is he really changed or not.”

    Then other moments I think, why can’t I pursue God with him next me? Yet, that feels akin to the serpent saying, “Did God really say….?”

    I have had a desperate, isolated 13 years of grinding out my faith next to someone who was contrary in every possible way. And now he presents himself amazingly controlled. But I would have to be the one to cast doubt, shadowing every good work he does with my question. I’m damaged. I don’t know if I can trust again – but I can’t relax to trust him. I’m broken. Lulled by the security of staying, yet my soul yearning for more and frightened by the postulation of living with less and all the uncertainties that brings. So, I go on trying to rebuild a new foundation next to the very peril that caused my tragedy.

    Because he’s not hitting me, screaming at me, sneering at me, raping me, enslaving me, isolating me, or terrorizing my children anymore. He fights control. He still wants it if I would give in to it. Control is its own seduction. But he holds back. Is his restraint enough to rebuild on? Will I be able to love him again? Am I allowing myself to be seduced? Is freedom it’s own seduction? My soul longs for holy beauty.

    • beloved

      Oh, Beauty! How I understand your words! Exactly what my position was. I am now at the point of divorce though. Know, today, you are not alone in your questions. Continue to pursue God and His holiness above all else. I pray He direct your path…. Much love, sister

      • Beauty

        Thank you for your thoughts and prayers, beloved. It is a comfort to know the path I’m on is familiar to someone even if it feels insecure in this moment.

    • Because he’s not hitting me, screaming at me, sneering at me, raping me, enslaving me, isolating me, or terrorizing my children anymore. He fights control. He still wants it if I would give in to it. Control is its own seduction. But he holds back. Is his restraint enough to rebuild on?

      No, it is not enough to rebuild on. What he is doing is simply more manipulation.

      He is intentionally restraining the worst of his behaviours so that you will be thrown into enough doubt about ‘has he really changed’ to make you stay with him longer. . . And he is accruing a whole list of things he has done in this ‘restrained’ mode so that if and when you raise complaints about his ongoing lack of true repentance, he can bombard you with this list: “What do you mean? I haven’t laid a finger on you in anger for ages! I have been nice to the children! I have not pressured you sexually! I have not been screaming at you! ….” He can also rattle off that list to anyone you go to for support, like the pastor, a counselor, your friends and family . . . Most of them will buy it. They will think he is reforming. And they will blame you for complaining. The dragon has not died, he is just faking being asleep.

      How to I know this for sure? Compare his behaviour with our Checklist for Repentance

      • Beauty

        I appreciate your candor, Barbara. He made allies of those closest to me, chiefly my dad and initially the church. I have since had to come to the conclusion that my own parents are abusers, and I have distanced myself from them and therefore the church since dad was pastor there. Don’t think there’s no one left to accuse me- I am daily fighting the battle of waring theologies- the one I grew up with and the new one that says it is my birthright to live free in Christ. The guilt that enslaves and the truth that sets me free. The dragon is familiar but not easy to see or fight. I’m working on making myself ready. My kids are in school and I should soon have a job which should support me to leave in 6 months. I hope it’s not too late then.

        As long as he has hope, the dragon pretends to sleep, as you said. I want out before he wakes up. I fantasize about packing the kids up and moving out secretly. But I’m financially unprepared. I’m trying to get my ducks in a row first so as to cause the least amount of trauma to the children.

      • Good for you, Beauty. 🙂
        Getting your ducks in a row before you leave — that’s a strategy I’ve heard recommended by many survivors. Not all have the luxury of doing it that way because find they have to flee without much preparation, but if you can do it, go for it!

  3. Song of Joy

    Yes, evil charm can come in many different forms.

    My father had an odd way of charming people….he specialized in the “innocent, unsophisticated, slightly inept yet lovable country boy” act. He would put on a sweet, dopey look with a corny smile that people often fell for. And yet…by the apex of his career he had a lot of power, responsibility and authority resting on his shoulders. He could convince people he couldn’t take care of himself in the most basic sense, and yet he was in control of x, y and z! Way more power than most people ever have in their lives. Behind the country boy mask was a very shrewd, malevolent man.

    Another charm technique he used was to “money bomb” people he was trying to influence or control with over-the-top generosity. Beware the man or woman who is extremely generous and affable, they may be trying to buy you or make you dependent on them.

    Thank you Jeff & Barbara for all of the wonderful posts. The Lord is using you as a balm in Gilead. Blessings

    • healinginhim

      Song of Joy — “Another charm technique he used was to “money bomb” people he was trying to influence or control with over-the-top generosity.”
      Yes, money or inheritances have a way of blinding others to truth.

    • Ng

      Yes… I see a lot of that with a relative of mine. The generosity game to gain influence, power and admiration from others… The suffocating need to stay in control of others by monetary means, in the name of ‘being generous’. True generosity allows people to make their own choices and convictions; this bombardment with gifts only serves the purpose of crippling people and binding them to the ‘wealthy one’.

    • Lost

      The money bombing, yes.

      Thank you for bringing that up.

  4. ContextandPerception

    Mr. Crippen. Your sermons are good and this blog excellent and needed. A caution needs to be addressed for something that keeps cropping up throughout and is not being addressed. The above sermon assumes that all targets of evil were seduced by evil’s loveliness. So Joseph who obeyed his father and went to his brothers knowing their hearts was captured to be killed but instead was enslaved? So he didn’t pay attention to red flags apparently (one of BR’s posts early on said there are always read flags for victims which must have been ignored.) and Joseph apparently could have told his dad ‘no’ and even chosen a different family? Or Esther and Mordecai, she could have run from the King’s edicts and not been forced into marriage with him, really. Or she could have refused to say anything to the king at all. She could have said no to evil. Really? Or Job when evil came he could have avoided it somehow he must have been deceived somehow or red flags somewhere? Or Daniel should have seen the red flags of the men who disliked him and plotted against him, he must not have prayed enough or guarded his eyes enough? or even in one of Jesus’ parables the one son said no and changed his mind and went and did as requested. Men have choice to do or not do, not just women.
    Doing the right thing does not mean evil can be avoided nor that somehow someway the silly woman must have been blinded by evil’s loveliness.

    It is not just a matter of evil and the silly woman duped once again. Evil wears many faces and the Bible say God Himself allowed it to touch Job, Esther, Joseph, etc. Not because they weren’t righteous enough, nor because they missed a red flag, nor any other way one might continue to try and blame the target for being a victim. Some are deceived. Not all and not even many. Many were praying and asking around for information about the man, not all deceiver exes presented as smooth talkers but rather ordinary people. And there is choice. NT says husbands will turn on wives, children on parents. The above sermon is only one of the ways evil goes about.
    David’s daughter Tamar tried to get Amnon to stop. Oh, now she must have ignored red flags or been blinded by smooth talking Amnon. Surely, it was Tamar’s fault, she could have told David no or been more forceful against Amnon. Hopefully, you see what seems clear and simply defined in the sermon above is not. This was not intended to negate the 99.99% of this blog which is superb, both BR and JC, but it is a caution.

    • Hi ContextandPerception, You are right that the person oppressed by an evildoer might have had no choice about whether to get into relationship with the evildoer. The victim may be in the relationship completely involuntarily. A child may be brought up by evil parents. Joseph had no choice about who his brothers were and what their characters were like. Tamar had no choice about who her brothers were. And the other examples you gave are likewise all good.

      And you are right that sometimes there may be no red flags even in voluntary relationships. I can’t think of exactly which post you might be referring to which might have said that ‘there are always red flags’ but if you can point me to it I’m happy to go back and see if I need to add a qualifier to it.

      In writing about the topic of abuse, it is often important to add qualifiers to statements so that they are not black and white. I am sure that Jeff didn’t mean in this sermon to say that “all targets of evil were seduced by evil’s loveliness”. I think he was simply pointing out that many (not all) evildoers put on a lovely mask to get what they want, and we need to be aware of that. I don’t think he meant to say that all victims of evildoers are silly or naive. And he certainly didn’t mean to say that all (or any) women victims are silly because they didn’t see the red flags.

      I shall re-read the post now to see if it needs some qualifiers added.

    • I’ve re-read the post. I noticed that early in the post it said “Evil often appears in seductive beauty” — which is okay because it contains the qualifier “often”.

      But near the end of the post it said:
      “Evil appears in seductive beauty, just as the serpent appeared in Eden. Lips dripping with honey, words smoother than silk. Do not be deceived or charmed. Its way is the way of death.”

      I have now added the word “often” into that last part, so it now reads “Evil often appears in seductive beauty…”

      If you want to advise us about any other places where you think a qualifier needs to be added, feel free to do so.

    • Anonymous

      Please read some of Jeff’s older posts as they explain exactly what you’re talking about. Jeff is always reminding us that running from evil and abuse is of the Lord, then Jeff gives many examples of when Jesus, Paul, Moses, David etc. ran when they had a choice in avoiding and excaping evil. Jeff also explains that when we end up in a situation or position that we clearly didn’t put ourselves in because we WERE being careful and prayerful, then this is clearly something the Lord allowed in our lives and he uses Job as an example (others too I just can’t remember them all).

      I too was not what you would call “charmed” by evil. In my case, I thought I had zero value so when a seemingly nice man liked me and wanted to marry me, well, thinking I was nothing with no value, I gave up and gave in. I was never attracted to my husband and he is not charming at all.

      Keep on reading, you will find much truth here that will answer all your concerns through God’s word.

      • Sister

        Note: I’ve switched my username from Friend of Victim/Friend of Target to Sister as that is what we’ve truly become/are.

        I am very thankful for ACFJ, Pastor Crippen and Barbara, and the other commenters, and my sister. You have all taught me so much.

        Thank you Barbara for adding the qualifiers. Although I knew it was not intended, I too, had read the post much the same way as ContextandPerception did.

        A few observations:

        –Sometimes the disguises are too good to be detected. While some abusers exude seductive beauty, others are incredibly ordinary. The abuser who targeted my sister is the latter. (Admittedly, I enjoy saying that knowing that he views himself as a superior being because he can dupe everyone with his quiet nice guy persona all the while getting sadistic pleasure out of manipulating people.)

        –Women are groomed in evangelicalism to be the perfect trusting targets for predators, particularly via Headship/Patriarchy false teaching. Biases in both presentation and erroneous translations of passages regarding the accounts of creation and the fall are at the root of this false teaching, but they are so subtle we don’t even realize it. I cringed when I read in this post.”Eve, then Adam was seduced by evil.” I know the intent of the statement was to point out the beauty/deceptiveness/seductiveness of Satan and evil, but it exposes how the biases have been so ingrained in us that it slips in undetected. By saying, “Eve, then Adam” the innuendo is that Eve is more to blame for the fall than Adam. This is often used as a justification for Headship/Patriarchy.

        But the fall came through Adam (Romans 5:12), not Eve. Adam was more culpable in that he disobeyed God’s direct command to him and he stood there and watched the whole thing between the serpent and Eve play out. He did not try to stop Eve (perhaps he wanted to see if she would die?) and he blamed Eve and God for his own sin. So it’s a bit laughable when I hear preachers (on the radio, etc., not Pastor Crippen) say that women need to be under men’s authority/protection because they are more easily deceived and they justify that assertion by pointing back to Eve being deceived. Some go so far as even saying God designed it that way even before the fall. I guess that would especially make him guilty of committing the original sin because he did not protect her/stop her from eating the fruit. 🙂 Sorry, I couldn’t resist, but I digress…

        –There’s something amiss with our theology, not only about missing evil passing for good, but also in our understanding of the way that God works in our lives/responds to our prayers. My sister prayed, wanted to do God’s will, read all the “c”hristian marriage books and wanted to do the right thing. There were no warnings from anyone, including God, not to marry him. She wishes people or God would have warned her. In the Bible, not only Joseph, but all of God’s children were targeted, to include Himself (His Son). And what Satan means for evil God uses for good and I don’t mean to cite that as one of those trite answers given to those who have suffered/are suffering from abuse. I just mean that sometimes we have to cling to that hope that God will use it for good when we cannot otherwise understand why He lets it happen to His faithful ones who prayed to Him.

        The following excerpts are what stood out to me as victim blaming and/or are a reflection of our lack of understanding of God. So often what we think is confirmation from God of something being right is not that at all but how are we to know? I wish I had that kind of discernment.

        ‘I couldn’t believe how lucky I was. It seemed so incredible it must be God ordained. How could it not be, with so much in common, meeting on the other side of the country, and I really believed I heard God speak to me that night and tell me he was The One.’

        But Janice had not heard the Lord that evening. The voice she heard was, in fact, the voice of the evil one disguised in seductive beauty, as she would soon find out…”

        This is the second person this week who has written these very kinds of words:

        ‘I just know this is the Lord directing me. Look at all of the details and how they came into place. And this man, this man is so godly, so charming, so kind and loving toward me! I have never met anyone like him before. Thank you Lord.’

        … Once you allow yourself to be charmed by the seductive beauty of evil, you will not listen to any words of warning your parents or your friends might say. You will be blinded and deafened to reason. And you will only awaken from this seduction after experiencing the sad outcome….

        Many times we have experienced this in this church and you’re trying to tell people: “Look, this is who this person really is!” but they won’t listen!”

      • Hi Sister 🙂

        I agree with what you said in the paragraph beginning “Women are groomed in evangelicalism to be the perfect trusting targets for predators, particularly via Headship / Patriarchy false teaching” and the paragraph below it. I don’t think there was any need to apologise as the points you made there weren’t really a digression — not in light of the fact that so many preachers hammer the line that ‘women need to be under men’s authority / protection because they are more easily deceived than men.’

        Yes, Paul twice mentions Eve being deceived by the Serpent —

        For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Timothy 2:13-14)

        I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3)

        But Paul also makes the crystal-clear statement that Adam was responsible for sin entering the world:

        sin came into the world through one man [Adam] and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned … death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. (Romans 5:12, 14)

        Since Paul says that when they ate the forbidden fruit Adam was not deceived but Eve was deceived, that suggests to me that Adam was more culpable than Eve. I think Paul is indicating that when Adam ate the fruit, he was fully awarethat he was disobeying God’s instruction — an instruction he had heard directly from God! In contrast, Eve had not heard the instruction directly from God; the instruction was given to Adam before God created Eve; Eve could only have heard it second hand from Adam. And Eve was deceived by the serpent whereas Adam was not deceived. Surely that suggests Adam was the more culpable of the two? I’m not saying Eve didn’t bear guilt for her sin; but Adam bore more pronounced guilt, and to my mind that suggests why the Bible says that sin was passed down to the human race through Adam rather than through Eve.

      • UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.


        Hi again Sister,
        In regards to excerpts of Jeff’s post that stood out to you as victim blaming and/or are a reflection of our lack of understanding of God, allow me to tentatively offer some thoughts.

        Firstly, this is tricky stuff. If certain things somewhat frequently occur in the lives of survivors of domestic abuse, and if when we interact with many victim-survivors (as people like Jeff and I do) we can’t help but notice that. We don’t want to stereotype all survivors — each person and each of their stories are unique. We want to help survivors. That includes wanting to help them become more discerning about the varied tactics and styles of abusers so they have a better chance of not being entrapped again. It also includes wanting to offer them tips about red flags.

        Some of these red flags can be described by describing the tactics of abusers (e.g. the charm-mode of some abusers when they are predating for their next target). Some of the red flags can be best described by describing the thoughts and feelings of the victim when she is on the cusp of being entrapped by an abuser who has amped up the Charm-Mode, and has, in consort with his father the devil, engineered an !!amazing constellation of serendipity and miracles!! to hook her in.

        Since at that stage — the stage of getting hooked — many victims feel they “have been led by God to this Wonderful Man,” describing that state of mind might be the best way of warning girls and women about the dangers that might be hidden under it all.

        I take your point that describing a woman’s state of mind at that point of being hooked, could, by some victim-survivors, be heard as victim-blaming. But is it not also true that for others, it could be a very helpful reminder? Or even a confirmation (after they have come out of the fog) that their abuser used the exact tactics of charm that Jeff described, and they might want to guard themselves against being carried away so soon if another man shows interest in them.

        I think when the apostle Paul referred to vulnerable women in 2 Tim 3:6 —

        They are the kind who work their way into people’s homes and win the confidence of vulnerable women who are burdened with the guilt of sin and controlled by various desires.

        he was alluding to something similar to what Jeff expressed in this post. It’s worth looking at all the various translations of that verse. 2 Timothy 3:6

        Another thing to bear in mind is that this sermon series is being preached initially to a local church, where there are teenagers and young adults who have not yet married. So the audience Jeff is preaching to is more broad than this blog audience.
        Sometimes when I am formatting the sermons into blog posts I make minor adaptions so that the post / sermon is more suited to our blog audience. But I can’t promise to always do this to perfection. 🙂

  5. kind of anonymous

    Had a pastor who did this with us. At first it seemed very saintly and generous. But i began to feel uncomfortable with it and one day I asked him why he was bombarding us with monetary and material gifts as well as gifts of service. He said it was to keep us from leaving the church. When he said it, he was clearly NOT cognizant of the fact that:

    This is a form of manipulation and control. Gifts should be given to help, not to buy, coerce or indenture and should have no power strings attached.
    That this indicated a lack of trust in God , in hat he figured he had to buy people instead of trusting God to work in them
    That it made him the source and caused people to have a form of dependency on him that was unhealthy but which I think he liked.

    It could possibly have a form of contempt in it; he once gave me twenty dollars when I told him I was reading a good christian book about the bible. I took the money because we needed it but immediately felt cheapened and lowered by that act; I felt that my desire to learn more about my walk with God and my relationhsp with him had just been prostituted and so had I. I could never prove this but it almost seemed as if there was a sort of liking to treat people that way that was entirely hidden by the very saintliness of a seeming act of kindness. Who could argue with a generous pastor? It even seemed a form of taking credit and control in a situation where that was utterly inappropriate for him to do. I could be wrong but no matter what, this was not holy, healthy thinking.

    Yet over time I would begin to see other behaviours and actions that indicated that there was a need for him to use his pastoral role as a means of patting himself on the back, for validation and even as a means of putting others in their place and achieving power and influence. There is a lot of that in pulpits today. AW Tozer said

    The grosser manifestations of these sins – egotism, exhibitionism, self-promotion – are strangely tolerated in Christian leaders, even in circles of impeccable orthodoxy.They are so much in evidence as actually, for many people, to become identified with the gospel. I trust it is not a cynical observation to say that they appear these days to be a requisite for popularity in some sections of the church visible. Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ is currently so common as to excite little notice…

    The rest of the article can be found by googling AW Tozer/Self Sins for anyone wanting to read it.

    Scripture does say that when the enemy comes in like a flood, God raises up a standard against him. Not sure what that would look like in practical terms, I think its military imagery in terms of the battle standard that would go before an army; anyone? But I am sure that an encounter with holiness is a pretty good curative for what ails the church today.

  6. Tee3

    Praise God, I finally left my abuser. He had threatened that when or if I left, he would make sure I didn’t take anything with me. … I prayed fervently. I decided to leave a few days before the day I initially planned. I hired a vehicle, when he was out of the house. A few people come to help me pack. I moved somewhere safe. I have supporters who are making arrangements for where I will live.
    My abuser is playing the victim to everyone who will care to listen.
    I don’t care about him or the marriage anymore. I feel a tremendous amount of relief now. I tell people that I deserve to be happy, I deserve to live long and I deserve to fulfil purpose.

    [Details in comment airbrushed to disidentify commenter]

  7. Lea

    “And you will only awaken from this seduction after experiencing the sad outcome.”

    Sadly true, at least in my case. Although I wasn’t dealing with abuse, I got taken in by lies and now have been kicking myself for not seeing it. Now I have only to be glad I’m not the one married to him.

    I saw your site last week and have been reading through the archives. I appreciate what you all are doing.

    • Hi Lea, welcome to the blog 🙂 and glad you are finding it helpful.

      We always like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

      • Lea

        Thank you!

        And from your posts above, I think I might need to check out timothy because I never really thought about Adam having not been deceived! I will be thinking about that…

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