Wise as Serpents: Increasing in the Wisdom and Knowledge of the Lord (Part 20 of sermon series)

The early part of Nehemiah 4 has some principles that concern our study of the nature and tactics of evil.

Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!”

Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders.

So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry. And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night. In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.” And our enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.”

At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, “You must return to us.” So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”  (Nehemiah 4:1-14 ESV)

What we see here in Nehemiah is the same spirit that David faced Goliath with.

He who is not angry, whereas he has cause to be, sins. For unreasonable patience is the hotbed of many vices, it fosters negligence, and incites not only the wicked but the good to do wrong. (John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, AD 349-407)

You don’t see in Nehemiah unreasonable patience. He calls upon the Lord to strike down the enemy, and he takes action despite the mocking and threats of the enemy.

Our key verse for this series is from Matthew:

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

Notice that Christ did not say, be afraid of men. He tells us to watch out and be on guard and vigilant because the devil is on the prowl, but He never tells us to be afraid of evil. In fact, Christ’s words to us are “fear not!” Don’t be afraid. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.  The Christian need not be motivated by fear. Wisdom, yes, Watchfulness, yes. But not fear.

We remember the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ in this season of the church calendar. What does this mean? Christ’s ascension bespeaks many of the promises of God for us. Listen to the Heidelberg Catechism:

  • Q. How does Christ’s ascension to heaven benefit us?
  • A. First, he is our advocate in heaven in the presence of his Father.
    • Second, we have our own flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that Christ our head will also take us, his members, up to himself.
    • Third, he sends his Spirit to us on earth as a corresponding pledge.

By the Spirit’s power we seek not earthly things but the things above, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.

  • Q. Why the next words: “and is seated at the right hand of God”?
  • A. Because Christ ascended to heaven to show there that he is head of his church, the one through whom the Father rules all things.
  • Q. How does this glory of Christ our head benefit us?
  • A.  First, through his Holy Spirit he pours out gifts from heaven upon us his members.
    • Second, by his power he defends us and keeps us safe from all enemies.
  • Q. How does Christ’s return “to judge the living and the dead” comfort you?
  • A. In all distress and persecution, with uplifted head, I confidently await the very judge who has already offered himself to the judgment of God in my place and removed the whole curse from me. Christ will cast all his enemies and mine into everlasting condemnation, but will take me and all his chosen ones to himself into the joy and glory of heaven.

In other words, “No Fear” is a slogan only properly used by the Christian. This is why David could march up to Goliath in complete confidence, you see. He knew the Lord.

Understanding evil, while being innocent of evil, produces significant growth in the wisdom and knowledge of the Lord.

Here is how one of our readers put this, in a comment on an ACFJ Facebook post about prominent evil the church today:

Christ is glorified when evil is exposed. Christ is glorified when we His people use the discernment that He has given us and act upon it with wisdom and sound understanding.

She was correctively pushing back against another commenter, who had said:

This is very sad.. the heart needs to be brought into God’s presence to be cleaned and healed from all this. collateral damage to many hearts in the Christian community. How can we as Christians glorify Christ but by example. Exhorting is important but please lift and focus on Christ.

Have you begun to be suspicious of these vague, “pious platitudes”? It is wisdom to feel that suspicion. Just what in the world does it mean to “bring the heart into God’s presence to be cleaned and healed?” It is meaningless. And it is harmful, because it actually conveys an evil message.

When we expose evil and wickedness, especially in regards to how evil has crept into the Christian church, people who claim to be professing Christians actively oppose us. These so-called Christians are opposed to any speaking about evil, any exposing of evil. (And by the way if you don’t think that this is a common problem, that evil creeps its way into the church, go read 2 Peter and Jude again.)

This lady’s comment on our FB page was an example of that, because when she says “please lift and focus on Christ,” what that really means is: “You’ve gotta keep on the sunny side of life. Don’t talk about this evil in the church because you’re doing collateral damage! Shut up, stop talking about evil and wicked wolves who have crept in among us and instead look at your own heart because, after all, you are just as sinful as the wolf! You need to confess your own sin to God.”  Do you see the wickedness and evil in telling the oppressed such things?  And how it enables the wicked? We did not immediately ban this platitude-monger from the page. We rebuked her and called her to repentance for harming the innocence; but she showed herself to be unteachable.

These platitudinous people — “Don’t talk about how evil creeps into the church, because we’re supposed to be Christians and you’re gonna give the church a bad name to the world.”  You know what? People aren’t believing in Christ because evil ISN’T being exposed in the church. That’s what’s wrong. Christ is glorified when a pedophile is exposed and handed over to the civil authorities. He’s glorified in that. He’s not glorified when it’s covered up and hidden. But this is plague in the churches today: “Don’t talk about those things!”

Did the Lord Jesus tell people who were oppressed, people who were suffering from evil, “You know, you need to quit complaining, you need to look at yourself and realise that you’re a sinner too” ? Think of how the Lord Jesus dealt with the woman who was bleeding and had been a social outcast for years, who had spent all her money trying to get well:

And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. (Matthew 9:20-22)

And He calls her a daughter of Abraham. He didn’t turn to her and say, “Now you need to examine yourself. Yeah, this is an evil thing, and there’s evil people; but we’re all evil, we’re all sinners. And you need to pray for this person over here. And you need to stop complaining. You must look to your own heart and ask My Father to heal the sin and bitterness that is in it. You must thank Him for allowing you to suffer.” No! He set her free. He called her in a parallel account, a daughter of Abraham and He rebuked the self-righteous Jews when they complained about what He had done.

To tell the weak and hurting and oppressed to “look to their own heart and see their own sin and stop complaining” is pure cruelty and not at all of Christ.

As Pastor Sam Powell put it so well:

Evil always perverts Scripture by stripping it of the Spirit and love.

We must, as we grow in the wisdom of the Lord, beware of these phrases and platitudes that are so commonly used and that carry an air of “spiritual saintliness” but in fact are lies. Here is Pastor Sam Powell again:

If you repeat something over and over again, it becomes canon. My dad has a sign on his study wall, ‘If 50 million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing….Keep saying it, and sound authoritative about it, and pretty soon it becomes canon law, inviolable truth.’

As we grow in the wisdom and knowledge of the Lord, we must become wise to these pious platitudes. We must call people on them. We need to pull out the spiritual boxing gloves when this stuff comes our way.

Here is another example of a platitude:

God loves your abuser as much as He loves you. You must repent of your sin of not loving your abuser and recognize that you are just a sinner too.

My, how pious. How saintly. And how wicked! See it? Say something often enough and people will starting accepting it as true. “God loves the wicked as much as He loves the righteous.” Oh, really? —

The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face. (Psalms 11:5-7)

See it? In most cases this “God loves your abuser too” means “the wicked man is really a Christian too. There is no difference between him and you.” Complete falsehood and a wicked, evil perversion of the Word of God. And it enables and empowers the wicked.

Consider this today:

If we are not wise about evil, we necessarily will become it’s ally. Do you want to be a friend of the devil? I hope not. But you will be his helper if you refuse to grow in the wisdom and knowledge of the Lord. We can be wise as serpents in regard to evil, yet innocent of it, OR we will be ignorant and naïve about evil and be guilty of it.

Wise as a serpent = innocent as a dove.
Ignorant of evil = guilty of evil.
There is no middle ground.

We must be wise about evil because the world and even the local churches are filled with people who are hurting and suffering from it. Many, many verses in God’s Word tell us that we must help the oppressed and oppose the wicked or the plain fact is, we are not Christians at all.

Let’s talk then a bit about this matter of “increasing in the wisdom and knowledge of the Lord” and how it relates to growing wise in regard to evil.

Notice these prayers of the Apostle Paul. Notice particularly that he consistently prays for believers to grow in the wisdom and knowledge of the Lord, and one of the results of that growth is that we will be blameless on the day we stand before Christ:

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him [that is the best prayer you can pray for anyone], having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Eph 1:15-23)

How much does God know about evil? He knows everything about evil.
How much guilt does He incur from knowing everything there is to know about evil?
None. There is nothing godly about being ignorant of evil.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)

So this knowledge and wisdom that we must grow in, involves the ability to discern. It is necessarily true, then, that if we are ignorant, and we don’t grow in the wisdom and knowledge of the Lord, we won’t have discernment.  We won’t approve what is excellent: we will approve what is not excellent, what is unrighteous. And we won’t be pure and blameless; we won’t be innocent as a dove in regard to evil. When you consider how widespread ignorance about evil is in the church today, there is necessarily a vast number of professing Christians who have no discernment and who are approving what is evil rather than what is righteous.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
[why do I need to be filled with all spiritual wisdom and understanding?]
so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Col 1:9-10)

See it? To fail to grow in the wisdom and knowledge of the Lord is to fail to grow in the knowledge of righteousness, of His will, and necessarily to fail to grow in respect to evil, to fail to increase in bearing good fruit, to lack the ability to approve what is excellent, what is His will, and therefore to incur impurity and blame.

I suppose this might be called “the other, neglected half of sanctification.” That is, becoming wise in the Lord about evil, about what does not please Him, about what is wicked. [this is related to the neglected mission field of the church, sermon 19 in this series]

Let me give you another real life example. Listen to this lady’s story she is living right now:

I’m currently struggling with my pastors to get them to see that there is no way that my abusive husband is a Christian, since they insist it is possible (and apparently they must take him at his “confession,” although WHY they should do so, I don’t know) and they therefore approach him that way and are shocked at how he slithers around in conversation and slithers out of full responsibility for his actions.

But it’s so clear. In addition to the amazing articles here on that topic, we don’t even need to go further than the plain simple reading of 1 John. No PhDs in Biblical interpretation necessary.

“Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is EVIDENT who are the children of God and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”

My pastors have also said that whether he is a Christian or not is something we should not focus on, but we take him at his confession on the surface in the dealings with him. But it is clear here and elsewhere that God wants us to be able to tell the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian, and he instructs us in how to do so! If it wasn’t important and useful to know if someone is a true Christian, why would God devote passages to it? With the phrase “little children, let no one deceive you…” beginning it! Clearly the fatherly and protective heart of God is the one who wants to make it known who is a Christian and who is not.

I think that some churches and pastors may have good intentions and really love God, but don’t know anything about abuse [evil]. And they may have the same stumbling blocks for exposing the abuser that victims have. I know I personally stayed three years because of the “path of least resistance” principle… Although my marriage was painful and scary, leaving it was MORE painful and scary. Only when the scales tipped and it was finally more painful and scary to stay than leave was I able to contemplate leaving. And even then it wasn’t enough. I also had to realize that I was telling a lie about God by staying, saying that it is OK in God’s eyes. Only then, after truly seeing God’s heart for justice for the oppressed, was I able to face the embarrassment, shame, difficulty, confusion, fear of the unknown, and fear of leaving, because I was doing it for something bigger than me, for the sake of the Lord. Fear of God made me unable to continue telling that lie about God with my life.

In the same way, I’m sure pastors facing abuse in their midst would struggle with the feeling of it’s just difficult, or it will be embarrassing / complicated, it’s just easier to ignore it and do nothing, and fear of what will happen if you don’t do it right 100% or what it will lead to in the end. Maybe they don’t even understand what the Bible says about this subject, and they know it! It’s easier to do nothing in the face of all that. But the fear of the Lord and zealousness for his glory and for God’s justice to be shown properly can overcome those other hindrances, for victims and for churches who are struggling but truly love God and want to help his hurt sheep.

This is my hope, at least. My pastors don’t in any way blame me and they believe I have the right to divorce him; but it seems that they are struggling with how to handle him. I truly wish for him to be saved, regardless of the fate of the marriage, and so I want them to get a more realistic (and Biblical) view on his heart’s condition and the Bible’s commands for dealing with such a person. But it’s not easy in this day and age to follow the Bible’s tough commands for excommunicating an unrepentant person claiming to be a Christian. Still, we have to strive to let the love of Christ compel us, not fear or embarrassment or the love of people or of money. Pastors are humans too, and I struggled with all of those fears as a victim, and it took time for me to get past that and to get courage to do the right thing.

She is kind to her pastors. But the fact is, as you can see, they have not grown in the wisdom and knowledge of the Lord. They are not wise as serpents when it comes to evil, and as a result, they have become its ally. If you can’t tell what a wolf looks like, you’ve got no business being a shepherd.

You are either wise as serpents, and innocent as doves.
Or you are ignorant and unwise about evil, and guilty of evil.

Wise as serpents = innocent as doves.
Ignorant and unwise about evil = guilty of evil.

[Jeff ends the sermon by quoting from a survivor’s story that she emailed to him. The woman’s husband for the thirty plus years of their marriage had been a sexual predator. And he’d had access to children through Christian ministry throughout that time. Please access the Audio version of this sermon to hear Jeff’s quotes from her story.]


Audio and PDF of this sermon here.

Go to Part 21 of this series.

A list of the entire series can be found on our Wise as Serpents Digest.


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.


14 thoughts on “Wise as Serpents: Increasing in the Wisdom and Knowledge of the Lord (Part 20 of sermon series)”

  1. I am starting to think you may be right. Up to now (it’s 6 months since I left) I’ve been telling myself that maybe I just don’t know what a Christian (who is also a pastor) with a sociopathic personality disorder would look like, maybe his sanctification won’t be able to look like other people’s, I can’t say that God rejects people for having a personality disorder, can I, after all we don’t expect Christians with schizophrenia to be just like other Christians … am I just making excuses for him still? It’s just so confusing.

    1. Myra, I’m not sure of what you mean by

      I just don’t know what a Christian (who is also a pastor) with a sociopathic personality disorder would look like, his sanctification won’t be able to look like other people’s,

      Luke 10:27, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” This is WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT TO GOD — the FOUNDATION and the most essential and basic skill required to be one of His according to the Bible. People who have personality [character] disorders do not do this — love others. The “lovers of self,” mentioned in 2 Tim 3 means they love ONLY themselves and it’s part of the checklist God gave us in His Word to identify these false teachers.

      1. Hi Anonymous, from our reading of Dr George Simon’s work, we have come to believe that the term character disorder is a better term for these kinds of people. It is also a more biblical term in many ways: the Bible uses the word ‘character’ but it doesn’t use the word ‘personality’. So I inserted the word ‘character’ into your comment. Hope you don’t mind.

      2. Hey Barb, thanks for clearing this up. The thing is, when we only use one term and people are trying to research these different personality disorders and they think there is only one word used to describe evil ones, they may not come across some valuable and helpful information. So until we get to the point where we have one word that definitively explains these abusers, I think it’s better to use a variety of them so that people have the chance to get as much information as possible.

        Some (possibly) good news on the psychology front. Recently (within the past few years) one of my psychology professors pointed out that anymore, when psychology is asking for grant money from the government for research on mental illnesses, they can only get approval for the grant if part of the research is aimed at the biological basis for the disorder. The gears are moving slowly for this but hopefully, with more knowledge about the biological basis for these things, a lot of the myths associated with the various disorders as well as placing the blame on or including the non-disordered people AROUND the “character disordered” person in the blame, can stop.

      3. Great point about how using multiple terms means that people searching for info using key words are more likely to find good and helpful information. 🙂

  2. Pithy platitudes are the bane of our existence. I am always reminding our daughter to think about words and what people are really saying because there are so many trite and vapid things uttered these days, not least of which by public school authorities in her presence.

    My child’s school principal recently excused one of her teacher’s foul mouth saying “everyone has bad days.” I had written a letter to the principal over a few unseemly things my daughter kept telling me about that happen repeatedly by authorities in her school. The principal said I could request a meeting, which I did – and during that meeting I cited one of the teacher’s foul mouth. According to my daughter, the teacher scolded the entire class stating that if own son were so bad she’d “squeeze the (excrement) out of his (rear end)” – although she used other language in place of the words in parentheses. The principal called my daughter and the teacher into the meeting, and my daughter bravely stated what the teacher had said, taking care to spell out the foul language. The teacher shrugged it off, and the principal excused it away saying “everyone has bad days.” I replied that we don’t say those words in our home, and I don’t want her hearing them in the classroom. Not only did they not care, but I’m quite sure they hate me there. (That particular teacher happens to be a neighbor of mine and has since taken to building a fence between our homes.)

    It is incumbent upon us to speak against evil – most especially in professing Christian environments. I am reminded of Proverbs 3:27: “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.” I believe this refers even to our words. We should not refrain from speaking up when we hear evil.

    Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  3. I was listening to the sermon on audio and my adult daughter was doing some work on her computer nearby, Jeff was saying the final prayer and when he got to the end I heard my daughter laugh out loud. It was at that moment when I realized that she had never listened to his sermons before and only reads this website when I want her to see something important. (She can only handle so much of this stuff as we’ve lived the live version!) It’s been many years since she’s listened to a sermon and for those who aren’t familiar with all this truth it would be shocking to hear this said. It ain’t your typical “make the wife and children submit and worship the man as god” sermons she’s heard in the past.

    Here’s the final part of the prayer: “…and if evil tries to creep in among us we’d recognize it right away, that you would reveal it to us, Father. We pray that this would be a church and that we would be a people where evil is not comfortable at all in our presence. And Father we pray that you would be very much at work in the lives of your true people; of your true church, to teach them these same things. And in churches even in this town in this county where there are wicked, wicked people hiding in the pews and often times standing in the pulpits, that you would expose them and bring them crashing down, and all for Your glory, in Christ’s name we pray. Amen.” It was the “crashing down” part that made her laugh because Jeff wasn’t yelling or screaming and it was said at the very end which is usually a trite platitude meant to sound reverent and pious.

    Thank you Jeff for speaking beautiful GODLY truth that ministers to our hearts as well as our minds. Narrow gate indeed!

  4. Arrrggghh. What IS it with these pastors these days, that they are so over a barrel that they somehow feel they cannot put their foot down and deal with what is, for fear of being seen as unmerciful and judgemental? Is this what it means to be one of Jezebel’s eunuchs?

    At any rate, I don’t see Paul hand wringing over the question of whether or not the man sleeping with his dad’s wife was a Christian. He trusted that God could work in the man’s life if he followed the Lord’s directives. He did not see himself as more gracious and merciful than God. He said to let him be treated AS an unbeliever and put him out of the church for the destruction of his flesh. There isn’t even, apparently, several attempts at confrontation in this circumstance, for the sin is so gross that it is not even named among the gentiles.

    Flesh being the key issue here. He is either a believer who has been given false grace and sees no need to deal with this flesh because of it, or he is a phoney Christian who isn’t serious about the claims of Christ and thinks he can have “Je”sus and his sin too. No matter; disfellowshipping / discipline is the acid test that will resolve the issue. Rebuke a fool and he will hate you. Rebuke a wise man and he will love you. Paul says to put him out of the church for the destruction of his flesh that his soul may be saved.

    Clearly that is the route to dealing with such a professing Christian and there is no danger that its such a wrong thing to do that it will result in eternal loss. Rather it will result in eternal loss if the sin isn’t dealt with, and the man in question is allowed to go on thinking he’s fine with God when he is continuing in willful evil. The only time church discipline is cruel, unmerciful or hurtful is when its politically motivated as a means of silencing someone who is pointing out a problem or who won’t knuckle under to some pharisaical abuse of truth. I still think there are many problems that might be speedily resolved, including marriages to jerks, if the church dealt with things righta way instead of allowing sin sewage to run and run like an overflowing toilet.

    1. Yes…..had this exact discussion in small group session with Jeff last evening, following the York PA event. It was hard for some to accept, but God’s Word is clear and can be trusted. Thanks for more articulation Kind of Anonymous.

  5. I’ve read all the comments below, and I still have questions about narcissistic / sociopathic personality disorders: they seem to be recognised by mental health professionals, but are they somehow different from other types of mental illness like schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder – where it seems clear that a believer can suffer from them and their Christian life and relationships will probably have major issues that a mentally healthy believer’s life and relationships won’t be characterised by – and yet we don’t say that the grace of God can’t be at work in them, rather we acknowledge the additional struggles they face. I’m sorry if I sound confused, I probably am confused.

    1. Hi Myra,
      We are not qualified psychologists or mental health professionals here. It might be better if you read Dr George Simon Jr’s materials as he is a clinical psychologist who we very much respect. Click here for links to Dr Simon’s works.

      From my lay-person’s understanding, I think what you may be picking up on is the Multi-axial system of previous versions of the DSM. The DSM is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Society (APA). The current version of the DSM is version five (DSM-5). I’ve copied the following from Wikipedia. I have given bold font to the disorders you were asking about.

      Multi-axial system
      With the advent of the DSM-5 in 2013, the APA eliminated the longstanding multiaxial system for mental disorders.

      Previously, the DSM-IV organized each psychiatric diagnosis into five dimensions (axes) relating to different aspects of disorder or disability:

      Axis I: All psychological diagnostic categories except mental retardation and personality disorder
      Axis II: Personality disorders and mental retardation
      Axis III: General medical condition; acute medical conditions and physical disorders
      Axis IV: Psychosocial and environmental factors contributing to the disorder
      Axis V: Global Assessment of Functioning or Children’s Global Assessment Scale for children and teens under the age of 18

      Common Axis I disorders include depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and schizophrenia.

      Common Axis II disorders include personality disorders: paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, schizotypal personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder; and intellectual disabilities.

      Common Axis III disorders include brain injuries and other medical / physical disorders which may aggravate existing diseases or present symptoms similar to other disorders.

      Now, bear in mind what it said in the start of that quote: the current DSM (DSM-5) has given up the multi-axial system of diagnosis. But of course, many people, including I would guess many people who work in mental health, still think in terms of the multi-axial system.

      One of the chief differences (as I understand it) between Axis-I and Axis-II disorders under the old classification system, was that Axis-I disorders were thought to be treatable, and Axis-II disorders were thought to be untreatable. Therefore, personality disorders were thought to be pretty much untreatable, uncorrectable, unchangeable.

      Again I recommend you read Dr George Simon’s works, including his latest book How Did We End Up Here? [Affiliate link]
      Dr Simon more often refers to character disorder than ‘personality disorder’. Being a registered clinical psychologist, he of course understands the APA’s diagnostic labelling system. But his term ‘character disorder’ really nails it, in our opinion, in regards to the kinds of people who abuse others intentionally. The term ‘character disorder’ has a moral connotation: the rightness or wrongness of a person’s choices. Dr Simon, btw, is a Christian, though he writes for secular audiences so he often doesn’t advertise his faith overtly.

      Dr Simon says that, contra to previous beliefs held in psychology, character disorder can be treatable IF you correct and sanction the wrong thinking and wrong behavior early enough, and so long as you make it crystal clear that the individual with the character disorder is entirely responsible for making the needed changes in their attitudes and conduct. In other words, tolerate no blame-shifting, no evasion, no excuse-making etc.

      1. … notice that in my last paragraph I said “can” be treatable. Dr Simon does NOT say that all character disordered people will change if given appropriate treatment. He says they can change, but it’s up to them to take responsibility and do the hard work! And many of them don’t.

Leave a comment. It's ok to use a made up name (e.g Anon37). For safety tips read 'New Users Info' (top menu). Tick the box if you want to be notified of new comments.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.