FAQ Highlight — Can someone be an abuser and be a Christian?

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.


I want to re-visit and re-affirm the fact — and it is a fact — that the abuser is not and cannot be a Christian. A person who is ruled by a mentality of entitlement, of power and control over others, who so lacks a conscience that he feels absolutely justified in the evil tactics he utilizes to get what he wants and to rule over his victims, is not a new creation in Christ. And I need to continue to affirm this because it is being denied in our churches. I know it is being denied because I continue to receive first-hand reports from Christians who are victims of terrible, ongoing (usually for decades) abuse who verify that their pastors and elders and fellow Christians are insisting that the abuser IS a Christian.

This is the opening paragraph of our post titled, Why an Abuser Cannot be a Christian:  The Argument Re-stated.  This post was written by Pastor Crippen in 2012 — almost five years ago. Sadly, the need to “re-visit and re-affirm” the fact that an abuser is not and cannot be a Christian is just as needed today as it was in 2012.  We continue to regularly receive first-hand reports from victims of abuse that their pastors and church leaders insist that the abuser IS a Christian.

This is why one of our FAQs is Can someone be an abuser and be a Christian?  We have over a dozen posts that address this question.  We encourage you to visit (or for those who have followed ACFJ for some time now re-visit) them.  Understanding what Scripture says about abusers (see our definition of abuser on the side menu bar) is essential to knowing how to respond to abusers and to pastors, church leaders, and Christian friends who have become allies of the abuser.


17 thoughts on “FAQ Highlight — Can someone be an abuser and be a Christian?”

  1. What stood out to me here was that he is not a “new creation in Christ”. That helps me, who knows him best, to remember that he in no way can be a Christian, no matter how much he reminds people of the day he got saved. As one person said to me, if he has to keep telling us about that day and how it changed his life, he is more likely saying it to convince himself, because he knows his life certainly doesn’t show any fruit, and some of us know it, too. However, he is a hypocrite extraordinaire, and has most of the people of the church fooled. I was just looking up this very topic on the FAQs, as I seem to need to be reminded of it every so often, and appreciate the re-post.

  2. The following is a review [Internet Archive link] [We added the Internet Archive link to the review in case anyone wants to read the original review. Editors.] for Pastor Crippen’s book, “A Cry for Justice: How the Evil of Domestic Abuse Hides in Your Church,” on Amazon.com.

    “Helpful resource for pastors and church leaders”
    By Jerry C. on July 8, 2016

    Format: Paperback
    Verified Purchase
    Overall I was thankful for this book. It was helpful in understanding the mindset of an abuser and how a pastor and church leadership can effectively deal with a couple in an abusive situation. The book was recommended to me when I found myself dealing with a couple in the church where the wife was alleging her husband was abusing her. Without this book I would have lacked the understanding of the tactics of an abuser, the vulnerability of the victim and the wisdom to deal with it effectively.

    I am still trying to wrestle through some of the author’s exegesis in the latter chapters. Crippen’s seems to conclude that an abuser is 1) not a Christian; 2) forgiveness does not necessarily include reconciliation and 3) divorce is an acceptable (and sometimes necessary) end. If we were to accept premise #1 then the other two make it easier to accept. I’m still in the digesting stage of thinking through the necessity of concluding that any abuser is a non-Christian. I’m not ready to go there yet but may in time.

    All that said, I highly recommend the book to pastors and other church leaders. We need to seek justice for those who are oppressed.

    Please note that he was having a very hard time wrapping his mind around the fact that these abusers AREN’T CHRISTIANS. Why? Many reasons but the biggest for me was that I was never told or allowed to believe that some people who CLAIMED to be Christians—weren’t. It was never an option–I had been conditioned to believe that any who said they were I was supposed to accept unequivocally. Scary, scary lies we have been taught because when we believe these lies, we open ourselves up to be used and abused and we don’t guard our hearts like the Bible tells us to.

  3. I struggle with this a lot and will probably continue to struggle. Let’s reframe this discussion away from a person who is abusive because they “desire” to be in control to a person who is abusive because their flavor of Evangelical Christianity tells them that neglecting discipline of those under their authority is, in fact, abusive.

    I visited a church that was showing a video series by Gary Ezzo on Growing Kids God’s Way. It made a case that every sin of a child must be punished, based on a concept of “triangulation”. That is, when the child sins, the child is setting himself up as an idol, and you can choose between the idol or God. Of course, Ezzo says you must choose God, and thus, you must discipline the child.

    There are generations of Christians who love God, and yet, are sucking up this destructive advice. Not just in parenting, but in every relationship where authority (or physical strength) is present.

    It reminds me of this verse: “They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.” (John 16:2) I think this is a lesser form of that – those in authority are abusing those under their authority, thinking that they are really doing it in service to God.

    1. MarkQ, YES! How much of “advice” to parents about dominating to dominate, rather than nurturing and training a child, is written from an abusive mindset? How grievous!

  4. There are many levels of abuse, and the total picture of abuse in society is complex. When you use the term abuser as it’s broadly defined by many people, then not all abusers are the same. Yes there are people who are genuine Christians and who are sometimes abusive to other people.
    But the kind of abusers this blog is addressing are the worst of the worst. They are in a whole different category from the average person, and they need to be identified as different. These are the hardened, conscienceless liars that most of the world would recognise as evil people. Yet Christian churches shelter them, enable them and help them find more victims. That’s horrific.

    1. KayE wrote:

      These are the hardened, conscienceless liars that most of the world would recognise as evil people.

      …but who APPEAR to be the kindest, most sincere, genuine God-loving folks around. Some of them never lose their temper (publicly) and are at the congregation’s beck and call to fulfill any need others may have.

      For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Romans 16:18

      His talk is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords. Psalm 55:21

      For these are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction. They say to the seers, “See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!” Isaiah 30:9-11

      And worst of all, when we entwine ourselves with them–when we marry them and give birth to their children–in order for US to be able to live with ourselves and our highly feeling consciences (by doing what we believe to be right and by giving up our dreams and hopes), we end up masking their true heart so that others are then unable to see what they truly are. This is many-fold in its deceptiveness because we end up harming ourselves and our children who have a heart that can feel love towards others and we also end up denying the truth that some people are evil. Either of these two (and the many other) things that we cover up, harm God’s children and also our witness to people in the world who have a conscience and who might have reached out to the Jesus if they hadn’t seen that we are so blind in our ability to see evil.

      KayE, the last paragraph of your comment is GOLD! Thank you!

  5. KayE, I completely agree that dealing with abusive, domestically violent, wolves is the primary purpose of the blog, but there are also abusive patterns of domestic violence that are adopted by Christians who are duped by people like Ezzo and the ERAS proponents into spiritual abuse and, perhaps milder forms of domestic violence. As an example, my former denomination has an authority structure and culture that promotes power hungry men into positions of spiritual authority, and even encourages godly men to lord it over the flock.

    So, yes, I agree that there are savage wolves among the flock who are evil and know exactly what they are doing, yet there are also many who believe it’s their God-given responsibility to protect the sanctity of their office by crushing those who don’t show it the proper respect, be it husband, father, pastor or elder.

    That has been my struggle – l come to websites like this that say abusers are wolves, yet I look at those who have profoundly hurt me and I don’t see the same patterns throughout their lives. Some, yes, I see it, but others seem more like godly people who have been led astray by false doctrine. I’m not sure I want to shake the dust off of decades of relationships with people who seem deluded, but I might also be somehow ignoring signs that these people are really wolves.

    1. MarkQ, I think you are correct in your observations. The ‘abusers are wolves’ phrase is a helpful one for summarizing the abuser (especially the abuser who pretends to be a Christian); but like any simple phrase, it might oversimplify things.

      Here are some things I’ve learned.

      Abusers come on a spectrum — some are more wicked than others. The ones at the more wicked end of the spectrum do not change. The ones at the less severe end of the spectrum might decide to do the hard long work of changing their character for the better. The examples of genuine long-lasting change are rare, but not unheard-of.

      The Family Violence professionals (those who work with male abusers and those who research in the field) say that men who abuse their female partners develop these behaviours by choice AND under the infuence of examples they see in society and the media. Lundy Bancroft talks about the wave of ‘toaster throwing’ which for a year or so was a common behaviour used by abusive men to intimidiate their female partners. Lundy and his colleagues were baffled — why were so many men throwing toasters all of a sudden? But then they traced it to a recent movie which had shown a man throwing a toaster at his wife.
      And it’s not just specific behaviours like toaster throwing…. even more, much more, it’s all the messages that men pick up from childhood right through to adulthood that it’s okay for men to treat women as inferior.

      Now, translate that to churches. Where churches are teaching that it’s okay, in fact it’s “virtuous,” to break your child’s spirit and punish them for every tiny misbehavior, the people in those churches will be strongly influenced by that teaching, so they will be much more likely to abuse their children. Some of those parents might not have been abusive to their children were it not for that teaching. Some of them might have been insensitive to their kids, but the teaching ramped that up and made it into genuine abuse….

      The challenge is then — how do you teach these folks that they have been mis-taught? It’s not easy, because they are under the thrall of spiritual abuse since the mis-teaching they got was from the Clergy Class and they are only lowly sheep. But God has a way of bringing out of the fog those who are genuinely His, and gradually leading them to reject the false teaching.

      Those who refuse to wake up from the fog, despite God’s providential promptings and the warnings of others, are more likely to have hearts that at core are inclined to be stony, clinging to evil ways; those folks are more on the wolfish end of the spectrum.

      Does this help?

      1. This definitely helps, and I think it also clarifies in my mind my decision that I am not in any place (not being a member of the Clergy Class) to bring about change in those who abused me out of a position of spiritual or familial authority.

      2. I had a thought on this. I think the Reformed view on sin is that any sin that defines us makes us not a Christian. For example, a Christian may abuse, but an abuser is not a Christian. A Christian may get drunk, but a drunkard is not a Christian.

        The reason why we need to be vigilant against abusers / wolves is that the particular sin involves hypocrisy – appearing to be an upright person, while truly being a destroyer. As such, it is much more difficult to identify these people because they are experts in manipulating others’ perception of them.

        An addition to this, the church is an incredible draw for a wolf. Not only is it a group from which the wolf can receive praise, but it is a group where the wolf can manipulate the doctrine and power structure to gain control over more people. Any church can experience this, but I’m reminded of the rise of the papacy – pope after pope that took office and worked to collect more praise and power (this is why I have so much respect for Pope Francis who seems to be doing the opposite).

        I think, though, that the tools to handle abuse need to work for both the abuser and the Christian who abuses, and that seems incredibly difficult. The Christian who abuses will truly repent and will work, perhaps stumbling, towards being a faithful husband, while the abuser will feign repentance, maybe clean up for a bit, and then return. Both look very similar. I’m reminded of a situation where the abuser feigned repentance because the church refused the wife divorce for porn. The husband feigned repentance while the church was abusing his wife, but once she left and filed for divorce, he walked away. It was only then the church excommunicated him.

  6. I attempted to confront my husband one last time after he asked me for money recently after I told him I am going to be paying my debt this year with my tax return. I attempted to see if his attitude toward me had changed and it was confirmed it had not.

    I started reading Unholy Charade yesterday. In reading Unholy Charade, I realize he really has so many of the markers of an abuser. He, by his own nature, and just how he is, has a very entitled attitude. He is and always has been entitled to anything he wanted from me. If I say no or disagree, he is personally threatened and punishes me in covert aggresive ways. I also noticed immediately from the book that grave errors on my part are no big deal for him. Yet I always showed compassion when he made a mistake. If he spilled something I’d say it happens and grab towels. If I did, OTOH, he would either make a biting remark or just give me those looks, those silent looks of disdain and disapproval.

    He also always blocks everything I say with it somehow being my fault he treats me this way. Everything is because of me – I took him away from his friends when we got married. (I literally had to beg for his time.)
    When we had our first baby I was “overprotective ” and that’s his reason [these] years later on why there’s a problem. I said every new mom is overprotective, you never allowed me to just be a mom, you were always making me feel guilty for wanting to be a good mom.

    Despite him, I recovered pretty well from the first pregnancy. He pressured me for sex three weeks after she was born. I was still healing, but felt I had to. He pressured me to have another child. And even after that to which I’ve said no.

    I have had to pay the price at my job. He says the day I change, maybe he will. I’m the one who was always trying to make things right in our broken marriage but finally realized he doesn’t see anything wrong with it, hence why he sat quietly during “counseling ” while I took all the blame b/c I was the only one talking. I can’t win any conversation we have. It always ends with him defending himself, blaming me of the same things he does, that I don’t do, never going deeper in the conversation so we can work things out, I’ve cried to him so so many times to please see how he has hurt me and to see my side on how the church hurt me and went after me when I started to talk back instead of blindly follow.

    He also has no empathy whatsoever for me and I constantly have to remind him to have empathy for his children. He never wants to be around for special days, such as birthdays or holidays. If he can’t get out of them by working he will be emotionally shut off. Like this Christmas he didn’t watch our children open their presents, he was in another room and left the house while we decorated sugar cookies. Anything that makes me happy makes him shut down. I’ve received praise from everyone else in my life except him. He told me they weren’t honest. He keeps telling me I should just leave him. [Eds. Edited identifying information here.]

    Please pray [for her freedom]. It hurts badly to realize that might have to happen. I love him and I even feel sorry for him. I’m sad that he wouldn’t see his children, or they wouldn’t see their dad. I’m sad because I worked hard to try to work things out but it never helped. I want restoration, I want healing, I don’t want a divorce. But I’m beginning to see it may be the only way….

    1. Shattered Not Broken – You are very courageous and gaining real wisdom. These abusers are devoid of empathy, “waterless springs” as I believe the Apostle Jude calls them. This one has been sapping you dry for a long time. He will never change. May the Lord protect you and guide you into His true freedom and new life.

      1. Pastor Jeff, I realize my post was very all over the place….it really didn’t flow or make sense but I haven’t slept a night in two weeks, sick children. And I was typing that half asleep too. Last night was rough. Thanks for your reply and your prayers.

    2. Very similar to my story, except he often threatened to leave, and finally did. That part was a relief, but suddenly, the father who had no time for his children, complained about holidays, etc., just like in your case, started demanding “parenting time” and “holiday time”, even for holidays we did not celebrate. Sometimes I’m not sure which is worse, the nightmare of dealing with all his demands for “time with the children” (the only two who will see him because they are too young to have a say) or the nightmare of living in the same home with him. But God was faithful then, and is faithful now, and I trust He will be faithful to take care of all of us in the future.

      1. Moving Forward…I’m sorry you’re dealing with his vengeful actions and sudden interest in holidays..it has been very hurtful for me to deal with seeing someone have no interest in doing fun holiday things and fail to celebrate birthdays (the only one he did was one of our children’s first birthdays but it was at the church so he had to, but beforehand while we were preparing some of the food, instead of making the best of it, was telling me what a horrible idea it was to do it at the church but had not helped me plan it otherwise. He huffed and puffed about having to prepare food there. They have a more than accommodating kitchen. So I felt dumb for not doing it before but I couldn’t. I work full time. We also went to pick up the cake and I made a wrong turn and didn’t hear the end of it. You’d have thought I did something really horrible. Fortunately some friends showed up to help. (It was a success and he had to play along.) I pray that you will have wonderful times with your children and God would protect them and you from him.

    3. Dear Shattered But Not Broken,

      You have shared so many similar things that what many of us have experienced. These guys are so unoriginal! As the Bible says, “there is nothing new under the sun.” The lack of empathy, lack of interest unless it serves them, the yelling over a tiny mistake we make, minimising and defending themselves when they have a sinful thing we point out, blaming us when they cannot admit fault for anything is just the same old crazy-making because they think they are entitled. Took me decades to see it as abuse. But I see it now and so do you! Takes away a lot of their power once we see them for who they really are even if we are only just starting to recognize it.

      Also, don’t worry about not being eloquent when you write. Sometimes you just need to let it out. I’ve been timid about commenting (partly out of fear my abusive husband will somehow catch me) but I know that if there’s any place safe to say it from the heart when you feel like you need to just let to out, it’s safe here.


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