Gary Thomas’s book “Sacred Marriage” — a review by Avid Reader

Gary Thomas, the author of Sacred Marriage, recently wrote on his blog about how the church needs to protect women from abuse. There was a flood of responses from people. One lady directly confronted him for how, “I endured abuse for way too long because of your teachings.”

Gary responded to her by writing, “I don’t believe anything in Sacred Marriage supports or condones abuse. If you can find a passage that does, please let me know as I’d want to amend it immediately.”

All right—let’s answer that question.

On pages 45-49, Gary quotes from a pamphlet written by Dr. John Barger in which Barger admits abusing his wife but claims a complete transformation. There’s no way to hear his wife’s side of the story because she passed away from cancer.

Dr. Barger writes, “It’s easy to scorn women and most men do. We see women as physically weak, easy to intimidate, bound to the menial tasks of motherhood, emotional, illogical and often petty. Or…..we scorn and hate them for their commanding sexual power over us…..I swaggered through marriage for many years, ruling my wife Susan and seven children with an iron hand while citing Scripture as justification for my privileges and authority…….Years of dominating my wife and children left them habitually resentful and fearful of me yet unwilling to challenge me because of the fury it might produce.” (p. 45-46)

Then he claims to have been changed by watching his wife suffer through a traumatic childbirth and losing their baby. Yet he continues teaching, “Can men withdraw the sword of sorrow that pierces every woman’s heart? I don’t think so. Their problems are generally not the kind that have a solution but rather form the very fabric of their existence.” (p. 47)

Barger has just exonerated all abusers from having to take responsibility and make restitution to their victims for causing most of their spouse’s pain and sorrow.

Then Gary describes the moral of this story: “Dr. Barger’s earnest efforts at renewing his love for his wife and reaching a new plane of understanding worked…..While this story targets males, I suspect the same principle is true for women. That terrifyingly difficult man to love just may be your gateway to learning how to love God. This is a biblical truth.” (p. 48-50)

Why is Gary learning about abuse FROM THE ABUSER? Why does he think that Dr. Barger is qualified to give good counsel and advice to others? Doesn’t Gary realize how many abusers are experienced at lying and faking transformation?

This book gets worse. In the chapter about forgiveness, on pages 172-177, Gary tells a very disturbing story.

Heather is married to a pastor. She notices her husband spending large amounts of time on the computer and wonders why. Gary writes, “She began experiencing gynecological problems and then was diagnosed with a low strain of a sexually transmitted disease.” (p. 172) Heather confronts her husband. He admits to having an affair and says he “might still be in love” with the other woman. She asks him to go to counseling. She forgives him. He continues pastoring.

Heather tells Gary about why she chose to stay in the marriage, saying, “I never felt in my heart that divorce was the right thing to do.” (p. 174)

Gary writes, “This is the key I believe to Heather’s spiritual maturity and growth through this awful ordeal…..though Heather was feeling numb, she learned selflessness by focusing on her concern for her children, the welfare of the church, and even Rennie’s soul. Rather than lashing out in anger at Rennie, she was more broken over the spiritual consequences of his actions than over how those actions offended and affected her.” (p. 175)

What about how those actions affected the church? Our hearts go out to Heather. That was a horrible situation she shouldn’t have had to face. But when a pastor’s own wife can’t trust him, how can the congregation? How could such a man be preaching each week without presenting God’s word through his own sinfully-self-justifying lenses?

Something is really wrong when keeping the pastor in the pulpit is seen as the higher priority than holiness. Wait a minute. Isn’t this whole book about how “God designed marriage to make us holy?” (p. 13) Where is the holiness? And if marriage makes us holy, then what do single people do?

Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Holiness isn’t about how many hours we pray or verses we can quote. It’s about loving Jesus more than the world so that we turn from the pleasures of the world to follow Christ. Every day that we resist the pull of the world to obey Christ, we are walking in holiness.

Yet on page 108, Gary writes “true holiness is seen over time in our persistence.” Persistence in what? Tolerating evil in the church? Sweeping under the rug how the Pastor is still in love with another woman?

Now I agree with Gary that we all need persistence in our walk with God. But many people have remained faithful to God even while their marriage fell apart. That’s what this book doesn’t understand. And while all of us will experience difficult seasons of life where God tests our hearts, Jesus told us, “ask and you shall receive, THAT YOUR JOY MAY BE FULL!” (John 16:24) God actually cares about BOTH our holiness and happiness.

Now when Gary was confronted over the horrific idea of using this story as a positive example in his book, he refused to listen. Here’s Gary’s actual response on his blog: “I don’t see how telling the true story of a woman whose husband gave her an STD encourages women to stay in an abusive marriage. The facts were what the facts were. The story doesn’t excuse the husband. It just tells what happened. And I still don’t see how that encourages a woman to stay in an abusive marriage….. And keep in mind, just TWO PAGES later, I do say, ‘But sometimes divorce can even be the right choice.’”

While Gary does say that on page 115, he spends most of the book teaching this:

“Divorce represents our inability to hold to Jesus’ command. It’s giving up on what Jesus calls us to do.” (p. 42)

“You’ll never find that joy by doing something that offends Jesus—such as instigating a divorce or an affair.” (p. 101)

“If we have an eternal outlook, preparing for eternity by sticking with a difficult marriage makes much more sense than destroying a family to gain quick and easy relief. Most divorces are marked by the actions of someone running from, at most, a few difficult decades—and for this relief, people are throwing away glory and honor that last for eternity. It’s a horrible trade!” (p. 110)

“If you don’t believe in Heaven, divorce can make a lot of sense. Once Heaven becomes part of the equation, the cost of divorce—God’s wrath and anger, jeopardizing the future with a selfish attitude—becomes much too high.” (p. 114)

“We have reached high to make a strong point. Divorce by definition is a failure—of love, forgiveness and patience, or at the very least is the result of poor judgment in choosing a difficult partner in the first place.” (p. 114)

“I have affirmed a high ideal in part to encourage people mired in a difficult marriage to hang in there.” (p. 115)

“If your marriage is tough, get down on your knees and thank God that he has given you an opportunity for unparalleled spiritual growth. You’ve had the prime potential to excel in Christian character and growth.” (p. 129)

“If we view the marriage relationship as an opportunity to excel in love, it doesn’t matter how difficult the person is whom we are called to love; it doesn’t matter even whether that love is ever returned.” (p. 266)

“All of us experience certain things about our spouses that may be difficult for us to accept. I’ve known men who were married to alcoholics and women who were married to demanding tyrants who showed little appreciation or respect.” (p. 149)

Notice that Gary just implied that people are to “accept” being married to the “demanding tyrant.” Feel the pressure? That’s a heavy burden of guilt which Gary tries to justify by taking Scripture out of context.

On pages 108-111, he quotes Romans 2:8. Let’s look at that verse in context.

Romans 2:6-8 (CEV) “God will reward or punish every person for what that person has done. Some people, by always continuing to do good, live for God’s glory, for honor, and for life that has no end. God will give them life forever. But other people are selfish. They refuse to follow truth and, instead, follow evil. God will give them his punishment and anger.”

Gary quotes Romans 2:8 from the NIV, “But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.”

Then he takes Romans 2:8 out of context to teach that filing for divorce is “self-seeking” that brings “God’s wrath and judgment” on you. He writes, “When you divorce your spouse, you have no idea what the future holds for him or her. The situation can, and often does, lead to chaos, because odds are that at least one spouse will need care in the not too distant future. Certainly such neglect qualifies as the “self-seeking” that Paul says naturally results in God’s “wrath and anger.” (p. 112-113)

“What is more self-seeking than to ignore what is best for your children—an intact, peaceable home—and to dump a marriage because you’re tired of your spouse even though doing so may seriously diminish your ministry of reconciliation discussed in chapter 2?” (p. 111)

Why does Gary assume that the spouse that leaves is the self-seeking one? What about the self-seeking nature of the abusive spouse? All these quotes drown out the truth of Gary’s words that “sometimes divorce can even be the right choice.” That throw-away line of his means almost zero when weighted against all the unfair blame, false guilt and coercion that Gary heaps onto victims of abuse.

That’s what I was thinking when reading page 152 of this book where Gary wrote, “A difficult marriage doesn’t pronounce a death sentence on a meaningful life.”

Sometimes it does. For some people, divorce is the only option for escaping a horrific situation. An example is the Drew Peterson case. Stacy Peterson was Drew Peterson’s wife #4. She had asked their pastor, Neil Schori, to meet her at Starbucks for a counseling session about her difficult marriage. During that session, she confided in him that she was thinking about filing for divorce because she believed Drew had murdered wife #3—Kathleen Savio. That was the last time the pastor saw her alive. Shortly thereafter, she disappeared and has never been found. When Drew Peterson was arrested for the murder of wife #3, and while wife #4 was still missing, Drew was engaged to marry wife #5.

Now before Drew became violent, how would Gary Thomas have responded if any of Drew’s wives had approached him for advice on their “difficult marriage?” Would he have told them that the difficulty of living with Drew was God’s way of making them holy?

Stacy’s death was a tragic loss. So was Kathleen Savio’s. Yet how many more women will suffer before the church finally realizes that “to do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice?” (Proverbs 21:3)

The case of Drew Peterson might be an extreme example but domestic abuse doesn’t have to be physical violence to qualify as abuse. Victims can suffer extreme oppression even when the abuser never lays a finger on them. Telling victims that this oppression is “God’s way of making them holy,” ignores the evil nature of abuse. It’s PURE EVIL. It’s the willful sin of the perpetrator that brings God’s wrath and judgment on the abuser.

God cares about justice for the oppressed. While this book keeps pressuring people to grin and bear it, God expects the church “to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke.” (Isaiah 58:6b)


Avid Reader’s review of Sacred Marriage was first published on Amazon — click here if you want to vote or comment on it over at Amazon.


69 thoughts on “Gary Thomas’s book “Sacred Marriage” — a review by Avid Reader”

  1. I’m seeing major theological problems here. I don’t know what denomination Gary Thomas is in, but he appears to not believe in the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone. If he would affirm it, I’m seeing plenty in these quotes that is inconsistent with it.

    There is a lot more I could say about this post, but one thing in particular jumped out at me, mainly due to my own personal experience. Gary said:

    I’ve known…..women who were married to demanding tyrants who showed little appreciation or respect. (p. 149)

    What is more self-seeking than to ignore what is best for your children—an intact, peaceable home—

    An intact, peaceable home is precisely what children do NOT have when one parent is a demanding tyrant. Gary Thomas must have no frame of reference for this. He has no idea what it’s like to dread a father’s return home from work, and silently rejoice when he leaves again. I bet he has never actually wished his dad WOULD abandon the family and disappear, leaving the rest of the family on welfare perhaps, but finally having peace and safety. Of course, being as clueless as he is on abusive marriages, I shouldn’t be surprised.

    1. Yes exactly! There is no peace in my home for exactly this reason. Even if I stay married and living together in this home, there is no peace or justice.

  2. I bought this book early in our marriage and threw it in the trash part way through. I didn’t want to give it away because the overall tone and message was so discouraging and hopeless. It felt like it heaped a burden of guilt on me to be a better wife and my husband could do whatever he wanted. I felt like it put zero accountability on a husband’s role of growth and personal discipleship.

    I was glad and very surprised to see Gary’s articles on divorce this year, esp the Enough is Enough blog post. I wondered what had happened that his views could change so drastically. Glad to know I wasn’t alone in my thoughts about this book.

    1. Gary Thomas’s “Enough is Enough” post drew a lot of attention. Many victims of abuse thought it was wonderful that Gary was waking up to how widespread domestic abuse is in Christendom. He got a lot of praise and adulation. But when victims commented on his post telling him how much harm his books Sacred Marriage and Sacred Influence had done to them, he didn’t apologise to them. Instead he got defensive and he ended up SCRUBBING their comments from his blog.

      We document all that here (make sure you read the comments thread not just the article itself): “Sacred Influence: What a Man Needs from His Wife to Be the Husband She Wants” — a review by Avid Reader

      So EverydayBRAVE, like many women you felt glad and surprised when Gary wrote “Enough is Enough”. But I encourage you to read the link above and see how Gary’s actions do not match his words.

  3. Thank you for this striking review! I too read Gary’s books when I was desperate to improve my horrible marriage. The material made me feel more guilty and convicted that it was all my fault, and this close examination makes it very clear that this book, and [the] writer’s philosophy for that matter, should be seen for its destructiveness.

    My more than three decade marriage and its nearly constant mental torture, among other things did not make me holy – it came precariously close to completely destroying me! During the whole marriage I was insisting on going to church, I was the one praying over finances and for direction in raising our two children, I loved God and tried my best to live in honor of Him. What about that incredible example of perseverance and faith that myself and so many victims have exemplified to our abusers? One would think that should have made them holier. Evil CANNOT be made holy and domestic abuse of any sort is evil and the church today only seems to strive to preserve the institution of “church” rather than to follow Jesus’ own teachings and example of true love, mercy AND justice to the oppressed. That is what holiness is. And the blossoming of survivors is the proof! To God be the glory.

    1. Amen Debbie…………it was either get out or go crazy……….and I chose sanity! My pastor and church family have always been fully supportive of my divorce for biblical reasons. Praise God for His faithfulness to never abandon us in our need!

    2. Just like the laws God enacted about leprosy in Leviticus teach us, you can’t spread cleanness or holiness to the infected. Continuing to live with them and tolerating their disease didn’t give them their dose of “health”. But the leprous could spread infection, disease, and damage to the clean and healthy in the camp. That’s why God told the Israelites to move them out of the camp. God knew that infection spreads. Health doesn’t.

      Gary Thomas is saying that the abuse victim can somehow spread her loving spirit, her gentleness, her love and empathy by staying by, and surrendering everything to, the corrupt, the twisted, the evil, person. He is sure that the victim will stay healthy as she continues living in this sick situation – so healthy that she will spread her “health” to the corrupt and depraved person. God knew better a LONG time ago. Apparently, Gary Thomas knows that he knows better than God.

      1. The only way to spread health to such a willingly sick person would be to preach repentance to them. Of course, most of them do not want to repent – they prefer to stay within their own twisted mentality…
        We are called to be salt and light, but that’s only succesful when we’re not compromising the truth. A willing deceiver does not want to get healthy, or have any positive influence.

  4. As I recall, the gist of this book was that it is fine to be miserable for God and that a bad marriage shouldn’t really be a big deal: just think of the sanctification opportunities in being a victim! I don’t have words for how abhorrent it is to tell people in bad marriages that it is a failure to be anything but thankful and long-suffering.

    This teaching led me to discount my judgement and intuition, take all the responsibility, and try ever harder despite worsening conditions. No, this is not love. This is not dealing with truth. This is not marriage. This is not a covenant relationship. This is not God’s love for me.

    Yes, we may suffer some things in this life righteously, even thankfully, and God’s will may not be 100% fun and easy! But marriage is a mutual covenant: one person can break it and it is broken. There can be egregious sin from which a victim should be rescued. We do not follow our emotions alone, but we do well listen to those messages of pain and injustice. They just may be the Holy Spirit caring for us, pointing us to truth, helping us to work toward a solution.

    Abuse is encouraged by teaching us that we must accept almost any bad treatment in marriage or else be subject to God’s eternal wrath for selfishness. Wanting a mutual relationship is not selfishness.

  5. Gary Thomas refuses to listen. He will not admit fault. Not even when confronted by victims who were endangered and hurt by his writings. When we confronted him, he blew a gasket and now characterizes ACFJ as radical and mean for how we “treated him.” A reminder too – he scrubbed most if not all of the comments from his own site that were from victims pointing out his damaging errors to him. So he silenced the voices of the victims he CLAIMS he is the champion of!!

    I am very suspicious of any of the “big name” celebrity types in Christendom. I have yet to see one of them repent when admonished regarding the errors and false doctrine they have been teaching. Zero. None. I am also very suspicious at this late date of these kind of people suddenly claiming to change their tune and jumping on the bandwagon against abuse and DV in the church. Why suspicious? Because a few of us have been sounding the warning for quite a long time now and none of them have listened before.

    It seems to me that as the outcry from victims and the other few ministries speaking out against abuse increases, it grows harder and harder for the “biggies” to ignore them. So one route they will go is to suddenly start some new “ministry” allegedly exposing abuse, but they always launch in such a way to make it look like THEY are the Christopher Columbus in this field – “we saw it first!” And underneath it all they haven’t really changed one bit.

    1. Pastor Crippen–I think you’re right! That there has been an increasingly steady flow of staunch advocates who refuse to continue to be abused under the guise of following “biblical teaching.” I’m guessing it is starting to affect tithing and they are perhaps losing their grip on their previous victims — those who were easy pickins due to a naturally affable nature and kind heart from Jesus.

      And so they change their siren cry to a seemingly more thoughtful, kind murmuring, all while continuing to seek new victims and resenting their need to go undercover in order to entice them. And as abusive entities they will make these victims PAY for forcing these tyrants to change their tactics.

    2. It is arrogance! They see the results ACFJ is achieving in helping women gain their freedom from abuse, and they want the claim to fame by encroaching and saying “we have found a better or more biblical way, and it will work!” They want victims to believe they have found a magical formula to make them believe they are doing God’s highest will for their lives and cause them to stay with their abuser. All they are doing is trying to win the prize and gain fame for themselves. The winner takes all.

      But the truth is that there is no cure for domestic abuse and this form of evil, except the cross of Christ and true lasting repentance. So, when was the last time anyone wrote on this blog that their abuser had come to true repentance. Therein lies the truth. It’s not necessarily that they cannot come to repentance, they are just too narcissistic and in love with themselves to ever do it. True repentance according to Genesis, is repenting from making yourself God in your life and relinquishing that place to Christ. The mind of an abuser is so warped that truth cannot permeate it. It is so filled with deception, that he believes his own lies. Sorry, but the abuser will always be his own god. He needs no One to die for his sin, because he believes he has none and even if he can admit he has a little, well it certainly isn’t that bad.

  6. From this post,

    Dr. Barger writes, “It’s easy to scorn women and most men do. We see women as physically weak, easy to intimidate, bound to the menial tasks of motherhood, emotional, illogical and often petty. Or…..we scorn and hate them for their commanding sexual power over us…..I swaggered through marriage for many years, ruling my wife Susan and seven children with an iron hand while citing Scripture as justification for my privileges and authority…….Years of dominating my wife and children left them habitually resentful and fearful of me yet unwilling to challenge me because of the fury it might produce.”

    THIS IS A CLASSIC abuser rant…pay attention–this man is actually BRAGGING about himself. HE is GOD over these losers (to him) and you can bet he hasn’t changed a bit.

    This is how evil people who Jesus describes in John 8:44-45, view people under their authority. In their depraved mind (Romans 1:28), they view kind-hearted people and children as nothing more than punching bags (spiritual, emotional and sometimes physical punching bags) who deserve to be abused because they are too weak and stupid to batter THEIR way up the hierarchy. Remember that primitive animals (creatures of instinct in 2 Peter 2:12) instinctually work on this level. And people of this nature only care about rank, position and the perceived control and power that come with it.

    PS–Thanks again Avid Reader for continuing to venture out by reading books and summarizing them for us. As I’ve stated, I don’t have the time, brain cells or emotional or spiritual fortitude to take on so many different books, so thank you again!

    1. It’s easy to scorn women and most men do.

      I find myself wondering if Gary agrees with this? Because this is the moment I would have tuned out everything this man said!

  7. This is a funny coincidence. My late-teens daughter was looking through a Christian book catalog yesterday and started telling me that this book (Sacred Marriage by Thomas) sounded terrible. She even pointed out the trigger words in the description. I was rather proud of her for being able to spot the trouble so easily.

    1. Mother Goose, I’m proud of your daughter too! And also proud of you! Clearly you are both discerning and I pray that God continues to wake our little ones up earlier in their lives so that they won’t spend a lifetime trying to undo so much carnage and mayhem.

  8. I’m pretty sure purgatory on earth for glory in heaven is not a Bible doctrine, but that’s how I would summarize these quotes from Gary Thomas. And how awful to tell a woman who is emotionally or even physically cowering in the corner trying to avoid further abuse, that if she chooses to leave she is incurring the wrath of God in the world to come! Never mind that it is such an incorrect view of God. So many problems with his writing, and so much sorrow for the poor women in the fog who go to him for help.

    1. Yes, purgatory on earth is exactly how it feels, isn’t it? I decided a long time ago, before I realized that I was being verbally abused, that I had made a poor choice in marrying him but that I just had to live with my choice and accept my crown in Heaven for it.

      Now, here I am in an emotional crisis, wishing I had left before I had wasted so many years and gotten more entangled for various reasons. I’ll admit that I have not been terribly submissive and I usually stand up for myself as I don’t fear for my physical safety, but I have been very long suffering and have tried to gently point out issues that he needs to fix. It’s gotten almost nowhere. He holds so tightly to his “right” to say and do the things he does that if he finally does apologize for that specific thing and admit it was wrong, it rings so hollow. He never apologizes for the constant conflict that it took to get him to that realization (frequently years) and he never atones. He never decides that he should trust me to point out his weaknesses. He never decides that I’m not the crazy one with the problem.

  9. I read Gary Thomas’ books when I was married. I honestly tried harder to be all he said I needed to be and to do all he said I needed to do. It sounded right to me then. I wanted to sacrifice my selfishness and show myself and God and my ex how far I was willing to bend to PROVE my love to them and to myself. I wanted to surrender and go as low as I needed to in order to be selfless. Being selfless = loving correctly, RIGHT?!?!?! Now that I am out of my marriage and reading this all again here, it sounds so unhealthy. It really puts a heavy burden on the wife to stay, stay, stay, sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice, surrender, surrender, surrender. Which I did, did, did. It didn’t feel holy and it surely wasn’t bringing joy.

    I have read some of Mr. Thomas’s recent stuff where he seems to be more aware of the “damage” wives have suffered because of abiding by his suggestions to stick it out in the name of love. Maybe he is coming around, but that doesn’t help women like me who looked to his books back then for encouragement in our messy marriages. My bad for going to an author for counsel, instead of to the Author of Life.

    Regarding his quote, “What is more self-seeking than to ignore what is best for your children—an intact, peaceable home—”, I wish to address the words “self-seeking,” “intact,” and “peaceable.”

    For one, his book calls for extreme self-sacrifice. When you come to the end of self-sacrifice, which basically boils down to death in so many ways, you either do die, or you find strength from somewhere to go seek another way. And in that seeking, you do find yourself — the self you surrendered and lost sight of in your marriage; the person you were created to be whose purpose is to love and worship God will all your heart, soul, mind, and strength first and foremost.

    I had lost sight of myself by becoming another version of me, someone who had no voice, no dreams, no desires, no initiative. And divorce was the change that brought me back to myself…broken though I was. I did not divorce for gain — to selfishly seek more for me. Divorce was the ultimate self-sacrifice — cutting myself off from all I knew: financial security, my home, my identity as a wife and mom, health insurance, the ability to stay at home with my children, and the list goes on.

    Divorce is not necessarily about self-seeking. Sometimes it’s about survival. It’s cutting yourself free from the tentacles of a demonic octopus that refuses to let loose.

    On another note, here are the synonyms I found for “intact”: whole, complete, together, unbroken, undamaged, flawless, unscathed, perfect, unblemished, undefiled, uninjured…

    Here are the synonyms I found for “peaceable”: peace-loving, nonviolent, easygoing, placid, gently, inoffensive, good-natured, even-tempered, amiable, friendly…

    Living with an angry man is the exact opposite of being in an “intact, peaceable home.” Neither of those words describe a home life with an abuser. As much as one partner chooses and tries and aspires and sacrifices herself to be peaceful, it really takes two. And as we all have learned by now you can’t change anyone but yourself.

    If you have a rabid dog in your yard, all the attempts at petting, feeding, and gentle coaxing in the world isn’t going to make it a peaceful creature.

  10. I started to re-quote the stuff I thought was maddeningly wrong, but there were too many.

    I don’t know how anyone can look at a lot of married people and say marriage makes you holy. And yes, single people are just out of luck. I guess if we ran off and married the first jerk we could find, we’d be more holy. Bunk.

  11. Reading through his books, what I learned about Gary Thomas is that he reads a lot but he’s learning from people who are leading him astray. As you all just saw, he chose to learn about abuse from the abuser instead of countless much better sources.

    In this book he also quotes marriage advice from the famous atheist Frederick Nietzsche—someone none of us want to be learning marriage advice from! Meanwhile, Gary has refused to read books that would actually help him learn about abuse. Hmmmm….wonder why?

    1. Avid Reader, first, thank you for this review!
      I truly don’t know why Gary refuses to educate himself, but here are 3 thoughts:
      1) – Because his “teaching” isn’t real; he has no understanding of abuse, he has just decided to jump on the abuse wagon to make himself look good to the rest of the world.
      2) – Because he is deceived – and either doesn’t believe he is, or doesn’t want to change and grow.
      3) – Because it’s difficult to learn to be discerning – like anything else worth learning – and he doesn’t want to put in the time and effort.

      I’ll bet everyone reading here can add to this list, but really it all comes down to choice.

      Gary has made the choice to do exactly as he is doing. He is exercising his God-given free-will to make his own choice in this matter of marital and domestic abuse, and he is further choosing to promote his own attitudes, views, and biases on that abuse by teaching them as if they are absolute truth, an act which demonstrates his choice of fame over truth, celebrity over compassion and understanding, and self over Christ.

      1. 4) Because he thinks he already knows everything.

        A lot of these things come down to pride.

      2. Gary has made the choice to do exactly as he is doing. He is exercising his God-given free-will to make his own choice…

        Yep. But if he wants to do this–have his own view and own opinion based on his own thoughts–then he needs to NOT PRETEND that it’s BIBLICAL and say that this is what “Gary Thomas the HUMAN believes,” and quit selling his abusive theology as Christianity. Thank you Hope for this thoughtful response.

  12. Great post. I found one of his last posts to be a bit bizarre. It was a scientific lean on philandering men. He seemed to go along with the idea that some or most men ‘just can’t help it’- because of their biology. Which of course is complete nonsense. I couldn’t understand how a Christian man could buy into that kind of thinking.

    1. Oh man, from that post I’m reading

      1) Men are more likely to cheat (Gary acts like women can just tell who is going to cheat and who isn’t before they stick with somebody. Not so. And this research is based on lizards, which is a new one for me!)
      2) Men are more likely to lie. (BTW, I’m pretty sure women know some men lie to get Sex. Gary acts like this is a huge revelation!)
      3) Men are actually neurologically wired to misbehave more than women. (What?)
      4) Older men are more like women, which makes them better. (?)
      Also under this section (talking about why it’s so awesome that these older men chose younger women) “The younger woman’s devotion may be confusing to the original wife. ”
      Is it me, or is Gary way too ok with all of this?

      What a bizarre article! But if your man misbehaves, it’s still your fault for picking him and you should just wait a while because maybe he’ll get better. Ugh.

    2. Allie,

      Found the article you mentioned. You’re right, it’s pretty nutty. The whole idea of the article that some men are biologically wired to be unfaithful is actually accusing God of making people sin. Sounds more like Adam in the Garden of Eden taking the devil’s side in becoming a false accuser of God.

      1. If we are “biologically wired” to do wrong things (and I’m not convinced by that article), then surely that’s a result of the Fall, or another way of talking about the sinful nature. And the whole point of Jesus’ coming was to deal with that, and to free us from the effects of it. We no longer need to be slaves to sin. We no longer need to use the excuse that we can’t help it, because we’ve been shown how our problems can be helped.

        Trouble is, not everybody wants that help. The Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth, but only if we want to follow. In my experience abusers don’t want to change, because either they enjoy the game, or they benefit from the situation they’re in.

    3. Allie, I believe you are referring to Thomas’s post titled Your Boyfriend’s Brain [Internet Archive link].

      Thomas did not do his homework before writing that post, and this is not the first post that shows that he uses questionable material to support his opinions.

      The following comment was left on his post – it was never approved.

      When Brizendine’s book, The Female Brain, came out in 2006 it was roundly criticized for its inaccuracies. One licensed psychologist and clinical professor at the University of VA said, ‘The book, The Female Brain, is a light and entertaining read, but it is more Starbucks Oprah and opinion than serious science’.

      Like its predecessor when Brizendine’s book, The Male Brain, came out in 2010, it was met with well-supported criticism from the science community.

      As a duty of care to your readers please do your research to ensure that material that you present as scientific fact is indeed the results of science and not just a doze of ‘scientainment’.

    1. Jeff S,

      You’re welcome. 🙂 I really liked the thoughts you shared about this book on another thread. (If anyone is interested, his comment is on the link that Barbara posted above.)

  13. I have not read this book, and I don’t plan to. The quotes in the article turn my stomach. They are so condescending and put the responsibility for keeping peace in the home on the wife. I took on that duty for years and now my daughters, as adults, are experts at walking on eggshells just like I was. Thankfully, I am divorcing their father and we are all in counseling to break the cycle.

  14. … I finished signing the papers at my attorney’s office to file for divorce. And I felt complete peace…because I know that God is with me. There is NO WAY that God is going to bring wrath upon me…because I am His beloved daughter, and He HATES the way my STBX is treating me and my children!

    And He HATES my STBX’s adultery…and emotional abuse…and verbal abuse!

    I almost feel sorry for Gary Thomas…almost….because MY God has heard the cries of the victims that he has damaged by writing this drivel!

    You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56:8

  15. In his newest book, Cherish, he does a much better job referencing abuse, particularly emotional abuse. Perhaps he is changing his stance…

    1. Hi and welcome to the blog. 🙂

      I have not read Gary Thomas’s newest book Cherish but I have skimmed it. I got the impression that although it discusses domestic abuse more than his previous books did, he still has not recognised (or apologized for) how much harm his earlier books caused to victims of abuse.

      I think he is trying to give the impression that he now ‘gets it’ about domestic abuse. But I think he knows just enough about domestic abuse to be dangerous when he teaches about it.

      I changed your screen name to Perhaps as you had given your full name, and that’s not often a safe thing to do on this blog. If you want us to change it to something else, just email The woman behind the curtain: — she will be happy to assist. 🙂

      We 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.

      And after reading the New Users’ Info page, I suggest you look at our FAQs.

      1. There is a 3 star review on Amazon by ‘anonymous’ about Gary’s book “Cherish”. It tells about some of the troubling issues in the book.

      2. Actually, the 3 star review is by Amazon Customer, not anonymous. My mistake. And I don’t want to be deceptive by appearing as though I don’t know who wrote the review, because it was me…

        [Feb. 26/22: We were unable to find the Amazon review by Still Blessed (on Gary Thomas’ book, Cherish) under either the name Anonymous (as mentioned in Still Blessed’s prior comment) or the name Amazon Customer. We did, however, find an Amazon review (on Gary Thomas’ book, Cherish) by someone named A-MS that might be the review by Still Blessed, as the review mentions some things that might be considered troubling issues (the reviewer used the word “dislike”), mentions abuse, and was written close to the date of Still Blessed’s comment. Editors.]

        Excerpt from A-MS’ Amazon review [Internet Archive link] on Gary Thomas’ book Cherish:

        My biggest disappointment came after I read the last page. All the way through the book, I was hoping that somewhere in the book he would spend some time talking about abuse, and make it clear that his book was not written for those who are in abusive marriages. There is at least one statement that will serve to make someone in an abusive marriage, who has tried for years to ‘fix’ it, once again feel guilty that they probably haven’t tried hard enough: “We want to be cherished, and we want to be married to someone we cherish. And I’m suggesting it’s possible to get to that point if we want to, even if we’ve stopped cherishing each other.” No, it isn’t. Not in an abusive relationship. Chapter 5 does include one paragraph that mentions covering up abuse or accepting an untreated addiction isn’t protecting your spouse, it’s enabling them to continue heading for destruction. And in chapter 10 he has inserted this disclaimer: “Of course, I’m not talking about abuse or overtly destructive behavior.” I know it’s not possible to cover every situation and circumstance in one small book, but many of the people reading marriage books could well be in an abusive marriage (which is why they are seeking help in the first place). For someone in an abusive marriage, who maybe doesn’t yet recognize what she or he is dealing with, there is nothing in this book to help the abused spouse understand that no matter how much ‘cherishing’ they do, it won’t necessarily stop the abuse or fix the marriage.

  16. You will never find joy in something that offends Jesus – such as instigating a divorce.

    What rubbish. No, I did not find “joy” in my divorce. I wasn’t after joy. When I hired my lawyer I was asked what I wanted out of the divorce. My response was peace. PEACE in all-caps on the written questionnaire. While “married” I lived in constant fear. I can now function in life without fear as my constant companion, and what sweet peace that is.

    I do not think God was offended in the least by my divorce. However, I do think that He was very offended by how my ex-husband was treating me, how he was treating his children, how he was using the Bible to manipulate and harm us, and how he was using the church as a cover for his behavior.

    A divorce is a piece of paper granted by a human court. My “marriage” was gone long before that. And I say “marriage” in quotes because I’m not sure that a true marriage ever really existed. The entire “relationship” was formed around his lies and manipulations.

    1. The same here. Except I am beginning to find joy in my divorce and I regularly thank God for it. He is a good Father, but I wasn’t been able to see it until I was out of the abuse. God bless my divorce lawyer, who is finally helping me to do what the church and authors like Mr. Thomas never did.

  17. Just the name of the book should turn an abused wife away. There is nothing SACRED about marriage to an abusive man, especially when he claims Christ. Rename the book SLAVERY marriage.

    1. I’d suggest “Sacred Slavery” as the title to convey the irony. It hints at the whitewashing of evil.

  18. This makes me so sick. I don’t even know where to begin. I’ve been in multiple abusive situations and I can’t tell you how many times I was told to persevere and follow God by staying with the abusers. It’s sad, but I can’t even set foot in a church now. I don’t trust anyone in the church. They’ve all let me down, except people like Jeff and the people at ACFJ.

  19. The mixed messages in this Mr. Thomas’s writings are unbelievably ridiculous and too numerous to count.

    Sacred Marriage? Apparently not. A sacred marriage leaves no room for abuse.

  20. Thank you so much for fleshing out the biases Thomas has as a conservative Christian author.
    There is such a sin as the sin of omission and Thomas has omitted an important matter – holding men accountable for loving and respecting their wives and being the kind of husband the Bible really describes – one who has a sacrificial love for his wife.

    I’m so tired of the church teachings that bind a wife to emotionally abusive marriages by implying they would be missing out on holiness if they file for divorce – while they completely overlook the husband’s sinfulness. Who is the spouse that should be concerned about holiness?

  21. Thank you Avid Reader for the detailed book review. The information you provided, and the resulting discussion, has been very helpful.

  22. Gary Thomas’ theology seems a bit off. Well, not a bit, a lot! He appears to not have even a semi-solid grasp about wickedness or evil and how to biblically deal with the same in a person who claims Christ, nor does he seem to have a clue about abuse.

    When I politely confronted him a month or so ago, about his view on couple’s counseling, he dodged the issue and would not openly state what he claims his position to be. He stated he made a claim to be opposed to couple’s counseling on his blog somewhere, but would not openly state nor defend that position, when I asked him to. A firestorm resulted from that. I had been given a copy of Sacred Marriage and I immediately put it in the trash. Anyone who will not openly and publicly make and defend their position on something as serious as couple’s counseling in abuse, really has no defendable position at all and it causes me to doubt everything else that he claims to know about abuse in marriage.

    I love the blurb about how loving that terrifyingly difficult man may have been a gateway to learning how to love God. What?? God beats us up to teach us to love Him? Boy, Thomas needs to learn the basics of Christian faith. He also needs to learn that marriage was not intended by God to be a war zone where the wife is constantly running, ducking and dodging abuse in all its vast forms.

    Sounds like Thomas wants us to be grateful for wickedness and evil, instead of shunning it.

    1. Thank you IamMyBeloved’s for sharing this experience. Thomas’s reaction doesn’t surprise me at all. Pastor Crippen has written that one of [the] ways to identify an abuser is to tell them, “No,” and if they get angry, there’s a good chance that they are a self-entitled abuser. Disagreeing with them or QUESTIONING them–equates to telling them “No.” Wrath will result.

      Anyone who will not openly and publicly make and defend their position on something as serious as couple’s counseling in abuse, really has no defendable position at all and it causes me to doubt everything else that he claims to know about abuse in marriage.

      So true.

  23. What is it exactly that motivates people to write this kind of enslaving, unbiblical drivel? And to couch it in “pious” vocabulary? We cannot attribute it merely to naivete because naivete does not explain it adequately. A naive Christian eventually hears Christ’s voice and puts away their ignorance and learns.

    No, this is more than that. This is more akin to the people that Scripture so often warns us about. Take the false teachers at Galatia or at Corinth for example. What was their motive? They added works to the gospel. They taught (see Colossians 2) all manner of “severe treatment of the body.” All of it designed supposedly to gain acceptance with God, but in fact the real motive is to enslave anyone who buys into the lies. Paul says that we are to never, ever be subject again to a yoke of slavery and he marveled that the Corinthians and Galatians so quickly ran after these enslaving legalists. “Who has bewitched you?” is his question of them.

    Well, there is an awful lot of the same kind of bewitching going on today that is parading as being of Christ. It is not. Gary Thomas’ teaching here enslaves. That is quite clear. It tells people that if they do not remain enslaved to abuse, they are not pleasing to God. And that is a lie.

    1. What is it? In a word: pride.

      For all that is in the world — the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not from the Father but from the world. 1 John 2:16

      For the sin of their mouths, the words of their lips,
      let them be trapped in their pride.” Psalm 59:12a

      The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. Matthew 12:35-37

      I think it is pride. These people (whether authors or pastors) begin to see themselves with arrogance and let pride be the voice that drives them. They have to have all the answers and even if the answer is wrong or unfounded or made up – they will state it. If there is something they need to hide in their life – pride will tell them to redirect attention away from the Truth, away from [what] matters most, away from the painful steps they need to take in their own life. Even if that means admitting error, being humble, stepping down, being vulnerable or repenting. They will protect their turf, their “ministry,” their business at all costs. Pride does that. Humility does not.

      Like lying, pride starts out small and grows into a problem nearly impossible to manage without total destruction.

      And the Bible has a lot to say about what happens to a person when pride rules their life, their lips and their soul.

  24. We were not created to be sacrificial lambs. We are not in the place of Christ. When we lay our lives down like Thomas thinks we should, we neglect the Word of God that says we are to love others like we love ourselves. That means we are to love ourselves. It is not loving to allow a husband to give us STDs or abuse us. We were created for a purpose in God’s mind, not to be a substitute sacrifice for another’s sin against us. His purpose is for His glory. What glory is there in wives contracting diseases from lying cheating wolves? We are commanded to flee evil and that even includes evil in marriage.

    Like so many others, Thomas elevates marriage above God’s design and brings women into bondage. It is idolatry. He reverses the Word and makes the woman lay her life down instead of the man, and he does so gleefully. He is blind. Huge error of biblical principles. I pray God holds all these bondage makers accountable for destroying His people through false ideas, notions and teaching.

    1. Thank you again IamMyBeloved’s for pointing out what should be obvious but alas, is kept secret and denied.

      My husband gave our entire family HPV. He would use a washcloth and then not wash it and the children used it after him. All the girls have had bad pap smears and have had to have procedures performed in order to keep from getting cervical cancer. Not to mention they’ve had to have warts removed for years. All because he doesn’t care a bit about anyone else. And he even tried to blame it on us. Evil comes in human form.

    2. Thomas elevates marriage above God’s design. Exactly! When will the church and authors like Gary Thomas realize that the individual is more valuable than the marriage. Sometimes the marriage must be sacrificed to save the individual.

    3. A, What you noted is biblical. The word for “proud” in 2 Tim 3:2 means, “…over-shine, trying to be MORE than what God directs, i.e. going BEYOND the faith He imparts.” (emphasis mine)

      5244. huperephanos

  25. I think “Sacred Slavery” (suggested by ACON) is a very apt alternate title for Gary Thomas’ book “Sacred Marriage”. It describes this teaching that a Christian wife will somehow achieve something “sacred” by remaining in “slavery” to an abusive evil man. The quotations from [the] book say she will gain “true holiness… unparalleled spiritual growth… opportunity to excel in love… reward, glory, honor and life forever”, etc. The obvious implication is that if you try to escape this slavery then your holiness is false, you can’t grow spiritually, you don’t know how to love, and there will be no reward or even heaven for you!

    But God says: “You were bought with a price. Do not become the slaves of men”. 1 Cor.7:23 “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”. John 8:36

    The salvation of abused women does not depend on them sacrificing themselves for their evil husbands. It depends solely on the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross!

  26. I couldn’t read all the way through all the quotes in that article. I used to own this book but I could never get into it enough to read it all the way through. Now I’m glad about that! Even before I realised what was going on in my own marriage, I hated that this book seemed to be saying Christians shouldn’t hope to be happy in marriage. I’m not naive enough to think we would sail through married life with no conflicts, but I always thought that those conflicts could be faced together and that we could talk them through. A healthy relationship is rooted in love, and even when you disagree there shouldn’t be any doubt that this person loves you and accepts you, and respects your point of view.

  27. I guess what bugs me about Gary Thomas teaching is his premise (if I am thinking of the right guy) ‘what if God designed marriage to make us holy not happy?’ It’s one of those sacred cow ideas that are so prevalent in the church. No one questions it because it sounds so righteous. But God created marriage when Adam and Eve WERE holy and without sin and He stated what His purpose was: It is not good for man to be alone. Right there in scripture, Gen. 2:18. The purpose of marriage is first of all, companionship and having a co-laborer in the tasks of caring for creation.

    I think his foundational idea is off base and not scriptural and therefore leads to excesses in his theology. Sure, God can use dealings with a sinful person to teach us how to walk in love and mercy, but to suggest that this was His purpose in creating marriage is ludicrous. Plus it leads to the silly notion that there are no limits to how much crappola we should put up with. Another unscriptural idea, considering the three strikes you’re out approach of Paul towards ongoing sinful conduct in the church. Sorry Gary, you have some good things to say but I think a lens is out of alignment on your theological telescope.

  28. I had a bit of interaction with Gary Thomas on someone else’s FB page recently. It was disappointing. I gave Gary the links to two comments on this post — one by Lisa (Gary’s wife), and the other which was my reply to Lisa.

    Rather than reading the links I’d given him, he refused to engage with me any more.

    I wholly agree with what one of my FB friends (a fellow survivor) has privately said to me:

    I have seen absolutely nothing from Gary Thomas that indicates an interest in actually doing good works for victims of abuse. Maybe I’m wrong, but thus far all I’ve seen is him say “Abuse is bad. It’s not OK to hit women.” This is an easy thing to say. Almost everyone says this. It is NOT revolutionary. He (seemingly reluctantly) allows for divorce, but emphasizes “hitting” and physical violence.

    I don’t find the things he’s saying now to be empowering, revolutionary, or helpful.

  29. We have been visiting a Baptist Church in Winfield, IL.
    Recently, the pastor recommended that we read “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas.
    This is very prevalent where we live.
    It is so confusing to sit in “church” and hear this being promoted.

  30. I’m scheduled to attend a “Sacred Marriage” conference with my husband next weekend, and I’ve been reading reviews about Mr. Thomas and his books on the web to get an idea of where he’s coming from. I have a loving, wonderful man, but my first husband was a narcissist and abuser, and I have no patience with any thinking that promotes the idea that it’s holier to tolerate abuse than live a happy life. Thank you for your insights.

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: Logo

You are commenting using your 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.