1. Introducing the Chris Moles series
Chris Moles is seen as an expert in domestic abuse by the biblical counseling movement. But does his teaching line up with Scripture? I believe Chris teaches some good things about domestic abuse, but I have serious concerns as well. This series will set out both my praise and my concerns.
The biblical counseling movement is having four big conferences in 2018 on domestic abuse, and Chris Moles is speaking at all four. Chris is being seen as the poster boy because he gives them such hope for changing abusers. But in my view, Chris is still not awake to some of the most vital points.
I get the impression that many Christian counselors have not had in-depth theological training. They’ve studied counseling and psychology a lot more than they’ve studied theology. And because most pastors are dealing poorly with abuse situations, it has fallen to the Christian counselors to deal with the issue.
However, without a good grasp of theology and doctrine, Christian counselors and psychologists can make all sorts of statements which are not soundly supported by scripture. If someone does not know Hebrew or Greek they can’t assess the veracity of the claims of other self-proclaimed called Christian experts in abuse. If someone doesn’t have a good grasp of theology, they don’t have the background to weigh the full counsel (Word) of God carefully and they are not likely to able to discern doctrinal errors.
And pastors, too, are often in the same boat. There are big problems in the seminaries that are training pastors: deep doctrinal problems and wilful or foolish blindness to the nature of abuse, which leads to the cover-up of abuse when it has occurred. So the majority of pastors are failing to discern and correct the wrong doctrines of the Christian counselors, because they are likewise unskilled in discerning truth from error.
Do I know Hebrew and Greek? No; but I consult with and study the works of those who do, especially when it comes to a tricky passages about male-female relations, and divorce & remarriage.
Whenever I am unsure about something, I check my ideas against the teachings of men whose theological training I respect: Ps Sam Powell, Ps Jeff Crippen, Dr Liam Goligher, Dr Fred Sanders, Dr James Delozal, and of course the Creeds and the various Reformed Confessions of Faith. And I respect the work of Ruth Magnusson Davis who is showing us what excellent work Tyndale & Coverdale did in translating the Bible into English. I’ve also carefully read people like Dr David Instone-Brewer, whose work I agree with in some respects but diverge from in other respects. In other words, I’ve done my homework.
All along, A Cry For Justice has refused to join the bandwagon
We will not get on a train that we believe is being driven by people who are not yet fully awake to the issues and are not following all that scripture says about it. This applies not just to Chris Moles but also to
- Leslie Vernick
- Jim Newheiser and IBCD (Institute of Biblical Counseling & Discipleship)
- Heath Lambert and ACBC (Association of Certified Biblical Counselors)
- CCEF (Christian Counseling Education Foundation)
- though I’m pleased that Darby Strickland has written three good posts about sexual abuse in marriage.
- Justin Holcomb
- Dallas Theological Seminary
- and even perhaps Diane Langberg. Several weeks ago I emailed Diane my feedback (both positive and negative) on her work and she has not replied.
Those experts think that they need to proceed slowly and gently in getting the die-hards in the institutional church to turn around. It is true that change will take time. But by ‘softly prompting’ to lead the church towards change, I believe many of these so-called experts are not being fair to all victims and they are not conveying the whole truth, so they are inadvertently or wittingly giving leeway to the perpetrators of abuse.
I would not have any problem if these people were teaching things which are doctrinally correct. But from my more than two decades of of writing and reading in this field, this is what I’ve seen time and time again: When people progress to the stage where they can face the tough truth that ACFJ presents, they have already had their minds filled with many false notions which we have to undo.
Here are some of the false notions which some Christian counselors and victim-advocates are teaching:
- The abuser is blind to what he is doing, and he needs to be helped to become un-blind.
- The victim can (or should) do things which might help the abuser wake up to what he is doing.
- Christian counselors should work with abusers painstakingly, to lead them to change.
- The victim is an enabler.
- The victim is co-dependent.
- Most victims need to be coached so they do not respond sinfully when being abused — so they either ‘stay well’ or ‘leave well’.
- There are two words in Hebrew that are translated divorce. Only one of them meant a legal divorce with a certificate. The other word meant ‘put away’ – and ‘put away’ is not the same as ‘divorce’.
- God hates divorce.
- God allowed divorce because of hardness of heart.
When these so called experts teach or relay false notions to the church, it makes my job harder. And in my experience, most of these experts are resistant to learning when I give them constructive feedback. Ps Jeff Crippen, who co-led this blog with me till late 2017, had the same experience. He found that these experts are resistant to hearing our feedback.
Yet many of these ‘experts’ say how important it is to listen to victims! I can only conclude there’s a gulf between their rhetoric and reality.
I trust my upcoming series on Chris Moles will be helpful to many survivors of domestic abuse who are sifting their way through the information offered by Chris Moles and the other ‘counselling experts’ who are teaching about domestic abuse.
I hope the series might lead a few Christian counselors to open their minds to the directions they need to give more focus to.
After the Chris Moles series, I hope to devote my energies to writing the things that I still have to write: the second edition of Not Under Bondage, and my as-yet-unpublished insights into scripture that will help victims of domestic abuse. In other words, I intend to direct my sights away from critiquing the work of public figures in Christendom who claim to offer domestic abuse ministry yet are still getting so much wrong.
Please hold me to that intention, dear readers, as I can easily get sidetracked into exposing the errors of yet another false teacher. I could spend the rest of my life critiquing poor teachers, but I need to get on and write my own stuff. But have no fear; we will keep publishing posts on this site.
I am not asserting that the past and present team here at ACFJ has ‘said it all’. But I believe we have articulated enough principles for people who know their Bibles well and are indwelt by the Spirit to apply the principles to new material and new ‘expert teachers’ who may arise.
And if any of our readers find flaws in what we have published, then of course we are open to feedback. But please point out flaws in our analysis of scripture and present solid scriptural argument for your point of view. And please do us the courtesy of reading our material carefully by digging into our FAQ page and our Hall of Blind Guides before you make knee-jerk denunciations. And if you just say the problem is our tone because we are being ‘too harsh’ – that probably won’t cut ice with us. Jesus was very harsh with religious leaders who were leading the people of God astray.
So, if any readers want to understand the problems with Christian teaching on domestic abuse from now on, they can always read ACFJ’s posts (of which there are many)—and figure out the principles and apply them to the teacher they want to analyze. How to search our website
Critiques of biblical counseling published at A Cry For Justice
Wise as Serpents: Does the Christian Still Have an Evil Heart? (Part 24 of Sermon Series) – Jeff Crippen shows how many biblical counselors, including Leslie Vernick, have wrong-thinking or at least foggy-thinking regarding just who a Christian is.