12. Chris Moles has a Play Doh understanding of salvation
Chris Moles believes that an unregenerate person has the ability to choose of their own free will to follow Christ. But the Bible teaches that no person has the ability, the power, or the will to “choose” Christ unless God brings their dead spirit to life (Eph 2:1). The sin nature we inherit from Adam makes us spiritually dead and utterly resistant to the gospel. Jesus said:
No one can come to me unless the Father who has sent me draws him. And I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:44)
Truly truly I say to you, unless a man be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3)
The Apostle Paul agrees:
no one can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor 12:3b)
When writing to Titus (and by extension to all who have undergone the new birth), Paul said:
But after the kindness and love of our Saviour God toward man appeared, he saved us – not for the deeds of righteousness that we have done, but of his mercy, by the fountain of the new birth, and with the renewing of the Holy Spirit, which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour (Titus 3:4-6)
You may have heard of the Emergent Church movement. It is a mess of pottage. Chris Moles enthusiastically imbibed stuff from the Emergent Church while preparing to plant the church he pastors in West Virginia.¹
Chris says he does not have Reformed theology (C 4:17*). It is clear to me that Chris believes the fallen (spiritually dead) nature is not quite dead so it has the power to ‘choose Christ’ of its own volition; therefore Chris has an Arminian doctrine of salvation. This helps explain why, in practice, Chris can treat abusers as if they are already Christians.
Put on your seat belts and life-jackets to read what Chris says (emphasis added by me):
I recently spoke with a man who violence had torn his family apart. He was now living alone in a small apartment unable to see his children without supervision. He wept over what he had forfeited, and as we talked he wavered between disappointment at himself and frustration with his circumstances. I asked him to list his greatest desires in order of importance, and as you can imagine they were all good things such as seeing his family restored, for his children to know he loves them, and to control his anger. He was taken aback when I suggested that while those are good desires his primary motivation should be to please and glorify God in his current circumstances. … Christians are called to be transformed into the image of Christ. (M 105)
… the heart of pride may manifest the desire to control others. But what desires may emerge from adopting the mind of Christ…? This is a pivotal point of discussion with men who are willing to pursue change. Some men who have identified their heart of pride, their desire to control and their subsequent abusive behavior will now set admirable goals for themselves which may include many “good’ things but rarely include the biblical motivation of glorifying God. … I have encountered men who have skilfully taken aim at restoring a marriage broken by their violence, or have feverishly attempted to restore their reputation in the community, or poured resources into starting a new life but who still miss the mark. (M 105-6)
…we must hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6), and Jesus promised that if we do, we will be filled. It’s not about us, and the New Testament in particular is filled with calls to the Christ follower to abandon self, be crucified with Christ and adopt the mind of Christ. … For many men this is new theological ground. … I’m asking [the abuser] to consider what his life is really about. What does God expect of him and desire for him? He needs to consider how a God-centered life will compare to the way he has lived his life in the past. In other words, how will what God wants for you change what you want? …just as Christ wanted what the Father wanted, the person adopting the mind of Christ will want what Christ wants. (M 107-8)
There are many aspects of God’s character that we can encourage men to adopt…”The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin” (Ex 34:6-7a). … These six characteristics stand out as the adoptable attributes consistent with the call to conformity. (M 109)
Those four sections I just quoted are all taken from chapter 10 in Chris’s book. The only time Chris used the word “repent” in that entire chapter was when he asked us to imagine an abuser repenting (M 110). Cynical me thinks: yeah, we have to imagine abusers repenting, because in reality they so seldom repent!
Here is Chris again:
Jesus did not come to us with condemnation but with hope and salvation (John 3:17). He patiently calls us to redemption and then calls us to love one another. (M 110)
That statement is wrong because it doesn’t distinguish categories. God has provided redemption through his plan of salvation. God does not call you to redemption because He has already provided redemption. God calls you to repent of your sin and have faith in Jesus. Believe that Jesus is Lord and he came into this sin-blighted world in the flesh and died for your sin and rose from the grave, demonstrating his victory over sin, death and Satan.
In part 6 of this series I talked about how Chris sees three stages in working with an abuser: (1) information, (2) transformation and (3) reformation. A good teacher would use properly biblical terms for (2) such as regeneration, new birth, born again. But Chris calls it “the transformation stage” as if it’s a stage in a production line.
(E 54:37) Transformation: It’s not my job; that’s the Holy Spirit. I want to encourage him to be open to the Spirit. I want to encourage him to respond to the Spirit’s prompting. I want to encourage him to repent. But that’s a job between him and God. Agreed?
Notice the internal contradiction. Chris says transformation is the job of the Holy Spirit. But a moment later he says transformation is a job between the abusive man and God.
(E 54:45) And part of the frustration is, guys, we can give all the information in the world. We can’t guarantee this will ever happen. We can gather all the data in the world [about the tactics of abuse he has used, what he wanted to achieve with those tactics] – but we can’t guarantee the transformation is going to happen.
But when it does, we get to join him in the work of reformation: helping him put off and put on. How cool is that? How exciting is that? I’ll tell you if you see a guy who has gone up the arrow so far that he’s been violent, and he comes to a place of repentance, and then he asks you to help him learn how to be gentle. Cause you’ve been teaching him that gentleness is important, but it’s such a foreign concept to him that he says, “You know what, can you help me learn what it’s like to be gentle?” Well!!! Ummm!!! That’s good, isn’t it!”
I was recently working with an individual – we’ve been working for six months. We spent probably five months on the information piece. It was just hard soil. Just continually pleading and pleading and pleading and pleading and pleading. And then there was that pivot point. Now our counseling relationship ended because I have certain restrictions on time frames and stuff, and I passed him off to a team. And what was cool is that this team said, “We had no idea how to get to this point, but we feel a lot more comfortable how to disciple somebody after this point.” But getting him here was nearly impossible. And it’s cool that we have this group of guys, four guys, that were like, “Alright, we know the put-ons. We know what to do.” And then to help them in that process. They’re going to spend another six months working with him on eventual repentance. Yeah, it’s cool. It’s cool. [emphasis added]
So Chris gives lip service to the fact that the new birth is a work of Spirit, but in practice he and the four men who took over that abuser’s case all believe they can coach the abuser to put off the old man and put on the new man. And Chris actually says that in the “reformation stage” the team are “working with him on eventual repentance”. So even going by Chris’s own words, the abuser was not born again in that “transformation stage / pivot point”.
Even going by Chris’s own words, it’s clear that the the guy did not repent. Because the team still have to work a lot more with him to “eventual repentance”.
Is you head done in trying to follow Chris’s double speak? Mine almost is!
Chris and the other four men are all working under their own strength. Like the believers at Corinth who were letting the adulterer remain in their midst, they are arrogant. They only give token agreement to the idea that regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit.
A spongy understanding of salvation leads to a flabby definition of a Christian
Be not deceived. For neither fornicators, nor worshippers of images, nor whoremongers, nor effeminates, nor abusers of themselves with the male sex, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor cursed speakers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:9-10)
The application form for Chris’s coaching program asks: “Are you a Christian? Please share testimony describing how you came to faith in Jesus, and your current relationship with Jesus.”
Is Chris probing to find out whether the guy professes to be a Christian and how he justifies his profession of faith? Or is he asking because he thinks an abusive man could in fact be a Christian? It’s the latter. Here it is in his own words:
Most of the men I work with have claimed to be believers. If a man comes to me and claims to be a Christian, I like to think the best but I do operate under three assumptions. That if you’re participating in this behavior —
- it’s quite possible that you are not a believer at all, because Christ’s followers don’t do this
- 0r it’s quite possible that you are a very rebellious believer, because Christ’s followers don’t do this
- or, it is somewhat possible that you’re a very ignorant believer. And I will say with this category, I sometimes find this with my more fundamentalist guys who have been taught a certain way who really feel like they are really honouring Christ but they’re really being jerks.
Here’s the thing. All three of those approaches need the same answer: the gospel — clear understanding of what Jesus has called us to be. (C 29:55, boldface mine; also see N 53:18–53:57, M 87)
Chris thinks it is possible for someone to accept salvation yet go on hating his brother or sister…and that person can be called “a rebellious Christian”. But the Bible doesn’t agree. The Bible says that anyone who hates his brother or sister is child of the devil and does NOT have eternal life residing in him, so that person cannot be called a “rebellious” Christian — or any kind of Christian.
This is how God’s children and the devil’s children become obvious. Whoever does not do what is right is not of God, especially the one who does not love his brother or sister. …Everyone who hates his brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. (1 John 3:10,15 CSB)
Here is another place where Chris shows that he thinks an abuser can be a Christian:
Statements such as “I snapped,” “I lost control,” or “My temper got the best of me” may be accurate descriptions of the man’s emotional and behavioral responses, but they are, by no means, excusable simply because we can recognize that he was angry. This is especially true for biblical counselors who are working with Christian husbands who have abused their wife (sic). (X, emphasis added)
Here is another example:
A counselee who grudgingly or deceptively moves through the process without this heart of worship more than likely lacks the unifying work of Gospel provision and continues to cultivate the heart of violence. (M 82, emphasis added)
Allow me to fix that wording for Chris. A counselee who grudgingly or deceptively moves through the process without this heart of worship is definitely unregenerate and continues to cultivate the heart of violence.
I know Chris hasn’t changed his mindset because in his March 18 2018 post he still talks as if abusers can be Christians.
Chris holds a version of Lordship Salvation theology
Chris says “rebellious believers” have accepted salvation but they’re not living under the Lordship of Christ. But “easy believism” cannot be remedied by Lordship Salvation theology, since both those theologies are wrong!
Here is proof that Chris holds to a Lordship Salvation theology:
As we move an abusive person from pride to humility or from violence to gentleness we do so alongside introducing or emphasising the need to trust in the character and work of Christ.
For example, we may walk an abusive person through the attributes of God’s character and work in the process. In addition, Gospel truth will include understanding what he truly deserves.
We highlight his sense of entitlement as sinful, as the Bible speaks to what we are truly entitled to, and that is judgment and condemnation. We also emphasise a believer’s identity in Christ. What does the Scripture say about our identity in Christ? Resources such as Milton Vincent’s “A Gospel Primer for Christians” accurately and effectively communicates these realities. (M 79, paragraph breaks added for ease of reading)
Who is Milton Vincent? He’s a graduate of Bob Jones University and The Master’s Seminary and has served as a Faculty Associate at The Master’s Seminary (link). We already know that Bob Jones University and Master’s Seminary are steeped in legalism. We know that John MacArthur blurs the Law and the Gospel, which in my opinion is one of the reasons for his very bad track record in responding to domestic and sexual abuse. (See two accounts by women who were mistreated by MacArthur and his institutions: Do You See Me and Do You Hear Me? )
Chris confuses regeneration and sanctification
Jesus knows that we struggle with pride. That is to say He knows that we love ourselves but He insists that we elevate the status of God and others. … When he comes to the end of self, the abuser must embrace humility. In much the same way that King Nebuchadnezzar declared God’s authority following his point of brokenness (Daniel 4), the abuser must abandon pride and embrace humility. The process of sanctification must take this man to the foot of the cross, and to the place of surrender. His greatest help, and his family’s greatest hope, will be found in having the mind of Christ. It is from this position that he may choose to be a person of peace and begin the arduous process of moving from creating fear to offering hope. (M 101-2, emphasis added)
Did Nebuchadnezzar, a pagan king, really and truly repent unto saving faith? Chris thinks he did. But Daniel 4-5:2 shows that although King Neb was given two powerful teaching experiences by God which resulted in him acknowledging and blessing God, yet despite all that he didn’t return to the Jews the holy vessels he had stolen from their temple.
Acknowledging God is something that demons can do (James 2:19). Blessing God is something that King Saul did: he prophesied briefly after meeting a school of prophets (1 Sam 10, 19). But he was not saved. I reckon Nebuchadnezzar’s “blessing of God” was along the same lines as King Saul’s.
Chris thinks that no one is irreparable and everyone is redeemable
[quote from that clip]: “We have an image of men in particular being vicious and rapacious, and my experience has been that they are just men, and sometimes men make mistakes, and sometimes men sin, and some times they need the sword – they need to go to jail for a while – but everybody is redeemable.” (L 3:10–3:42)
Here is another instance where Chris teaches the same idea:
I’m not big on the words ‘broken’ and ‘healing’. I use those words, but often times they need defining. But I think we can all agree that in a sin-sick, a sin-filled world, a fallen world, we are going to encounter people that are less than whole. That are incomplete. That are cracked. Now the one thing we can agree on is no one is irreparable. Right? All of us represent that brokenness and all of us can experience fullness and completeness in Christ. And one day when we get to heaven — Well! We’ll know fully what we now know in part. (F 18:54-19:34, emphasis added)
Even if an abusive man reforms his character, he may never come to know Christ
Even if in the rare case an abusive man were to work hard on changing his character so he no longer abused any intimate partner – and even if he became a respected practitioner working ethically in the secular Men’s Behavior Change movement – he may never become regenerate. He may never come to know Christ.
Only a few (a very few) abusers do the long hard work required to change into gentle, decent, non-abusive men. But many men are gentle, decent, respectful husbands and fathers without ever becoming Christians. And decent men can be just as resistant to the gospel as evil men are! Every person is resistant to the gospel unless and until God quickens their dead spirit to life.
I know of less than a handful of men who were abusers who have changed into non-abusers. Two of those cases are men who were not Christians and are still not Christians. Those two abusers both attended secular Men’s Behavior Change Programs in Australia and kept repeatedly attending and working on their stuff until they deep down changed. They are now both working professionally in the Men’s Behaviour Change movement. One is Dave Nugent who now runs the Heavy Metal Group and was involved in the film Call Me Dad; you can see Dave talking to a group of Jewish men here. The second is Ivan Clarke who tells his story here. [This video takes time to load. Editors.]
The only other case I know of where an abusive man seemed to reform, is Dave Weir. He tells his story on pp.118-25 of Unclenching Our Fists. While serving a jail sentence for domestic violence, Dave was convicted of sin. He doesn’t recount that any Christian spoke to him, he simply says that he felt this from God. He says that with the help of some books and a few courses he “worked his own program”. After he got out of jail he went voluntarily to a batterer’s program. He never got his family back. But the most compelling evidence for me that Dave did genuinely reform is the way his ex-wife Leta responded at the close of his life. By the time the female author of Unclenching our Fists interviewed Dave, he had cancer of the throat and was having difficulty speaking. The interview was recorded but Dave’s speech was so hard to understand that the author couldn’t transcribe it. After Dave died, his ex-wife Leta volunteered to transcribe the interview, saying she was proud of the work Dave had done on himself (pp.186-7).
At the end of chapter 10 (M 113-4) Chris refers again to his case study of Patrick, then gives his concerns:
For the first time time since beginning to meet with Patrick, the two of you agree on nearly every point. He agreed with your view of the sinful nature of his actions, and his desire to control his wife. He also articulated that his primary concern has been himself and his own pride. He agreed as you highlighted the need to pursue a higher goal of God’s pleasure and glory. However, your request for a decision to follow Christ and abandon self was met with this phrase: “Can I get back to you on that? I guess I’ve got a lot to think about.”
1. There may be some benefit to allowing Patrick to think things over. I, however, would more than likely push the issue. I’d be suspicious that this is an attempt to establish some aspect of control, and the truth will not change in a couple of days, and the need will still be as great. Either choose life or death. On the other hand, if he insists on taking time I would allow it and plan to set ultimatums such as discontinuation of the counseling process, and completion of church discipline/excommunication or increased sanctions depending on the sources of accountability if movement did not occur before our next conversation. Everything has been exposed and the time for decision has arrived.
2. There is certainly much to celebrate. While we have yet to witness the change needed, we have been privileged to see a shift from denial, hostility and anger to one of acknowledgement and accountability. Drawing this time to a point of decision is an accomplishment, but the work is only beginning.
Only at this point does Chris tell counselors to consider finalising church discipline! So all this time Patrick has likely been participating in membership of the church while the victim has been strung out on a long thread, waiting and hoping for him to show genuine reformation, and for the church to vindicate her…
I profoundly disagree that there is “much to celebrate” in helping Patrick come this far. Bringing an abuser to the point of admitting his heart of pride and his desire to control his partner is pointless if the abuser does not truly reform. It is also potentially dangerous because Patrick has been given the idea that he has the ability in himself to decide to follow Christ. This just gives Patrick more lingo that he can utilise to convince people that he is no longer going to be an abuser.
Chris presents to abusive men a false gospel of gentle moralism. Chris would probably deny it, but his “gospel” to abusive men is pretty much a gospel of Your Best Life Now. (M 68)
Chris describes what he means by discipling men (F 42:28-47:38). But what Chris calls ‘discipling men’ I would simply describe as wise and loving parenting of boys so they don’t have to grow up constricted in the man box, and teaching/modelling to boys and men what is entailed in being a good husband and father. Those are things which are being done by some people of other faiths and by folks who profess no particular faith. Those things are not just the province of the Christian church. Chris is arrogant to call those things “discipleship”.
I believe that what Chris is doing could be described as trying to teach men moral living: how to be honest decent men, decent husbands and fathers, decent citizens. But it’s a category mistake to call this ‘discipleship’ when men can make those changes without ever becoming true disciples of Christ!
Common sense tells us that domestic abusers who have been “church-attending, professing-believers” for decades are more evil and entrenched in their deceit than the abusive guy in his teens or early adulthood who has absorbed some traits of toxic masculinity from the world but has not been faking Christianity and using it as a cover for his abuse.
Citations in this post are shown in grey, with each item designated by a capital letter.
The Chris Moles Digest gives a link to each item cited by a capital letter.
All scripture quotations are from the New Matthew Bible, unless otherwise indicated.
¹ The Oct 28 2003 rant at churchplantrant.blogspot.com. Here is the all-caps wording at the top of that blog page. Truly, you can’t make this stuff up —
THE BIZARRE ADVENTURES OF TWO REDNECK GOOFBALLS WHO CONNED AN ENTIRE DENOMINATION INTO FUNDING THEIR TWO CHURCH PLANTS CHRIS MOLES IS PASTOR OF GRACE COMMUNITY CHURCH IN ELEANOR, WV, POPULATION 18 IF YOU COUNT THE DOGS. SCOTT ELKINS IS PASTOR OF THE CHURCH DOWNTOWN IN HUNTINGTON, WV POPULATION ABOUT 60,000, AND THAT INCLUDES THE HIPPIES, DRUG DEALERS, AND STREET FOLK.