A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

“Suffering and the Heart of God” by Diane Langberg — Review by Barbara Roberts

Diane Langberg doesn’t seem to believe there are people whose father is the devil — so she doesn’t seem to understand the mind of the sociopath. In her book Suffering and the Heart of God: How Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores (New Growth Press, 2015), she writes as if all people have active consciences and every person feels bad when their conscience pricks them.

She depicts the abuser as self-deceived, rather than as an intentional liar. In my opinion she lets the abuser off the hook too easily, describing him as a victim of his own self-deception:

… the narcotic of self-deception has become so powerful in his life that he not only cannot stop lying; he does not even know when he is [lying] and has lost his capacity to tell truth from lies, good from evil. (p 225)

She comes across as something of a ‘bleeding heart’ who thinks she has to have unlimited compassion for everybody, even predators.

Failure to love his [God’s] people, even his predatory shepherds, is a failure in my love for him. (p 310)

In my experience as a recipient of abuse (sexual, spousal, social and spiritual), I have spent a lot of time scrutinising my heart to see whether I have failed to sufficiently love the people who predated on me and the ones who favoured and cheered on my abusers. I have asked myself whether by failing to feel loving feelings for my abusers, I am a crummy Christian who does not love and revere God. That self-scrutiny drove me into morbid introspection, downwardly spiralling into a morass of confusion and self-condemnation.

The way to love predators is to expose their evildoing, confront it, resist it, call them to repentance (a call which the vast majority of predators will ignore), and exclude them fellowship. Cast them out. Avoid them. Report their crimes to the secular justice system if you feel safe to do so.

Let us read Langberg’s assertion again:

Failure to love his [God’s] people, even his predatory shepherds, is a failure in my love for him. (p 310)

It’s the kind of stuff the abuser will jump all over because it enables him to accuse those who confront him with his sins — (trigger warning): — “You are not being loving! You are confronting me in an unloving manner! You are being judgemental!”

Langberg appears to be writing primarily for an audience of professional counselors in this book. What she doesn’t seem to take into account is that victims may also be reading her book and will almost certainly be taking her sweeping statements personally. In my view, she has thereby failed in her duty of care for the abused.

Here are a couple more of her sweeping statements that would certainly sting victims of abuse:

Understanding one’s own production of sewage and the ensuing damage is vital. (p.45)

As I bow before God and allow him to produce his viewpoint in me, several things will result:  First, I will know without question that evil is not just “out there”; it is also “in here.” I will never see the world as divided between “them” and “us.” There is no “them” because we are all “them.” (p 95)

Langberg’s phraseology is sin-levelling. She implies that the victim, the counselor, and the predator are all producing the same quantity of sewage, and all causing the same degree of damage to other people.

She asserts that an abuser’s bad behavior can be explained because he was probably victimized as a child (p. 51). This plays right into the myths that

  • the abuser isn’t responsible for his own choices
  • the abuser needs therapy because his problem is in his emotions (rather than his beliefs & distorted thinking)

These myths, especially when they are articulated by respected Christian professionals, contribute to why victims stay so long in abuse. The victim is urged to think, “I need to be more compassionate towards my husband. He must have suffered awfully in his childhood.”

Furthermore, it seems to me that Langberg has a similarly muddled theology of shame to the one articulated by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb. She confuses shame and sin, and thus insufficiently distinguishes between false guilt and true guilt. On pp 138-9 she writes:

Jesus says, “I hid not my face from shame and spitting.” Hiding our faces is exactly what we want to do when we feel shame. Children know this instinctively. They run, hide in the closet, or they cover their faces when they feel shame. He did not hide; he despised it, hated it. Jesus spit on shame, considered it worthless, it carried no weight, no value. Jesus spit on being spit on. He scorned scorn. He diminished shame itself, one of the most diminishing agents of human beings. He shamed shame. He did not hide; he did not cover; he did not shrink. He hated shame and stared it straight in the face. And then he sat down at the right hand of the throne of God full of glory.

He despised shame and sat in glory. We are shamed and glory disappears. He faced shame and transformed it into glory. On the cross Jesus spits back, not on shameful humans, those warped, ruined, and twisted but still created in his image. No, he spits on the shame they spilled all over him, and he refused to let it define him, diminish him, or destroy his work and purpose. And what was that work and purpose? To change our shame into glory.

We are there with him, all of us bearing the shame of our sin and of the sins of others against us. …

Note: Where Diane Langberg wrote, ‘Jesus says, “I hid not my face from shame and spitting.”’, she seems to be quoting the KJV rendering of Isaiah 50:6 I hid not my face from shame and spitting. She did not state that she was quoting from the KJV there. The words ‘Jesus said’ are Diane’s, not Isaiah’s.  Her failure to tell her readers which Bible version she was using there has caused perplexity for at least one of my blog readers. See the comments thread. (This note was added by Barb on 6 Sept 2021.)

Note: I have not given this post the tag ‘bad books’, because we reserve that tag for books that we think are out-and-out bad. If I were to review Suffering and the Heart of God on Amazon, I would probably give it a three star rating because there are quite a number of good things in it. But because the ACFJ blog prioritizes the viewpoint and well-being of victims, I cannot include this book in our recommended resources. However, if you are a Christian counselor and you were to read the book with discretion, especially if you kept in the front of your mind the concerns I have raised here, you might gain quite a lot from the book.

PLEASE SCROLL DOWN TO MAKE A COMMENT. I love receiving comments at this blog. Even if you only write a few words, that will encourage me, because it will show me that you read my post.

***

Further Reading

Is it wrong to feel anger and hatred for my abuser?

Blindness series

Diane Langberg is advocating for abuse victims, but… (pt 3 of series on SBC’s ChurchCares program)

Can someone be an abuser and be a Christian?

Don Hennessy says domestic abusers are like pedophiles — and there’s not much proof they’re redeemable.

Divorce, language use, suffering and substitution, in “Is It My Fault” by the Holcombs

How do I find a good counselor?

19 Comments

  1. where2or3r

    “Failure to love his [God’s] people, even his predatory shepherds, is a failure in my love for him. (p 310)”

    W.o.w. “His predatory shepherds.” I think the scriptural term for that is WOLVES IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING,” and they are NOT GOD’S PEOPLE.

  2. Finding Answers

    From the original post:

    Jesus says, “I hid not my face from shame and spitting.”

    When Diane Langberg writes (and I noticed her quote marks): Jesus says, “I hid not my face from shame and spitting.”, the implication could be she’s quoting from a Red Letter Bible, that she’s actually quoting Jesus.

    From the original post:

    Understanding one’s own production of sewage and the ensuing damage is vital. (p.45)

    And it’s probably just me, but I also disagree with Diane Langberg’s use of the word “sewage”….I would have chosen a different word (but I don’t know which word because I haven’t really taken the time to think about .it).

    From the original post:

    As I bow before God and allow him to produce his viewpoint in me, several things will result: First, I will know without question that evil is not just “out there”; it is also “in here.” I will never see the world as divided between “them” and “us.” There is no “them” because we are all “them.” (p 95)

    I’ve got way too many (impolite) things to write about not only this paragraph by Diane Langberg, but the paragraphs Barb quoted (pp 138-9) from her [Diane’s Langberg’s] book.

    Thank you, Barb, for your review. 🙂 You quoted enough from Diane Langberg’s book Suffering and the Heart of God for me to know I don’t plan on either buying or reading it. 🙂

    • Finding Answers

      Some quick questions for you, Barb….

      After reading the comment by Grateful (5TH SEPTEMBER 2021 – 11:55 AM), I started thinking about my initial research about the quote from Diane Langberg’s book that you quoted and that I included in my comment (5TH SEPTEMBER 2021 – 11:19 AM ), where she [Diane Langberg] wrote:Jesus says, “I hid not my face from shame and spitting.”. I started thinking my initial research had either been too fast or faulty.

      I thought I would have to clarify part of my 5TH SEPTEMBER 2021 – 11:19 AM comment about the Red Letter Bible, and I still need to clarify it, but differently than I originally thought. When I wrote the part of my comment about the Red Letter Bible, I was meaning the actual words in red letters (the words of Jesus) in a Red Letter Bible, but I hadn’t really considered the fact that there might be different versions of a Red Letter Bible.

      So, using part of the quote from the comment by Grateful (5TH SEPTEMBER 2021 – 11:55 AM), I did a bit more research….

      First (and questions for you, Barb): Does Diane Langberg quote from more than one version of the Bible in her book? Or does she have something near the beginning of her book that mentions which Bible she is quoting from for the entirety of her book? (And maybe you could update your post accordingly?)

      Second, I found the quote in Isaiah, but the exact wording “I hid not my face from shame and spitting.” doesn’t appear in every version of the Bible. So technically I was correct about the quote not being the actual red letter words of Jesus in a Red Letter Bible, but the phrase does actually appear (in Isaiah, but not in red letters) in some Red Letter Bibles (A quick search of BibleGateway shows more versions of the Bible don’t have that exact wording “I hid not my face from shame and spitting.” than do.)

      Third (and my confession), is that while I was technically correct (see the above paragraph), I (after reading the comment by Grateful) thought I was wrong, that the words “I hid not my face from shame and spitting.” had actually been said by Jesus (and would be in red letters in a Red Letter Bible). I was (and am not) ashamed for my error(s) in thinking, but I (initially) didn’t feel that great about myself….and I definitely feel better for clarifying things for myself (and possibly for others).

      • Hi, Finding Answers. You asked:

        Does Diane Langberg quote from more than one version of the Bible in her book? Or does she have something near the beginning of her book that mentions which Bible she is quoting from for the entirety of her book?

        From the page after the title page in Langberg’s book. I’m omitting the copyright info she gave for each bible version:

        “All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New American Standard Bible.Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the New International Version. Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the New Living Translation. Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are taken from the English Standard Version. Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version.”

      • Finding Answers, you might be amused to know why it took me so long to answer your question today. I had put Diane Langberg’s book on a bookshelf that is covered by one arm of my couch. I had to pull the couch out to get the book. That bookshelf is where I stash all the books from Christian advocates who have ignored and / or maligned or scoffed at my work. I don’t want to see the spines of those books on a daily basis because when I see them it only makes me feel despondent.

      • Finding Answers

        Thank you, Barb, for providing the Bible version information. Using BibleGateway’s Other Translations, I can then conclude Diane Langberg was quoting “I hid not my face from shame and spitting.” from the King James Bible

  3. Grateful

    Good heavens. She has some really poor exegesis of that whole “I hid not my face from shame and spitting” passage. Seems she’s trying to make it support her argument rather than taking it in context. She should include the entire verse(s): “The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.”

    It would never occur to me to think that passage means that Jesus ‘spit on shame’ or ‘spit on being spit on’ — what on earth? It simply means what other passages have also said, that He did not shrink from the horror he knew was coming… He accepted the cup the Father gave him. He ‘set his face like a flint’ and walked forward to His persecution and death willingly, obediently, victoriously. He did not hide his face from shame and spitting…nor his body from the scourge.

    • Reaching Out

      Hi Grateful,

      For your safety and protection, I have changed the screen name you submitted with your comment to the screen name you have used most recently and frequently on the blog. Please email me at reachingout.acfj@gmail.com if you would prefer to use a different name.

    • Yes indeed, Grateful. Whenever I read (and re-read) what Diane Langberg said about spitting on shame, I feel my mind bending into distorted, misshapen, asymmetric pretzels. Pretzels that if a baker made them on his bench he would throw them out… he wouldn’t even bother putting them in the oven as they are fit only for the garbage bin.

      Thank you for quoting what Isaiah 50:5-6 really said. Langberg misquoted it by making out that Jesus actually spoke those words and she interpreted it out of context. Does she think her readers are not biblically literate, so she can get away with such slapdash teaching? If she does, that’s a pretty haughty attitude on her part.

  4. JK

    Right on. Thank you for your courageous and vital work in this area.

    • Reaching Out

      Hi JK,

      For your safety and protection, I have changed the screen name you submitted with your comment to the screen name you have used most recently on the blog. If you would prefer to use a different name, please email me at reachingout.acfj@gmail.com. And just for your information (in case you get to wondering), I also deleted the duplicate comment of yours.

  5. tuckerup187

    I have not yet read Langberg’s book, but I purchased it awhile back on a now-forgotten recommendation. Ugh. Now I regret the purchase!

    Thank you for continuing to validate the reality from the victim’s perspective. So-called “sin- leveling” has never done anything but empower my abusers, and further destroy and alienate me.

  6. I have added another post to the Further Reading list at the end of this post. Here is what I added:
    Diane Langberg is advocating for abuse victims, but… (pt 3 of series on SBC’s ChurchCares program)

    • tuckerup187

      I think your concerns are absolutely valid, and I share them. It is disconcerting that she never responded to you.

  7. Do other abuse advocates express concerns about Diane Langberg? I could be wrong, but I think I am the only advocate who publicly expresses concerns about what she teaches. What does that signify about the other advocates?

    (Jeff Crippen may have been an exception —— he may have expressed concerns about Diane’s teaching —— but I have serious concerns about Jeff’s integrity and I will soon be publishing a post to explain my concerns about him.)

  8. Sister

    Excellent post / review Barbara! Thank you for writing and sharing it. I offer the following comment from my sister and myself:

    Your statement, “Diane Langberg doesn’t seem to believe there are people whose father is the devil — so she doesn’t seem to understand the mind of the sociopath,” is 100% accurate. The same can be said of other popular advocate writers / bloggers that don’t recognize that some people are pure evil; they choose to be evil, and they like their father the devil, and seek to destroy.

    Diane’s statements illustrate both the false theology perpetuated by organized churches and the false theology perpetuated by secular society and medical / educational institutions. The churches teach everyone is evil, ergo, no one is truly evil. Secular Society and medical / educational institutions teach that people destroy because of poor self-esteem, abusive childhoods, alcohol and / or personality disorders and act as if therapy or medicine will convert them into being nice people. Diane even perpetuates the myth that the evil doers believe their own lies. All of these excuses obliterate the truth that people are evil by choice. The Bible from cover to cover is about good and evil, God and Satan, free will / choice. The righteous and the evil will be known by their works. We are not to tolerate or coddle evil doers. We are to cast them out.

    Yet the Bible is not taught in church, secular society, or educational institutions. The universal false theology grooms the righteous to be preyed upon by evil doers, leading them to believe that evil people are going to want to be Christians or good people based on the actions of the righteous. Laying that burden, false guilt, and false shame on the righteous is not only wrong and dangerous, but antithetical to Biblical teaching.

    Diane’s assertion that Jesus spit on spit and shamed shame is nonsense. As you noted, she is sin leveling. Abuse victims need not think about their own production of sewage. I found irony in her words because the quotes you highlighted of hers are in fact sewage, dangerous sewage, in my opinion.

    I know that Diane is a popular author and speaker within the advocacy community and some people have benefited from her work. Nonetheless, it disheartens me to see a lack of scrutiny / accountability / critical thinking within the advocacy community. Some advocates correctly hold high profile (professing) Christians / organizations and leadership to account, but fail to look at problems within the advocacy community, problems that also endanger abuse victims.

    You are one of the few that I’ve come across that will consider constructive criticism and re-adjust your thinking and writing if you think the criticism has merit. Other advocates, popular within the advocacy community, make corrections if they state something as fact and then later find it’s not accurate, but I’ve not seen them change their opinions / assertions when presented with a reasoned argument like you do. They do not entertain dissent.

    Thank you again for this post and all you do to help abuse victims.
    Sister

    • Hi Sister, I very much agree with what you said here:

      it disheartens me to see a lack of scrutiny / accountability / critical thinking within the advocacy community. Some advocates correctly hold high profile (professing) Christians / organizations and leadership to account, but fail to look at problems within the advocacy community, problems that also endanger abuse victims.

  9. WMG

    Books like these cause infinite harm to innocent people – and call me cynical but in my opinion (having researched / studied psychopathy for more than 15 years as well as surviving unspeakable battles with soulless beings), they are DESIGNED to.
    I do not believe that the authors are well-intentioned. If there is any excuse for them, it is that they are used by the Tavistock set to create these dreadful tomes, in order to protect the guilty.

    • I agree with your your comment, WMG.

      For those who do not know, the Tavistock Institute is a psychological clinic and research centre in the UK that for decades has been deeply involved in doing mind control experiments on people (especially children), and publishing academic articles that spread false ideas about abuse. Tavistock has been influential worldwide in the field of psychology.

      As I recall, the Tavistock Institute had early links to Anna Freud, Sigmund Freud’s daugher. Sigmund Freud betrayed his female clients who were recipients of incest and pedophilia. Anna Freud was loyal to her father to the end. Tavistock has been one of the big organisations that create and spread many of the myths about interpersonal abuse —— myths which serve the perpetrators and harm the victims.

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