A Cry For Justice

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

Abuse and Scripture: Paul Washer and the Doctrine of the Sufficiency of Scripture

I have written about the sufficiency of Scripture before, but it is a vital topic that we need to keep in front of us.  Distortions of this doctrine are regularly used to keep the church blind to abuse and to prevent victims from getting the help they need.

Listen to this statement by Paul Washer, a well-known missionary-pastor.  This quote is taken from his sermon series entitled Ten Indictments Against the Modern Church.  He begins his first sermon under the heading The First Indictment: A Denial of the Sufficiency of Scripture.

“When you come to believe as a people that the Bible is inspired, you have only fought half the battle, because the question is not merely, ‘is the Bible inspired?’ i.e., is it inerrant?  The major question following that, which must be answered, is this:  Is the Bible sufficient, or do we have to bring in every so-called social science and cultural study in order to know how to run a church?  That is the major question!  Social sciences, in my opinion, have taken precedent over the Word of God in such a way that most of us can’t even see it.  It has so crept into our church, our evangelism, and our missiology that you barely can call what we are doing ‘Christian’ anymore.  Psychology, anthropology, and sociology have become primary influences in the churches…. We have come to believe that a man of God can deal in certain tiny areas in the life of the Church; but when it really gets tough, we need to go to the social experts.  That is an absolute lie! It says here that the Scriptures are given ‘that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works’ (2 Tim 3:17).

What does Jerusalem have to do with Rome?  And what do we have to do with all these modern day social sciences that were actually created as a protest against the Word of God? And why is it that evangelism, missions, and so-called ‘church growth’ is more shaped by the anthropologist, the sociologist, and the Wall Street student who are up on every cultural trend? All the activity in our churches must be based upon the Word of God.  All the activity in missions must be based upon the word of God.  Our missionary activity, our church activity, and everything we do ought to flow from the theologian and the exegete — the man who opens up his Bible and has only one question: What is Thy will, Oh God?”

Now, I do not disagree with Washer at every point.  I concur fully that we are not to let the world dictate to us how to do God’s work.  I have very little use at all for the “seeker-sensitive” church growth philosophies. The gospel is never attractive to fallen man.  In fact, there really are no seekers (see Romans 3:10ff).  If God does not seek the sinner out, there is no hope for sinners!  And we surely do have to be on guard against bringing unbiblical psychological ideas into our theology — ideas that deny the image of God in man or deny the very existence of sin.  On these points Mr. Washer is at least partially right on!  (However, even in regard to how we do ministry, we can indeed still learn things from other sources.  They must not contradict Scripture, but they can be true and helpful).

And yet Washer’s language here is troublesome.  I think it will be troublesome to our readers who are quite familiar with the nature of abuse, with their own personal experiences as victims and survivors of abuse, and with what factors the Lord used to finally open their eyes to what was happening to them and set them free.  Here at ACFJ, we often speak of Lundy Bancroft and his book, Why Does He do That? [*affiliate link]. We talk about a lot of other books that were written by authors who, like Bancroft, are not Christians.  And yet those very books were instrumental in turning on the lights for us in respect to the deceitful monster called abuse.

When pastors and Christian teachers and theologians say things like Washer said in the quote above, it sounds a whole lot like we as Christians are NOT to read books like Bancroft’s.  We are only to look to our Bibles.  And this “me and my Bible” philosophy generally translates into something much more harmful: “Me and my pastor/church leaders only.”  What they say.  What they tell me.  Because, after all, they got it from the Bible.  Right?

The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture does NOT preclude us from observing what orthodox Christianity calls general revelation. And if I am not mistaken, back in the old days, the U-niversity was truly a universe where theology and the other disciplines were all included.  Theology was once queen of the sciences I am told and provided harmony to the other areas of study.  Today however, with theology de-throned, we conservative Christians seem to be reacting with a baby out with the bathwater approach.  The Bible alone! is the cry we hear.

The Bible is indeed sufficient – for salvation and for the Christian to become the man or woman God calls us to be.  It is sufficient in the realm of redemption and for life in the New Covenant.  And the Bible even has a huge amount more wisdom in it that we even begin to see.  One day we are going to learn that the Bible has a vast amount of information to equip us to recognize abuse, abusers, and to help victims.  But we need help seeing these things, and some of that help is going to come from general revelation.  From the study of astronomy, biology, anatomy, and yes…. even psychology.  Just think how helpful it was for many of you to read Martha Stout’s book, The Sociopath Next Door*  Or George Simon Jr.’s two books, In Sheep’s Clothing *and Character Disturbance*. [affiliate links*].  Or Judith Herman’s wonderful book on trauma.  Man, what common sense and insight these people have to teach us.  It’s great.

But when we hear statements like Washer’s, especially when they are given in a sermon that is supposed to be teaching us what God’s Word says, then it sounds very much like the preacher is telling us that we are doing wrong, that we are sinning, by reading these other books besides the Bible.  And that is very bad.  Very bad indeed.

It would not surprise me if Washer is a no-divorce-for-abuser teacher, and maybe even more strict than that.  If someone knows, feel free to comment.  I have listened to some of his preaching and it is troublesome to me that so much of what he says in at least some of his messages is simply his own philosophy wrapped in the package of biblical preaching.

* Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ  gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link

 

67 Comments

  1. i do not like his style of preaching or his theology. I also find it odd that he discounts phsycology etc. when those of us who know and have worked with abusers have seen the same behaviors over and over. There is more to the story than ‘they just need Jesus.’ If you study the bible, there is a whole lot of ‘psychology’ in there. The two can go hand in hand.

  2. Andrew

    I cannot say where Paul Washer is with regard to divorce for abuse victims but I agree totally with your comments about being able to learn from general revelation, Jeff. So often, “Christians” vilify anything that comes from secular sciences in favour of their own ill-informed notions. I have found that unbelievers can often recognise some things far more easily than “Christians”. I speak as one who has put his faith and trust in our Lord Jesus Christ.

  3. As a counselor, I have struggled greatly over the years finding the balance between the sufficiency of Scripture and the common grace bestowed upon all of humanity to be able to think and reason and learn (we are created in his image, and he knows all, so it’s only reasonable to believe we have the capacity to think and learn…).

    Then I read this article by David Powlison. While I don’t agree 100% with his explanation, it’s the closest I’ve found to a way to filter “secular” learning through the Word and it has been extremely beneficial in helping me find the benefit of modern science and technology and psychology while not allowing it to “trump” my faith in the sufficiency of Scripture.

    People like Washer, in an attempt to protect the Word, build walls that keep people away from the common grace of creation and the world in which we live. They forget that, while broken and fallen, it’s still God’s creation.

    This is a good balance to those like Washer who fear everything “the world” has to say.

    http://www.ccef.org/cure-souls-and-modern-psychotherapies

    • Bekah, what kind of counseling do you practice? And just out of interest, what led you to our blog?

      • I counsel women dealing with a variety of trauma issues, usually dealing with sexuality and gender identity confusion as presenting issues and then end up getting to deeper concerns of abuse and identity.

        Megan is a friend of mine whom I have known for several years and I began following your blog when she began posting your blogs and contributing. Your work has been very helpful in my gaining an even greater understanding and perspective of those who have survived abuse in a variety of relationships.

        Thank you for your work!

  4. Good post Jeff- it seems that it is very “in” right now to ignore general revelation . . . unless you’ve lost a limb and need a surgeon to fix it.

    • Anonymous

      Jeff S. – Exactly! And, maybe after the next sermon we all hear, we could ask the preacher, which commentary he uses, or word study, etc. I have often wondered if the Bible was sufficient for all of life, then why do we even read the puritan works? Sometimes it feels that it has gone so far, that all we need to do is pray hard and God will just make everything appear for us.

  5. I thought this chapter that dealt with this topic in your book was really eye-opening.
    As for Washer, I have stopped giving him any credibility at all. I listened to one of his messages years ago in which he went on and on and on about how we Christians have no business telling anyone they are saved. He told a story about how a man came to him asking how to be saved and after the man had asked Jesus to forgive him for his sins and confessed that Jesus is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead, Paul Washer still maintained (to the man) that he was not sure he was saved. He had the man sit there with him all night, praying for this man’s salvation until the man had confirmation in his spirit that he was born again. This really messed things up for me.

    Not long after I listened to that sermon my mother’s ex boyfriend was laying on his death bed after being a lifelong atheist. I KNOW God was sending me to go and witness to this man (even though I detested him) and once there, this “rebrobate” started pleading with me, saying he didn’t want to die – that he was afraid to die. Nudged by the Holy Spirit, I asked him what he was afraid of if he didn’t believe in God. I shared the gospel with him and he then confessed his sinfulness and asked Jesus to save him from his sins.
    All good right? Not.

    You know that doubt new believers are plagued with for the first little while after they are saved? Well, multiply that by eternity. He was facing death and needed assurance of his salvation. This man was terrified that he still wasn’t saved and instead of me having the clarity and assurance of standing firmly on God’s word, I veered off the path into this “feeling” territory that Paul Washer spoke of. Since he was not sure he was saved, I wasn’t sure I could tell him he was. His last few days of consciousness were plagued by fear when he should have experienced peace with God.
    I am really happy to say that before his death (in a kind of unconscious state) he would open his eyes, although he didn’t know who we were, and ask us to hold up his arms to praise Jesus. He then began to talk to Jesus and tell HIm he was ready to go. But no thanks to the teachings of Paul Washer.

    I’m sorry if this sounds mean. But what happened to that man because of Paul Washer’s arrogance has left a real bitter taste in my mouth.

    Furthermore, another teaching of his that was addressing cruel, unbelieving husbands screwed me up pretty bad too since he told wives to “move. get out of the way” when their husbands were doing things that were negatively impacting their families. By this, he meant shut up and make space for God to intervene. I actually blogged shortly after that message and talked about what it meant to me in my situation. I understood it to be a word from God. http://desleyzgarmentsofpraise.blogspot.ca/2008/10/clear-path.html

    Suffice it to say, I no longer trust that man with the safety of women and children, or with the Gospel.

  6. Katy

    . . unless you’ve lost a limb and need a surgeon to fix it.

    lol! :P

  7. Amy

    Yes, the bible is sufficient and God is sufficient in showing us our need for salvation, how to live a righteous life, and even what marriage is meant to be, but I believe God also sends people and other resources into our lives to help us see more clearly about certain situations, such as abuse especially when we may be with someone that is using the scriptures to keep their victims in bondage.

    One of the tactics my ex used to keep me doubting and in bondage was telling me that I was not to talk to others about our situation…makes me realize now he knew EXACTLY what he was doing as I believe most abusers do. My ex did not want others knowing what went on in our marriage otherwise they might tell me that it was not okay and not what God had intended. They might actually encourage me to get help or get out. He also misused scripture too letting me know I was not being a Godly wife, etc, so even though I tried hard to believe God loved me I often times wondered if it were true because I was not acting as my ex told me I should according to the bible.
    So I think in light of that God brought many other resources to me to clarify the abuse and to see it was not His plan for marriage. If I had not read books or talked to people about the abuse I might not have known I needed to get help or how to.

    • MeganC

      Amy . . . Thank you for sharing this. I experienced this, as well. My ex was against anything “secular” . . . against any book, music, movie . . . ANYTHING that was not very fundamentally Scripture-based. If he caught me reading a book that was not approved of by him, he assumed I was wanting to lead myself and him off the straight and narrow. And he used the same tactics . . . not wanting me to tell anyone what was going on in our home (which I didn’t until I left). It was pure isolation and highly manipulative. When I got off the phone with one of my sisters or friends, he would question me right away, “What did you tell her?!”

      I think what helped me to bridge the “secular” (I am beginning to despise that word) and the “sacred” together was an old book by Francis Schaeffer called “Art and the Bible”. It really helped me!! It is just a thin little book that could be read in a few hours or less.

      I am so grateful that God pulled you out, Amy . . . allowing you opportunities to talk to people and read books. He loves you so much. Hugs.

      • Amy

        Thx Megan, I’ll have to look for that book, sounds good.

        “When I got off the phone with one of my sisters or friends, he would question me right away, “What did you tell her?!””
        Yep, my ex would be the same way, asking what I talked about with my friends or family. I pretty much hid any books from him, because I knew he would explode. I’m amazed some days how I allowed someone to control me so much.

        I too am grateful for being out and know without a doubt the Lord rescued me. After my ex left four years ago I started drawing closer to the Lord and delved into the Psalms as a source of comfort and encouragement. The first verse I came upon that night as I opened my bible was Psalm 118:5 – “In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.” I just cried because at that moment I started to realize how much the Lord loved me and wanted good for me.

      • MeganC

        I felt the same way . . . hiding the books and feeling ridiculous that I had resorted to hiding the books. :(

        I love that verse. That blessed me. I am so glad you are set free.

  8. If we learn about abuse and trauma from teachers who are not Christians, and they open our eyes, the test of whether what we’ve learned is true is whether or not it lines up with the Bible. Not that the Bible has to use the exact words or models that the secular teacher used, but whether there is anything in the secular teaching that is inconsistent with the Bible. What is inconsistent with scripture should be chucked out. But when secular wisdom and learning is consistent with scripture, it may be embraced.

    After reading Patricia Evan’s book The Verbally Abusive Relationship, I went back to my Bible and found that almost wherever I read in Scripture I was coming across illustrations and guidance about how to handle verbal abusers. My eyes had been opened by a secular author, but it had been in the Bible all along. Why hadn’t I seen it before? I would say it had a lot to do with the way preachers and bible teachers don’t point out those passages or make application from them to the real world; rather, they pass over them to avoid controversy, or they misread them themselves.

    There is such a thing as collective blindness (e.g. Germany in WW2 where the gentile population overlooked the existence of the death camps, even when they could see the chimneys and smell the burning flesh) and I think the church has been suffering from collective blindness to a great degree.

    • That’s a great example, Barbara! I love it when my studies outside of Scripture enriches my study of Scripture. If you really believe “all truth is God’s truth” then real truth stands the test of time, research, science, experience…

      Scripture is not exhaustive in it’s teaching, but it’s true. Any general revelation or “man’s thought” that contradicts it (or my understanding of the Scripture) requires further examination on my part.

      So much of it is just laziness &/or– “scripture is sufficient” often means “I’m not willing to think about it because it will require work or it may prove me wrong.”

  9. Anonymous

    I will say this. The first time I heard Mr. Washer speak, I was sitting in the second row of the large auditorium. He gave a superb message on Salvation. We met him after the talk.

    He first started out his message, telling everyone how nice and polite and wonderfully behaved their children all were and how impressed he was with the crowd of home schooled children and their parents. The next thing he said was, “But do any of you love Jesus? Do any of you really know and love God?” That excited me, because I felt that Jesus and the Gospel were being overlooked by some and replaced with “good works”. Through the years since then, I have seen a transformation. It seems Mr. Washer has been transformed from a missionary speaking, Bible preaching man, into more like one of the patriarch following, living and teaching men. He did not appear that way at first, but was more about preaching the Gospel, without the huge focus on headship/submission/home/family. Now, it appears they took him and hooked him into making him one of them. I am more than certain, that at this point, he would be a no-divorce for any reason whatsoever man.

    I am thankful for this post, because it is really confusing to me, to understand the difference between the Bible being our all sufficient for every need in life guide, and needing doctors, food, clothing, and information just to live, that the Bible does not provide. For example, there are no educating factors for computers in the Bible. It is not a cookbook. It doesn’t teach us how to perform varying occupations in life. Knowing the Word is not going to ensure anyone a degree in law or teaching or counseling. God’s will might, but just reading and knowing the Word of God, won’t. I agree with Ps. Crippen’s description and definition of what the Bible is used for. I also know little or nothing about general revelation, but just the little bit of talk about it in this post, gives me some understanding and introduces me to the thought of it. I also agree that all of life should be filtered through the Bible, but that doesn’t mean we should not use psychology at all.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this post!!

  10. Diane

    I agree with you Jeff C, that Paul Washer says some good things but I cannot listen to his marriage, courtship, dating and family sermons. I used to listen to him 3 years ago, but it seems to me he took a turn in the last couple of years toward focusing on family/marriage and I stopped listening because they were, imo, so very narrowly defined.

    As fars as no divorce for abuse-this short youtube of his definition of the purpose of marriage might give a hint-

    He keeps company (at least did) with Voddie Baucham frequenting the same conferences and so forth. What did it for me was his Amazon father/son trip with Doug Phillips a couple of years ago…one of Vision Forum’s manly man adventures (yours for a small fortune) to make a man out of you,,,or something like that. I was very sad to see him getting involved with him.

  11. Anonymous

    He says some good things here, but there is a lot of confusing messages here. It’s not God’s will to give you a mate that is compatible for you? So, now marriage is not about Christ loving His Bride and her loving and honoring Him in return, it is now about God using marriage to give us a lifelong trial — in the form of a husband/wife. Let’s all just go find the person who will drive us the most crazy, and marry them. Now that sounds like something God would have us do, right?!? Craziness. I believe this goes contrary to what God’s Word expresses to us that marriage is suppose to look like. Marriage can help to conform us into the image of Christ –yes– so what will be next? Saying that God uses abusers to victimize women who need to be made MORE into the image of Christ, than others?

    • Jeff S

      It really does sound like a lot of pastors think the idea of marriage is to show our endurance in a miserable situation. That makes me think they aren’t really good authorities in the subject.

      Which makes me think of RC Sproul’s take on marriage when I listened to his sermon series. He points out how God’s first act of grace was to give people clothing to hide their nakedness, because physical nakedness is linked to spiritual nakedness and we simply cannot endure being that vulnerable to people. Except for two people: God and your spouse. He paints a picture of marriage that is the ultimate vulnerability- where we are fully known warts and all, and loved warts and all. That is his view of how scripture presents marriage. He also says it is why divorce is so bad: because we are known warts and all and REJECTED instead of loved- it is the ultimate betrayal. And I think that’s true, but we can also extend that to adultery, use of pornography, or abuse: all of these are a rejection at the most intimate level.

      That sermon really affected me and the way I think about marriage, and when I hear people talk about how the point of marriage is to show how we can endure pain sacrificially I think of how much more beautifully Sproul paints the picture of marriage. Marriage is about knowing and being known at the deepest levels- and that is why abuse is so destructive. People who don’t get that turn marriage into an endurance test, and I think that is a perversion of what marriage is supposed to be.

      • Jeff S

        And to be clear, I mean Sproul Sr.

      • Preachers who say marriage is an endurance test or that we should just accept all suffering unresistingly and unquestioningly, because suffering makes us more like Christ… here’s my theory about them. Admittedly it’s a bit crude, like all pop psychology, but here goes. . .

        Individuals who are come from a privileged background, or who feel entitled because they believe they are superior and special, DO need to be admonished to be willing to suffer more in marriage. They need to ‘suffer’ as in give up their overweening sense of entitlement, they need to suffer their wishes not always being met, they need to put their spouse’s needs before their own a lot more often, and to suck it up when things don’t always go their way. They need to suffer in the sense of doing the hard work of living in honest, intimate, respectful, long-term relationship with someone else.

        It is those individuals to whom the pastors are preaching when they preach suffering in marriage.
        But it’s not those individuals who listen. They may sit in the pews, sure, but they don’t let the preaching penetrate them. They mentally deflect all the preacher’s good advice onto their poor suffering partner. . . who is sitting in the pew thinking “Oh! I have already suffered so much in this marriage – and it isn’t enough – I have to suffer more! And I’m SOOO guilty, because I want the suffering to stop! Oh Lord, I’m so awful . . . help me, help me…”
        (disappearing down the black hole of despair)

        So I wonder why those preachers preach that “You Have to Suffer In Marriage.” Are they preaching to themselves? Are they giving themselves a perhaps well-deserved kick up the butt for what they recognise as their habitual sin of selfishness and impatience towards their wives? Or are they just preaching to the hard-hearted spouses (mostly the men) in their church, whose wives come knocking on the minister’s door during the week, holding back the tears while asking for counsel?

        And why don’t they ever give thought to the effect that their preaching is having on the already oppressed and long-suffering spouses in the church? Don’t they care? Don’t they see? Are they so blind?

      • Jeff Crippen

        Barbara – I think they preach this way for all of the reasons you mention, plus one more. Namely, they don’t want people in their congregations getting divorces. Why? Well, some probably really are pained to see families split up. But there can be another reason too — some simply are afraid of how it all looks. How their church, and thus how THEY will be perceived. “Oh, did you hear that __________ divorced? Say, don’t they go to First Church?”

        Doesn’t this mean that we can all get to thinking way too highly of ourselves? Our churches are made up of a motley crew – and I am one of them. We aren’t perfect. We sin. And, as we all know, we can have false Christians hiding in the pews, tormenting their victims. Why should we think anything differently? Scripture tells us that there will be a mixture of Christ’s people and false sheep. When we act as if everyone in the pews is surely a fine Christian, we are simply not thinking in truth.

      • Jeff S

        I think you are right, Jeff, but there’s a real ignorance there too. Because now people hear about the church treating people badly for getting necessary divorces and it looks FAR worse.

      • Barnabasintraining

        I won’t say there are not times when you have to make room for your spouse and do or not do some things you’d rather not for their sake and the sake of your relationship. But endurance test is not the point of marriage. I don’t see how that take is God’s heart for marriage at all. When he made Adam and Eve, He said Eve was a helper like unto Adam and they were to take dominion together over the earth. She was his closest companion, just like him in all the important ways, yet different in all the important ways, according to God’s wisdom, love, and goodness, and this was to be to their mutual benefit. God’s purpose for marriage has not changed fundamentally and essentially because sin entered the world. He still purposes for marriage to have that “chord of three strands” quality described in Ecclesiastes where 2 are better than one because they have a good return for their labor and do all kinds of helpful things for each other as described in that passage, not where 2 must endure each other in some kind of perpetual test. “Life’s not hard enough. Here, let Me give you a spouse.” This is the opposite of God’s purpose. Spouses are still to be helps, companions, strengths, and supports to each other. That, I believe, is the real heart of God for marriage.

      • I love this comment! “People who don’t get that turn marriage into an endurance test, and I think that is a perversion of what marriage is supposed to be.”

      • Katy

        oh uugggh I used to believe all that about endurance. Marriage isn’t for your benefit or happiness. it’s misery designed to test your faith. It’s your cross to bear. It’s the price you have to pay if you want children. That last one was a particularly strong conclusion that I held – because if you can’t have children without marriage, and marriage is a torture chamber, then in order to have the blessing of children you pay with your soul. SIck ! it was hard to sort out what was my own twisted logic and what is God’s heart..
        This might be why I heaved a huge sigh of relief a couple years ago, and thought “well I’m done having kids so I never have to get married again – hallelujah!” – perhaps I was still missing the point, lol ;)

      • Anonymous

        Barb – This is exactly what “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse” talks about. Preaching from the pulpit, the sins of the leadership, making the people change in order to deal with the sins of the leadership.

        Ps. Crippen – Again, stated in the book – it’s all about how they will look, when people find out what Church the people with the “problems” went to. It’s all about “looks” for the leadership.

        Jeff S. – Thanks for sharing this. Is this in a book? Would you mind sharing it or linking it for me? Thanks.

      • Jeff S

        Unfortunately I don’t have a source on that- it was a “Renewing Your Mind” podcast episode I listened to over a year ago and I don’t remember which one. I just know it was a sermon series on marriage. It did make a big impact on me, as his view seems to be one the makes marriage a good and wonderful thing that points is toward God, which is different from how a lot of evangelicals talk about marriage.

        If can I find it, I’ll let you know.

        It’s worth noting that in that series when he got to divorce he only says abandonment and marital unfaithfulness are lawful reasons for divorce, but then indicates the exact meaning of these terms is a matter of debate (hinting that abuse may fit into these definitions). I know Sproul is currently on record as not allowing divorce for abuse, but there is a lot of evidence he is researching and challenging himself in this area- at the least it appears he leaves room for discussion which is more than a lot of teachers do. The only thing he was very emphatic about was that “No divorce for any reason” teaching is unbiblical.

      • Diane

        Jeff S said~

        “Marriage is about knowing and being known at the deepest levels- and that is why abuse is so destructive. People who don’t get that turn marriage into an endurance test, and I think that is a perversion of what marriage is supposed to be.”

        So right. Life is difficult enough with its battles and heartbreaks without being taught by some professing Christian leaders that marriage is about a relationship you mainly have to endure to the end for your sanctification. I think Washer teaches that he literally washes his wife with the water of the word (Ephesians 5:26) and sanctifies her-although, isn’t that verse is speaking of Jesus doing that? In that clip I posted he referenced a wife not being tempted beyond her ability in regard to her husband’s actions toward her. I assume he means 1Cor10:13? I can see how that could be twisted and used backhandedly to view abuse in marriage as a temptation the abused one needs to deal with and endure — instead of focusing on the abuser.

        I wonder, too, about some of the comments here about preachers preaching from the pulpit about their own sin- like Piper and his wishing he could just learn kindness toward his wife and taking a 9 month leave to work on his marriage. I remember Washer stating many times how he laments that he loves his wife so poorly, or how he is not doing enough dying to self, putting her first, etc. Maybe there’s some truth to that.

    • I remember in a women’s bible study, mentioning how it seemed like the marriages of unbelievers on the whole, were happier than those of Christians. Their response ? “our standards are too high.”?!?!?!??!?!?!? I was speechless.

      • Jeff S

        Yes, and the ever popular “Don’t find your happiness in your marriage- that’s making marriage an idol”.

        I believe strongly that this perspective turns commitment into the defining characteristic of marriage- every other element of marriage (faithfulness, love, vulnerability, honor, etc,) becomes a “nice to have” but not essential. And this is a “high view” of marriage?

      • Anonymous

        But we make marriage into an idol, when we elevate it to the point that we believe it is more important that wholeness in the life God gave us. Don’t you think? I mean what constitutes elevating a marriage to the position of idol?

      • Jeff S

        Yes- the irony is seeking to enjoy marriage is not idolatrous- the ones making marriage the end all, be all expression of the Christian life are the idolatrous ones.

  12. Barnabasintraining

    Anonymous and Diane,

    There is some pretty strong evidence that suggests Washer is involved with the Patriarchy/quiverfull movement. At his HeartCry web site at heartcrymissionary dot com, under “Resources, Magazine downloads” you can access issue 51 of his HeartCry magazine (January-March 2007) in which he says (page 4),

    In the last days of October,
    we received the wonderful news that she is expecting again,
    and so we look forward to another child in the month of June.
    We do not quite have a quiver full, and we did get a late start in
    life, but we are on our way.

    Also, if you google the documentary “Divided” you will see he has appeared along with Geoff Botkin, Doug Phillips, Kevin Swanson, R.C. Sproul, Jr., and Voddie Baucham. “Divided” is about family integrated churches, which is integral to the patriarchy/quiverfull ideology. I don’t want to link it, but nationalmovienight dot com has the details on “Divided.”

    If Washer went on one of those trips with Doug Phillips, I’d say there’s a good chance he’s pretty far in to patriarchy/quiverfull, actually.

  13. Diane

    Thanks BIT-
    FYI–Here is one of the Doug Phillips/Paul Washer series of interviews where they are discussing their upcoming Amazon trip which just a little over 2 years ago.

  14. I used to be a huge admirer of Paul Washer- prolly because he was just as hard on me as I was. I felt like that is what I needed and deserved.

  15. Reblogged this on Hope for Survivors of Abuse.

    • Barnabasintraining

      Hi Purposefully Scarred,

      The reblog link didn’t work. I got a “page not found.”

  16. In regard to this, my husband always recommends Dr. T. David Gordon’s essay entitled ” The Insufficiency of Scripture” & can be found on his blog, (T.David’s Page)

    • Jeff Crippen

      Yes indeed Debbie. In fact he recommended it to me and I quote it in my book in the chapter on the sufficiency of Scripture. I also footnoted the reference and thanked your husband for referring me to that article. If you would like a copy of the book, email a mailing address to me at swordtrowel@gmail.com and I will send one off to you! Thanks!

  17. lorenhaas

    For a while, I attended a church whose leaders pushed the idea of “sufficiency of scripture” pretty hard. Once, in a conversation with a pastor, I mentioned how much benefit I had gained from a licensed, professional counselor. He proceeded to ask me a series of loaded questions about how much it cost, how many sessions they recommended and did I think people in the early church went to counselors or relied on scripture? My response to him was to ask, “When you get a toothache, do you go to a state licensed dentist or an early church, scriptural dentist?
    We did not take about counseling anymore after that.

    • Amy

      Lorenhass – Love the analogy of the dentist! I’ve always believed there is definitely a time and place when professional counseling can help. My Christian counselor I saw after my ex left helped me to sort through the messiness of my life and to better understand the dynamics of abuse which helped me to sort through my feelings and understand I was not crazy. And through it all, she helped me to keep my focus on God.

    • Anonymous

      I love this!! So, here are some little quips to help along that line — just for fun, cuz we all need some “fun” now and then…

      Would you prefer a Board Certified Doctor, or a Doctor trained at Seminary to remove your ruptured appendix?
      Do you go to a licensed Chiropractor, or one who has read his Bible?
      Do you go to a State Licensed Dentist, or would you prefer the one from Les Miserables?
      When you see a doctor, do you want him to actually be able to diagnose your physical ailment, or are you happy paying him $125 an hour to get Bible verses recited to you?
      How about the naturopath, that a lot of Christians use today. Would you be happy paying them $300 for your visit, just to have them give you counsel from whatever religion they are, or do you expect answers that actually help your physical ailment?
      And now one that most people would really be convinced about! Would you prefer someone who actually has a Law Degree to represent you in Court when you are sued, or your pastor?

      ; )

      • Good one, Anon! :)

      • Anonymous

        I just want to clarify, that I do not mean any disrespect or irreverence toward God’s Word, nor am I intending to downplay the authority or power of the Word. I just think that we need to be careful, that we are using it in truth and justly to all, as God would have us do. I only use the above quips as a funny way to make others see how ridiculous it is to tell a victim of abuse, that they only need to read their Bible or that they should not get help from a licensed counselor. I apologize if it came across as disrespectful toward the Word, in anyway. It was not intentional.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Understood, Anon. Thanks.

  18. Be very careful of Washer. My cousin knows him from years ago and I listened to him years back when he came off the mission field. Having children really changed him. He becamse very legalistic. he started promoting Doug Phillips of Vision Forum and his teaching. (Major problems with Phillips if you have been in around patriarchal circles).

    His wife did a bizarre teaching on Esther for women about beautifying yourself for your husband. Did she not realize that Esther’s husband was a PAGAN and that was required along with all the other women?

    The Washers became totally immersed in the roles theology for men/women. I actually was sad when they had a girl. I feel sorry for the little one. Washer got all caught up in masculine Christianity. He presents himself as an expert on all things bible not because of scholarship but because of anointing.

    He is wrong about the bible. It is not the 4th person of the Trinity. And when it refers to “scriptures” in the NT, it is referring to the OT. And the “Word” is God in the Flesh, Jesus Christ. The NT preserved what Jesus said and did. And with areas like divorce or roles for women that does not do us a lot of good unless we know what the OT really taught. Instone Brewer really points us in the right direction on that.

    • Tara

      Thank you, Lydia.. I said “amen” twice when reading your post! LOL.. Sometimes it seems some Christian circles get so hung up on a thing that they take it to the Nth degree and out of context, on occasion. Also, even though I consider I am a ‘believer,’ certain pastors and theological groups make me feel mightily condemned…even pushed me out of the faith for awhile.. TMI, but just found your response refreshing. :)

  19. Barnabasintraining

    He presents himself as an expert on all things bible not because of scholarship but because of anointing.

    What does “because of anointing” mean?

    • In his and others like his minds, because of anointing means ‘you don’t touch God’s anointed’ (which is a gross misrepresentation of that scripture). In other words, he’s right and everyone else is wrong or not as smart as he is when it comes to God. And if you question him you are in rebellion. Sadly, I’ve seen it all before.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Lynette – I find that if I just listen to someone like this and keep asking myself if he is teaching and speaking God’s Word (Scripture) or not, I find very often that the person is merely speaking their own words and conclusions, not backing up what they say with a sound exposition of Scripture. As soon as that happens, I am looking for the door. I am sure that I have done it myself in preaching and we have to be on constant guard against it. It is ok for a preacher to give an opinion, but we MUST label it as such very clearly. When you stand in a pulpit on a Sunday morning for example, Bible open in front of you, you are making a statement that you are preaching God’s Word in what you say. It is dishonest and dangerous to do otherwise in that setting.

        So, for instance if someone is preaching and saying “God gave you your wife and specially picked her for the very weaknesses and sins she has so that He can use her to sanctify you (husband)” I do not find that statement taught in Scripture anywhere. It is an opinion of man and to preach it as anything else is dishonest.

      • Barnabasintraining

        So, in other words, it’s an appeal to authority, say, in an office or calling rather than the authority of expertise on the matter?

      • Yes, BIT, it can be an appeal to authority as in an office or calling. Or it can be an appeal to authority because of one’s supposed special gifting. Yes, we have different gifts from each other, but I have seen some people with certain gifts claim a more superior anointing than common-and-garden Christians. I’ve noticed this particularly with certain people who seem to be strongly gifted in evangelism and winning souls, although they may not be pastors or hold an office. They seem to get tickets on themselves and act as if they are better than the rest of us. And they can throw around the ‘Don’t Touch God’s Anointed’ slogan as a one-size-fits-all tool of intimidation to stop people from admonishing them for any of their character defects or doctrinal mistakes.

      • Barnabasintraining

        They seem to get tickets on themselves and act as if they are better than the rest of us. And they can throw around the ‘Don’t Touch God’s Anointed’ slogan as a one-size-fits-all tool of intimidation to stop people from admonishing them for any of their character defects or doctrinal mistakes.

        Thanks Barbara.

        That is a very dangerous attitude. Is this something Washer does?

      • Jeff Crippen

        I have not listened to him enough to know, so unless it can be documented, we certainly would not want to say that he does. In many very conservative Christian circles, I have quite often in my life heard people speak of the pastor/preacher being “God’s anointed.” But God’s anointed in the Old Testament specified a very special coming of the Holy Spirit upon a person for a specific prophetic or monarchial (kingly) calling. David spoke of not touching Saul, God’s anointed, for example. But this is not so in the New Testament. Christ, Messiah – the Anointed One – is really the only One with that concept of anointing. As Anon said in another comment, 1 John 2 says that every Christian has an anointing – the Holy Spirit. If we go around referring to a pastor as God’s anointed, then the almost certain conclusion people will come to is that he is different, special, and worst of all – even infallible as he “speaks forth” God’s Word. It is dangerous to make too much of one’s “calling” to the pastoral ministry as opposed to God’s calling and gifting of other believers.

        A pastor/preacher can certainly, even non-verbally, give people the impression that he is God’s special one to whom all must unquestioningly listen. Once that happens, you have the seeds for a wolf in the making.

        One other note. Quite a few years ago a person asked me to go to a seminar at which a well-known preacher was speaking. He told me “you have NEVER heard such anointed preaching as this!” Well, I went. And what did I hear? Frankly, I heard a bully. I don’t like being shouted at. I come to hear God’s Word expounded, and if the Word has something convicting to say, then the Spirit of God will bring it home to me. But this man was a mere bully. And I was ready to leave after enduring only one sermon.

      • I don’t know whether Washer does it, BIT, I was speaking from my general observation but not making any reference to Washer in particular. Thanks for asking me to clarify that.

    • Jeff Crippen

      The biblical sense is that of the Holy Spirit’s special gifting. Mostly in the Old Testament though. The fact is that in the New Testament, ALL Christians are anointed because we have the Holy Spirit in us. This can be a dangerous claim by pastors/teachers – to be thought of as “anointed” (OT word actually is the one we get “messiah” from and NT rendering is “christ”). It pressures people to regard the words of the “anointed” as infallible and inerrant. Pastors have no more anointing of the Spirit than any other Christian. Each one of us has a different gifting, but all are necessary (1 Cor 12).

  20. At Jeff C- Not sure I understand your comments. I believe people are anointed, but I am leery when one uses that and that alone to ‘qualify’ themselves. I have seen too many false teachers use that phrase of ‘not touching God’s anointed’ as a defense mechanism. I can say I am anointed to sing, but if you actually heard me, you’d disagree…lol.

    • Anonymous

      Lynette-A study of 1 John 2:27, will tell you that anointing there means Holy Spirit. We all have the Holy Spirit when we are saved, but with varying degrees of giftings. None of us is more “anointed” in that sense by being a pastor or elder or teacher, etc. In other words, when you hear things like, “how dare you talk to an ‘elder’ like that”, the implication is that he holds some far greater “anointing” (Spirit) than you do, but it is not truth. He may hold a position that we are to “respect”, but that is far different than having a “special anointing” where people are not to question or correct him. Also, he should be even more respectful to others, than he demands they be to him, because he has been called to the place of leadership, which means he is to be underneath the others, lifting them up, not tearing them down, making them bow and bend to him! The Bible clearly says that when things are in order to correct an Elder, it should be done openly. They are not above us, in the sense of being closer to God, or more godly, or more “anointed”, even though they have a gifting to lead or teach and others having giftings say of, hospitality, etc.

      Ps. Crippen can better explain all of this. I am just throwing in my two cents worth.

      • Okay, I understand more now. Thanks.

      • Anon, I was reading your above comment and thought I was reading Ps Crippen’s words. I got a surprise when I checked the gravatar and saw it was you!
        That ‘Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse’ book you read has really equipped you; you are explaining this stuff to others very well. It’s terrific, especially knowing where you’ve come from and how much spiritual abuse you were under.

      • Anonymous

        Thank you Barb. I am in the process of writing my story for the blog, but it is really painful to go through and remembering things is really stressful on me. Hopefully, I will be able to work through it all to share here, for the benefit of others.

  21. Hi, this is my first comment on this site. I’ve been lurking for a while. First of all, I grew up abused by my “Christian” father. My Mom got it the worst from him, though. We were both subjected to the “submit to your husband’s beatings” garbage from our church while I was growing up. Having said that, I have been greatly blessed by Paul Washer, including his preaching on the family. I’m sorry, but if my Mom had had a proper courtship system where the church elders were involved and shepherding her, in absence of a believing father, and if they had been involved enough in their flock’s lives to see warning signs regarding my dad, my Mom might never have married an abuser. Sure, many marry an abuser under patriarchical systems, but many more these days end up this situation because they had no one around to protect them and give godly guidance. Since there’s no father with a shotgun, most abusers know they’ll get away with doing anything they please when they bring their new wives home. I myself am terrified of any dating/courtship/whatever-you-want-to-call-it because I’ve already found out through experience my judgment concerning what appear to be “godly” men is not quite sound. Imagine how much pain I could have saved myself if I had even one church elder being an adoptive father for me and giving me Biblical advice and warning me to run away from the bums I liked.

    I also don’t know how Mr. Washer’s teaching on marriage being used of God for sanctification can be seen as patriarchical. In more normal marriages, yes, it is used for sanctification. He’s talking about normal marriages. He’s not talking about being married to Ted Bundy as being God’s will for your sanctification. I’d imagine, based on so many sermons of his I’ve listened to, that if you were to ask him about such an awful situation, he would agree that church discipline on the husband needs to take place, that he is most likely an unbeliever despite any professions of faith, and that the wife and children need to get out of there. In fact, I listened to a Q&A session with him on YouTube where he did advise the women and children to get out if the husband is beating them. Granted, he doesn’t address the reality that victims have nowhere to go and the church isn’t exactly about to help out financially; but he’s never had to deal with these things first hand. He’s ignorant and oblivious. That’s not his fault, per se. Most people are until it happens to them or someone they know. We just need to educate these preachers more so that they are prepared to deal with these abusers and give safe haven to the victims.

    The bottom line is to give him some grace. What he teaches works concerning normal families free of abuse. Many do pray over their future spouse, marry godly people, and then come upon friction and feel they made a mistake because it’s not the fairy tale they imagined. That’s the situation brother Paul is speaking of. He isn’t talking about submitting to a sociopath and sanctifying him. I think many victims, myself included, become hypersensitive whenever we hear scripture exposited on marriage, and cringe. We forget they’re talking about getting along with normal people, not sociopaths in dire need of rebuke and church discipline. Again, I’ve been very guilty of it. I remember not long after my dad left not being able to hear some sermons on wives submitting and being an example, because I’d always paint the picture with my dad. It doesn’t work with people like him, and I think brother Paul would agree.

    I hope this helps. If you aren’t sure what brother Paul’s position truly is on abuse, then why don’t we e-mail HeartCry and find out what he would advise? Direct him to this site. You never know. You might be pleased with the response. Better yet, if he realizes he is wrong in something he is teaching, he might change his mind once he is educated and start giving more practical advice toward those undergoing abuse. I think this is the root problem for why so many pastors/teachers come off sounding wrong on the subject–lack of education, especially of how rampant abuse is in the church.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Avid Writer – Hi, and welcome. Thanks for your input. Let me respond to your insights and suggestions a bit. To begin, I am very sorry for the abuse you endured, especially because it was at the hands of a father who claimed the name of Christ. These really are, in my opinion, the very worst kind of abusers. They blaspheme the name of the Lord by invoking His name and His Word to justify their evil. No conscience. No fear of God.

      I have no doubt that Paul Washer’s sermons have been a blessing in many cases. However, his promotion of “biblical courtship” with church elders and and the young woman’s father all involved is not only not a guarantee of living happily ever after, but we can cite many examples of how such an approach actually bonded a woman to an abuser. How? Because those kinds of systems and intra-church tradition is very, very appealing to patriarchal abusers. It may sound good to you, but we must remember that abusers do not think like we do. The very men who are supposedly looking out for the young woman can often turn out to be power-hungry themselves, and even force her to marry the wrong man. Yes, you are correct in this respect — that if the leaders of a church, and the members, are wise to evil and to its tags and tactics, and if that church is a place where truth is honored and where hypocrites cannot stand the light of Christ’s truth, then such a church becomes a much safer place. But the whole “biblical” courtship scene really has become a red flag for me.

      You are totally correct in your hesitancy about trusting impressions that men give. Abusers are skilled at their facade. There are ways of unmasking them — such as saying “no” to them and observing their characteristic reaction. Reading good material (see our Resources page on the blog here) about sociopaths and abuse will make you much wiser and increase your ability to spot evil significantly. You can learn to spot the bum! (I like your term:)

      You said,

      I also don’t know how Mr. Washer’s teaching on marriage being used of God for sanctification can be seen as patriarchical. In more normal marriages, yes, it is used for sanctification. He’s talking about normal marriages. He’s not talking about being married to Ted Bundy as being God’s will for your sanctification. I’d imagine, based on so many sermons of his I’ve listened to, that if you were to ask him about such an awful situation, he would agree that church discipline on the husband needs to take place, that he is most likely an unbeliever despite any professions of faith, and that the wife and children need to get out of there. In fact, I listened to a Q&A session with him on YouTube where he did advise the women and children to get out if the husband is beating them.

      First, let me observe that I do not agree that we should teach that marriage is one of God’s primary means of sanctifying a Christian. By that, I mean that He certainly uses all of our relationships with people to teach us and even to try us. But when people teach that marriage sanctifies us, we become, in my opinion, guilty of turning marriage into an unbiblical sacrament. We also open the door to enabling an abuser spouse to abuse, and we enslave the victim to that abuse all in the name of “this is for your sanctification.” Even if Washer does not come out directly and say these things, you can be sure that this is how he will be understood by victims and abusers.

      Second, we often hear this idea that some Bible teacher is not addressing abuse situations but is talking about “normal” marriages. But abuse is “normal” for the victim. In addition, teachers are to be held at a higher level of accountability. If someone like Washer is teaching on marriage, divorce, remarriage and so on, then he MUST know about abuse. He has to. If he doesn’t then he simply isn’t qualified to speak on the topic. It is like a medical doctor lecturing on the human body but being ignorant of cancer. Such a person can get someone killed.

      Third, you mentioned that you think that Washer would say that a woman who is being abused should “get out of there” and that he said the woman and the children should get out “if the husband is beating them.” But this screams ignorance on Washer’s part, and it is dangerous ignorance. Anyone knowledgeable of abuse knows that when someone uses the adjective “physical” or “beating” for abuse, that person doesn’t know much of anything about abuse — about its mentality and tactics.

      So, here is what I recommend that you do. Contact Washer. And put the question to him pointedly, accepting no equivocating or waffling. What question? This one: “Mr. Washer, do you believe that a Christian can biblically divorce a spouse who is abusing them? And by abuse, I mean an ongoing, characteristic, pattern for force to obtain and enforce power and control over the victim, fueled by a mentality of profound entitlement and a full confidence in being justified to use what means are needed to posses that power and control. This abuse is most often emotional and psychological, leaving no mark or bruise.” THERE is the acid test question. And I can assure you that any pastor, teacher, theologian, counselor, or professing Christian who will not come right out and give an answer of an unqualified “yes!” to that question is not a friend of abuse victims and is not teaching God’s truth about marriage and divorce.

      Copy and paste the question and definition as I have stated it here if you like, and see if you can get a direct answer from Washer. Then come back and let us know what he said and we will try to get him to say it on this blog for us.

      Thanks again.

  22. Oh, and another thing, regarding psychology. I know some love it, some hate it. I personally do not like the way it destroyed my family. Christian psychologist after Christian psychologist coddled my dad in his abuse and alcoholism, labeling everything as a disease. Does psychology have something to offer? Sometimes, especially where real science is involved that uses statistical data and neurology. But so much of it is based on worldly hogwash that changes every 2 years. Take, for example, the disease called “bipolar”. Unlike schizophrenia, which leaves a cavity in the brain as physical evidence of its existence as a physical ailment, science has yet to prove it is a physical disease. At best, we can see certain areas of the brain light up when the patient feels mania, and other areas light up when the patient feels depressed. When it comes down to it, psychologists have merely catalogued a common set of behaviors and labeled it a disease.

    But how many of them ask themselves what the root cause of the mania/depression is? In my father’s case, he spent years in bitterness toward his parents (his father beat him senseless while his mother stood by too afraid to do anything about it), then toward his wife and child. He was addicted to just about every sin you could think of. Then he added more and more alcohol to it all. Eventually he drove himself mad. Bottom line, his sin drove him to have bipolar. He trained his mind to be depressed while under bondage to every sin under the sun, rather than learning to renew it in the Word of God. He never learned to turn to Jesus.

    But he never will, because he’s been told over and over he has a disease called alcoholism or fill-in-the-blank. And none of the psychologists have ever been able to deliver him. None. They’ve kept him in bondage and given him medication to dangerously mix with his alcohol instead. But I know the truth: Only Jesus can free him from the bondage of sin. Why can’t one of these Christian psychologists open up the Scriptures and reveal to him the truth? That he is in sin and the only way out is Jesus?

    Please, if you are a psychologist here, consider these things. My father’s life is being destroyed by false teaching, and he has destroyed his family as well as he persists in his sin. Please stand up for truth so that these abusers repent and turn to the living God.

    • Hi Megan
      From the moderate amount I know about psychology and psychiatry (personal reading, and having had a component of mental health in my nursing training, and some experience nursing psychiatric patients) I understand that psychology and psychiatry ascribes labels (diagnoses) on the basis of common clusters of signs and symptoms, and that not all psychiatric conditions can be verified by brain scans. But that does not necessarily mean a mental disorder or diagnosis’ does not exist if it cannot be shown on a brain scan. Good psychologists and psychiatrists recognise that the field of mental health and mental disorder has still a very long way to go in understanding what is going on in people’s minds. Even as the field develops further, we may or may not be able to verify and prove all our observations of human mind and behavior with the hard sciences (the sciences that can measure empirically). Humanity as God’s creation is incredibly complex, and the effects of sin on have made it even more complex, so perhaps we will never be able to verify all the phenomena of psychology with the hard sciences.

      George Simon Jr is a psychologist we respect a lot because he talks about character as well as personality. Character includes the idea of personal choice and moral responsibility, which is much closer to a Christian view of humanity.

      I agree with you that calling alcoholism a disease can be problematic because in the lay person’s mind, a disease is something that they have without any moral culpability. I know some alcoholics like the ‘disease’ description because is seems to take away some or all of their personal responsibility and moral culpability. And I agree with you that someone like your father could not get out of his entrenched sins without being first regenerated in Christ and then applying himself to the work of discipleship (… it’s no accident that self-discipline and discipleship have the same root, eh?)

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