Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. (Galatians 4:28-29)
When we first began this blog some five years ago, we said that one of our primary purposes in this ministry was to educate pastors, elders, church members, counselors and others about the nature and tactics of abuse. Particularly in regard to how the abuser is hiding in churches, disguised as a sheep, all the while cruelly enslaving and abusing his victim. While that purpose still stands, the fact is that very few such people have been willing to open their eyes to this evil, learn about it, and stand with victims. The most amazing and overwhelmingly encouraging response to our blog has been from abuse victims. Especially abuse victims who are Christians, who have been abused by a wicked spouse, and who suffered even further when they asked their church for help.
Why do local churches treat victims this way so often? In fact, it is fair to say that they typically oppress abuse victims, and most all of you know the drill that can be expected when help is sought from a pastor or church leadership or members. Why? Are they naive and thus easily duped by abusers? In part. Do male church leaders tend to side with a male abuser against a female victim? Certainly that happens quite often.
But I still do not believe these reasons explain the thing.
Let me suggest what I believe to be the fundamental reason churches enable abusers in their wickedness and oppress abuse victims. I will begin stating my theory with a summation of my 34 years as a pastor.
I have been the pastor of four churches since 1983. I was at the first one for eight years and during the last three of those years I planted a second church nearby, pastoring both churches then for those last three years. Following that I was the pastor of another independent Bible church for nearly three years and then in 1993 came to my present pastorate where I have now been for nearly 24 years.
In every single one of these churches, as I think back over our experiences in them, the vast majority of the church members, though professing to be Christians, were not. I can say this even more confidently now, having had the opportunity to watch them and their children over all these years. Bad fruit because the root was and remains bad. And, to say it once more, this represents easily 90% of the membership of each one of those churches when I first came to them. Even the church we planted from a Bible study ended up drawing in a large majority of people who had a form of godliness, but in the end proved themselves to be deniers of its power. They did not know Christ and do not know Him to this day, though many have continued to play the charade.
I could tell you story after story, firsthand data from my own personal experiences and observations that support my claims here. In some cases I think that the 10% saved estimate is overly generous.
How do I know they weren’t and aren’t saved? I know them by their fruit. I know them because:
Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:8-9)
Genuine Christians, regenerated and indwelt by the Spirit of God, are new creations in Christ. As such we cannot walk as we used to walk. We are children of light, no longer of darkness. We are not yet perfect. On occasion we still sin, but when we do we quickly repent and are grieved, confessing our sin and asking the Lord’s forgiveness because of Jesus our Savior. The wicked are not so. They walk in sin. It is the defining course of their life. They might claim the new birth, but their life betrays who they really are — children of the devil, the brethren of Cain.
That is how I know.
Now, I propose to you that my experience in these four churches is not unique or untypical. Quite the contrary. I maintain that this 90%+ unsaved estimate is the norm in most local churches. [By the way, our church here presently consists of a small congregation, but I can confidently say that the large majority of them give good evidence in their lives that they truly belong to Christ. Quite different than it was 24 years ago here].
And this then is what I am suggesting to you here. No, I am confidently stating it for you, not merely suggesting it.
The primary reason local churches ally with and enable abusers, and turn against the abuser’s victim, is stated clearly by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 4 quoted above. The children of the flesh have always persecuted the children of the promise. That is how it was with Ishmael and Isaac, and that is how it is today.
Unregenerate people, still walking in sin and darkness, still children of the devil, inevitably hate and persecute Christ’s true people. And if most local churches consist of those very kinds of people, children of the flesh, Christians in name only but not in spirit, you can be sure that they are going to persecute the children of the promise. They strive to enslave Christ’s people through legalism, false teachings, accusations, slander, and by setting up their own traditions as the Word of God, binding upon everyone. When one of their own is threatened with exposure by a victim giving a shout-out to him, the rest immediately rally around him like a pack of wolves.
This is how it has been all down through the history of the church. It is madness, except in extremely unusual and plain circumstances (such as times of widespread revival as in the time of George Whitefield, the Wesleys, Jonathan Edwards, etc) to function in our Christian lives with the assumption that local churches should characteristically grow in number and that number even get to be quite large. No. What Scripture plainly reveals to us is that it is God’s remnant that will be saved. That real believers can expect to become so few in number and so out of sight that even an Elijah can despair and wonder if he alone is left. Understand?
In our day the churches are filled with dross. I remember for instance a man I knew very, very well, who would claim to be a Christian but showed absolutely no evidence that he knew Christ, and plenty of evidence in fact to the contrary. When this man and his wife began to attend a new, fairly large, church, in just a very short time the church officers asked this fellow to serve as a deacon! I contacted the pastor myself and said, “you don’t even know this man. There is no way he fulfills scripture requirements for the office of deacon!” This was a no-brainer and yet the pastor and his team really did not like what I had to say. But this kind of thing is happening all the time.
This is how you turn a church into a synagogue of Satan. And this is why so many Christian victims of abuse are being additionally abused by their churches. Those churches, you see, are for the most part not churches at all. So take heart. When you get put out of a fake temple, you find the real Temple outside the camp. You find Jesus:
“If this man were not from God, he could do nothing,” [said the man whose blindness Jesus had healed.]
They [the Pharisees] answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.
Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. (John 9:33-38)
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The Conclusion of the Matter
Ecclesiastes 12:9-14 (KJV)
Ps Sam Powell
9 And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.
10 The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.
11 The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.
12 And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
Listen to the sermon by clicking on the link above.
If you’ve never commented on this blog before it is important to read our New Users’ Info page because it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.
And if you’re new to this blog we encourage you look at our FAQs.
We have decided to change our publishing schedule to only one post per week. We think one post per week will give enough for our readers to chew on and it will free Jeff and Barb up to work on other projects such as writing books.
The new schedule will start next Monday (22 May, USA time). On the rare occasion when we publish a post outside our Monday schedule, the comment facility will be disabled on that post.
We would like to take this opportunity to ask our readers to help us in the following ways:
Disidentify your comments if your safety could be at risk.
- If you could be in danger from your abuser or his allies, try your best to not give overly-identifying info in your comment or your screen name.
- We are asking everyone who comments on the blog to read our New Users’ Info page. We have re-written and simplified it, so even if you’ve read it before please read it again.
- If you could be in danger from your abuser or your abuser’s allies and you comment on the blog, it is essential that you read that page because it gives tips on how to disidentify your comment and how to fill in the comment form safely.
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Abuse survivors always wonder whether they need to forgive their abuser. Do they have to forgive? When should they forgive? Does forgiveness require anything from the abuser? Churches often force victims into forgiving their abuser and some even make it a condition of fellowship. But is this biblical? And what do those same churches require of the abuser?Typically far more is expected (demanded) of the survivor than of the abuser.
Do I need to forgive my abuser? is a podcast from Church Protect which is a consulting ministry that offers the combined expertise and experiences of Jimmy Hinton and Jon Uhler.
Church Protect began as a result of Jimmy Hinton finding out that his father, a former minster, is a pedophile. God allowed Jimmy’s path to intersect with Jon Uhler’s and a partnership was born. Jon has over 20 years of counseling experience working as a clinical therapist: he has worked extensively with survivors of child sex abuse, and has over 10 years of experience working with sex offenders who are in prison.
From the Facebook page of Church Protect:
Jimmy is a full time minister and Jon has theological training as well, making them a great team to help churches combat abuse. As both listen to countless stories of brokenness, humiliation, and shattered innocence, they agree that it is a sin to sit on the sidelines while millions of children are being sexually abused and trafficked each year.
Over 90% of pedophiles identify themselves as religious. This is a huge deal for churches because religious people tend to go to church. In the words of a pedophile, “Churches are the easiest places to offend.” Pedophilia is at epidemic proportions in the church and, sadly, there are few resources for church leaders to combat this plague. With 42 million survivors of child sex abuse in the United States, it is nearly impossible to find a church that doesn’t have victims of abuse. Sadly, most abuse remains undetected. Worse yet, most alleged cases are not reported by church leaders to the authorities and the majority of allegations are dismissed by leaders who don’t know how to detect abuse.
Church Protect is a consulting ministry that offers the combined expertise and experiences of Jon and Jimmy. No longer do church leaders have to guess how to handle difficult situations involving young children who are sexualized in their churches. It’s time we take a stand against abuse and shout, “ENOUGH!”
Listen to Jimmy and Jon discuss what God has to say about forgiveness: Do I need to forgive my abuser?
In the podcast they focus on serial pedophilia — how it manifests in churches, and how churches respond to it — but we think that the same principles apply to the vast majority of spousal abuse.
Jimmy Hinton is the pastor of Somerset Church Of Christ, Pennsylvania
Gary Thomas, the author of Sacred Marriage, recently wrote on his blog about how the church needs to protect women from abuse. There was a flood of responses from people. One lady directly confronted him for how, “I endured abuse for way too long because of your teachings.”
Gary responded to her by writing, “I don’t believe anything in Sacred Marriage supports or condones abuse. If you can find a passage that does, please let me know as I’d want to amend it immediately.”
All right—let’s answer that question.
On pages 45-49, Gary quotes from a pamphlet written by Dr. John Barger in which Barger admits abusing his wife but claims a complete transformation. There’s no way to hear his wife’s side of the story because she passed away from cancer.
Dr. Barger writes, “It’s easy to scorn women and most men do. We see women as physically weak, easy to intimidate, bound to the menial tasks of motherhood, emotional, illogical and often petty. Or…..we scorn and hate them for their commanding sexual power over us…..I swaggered through marriage for many years, ruling my wife Susan and seven children with an iron hand while citing Scripture as justification for my privileges and authority…….Years of dominating my wife and children left them habitually resentful and fearful of me yet unwilling to challenge me because of the fury it might produce.” (p. 45-46)
Then he claims to have been changed by watching his wife suffer through a traumatic childbirth and losing their baby. Yet he continues teaching, “Can men withdraw the sword of sorrow that pierces every woman’s heart? I don’t think so. Their problems are generally not the kind that have a solution but rather form the very fabric of their existence.” (p. 47)
Barger has just exonerated all abusers from having to take responsibility and make restitution to their victims for causing most of their spouse’s pain and sorrow.
Then Gary describes the moral of this story: “Dr. Barger’s earnest efforts at renewing his love for his wife and reaching a new plane of understanding worked…..While this story targets males, I suspect the same principle is true for women. That terrifyingly difficult man to love just may be your gateway to learning how to love God. This is a biblical truth.” (p. 48-50)
Why is Gary learning about abuse FROM THE ABUSER? Why does he think that Dr. Barger is qualified to give good counsel and advice to others? Doesn’t Gary realize how many abusers are experienced at lying and faking transformation?
This book gets worse. In the chapter about forgiveness, on pages 172-177, Gary tells a very disturbing story.
Heather is married to a pastor. She notices her husband spending large amounts of time on the computer and wonders why. Gary writes, “She began experiencing gynecological problems and then was diagnosed with a low strain of a sexually transmitted disease.” (p. 172) Heather confronts her husband. He admits to having an affair and says he “might still be in love” with the other woman. She asks him to go to counseling. She forgives him. He continues pastoring.
Heather tells Gary about why she chose to stay in the marriage, saying, “I never felt in my heart that divorce was the right thing to do.” (p. 174)
Gary writes, “This is the key I believe to Heather’s spiritual maturity and growth through this awful ordeal…..though Heather was feeling numb, she learned selflessness by focusing on her concern for her children, the welfare of the church, and even Rennie’s soul. Rather than lashing out in anger at Rennie, she was more broken over the spiritual consequences of his actions than over how those actions offended and affected her.” (p. 175)
What about how those actions affected the church? Our hearts go out to Heather. That was a horrible situation she shouldn’t have had to face. But when a pastor’s own wife can’t trust him, how can the congregation? How could such a man be preaching each week without presenting God’s word through his own sinfully-self-justifying lenses?
Something is really wrong when keeping the pastor in the pulpit is seen as the higher priority than holiness. Wait a minute. Isn’t this whole book about how “God designed marriage to make us holy?” (p. 13) Where is the holiness? And if marriage makes us holy, then what do single people do?
Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Holiness isn’t about how many hours we pray or verses we can quote. It’s about loving Jesus more than the world so that we turn from the pleasures of the world to follow Christ. Every day that we resist the pull of the world to obey Christ, we are walking in holiness.
Yet on page 108, Gary writes “true holiness is seen over time in our persistence.” Persistence in what? Tolerating evil in the church? Sweeping under the rug how the Pastor is still in love with another woman?
Now I agree with Gary that we all need persistence in our walk with God. But many people have remained faithful to God even while their marriage fell apart. That’s what this book doesn’t understand. And while all of us will experience difficult seasons of life where God tests our hearts, Jesus told us, “ask and you shall receive, THAT YOUR JOY MAY BE FULL!” (John 16:24) God actually cares about BOTH our holiness and happiness.
Now when Gary was confronted over the horrific idea of using this story as a positive example in his book, he refused to listen. Here’s Gary’s actual response on his blog: “I don’t see how telling the true story of a woman whose husband gave her an STD encourages women to stay in an abusive marriage. The facts were what the facts were. The story doesn’t excuse the husband. It just tells what happened. And I still don’t see how that encourages a woman to stay in an abusive marriage….. And keep in mind, just TWO PAGES later, I do say, ‘But sometimes divorce can even be the right choice.’”
While Gary does say that on page 115, he spends most of the book teaching this:
“Divorce represents our inability to hold to Jesus’ command. It’s giving up on what Jesus calls us to do.” (p. 42)
“You’ll never find that joy by doing something that offends Jesus—such as instigating a divorce or an affair.” (p. 101)
“If we have an eternal outlook, preparing for eternity by sticking with a difficult marriage makes much more sense than destroying a family to gain quick and easy relief. Most divorces are marked by the actions of someone running from, at most, a few difficult decades—and for this relief, people are throwing away glory and honor that last for eternity. It’s a horrible trade!” (p. 110)
“If you don’t believe in Heaven, divorce can make a lot of sense. Once Heaven becomes part of the equation, the cost of divorce—God’s wrath and anger, jeopardizing the future with a selfish attitude—becomes much too high.” (p. 114)
“We have reached high to make a strong point. Divorce by definition is a failure—of love, forgiveness and patience, or at the very least is the result of poor judgment in choosing a difficult partner in the first place.” (p. 114)
“I have affirmed a high ideal in part to encourage people mired in a difficult marriage to hang in there.” (p. 115)
“If your marriage is tough, get down on your knees and thank God that he has given you an opportunity for unparalleled spiritual growth. You’ve had the prime potential to excel in Christian character and growth.” (p. 129)
“If we view the marriage relationship as an opportunity to excel in love, it doesn’t matter how difficult the person is whom we are called to love; it doesn’t matter even whether that love is ever returned.” (p. 266)
“All of us experience certain things about our spouses that may be difficult for us to accept. I’ve known men who were married to alcoholics and women who were married to demanding tyrants who showed little appreciation or respect.” (p. 149)
Notice that Gary just implied that people are to “accept” being married to the “demanding tyrant.” Feel the pressure? That’s a heavy burden of guilt which Gary tries to justify by taking Scripture out of context.
On pages 108-111, he quotes Romans 2:8. Let’s look at that verse in context.
Romans 2:6-8 (CEV) “God will reward or punish every person for what that person has done. Some people, by always continuing to do good, live for God’s glory, for honor, and for life that has no end. God will give them life forever. But other people are selfish. They refuse to follow truth and, instead, follow evil. God will give them his punishment and anger.”
Gary quotes Romans 2:8 from the NIV, “But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.”
Then he takes Romans 2:8 out of context to teach that filing for divorce is “self-seeking” that brings “God’s wrath and judgment” on you. He writes, “When you divorce your spouse, you have no idea what the future holds for him or her. The situation can, and often does, lead to chaos, because odds are that at least one spouse will need care in the not too distant future. Certainly such neglect qualifies as the “self-seeking” that Paul says naturally results in God’s “wrath and anger.” (p. 112-113)
“What is more self-seeking than to ignore what is best for your children—an intact, peaceable home—and to dump a marriage because you’re tired of your spouse even though doing so may seriously diminish your ministry of reconciliation discussed in chapter 2?” (p. 111)
Why does Gary assume that the spouse that leaves is the self-seeking one? What about the self-seeking nature of the abusive spouse? All these quotes drown out the truth of Gary’s words that “sometimes divorce can even be the right choice.” That throw-away line of his means almost zero when weighted against all the unfair blame, false guilt and coercion that Gary heaps onto victims of abuse.
That’s what I was thinking when reading page 152 of this book where Gary wrote, “A difficult marriage doesn’t pronounce a death sentence on a meaningful life.”
Sometimes it does. For some people, divorce is the only option for escaping a horrific situation. An example is the Drew Peterson case. Stacy Peterson was Drew Peterson’s wife #4. She had asked their pastor, Neil Schori, to meet her at Starbucks for a counseling session about her difficult marriage. During that session, she confided in him that she was thinking about filing for divorce because she believed Drew had murdered wife #3—Kathleen Savio. That was the last time the pastor saw her alive. Shortly thereafter, she disappeared and has never been found. When Drew Peterson was arrested for the murder of wife #3, and while wife #4 was still missing, Drew was engaged to marry wife #5.
Now before Drew became violent, how would Gary Thomas have responded if any of Drew’s wives had approached him for advice on their “difficult marriage?” Would he have told them that the difficulty of living with Drew was God’s way of making them holy?
Stacy’s death was a tragic loss. So was Kathleen Savio’s. Yet how many more women will suffer before the church finally realizes that “to do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice?” (Proverbs 21:3)
The case of Drew Peterson might be an extreme example but domestic abuse doesn’t have to be physical violence to qualify as abuse. Victims can suffer extreme oppression even when the abuser never lays a finger on them. Telling victims that this oppression is “God’s way of making them holy,” ignores the evil nature of abuse. It’s PURE EVIL. It’s the willful sin of the perpetrator that brings God’s wrath and judgment on the abuser.
God cares about justice for the oppressed. While this book keeps pressuring people to grin and bear it, God expects the church “to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke.” (Isaiah 58:6b)
Avid Reader’s review of Sacred Marriage was first published on Amazon — click here if you want to vote or comment on it over at Amazon.
We do not enjoy making this announcement. We have recommended Lundy Bancroft’s materials and seminars for the entire time this blog has been in existence. We and probably most of our readers have greatly benefited from Lundy’s books and rather recently we even recommended one of his webinars to you. That has changed.
We have known from the beginning that Bancroft is not a Christian and that his worldview/philosophy/theology is certainly not something we would want anyone to embrace. We were criticized by one or two rather fanatic type people for endorsing someone who held to a theology like Bancroft does, but we decided to continue to recommend him and his materials on Domestic Abuse because they were so helpful to us and many others. And we still believe that, for example, his book Why Does He Do That? provides very, very good wisdom about abusers and serves as a great help to their victims.
We do not believe there is anything dangerous in Lundy’s writings where he discusses the dynamics of domestic abuse. Our concerns are about the ‘healing retreats’ that he offers. And now he is starting what he calls his Peak Living Network. We do not recommend anyone attend those retreats or become involved in his new ventures into “Peak Living.”
We realize that this is a rather surprising announcement for you all to hear from us and we take no joy in having to make it. However, it is one thing for Bancroft to write about the mentality and tactics of abusers and the effects abuse has on victims, and it is quite another thing for him to start teaching and counseling victims regarding how to enjoy “Peak Living” in their lives. Bancroft will necessarily approach the latter in a Christless, worldly way that embraces philosophies and teachings that are contrary to the Word of God. His new book, for instance, The Joyous Path to Emotional Healing, would be just such an example.
Launching of his mutual support and healing network is described on his Facebook page. He says there:
I’m finally the launching the mutual support and healing network that I’ve been talking about for years.
It’s called the Peak Living Network.
The Peak Living Network is open to everyone who wants to offer and receive support for emotional healing. The glue that binds us together is people’s agreement to follow the PLN Statement of Principles. As long as you feel that you can commit to those principles, you’re part of the network. PLN will offer a growing number of activities as time goes by, but we will begin by:
1) forming free local drop-in support groups
2) forming healing partnerships where we meet up in pairs to split
time, also known as “co-counseling” or “doing a support session.”
I AM OFFERING TWO FREE CONFERENCE CALLS
TO LAUNCH THE NETWORK.
The calls will last about an hour. In the calls I will explain how to start a local network, then answer people’s questions and offer support to get you started.
Here are the steps to participating:
1) Read the materials at the Peak Living Network website (except the piece under the “Readings” tab, which is optional) PeakLivingNetwork.wordpress.com
2) Decide that you’re interested in working on building a local network
3) Send an email to PeakLivingNetwork@protonmail.com, asking to register for the conference call and saying which call you’d like to join
After you do step three, you’ll receive an email response giving you the dial-in information for the call.
Please send any questions to
Warm wishes to all,
Can you see the inherent dangers here? How do you form “healing partnerships” who “meet up in pairs” to do co-counseling without exposing people to the ever present danger of abusers or abusers’ allies or just plain totally unqualified people hooking up with an abuse victim? In addition, the entire network will be based upon Bancroft’s own ideas of what life’s “Peak Living” should be.
Do not utilize Peak Living as a resource for yourself, and do not look to Bancroft to lead you to the Way, the Truth, and the Life that is only to be found in Jesus Christ. He won’t do it. He cannot do it.