A Cry For Justice

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

13. Do Abusers Change? — Chris Moles answers that question with a mixture of truth and foolishness.

Chris Moles is well aware that most abusive men do not apply themselves to the hard work of reforming their characters. He claims that he’s seen a few abusers reform. I personally think Chris is spiritually blind and isn’t able to discern reformation from the ‘smoke and mirrors’ of pseudo-reformation.

When reading Chris’s book, you have to get to chapter eight (half way through the book!) before he talks about an instance where he pulled the plug on counselling an abuser. In that passage he mentions that it’s not unusual for abusive men to fail to reform. But look at how the context in which he says this. The following quote is taken from ch 8 of Chris’s book. Boldface added by me.

Change is hard but it is not impossible. This truth plays out in the lives of men who are receptive to change. Time and truth have a way of wearing on a man’s hardened heart like a trickle of water works its way through stone. However, there are times when a man’s heart is hardened and his resistance and arrogance make change and peace impossible.

One evening in particular stands out as incredibly frustrating. My counseling partner Kim and I had begged and pleaded. We tried everything we could think of to call the man in front of us to repentance. Unfortunately every request was met with resistance and every appeal with hostility. He would not budge. He was convinced his destructive behavior was necessary and that his wife deserved all she received. A recent incident, in which his wife resisted his demands, only solidified his position. “I’ve got her now!’ seemed to be his key motivation. Finally I put an end to the struggle realising we were getting nowhere. I told him that he was free to continue down the path he was walking, but that I had no doubt it would lead him to self-destruction. Kim and I assured him that we were willing to help but that our primary concern was for his wife and children. A few ultimatums and conditions were given and we parted ways. I thought, “How can he not see what he is doing to his family and himself?” Sadly this is not an unusual occurrence, and some men will not accept responsibility and will not change their behavior. (M 85-86*) 

So Chris only gave his first mention of how abusers usually don’t change halfway into his book. He should have stated that right at the beginning. I believe it was unethical for him to not put it on the back cover blurb, and in the first chapter of his book.

If we believe his testimony, Chris seems to be having a few successes with abusers reforming their abusive mindset and patterns of behavior. Here is what Chris says in one of his presentations to Christian leaders (Z 1:32:18):  

On average from a criminal perspective, in the large groups I lead (those groups are mandated for eight months) [Chris is speaking about the groups he leads for the government]  I’m just trying to get acknowledgement. It’s a wrestling match. When I first started this work I thought, “Here’s the goal: everyone’s gotta be an advocate and champion for women!” Now: they just gotta move!

Everybody I’ve ever worked with changes. Guys either become more obstinate and more defiant, which is rare. Honestly, if you spend enough time, if you can can institute accountability, you see movement. A lot of guys make just enough movement to be safe and not be hassled: behavioral change – I’m not a big fan. I’m okay for safety reasons, but I’m not a big fan. It’s like taking apples off the tree and stapling on bananas. It’s not going to last.

And lastly, there’s guys who experience transformation. And that’s the winner, right? That’s what makes it worth coming back for. But those are rare, they really are. We’re not hitting home runs in this work. …

The research and reports I have read all point to the fact that programs for abusive men are not effecting positive change in the men who are at the more entrenched end of the spectrum. And no research yet shows that the positive changes made by men who go to such programs are long-lasting.

As Christians, this should not surprise us. Evil men shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived (2 Tim 3:13).

The psychologist Dr George Simon, who is an expert on character disorder, says:

Heartless characters can be largely born the way they are. That is, the most disturbed among us have an innately impaired capacity to care. But folks lacking in empathy also tend to think in certain ways. And those ways of thinking lead them to form problematic attitudes and patterns of behavior. Moreover, engaging in those patterns both engenders and reinforces heartlessness.
Heartless Characters Think Differently

Pastor Jeff Crippen, who used to co-lead this blog with me, says —

These kinds of wicked people, these “domestic abusers” (or sexual abusers and others) who generally parade as Christians…are members of churches. Sometimes they are pastors or church leaders or missionaries.

And all the while, for years and years and years and years and years, they have been wickedly being who they really are. Behind the scenes they have been destroying lives. They have heard God’s voice time after time after time, but they have hardened their hearts against Him, time after time after time. And they still don’t repent. Yet people like these “experts” at ACBC claim that such people are to be “redeemed.” That through counseling, they can be fixed. That we should never give up hope.
The prevalent false gospel among us – “No one is beyond God’s mercy”

In winding up the final chapter of his book (M 125-7) Chris says:

Can they change? Of course they can. …. Anyone can change but the potential for change does not guarantee that it will happen.

Do they change? Yes…Well, kind of…It depends. I’ve been doing this work for many years and I have seen many men make changes. Sometimes those changes are radical and transformative. … I’ve also seen many men make some necessary behavioral changes to avoid consequences or pain. This may make things safer in the short term but lacks the power that the gospel promises. Lastly, I’ve seen man attempt to manipulate everyone with superficial changes designed to deceive others into leaving them alone. … They change when they choose to, but motives are important in understanding the validity of these changes.

Will they change? Do you have someone in mind? … I do not know if the person you love will ever change. …we know that change has occurred when change occurs. Change is possible, but change is hard.

At one of his lectures at the Institute of Biblical Counseling and Discipleship, Chris was asked a specific question by a female counselor. (E 58:46) —

Woman:  I have limited experience in this but I find that these marriages that are like 20 years plus – that these are church going people, committed to Christ  – this is very tough for them then to be willing to submit – to even begin a process of considering responsibility. So I guess my initial question to you in the local church (not to those you minister to in the jail) – do you see people coming to repentance?

Chris: Yeah; I’ll tell you a couple of things that I try to keep in mind. By the time an individual gets to me through the court system … having escalated that far (and some of the men I’ve worked with having been in the system since they were teenagers, having been violent for 20, 30 years, some of them having learned more violence in jail) – we look for small victories.  So sometimes the victory is acknowledgment and that’s as far as we get. And so we rejoice in that. At least he recognizes it. But we might not see repentance.

The second thing I would say is that with the guys that I get early – especially individually – who come to me recognizing [i.e., self motivated]. They’ve filled out an application, they’ve called me, they try to get a hold of me. They say, “Chris, I’m abusive. I didn’t know it. I’ve read your book. I read Leslie’s book or the Holcomb’s book. And this is me. I’m in trouble. My family’s in trouble because of me.”  The chances of success there are a lot higher. …

I get asked the question a lot “Do guys actually change? Do people change?” Especially in this work because really the culture, secularly, …The reality is that a lot of unbelievers and experts believe that we’re futile in trying this.

But here’s my response when people say, “Do men actually change? Do people change?” I say: Everybody changes. Everybody. All the time. Some of the men I work with become more obstinate, more arrogant, more ugly. They change. Some of the guys I work with make just enough changes to not get in trouble. And I don’t like [that]; but we can rejoice that people are safe. We can be happy that they have made some changes in their life. But there’s no transformation. And then some people, some, experience the life-changing power of the gospel, and they’re transformed. For the sake of the few that fall in category three we continue to do the work.

I agree with Chris that everybody changes.

I also agree with him that some abusers become more obstinate, arrogant and ugly. It is very clear to me from survivors’ testimonies that as abusers practise their abusive conduct, they become more skilled abusers and more controlling. The abuser might slow down somewhat as he gets old and frail; but that only limits some of his tactics, it doesn’t change his abusive heart. But Chris says ‘some’ change for the worse, whereas I would say that the vast majority of abusers change for the worse.

I agree with Chris that some abusers make just enough changes to not get in trouble. They do this to avoid legal penalties or to avoid coming in sight of the radar of authorities. However, unlike Chris, I don’t rejoice about that at all! I don’t think it makes victims more safe: it quite possibly puts them in greater danger. The abuser is now practising more subtle, covert, less criminal types of abuse.

Most victims say that the subtle abuse is the worst: the emotional, verbal, gaslighting, the mind control, the covert sexual abuse and the spiritual abuse… all those things are much harder to recognise. And they take much longer to recover from.

For Chris’s third category, “some who experience the life-changing power of the gospel, and they’re transformed,”  I am sceptical that Chris actually has had any in this category. His understanding of the doctrine of salvation is so poor that I’m not confident Chris (or the pastors and counselors he is friends with) could tell whether an abuser has been regenerated. (see part 12 in this series)


*Citations in this post are shown in grey, with each item designated by a capital letter.
The Chris Moles Digest gives a link to each item cited by a capital letter.

For further reading and viewing

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

Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men —video presentation in which Lundy Bancroft says:

The great majority of abusive men can change. And the great majority don’t. And the reason they don’t is not because they can’t, but because they’ve figured out that they don’t really have to.

NB: while we think Lundy Bancroft says some accurate things about abusers, we caution survivors against attending any healing retreat he runs, or getting involved in any face-to-face mutual support group that is set up under his Peak Living Network.

If you don’t have a safe church to go to

Many Christians have no local church to attend where they feel safe and are being fed. For those who are in that position, we encourage you to listen to sermons and services online.

Churches, live-feed church services, and archived sermons that we recommend

Ps Sam Powell, First Reformed Church Yuba City, California 

You can listen to Sam’s sermons anytime on Sermon Audio- First Reformed Church Yuba City

You can follow First Reformed Church Yuba City on Facebook. All their services are live-fed to their Facebook page. They also give a link to the sermon where you can listen to it after it has been live-streamed.

Sam Powell also posts links to his sermons on Twitter @sampowell365 

Ps Jeff Crippen, Christ Reformation Church, Tillamook, Oregon

You can listen to Jeff Crippen’s sermons anytime on Sermon Audio – Christ Reformation Church Tillamook

Sermons that are particularly helpful to victims of abuse  

Most Christians who are victims of abuse are tired of having to pick up crumbs from sermons while being on hyper-alert for things the preacher says that may trigger them.

Many Christians who are victims of abuse are exhausted (and almost despairing) because they have found by hard experience that if they go to church service they have to make an immense effort to discern and cut all the bad (triggering) things that the preacher has said, in the hope of picking up a few crumbs from the sermon that will help them.

Our sermons page gives links to sermons we know have been really helpful for victims of abuse.
(you can navigate to that page anytime by clicking on Resources in our main menu)

Some of the things you will find at our sermons page:

12. Chris Moles has a Play Doh understanding of salvation

Chris Moles retweeted this pic which someone took of him at training for professionals who run Batterer Intervention Programs.

Chris Moles believes that an unregenerate person has the ability to choose of their own free will to follow Christ. But the Bible teaches that no person has the ability, the power, or the will to “choose” Christ unless God brings their dead spirit to life (Eph 2:1). The sin nature we inherit from Adam makes us spiritually dead and utterly resistant to the gospel. Jesus said: 

No one can come to me unless the Father who has sent me draws him. And I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:44)

Truly truly I say to you, unless a man be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3)

The Apostle Paul agrees:

no one can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor 12:3b)

When writing to Titus (and by extension to all who have undergone the new birth), Paul said:

But after the kindness and love of our Saviour God toward man appeared,  he saved us – not for the deeds of righteousness that we have done, but of his mercy, by the fountain of the new birth, and with the renewing of the Holy Spirit, which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour (Titus 3:4-6)

You may have heard of the Emergent Church movement. It is a mess of pottage. Chris Moles enthusiastically imbibed stuff from the Emergent Church while preparing to plant the church he pastors in West Virginia.¹ 

Chris says he does not have Reformed theology (C 4:17*). It is clear to me that Chris believes the fallen (spiritually dead) nature is not quite dead so it has the power to ‘choose Christ’ of its own volition; therefore Chris has an Arminian doctrine of salvation. This helps explain why, in practice, Chris can treat abusers as if they are already Christians.

Put on your seat belts and life-jackets to read what Chris says (emphasis added by me):

I recently spoke with a man who violence had torn his family apart. He was now living alone in a small apartment unable to see his children without supervision. He wept over what he had forfeited, and as we talked he wavered between disappointment at himself and frustration with his circumstances. I asked him to list his greatest desires in order of importance, and as you can imagine they were all good things such as seeing his family restored, for his children to know he loves them, and to control his anger. He was taken aback when I suggested that while those are good desires his primary motivation should be to please and glorify God in his current circumstances. … Christians are called to be transformed into the image of Christ. (M 105)

… the heart of pride may manifest the desire to control others. But what desires may emerge from adopting the mind of Christ…? This is a pivotal point of discussion with men who are willing to pursue change. Some men who have identified their heart of pride, their desire to control and their subsequent abusive behavior will now set admirable goals for themselves which may include many “good’ things but rarely include the biblical motivation of glorifying God. … I have encountered men who have skilfully taken aim at restoring a marriage broken by their violence, or have feverishly attempted to restore their reputation in the community, or poured resources into starting a new life but who still miss the mark. (M 105-6)

…we must hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6), and Jesus promised that if we do, we will be filled. It’s not about us, and the New Testament in particular is filled with calls to the Christ follower to abandon self, be crucified with Christ and adopt the mind of Christ. … For many men this is new theological ground. … I’m asking [the abuser] to consider what his life is really about. What does God expect of him and desire for him? He needs to consider how a God-centered life will compare to the way he has lived his life in the past.In other words, how will what God wants for you change what you want? …just as Christ wanted what the Father wanted, the person adopting the mind of Christ will want what Christ wants. (M 107-8)

There are many aspects of God’s character that we can encourage men to adopt…”The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin” (Ex 34:6-7a). … These six characteristics stand out as the adoptable attributes consistent with the call to conformity.  (M 109)

Those four sections I just quoted are all taken from chapter 10 in Chris’s book. The only time Chris used the word “repent” in that entire chapter was when he asked us to imagine an abuser repenting (M 110). Cynical me thinks: yeah, we have to imagine abusers repenting, because in reality they so seldom repent!

Here is Chris again:

Jesus did not come to us with condemnation but with hope and salvation (John 3:17). He patiently calls us to redemption and then calls us to love one another. (M 110)

That statement is wrong because it doesn’t distinguish categories. God has provided redemption through his plan of salvation. God does not call you to redemption because He has already provided redemption. God calls you to repent of your sin and have faith in Jesus. Believe that Jesus is Lord and he came into this sin-blighted world in the flesh and died for your sin and rose from the grave, demonstrating his victory over sin, death and Satan. 

In part 6 of this series I talked about how Chris sees three stages in working with an abuser: (1) information, (2) transformation and (3) reformation. A good teacher would use properly biblical terms for (2) such as regeneration, new birth, born again. But Chris calls it “the transformation stage” as if it’s a stage in a production line.

(E 54:37) Transformation: It’s not my job; that’s the Holy Spirit. I want to encourage him to be open to the Spirit. I want to encourage him to respond to the Spirit’s prompting. I want to encourage him to repent. But that’s a job between him and God. Agreed?

Notice the internal contradiction. Chris says transformation is the job of the Holy Spirit. But a moment later he says transformation is a job between the abusive man and God.

(E 54:45) And part of the frustration is, guys, we can give all the information in the world. We can’t guarantee this will ever happen. We can gather all the data in the world  [about the tactics of abuse he has used, what he wanted to achieve with those tactics] – but we can’t guarantee the transformation is going to happen.

But when it does, we get to join him in the work of reformation: helping him put off and put on. How cool is that? How exciting is that? I’ll tell you if you see a guy who has gone up the arrow so far that he’s been violent, and he comes to a place of repentance, and then he asks you to help him learn how to be gentle. Cause you’ve been teaching him that gentleness is important, but it’s such a foreign concept to him that he says, “You know what, can you help me learn what it’s like to be gentle?” Well!!! Ummm!!! That’s good, isn’t it!”

I was recently working with an individual – we’ve been working for six months.  We spent probably five months on the information piece. It was just hard soil. Just continually pleading and pleading and pleading and pleading and pleading. And then there was that pivot point. Now our counseling relationship ended because I have certain restrictions on time frames and stuff, and I passed him off to a team. And what was cool is that this team said, “We had no idea how to get to this point, but we feel a lot more comfortable how to disciple somebody after this point.” But getting him here was nearly impossible. And it’s cool that we have this group of guys, four guys, that were like, “Alright, we know the put-ons. We know what to do.” And then to help them in that process. They’re going to spend another six months working with him on eventual repentance. Yeah, it’s cool. It’s cool. [emphasis added]

So Chris gives lip service to the fact that the new birth is a work of Spirit, but in practice he and the four men who took over that abuser’s case all believe they can coach the abuser to put off the old man and put on the new man. And Chris actually says that in the “reformation stage” the team are “working with him on eventual repentance”. So even going by Chris’s own words, the abuser was not born again in that “transformation stage / pivot point”.

Even going by Chris’s own words, it’s clear that the the guy did not repent. Because the team still have to work a lot more with him to “eventual repentance”.

Is you head done in trying to follow Chris’s double speak? Mine almost is!

Chris and the other four men are all working under their own strength. Like the believers at Corinth who were letting the adulterer remain in their midst, they are arrogant. They only give token agreement to the idea that regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit.

A spongy understanding of salvation leads to a flabby definition of a Christian

Be not deceived. For neither fornicators, nor worshippers of images, nor whoremongers, nor effeminates, nor abusers of themselves with the male sex, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor cursed speakers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:9-10)

The application form for Chris’s coaching program asks: “Are you a Christian? Please share testimony describing how you came to faith in Jesus, and your current relationship with Jesus.”

Is Chris probing to find out whether the guy professes to be a Christian and how he justifies his profession of faith? Or is he asking because he thinks an abusive man could in fact be a Christian? It’s the latter. Here it is in his own words:

Most of the men I work with have claimed to be believers. If a man comes to me and claims to be a Christian, I like to think the best but I do operate under three assumptions. That if you’re participating in this behavior —

  • it’s quite possible that you are not a believer at all, because Christ’s followers don’t do this
  • 0r it’s quite possible that you are a very rebellious believer, because Christ’s followers don’t do this
  • or, it is somewhat possible that you’re a very ignorant believer. And I will say with this category, I sometimes find this with my more fundamentalist guys who have been taught a certain way who really feel like they are really honouring Christ but they’re really being jerks.

Here’s the thing. All three of those approaches need the same answer: the gospel — clear understanding of what Jesus has called us to be. (C 29:55, boldface mine;  also see N 53:18–53:57, M 87)

Chris thinks it is possible for someone to accept salvation yet go on hating his brother or sister…and that person can be called “a rebellious Christian”. But the Bible doesn’t agree. The Bible says that anyone who hates his brother or sister is child of the devil and does NOT have eternal life residing in him, so that person cannot be called a “rebellious” Christian — or any kind of Christian.

This is how God’s children and the devil’s children become obvious. Whoever does not do what is right is not of God, especially the one who does not love his brother or sister. …Everyone who hates his brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. (1 John 3:10,15 CSB)

Here is another place where Chris shows that he thinks an abuser can be a Christian:

Statements such as “I snapped,” “I lost control,” or “My temper got the best of me” may be accurate descriptions of the man’s emotional and behavioral responses, but they are, by no means, excusable simply because we can recognize that he was angry. This is especially true for biblical counselors who are working with Christian husbands who have abused their wife (sic). (X, emphasis added)

Here is another example:

A counselee who grudgingly or deceptively moves through the process without this heart of worship more than likely lacks the unifying work of Gospel provision and continues to cultivate the heart of violence. (M 82, emphasis added)

Allow me to fix that wording for Chris. A counselee who grudgingly or deceptively moves through the process without this heart of worship is definitely unregenerate and continues to cultivate the heart of violence.

I know Chris hasn’t changed his mindset because in his March 18 2018 post he still talks as if abusers can be Christians.

Chris holds a version of Lordship Salvation theology

Chris says “rebellious believers” have accepted salvation but they’re not living under the Lordship of Christ. But “easy believism” cannot be remedied by Lordship Salvation theology, since both those theologies are wrong!

Here is proof that Chris holds to a Lordship Salvation theology:

As we move an abusive person from pride to humility or from violence to gentleness we do so alongside introducing or emphasising the need to trust in the character and work of Christ.

For example, we may walk an abusive person through the attributes of God’s character and work in the process. In addition, Gospel truth will include understanding what he truly deserves.

We highlight his sense of entitlement as sinful, as the Bible speaks to what we are truly entitled to, and that is judgment and condemnation. We also emphasise a believer’s identity in Christ. What does the Scripture say about our identity in Christ? Resources such as Milton Vincent’s “A Gospel Primer for Christians” accurately and effectively communicates these realities. (M 79, paragraph breaks added for ease of reading)

Who is Milton Vincent? He’s a graduate of Bob Jones University and The Master’s Seminary and has served as a Faculty Associate at The Master’s Seminary (link). We already know that Bob Jones University and Master’s Seminary are steeped in legalism. We know that John MacArthur blurs the Law and the Gospel, which in my opinion is one of the reasons for his very bad track record in responding to domestic and sexual abuse. (See two accounts by women who were mistreated by MacArthur and his institutions: Do You See Me and Do You Hear Me? )

Chris confuses regeneration and sanctification

Jesus knows that we struggle with pride. That is to say He knows that we love ourselves but He insists that we elevate the status of God and others. … When he comes to the end of self, the abuser must embrace humility. In much the same way that King Nebuchadnezzar declared God’s authority following his point of brokenness (Daniel 4), the abuser must abandon pride and embrace humility. The process of sanctification must take this man to the foot of the cross, and to the place of surrender. His greatest help, and his family’s greatest hope, will be found in having the mind of Christ. It is from this position that he may choose to be a person of peace and begin the arduous process of moving from creating fear to offering hope.  (M 101-2, emphasis added) 

Did Nebuchadnezzar, a pagan king, really and truly repent unto saving faith? Chris thinks he did. But Daniel 4-5:2 shows that although King Neb was given two powerful teaching experiences by God which resulted in him acknowledging and blessing God, yet despite all that he didn’t return to the Jews the holy vessels he had stolen from their temple.

Acknowledging God is something that demons can do (James 2:19). Blessing God is something that King Saul did: he prophesied briefly after meeting a school of prophets (1 Sam 10, 19). But he was not saved. I reckon Nebuchadnezzar’s “blessing of God” was along the same lines as King Saul’s.

Chris thinks that no one is irreparable and everyone is redeemable

[quote from that clip]: “We have an image of men in particular being vicious and rapacious, and my experience has been that they are just men, and sometimes men make mistakes, and sometimes men sin, and some times they need the sword – they need to go to jail for a while – but everybody is redeemable.” (L 3:10–3:42)

 Here is another instance where Chris teaches the same idea:

I’m not big on the words ‘broken’ and ‘healing’. I use those words, but often times they need defining. But I think we can all agree that in a sin-sick, a sin-filled world, a fallen world, we are going to encounter people that are less than whole. That are incomplete. That are cracked. Now the one thing we can agree on is no one is irreparable. Right? All of us represent that brokenness and all of us can experience fullness and completeness in Christ. And one day when we get to heaven — Well! We’ll know fully what we now know in part. (F 18:54-19:34, emphasis added)

Even if an abusive man reforms his character, he may never come to know Christ

Even if in the rare case an abusive man were to work hard on changing his character so he no longer abused any intimate partner – and even if he became a respected practitioner working ethically in the secular Mens Behavior Change movement – he may never become regenerate. He may never come to know Christ.

Only a few (a very few) abusers do the long hard work required to change into gentle, decent, non-abusive men. But many men are gentle, decent, respectful husbands and fathers without ever becoming Christians. And decent men can be just as resistant to the gospel as evil men are! Every person is resistant to the gospel unless and until God quickens their dead spirit to life.

I know of less than a handful of men who were abusers who have changed into non-abusers. Two of those cases are men who were not Christians and are still not Christians. Those two abusers both attended secular Men’s Behavior Change Programs in Australia and kept repeatedly attending and  working on their stuff until they deep down changed. They are now both working professionally in the Men’s Behaviour Change movement. One is Dave Nugent who now runs the Heavy Metal Group and was involved in the film Call Me Dad; you can see Dave talking to a group of Jewish men here. The second is Ivan Clarke who tells his story here.

The only other case I know of where an abusive man seemed to reform, is Dave Weir. He tells his story on pp.118-25 of Unclenching Our Fists. While serving a jail sentence for domestic violence, Dave was convicted of sin. He doesn’t recount that any Christian spoke to him, he simply says that he felt this from God. He says that with the help of some books and a few courses he “worked his own program”. After he got out of jail he went voluntarily to a batterer’s program. He never got his family back. But the most compelling evidence for me that Dave did genuinely reform is the way his ex-wife Leta responded at the close of his life. By the time the female author of Unclenching our Fists interviewed Dave, he had cancer of the throat and was having difficulty speaking. The interview was recorded but Dave’s speech was so hard to understand that the author couldn’t transcribe it. After Dave died, his ex-wife Leta volunteered to transcribe the interview, saying she was proud of the work Dave had done on himself (pp.186-7).

At the end of chapter 10 (M 113-4) Chris refers again to his case study of Patrick, then gives his concerns:

For the first time time since beginning to meet with Patrick, the two of you agree on nearly every point. He agreed with your view of the sinful nature of his actions, and his desire to control his wife. He also articulated that his primary concern has been himself and his own pride. He agreed as you highlighted the need to pursue a higher goal of God’s pleasure and glory. However, your request for a decision to follow Christ and abandon self was met with this phrase: “Can I get back to you on that? I guess I’ve got a lot to think about.”

1. There may be some benefit to allowing Patrick to think things over. I, however, would more than likely push the issue. I’d be suspicious that this is an attempt to establish some aspect of control, and the truth will not change in a couple of days, and the need will still be as great. Either choose life or death. On the other hand, if he insists on taking time I would allow it and plan to set ultimatums such as discontinuation of the counseling process, and completion of church discipline/excommunication or increased sanctions depending on the sources of accountability if movement did not occur before our next conversation. Everything has been exposed and the time for decision has arrived.

2. There is certainly much to celebrate. While we have yet to witness the change needed, we have been privileged to see a shift from denial, hostility and anger to one of acknowledgement and accountability. Drawing this time to a point of decision is an accomplishment, but the work is only beginning.

Only at this point does Chris tell counselors to consider finalising church discipline! So all this time Patrick has likely been participating in membership of the church while the victim has been strung out on a long thread, waiting and hoping for him to show genuine reformation, and for the church to vindicate her…

I profoundly disagree that there is “much to celebrate” in helping Patrick come this far. Bringing an abuser to the point of admitting his heart of pride and his desire to control his partner is pointless if the abuser does not truly reform. It is also potentially dangerous because Patrick has been given the idea that he has the ability in himself to decide to follow Christ. This just gives Patrick more lingo that he can utilise to convince people that he is no longer going to be an abuser.

Chris presents to abusive men a false gospel of gentle moralism. Chris would probably deny it, but his “gospel” to abusive men is pretty much a gospel of Your Best Life Now. (M 68)

Chris describes what he means by discipling men (F 42:28-47:38). But what Chris calls ‘discipling men’ I would simply describe as  wise and loving parenting of boys so they don’t have to grow up constricted in the man box, and teaching/modelling to boys and men what is entailed in being a good husband and father. Those are things which are being done by some people of other faiths and by folks who profess no particular faith. Those things are not just the province of the Christian church. Chris is arrogant to call those things “discipleship”.

I believe that what Chris is doing could be described as trying to teach men moral living: how to be honest decent men, decent husbands and fathers, decent citizens. But it’s a category mistake to call this ‘discipleship’ when men can make those changes without ever becoming true disciples of Christ!

Common sense tells us that domestic abusers who have been “church-attending, professing-believers” for decades are more evil and entrenched in their deceit than the abusive guy in his teens or early adulthood who has absorbed some traits of toxic masculinity from the world but has not been faking Christianity and using it as a cover for his abuse.


*Citations in this post are shown in grey, with each item designated by a capital letter.
The Chris Moles Digest gives a link to each item cited by a capital letter.

All scripture quotations are from the New Matthew Bible, unless otherwise indicated.

¹ The Oct 28 2003 rant at churchplantrant.blogspot.comHere is the all-caps wording at the top of that blog page. Truly, you can’t make this stuff up —


Further reading

Lordship Salvation versus Easy Believism versus Reformed Theology

The prevalent false gospel among us–”No one is beyond God’s mercy”

Nebuchadnezzar’s recognition of the true and living God 

Can someone be an abuser and be a Christian?

Snakes, spiders and pit bulls

Imagine if pit bull terriers and poisonous snakes and spiders were commonly used as companion animals. Imagine if they were common in homes, schools, nursing homes, churches and missionary organizations.

And now imagine that a skilled animal-handler found a way to train pit bulls, snakes and spiders so that a few of them did not bite…but the training worked on only a few of them. No matter how hard the super-skilled trainer did his or her amazing stuff, the vast majority of those animals could not be trained.

Would it be sensible to say “Let’s teach all the animal trainers to use these amazing techniques so that a few less people are hurt by snakes, spiders and pit bulls?”

Or would it be more sensible to just ban poisonous snakes, spiders and pit bulls?

Of course, the analogy is imperfect…and I mean no offence to real snakes and spiders as they have a place in the ecosystem!  But I think you get my point.

Psalm 15:1-4   NASB
O LORD, who may abide in Your tent?
Who may dwell on Your holy hill?
He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness,
And speaks truth in his heart.
He does not slander with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbor,
Nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
In whose eyes a reprobate is despised,
But who honors those who fear the LORD;
He swears to his own hurt and does not change;


I would love to reconcile with my dad. But I need to see repentance.

I grew up in a Christian home. I should clarify, my mother’s faith was always an inspiration to me, but all I saw with my father’s so-called faith was hypocrisy and using the Bible as a weapon against others.

Then one day, my mother came to me weeping over my father’s actions towards her. She had nowhere else to go, as over the years she had become more and more isolated, and bought into the lie that as a good Christian woman she shouldn’t talk about her marriage issues with anyone and cover her husband’s sin.

She came to me out of sheer desperation because the emotional abuse had got so severe. I was shocked but strangely not surprised. I guess I had always seen my father’s antics, just was surprised how far he had taken things this time.

I begged mum to go get help from another Godly couple we know (who have been a true blessing to her through this!) I begged mum to not go back to my dad but to separate from him. Enough was enough. I told her his behaviour was abusive.

Meanwhile, I confronted my dad directly. I heard his side of the story.

I tried pleading with him initially to go get counselling. He agreed to do so, only to twist their words and use them as validation for his behaviour! I was so horrified.

At that point I realised that he was emotionally manipulating everyone (including me)!  I had never seriously thought of my dad as being manipulative, I think because growing up he used overt control and didn’t need to be subversive with me about it!

I realised at this point that pleading with him would only serve to further his cause. He wanted compassion and he wanted allies. He would just continue shifting goalposts and deflecting issues until he wore me down.

So I took a firm stand against him. I told him I would never agree with him, that what he was doing was sin and he was in a dangerous place with God.

At first he was angry with me, and then when he realised I wouldn’t sway from my convictions he told me that I didn’t have to agree with him – but I had to ‘accept’ what he was doing.

It’s just a play on words – in his mind acceptance will just flow on to agreement, and I have seen so many people fall into this trap with him already. They tell him they don’t agree, but they continue to have a relationship with him in the hope that one day he might magically change his mind. Meanwhile he tells everyone else that these people agree with him that my mother is a horrible person! These people (including family members) foolishly try to walk the path of neutrality, and they don’t realise they HAVE by default chosen a side…the side of the abuser!

I told my father I would not accept what he was doing. He threatened to not come around anymore if I was going to ‘lecture’ him every time he did (translation: disagree with him and call him out on his sin) and I told him perhaps that was best. At that moment he freaked out because his threat was just a bluff. Then he pulled out all the stops – accusing me of being a self-righteous, judgemental Christian with conditional love. According to him I was giving him ultimatums, I was threatening to cut him off (even though two seconds before HE was threatening to not see me anymore!) I was wanting to punish him. It was insane and heavy. He became desperate and bullying. After this altercation I told him repeatedly (and respectfully) to give me time and space and he refused. He attempted to bulldoze my boundaries about four times and in the end my husband had to step in and tell him he wasn’t welcome in our lives until he ‘pulled his head out’.

So now here I am. I haven’t spoken to my father in a while now. He refuses to repent or show even remorse. He has lied repeatedly. All the while he has played the victim which makes me so flipping angry, when all that has happened is a result of his choices! He has always blamed everyone else for his problems, and now he is out of control.

I feel a strong conviction in my spirit to have nothing to do with him. Until he repents. IF he repents (which I sadly fear he may never). Not to punish him, but to protect myself and my family from his evil.

Now I am struggling against the enormous pressure to resume a relationship with my dad despite his sin and lack of repentance. I hear “but he’s your dad!” Apparently, it’s acceptable to cut all toxic relationships from your life EXCEPT if it’s family. And yet it’s family that can do the most damage if they are toxic.

I feel other people’s judgement, that somehow I am not a loving person because I can’t accept my dad for “who he is” and forgive him. I judge myself worst of all. I am constantly at war with myself, battling the lies my dad has spoken over me (judgmental, self-righeous, punishing him…)

I can forgive him, but I cannot comprehend a relationship with him if he is unrepentant. I don’t even know how that can work. It sends my soul into turmoil at the thought of it. I get fearful and anxious at the thought of him being in my life given his toxic behaviour.

I sometimes battle with intense anger. I wonder why I am the one with all the expectations on me to make the situation ‘right’ when I am not the one who caused all this mess – my mum and I are victims of it. Yet NO ONE except for me has stood firmly against my dad to defend my mum. All these people who know my mum’s character and can vouch for it…yet they keep trying to ‘love’ dad into repentance. It sounds so Christian, but it’s so twisted, and dad is lapping it up. It hurts my heart and I feel so alone sometimes.

It’s so jolly hard to decide not to have anything to do with your own father. I didn’t take my decision lightly, or impulsively. It’s even harder to deal with another Christian’s pressure to reconcile. I will say though, that my closest friends have been very supportive and understanding of my position and that is a true blessing.

I would love to reconcile with my dad. But I need to see repentance. Why is that so polarizing to Christians?!?!?


Thanks very much to Porcelain Warrior who gave us permission to publish her story as a stand-alone post.

She first put her story here, as a comment on Should biblical counselors put lots of energy into helping abusive men see their sins? (Part 8 in the Chris Moles series)


William Tyndale discusses faith in his Prologue to the Book of Romans

William Tyndale, 1494-1536

Faith is not man’s opinion and dream, as some imagine, and form their own ideas when they hear the story of the gospel. The cause is that when they hear the gospel or glad tidings, they fashion by their own strength certain imaginations and thoughts in their hearts, saying, I have heard the gospel; I remember the story; lo, I believe! And this they count true faith – which nevertheless, since it is but man’s imagination and assumption, does not profit. Neither do good works or a lasting amendment of life follow.

But true faith is a thing wrought by the Holy Spirit in us, which changes us, transforms our nature, begets us anew in God, and makes us the children of God, as you read in the first of John. A faith that is genuine kills the old Adam, and makes us altogether new in the heart, mind, will, desire, and in all our affections and powers of the soul, and brings the Holy Spirit with her.

Faith is a living thing, mighty in working, courageous and strong, ever doing, ever fruitful, so that it is impossible that the person endued with faith should not work good works. A person of faith does not ask whether good works are to be done or not, but has done them already, before mention be made of them. And he is always doing, for such is his nature now: a living faith in his heart, and the active moving of the Spirit, constrain him and stir him to this. Whoever does not do good works is an unbelieving person, and faithless, and looks around groping after faith and good works, but does not know what faith or good works are, even when he talks ever so much about faith and good works.

Faith is then a living and steadfast trust in the favour of God, whereby we commit ourselves altogether to God. And that trust is so surely grounded and sticks so fast in our hearts that a man would not once doubt of it, though he should die a thousand times for it. And such trust wrought by the Holy Spirit through faith makes a person glad, joyful, cheerful, and true-hearted, toward God and toward all creatures. And thus he or she is willingly and without compulsion glad and ready to do good to all, to render service to all, to suffer all things, so that God who has given him such grace may be loved and praised. So it is impossible to separate good works from faith, even as it is impossible to separate heat and burning from fire.

Therefore take heed to yourself. Beware of your own suppositions and imaginations, which to judge of faith and good works will seem wise, but indeed are blind, and of all things most unwise. Pray God that he will assent to work faith in your heart, or you will remain evermore faithless, however much you surmise, imagine, strengthen your resolve, wrestle with yourself, or do what you will or can.

From William Tyndale’s Prologue to Romans, Matthew’s Version Abridged (1537). The language has been gently updated into modern English by Ruth Magnusson Davis.

Unlike most of our Sunday posts, today’s post is not a sermon. But if you want to listen to a sermon, there are a vast number of Ps Sam Powell’s sermons on Sermon Audio.

Lastly, here is a hymn that one of our readers sent me.


Further reading

The Matthew Bible is the first complete English Bible, and Ruth M Davis is gently updating it for modern readers – in this post you will find out more about William Tyndale. He translated the Greek New Testament and about half of Hebrew Old Testament, but was taken captive and martyred before he could complete his translation of the OT. His translations were incorporated in the Matthew Bible.