Chris Moles says he works with men who abuse their wives/girlfriends because he believes that “The most effective means of reducing violence against women is addressing the hearts of men.” (C 22:45*)
But he didn’t get into working in this field because he believed that. His initial motivation was much more worldly.
He often tells the story of how in his early days as a church planter he was praying for something to do, because he needed help connecting with the community. And soon after that a local police officer asked him if he would work with kids who were under the juvenile crime board (F 01:57; H 02:07). Chris accepted the invitation. After a few years he was asked if he would work in Batterer Intervention Programs for the county parole board. He said no… until he was told how much they would pay him (N 36:00; C 3:22-5:35, B 4:45 to 5:36). He admits he has embroidered the story slightly and giggles because the story is self-deprecating… but it’s obvious that he enjoys getting his audience to laugh.
(side question: Is it right for a Christian to embroider the truth in order to ‘get a laugh’?)
When Chris agreed to work in batterer intervention, the county sent him to training where he learned how to facilitate a Duluth Model Batterer Intervention Program. In these programs, two facilitators meet weekly with a group of abusive men. The facilitators put a lot of energy into confronting and drawing out the abusive men to admit to the specifics of what they have done wrong, and then to acknowledge their mindset of entitlement, i.e., their belief that they are entitled to maintain power and control over their wives/partners. It is a combination of confrontation and education. The goal of these programs is to get the men to renounce their overblown entitlement and their misuse of power and to respect women – especially any intimate partner they might have.
Chris and his co-facilitator Kim have developed a christianized version of the Duluth program and they use this in the groups they run for their county’s probation department. The abusive men are mandated to attend for eight months; they have either been convicted of domestic violence crimes or are subject to protection orders (H* 0:58).
Since he began doing this work for the government, Chris has also started running private programs for men who are willing to pay, which includes doing individual counseling with abusive men.
How Chris Moles works with abusive men
When working with men who engage in domestic abuse, Chris gathers data from whatever sources are available in order to get a picture of the abuser’s behavior and attitudes. He sources data from the man’s pastor (if there is one), from police or court reports, the victim’s advocate/counselor, and the answers the abusive man gives to Chris’s questions.
In his book, Chris gives a case study of Patrick. Patrick had come home late intoxicated and when his wife questioned him about where he had been and his intoxicated state he flew into a rage, screamed, accused her of adultery, demanded dinner, restrained her and slapped her. According to Chris:
“I will ask [Patrick] questions and apply truth in order to help him identify the problem. …Patrick may be struggling to see that he has done anything wrong other than restrain his wife. I’m not merely reprimanding him, I’m attempting to equip him to see, and acknowledge his sinful behavior. Self reflection is necessary at this point. I’m not merely trying to punish him but give him the resources to see and then respond to his guilt.” (M 31-32)
Chris then does even more work with (for?) the abuser to educate/confront him about his prideful heart and mentality of entitlement, in the hope of getting the abuser to change.
Chris talks about three possible stages (Z 1:35:12) in dealing with the abusive man. Here is my understanding of what Chris teaches about the three stages. Each bullet point is something which Chris teaches —
The Information Stage: Address the abuser’s gross violation of the marriage covenant by bringing to the light his abuse tactics, coercive control and sinful use of power.
- Use Proverbs 6:16-19 (things that God hates) to uncover and get the abusers to admit to the ways they have done all those things God hates. (C 52:33)
- Address the heart. Approach each abusive behavior with a ‘what’-based question. “When you called her that name, what did you want to accomplish? What did you want to happen?” (C 56:45)
- Teach the abusive men a principle from James 4: “We do what we do because we want what we want. And we want what we want because we think what we think.” (C 44:25.)
- Tell abusive men that their wrong thinking comes from the pride in their hearts, and the consequences and fruits of pride are:
- it distorts our view of authority, it inflates our own importance (C 45:30)
- it leads us to make demands of others
- it leads us to have unfair expectations in which the price tags are always changing (C 48:00)
- it allows us to justify inappropriate behavior, it takes us to places that we normally wouldn’t go (C 49:10)
- it pushes aside responsibility and quickly makes excuses
- and it quickly voices concerns and opinions.
- Work to “promote biblical confession” – get the abuser to acknowledge it was wrong and the impact it had on the victim. (C 56:45)
The Transformation Stage: Chris calls this the pivot point (H 17:00). And Chris recognizes that no one can force the abuser to repentance because that is between the abusive man and God. But Chris believes that biblical counselors can play a secondary part in this.
- We can lead a horse to water but we can’t make him drink…but we can feed him crackers [so he gets thirsty]. (H 17:30)
- Offer hope – that’s the gospel. The only solution for this awful behavior and the guilt shame and pain that it has caused, is Jesus Christ. (C 56:45)
- Look to see the abuser turning from sin. Look for the abuser to say, ‘I’ve done wrong. I want to commit to being God’s type of person.’ (C 01:02:25)
The Reformation Stage: The abusive man’s admission of sin is not enough, we then need to see evidence of the man’s repentance: we need to look for good fruit on the tree.
- For assessing evidentiary repentance, use Ephesians 4: “When do we know a thief is no longer a thief? When he is generous. When do we know an abuser is no longer an abuser? When he becomes an encourager.” (M 92-3)
- Set concrete goals for the man and share them with the elders, so the elders and any others who are part of the accountability-net can really measure the man’s change over the next six months. This is not just hoops to jump through, but looking for new heart, new motives, new attitude, gentleness.
- Church discipline and restoration can be part of this (~C 1:03).
- Two errors elders often make in carrying out church discipline:
- When using Matthew 18, the elders often ignore the fact that the wife has already confronted the abuser, so they start the Matthew 18 process from step one. By disregarding the fact that the wife has already confronted her husband, they show no respect for her as a believer in Christ (C 1:04:55).
- The elders require the parties do something as part of church discipline which would violate a court order like a no-contact order (C 1:06:15).
You may be asking: “What is wrong with this? If abusive men change and become non-abusive men, isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t that what we long for?”
Yes it is…but Chris is working from some fundamental presuppositions that, as a Bible-believing Christian, I must to call into question.
Chris Moles works from three faulty premises
: 1. He assumes that addressing the hearts of abusive men is the most effective means of reducing violence against women.
: 2. He teaches that when biblical counselors work with abusive men they should devote a lot of time getting the abusive men to “see their sins” and “have insight into their sins”.
: 3. He disregards the Bible’s instructions about how Christians are to respond to abusers.
In the next three posts in this series, I will explain why I find those points so troubling. Stay tuned!
And if you have not yet done so, let me encourage you to follow our blog so you will receive an email each time we publish a new post.
*Citations in this post are shown in grey, with each item designated by a capital letter.
Our Chris Moles Digest gives a link to each item cited by a capital letter.
Are there times when you are writing a comment that you wish you could italicize a word or make it bold? Resorting to ALL CAPS is an option when wanting to draw attention to text, but it’s frowned upon online because it comes across as if the commenter is yelling or screaming at the reader. And a lot of ALL CAPS can be hard to read. Barbara and I have access on the backend of the blog to make words italicize or bold, but you could only add these features if you knew HTML coding.
Some of you may be familiar with Markdown, a text-to-HTML conversion tool. For those who are not – according to its maker, John Gruber, “Markdown allows you to write using easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format, then convert it to structurally valid HTML.” When using Markdown with WordPress it allows one a basic way to style text and WordPress does the conversion to official HTML text.
Enough techno talk. I want to show you, the commenter, one way that you can add two commonly used features to your comment: italic and bold
Italic (i.e. emphasize a word)
To italicize a word in your comment simply add the * symbol (found as the uppercase 8 key on your keyboard) directly before and after the word you want to emphasize. Note: Do not leave a space between * and the word as the example shows. I had to leave a space so you could see the example, otherwise, WordPress would do the conversion and all you would see is the end result.
For example: * emphasize *
Bold (i.e. strong emphasis)
To bold a word in your comment simply add the ** symbol (found as the uppercase 8 key on your keyboard) directly before and after the word you want to make strong. Again note: Do not leave a space between ** and the word.
For example: ** Bold **
When you hit ‘send’ for your comment, WordPress will convert your symbols to official HTML and your comment will appear on the blog with your word(s) being italicized or bold.
(There is another way to add italics and a strong emphasis to a word, but we are only going to show one way.)
More about Markdown
Markdown Quick Reference Guide – from WordPress
Note: WordPress does *NOT* support Markdown’s line break capability.
Markdown – Wikipedia (an overview)
Mastering Markdown (download PDF version option, less technical)
What is Markdown? (more technical information)
We encourage those who want to give Markdown a try, to do so. Don’t worry if there are some oops at times in your comments. Barbara and I will try to help and/or fix things on our end, if needed. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at email@example.com. But in full disclosure I’m on the learning curve with this just as much as you may be.
The Bible makes a distinction between unintentional sin and intentional sin. This is important when we consider how we, as Christians, are to respond to domestic abusers.
The distinction is set out in the Law which Moses gave to the people of Israel. Numbers 15:22-31, NKJ –
Laws Concerning Unintentional Sin
If you sin unintentionally, and do not observe all these commandments which the Lord has spoken to Moses— all that the Lord has commanded you by the hand of Moses, from the day the Lord gave commandment and onward throughout your generations— then it will be, if it is unintentionally committed, without the knowledge of the congregation, that the whole congregation shall offer one young bull as a burnt offering, as a sweet aroma to the Lord, with its grain offering and its drink offering, according to the ordinance, and one kid of the goats as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for the whole congregation of the children of Israel, and it shall be forgiven them, for it was unintentional; they shall bring their offering, an offering made by fire to the Lord, and their sin offering before the Lord, for their unintended sin. It shall be forgiven the whole congregation of the children of Israel and the stranger who dwells among them, because all the people did it unintentionally.
And if a person sins unintentionally, then he shall bring a female goat in its first year as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for the person who sins unintentionally, when he sins unintentionally before the Lord, to make atonement for him; and it shall be forgiven him. You shall have one law for him who sins unintentionally, for him who is native-born among the children of Israel and for the stranger who dwells among them.
Law Concerning Presumptuous Sin
But the person who does anything [e]presumptuously, whether he is native-born or a stranger, that one [f]brings reproach on the Lord, and he shall be [g]cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the Lord, and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt shall be upon him.
[e] defiantly, lit. with a high hand
[g] put to death
Here it is again in the Law of Moses. Deuteronomy 17:8-13 NKJ emphasis added –
If a matter arises which is too hard for you to judge, between degrees of guilt for bloodshed, between one judgment or another, or between one punishment or another, matters of controversy within your gates, then you shall arise and go up to the place which the Lord your God chooses. And you shall come to the priests, the Levites, and to the judge there in those days, and inquire of them; they shall pronounce upon you the sentence of judgment. You shall do according to the sentence which they pronounce upon you in that place which the Lord chooses. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they order you. According to the sentence of the law in which they instruct you, according to the judgment which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left from the sentence which they pronounce upon you.
Now the man who acts presumptuously and will not heed the priest who stands to minister there before the Lord your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall put away the evil from Israel. And all the people shall hear and fear, and no longer act presumptuously.
The wrath of the Law for intentional sinners is reiterated by John the Baptist and Jesus
Here is John the Baptist speaking to abusers (Pharisees and Sadducees) who were hypocritically asking for baptism:
Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? (Matt 3:7; Luke 3:7 NKJ)
And here is Jesus speaking to the Pharisees:
Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? (Matt 12:34 NKJ)
Serpents and offspring of vipers, how can you escape the judgment of hell? (Matt 23:33 NMB)
The Apostle Peter talks about presumptuous sin
2 Peter 2:9-22 NMB, emphasis added –
So then, the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of affliction, and how to reserve the unjust for the day of judgment, to be punished; namely those who walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise authority. Presumptuous they are, and stubborn, and fear not to speak evil of those who are in authority, whereas the angels, who are greater both in power and might, do not bring railing judgment against them before the Lord. But these, like brute beasts by nature born to be captured and destroyed, speak evil of that which they do not understand, and shall perish through their own destruction, and receive the reward of unrighteousness.
They count it pleasure to live deliciously for a season. Spots they are, and vileness, living at pleasure, and in deceptive ways feasting with you, having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease to sin, beguiling unstable souls. Hearts they have exercised with covetousness. They are cursed children, and have forsaken the right way, and have gone astray, following the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the reward of unrighteousness – but was rebuked for his iniquity: the tame and dumb beast, speaking with man’s voice, opposed the foolishness of the prophet.
These are wells without water, and clouds carried about by a tempest, for whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever. For when they have spoken the swelling words of vanity, they beguile with wantonness through the lusts of the flesh those who were clean escaped, but now are wrapped in errors. They promise them liberty, and are themselves the bond-servants of corruption. For by whomever a person is overcome, to him he is in bondage.
For if, after they have escaped from the corruption of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and of the Saviour Jesus Christ, they are yet tangled again in it and overcome, then is the latter end worse with them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment given to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb: The dog is turned to his vomit again, and the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire.
Paul says he received mercy because he did not sin against God’s people intentionally
Before I was a blasphemer and a persecutor, and full of violence. But I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly, through unbelief. (1 Tim 1:13)
What lessons can we draw from all this?
Even unbelievers instinctively know that there is a difference between intentional sin and unintentional sin.
And abusers know how much leverage they can get if they convince people that they ‘didn’t mean to hurt anyone’.
But very few pastors these days expound on how God’s Law distinguishes between intentional sin and unintentional sin. Furthermore, I suggest that few biblical counselors are detecting how intentional are the sins of abusers.
I am publishing this post today because I will be referring to it in my Chris Moles series.
Further reading and listening
The baptism of John the Baptist – sermon by Ps Jeff Crippen
Judging, Specks, and Logs
Matthew 7:1-6 ESV
Ps. Jeff Crippen
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
Chris Moles uses some wording that can endorse the abuser’s narrative. I will give three examples of this.
Chris’s language permits the abuser to evade responsibility for his wrong choices.
Chris wrote a blog post aimed at abusive men – ‘Telling The Truth To Yourself’ (T*). In that post he used some language that in my view permits the abuser to hold himself at arm’s length from his wrong choices. It is subtle; see if you can pick up the three places where Chris did this in the following paragraph:
Our pride convinces us that wicked behavior is sometimes necessary to maintain control or that malicious intent is justified when we feel wronged. This attitude may have led you to physically harm your partner or to call her ugly names. Perhaps you’ve thrown things across the room or punched holes in the walls to communicate you’re not pleased with her choices. If any of this is true than you may also find it necessary to hide certain details, bend certain truths to minimize your behavior while emphasizing the ways in which you’ve been wronged. (T*)
Number one, Chris used a passive verbal structure here: “our pride convinces us”. In that syntax, “pride” is the subject and “us” is the object. Pride (an abstract entity) convinces “us” (the abusive men). So the abusive men are the ones who are somehow convinced by the entity called pride. Chris would be better to have said: “Abusive men are prideful and they usually justify their wicked behaviour because they do not want to humble themselves.” That would make the abusive men the subject of the verbs and the authors of the wickedness.
Number two, when addressing abusive men Chris talks about “us” – thereby aligning himself with the abusive men. I don’t think for a moment that Chris is a wife abuser, but his language there leaves it vague. Why does he talk about “us” when addressing abusive men? By doing that, he is implying or suggesting to abusive men that he, Chris, is like them, the men who abuse their wives and partners. So Chris’s language indicates that he comes over into the abusive man’s camp. Presumably Chris thinks his approach will help the abusive man feel less shamed, less singled out, and therefore make the abuser less unwilling to admit, confess and repent. But Chris is unwise and mistaken. Abusive men love being given the sense that they are ‘just like other blokes’. In that blog post, Chris was not hard enough, not firm enough, not direct enough with abusive men.
Number three, Chris endorses the abuser’s narrative when he writes to the abusive man: “you may also find it necessary to hide certain details, bend certain truths”. By writing that, Chris colluded with the abusive man’s narrative. When pressed, the abusive man will say or imply that he “found it necessary” to tell falsehoods to save face. Chris would have been better to use this wording when speaking to the abusive man: “If you are denying and wrongfully justifying your wicked behaviour, you are probably also hiding certain details, bending certain truths…” That would be direct and truthful, hitting the abuser between the eyes, giving him no excuses. Calling him to repentance, and tolerating no weasel words from the abuser.
So I have to wonder: if Chris is going softly-softly on abusive men in a generalized blog post, how much is he going softly-softly on abusive men he works with face to face? Maybe less… maybe more.
Chris did not correct Darby Strickland when she used language that endorsed the abuser’s narrative.
Darby is a counselor with CCEF (Christian Counseling & Education Foundation). She is working with abusers and their victims, and she is training other biblical counselors how to counsel in cases of domestic abuse.
In a podcast interview (R) that Chris did with Darby Strickland, Darby said to Chris that abusers “lack insight” into the harm they are doing.
She then recounted an example of how she prompts/urges an abuser to change. In this example she said to the abuser, “It’s hard for you, given that your wife is nagging… how can you serve her better?”
Darby then said to Chris: “I don’t even want to have a debate whether she’s nagging or not. That’s their [the abuser’s] reality.”
Chris did not seem to have any concern about the way Darby spoke to that abuser. He didn’t pull Darby up for repeating back to the abuser’s the derogatory (& false) accusation that the abuser’s wife was ‘nagging’.
Let me ask you, dear reader, to take a breath and zoom out for a moment. I want to talk about a common problem in the counseling field when it comes to abuse.
When people are trained to be counselors, they are taught to be reflective listeners. One skill in reflective listening is to repeat back to the client some of the words the client has used. That assures the client that the counselor has listened carefully to the client. In counseling, it is usually a good technique because it builds empathy in the therapeutic relationship.
But if the counselor repeats back to an abuser the derogatory language he used about his victim without calling him out on it, that counselor is endorsing the abuser’s narrative! The counselor is going along with the abuser’s distorted thinking and beliefs. The abuser gets the message: This counselor agrees with me that my wife is a nag! Now I can go and tell my wife that the counselor says she is a nag!
Chris did not pull up Darby on her use of language. He just responded by telling Darby:
That’s very helpful. I was thinking about guys [I have worked with] over the years, and such a common conversation is the frustration that men in particular who have had power – the frustration of letting go of that power, not abusing that power, as if it’s an impossibility [to let go of their power]. They say, “It’s so hard.” And I will reply with, “Hard is not impossible. Hard is the reality; that’s the expectation. The good news for us is the gospel, and in particular the New Testament, is so rich with instruction for how to do that. And the necessity of it. Hey, if you want to save your life you’ve got to lose it; if you want to lead well you’ve got to serve; if you want to be first you’ve got to be last.”
If you think I’m assuming too much about Darby Strickland buying in to the abuser’s narrative, let me share with you another thing about her. Jason Meyer, the senior pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church, also endorses Darby Strickland. Here is what he said about her in Nov 2017.
I love her God-centered approach to addressing abusive marriages. She says that the goal of such counseling is “redeeming worshipers from oppression.” She says that when God’s people were oppressed in Egypt, God’s word was “Let my people go so they may worship me.” In abusive marriages, one is an oppressor who is “enslaved to the desire to be served, instead of serving the Lord.” The other person is the “oppressed who is trying to serve and follow the rules of the oppressor.” She believes that both spouses need to be set free so they can worship the Lord.
To believe that the abuser is oppressed by being “enslaved to the desire to be served” is to buy in to the abuser’s narrative. It helps the abusers play the poor-me card. Abusers can easily win allies if people see them that way.
And there is every indication Chris Moles thinks the same way that Darby does on this.
Chris excuses leaders who are too afraid to admit they gave bad advice.
When talking about the poor teaching Paige Patterson gave about domestic abuse (S), Chris said:
It’s unfortunate that we continue to hold our leaders in such high regard that they’re not able to look at us and say “I don’t know,” or “I really messed that one up.” Now certainly, I think Dr Patterson and others could be more humble in this regard, but that’s between them and God, not me. (3:40)
So Chris blamed the people in the pews for holding church leaders in such high regard that the leaders are not able to admit they were wrong! Chris exonerated the bad leaders and handed them an excuse on a platter.
*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.
I believe Chris Moles walks the fence and curries popularity by not sternly admonishing church leaders for how they often mishandle domestic abuse.
In his book, Chris Moles recounts how he was invited to speak to a group of Christian women who had questions that their women’s advocate was not equipped to answer:
This was my first experience of ministering to a group serving victims.
… The small house appeared abandoned with overgrown lawn, drawn blinds, and no signs of life. … it served as a branch office of the local shelter. It was an out of the way undisclosed location where workers offered various services to victims of domestic violence. …
What struck me about that meeting were the stories of abuse. Those women had not endured a single abusive event, they had lived through decades of abusive, controlling and violent behavior. But that was not the only thing they had in common. The majority of the women in the room were now either being disciplined or shunned by their own church. The stories were nearly identical as they told of asking their pastor for help, attempting counseling, seeing their husband supported, and eventually – the tables turned on them.
Over half the women in this group were separated from their home church for filing for divorce after the abuse returned, while the husband remained in the church and one continued to serve in a leadership position. This is one small group, in one small town, in one state. In fact, stories such as these can be found throughout the country, as abusive people use the Bible, doctrinal positions, and church authority as means of controlling their partners. Many have begun describing this as spiritual abuse.
(“The Heart of Domestic Abuse” p 77. This book is item M in my list of citations at the Chris Moles Digest)
In that quote I’ve just given, Chris stated that “many have been describing this as spiritual abuse”. But he didn’t come right out and say that he describes it as spiritual abuse.
His failure to take a stand there is typical of how he walks the fence when it comes to admonishing churches for how they have been dealing with domestic abuse.
How poignant is that description of the house where the women’s group met? I’ve been to little houses like that myself when I was running the gauntlet post-separation.
Support services for victims of domestic abuse are dreadfully underfunded. These services often have to carry out their work from run-down, dilapidated, unkempt premises. The workers at those services put all their efforts into helping victims. Getting the grass at the front mown, or getting the shop-front spruced up, is not a high priority when their clients are facing serious threats from abusers and are on the brink of homelessness.
When frightened victims who are already suffering under a weight of shame go to those service agencies, they feel the shame and stigma even more. They get the message:– This is how much society values you. These unattractive premises is what our society is willing to provide to give a few crumbs of support to victims of domestic abuse.
I wonder if Chris saw the significance of that when he went to that little house. Did he see how demeaning it was for victims to hear that message from society?
Let us see how seriously Chris took the feedback he received from victims. Did it shape what he tells church leaders?
Women who are victims of domestic abuse told Chris how they had been disciplined or shunned by their churches for filing for divorce, so they ended up leaving the church while their abusive husbands remain in the church. You would think that ought to shape how Chris talks to church leaders.
Surely Chris would be shouting this from the rooftops, telling church leaders they must stop treating victims so unjustly?
In Appendix D of his book that I cited above, Chris advises church leaders about church discipline in cases of abuse. His Appendix D is titled Church Discipline and Domestic Abuse; it has three subheadings:
- Have we clearly identified the offense?
- When appropriate, seek the victim’s consent and assistance.
Consider your options: Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5.
- Call the offender to repentance
You will have noticed that his point 2 is double-barreled. That in itself is confusing!
Here is Chris’s advice to church leaders about considering their options in church discipline:
Most church discipline operates under the direction of Matthew chapter 18 in which Jesus instructs us to confront a brother who sinned against us on an individual basis. If he is unrepentant we take along others to confront him, and so on. If the process is exhausted and he remains unrepentant we are instructed to treat him as an unbeliever. This process is utilized consistently in the life of the local church and most conflicts are resolved long before they reach a congregational level. While Matthew chapter 18 is the appropriate process for church discipline, the apostle Paul indicates that some behaviors cross the line, as it were, and require immediate action. Paul cites such a case in 1 Corinthians chapter 5 in which an individual engages in sexual relations with his step-mother. Paul calls for immediate removal from the fellowship. Church discipline does not appear to be “one size fits all” and requires wisdom when dealing with sinful behavior:
- Romans 16:17: Paul warns to avoid corrupt doctrine
- 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15: Paul warns against close fellowship with the idle and disobedient
- Titus 3:10: Paul instructs Titus to warn a divisive person twice and then separate.
Do any of the following – domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, or neglect warrant 1 Corinthians chapter 5 response by your church’s leadership? (ibid, p 144)
Since Chris took a ‘question-them-gently’ approach in this appendix which he wrote for church leaders, I will start by using that same approach with him. And I’ll refrain from putting my questions in bold (even though I would like to) because I’m trying to mimic Chris’s gentle question.
Here are the questions I put to Chris Moles:
- Chris, since you know that many victims are being disciplined or shunned by their churches while abusers are getting off scot free, is your question to church leaders adequate?
- And is posing a question to church leaders the best way to handle this problem?
- Wouldn’t it be better to given an admonishment to church leaders – with evidence of their sins, evidence you have heard from the multiple testimonies of abused Christian women?
- And after giving a strong reprimand to church leaders, wouldn’t it be best to give clear directives to church leaders, and back up those directives with scripture, rather than merely prompting church leaders to “consider their options”?
Now I will stop trying to copy Chris’s gentle style and go back to using my own voice.
Chris’s question to church leaders is pathetic. It is lame, timid, weak. It doesn’t cut to the chase. Why is he not telling church leaders that they are often treating victims with MASSIVE injustice?
Could it be that he doesn’t want to lose all those speaking engagements and book sales he gets from churches and biblical counseling organizations?
In this appendix, it sounds like Chris is almost sucking up to the church leaders. With all his so-called ability to call out abusers and put them on the carpet and lay biblical principles before them, why isn’t he doing that more with the church leaders who are systemically – yes, systemically – mistreating abused women in their churches? Why isn’t he calling those church leaders to repentance?
Why is he simply asking them a wee little question that he buried at the back of his book?
Why doesn’t he come out and say that 1 Corinthians 5 is the chief scripture to use when disciplining abusers? (Dear reader, if you want to understand why I think 1 Corinthians 5 is the chief scripture for dealing with domestic abusers, click here. )
Why doesn’t Chris Moles tell church leaders that abusers are manipulating the Matthew 18 process and that is one of the main reasons why the abusers are remaining in the congregation while the victims are slinking out the back door, tarred with the brush of stigma and shame?
Chris heard those women’s stories. And he does almost nothing about it.
I am saying ‘almost nothing’ to be fair to Chris, because I have found one place where he has been slightly more bold…and probably a few church leaders were in the audience at this talk (Q*) which he gave at a Biblical Counseling Conference in February 2018. This is what he said:
We have been doing a disservice to victims and perpetrators. I spend about a third of my time working with perpetrators, and a third answering emails from victims. The other third is made up of consulting with churches about cases, and defending biblical counselors.
I can’t tell you the numbers of survivors I know who have been disciplined out of their church because they refuse to submit to abusive husbands – but it’s a lot more than you probably think.
There’s far too many men who in the name of Jesus are not loving, they’re not being considerate, they’re not being gentle. They’re being oppressive. They’ve being manipulative. And they’re getting away with it.
And here’s the deal. I know us; we’re pretty bold. This is the one area that we need to really grow in our boldness. (Q 15:30)
Let us now go back to Appendix D in Chris’s book. In point 3 of that appendix Chris says:
Church discipline should not only be used as a means of protecting the victim and holding the offender accountable, but also as a means of reconciliation with God. The process can offer the abusive person concrete steps to repentance and expectations for moving forwards in holiness. The truth is an abusive person should not last long under the weight of church discipline. Their desire for control and beliefs of entitlement with either be crushed beneath the Gospel and repentance will lead to a brother won, or they will become emboldened by their own pride rejecting the church and the Gospel.
(“The Heart of Domestic Abuse” p 145)
What an unwise statement, given the testimonies Chris heard from those Christian women about how churches often side with abusers!
Those women told him how they had:
- asked their pastors for help
- attempted counseling (no doubt at the direction of the pastors)
- seen their husbands supported by the church leaders
- and eventually the church leaders turned the tables on the women.
I wish Chris would look at our FAQ page How does church discipline applies in cases of domestic abuse?
And I wish he would publicly repent of the foolish and limp advice he gave to church leaders in Appendix D of his book.
*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.