Why an Abuser Cannot be a Christian: The Argument Re-stated
I want to re-visit and re-affirm the fact — and it is a fact — that the abuser is not and cannot be a Christian. A person who is ruled by a mentality of entitlement, of power and control over others, who so lacks a conscience that he feels absolutely justified in the evil tactics he utilizes to get what he wants and to rule over his victims, is not a new creation in Christ. And I need to continue to affirm this because it is being denied in our churches. I know it is being denied because I continue to receive first-hand reports from Christians who are victims of terrible, ongoing (usually for decades) abuse who verify that their pastors and elders and fellow Christians are insisting that the abuser IS a Christian.
In this article then, I want to re-post Scripture which emphatically declares in plain, obvious terms that a truly re-generate person does not walk in the mentality and practices that the abuser does. A Christian can mistreat someone; but a Christian will repent of that sin and turn from it. Abusers do not. In their grandiose narcissism they refuse to receive correction, they will not acknowledge their sin and take full responsibility for it, and though they will claim repentance, their claim is a lie. They continue to walk in their sin. It is their nature. It is who they are. And that nature is the nature of the flesh, not of the new creation in Christ. Abusers are not Christians, and yet victims are being criticized and chastised by their pastors and fellow believers for making this conclusion.
Here is a description of the abuser and his goals taken from Lundy Bancroft’s lecture, the transcript of which is now posted on the Not Under Bondage website:
“I certainly know couples where the man is the nice guy and the woman is the not-nice person. It has nothing to do with who is nice people or who’s not nice people. It’s not that image of the world where somehow men are bad and women are good. But it’s about tyranny and it’s about fear and intimidation and it’s about the belief that you have the right to create fear and intimidation, and that you can count on other people to back you up.”
Surely no one who knows the Word of God is going to try to maintain that a person whose life-goal is to exercise tyranny over others, who craves instilling fear in others through intimidation and who absolutely believes they have the right to do this and that everyone else needs to back you up in your reign of terror, is a redeemed, regenerated child of God! Anyone who insists that an abuser is a Christian, or who even leaves the door open to the possibility, is either woefully ignorant of God’s Word, clueless as to the nature of abuse, or both.
There is no such thing as a “carnal Christian (i.e., someone who claims to be a Christian but habitually and characteristically lives according to their sinful flesh). That is a fallacy.
Romans 6:16-18 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
Nor is there any such thing as a Christian who believes in Jesus as Savior but who refuses to obey Him as Lord. These distortions of Scripture have been taught and spread about widely in various forms, but they are totally antithetical to the Word of God. If you are married to an abuser, as we are defining him, then you are married to an unsaved man. Of that you can be sure. A huge amount of your confusion will disappear once you realize this.
Here are just some samples of Scriptures that affirm this and that are as “unclear” as a Mack Truck bearing down upon you! Read through them, BELIEVE them because they are the Word of God, and be sure that you look to them and not the traditions of men that are so abundant in the church today:
Matthew 7:16-21 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
Luke 6:43-46 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”
John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
1 Corinthians 2:14-15 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
1 John 4:6-8 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
1 John 4:20-21 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
1 John 5:1-3 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
You know that I could go on and on and on from Genesis to Revelation, citing verses that affirm these things about the Christian.
Why don’t we get this straight then?
In light of this mountain of Scripture that even defines a Christian as someone who has been re-born, how is it possible that we teach that a new creation looks like the same old person? There are several reasons, and none of them are good.
First, the gospel is often turned into a message of what we call easy-believism. A person walks forward in a church service or prays a simple pray asking Jesus into their heart, or signs some kind of pledge form at an evangelistic event. Voila! They are a Christian. But old things don’t seem to have passed away. Time goes on and they are the same old person they have always been, only now they are told that they are on their way to heaven.
Let me introduce you to another errant system of theology known, among other names, as the Federal Vision (or the New Perspective on Paul or Auburn Avenue Theology). We need to understand why this teaching is very likely to promote the suffering of an abuse victim in her church. The FV is not by any means the only source of the terrible counsel being pressed upon victims, but it certainly will produce that bad counsel — so we all need to be very much aware of it. FV takes different forms and nuances and goes by different names, but this is what is normally says, at least in part: A Christian’s assurance of his salvation is his baptism. The Christian should not look to himself for assurance that he is righteous before God, but to the objective fact that he has been baptized. The church consists of people who are in a covenant standing with Christ, and they got into that covenant by baptism. Even if their baptism was when they were an infant, it is that baptism that puts them into the church. They are to be considered a Christian until they prove otherwise by failing to perfect their justification by working out their baptism.
Now I realize that I will probably get slammed from the various proponents of FV theology here because their system is very, very difficult to understand and they are all the time claiming that we just don’t understand what they are saying. Well, I can understand the Word of God, and if I cannot understand someone’s system of theology, then I suggest that they need to make it understandable. But I have had enough personal contact with FV adherents that I know that these things are present to a greater or lesser extent in the FV. One of them came up to me once and said, “Jeff, our problem here is that you and I just don’t agree what a Christian is, or what the church is.” He was right. We don’t agree. And it wasn’t long before we confronted him with what he was spreading around our church and he went out from us.
What does this description of FV theology sound like to you? I hope that many of you are saying “Roman Catholicism.” Catholic folks are more than welcome on this blog and if any of them are in an abusive relationship, we want to help them. But we do not believe Roman theology is biblical and we do not believe that there is salvation to be found in its definition of justification.
Alright then, why is this FV system the enemy of abuse victims? Because pastors and Christians who adhere to it will insist that if an abuser has been baptized, he is to be considered a Christian. He is viewed by them as truly in Christ’s church. Therefore, they will tell his victim that she has no right to conclude that her abuser is an unsaved, unregenerate man. And all of the counseling will be based upon this assumption. By the way, FV theology crops up in paedo-baptism churches (infant baptism). It is an error that is spreading through Presbyterian churches. The PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) has determined that it is incompatible with the Westminster Standards (Confession of Faith and Catechism) which are the doctrinal standards of conservative Presbyterian churches. To his credit, R.C. Sproul and others in the PCA have stood solidly against the FV. But I do not know if any pastor or elder or church has been put out of the PCA at this point for embracing FV.
Does all of that sound complicated? You know, man-made systems are complicated and confusing. God’s Word can be deep and profound and His nature is incomprehensible in the sense that we can never completely plumb the depths of the knowledge of God and His truth. But His Word is nevertheless plain. And I ask you, in light of the Holy Scriptures, can a man who believes that the universe revolves around him, that he is therefore entitled to the very worship of his wife and children, that he is entitled to a god-like power and control over others, and that with no pangs of conscience he can rest completely justified in exercising his evil tactics to maintain that power and control – I ask you…. in spite of what men say, even if they have theological degrees and are highly regarded in their religious communities as great scholars… in spite of what they say… I ask you — what does the Word of God give as an answer to this question?
We implore you to be a Berean. Search the Scriptures and hold to Christ’s truth as your anchor. Then take heart and know that what God says is true, even if every person on earth is lying to you.
Romans 2:28-29 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.