A Cry For Justice

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

Not all sinners are the same (advice for pastors Part 6, by Ps Jeff Crippen)

Proverbs 23:9 Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words.

One of the key truths every pastor must understand if he is to successfully deal with an abuser is simply this:  not all sinners are the same.  I will elaborate on this point in a moment, but first let me challenge our readers in regard to another point.

In the last installment of this series, I dealt with the sad truth that our churches are filled with unconverted people who are being told they are Christians and who are convinced of the same. I talked about some reasons for this, and those reasons were discussed in a meaty quote by J.I. Packer.

Before I get onto my main thesis in this post that Not All Sinners Are The Same, I want to make a point to all our readers: doctrine  and theology is important. I have noticed that when I write articles that deal with biblical doctrines — articles that for example discuss the Federal Vision theology, or the nature of true justification and so on — I notice that those articles do not get much of a reading.  At least they don’t get many comments.  I don’t know the reason for this, but I do want to challenge all of you in this respect.  At the root of all false practice is false doctrine.  And that means that there is a reason — a distortion of God’s Word — why abuse victims are being dealt such injustice in our churches and why abusers are being enabled.  You may not think that things like the Federal Vision theology (which is really just a return to Roman Catholic theology) or distortions of the doctrine of God’s covenants and so on, have anything to do with you and your experience.  But that is a wrong conclusion.  These kinds of errors have everything to do with all of the practical things we discuss on this blog.  When pastors give wrong, unjust, damaging counsel to victims of abuse, there is a theological and doctrinal reason for that injustice.

So especially if you are a survivor of abuse, please don’t tune out blog articles that sound “stuffy” to you!  The “stuff” of sound theology is vital to your soul and life.  Don’t make the error of identifying “theology” with the stuff pastors and churches have used to further your suffering.  That is distortion of God’s truth, but don’t throw out the truth!  If you think carefully about these things, you will find yourself coming to understand that victims of evil should become the wisest people in the world about evil, and that means becoming wise in God’s Word and wise in our ability to identify distortions of His Word.

Alright then, back to this matter of the different categories of sinners.  How many times have you heard, or perhaps have said yourself, “all of us are sinners.  We are the same”?  I suspect you have heard this many times.  It isn’t true, and let me show you what I mean by this.

All human beings are born into this world as sinners.  The moment we exit the womb (and even before!) we are rebels against God, despising His Word.  We do not become sinners by sinning.  We sin because we are sinners.  No one needs to teach us.  We know by nature and are, as Scripture says, children of wrath.  All of us need Christ.  All of us need to be born again by faith alone in Christ alone.  In that sense, we are all the same at the starting line of our earthly lives.  But while all sinners (and by the way, the Bible never calls Christians “sinners”), while all sinners share in certain characteristics, they are by no means the same.  And this means that if we embrace the simplistic and unbiblical notion that we are to deal with all sinners in the very same manner, we will be acting naively and even foolishly.  Proverbs makes it very plain, as do other Scriptures, that we do not treat “the fool” in a pleading, sympathetic, sacrificial manner, as we might other unsaved people.

John 8:43-45  Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.

Contrast Jesus’ manner here with his dealing with the Samaritan woman in John 4.

When it comes to dealing with abusers, pastors must grow up and be wise!  We must be innocent of evil and yet as wise as serpents in regard to it.  Abusers are not like other sinners.  Oh yes, it is possible that we could come across a man or woman who, out of ignorance, is not treating their spouse well.  But such a person will be quickly and rather easily corrected through biblical rebuke and instruction.  Not so the abuser.  Abusers, remember, are people who have a fundamental mindset of entitlement to power and control. They are the very center of their universe and they deem themselves fully justified in using whatever means necessary against their victims to control those victims.  Such a person is often a bull-blown sociopath.  He has no conscience and no ability to feel empathy for others.  If you approach such an individual in “love,” thinking that if you just paint them a clear enough picture of the harm they are doing to others that they will be heartbroken and repent, then you are going to fail.  They have no heart, you see, to be broken!  They are, in fact, evil.

Listen to these great words from Jan Silvious, author of Fool-Proofing Your Life:

The apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Rome with these instructions:
Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. (Romans 12:14-18, NASB)

Peace with everyone surely is the goal for us as believers. But it is not always possible. When you encounter a situation that has a one-sided peace, then living with the fallout can leave you exhausted and bewildered. Over the years I have spent many hours “riding the ambulance” with too many people who have been wounded (and sometimes “left for dead”) by someone they loved or were tied to through blood. I have seen too many people locked in a grid of fright, guilt, and anger because of the “shoulds” and the “oughts” that have been used as weapons to force them into an uneasy peace. I have seen many of them turn to the church or to well-meaning, believing friends or relatives only to experience a total lack of understanding of what they are going through as they try to relate to a person who abhors peace. So often, the person who is doing the “trying” is the one who is blamed if peace doesn’t work. This ought not to be!

Well over fifteen years ago I began to see patterns in the people who crossed my path as I spoke around the country and as I worked in a counseling office. Their symptoms were the same, and the “methods” used by their difficult person were the same. In each instance, with very little deviation, I saw a person who wanted a decent relationship living as a hostage of someone who was unwilling to take personal responsibility for his or her actions. I was amazed to note that it did not matter whether the hostage-taker was a mother, a husband, a child, a sister, a friend, or a boss; the behavior was the same, and the results were the same. One person held control and through open rage, passive anger, oily manipulation, or sullen silence stubbornly refused to release his grip.

It became more and more obvious to me that the people who consistently operated this way were in a category all their own, yet many Christians I talked with failed to see that the traditional, even biblical, way of handling most relational difficulties might need to be reexamined when this kind of person was part of the equation. They continued to bash their heads and hearts against the proverbial wall, hoping against hope that this time things would be different.

I can tell you from extensive experience in working with people ensnared in relationships with fools that becoming disentangled requires extraordinary discernment and God-given wisdom. You may not immediately recognize when you’re dealing with a fool, but when an ordinary relational predicament turns into a morass of confusion and conflict, you need to consider the possibility that the skills that work for most relationships just won’t work in this one. You must master an alternative set of relational skills if you want to survive the relationship. It is relational suicide to assume you can win over a fool by argument, sweet reasonableness, or any other common wisdom. Even the Christian virtues like gentleness, patience, and turning the other cheek may only get you in a deeper mess. To relate to a fool takes an uncommon prudence that can be gleaned only by those who truly desire it. I call that wisdom ‘relational intelligence.’

Silvious, Jan (2009-09-11). Foolproofing Your Life: How to Deal Effectively with the Impossible People in Your Life (p. 8-11). Random House, Kindle Edition.

Pastors, of all people, must get a firm hold on these facts.  That abuser who has been exposed in your congregation is not your ordinary sinner.  He or she is a hard, hard case who, more often than not, must be sent away from your church for the protection of your flock and in particular for the safety of the victim. Send the abuser to specialized treatment if he will go and pour your efforts into ministering to his victim.  The grim reality is that very, very, very few such people ever change.  Realizing this is an important and fundamental first step in being wise about such evil.

Go to Part 5 of this series      Go to Part 7 of this series

25 Comments

  1. Really love Jan’s book “Foolproofing Your Life.” I have about five copies that are forever out on loan, sadly.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Morven- Yes, it is really great. I think everyone ought to read it along with Martha Stout’s The Sociopath Next Door and of course George Simon’s two books In Sheep’s Clothing and Character Disturbance. Those few books would make a world of difference in the wisdom of anyone and would serve to wise up pastors who are so often duped by these –is the title “demons” too harsh?

      • Nope, not harsh enough. Just suffice it to say that I’m glad I am not the Judge on the day they meet their Creator.

    • Without wanting to be objectionable here, I feel I should draw our readers’ attention to the fact that one of our readers (Jodi) has said she found one flaw in “Foolproofing Your Life”. Jodi said, “Foolproofing your life- it was ok – but the author states that even if you “feel like a prostitute” when having sex with your husband , you are still biblically expected to do it. She didn’t touch on sexual abuse at all, but I wondered what your reaction to that statement would be. I struggled A LOT with that scripture because sleeping with my husband was something that literally made my skin crawl.”
      You can go to Jodi’s comment by clicking here.
      I would be interested in other people’s views about Jodi’s comment, as I have not yet read Foolproofing Your Life.

      • Little Miss Me

        Interesting – I started reading the book last night based on the passage quoted above, like it so far. But while I read I’ll keep in mind Jodi’s concern and keep my head about not feeling like staying with him and/or subjecting myself to more pain is what God wants.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Barbara – Thanks for the reminder. I had forgotten that there are one or two places in Silvious’ book that I didn’t agree with. I still recommend the book highly if readers can just disregard those places. Here is one, quoted from her page 175ff where she doesn’t seem to understand that abuse is grounds for divorce:

        UNTANGLING THE TIGHTEST KNOTS You might be thinking, This is all great stuff, Jan, but you don’t know what it’s like in my world. You don’t live in my house or deal with my fool. I can’t just “detach” and move on with my life. It’s not that simple! I hear you. Sometimes the strings that tie you to your fool are knotted so tightly you feel like there’s no way to get disentangled. After all, you may even be married to your beloved fool. How on earth do you manage to disengage from a spouse’s control and remain married? If you have no biblical grounds to divorce, what are you to do? Your fool hasn’t been unfaithful, nor has he abandoned you; in fact, he sticks closer to home than bubblegum on a shoe! This is not an uncommon problem, and it’s one that begs for a great deal of wisdom and understanding.

        As I see it, for a Christian who’s married to a fool, there are two options in the eyes of God. One is to remain married and to respond to the fool with a gentle, quiet spirit. For example, the apostle Peter offered advice to the woman whose husband is disobedient to the Word of God. A fool would qualify here. Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. (1 Peter 3:1-5) I believe the spirit of Peter’s advice (to live obediently to and in dependence on God) also applies to husbands married to foolish wives. If a husband or wife can tolerate living with a strife-filled mate, then that is what he or she needs to do, while maintaining an inner peace that hopes in God. If the strength or the inclination to do that just isn’t there, the apostle Paul offers additional advice in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11: “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband.” (Again, I believe Paul’s teaching applies equally to husbands.) If your spouse’s anger and strife are too much for you to bear and you do not feel you can continue to put up with the situation, you are free to separate from your spouse. From that point on, your option is either to reconcile with him or her or to remain unmarried. By reconciliation I do not mean going back for “more of the same” after a break from one another. Biblical reconciliation requires brokenness and humility within each individual, and that rarely comes quickly. The person who reconciles must be prepared by God to fit together with a mate who has been prepared by God as well. You may believe that true reconciliation is out of reach, and if you are married to a fool, you may be right. But don’t discount what God can do in a fool’s heart and mind when he or she is stripped of all the comforts of having a spouse! Until a fool is left by a mate seeking a saner and wiser way, why should he change in order to live at peace in the relationship? Granted, your spouse may cry “foul” and divorce you if you leave. If that happens, then your options change; but for the time being, if you find that you cannot live with your fool, God frees you to live without him and remain unmarried. This final caveat, “remain unmarried,” is a good test for you personally. Are you willing to face the fact that your mate may not reconcile, may never marry anyone else, and may not die for a long time? Are you willing to live without a mate and still be content? I have found that this is a good personal litmus test for an individual bound to a fool through marriage when things are stressful and strife is at a high pitch. Ask yourself, Am I willing to separate, remain unmarried, or be reconciled? If not, then “detachment” is the option that will allow you to remain married, to hope in God, and to maintain a sense of peace in the midst of your circumstances.

        The next obvious question is, But is that a marriage? The answer, of course, is no—not in the ideal sense. It is, however, a fulfillment of your role and your responsibility that you agreed to when you took your wedding vows. God has amazing ways of “showing up” when you make the often difficult choice to obey him, honor him, and allow him to determine the outcome of your situation without prescribing how you think he should fix things. Tewannah is a woman who determined that she wanted to be in on what God was doing. She began to walk in obedience to him in every aspect of her life. While she said very little to her foolish husband, Jake, about what was going on in her life, he noticed changes he didn’t like, and he refused to put up with them. It wasn’t long until something had to give. The strife was intense. Jake was even brandishing guns in an effort to make Tewannah act the way he wanted. She asked him to leave until they could find a point of reconciliation. He left, but he was determined there would be no reconciliation. He altered as much of his financial statement as he could to exclude Tewannah and their children, and then he divorced her. Three years after all this family pain, Tewannah is quick to say, “I have never been cared for by the Lord in so many incredible ways. I wouldn’t go back for anything in the world.” Jake continues to give Tewannah as much grief as he can from afar, but she is a woman at peace whose God has been faithful in every imaginable way. It is so very difficult to let go of one you have spent most of your life trying to make look better. It is hard to admit that you cannot satisfy someone you have tried repeatedly to please. It is defeating to realize you have no power to change your fool though you have tried to make things better and have worked overtime to appease. You have probably spent more than your fair share of time believing one of two lies: either “There has to be something more I can do” or “If only I were different, then everything would be okay.” I plead with you, my friend, to let go of those lies, to acknowledge that you don’t have the power you’ve assumed you have. Arriving at this moment is tough; I know. It’s a journey of a thousand hurts. It’s a trip that sucks the life out of you, especially when you’ve believed you could always manage it. You could always find a way to roll with it, avoid it, or deny it. But no more. You are wising up and realizing that God has a better way for you.

        Silvious, Jan (2009-09-11). Foolproofing Your Life: How to Deal Effectively with the Impossible People in Your Life (pp. 175-179). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

        So it seems that Silvious, while giving good advice here in many ways, does not believe that an abuse victim should actually divorce her abuser. She encourages separation and then if the abuser files for divorce, fine. Otherwise the victim must still remain unmarried. That’s bad advice and is not biblical, as we hope all of our readers are learning.

      • Whoo! Could I get stuck into that passage from Silvious! To me it bristles with incorrect teaching, though as Jeff says, there are a few good points in it. I shall create a post about Jan Silvious’s book, incorporating Jodi and Jeff’s comments, and link it to our Resources page where we recommend the book. That way, we are recommending the book but with clear caveats on certain things. And our readers who want to comment further on Silvious’s book can all do so under the one post. It certainly sounds like the book has some good meat, but it’s very important not to swallow the bones, or they might get stuck in your throat and you might get stuck with false guilt and under the power of an abuser for far longer than you would otherwise. (It might take me a few days go get to this task.)

  2. Good stuff, Jeff. I totally agree. Again, I stress the importance of getting to the issue of repentance early and firmly (in love of course), taking care to observe the results. The honest soul will take hold of the challenge and the ‘fool’ will turn, twist, argue and dodge. He will not repent. Rather, he will seek to ‘take charge’ of your ministry to the situation and tell you how you must deal with him.

  3. Little Miss Me

    I suppose this relates to a struggle I’ve had – if not all sinners are the same, does it hold true that not all abusers are the same? Are there differing dergees of abusers? If so, how does one deal with that? It’s so much easier to think ‘abuse is abuse’ and that all who abuse should be dealt with similarly, but it’s probably not that simple.

    • Dear Little Miss Me, I totally agree with what Anon and Ida Mae wrote below. The abusive mindset is at bottom the same with all abusers: the belief that they are entitled to exercise power and control over their victim(s) for their own selfish purposes. How this expresses itself in practice can vary greatly, and can also vary over time with the same abuser. Usually as the relationship develops, the abuse gets worse, both in frequency, range and intensity.

      I remember reading Patricia Adam’s book and thinking “My ex used ALL those different tactics of verbal abuse, but he majored on some a lot more than others.” And I thought the same when I read through lists of the various forms of abuse (emotional, financial, social, sexual, physical, spiritual, and legal/systemic.) My ex used emotional and verbal abuse a lot, financial abuse a little, sexual abuse a moderate amount, spiritual abuse only towards the end of the marriage, physical abuse a few times a year on average, and legal abuse in bucket-loads once the relationship was over.

    • LMM, Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He DO That? has a whole chapter on The Types of Abusive Men (ch 4). It’s worth reading. And re-reading … which I did last night at 3 in the morning!
      I know you were asking about ‘degrees’ of abuse, not ‘types’ of abuse, but the two things are related.

  4. joepote01

    “They continued to bash their heads and hearts against the proverbial wall, hoping against hope that this time things would be different.”

    This is very true…and also very like a definition I have heard for “insanity”: to continue doing the same thing over and over, each time expecting the results to be different this time.

  5. Little Miss Me– Its my opinion that abusers are all the same and yet the manifestations are all unique. Sometimes the patterns we hear are so similar we could all be speaking about the same person and yet there are wild deviations.

    I believe the *root* is the same– a selfish, narcissistic desire for power and control combined with feeling entitled to rule another. That root then grows out through the branches of each individual and bears fruit, based on the differing personalities, temperaments, and gender of the abuser.

    An abusive woman might control/manipulate/dominate her passive husband and beat her children. A somewhat lazy man who considers himself intellectually superior to others may destroy his wife through ongoing verbal onslaught and never lift a finger. He doesn’t have to and he knows it– he has her completely subjugated by words alone.

  6. Anonymous

    Little Miss Me — Abuse acted out comes in a multitude of forms, but as Ida Mae said, it is all seated at the same root, power, control and entitlement. I know someone who was raised in an abusive home with a father who beat the children and the wife, but the children more; and her mother was also physically and incredibly emotionally abusive. The woman then married an abusive man who was mildly physically abusive and it was so different from her life at home as a child, that she could not admit it was physical abuse. His form of abuse was more mental and emotional and the marriage eventually ended. So, there are many different forms of abuse. Maybe a good evaluation to use is how it makes the one on the receiving end feel.

  7. Reblogged this on Speakingtruthinlove's Blog.

  8. Little Miss Me

    Thanks (to Ida Mae, Anon, & Barbara especially)! It’s so confusing – there’s pressure on me to ‘think of his feelings’ and I think that comes from a difference in perception of what his intentions were. He contends that he never meant to hurt me, and indeed, can hide behind the fact that statements like “I can’t stay in a marriage without sex” rarely, if ever, came immediately before him pressuring me (by standing in my way until I gave in). One time when I said no he didn’t speak to me for five days, then told me he almost walked out on me and the children, but ‘begged’ for forgiveness (while still backhandedly blaming me) and was really nice for about a week.

    So I really appreciate Anon’s reminder that we can measure it in part by looking at how the person on the recieving end of it feels. And Joe’s reminder that NOT beating my head on the wall and changing my course is a good thing!

    • Anonymous

      Little Miss Me — Yes, I was also and still am being told to “think of him and how he must be feeling”. My husband also states that he doesn’t mean to hurt me/us when coerced into apologizing by the pastor, for his verbal abuse. (None of his other forms of abuse have even been addressed, nor will they probably be) But that is not really true. He may not know his own heart, because the heart is deceitful and wicked and who can know it, but his actions actually speak for him, and if he did not want to hurt me/us, then he would change. I have always looked for the best in him and in some ways (denial?) overlooked the bad.

      One small example is that he took and kept hidden from me my wedding ring, for 6 weeks. This was about 10 years ago. He sat and watched me frantically look for it in every imaginable place, including digging through old yucky garbage and one time even calling the insurance company to see if it was insured. I looked everyday and the children helped me. I asked him at one point if he had it and he emphatically denied having it and even stormed out after yelling and screaming at me for “accusing” him of having it and then didn’t speak to me for days. Finally, after the 6 weeks, he gave it back and blamed me for all of it. I don’t know what kind of abuse this is, but I do believe it is abusive. I think he enjoyed watching me search for it.

      I say all this to you, so you can see that while considering his “feelings”, remember that he is consciously doing what he is doing and choosing to do it. Standing in front of you, until you “give in”, is in my humble opinion, intimidating and forcing you, just without physical violence. It is abuse.

      • Barbara Roberts

        What he did with your wedding ring is called Psychological Abuse. And it’s also called Gaslighting. Pippa gave a good link about gaslighting at another post so I’ll give it here too: http://psych-your-mind.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/call-me-crazy-subtle-power-of.html
        That kind of deliberate (but feigned as accidental) psychological abuse is, to my mind, one of the very worst kinds, because you know the abuser is taking delight in sadistically messing with your mind.

      • Remember what Lundy Bancroft says: The abuser wants us to think the problem is to do with his feelings, and we can remedy the problem by addressing his feelings, but that’s just to put us off the track. The problem is his THINKING, his MINDSET, his BELIEF in HIS ENTITLEMENT. (Sorry for all those caps, but you know I’m mimicking the abuser’s language.)
        It’s also helpful to realise that unintentional abuse is still abuse. (The link comes from the Mens’ Referral Service, Australia, which I understand is at the vanguard of this stuff, certainly in Australia and maybe worldwide.)
        If you feel violated, you have been violated. Period. The pastor has been enlisted by your husband, hook line and sinker. Your pastor should recognise his limitations and refer the abuser to a mens behavior change program. This probably won’t produce lasting change in your husband, but at least it won’t add to the harm. Your pastor, if he continues in the way he’s going, will only make matters worse, because he is not awake to the sly tactics of abusers, and has no idea how to resist your husband’s invitations to collude with his excuses and his avoidance of responsibility. I’ve been reading a lot on that Mens’ Referral Service site, and I’m really impressed. You might like to scour it for yourself.

  9. Anonymous

    Ps Jeff Crippen, Please keep those articles on doctrinal issues coming. When I read them, I absorb and digest as much as I can, which is why I don’t often comment. I consider myself a student in this area, and my view is that students should learn, not opine! That’s my opinion, anyway…

  10. Yes Jeff, keep doing the doctrine, it helps bring me back to the foundation. It cuts through all the vegetation and makes me see the earth from which all that tangle of plants (and weeds) grew.

    I would also like to add that I believe the reason I have made a pretty good recovery from my experiences of abuse is that I have (I think) a pretty good understanding of the doctrines of the Reformed Faith. I came into church in a fairly middle of the road evangelical setting where the doctrine was okay, but not really deep or meaty. I then moved to a pentecostal church where I learned the essentials of spiritual warfare against demonic entities, but was not taught well about the sovereignty of God, and there was a subtle endorsement of the ‘word-faith’ teaching, a teaching which is common in many Pentecostal settings. For those who don’t know what I mean by ‘word-faith’ teaching, it refers to the idea that what you speak out in faith will come to pass – so you’d better be careful what you say out loud, and what you pray for, and what you even think and feel, as if you harbour any doubts you will negate the ‘power’ of prayer. I now believe that word-faith teaching is erroneous and dangerous, and in fact it has been shown that the word-faith teaching came into Christianity via a disciple of Mary Baker Eddy, who was the founder of Christian Science – a mind control cult. So it is not Christan doctrine at all, it’s cultic doctrine.

    I moved eventually to a Presbyterian Church and was slowly taught the Reformed doctrines embodied in the Westminster Confession, which I found very Biblical and helpful (though I don’t necessarily accept the W. Confession’s views on the activity of the Holy Spirit or their doctrine of infant baptism). That’s how I learned the basics of the Reformed Faith: including the total depravity of man, and the absolute sovereign initiative of God in regenerating a soul which is dead in sin.
    I can’t explain exactly how, but understanding these deeper doctrines helped me enormously to deal with and recover from the domestic abuse I’d suffered.
    For those who are curious, I currently attend an Independent Baptist Church.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thanks Anon, and Barbara. Reformed theology transformed our church. A three year study and preaching series through Romans is what made us realize that the London Confession of Faith (a Baptist version of the Westminster Confession) accurately reflected the Scriptures and expressed what we had come to believe. Our church grew smaller. We learned that the real gospel of Christ is not popular with the masses (seems Jesus warned us a few times on that very point!) and many people who were nominal Christians (nominal = in name only) departed our ranks. When churches embrace sound, biblical doctrine and practice it, they begin to exalt God and not man. Recently one of our elders and his wife visited a larger evangelical church while spending the weekend with relatives. They reported that the pastor sat on a stool, delivering his sermon in chat style while dressed in tennis shoes, Levis and a T-shirt. The “worship” music was a band performance that was so loud the congregational singing was overwhelmed and the people didn’t know the words anyway. The message of the sermon was basically “what God can do for you.” What does all of this have to do with abuse and abuse victims in the church? Well, because it is all focused upon man rather than the majesty and glory of God, this “gospel” will not change the human heart. Such methods, designed to make God “relevant” to sinful man rob the gospel of its power because it becomes another gospel which is no gospel at all. Any “gospel” that is wisdom to fallen man is a gospel that is not the wisdom nor power of God. As such, it will only create a false church where sin can continue to thrive untouched and unexposed. It is a greenhouse for cultivating abuse.

      1 Corinthians 1:20-25 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (21) For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. (22) For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, (23) but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, (24) but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (25) For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

      • You know, before I went to that Presby church, I had never heard of ‘Reformed Theology’. I knew about Martin Luther and the Reformation in the 16th century, but I didn’t know there was such a thing as ‘Reformed Theology’ as distinct from other streams of evangelical theology. My Presbyterian pastor was very gentle in the way he taught about it. He didn’t push it heavily, or make giant condemnatory pronouncements about the other streams of evangelical theology. He just quietly preached through one book of the Bible after another, and each time a passage talked about the the doctrines of Reformed Theology, he explained it in the context of the passage.

        I had been taught in my previous churches that *Calvinism* was almost heresy, and certainly very dangerous. I’d believed what I was taught, and to me, the *C* word (Calvinism) was one that raised red flags. My pastor was very clever; he taught Reformed Theology (of which Calvin was a prime proponent) without mentioning the *C* word at all. Or only barely. So he got past my red flags, and I accepted the teaching because it lined up with my own reading of the Bible. It made complete Biblical sense, and held together without impossible contradictions.
        There were paradoxes in tension, yes, but I think any theology worth its salt has to hold paradoxes in tension. Paradoxes held in tension are not the same as contradictions that cancel each other out.

  11. Yes, Barbara, please do some research on Jan’s book. I remember now that divorce not being an option was a “red light” for me when I read it. In fact, I tell all my clients when I give it to them that this is one point on which I don’t agree with Jan.

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