A Cry For Justice

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

Neil Anderson’s “The Bondage Breaker” is not good for victims of domestic abuse

Several readers have inquired about the soundness of Neil Anderson’s book The Bondage Breaker and his ministry Freedom in Christ, and in particular, how it might apply to victims of abuse.  While Neil may be sincere — and certainly the experience he reports about his daughter’s rape created a compassion for victims — he is not a recommended resource for those currently in abusive situations.

One of our readers has kindly shared with us her observations about the impact on her life when her counselors, a husband and wife team, used the book The Bondage Breaker as the guide of their counseling sessions.

I didn’t get better using The Bondage Breaker.  My life was absolutely falling apart because I needed something far different than identity theology at that moment.  

What I needed was this:

1.  An understanding that as long as the abuse was ongoing and I was subjected to it, I could not recover. 

2.  Support from people that had lived through the same experiences with domestic violence and found their way out.

3.  Most importantly, my counselors needed to start with “you aren’t safe, abuse quite often leads to death of one kind or another, you must get out, how can we help you get on your feet to do this?”

This couple were passive to the violence and oppression I was under from my abuser. They were just directing me to work on my “spirituality” and “realise and reclaim my identity in Christ”. It was like they were telling me “be warmed and filled” but leaving me without real resources to do so.  Of course that didn’t help when I was still under the abuse and being forced to breathe in the fog from the abuser’s fog-making machine.  

They ignored the fundamental principle for helping victims of domestic abuse and violence: Safety First! You don’t apply paint to a boat with a hole in it; you fix the hole first.  In my case, stopping the abuse — getting free of the abuser — was paramount but ignored.  Then, understanding that my abuser needed to go to jail for the violence should have been obvious, but neither my counselors nor I could see the forest for the trees.   Lastly,  I needed financial, medical, emotional and spiritual help to land on my feet removed from ongoing violence.  The book lulled my counsellors and myself to sleep about what I really needed to be doing to save my own life.

Later I pondered why those weeks of studying Neil Anderson with counselors had no impact on changing my life.   I understand now: I  was never going to grow, never going to recover, never going to find my identity in Christ until I was safe from someone who actively carried out the enemy’s plans to kill, steal and destroy every aspect of my identity in Christ and my life.   

Perhaps now that I’m safe, the hole in the bucket where the truth fell out is gone and that book would be of some use.  I’m not sure though, because I’ve found I can go directly to the Source without a “how to in these easy steps” book.  For people in an ongoing abusive relationship, trying to work through Anderson’s material is a band-aid on a hemorrhage.

Theologically, there is some concern about doctrinal confusion in Anderson’s approach.  He speaks of “soul ties” and various concepts popular in the church that don’t appear to have scriptural underpinning.  For example, the concept of identifying and renouncing generational curses and renouncing sexual abuse (the victim renounces it) adds a sort of superstitious element to the simple gospel.  Some of the approach sounds a bit like magical thinking “click your heels together three times, repeat these words and be delivered”. While there is no doubt in the minds of many abuse survivors that satanic oppression and influence occur in an abuser, some of the cure Anderson proposes isn’t scriptural; rather, it is popular inner-healing methods that produce much trauma in some of those that get taken in by it.

Neil Anderson is an example of someone who says a lot of the right things, but what he gets wrong is spiritually and practically harmful.

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Neil Anderson, Freedom in Christ ministry, and other resources that we don’t recommend for abuse victims can be found on Our Beliefs page under the subheading  ACFJ Hall of Blind Guides — Resources that Will Not Help (and may harm) Abuse victims.

 

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30 Comments

  1. Rebecca

    This is excellent. I read The Bondage Breaker years ago and really benefited from it, but I was not in an abusive relationship. It’s so important to put first things first.

  2. Ng

    Thanks for this insight. It has been years since I last read Neil Andersons’ books (they were recommended reading in many counceling / ministry circles I was involved with) and while there is much I agreed with them at the time (the demonic realm being a very real part of abuse), I would not recommend them any more.
    I do not remember him ever advicing to stay with the abuser… that would be horrific. If anyone tells an abuse victim they need to stay in a dangerous situation, they have a screw loose!! Good grief. Stuff like this keeps people away from church! and perhaps it is good so – no one needs such drivel.

  3. Still Reforming

    This –> “an example of someone who says a lot of the right things, but ….”

    It’s the hill I’m climbing now where a new church I’m pondering knows my former pastor only in snippets and brief meetings, so…. my former pastor “said a lot of right things” and that seems to be all that’s necessary for approval.

    I realize people don’t have the time to really get to know others very well, and abuse (spiritual as well as all other kinds behind closed doors) can just gain a foothold more easily if people don’t invest the time – nay, more than the time: the interest in getting messy and hearing ugly.

    So “saying a lot of the right things” means very little to me anymore. I listen more to what’s not said or what’s between those lines. Little red flags seem to hide very well in those places.

    • a prodigal daughter returns

      You are so right SR and I encourage you to trust the discernment God gives you! The content of character and the way a life is lived isn’t something we really know about famous authors. The Apostle Paul said: “follow me as I follow Christ”. He expected people to discern his walk with Christ both from work of the Holy Spirit that gives discernment and observation of real fruit. This is a problem with modern day counseling in the name of confidentiality we don’t know if the person we are receiving counsel from is a fool and ungodly (see Psalms 1) Confidentiality doesn’t protect the counselee as much as it protects the counselor from detection of his/her incompetence and lack of true wisdom.

  4. cindy burrell

    I found this piece to be both insightful and sadly familiar. The writer’s reference to “be warm and be filled,” struck a painful note. All of us, it seems, have had it put upon us that if we would just pretend that everything is okay we would magically feel better. Such an effort to diminish all that is real and ugly in the abuse victim’s life is cruel. Just live a lie? Yep.

    If saying the “right things” keeps innocent people in harm’s way, then those things are not the right things at all. If only these so-called leaders in the contemporary church understood this.

    Furthermore, I resent the implication that there is a snap-your-fingers approach to healing from deep wounds. No one has a right to tell hurting people how they must heal or when. This journey is between each one of us and the God who loves us. God is not a formula and neither are people.

    And people wonder why so many have left the church as an institution. Yet too often the church does not represent the heart of God.

  5. moderndaysamaritanwoman

    yep….this book was given to my then husband to read…yes, there was no doubt that we were dealing with demonic spirits in our very home…these spirit beings were actually imitating my voice, other people heard these voices imitating me! My mother-in-law called them matter of factly “spooks”. Although there is merit to Neil Anderson’s work within the domonic realm, these only fueled the fire so to speak…it actually put the focus back on me and my demons…not where it belonged, which was on my husband and how he was treating me that opened the door to further demonic attack…

  6. nessa3

    I agree…the church I left uses his material and I found it left me feeling there was something wrong with me ….because I was still having issues..they werent instantly cured because I said the right things …..I still needed counselling ….it left me frustrated and feeling I was hopeless

  7. Glenn E. Chatfield

    Neil Anderson’s complete approach to spiritual warfare is unbiblical and aberrant as it gets. He is not to be trusted in spiritual matters — period/.

  8. kind of anonymous

    Hmm. As far as things like inner healing and soul ties go, let me just say that I think inner healing falls under ” here to heal the broken hearted, set captives free, being comforted by the Comforter, etc”. Inner healing is just a fancy term for ministry to a broken heart. It doesn’t matter how you acquire a broken heart, the point is that there is healing available for it from a God who recognizes things like broken hearts and grief and who according to scripture wishes to heal those things. . There’s lots of goofball stuff out there in healing/deilverance circles and I”ve had the unfortunate experience of sampling much of it. Some of it was just insane and left me incredulous and of course, NOT healed.

    The soul tie thing, not sure how I’d describe it other than as a kind of bondage to another person that is unwanted and oppressive. Perhaps it is the same thing as trauma bonds as described by Patrick Carnes. You won’t find the term “soul tie” in the bible though you may find illustrations of one occuring naturally, such as when Jonathan’s and David’s souls were knitted together in friendship. It’s the kind that come from abuse that are a problem. That there is a spiritual dimension to it, of that I have no doubt, having witnessed women who’ve experienced sexual abuse seeming to attract every creep on the block and yet once cleansing occured, the creep parade no longer occurred and said woman was no longer attracting impure attention. That there is no direct theology that says this, doesn’t mean it can’t be tue. We know that experiencing deprivation and/or violence at a very young age can afffect development, from observation yet you won’t find the term “developmental trauma” in the bible.

    As for identity theology, my experience with it was that it frankly was a “so what” kind of experience. The things listed in most teaching on that subject are things are are true about you once you are in God’s kingdom. They are not imho, an identity. To me an idneity is who I am personally as an indivdual. When I did experience Christ, I instantly had a good idea of who I actually was as opposed to all the false bits I’d adopted over the years from other people’s values being pressed on me, from trying to ape someone else’s style because i had no sense of value. Abuse victims have usually been told so mamy bad things about themselves that their sense of self is skewed. I found true identity in Christ because I was loved and secure and was thus free and safe to let go of false things. But the ” You are more than a conqueror” type stuff told me nothing about who I was as a unique individual creation, as opposed to who You are in that vein. I found the “Your indentity in Christ ” stuff farily useless information and was often irked when people would hand such lists to me as though they contained the solution to all my ills and it as self explanatory info. I barely had a core identity as a person. How does knowing I am more than a conqueror in Christ help me resolve loss of personal identity and questions of value and worth? It doesn’t. Great stuff for knowing what to stand on when satan says something like \ You are a total loser” or for other spiritual warfare related issues though.

    • freeatlast8

      Now that I have been out of my abusive marriage for almost 2 years, I am working through some very real identity issues. I understand what the commenter “kind of anonymous” means by a victim not necessarily being helped by being told who she is in Christ, at least initially, or while she is still in the abusive situation. Victims have for so long been shaped and morphed into an identity that is far different from the one Jesus placed in them innately. And it is hard for the victim to embrace a new identity quickly or easily. It does need to happen for healing to occur, but from experience I can say it takes a lot of emotional, mental, and spiritual effort and time.

      I feel as if I am being born again, again. I am thankful the Lord keeps putting resources in my hands that tell me the truth about myself. I have been mourning over the years that I was so blind. I was doing everything I thought I should be doing as a good Christian wife and mother. But now outside of the abuse, and picking up the aftermath pieces of my broken heart, family, and marriage, I feel like Paul who said he counts it all as loss. There is nothing like knowing Christ in this new way I am experiencing him, and him putting my lump of clay back on his potter’s wheel so that he can form me into a new vessel.

      It is a challenge and a little scary. I have surrendered to Him, and given him control of shaping my life. I can’t necessarily see where this reshaping will go, but I am very aware that it is happening.

      I am excited to see what he makes of me, but I feel so vulnerable because everything I valued and built my life around has changed. Life as I knew it is over.

      • Anonymous

        Freeatlast, and we can marvel when we recognize how God takes things out of our lives, to replace them with things of greater and lasting value. You have expressed yourself well, and your tender heart for the Lord shines brightly!

      • a prodigal daughter returns

        What a beautiful testimony. God does astonishing things with lives given to Him. He restores hope, dreams, and joy. Sometimes the dreams God has for us are far better than we could have imagined and more wonderful than we would have hoped for.

      • Freeatlast8, I echo what others have said — what a beautiful testimony!

  9. a prodigal daughter returns

    Well said KOA. Your comment “when I did experience Christ I instantly had a good idea who I was….” is true for me as well. All that inner healing, and various hoops I jumped obscured the power of the gospel in dead formulas. Imagine Jesus writing a handbook for ministry to women that told people; first you have to meet them at a well, second, tell them you want water, third…. say thus and such… The point being is that the Word of God is powerful, and alive, and reaches places formulas never can. People put faith in man-made formulas because they don’t really trust the efficacy of the gospel to heal the broken hearted, set the captive free and do the transformation it does without their manipulation of it.

    The gospel says; “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation” . For that to be true it doesn’t require a bunch of steps and that we follow this workbook, that teacher, this discipleship class, that formula.

    • freeatlast8

      A Prodigal Daughter, the spiritual and identity transformations from receiving Christ didn’t seem to take place in me. When I met my husband, while we were dating, he introduced me to Christ. I accepted Christ, and within a few months my husband and I got married. After marriage, we did not go to church, we did not study the Word, we did not talk about spiritual things. It’s as if I accepted forgiveness for my sins, but I did not grow in the nature of the Lord. I was brought up in a religion, & I knew I did not want to go back to that. But I had not been enlightened to any other kinds of churches. I was not seeking at the time, I was too busy enjoying being married and living the newlywed life, which was like a rollercoaster ride. Neither my husband or myself had been transformed by the Holy Spirit living inside of us. I didn’t even understand what that meant.

      So for many many years, I have been a stagnant Christian. The Holy Spirit in me was starved. I busied myself trying to be a better wife to my husband. Early in the marriage he let me know that there were things about me he was not pleased with. I looked for ways to improve myself to gain his approval. That’s why the trail of books, books, and more books. I was constantly searching for the truth–the abuse to what it would take for me to be acceptable and perfect. After about five years, I did find a church that I linked up with, and it was very life giving. My husband even joined me there for a short while, but he quit going . We sporadically went to many different places for another. Of years , until I finally found a church home that I have stayed with for many years now.

      I honestly missed the boat completely as to what I gained by accepting Christ, except for the forgiveness factor. And for me the forgiveness was for sins I committed before Christ. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with the sins that came afterward. It has only been in the past two years that I have grown to have a clearer understanding of the fullness of my salvation in regards to forgiveness, and also in recognizing who I am as a daughter of the king — a child of God. I am continually growing in this understanding, which has totally changed the game for me. I am still coming out of the fog, so to speak. But little by little, I am gaining more stability, thanks to my Savior who never let me out of his sight.

      I am so grieved over the years I have lost from my “victim” state of being while yoked up to my domineering, dominating, angry, controlling husband. And he is the one who introduced me to Christ!!!

      I was told recently that he hopes to remarry, and this time he wants to marry a woman who is like one of the matriarchs in the Bible. I wish him all the luck with his quest to find her.

      • freeatlast8

        Please forgive the typos in the last post. I am using my phone to post with as my laptop is in the shop. It’s hard to catch all the mistakes on this small device. Thanks for bearing with me. These comments really hit home with me because it is right where I am at this time– trying to figure out who I am and who God wants me to be.

    • kind of anonymous

      I imagine finding a well would be a bit of a challenge for city folks! ROFL! Maybe its a good thing I have one in my back yard! Perhaps I could invite needy women to come stand just to the left of the well cap, carefully avoiding the overspill and standing the rubber tire placed there to avoid mud, and say the following prayer…..NOT! Lol.

      Thank you for your comment. I agree with you regarding dead formulas. When Jesus healed one guy, he spit on the ground and made mud and put it on his eyes, another He told to take up his bed and walk, some He healed long distance. God’s way of working in one situation is not always the same as in another. That’s the importance of seeking Him, waiting on Him, being led of Him, knowing His word. It can’t be manufactured or managed which is what i ran into anytime I tried to use what worked for someone in a book. Blessings 🙂

      • Well said, Kind of Anonymous and Prodigal Daughter!

        (Pun not intended, but it’s neat that it happened)

      • I think someone needs to write a satirical post about Formulas For Ministry. It could talk about how Jesus did women’s ministry at a well so we should always do women’s ministry at a well, and Jesus spat on mud and put the mud in the bind man’s eyes so we should always heal blindness that way, and I’m sure there are more examples it could give as well. The post should pretend to be ‘serious and biblical’ but it should be a spoof of the ridiculous things the stuffed shirts say about How To Do Ministry.

        Any volunteers?

      • freeatlast8

        KOA, that is such an excellent point. What works for one life may not work for another. The Lord has been telling me that. He is the author of my story, and although it may have similarities to someone else’s, it is unique and will require his unique masterful craftsmanship.

  10. Concerned Mother

    Thank you for the above message. I used Bondage Breaker for a number of years. Was in over 5 different abusive relationships and only now learning my self-worth. Still have a long way to go but my children are my most important people in my life.

    (Eds. note: Concerned Mother also has a prayer request for her child. We put that comment on our Prayer Request page. The Prayer Request page is located on the top menu bar.)

    • Hi Concerned Mother,

      Welcome to the blog!

      You will notice that I changed your screen name to protect your identity. I also edited the portion of this comment that was your prayer request and put it on our Prayer Request page, which is located on the top menu bar. Your prayer request will get more awareness on the Prayer Requests page. If you want to see that comment click on the “Prayer Request” tab and then scroll to the bottom of the page.

      We also like to direct first time commenters to our New User’s page. It gives tips for staying safe and protecting your identity when commenting on the blog.

      Again, Welcome!

    • Hi Concerned Mother,

      Welcome to the blog!

      You will notice that I changed your screen name – that was to help protect your identity. Also, I edited the portion of this comment that was your prayer request and added it to our Prayer Request page. It will get more awareness there. The Prayer Request page is located on the top menu bar. If you want to see your comment click on the Prayer Request page and then scroll to the bottom of the page.

      Also, we would like to direct you to our New User’s page as it gives tips for staying safe and protecting your identity when commenting on the blog.

      And – if you would like me to change your screen name, feel free to email me at twbtc.acfj@gmail.com

      Again, Welcome!!

      • Concerned Mother

        Thank you! And thank you for putting my request where it will be seen. I appreciate this blog more than you wil l ever know!!

  11. loves6

    I don’t know of this Bondage Breaker but I relate to some of the things you have said.

    I haven’t commented here for a while. I’ve been going through a very hard time.

    I left home for some weeks. I stayed with someone I know, who my H knows too. My H went for a visit to see this person and things changed and I had no option but to go home. He was complaining of feeling unwell because of his illness and the person I was staying with felt sorry for him. He had the kids.

    I came home into a separate bedroom. I’m still there. I refuse to have a marriage with him again.

    I have no-one in my life that will give me a place to stay for respite. I have to go to a Women’s Shelter which I really don’t want to do but may have no choice. I am selling a lot of things to get some money behind me.

    I can relate to needing the support you speak of. I am dismayed by the lack of support and the people that have turned toxic on me for leaving when I did. My H has stopped the abuse … the rage etc but he is very nice .. syrupy sweet doing all sorts of things to win me back. Sometimes I think is it better the devil I so know than the devil I don’t .. as the saying goes .. BUT no .. I want to be happy .. I do not want to live in this miserable existence anymore.

    I have lost my job because of PTSD, I was honest with my bosses and they turned against me with no understanding. Sometimes life seems hopeless but God has bought a couple of people into my life that are a breath of fresh air.

    An adult child of mine said some very harsh things in a covert aggressive manner that I needed to trust God .. use scripture and songs to get through my depression .. I didn’t need medication and to get off it. This child is one of H’s henchmen. I was not impressed

    I am desperate for support and understanding and someone that would just step into my life and offer me a life line.

    God help me !

    [Eds: commented edited a little for safety reasons]

    • Dear Loves6 — I am so glad to hear from you! I’ve been thinking of you, hoping you were still in the land of the living. And you are! You did so well in making that attempt to leave. And to set the boundary that now you are back you will not sure a room with H. Well done! Every little step is part of the journey to freedom and safety.

      You might like to ask yourself what you learned from this attempt at leaving. And if you make another attempt, whether you might do anything differently next time.

      I encourage you to not be afraid of the idea of a Women’s Shelter. Many of us have had positive experiences in Shelters. And the workers there can support you as you figure out your next steps.

      I am so glad you are commenting again. 🙂

    • Still Reforming

      loves6,
      I am praying for you – for clarity and safety, for strength and comfort, for wisdom and direction. I’m so glad to know you’re here. You’ve been missed. (hugs)

  12. Karen

    Glen Chatfield. Thank-you for your bold statement and you are absolutely correct. God Bless you.

  13. Herjourney

    When God steps into your pain and denial. He will make your past a launching pad for a new beginning.
    It’s like being born again.
    The old is gone.
    The journey now is forged by
    claiming …
    I will not look back!
    God is making all things new.

    • freeatlast8

      Wow, HerJourney. This is exactly what I feel He is telling me lately. I keep hearing Philippians 3:13-14 echoing in my spirit.

      Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

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