A Cry For Justice

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

Matt Powell is at it Again to Keep Abuse Victims in Bondage

I find these critiques/exposures of Matt Powells’ errors to be difficult. It is difficult because his words are so incredible damaging, false, and enslaving to people who buy into them. To abuse victims, well, all I can say is as you read the following excerpts from his March 23, 2016 article, frighteningly entitled “Most Marriages are Salvageable,” prepare to be triggered. Here’s Matt: –

The good news is, most marriages are salvageable.  This is when you are talking about believers, of course.  When it is unbelievers, then things get harder.  But if we’re talking about believers, then the power of the gospel is sufficient, more than sufficient, to save even the most difficult of marriages with the most intractable, dug-in problems.  And in fact, marriage is a wonderful opportunity for this to occur, because marriage is an environment that makes it hard to accommodate your own selfishness.  It forces you to face it.

The bad news is, we’re all sinners.  That’s why the first point is such good news. But for the good news to be the good news, the bad news has to be understood well.  We have to face squarely the way our own sin distorts the way we look at marriage problems, in our own personal life and as church leaders.

NOTE: Matt, just exactly do you mean by “most marriages”? Does this mean that every marriage is the same? With the same issues? Are you saying that a marriage to an abuser/sociopath/narcissist is most of the time salvageable?

And we notice that you distinguish marriages of unbelievers from those of believers. Are you maintaining that a Christian can be an abuser, possessing a mentality of entitlement to power and control, walking moment by moment in that wicked mindset?

And you say “we’re all sinners.” So you are putting abusers in the same category as any other person. The wife of the abuser, cruelly oppressed, is to be approached in counseling as every bit as much of a sinner as her abuser, huh?

Matt, this stuff is dangerous. Put down your pen.

He goes on with more:

And, believers sin against each other.  Believers commit abuse.  Believers commit violence against people.  Believers commit every kind of sin, as the Bible amply testifies to us.  And believers repent. Because of the power of the gospel, which is tremendous, greater than any force on earth, marriages of believers are almost always salvageable.

Even an actual example of abuse need not end a marriage.  The consequences of ending a marriage are tremendous and long-lasting.  It hurts everyone involved.  It causes trauma for generations. This is why the Bible is so adamantly against easy divorce.  No responsible church leader will ever quickly recommend divorce.  He will hear the situation out.  He will recommend counseling.  He will see whether even physical abuse was a one-time thing which was repented of or whether there is a pattern over time.

Physical abuse is certainly grounds for divorce, as Paul permits divorce for abandonment, and the church has long interpreted this more broadly than simply being physically gone, but also when the spouse has de facto abandoned the marriage.  A refusal to provide for his family or severe substance abuse would also qualify.  Also qualifying would be if the man was in prison for a stretch, since by his actions the man has abandoned his family.  Physical abuse of any severity should be reported to the police, and that will usually result in a de facto abandonment, via prison or a restraining order.

But the Bible only provides for divorce via abandonment when the spouse is an unbeliever.  The church should therefore be involved, to certify that the man’s abandonment is of the nature of unrepentant sin.  Extreme care should be taken not to twist this provision into a catch-all that is used to justify any divorce.

But what any spouse should recognize is that even if that spouse has grounds for divorce, that divorce is still going to be incredibly painful, for them and everyone around them.  That doesn’t mean it’s always wrong.  The Bible provides grounds for a divorce for a reason.  But people should count the cost, and the church should help them do this.  If someone is considering divorce, the church’s goal should always be to slow them down, so they do not act in the heat of the moment.  Wise church leaders will help people count the cost, to really think through the matter Biblically and carefully.  A separation might be a very good idea in some cases, to give people a chance to cool down and think it through, and the Bible provides for this as well (1 Corinthians 7:5, 10-11).  But divorce is a terrible thing, and the weight of the church’s efforts should all be on reducing it as much as possible.

There it is. Woe to any abuse victim who steps into a church like Matt’s and goes to him for counsel. As has been the sad experience of the majority of our readers, many, many churches are just like this.

Feel free, dear readers, to comment and let Matt know what you think of his teachings.

***

Other posts on this blog critiquing Matt Powell’s work:

Matt Powell Does Not Understand Abuse and Ends up Adding to Victim’s Suffering

99 Comments

  1. Brenda R

    This guy’s whole theory is ridiculous. Believers do not commit ongoing abuse, violence or on going sin or any one type. The Spirit and the Word speaks to Christians who are paying attention whatsoever and if they are not, I still do not believe they will.

    Thank you Ps Jeff for standing up for truth. I wouldn’t want to be one of these Spiritually abusive guys when standing before our Lord. I agree that he needs to put down his pen.

  2. Freed by God

    I’m so glad he pointed out that divorce is incredibly painful and that we don’t want to take it lightly because, um, you know…most Christian women I know just don’t think about that and they are in such a hurry to get divorced (written with heavy sarcasm, of course).

    • joepote01

      LOL! Yes, exactly! As though anyone considering divorce must be taking it lightly and assuming it is easy, painless and inconsequential. So arrogant!!!

    • Innoscent

      And he makes up another hell after hell with according to him divorce being much more painful and with long lasting consequences than abuse itself.. A perfect example of putting the cart before the horse and a subtle way of shifting the blame on abuse victims.

  3. BigSisterMama

    “Physical abuse….will usually result in de facto abandonment via prison or a restraining order. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! If only that were true. Clearly, Matt has NO idea what he is talking about here. And anyway, being in prison is NOT de facto abandonment. In the exact same way, a spouse who is deployed could also be said to have “abandoned” the marriage, and no one says that you should get a divorce just because he or she is in Afganistan for a year.

    • Freed by God

      I thought that was a really weird statement as well. I know a woman whose husband went to prison after getting addicted to prescription drugs, moving on to illegal drugs and shooting his “pusher” in the leg when his pusher came to his house and threatened his family. This mans wife is not planning on divorcing her husband because he is in jail. He repented before he went into jail and believes he has a God-given responsibility to share Christ for the seven years of his term.

      Lots of women who have incarcerated husbands “stand by their man” while they are in jail. Jail is not abandonment!

  4. LH

    Soooo thankful I am not in his church, although the church I was in when I finally filed for divorce from my abusive ex (who claims to be a Christian) was just as bad. When will Christians, esp pastors, understand that claiming to be a believer does not necessarily make you one? James tells us that words without actions are worthless!

    • Suzanne

      Amen! People can call themselves anything they like but that doesn’t make it true. As followers of Jesus we’d do well to remember 1 Samuel 16:7

      …for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

      Abusers may look like pillars of their churches but their conduct is that of an unbeliever. Sometimes I wonder if these pastors, those who are so eager to keep innocent victims of abuse in bondage, have ever even read the Bible.

      • Innoscent

        So true Suzanne! Quite a few times Jesus told the Pharisees, disciples.. “Have you never read…?” One has to read/hear AND understand, then put into practice the truth.

    • susan

      Amen

    • IamMyBeloved's

      I remember. Several years ago, an elder telling me that my abuser was coming to Church, so they would automatically assume he was there because he was seeking Christ and whatever he did before did not count anymore. I wanted to ask this leader if I could peer into his Bible, but I did not. I think I would have found all the passages of Scripture that say the wolves will come from among the people attending Church, either crossed out or cut out of the pages. This is nothing less than the blind leading the blind and simply sheer ignorance of evil. We are told to be wise about evil, not idiots who refuse to even see it, let alone identify it.

  5. Moving Forward

    Divorce causes trauma for generations? How many? Is this Old Testament theology? How about the impact of staying in an abusive situation? What my grandparents did hardly effects me today. The generation I care about is the one I produced, and most are so happy to be free of the oppression and manipulation and abuse. Clueless, he is so clueless.

    • joepote01

      Thank you, Moving Forward, for pointing this out. You’re exactly right. I’ve heard this stated as ‘fact’ in many sermons. Yet the statement lacks credibility from either a biblical perspective or a secular scientific study. More on this topic here: http://josephjpote.com/2013/10/no-more-sermon-stats/

    • Anonymous

      This statement about divorce causing trauma for generations is part of the propaganda repeated often in the church. Divorce is painful and ugly, but the end result isn’t necessarily trauma. Sometimes, it means freedom and healing for generations. Speaking for my own situation, divorcing my porn addicted Christian husband after nearly two decades of marriage was one of the healthiest things I’ve ever done for me and my children. I have been divorced for over a decade, never remarried, and I still thank God he set me free. My kids have turned in to wonderful adults.

      It’s time for Christian leaders, pastors, and writers to deal with divorce honestly. It’s almost like some of them are trying to scare their people straight.

      P.S. The only reason I’m posting anonymously is out of respect for my kids.

      • healingInHim

        Anonymous – Wished I had been as brave as you many years ago, however, I didn’t back then and even now do not have a strong ‘support system’ which is what my abuser and other abusers are very much aware of. And now, as I enter the senior years it is even worse as they know how vulnerable and weak I am.
        I attempt to maintain an outward composure of strength but truly my health is not the best and it is very difficult to know which way the Lord would ultimately have me go?
        Thank you for sharing.

  6. joepote01

    Matt Powell said,

    Even an actual example of abuse need not end a marriage. The consequences of ending a marriage are tremendous and long-lasting. It hurts everyone involved. It causes trauma for generations. This is why the Bible is so adamantly against easy divorce.

    Matt is horribly misinformed. In fact, the consequences of ABUSE are tremendous and long-lasting. ABUSE hurts everyone involved. ABUSE too often causes trauma for generations. This is why the Bible so clearly, repeatedly, and adamantly speaks against TREACHERY against a covenant partner. There are many, many more passages speaking against treachery than could be construed to speak against ‘easy’ divorce (whatever that means), and using much stronger terms. In Jeremiah 3:8, God said that He, Himself, divorced Israel because of their repeated treachery and faithlessness. http://josephjpote.com/2015/01/god-of-divorce/
    Clearly, from a biblical perspective, ABUSE is much worse than divorce, since God chose divorce to end abuse. Oh…and by the way, Israel’s abuses against God were neither physical abuse not physical acts of adultery…so clearly the biblical principle of divorce to escape abuse extends beyond the physical.

    Matt Powell said

    But the Bible only provides for divorce via abandonment when the spouse is an unbeliever. The church should therefore be involved, to certify that the man’s abandonment is of the nature of unrepentant sin.

    The Bible provides clear direction that those who behave as unbelievers are to be treated as unbelievers. Thus, this distinction is a moot point from the standpoint of practical application. And why must the church ‘certify’ the nature of the abuse? Are the church leaders more knowledgable of the situation than the abused spouse who has lived with it, daily? Do they possess some ‘special’ knowledge or access to the Holy Spirit or to God’s wisdom or to the Bible that the abused Christian spouse does not possess? Why would a church leader be so arrogant as to presume such things?

    Matt Powell said,

    But what any spouse should recognize is that even if that spouse has grounds for divorce, that divorce is still going to be incredibly painful, for them and everyone around them. That doesn’t mean it’s always wrong. The Bible provides grounds for a divorce for a reason. But people should count the cost, and the church should help them do this. If someone is considering divorce, the church’s goal should always be to slow them down, so they do not act in the heat of the moment.

    I’m glad Matt is able to recognize that divorce is sometimes the best and most godly path in a given situation. However, recognition of this biblical fact runs counter to his admonition that “If someone is considering divorce, the church’s goal should always be to slow them down…” Clearly, in those instances where divorce is the best outcome, there is no reason to discourage divorce, nor slow it down. Godly divorce for godly reasons should be encouraged, not discouraged. Yes, divorce is a painful process…so is sanctification…in both cases one must learn to let go of old paradigms and old dreams in order to embrace liberty in Christ, relying completely on His grace and provision. And just as the painful process of sanctification is much better than remaining enslaved to sin, in much the same way the painful process of divorce is much better than remaining enslaved to an habitually abusive spouse.

    Matt Powell said,

    A separation might be a very good idea in some cases, to give people a chance to cool down and think it through, and the Bible provides for this as well (1 Corinthians 7:5, 10-11).

    I read the referenced passages from 1 Corintihans 7, not as an admonition to separate without divorcing, but as the exact opposite. I read them as an admonition to either remain married or to divorce, but not to lead separate lives while married. http://josephjpote.com/2015/01/unmarried-or-divorced/ http://josephjpote.com/2015/02/divorce-remarriage/

    Matt Powell said

    But divorce is a terrible thing, and the weight of the church’s efforts should all be on reducing it as much as possible.

    I have experienced divorce from an abusive marriage. Apparently, Matt has experienced neither divorce nor abuse. Based on personal experience, as well as my understanding of scripture, I can clearly state that as difficult as divorce is (and it is very difficult) divorce from an abusive marriage is a WONDERFUL thing…and the weight of the church’s efforts should be to ENCOURAGE it as much as possible.

    • standsfortruth

      Oh my goodness, so MANY clarifying powerful points brought up here, Joe!
      And yes in the end when one has been imprisioned and tormented throughout the years to an covert manipulative abusive spouce, “Divorced” is a Wonderful, Freeing and Liberating place to be.

    • Lea

      Are the church leaders more knowledgeable of the situation than the abused spouse who has lived with it, daily?

      Apparently these incredibly arrogant pastors think so. That’s what all this advice really says. “I know better than you what’s going on in your own marriage”

      • joepote01

        You’re right, Lea!

        All the semantics and worries about divorce for the wrong reasons all really boils down to this one point.

        Matt Powell (and those like him) does not believe laypeople can be trusted to really know their own situation or to make wise godly choices. He does not believe laypeople are spiritually discerning enough to read and understand the Bible for themselves, or to hear the Holy Spirit.

        He is arrogant enough to believe only church leaders can possibly be wise enough or knowledgable enough to make such weighty decisions…despite the fact they have no first-hand knowledge of the situation nor must they live with the consequences of the decisions.

        This, in fact, is exactly why he perceives Jeff Crippen’s teaching to be ‘dangerous’…it puts responsibility for perception of abuse and the decision of whether or not divorce is appropriate action squarely in the hands of the person being abused. From Matt Powell’s perspective, this is a very dangerous thing…because laypeople could not possibly have the requisite wisdom and spirituality to make such weighty decisions…they need church leaders to make those decisons for them.

        Viewed from this perspective, Matt Powell’s writings make perfect sense…maybe even have a sense of fairness, balance, and grace about them. But it is a skewed perception from a position of arrogance that completely ignores the biblical teaching of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian.

      • standsfortruth

        Really it all boils down to his thinking that only he can properly decipher the Holy Spirt’s leading. But Jesus refutes that in many ways.
        Heres just one:

        John 27-28 My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me: And I give to them eternal life, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

      • MarkQ

        Lea, Thank You!!!

        I blew up in a church-run marriage class where they equated anger with idolatry. I said putting my desires and emotions in a box and sacrificially doing whatever my wife wanted nearly destroyed my marriage. I don’t see how I’m called to demand respect and love everyone else and yet not called to do the same for myself.

        After the class, one of the elders came up and said “You obviously need to listen to this video.” My first thought was, you know precisely NOTHING about my marriage and yet you’re claiming to have better knowledge than my wife and I about our marital issues.

      • Hi Mark, you might like to know that we have a tag for Male Survivors. It has a few posts in it, but not that many.

      • MarkQ

        Barbara, not a survivor from abuse, my wife is amazing. I was abused by my church that taught that sacrificial love meant sacrificing my personhood for my wife. It’s the typical “self-esteem = idolatry” thing. It took me getting angry to first advocate for myself, but when that happened, my wife was loving and gracious and supported me. In our marriage, at least, it’s been something I’ve been able to grow past.

      • Thank you Mark for explaining that. We appreciate your contribution to our blog. Perspectives like yours help add to our understanding.

      • And Mark, when you say “it took me getting angry” I’m guessing you mean that incident with the ‘marriage course videos’ at the church?

      • MarkQ

        Barbara, I was angry because I felt like I was being taken advantage of. In a sense I was, but it was because I wouldn’t say no, not because my wife was abusing me. She was just asking and I said yes. The (internal) anger helped me take the initiative to advocate for what I wanted, and my wife graciously said yes, or we talked about it.

      • Thank you Mark. That makes sense.

    • Free

      Yes I agree. I am joyfully celebrating the divorce of the abuser in my life. It is very wonderful. It is very hard even still. At times my mind goes back to missing him but because of communities like our here and bold voices who call evil evil and good good I can stay focused. I’m sad at times and want to go back and blame myself or be critical of my actions but then it ALL goes back to the abuser abused me and never showed mercy to me and he never repented. That’s evil. So of all the reactions and habits I had within the abuse- I am not an abuser. THATS THE DIFFERENCE. And by the way those habits or reactions are pretty much all gone and it hasn’t been a long time since the abuser has been gone.

      Anyway, to escape such evil permanently by divorce is a merciful gift. Had I not heard the truth about abuse and divorce coupled with all the shame and disbelief and condemnation from the churches and family even I would never have left. I was tormented and trapped for years because of those lies.

  7. Anonymous

    A quote about psychopaths, “Words do not seem to have the same meaning for them as they do for us. In fact, it’s unclear if they even grasp the meaning of their own words, a condition that Cleckley called ‘semantic aphasia’.”

    There is a series of hockey commercials that I kept thinking of while reading this. They use the same actor playing a coach and doing pep talks for the players before their games or answering questions to reporters after a loss etc. In some of these commercials, the hockey players are sitting around this guy waiting for some words of wisdom or the some explanations of why they lost, and then he starts espousing and it ends up being a bunch of endless prattle with pithy truisms. Here’s an example of one.

    Well, I thought we shot the lights out in the first two periods. In the third period we just couldn’t put the biscuit in the basket. You know, we just couldn’t put the stuffing in the turkey. Or we couldn’t even put the turkey in the oven. Um, couldn’t put the car in the garage, Couldn’t put the train in the station. Couldn’t put a rod in the water, lightning in a bottle, a cat in the hat, I mean, that’s really why we lost tonight–we couldn’t put the cat in the hat.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ec2vxWk5kM

    For people who watch sports and listen to these speeches they do get to where you can tell these guys have lines they know to use that are considered “right” to say and it ends up being useless gibber-gabber. I’ve noticed this with many preachers as well. They say things that in the past have “flown” — which is that they knew how to use words to manipulate others and that this would shut everyone up who came to them with hardcore truths. And since the majority of people in the church bought the lie that had been passed down as truth, it was easy for them to crowd this person out. Well, those of us here who belong to the Lord — God refuses to let us be crowded out. Let’s face it. Most of us here WANTED to believe the old lies — that everyone is the same underneath, that all want truth, that all have good intentions but were abused so they as just lashing out etc. But we now know this is a lie. Some people — as stated in the bible from it’s very beginning — desire and enjoy doing harm to others with no guilt, shame or regret and with a sense of entitlement that is breathtaking because it not based whatsoever on truth or reality. This man’s writings encompass all of these things. There is no wisdom here, no truth and endless prattle using words and phrases that have been accepted by others as truth but are actually a lie.

    It would be comical (like the commercials) if it weren’t so dangerous. These people have much sway in peoples lives. Our SOULS are affected by these lies. And there’s the bottom line. The same battle that started in the garden of Eden is still raging today. The evil one seeking to destroy our souls and to keep those who do belong to Jesus from serving Him and using the power given to us by the Holy Spirit to help each other as well as to strengthen those who belong to the Lord. Thank you again Jeff and all here at ACFJ for walking with us here, We are all so weary.

    • joepote01

      Anon-

      You said, “Most of us here WANTED to believe the old lies – that everyone is the same underneath, that all want truth, that all have good intentions but were abused so they as just lashing out etc. But we now know this is a lie.”

      Exactly! Yes, we all very much wanted to believe this was true…and only through much experiential pain and difficulty did we discover the falseness of it. And now somebody thinks they can unconvince us of the valuable life lessons learned through such difficulty? Not likely!

      Thanks for sharing!

  8. Charis

    “The good news is, most marriages are salvageable.

    [So, he’s a marriage expert now? Where are his credentials? I want PROOF! And…he’s clairvoyant. He has insight into all marriage ills everywhere and has come to the esteemed opinion that “most” – a roughly calculated percentage based north of 50% – can be redeemed. ]

    This is when you are talking about believers, of course.

    [Ah, there’s the caveat. “most marriages…I see how this conversation is going to go.” ]

    When it is unbelievers, then things get harder.

    [Thank you, Captain Obvious.]

    But if we’re talking about believers, then the power of the gospel is sufficient, more than sufficient, to save even the most difficult of marriages with the most intractable, dug-in problems.

    [Okay, but here is the point of distinction; “believer and unbeliever haven’t been defined. For many of us – that was the issue. It took me years to realize that the man I was married to – whom I THOUGHT was a “believer” – was, in fact, an unbeliever as Ps Crippen described painstakingly in several articles. Define your terms! Don’t be vague.]

    And in fact, marriage is a wonderful opportunity for this to occur, because marriage is an environment that makes it hard to accommodate your own selfishness. It forces you to face it.

    [No. Marriage does not force one to face selfishness (as many of us have discovered by way of entitled, self-focused abusers). Christ living in you, forces one to come to terms with selfishness as Christ is love and to be like Christ demands that we serve one another – as Christ so loved us, we ought to love others and be known for our love.]

    The bad news is, we’re all sinners.

    [This is why defining terms is so important. We are not all sinners. Some of us are redeemed and are in the “believer” or “christian” category. We were ONCE sinners and are NOW sealed and sanctified by Christ through His perfect sacrifice.]

    That’s why the first point is such good news. But for the good news to be the good news, the bad news has to be understood well.

    [And therein is the rub and why I don’t believe you to be a good marriage counselor. Some people – we call them manipulative or abusive – understand the bad news but reject it all the while putting on a good show. You know crocodile tears, all the right phrases, go through the motions of “repentance” for a season. It looks good to YOU but we don’t ever see mature fruit. YOU, sir, do not understand the “bad news” well.]

    We have to face squarely the way our own sin distorts the way we look at marriage problems, in our own personal life and as church leaders.

    [You are elevating marriage beyond the weight it was intended to bear. Sin distorts more than that. It distorts the person. The conscience. The world view. It debases from the inside out and twists and distorts everything it touches – including marriage – and certainly not limited to that. Flip it around. You have it backward.]

    And, believers sin against each other. Believers commit abuse. Believers commit violence against people. Believers commit every kind of sin, as the Bible amply testifies to us.

    [I think the word you are looking for is *sinner*. “Sinners commit abuse. Sinners commit violence against people. Sinners commit every kind of sin, as the Bible amply testifies to us.” That is a theology I can stand behind.]

    And believers repent. Because of the power of the gospel, which is tremendous, greater than any force on earth, marriages of believers are almost always salvageable. Even an actual example of abuse need not end a marriage.

    [But…maybe it should!]

    The consequences of ending a marriage are tremendous and long-lasting.


    [And…often positive, bringing safety, returning health, establishing proper boundaries, renewing emotional and spiritual warehouses.]

    It hurts everyone involved. It causes trauma for generations.

    [For the abuser, you mean? Oh, I see now. You are HIS ally. Thanks for making it clear.]

    This is why the Bible is so adamantly against easy divorce.

    [Is there such a thing? I thought you were a “marriage counselor?” Where is this “easy divorce?” I’ve not read of it in the Bible nor seen one in family court.]

    No responsible church leader will ever quickly recommend divorce. He will hear the situation out.


    [Ah, so now we are casting stones and dirt. Nice move. If the threat to personal safety, harm, life and death comes up or a “clear” case of divorce for “Biblical” reasons is establishes and ANY pastor acts with swiftness – like maybe Karen Hinkley’s should have – that man is CLEARLY irresponsible. There are NO CASES where swift action and immediate consequences should be taken. Bah.]

    He will recommend counseling.

    [This is wrong-headed. Where did you say you got your training? I’m under the impression that if abuse is in the picture then couples counseling isn’t recommended. Oh…I see…you left it vague on purpose. It’s a trap door. I get it. You only said “counseling” not what kind. Sneaky. I’m losing respect for you by the second.]

    He will see whether even physical abuse was a one-time thing which was repented of or whether there is a pattern over time.

    [I see you put a minimizing word in there: “even” and “one-time.” So…in your book, how MANY times does she have to be harmfully touched before it’s okay to leave? What magical number establishes a “pattern?” And what, exactly, does repentance of physical harm look like…to you? I’m beginning to wonder – are YOU abusive?]

    Physical abuse is certainly grounds for divorce, as Paul permits divorce for abandonment, and the church has long interpreted this more broadly than simply being physically gone, but also when the spouse has de facto abandoned the marriage.

    [So, Paul permits it but you don’t? Or are you now saying that you DO agree that abuse is grounds via abandonment? You are speaking out of both sides of your mouth…confusing.]

    A refusal to provide for his family or severe substance abuse would also qualify.


    [What is “severe” and what is “substance” – does sex addiction count? It’s not really a substance but…it is just as damaging to relationships, if not more. I notice you left that out – the whole sex/porn aspect, something the Bible speaks to. Are you cutting the corner too tightly? Does it hit too close to home for you?]

    Also qualifying would be if the man was in prison for a stretch, since by his actions the man has abandoned his family. Physical abuse of any severity should be reported to the police, and that will usually result in a de facto abandonment, via prison or a restraining order.


    [Well, now I’m deflated and confused. Are you saying I can only divorce if my husband is in jail or if I’ve successfully obtained a restraining order?! States and counties differ in how these are obtained. You are putting the victim under a lot of “proof” in order for her to leave with “grace.”]

    But the Bible only provides for divorce via abandonment when the spouse is an unbeliever.

    [Ah, so all the above paragraph should be deleted if my husband is a “believer” – whatever that means in your world. My believer husband is doing all these heinous things, refuses to repent, will not be thrown in jail (or maybe is), has a pattern of violence that even you subscribe to and I cannot divorce because of the good news of the power of the gospel that can redeem my marriage. You have just sentenced me to doom…and put my life in jeopardy. My blood is on your hands. And…your logic is unsound.]

    The church should therefore be involved, to certify that the man’s abandonment is of the nature of unrepentant sin.

    [Why?! And why would I trust your church? You put me back in harm’s way. In your previous paragraph you said “believers repent.” So…are you now saying my believer husband is NOT a believer?! Is there new HOPE for me?! I think you need help.]

    Extreme care should be taken not to twist this provision into a catch-all that is used to justify any divorce.

    [How could such dire circumstances as the ones outlined above be a “catch all?” I think your ball of yarn is coming unstrung.]

    But what any spouse should recognize is that even if that spouse has grounds for divorce, that divorce is still going to be incredibly painful, for them and everyone around them.

    [Again, I see you care more for the abuser than the victim here. Note to self: steer clear and seek help elsewhere. This is the enemy’s ally. ]

    That doesn’t mean it’s always wrong.

    [Yes, as you so unhelpfully explained: my husband must be an unbeliever or be in jail or with a restraining order (nearly impossible in my county) and have a “pattern” of physical abuse or be starving me at home. Got it. Thanks. But ONLY if he’s an “unbeliever” – whatever that means.]

    The Bible provides grounds for a divorce for a reason. But people should count the cost, and the church should help them do this.

    [I don’t trust your math skills at “counting” the cost.]

    If someone is considering divorce, the church’s goal should always be to slow them down, so they do not act in the heat of the moment.

    [Some people should act with swiftness, especially when lives are on the line or when egregious acts have been committed. That is the precept of sowing and reaping – and it is a Biblical concept.]

    Wise church leaders will help people count the cost, to really think through the matter Biblically and carefully.

    [Once again, you disparage pastors and now churches who – in your opinion – do not advise a woman victim to stay with her abuser longer. These people are “stupid” or “fools” in your opinion…the opposite of “wise.” You’ve nearly bankrupt any respect I had for you, which was low to begin with.]

    A separation might be a very good idea in some cases, to give people a chance to cool down and think it through, and the Bible provides for this as well (1 Corinthians 7:5, 10-11).

    [I’ve heard this advice before…O yes, from my own pastor. It is code for take a week or two to clear your head but DON’T get a divorce. It is akin to the rose-colored glasses ideal of: “Distance makes the heart grow fonder” and during this time they ply the abuser with poor advice like: romance her, say you’re sorry, send love notes, go out to eat, send flowers/gifts, court her, work on your stuff and tell her about what you’re learning…etc. It is rarely the true separation that counselors/therapists recommend to work individually and evaluate the “state of the union.”]

    But divorce is a terrible thing, and the weight of the church’s efforts should all be on reducing it as much as possible.

    [Once again, your “but” cancels out the previous sentence. Separation can be a good thing…but not really. In your heart-of-hearts you think it leads to divorce so you, personally, rarely recommend it. That’s what I suspect of you. And this sentence further goes to support that you are firmly in the abuser’s corner. The only way you are going to reduce divorce is to play to the strengths and tactics of the manipulative abuser. You are primed and ready. I am sad for the women in your flock.]

    • joepote01

      What a wise and witty response! Love it!

      Thank you, Charis!

    • Charis you hit it out of the park! I vote we give Charis a standing ovation!

    • bright sunshinin' day

      You nailed it, Charis! Powell’s logic is unsound and his “wiser-than-thou” attitude reminds me of the Church hierarchy in Martin Luther’s day when they did not want the Bible translated into the layperson’s common language lest they misinterpret it. Read: lest the layperson become educated and expose the corruption going on in the leadership!

      Sadly, Powell (along with many other church leader) seems to think he alone is the “Vicar of Christ” instead of embracing the truth of the priesthood of all believers…in whom the Holy Spirit is powerfully at work! There is only One Head of the body of believers and His name is Jesus!

      • Marcia

        Well done Charis this is a most eloquent, well reason argument against this Matt Powell person. I think he “talking out of a hole in the back of his neck” , (to use on old Aussie slang term), and you and Jeff have powerfully rebutted his, saying what we all think!

      • I’d never heard that Aussie slang phrase before, Marcia.
        Thanks!

      • keeningforthedawn

        First of all, Charis — BRAVO! Second, Bright Sunshin’ Day, those were my thoughts exactly. Martin Luther, William Tyndale, and other courageous contemporaries (though not perfect men) did at least stand up for the conviction of getting the Word of God (the TRUTH) into the hands of everyday people, trusting the Holy Spirit to guide, rather than relying on an oppressive, exploitative system.

    • standsfortruth

      I feel sad for the women in his church too, Charis. It is an Abusers Haven.
      My EX-abuser would have FLOURISHED in this environment…and sadly it would have been “at the womans expence”.
      Men like this should not be overseers of Gods people, with their distorted views on women..
      I loved, your closer introspection of his statements, and value your continued input.
      Thanks for pinning the tail on the donkey!

  9. Misti

    Matthew 7:18

    A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

    So, according to Christ himself, someone who is in Him cannot display those bad fruits!

    If you read more of the context, Jesus outright tells us to recognize the fruits that others display and what those fruits say about their character (ex. Matthew 7:16)—and Galatians 5:22–23 lists the fruits of the Spirit to be found in the faithful.

    Jesus also warns us outright that bad trees are in the church, some folks—wolves—will pretend to wear the right fruits.

    All too often, it seems those who insist on ignoring folks’ fruits do so because their own fruits are rancid.

  10. Song of Joy

    Powell said:

    And, believers sin against each other. Believers commit abuse. Believers commit violence against people.

    Sinful. Abusive. Violent.

    His overall attitude is basically focused on *accusing the brethren* (sisters and brothers in Christ), and putting them in the same category as wicked, sinful, abusive and violent people who call themselves religious.

    Powell makes no distinction.

    With no distinction made, abusers are elevated and seen as deserving of sympathy, counsel and their relationships worth salvaging despite their hideous behavior. Whereas the suffering Christian spouses are denigrated and admonished that they are just as bad as their abusers. This is completely backwards! Suffering spouses should be offered sympathy and counsel, and abusers should be strictly admonished.

  11. Lea

    Does he really believe believers commit “every kind of sin”???

    That rapist? Totally a Christian. That serial killer? Christian. Etc. Really???

    • joepote01

      Mass murder? Witchcraft? Satanic worship? Persecution and killing of Christians?

      The logic seems flawed, doesn’t it?

      Not all sins are equal…and true believers in Christ do not commit every kind of sin.

    • And the blogger who tries to scare victims of abuse into not getting divorced? Is he a Christian?

      not mentioning any names…. (sarc)

  12. Freed by God

    Matt Powell said,

    But the Bible only provides for divorce via abandonment when the spouse is an unbeliever. The church should therefore be involved, to certify that the man’s abandonment is of the nature of unrepentant sin.

    So, the church should “certify” what’s going on in the heart of the man? They’ve done a bang up job on that already, haven’t they?

  13. Karen

    My husband would fit in quite well in Matt’s church and probably hold a leadership position as well, being praised and glorified for his vast knowledge of the bible he holds in his hands.

    Before our marriage, my husband verbalized that our marital relationship would be 60% to 40%. My share of the relationship would be giving 60% to the success of our marriage, while his share was going to be a whopping 40%. I was also told that I would have to be his ‘helpmate’ in his business and success in life. So I stayed home with our children while he went out with his friends to one sports night a week, then to the bars afterwards. I stayed home with the children while he went to church choir practice another night of the week. And I could only go out if it involve him and the children, I was not allowed to go out with friends, even an afternoon coffee party at the neighbor’s house. He would yell at me, and say, “you have a lot of work to do around the farm!”

    After years of physical, mental, and verbal abuse in my home, I am still in awe how my husband can be so nicey-nicey to the pastor at church, how he can smile and be so sweet amongst the ladies who build him up during their Sunday morning church Bible study, and how he can treat those from his church with kinds words and actions, all the while neglecting me, his wife at home. My husband is such a different man at home than he is in public and I can’t honestly call him a born again believer in Jesus Christ. He says he is, but his behavior towards me, his wife speaks otherwise on a daily basis.

    So no, Matt, I am sorry that you are even a pastor of God’s sheep, for you literally do not have a clue to the pain and suffering many wives are experiencing in isolation. I will pray our LORD graciously grants you wisdom in this area.

    • Free

      Hi Karen
      Exactly the same torment went on in my home and goes on even from a distance in my life. Thank you for writing.

  14. And, believers sin against each other. Believers commit abuse. Believers commit violence against people. Believers commit every kind of sin, as the Bible amply testifies to us.

    If a person does all this I doubt if the spirit is in him and he most likely is not a believer at all, even if he sits in the church pew week after week; by their fruits you shall know them!

    If the person is immoral, financially abusing, blowing up and raging at his wife regularly & bringing chaos into his family by causing division within the home … You can read about that in Galatians 5 before verse 22 & 23, those are the works of darkness that are manifest when the Holy Spirit is absent in a person’s life.

    • Un-Tangled

      If the person is immoral, financially abusing, blowing up and raging at his wife regularly & bringing chaos into his family by causing division within the home … You can read about that in Galatians 5 before verse 22 & 23, those are the works of darkness that are manifest when the Holy Spirit is absent in a person’s life.

      Starlight, your comment also made me think of this:

      Moreover, anyone who does not provide for his own people, especially for his family, has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Tim. 5:8

  15. irene

    Doesn’t he understand that these people won’t attend counseling sessions? Offer it to them as many times as you want to…

    • Free

      Hi Irene
      Exactly and even if they pretend they do they’ll put on an act only for so long and them they’ll find a reason to quit soon after. The XH made it only so far and then the truth started to come out and he stopped immediately. That was that.

  16. Sharon

    Wow… just wow… this is the kind of brutal advice that gets women killed, and children sexually abused.. I am so thankful to be free from people like Matt.

    Man sees the outside, but God sees the heart. Great post Charis. And yes, abuse can definitely have generational consequences… divorce… um.. i don’t think so.

  17. Tan

    The trouble is there is so little known about narcissists/sociopaths/psychopaths. It seems you have to experience one/be closely involved with one to know but this man seems like an abuser himself. Im sick of the pontificating religious dribble these people hide behind. Call a spade a spade. Iv’e had to draw a line in the sand with “churches” i can no longer participate.

  18. healingInHim

    Thanks for the “trigger warning” … yep, trigger, trigger, trigger.
    Excellent input by commenters. I’m thankful for your voices.

  19. Tan

    I have to add its like these people/churches are living in their own little fantasy world, their not in reality. Delusional. Its like a form of mental illness. They deny the existence of evil even though they condone it, feel no anger about it. God feels anger about it. I cant go along with their fantasy anymore, the truth is nowhere near them. I have to live in reality.

    This is probably off topic but another “beef” i have is that anytime i tried to bring up any doubts or fears about the abuser i would get told not to worry “God is in control” and “fear is not of God” and not to “give in to fear” the overcome your fears thing (I fully believe fear is not of God, but some fear is there on purpose for a very good reason) when you think about it this isnt even logical, a fear of running out on the middle of a busy highway is a very good fear to have 🙂

    • Anonymous

      The book, “The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence” by Gavin de Becker has been recommended on this website. It backs up what you said and is worth reading.

    • KayE

      You are so right, so many churches live in a delusional world where everything is “nice”.
      That’s why I can’t even relate to them. To fit into a church it seems you are required to stop living in truth and go back to make believe. I have to live in reality too, my life has depended on it.

    • Ng

      It is outrageous when Christians try to tell others to quiet down their God-given gut feeling .. I am sorry you had to experience that.
      I have noticed that believers who have NOT been through such situations – or, they have dulled their senses -, are the worst when giving advice. 😦
      The church should be the place to get wisdom and discernment, with different viewpoints and life experiences… sadly, it’s not often the case.

    • Free

      Yes, Tan. I stand with you- call a spade a spade.

      Those phrases- Heard all of those too! This one came to mind today- the message of “The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want” really meant “you are the wife and the one we want to make our scapegoat (because we can see you don’t fully buy our lies) so you shall not want (to change anything, say anything, do anything contrary to our agenda because we are given our position and authority by God and that matters more than your unreasonable cry for help ) or if you want anything other than what you have that makes you evil. And hey guess what? We LOVE your abuser because we are SO much like Christ. And btw why don’t you do the same? We just don’t understand. Anyway go in peace, stay warm and God bless!”

      Do we have a post for all the verses these evil people twist? I’m sure collectively we’d have buckets full and for me it sure is helpful to hear it put out there. It’s validating to me and I find there’s healing in that.

      I tell you survivors hearing your testimonies and knowing you hear mine is so much a part of my continued healing and strength.

      Today was a bad day here. I feel like I got hit by a pounding wave and dragged on the rough and unforgiving sandy floor a few times. Slamming into a couple rocks too. Seriously hurting.

      Before I knew the truth about abuse I would have said to myself all the msgs I’ve heard for years “look you’re getting punished for being too prideful and self reliant. You enjoyed life a little too much and that’s idolatry! Shame Shame shame. Satan is having a field day attacking you. You should pray more, thank Him more, read your bible more, do more for others. You’re selfish and that’s why you had a bad day. Be still and know. You’re not still and quiet enough. You don’t love Him enough. You’re judgmental and now you’re getting what you’ve sown. The prideful always fall. You’re not submitting. Not humble enough. You’re controlling and that is why this happened. You’re suffering now for God’s glory. Sanctification! He’s cleansing you of your wretched sin. You’re a sinner. No one said it’s be eaaaaasy. Take joy. Etc etc.”

      Yeah wow.

      But I thank God I can come here and find some relief from fighting these battles all day long. I get truth in doses here like Tylenol [Panadol for australians] to help the pain go away just long enough while I heal and then get ready to deal with the blows thrown at me yet again. No “victim mentality” syndrome here – this is reality. It’s a war zone.

      HATE that label “victim mentality” btw as I believe it puts the blame on the victim! To me it means “Work on you because you can’t ever change someone else. Which means in short “get over it and grow up.” Which in reality to me means “keep your shoes clean while walking thru wet tar every single day. (So I scrub and scrape and pick at my shoes all day because everyone else’s shoes are spotless and light so I must be super sinful or lazy yet I’m exhausted and confused instead and my shoes are black with tar and each day they get heavier and heavier) But don’t ever talk about the wet tar. Don’t leave the wet tar. That wet tar that you’re utterly stuck in and is destroying your shoes “

      IMPOSSIBLE to function this way.

      Yet “experts” essentially say if you blame yourself and change yourself you sure can. So do THIS program, pray THIS way, read THIS book, and you will succeed. And if you don’t then you didn’t do something right and we’ll need to teach you more bc we’re experts. And we are praying for you.

      I find relief from little creeping doubts about all of this like “was he really an abuser, was I just the same as him, am I faking it like he did, how can someone be so incredibly evil and unrepentant, well that was wrong of me to do so…etc etc.” I hear other survivors bravely speaking the truth, crying out and standing up and at the end of one more day I can sleep again because I’ve found peace that what we boldly stand for is right and true. And what we stand for saves lives and souls. The truth saves lives and souls. God hates evil and He is called the Truth. I gladly follow Him at all costs and the cost right now is very very heavy.

      I’m not tormented every night anymore like I was before I heard the truth about abusers. I come here and remember why I fight to live and how the abusers and lukewarmers fight to die. I REFUSE to be a lukewarmer myself ever again! Jesus will spit those out of His mouth. He’s disgusted with those that are lukewarm. You only spit out what is garbage, right? The truth is what keeps me alive and keeps me doing what is right. Thank you.

      • and thank YOU, Free 🙂

      • Moving Forward

        Like you, Free, I am reeling with pain so much right now I can hardly stand up, much less think of a reply. I just “Amen” everything you said and add, how thankful I am that God’s mercies are new every morning and His mercies endureth forever.

      • keeningforthedawn

        I hear other survivors bravely speaking the truth, crying out and standing up and at the end of one more day I can sleep again because I’ve found peace that what we boldly stand for is right and true. And what we stand for saves lives and souls. The truth saves lives and souls. God hates evil and He is called the Truth. I gladly follow Him at all costs and the cost right now is very very heavy.

        Free — YES! Something that came to mind as I was reading your reply was Ephesians 6:10-20 (talking about the whole armor of God). The use of the word “stand” is so prominent in this passage:

        10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints– 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

        The cost was heavy for Paul, too, but he chose to stand (and speak, too) just as you are doing. In light of this, then, why is it that abuse survivors are harassed for their courage to “stand”? The Bible tells believers to stand! (I see this, in part, as setting boundaries, saying “No!” to evil, and walking in the light of Truth.) Why is this often regarded as “giving up”, “having a hard heart”, “being unforgiving”, “quitting”, “having no grace”, “an easy way out”, etc? It’s NOT! Taking that stand is so very vital to survival, even when the battle is at the height of its intensity. I’m glad you’re still standing.

  20. Tan

    Sorry to comment again but almost everything this man and others like him say is a twisting of the truth…fantasy…illogical…a lie. Its wicked. Are they really so ignorant? is this “accidental” If he’s the expert he claims to be on this “subject” and so interested in it…the information is out there, no one can claim ignorance in this day of the internet.

  21. Tan

    Last one 🙂 Has anyone here heard of Patrick Doyle of Veritas counselling? He has some great video’s on youtube. He is a Christian and has an excellent understanding of abuse and abuse in “Christian” marriages and the church. He’s not afraid to say it like it is. I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts on him. I wish there were more people like him and ACFJ in the churches. I never come across them.

  22. MarkQ

    The problem is, whether or not the marriage is “salvageable”, the marriage is still BROKEN. So, don’t take two people whose marriage is shattered and force them to live a lie hoping it will magically become whole again. When people come to the church asking for a divorce, it’s not as if the car has a few dings. It’s been in a wreck and it’s probably not road worthy.

    Let’s say my daughter wrecks my car. The airbags are deployed, the seatbelt had to be cut to get her out and the frame is partly crumpled. I don’t say, hey, get back in that car! The insurance company said it’s salvageable, so you get back into it and drive it home. In the same way, there’s a difference between a “salvageable” marriage and a “road worthy” marriage. Yet, for some reason our church leaders think they can pray over that car to make it road worthy. “Be warm and be filled and have a safe trip home!”

    • Hi Mark, thanks for this. It’s a good analogy.

    • joepote01

      Good analogy, Mark!

      I might add that just because someone says a car is salvageable does not mean it is worth repairing. There are still issues of costs, reliability, and trustworthiness that must be made by the car owner.

      In the same way, just because a pastor or counselor says he believes a marriage is salvageable does not mean the abused spouse is obligated to try to salvage it. The marriage is broken…the vows repeatedly violated…and the abused spouse has every right to decide to end the marriage.

      There are still issues of costs, reliability, and trustworthiness…and the people in the marriage are the ones who will have to live with the consequences of decisions regarding the marriage.

  23. nt12many

    You and me both! I have so much joy now that my marriage is over. Whatever regret over the “lost years” of my life I have to lay at the feet of Jesus. I was blind but now I see and God used my abuser to give me a large family who (by the grace of God) loves me and still believes in God.

    I told another woman in an abusive marriage that it’s hard to keep my mouth shut about how much joy and peace we have now…after all…the church teaching is that divorce is the worst thing that can happen to you. She was astounded that I was so happy and that my kids are doing well. “Why shouldn’t we be doing well?, I told her, “we get up in the morning and there’s not an angry man in the house! We know we can choose to be cheerful (thanks to the self-control we learned living with an angry man). We have peace and joy and hope now!”
    I am not happy post-divorce because my heart is hard. I am happy because Jesus set us free.

    • I was blind but now I see

      Yes! Your story is a great example of what Jeff was talking about in his sermon Calling Evil Good, and Good Evil (Part 18 of Wise as Serpents sermon series) where he said:

      When I first went into the ministry it was like “Your calling is to preach the gospel and people get saved.” Well, we do like to see people who don’t know Christ, come to Christ and be saved. But it’s almost like there is another kind of salvation. When you teach and preach the true ethics of scripture — when you tell Christians, “True forgiveness does not always include reconciliation of relationship; anger is not always a sin, in fact, you should be angry at times,” — when you begin to preach that, suddenly you start to hear from people who have been in bondage to ethical heresy and are being freed from bondage.

  24. Tan

    Thanks for the book recommendation, it sounds very good. And for the link to the post on Patrick Doyle, i somehow missed that post. I do see the triggers in the video. Overall i think he’s on the right track.

  25. Not Too Late

    Matt said —

    Extreme care should be taken not to twist this provision into a catch-all that is used to justify any divorce.

    He thinks that this is what generally occurs in Christian circles? Far from it. The evidence suggests that extreme care should be taken not to twist Ephesians 5 and I Corinthians 7 into catch-alls that is used to justify any efforts to keep a marriage together, in spite of the evil in it.

    • MarkQ

      It’s the non-Evangelical bogeyman. They read about some liberal church where there is bad counseling, and it becomes an excuse to double down on the abusive rhetoric. Like Rehoboam, his finger is as thick as his dad’s thighs! We like to “err on the side of caution” (just like the Pharisees did!)

    • joepote01

      Exactly! 🙂

  26. keeningforthedawn

    My two cents (though I apologize in advance for any triggers):

    Matt —

    Even an actual example of abuse need not end a marriage. The consequences of ending a marriage are tremendous and long-lasting. It hurts everyone involved. It causes trauma for generations.

    Response — Just to be clear, ABUSE hurts everyone involved. ABUSE causes trauma for generations. (I wanted to make sure this was acknowledged before subjecting everyone to the next sentence.)

    Matt —

    This is why the Bible is so adamantly against easy divorce.

    Response — You call divorce on grounds of abuse EASY? This statement leads me to believe that you are seriously out of touch. If you think abuse is “easy”, not to mention a possible divorce as a result, I don’t think you understand anything about the subject.

    Matt —

    He will see whether even physical abuse was a one-time thing which was repented of or whether there is a pattern over time.

    Response — When abuse gets physical, it’s really just a tangible manifestation of a pattern that has already been in operation. Physical abusers don’t just “hit” their victims. They control, they belittle, they manipulate, they coerce. Hitting is just another abusive way to keep someone else down. Just because it’s a “one-time” punch or slap doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a long-time pattern of abuse that has already been established. (And don’t get me started on how good abusers are at phony repentance.)

    Matt —

    Physical abuse is certainly grounds for divorce… et al.

    Response — At the risk of sounding terribly sarcastic, thanks for throwing a dog a bone. That’s really big of you. Once everyone jumps through your predetermined hoops, it might just appear (on the surface) as though you’re the survivor’s ally. Appearances, however, are often deceiving. Thus, the “mental blur” that many survivors experience is fully reinforced by your statement.

    I’ve come to think of divorce as one of God’s great mercies. Yes, it’s excruciating. Yes, it is to be grieved. Yes, it’s like a death. And yet, our God resurrects His people from the dead.

  27. Innoscent

    Matt Powell, with all due respect I can tell that you have no proper knowledge regarding the forces of evil and their schemes otherwise you would discern what is really at play and at stake in the realm of domestic violence. It is not about salvaging marriages but victims of abusive husbands, children of the Devil.

    Please read 2 Timothy 3.1-5 where you will find a full description of abusers i.e. false brothers and husbands, and you will also realize that we indeed are in ‘perilous times’ in which abuse now become rampant is deceiving multitudes leadership and clergy alike. The church is dying for lack of knowledge about this issue and victims are, in most cases, mistreated, revictimized and worse disfellowshiped.

    You need to humble yourself and learn from the ACFJ ministry who are true advocates of bruised victims by their abuser(s) and also for many of them by their very pastors, elders, churches and family! Which is what you are doing in writing such harmful statements.

    A few years ago I was totally alone, emotionally battered by my abusive husband, with no pastoral support whatsoever when one day I was led by God to find on the internet the series of sermons on abuse by Jeff Crippen. As I listened to what he was humbly presenting about his own ignorance as regards to abuse, followed by his efforts to educate himself about it, and then the devilish mindset of abusers, I felt totally validated with my own experience and I knew God had sent Jeff as a true pastor of His sheep to minister to me personally. When Jeff cares for the victims, he cares for Jesus Himself, nothing less -Mtt 25. And Barbara has done the same by emailing me and sending me books for free. I strongly and prayerfully recommend you to read their books which will hopefully open your heart and mind about the true nature of abuse and how to scripturally deal with victims and abusers. Then you will be fit to educate your own church. These narcissists are a cancer in our families and churches, and destroy the godly and beneficial influence the church should have on the world.

    You need to understand that an abuser is no Christian, no husband, and that repenting and changing is totally foreign to his world. When you start educating yourself you will be able to discern their mind games and the extensive damage their cause to their victims and their children and all the rest, yes even your psyche, your church and your leadership! Then you will wake up, repent and start serving the Lord as James stated: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows [victims of abusive husbands] in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (1:27)

    Do not fight against the ACFJ ministry, you are choosing the wrong target. If you reject this light now you will be enshrouded in deeper darkness. Beware! “And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.” Acts 5:38-39

    • Anonymous

      Stunningly beautiful response to Matt Powell’s writings Innoscent! It would be lovely if his reply were at the very least “civil” but sadly I’d guess he will either dismiss it completely or battle it. Battling you see, is all they really care about. It’s the strife and controversy and chaos that they love and strive for as it keeps them from being bored.

      Psalm 55:21, His talk is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords.

      And if he is as one described in John 8:44, then there is no truth in him and his words are simply used as weapons of distraction to keep himself busy and also to keep us from seeing truth.

      I, however, loved it and it’s a blessing that you wrote it. Thank you!

      • Proverbs 16:27
        A worthless man plots evil,
        and his speech is like a scorching fire.

        Psalm 36:4
        He plots trouble while on his bed;
        he sets himself in a way that is not good;
        he does not reject evil.

    • Suzanne

      I don’t have much hope that Matt Powell will change his teaching about how to deal with abusers. From his writing and teaching on this subject he appears to be steeped in pride. He needs a good dose of humility with a closer examination of the Scriptures. My heart goes out to the people in his church.

  28. MarkQ

    I decided to take a leap and respond directly to Matt. Here’s a tidbit of the response:

    Matt said:

    “When I am under authority, the focus needs to be on joyfully submitting to that authority, even when it is wrong, since no human being ever exercises authority perfectly. So if your major issue is with what you believe to be abusive authority, your spiritual leaders may have been right to point you first and foremost to your own response to that authority, not to talk about all the things the other guy did wrong.”

    Matt also said:

    “There is, in fact, several places in the Scriptures where we are taught to submit and bear with abusive authority.”

    Ah yessss!! So, the fact that my abuser has NO RIGHT to tell me to do something does not allow me to REFUSE to do what he commands. All that matters is that he has (apparently) some legitimate authority. So, the clerk at the DMV can tell me when and where to have sex with my wife. It’s abusive, but I must submit!

    And Matt also said:

    “No human authority will ever be exercised perfectly, and all failures of authority are abusive, as they always hurt those under the authority. But the imperfect exercise of authority is never of itself in the Scriptures a reason to defy or rebel against it.”

    Fascinating. So, we have not merely a shrugging of the shoulders about re-victimizing abuse victims trying to escape abuse. We have the manual and theological guidelines. When I report abuse to my church, first they table any accusations and focus on my response. If my response has any sin, like being angry at being beaten, I suppose, then the church is obligated to ignore the abuse and counsel me against my sinful response. Since I should be joyfully submitting to those in authority who abuse me, then their abuse is never in question in the first place.

    I like this definition I used: “The problem is that you’re probably confused about what authority means. I’ll define it on your behalf. Authority is everything I’m commanded to obey.”

    You can’t say that I don’t have the authority to demand sex from my wife if you then discipline her for saying no. Either I have the authority and she cannot refuse, or I don’t have the authority and you shouldn’t discipline her for saying no. Complete hypocrisy! That’s exactly what Piper was saying. The husband doesn’t have the right to require permission for his wife to go to the bathroom…….. but…… yeah nothing. I’m guessing Piper told the wife she STILL HAS TO ASK FOR THAT PERMISSION. WHAT. AN. IDIOT.
    [Eds: click this link to understand Mark’s reference to Piper]

    [And note from Barb: please read my comment below this as it will help you understand the context of Mark’s comment.]

  29. Before I publish a comment by Mark, I want to paste here some of what he said to Matt Powell over at Matt’s post “Most Marriages are Salvageable.” I’m doing this because it will make sense of Mark’s comment that I’m about to publish.

    Mark said to Matt:

    I have sought counsel with many Reformed and Presbyterian elders about specific instances of what I consider to be abuse from my spiritual leaders, my leaders in business, my parents and my government. Only when I talk about general governmental abuses do I get any kind of agreement. When I talk about spiritual abuse, abuse by bosses or abuse by parents, I’m always directed to MY SUBMISSION.

    Every church I’ve been a member of considers itself responsible to deal with sin, yet the church appears to be incapable of dealing with non-physical abuse. Instead, we look at the anger of the abused, call it sinful pride or idolatry and then counsel them to repent and submit.

    The problem is that you’re probably confused about what authority means. I’ll define it on your behalf. Authority is everything I’m commanded to obey. So, when you tell the wife that she must submit to her husband’s desire to have sex, you are saying that he has the authority to command sex. When you tell a child to obey his parents, you are saying that the father who tells him to pull his pants down must be obeyed. When you tell the church goer that they must submit to their pastor, it means that they must come to the mid-week prayer meeting if you command it. That’s what’s being preached from Reformed pulpits.

    So, when my dad repeatedly beat me with a belt for refusing to play a piano piece for his guest, until I agreed to play, that wasn’t abusive. That was loving discipline for an insubordinate child. It matters not whether the Bible gives him the right to do that. I must obey. When an elder tells my children to clean up a table when they didn’t make the mess and the culprits have already left, that’s not abusive. If they disobeyed and were disciplined, that would be completely just. When my wife doesn’t obey my command to keep the house clean now that our newborn is two weeks old, and I call the elders. She should be disciplined for disobeying me. [Note from Barb: I think Mark is giving this as a hypothetical example, to point out how ridiculous Matt Powell’s doctrine is.]

    Jesus said, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’” Instead of preparing ourselves to deal with the reality of abusive authority, we are like Paul, who watched the coats while Stephen is martyred.

    Instead of being on constant guard against the messy victims of abuse, perhaps we should be on guard against the abuse itself, what do you think? How many sermons have you preached on submission and how many sermons have you preached against abusive (non-government and non-Pharisee) authority?

  30. MarkQ

    I feel sad for those pastors who are trapped in this view of authority, but I feel more sad towards those (like me) who were trapped in abuse under these kinds of pastors. I think it comes down to three theological problems.

    1) They believe that we are required to obey to unlawful authority. They redefine the word submit to mean obey and then says the Bible commands it except when our authority requires us to sin.
    2) They think of abuse as more of a single instance rather than a pattern or addiction.
    3) There is a subtle trap of thinking where, although they argue that we are all created equal spiritually, those in authority are more equal than others.

    I honestly was in this trap, and it took God taking me through seasons of abuse followed by seasons of healing to wake up. Now I get to beat my head against the wall with my old connections still stuck in that trap.

  31. IamMyBeloved's

    It isn’t so much that Matt doesn’t know or understand abuse and abusers – which he doesn’t- he simply doesn’t really know or understand Jesus and His Word!

    Here we go again with hermeneutics and instruction on man’s way of interpreting Scripture, instead of how the Bible tells us to interpret Scripture – by allowing the Holy Spirit to teach us! Those who are taught by the Spirit can all pretty much agree on interpretation concerning abuse, abusers, marriage and divorce for abuse. Those who interpret because they were taught that in seminary training or hermeneutics, etc., seem to interpret mostly through denominational doctrinal teachings (depending which denomination they are) and wooden interpretations with lists of dos and don’ts.

    • It isn’t so much that Matt doesn’t know or understand abuse and abusers – which he doesn’t- ….

      There is another alternative. Matt Powell may understand abuse and abusers VERY WELL INDEED.

      As readers of this blog know, we frequently point out that abusers understand what they are doing, and they choose to abuse despite the fact that they know their behaviour is wicked.

      So it is possible that someone like Matt Powell understands abuse and abusers because he shares their mindset and tactics.

      But I agree with you, IAMB, that Matt Powell simply doesn’t really know or understand Jesus and His Word!

  32. IamMyBeloved's

    Matt said, “The church should therefore be involved, to certify that the man’s abandonment is of the nature of unrepentant sin.”

    Excuse me? I just have one big question here for this statement. Where, oh where, oh where in the Bible, does Jesus Christ ever say that one can get a divorce only after the rest of the Church decides or approves it should happen? Herein is significant ongoing error. Jesus nowhere says that divorce can only happen at the approval of the rest of the body of Christ. Marriage is between two people, a man and a woman, not the entire body of Christ! The only people who know the truth of what goes on in that home are the people who live there and God Himself. When the topic of divorce is talked about, Jesus and Paul both address the situation as being between the husband and wife, they do not pull the leaders aside and speak to them and give them directives about what to do or what to say to the husband and wife who attend their local Church. The leadership is never directly addressed or involved in that discussion.

    This is the far reaching hunger for power by leaders who think they should decide what happens in every household. There is never, in my understanding of Scripture, a place where God says that the leadership or others in the body of Christ, decide what happens in others’ homes.

    Clearly, Mr. Powell seems to be asking for privileges he is not given by God. If Mr. Powell wants to educate himself about abuse, then he should, but not so he can make a proper decision for a household other than his own. It appears he is looking for answers so he can make a decision that is not his decision to even make. He should educate himself so he can lovingly support a woman (or man) who comes to him and tells him that they are divorcing their abusive spouse, not so he can decide if there has been enough abuse to warrant a divorce. It is none of his business, period!

    • Where, oh where, oh where in the Bible, does Jesus Christ ever say that one can get a divorce only after the rest of the Church decides or approves it should happen?

      There is nowhere in the Bible that says the elders or the pastor or the church at large must bestow their imprimatur of approval on a divorce before that divorce can go ahead.

      The notion that divorce was to be adjudicated by church leaders goes back to the Roman Catholic church which for centuries before the Reformation imposed its Canon Law on the masses. Rome’s laws about divorce were harsh, unbiblical, and open to manipulation by the rich and influential.

      When the Reformation occurred, the protestant thrust was to chuck out Canon Law and in many protestant areas marriage and divorce were deemed solely the province of the State. But in Geneva, Calvin and his followers believed that the church leadership should still be highly involved advising and ruling on divorce. Church involvement in divorce was given the tick of approval in the Westminster Confession. But in the Reformed Baptist Confession of 1689, there was NO mention of church involvement in divorce.

      However, sadly, the majority of conservative Baptist church leaders these days can be just as haughty about divorce than the Presbyterians (PCA and similar).

      For further reading —

      Abuse and Divorce: A Disagreement with the Westminster Confession of Faith by Jeff Crippen

      David Instone-Brewer, The Westminster Confession, and Judging Divorce by Jeff S

      The Puritan Confessions on Divorce and Remarriage – sermon by Ps David Dykstra

      Appendix 10 in Not Under Bondage, by Barbara Roberts

      • IamMyBeloved's

        Exactly my point! Perhaps we should be teaching on this area as well. When people like Matt are addressed, perhaps it would benefit everyone to start with “Exactly why do you think you have a part in this decision??”, and wait for an answer! If nothing else, it would be very interesting to hear some of those answers, because they would have to back the answers up biblically, which we all know they could not do! Ha!

        Thanks, Barb!

  33. MarkQ

    I’ll take a stab at it. I was thinking of writing this as a blog post, but will try it here first.

    When I was in Kindergarten, I punched a kid in the nose. The teachers made us shake hands and everything was better. Well kinda. He knew that he could no longer torment me on the bus and steal from me. I punched him because he stole my Matchbox car and I had enough. So, as far as the school was concerned, it was an isolated incident. They dealt with it. It was over.

    Unfortunately that is the take on Matthew 18. Two kids in a little disagreement. The church swoops in, threatens big time punishment. But the extent of their work is confession and repentance. Once they get that, it’s over. Church discipline is over.

    Just like our conversion, the crime has been forgiven, but the effects of the sin remain. Yet, the church has just gotten done patting itself on the back for dodging the bullet. They got their repentance. The matter is over.

    This is the problem of the church. They think that vindication is the end of sin. Let’s take Natalie Greenfield. She was sexually abused by a man in the church community boarding at her house. He was brought under church discipline and repented. She got her vindication! So, the church moved on, but she didn’t. Her life was a shambles. She needed help and comfort and she felt shame and worthlessness. In fact, the church did blame her and her parents for her abuse. But, he wasn’t really hurt by the abuse. She was devastated.

    But, now she realized that her church, while good at charging people with sin, was horrible at healing the damage caused by that sin. I think that is why abusers find themselves on the outside. It’s like a courtroom drama where Matlock saves the day and the right guy goes to jail. Everyone celebrates the victory, but the next day, the widow of the guy who was murdered still has to wake up without her husband and Matlock and the TV crews have moved on to the next case.

    Five years ago. I moved my family across the country to escape from spiritual abuse. We moved to a safe church. One where long ago I had been welcomed and loved and treated with respect and dignity. But this time I wasn’t a naive, optimistic college graduate. I was broken and angry from seeing those around me suffer great harm, and just cusp of realizing how much harm I had suffered. The church welcomed me back with open arms, but then things started to change. When my brokenness became evident, people didn’t really want to talk to me. I felt like I had some sort of cancer. When we found out my old church had identified their next victim, I tried to get support. The more I talked, the more distant people became. Finally I told the church I was leaving. Their response, in some ways good, in some ways bad, was, “bye, we really didn’t like dealing with you anyway”.

    The next Sunday, my wife and I went to separate churches, and I honestly thought long and hard about whether I was going to walk in that door or get back in my car and drive away. I’ve found two people so far that understand what I went through and are still willing to talk.

    Even if I and the 20+ others that suffered from that man’s spiritual abuse were vindicated. We still have the emotional scars. We still have anger towards those whose job it is to protect the sheep and instead fed us to the wolves. We still don’t know how to look at scripture outside the lens of legalism and submission. We are still trying to understand whether God is the God of beatings and demeaning life lessons or the one who seemingly abandoned us in our darkest hour.

    Even if the church is adequate at dealing with sin, it has far to go in dealing with the effects of sin on the victims.

  34. Blessed

    I’m new here. I notice how he said separation to cool off rather than divorce. I’m in a place where I left a bad situation after almost 10 years of marriage. I have young children to protect from his emotional abuse and porn addiction. Unfortunately, courts don’t care much about that stuff where I live. My children and I have been out for several years now. This divorce has taken several years and has still not been finalized and recognized by the court system.

    From Biblical times, wasn’t “separation” synonymous with divorce? I feel I’ve been divorced for these years since I’ve been out, but I’ve had some well-meaning Christians tell me I’m not allowed to “date” until the state recognizes the divorce is final.

    I feel ready, and began seeing someone recently (Christian man), but have been told this is wrong and adulterous (although I have not “been with” anyone since my marriage years ago and will wait for a remarriage).

    My ex has been unrepentantly unfaithful for years and currently in a relationship now. Yet, now I’ve been labeled as not trusting God and dating while being a “married woman.” I struggle with this condemnation as I don’t feel I’m in error, yet feeling guilty from the accusations. This long “separation” period as I’m waiting for the legal system to catch up with the divorce that I feel occurred when I left and filed, has left me feeling stuck.

    This whole thing of separation vs. divorce seems a little foggy to me as to what is expected of me right now. The same people who say I’m spiritually wrong for seeing someone aren’t encouraging me to be a good wife (if that’s what they truly think I am) either.

    Trapped in a marriage has turned into trapped in a legal system. And on top of it, I’ve been told I must have some sin that satan is accusing me of to God that is keeping God from allowing my divorce to be officially over.
    Does anyone have any thoughts on all this?

    • Hi Blessed, very good questions and thanks for asking them!

      You are right that in New Testament times, separation was the same thing as divorce in the Roman Empire. Very often a divorce certificate or legal process was not even required. At marriage, the wife could easily, if she wanted to, keep control of any property and assets that she had owned before marriage, so property element of our modern divorce process didn’t necessarily apply in the Roman Empire. Sometimes a legal divorce process was carried out. For example, Jews still employed divorce certificates. And sometimes a Jewish divorce involved a Jewish court making a determination about property settlement. But the main point is, for most people in the Roman empire, the kind of people Paul was speaking to in his letter to the Corinthians, SEPARATION by one party with intent to end the marriage WAS DIVORCE. Finito. End. No more marriage.

    • And Blessed, I encourage you to read my book Not Under Bondage which you can find in the sidebar of this blog. If you can’t afford to buy it, email TWBTC and she will send you a gift copy.
      see here:

      Blog News: Gift Books offer — Update

    • I’ve been told I must have some sin that satan is accusing me of to God that is keeping God from allowing my divorce to be officially over.

      What a nasty inference that person made about you! It sounds like the kind of thing that is so rife in pentecostal circles, where if your prayers haven’t been answered, they accuse you of ‘not having enough faith’ or of ‘having some secret unconfessed sin’.

      The foolishness and cruelty of those kinds of remarks beggars belief.

      Did the man born blind sin in the womb, causing himself to be born blind? No. Did his parent’s sin cause him to be born blind? No.
      Was the paralysed man at the pool of Bethesda paralysed because of his some sin he had committed? Perhaps. We don’t know for sure, but we know that

      Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” (John 5:14 ESV)

      The delay in your divorce case, how it’s grinding like a glacier through the court, is MUCH more likely to be caused by the obstructionism and blood-mindedness of your abusive stbx-husband!

      People who have never had to divorce an abuser have no idea how hard the process can be, how little some courts understand domestic abuse, and how frequently abusers use the legal system as just one more way to abuse their target. It is a kind of domestic abuse by proxy. We call it legal abuse — and it’s one form of systemic abuse. The other kind of systemic abuse is using the health system (esp the mental health or disability parts of that system) to abuse the target.

  35. MarkQ

    I find the WCF more problematic in sins of omission than commission. For example, the Larger Catechism teaching on the 5th commandment completely neglects the concept of abuse. Since Jesus repeatedly told the disciples that the principle characteristic of authority among the nations was domineering, I find it a glaring omission that none of the “sins of the superiors” has anything to do with domineering.

  36. Free

    Respect me while I destroy you. Serve me while I rip away your dignity. Function as a healthy family under the pressure and abuse of control and disrespect. God ( and pastors and godly male authors) says submit and forgive everything and be patient and don’t count wrongs. However as the man, as leader, I will lead (control) your every move. Be meek, be quiet, be responsible for all the sex I want or don’t want. Me me me me me. And be happy while you do it. Take joy in The Lord. It’s your job.

    • MarkQ

      That’s the “Christians have given up their rights” argument. Except, somehow the powerful and the church leaders don’t. So, Christians don’t have the right to sue each other, except for leaders who can sue at will. Christians should accept being offended, except for the leaders who should take offense. Christians should submit to one another, except for the husbands and leaders, who should domineer. Christians should listen to one another, except for the leaders, who should do all the talking and never listen.

      • spot on, Mark!

        And if you cry ‘Double Standard! Hypocrites!’ to those who arrogate superior rights to themselves, they crunch you with their Catch-22s, and tell you that you are wrong because you had the *wrong tone* when you made the complaint. . . Or they give you death-by-process,: “Submit an appeal in the proper format, and the Elders or Presbytery will consider it…”

  37. Marie Notcheva

    Whoa. This is EXACTLY, word-for-word, the same false belief that my (former) pastor held! And so, when I divorced and refused reconciliation with my abusive, unrepentant ex-husband, IT WAS I who “have a very low view of Christ”. I was also “challenged to deal with my own sinful heart issues”. The only difference between this is that my former pastor didn’t even allow for PHYSICAL abuse being “biblical grounds for divorce”.

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