8. Should biblical counselors put lots of energy into helping abusive men see their sins?
It is wise to work on the assumption that the abuser
- knows what he did
- knows it was wrong
- knows he’s making false accusations about his target.
How do we know that abusers know they are doing wrong?
Abusers know they are doing wrong because they hide from the public the wrong things they do.
Abusers see that their conduct is wrong – they just don’t care.
When a man is abusing his wife, he knows that his behavior is unacceptable in civilized society. If he has even a smattering of Christian knowledge, he knows his behavior is sinful. He knows he should stop it. He sees all that. He just choose to continue doing evil.
Abusers know that they are using covert and surreptitious tactics to entrap and exploit their victims. And with men who abuse their intimate female partners, it is even more abominable. The male intimate abuser studies his target-woman closely, working out which tactics of abuse will be most effective in entrapping and controlling her. How the male intimate abuser selects, sets-up & grooms a target woman.
Imagine for a moment an abusive man whose father and uncles and grandfathers were all wife abusers. And like many guys growing up in this corrupt world, he absorbs the messages in popular culture that men can treat women like sex objects. Despite all that bad modelling and cultural ‘endorsement’, this abusive man nevertheless knows that he is doing wrong in abusing his female intimate partner, so he goes to great lengths to hide his wrongdoing. He puts on a mask in public and creates many narratives to give himself ‘plausible deniability’. Furthermore, he knows he doesn’t have to hide his agenda so much when he’s with his abusive peers in the locker room.
Many of us find it hard to wrap our minds around the depth of this evil.
Here is another way of saying it: The abuser sees, he just disagrees.
The skilled male intimate abuser has profoundly seared his conscience regarding what he does to his female partner.
The abuser doesn’t feel bad about what he’s done. Abusers lack guilt. They need to feel more guilt, not less guilt.
The abuser may feel a bit bad earlier in the relationship, but not so much about how he hurt his target. He feels bad about how he looked to himself. In the period after he has hurt you (the target woman), he spends a lot of energy running justifications in his head, by telling himself what he believes is wrong with you, in order to push down those guilt feelings.
The longer the relationship goes on, the less he has those guilt feelings. He doesn’t even feel bad any more about how he looked to himself. His self-justification becomes so automatic that he doesn’t have to put energy into it. His distorted thinking is habituated. He has seared his conscience about how he mistreats you.
In his work with abusive men, Lundy Bancroft noticed that men who abuse their female partnera often have a conscience about other things. For example, if the guy hurts his parents, he feels bad. (Lundy said this on his webinar and I made notes while watching the webinar.¹)
The man who abuses his female intimate partner has profoundly seared his conscience regarding what he does to her.
The abuser suppresses the truth (that his conduct is wrong). He tells himself that he’s entitled to behave that way. He is very dedicated to his belief in his entitlement. He wants to keep that belief and he goes to great lengths to resist giving it up. He lies in a thousand ways to conceal how much he wants to maintain his belief that he’s entitled to abuse his partner.
He loves his lies; they keep his fortress safe.
Revelation 22:15 talks about those who love and practice falsehood. So Christians – especially folks who call themselves “biblical counselors” – ought to be mindful that there are some people who love and practice falsehood as a way of life, as a full-body disguise.
The man who abuses his female intimate partner is such a man. He distorts the truth and tells lies to make himself seem like an object of pity. He throws up many smokescreens so that people don’t see his wicked mindset and how entrenched it is.
The abuser loves to give the impression that he doesn’t know he is doing wrong.
The abuser knows that this will hook well-meaning people into vaingloriously pushing the boulder uphill to get the man to ‘see’ and admit to all the things he is doing wrong. He knows it will put counselors off the scent of the real truth and thus keep his counselors very busy.
Whenever a counselor thinks the abuser needs insight, the abuser always has the upper hand. By claiming “I don’t understand what I’m doing,” the abuser successfully diverts the counselor into the role the counselor is best trained to do: helping people get insight into themselves.
I believe that Chris Moles has fallen into this trap. He says that the abuser’s problem is that he can’t see his sins, and he needs to be shown them. (M 31-32, also M 89*)
Here is what I think about all this. Chris Moles and other biblical counselors are focusing on getting abusers to change. And because of their intent focus, they have laid themselves open to being groomed by abusive men.
The abusers say to their counselors: “I don’t understand why you’re saying I’m being abusive!” So the counselors buy into that “plea for understanding”. The counselors think the abusers need insight in order to change, and the counselors bend over backwards to give the abusers insight into their wrong attitudes, beliefs and conduct, so that the abusers can see the harm they are doing.
But abusers are intentional in their evildoing: they plan, they strategize, they capture, they abuse…and re-abuse.
Chris Moles says:
In the case of the abusive person, more than likely we have encountered a very self-righteous person who desperately needs rescue from his own importance. (M 81)
So Chris mistakenly believes that abusers need lots of help to see and “be rescued” from the sinfulness of what they are doing. In my view, Chris has been deceived by the impression-management tactics of the abusers and that is why he spends lots of time “giving information” to abusive men to “help them see their sins”.
Chris sometimes even addresses the abuser as ‘buddy’:
They will offer these excuses and then we’ll have men that we counsel who we look at and we say, “Well, they’re a bully, but I don’t know if they are abusive.”
Have you [biblical counsleors] ever been there? You try desperately to see all the train so you can label them appropriately. In that process is it possible that we’ve forgotten that we’re not there to dish out labels – we’re there to offer hope? If we have a bully in front of us is it still worth our time and energy to counsel them? If I can’t give them a legal definition and say, “You’re a batterer,” do I still have a counselee in front of me that needs the hope of the gospel? Yeah. So yes, I may not start off with all the labels, but as I’m gathering data and I get more of the train I may have to go there.
There is something powerful to say, “You know, buddy, after this several weeks that we’ve been working you fit all of these categories. I’m afraid – I hate to tell you this – but you meet every indication that you’re a domestic abuser. (E 10:45-11:50)
This is Chris molly coddling the abusive man! The problem is not the abuser’s insecurities (his feeling world). Chris is not helping when he “soothes the abuser’s insecurities” by sugar-coating the confrontation.
Why does Chris “hate to tell this” to the abuser? Who is insecure? Maybe it’s Chris! But Chris is so bent on feeding the abuser crackers…
One of our readers made this astute comment:
Christ threw the moneychangers out of the temple. Christ did not counsel them. Same with the Pharisees. Christ spoke bold truth. He called the Pharisees a brood of vipers. He opposed them and warned others about them. Christ did not seek out Bad-Pharisee Intervention Programs.
Jesus tongue-lashed the scribes and Pharisees for being hypocrites:
Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why do your disciples not walk according to the precepts of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?
He answered and said to them, Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. In vain they worship me, teaching doctrines which are nothing but the commandments of men. (Mark 7:5 -7 NMB)
Abusive men need to hear the thundering of the Law
Abusers are to be reprehended severely. The terrors of the Law are to be set before them. You can see this in Jude 22-23 (which I discuss here).
Let us remember that Cain was a bitter ungodly resentful man who ended up murdering his brother, and God only gave one brief counseling session to Cain.
And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.
So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” (Gen 4:4b-7 NKJ)
God did not spend countless hours with Cain uncovering what Cain had done wrong and getting Cain to see it was wrong. God’s speech to Cain indicates that Cain was fully aware what was right and wrong. Cain didn’t need help to see this; he just needed blunt confrontation and a stern warning to resist temptation.
Abusers sin intentionally. They are presumptuous sinners. The Law of Moses commanded the Israelites to cut off (put to death) presumptuous sinners; and the New Testament tells Christians to have nothing to do with them, avoid them, and hand them over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh.
Men who abuse their female partners are unregenerate men who commit highhanded presumptuous sin and stubbornly resist admonishment. The Bible says that people who commit intentional, high-handed, presumptuous sin are to be cut off from God’s people. (See my post The Bible has one law for unintentional sin, and another law for intentional sin.)
And let’s look at Titus 3:10. Here are three translations:
Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned. (NASB)
Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. (NIV)
After a first and second admonition, have nothing further to do with any one who will not be taught. (Weymouth New Testament)
In all Chris Moles’ teaching which I’ve read and listened to, he only mentions Titus 3:10 once. And, like so many ‘c’hristians who talk about domestic abuse, Chris mentions this verse far too mildly, with far too little emphasis. He mentions it in a place where many of his readers will not read it: Appendix D, ‘Church Discipline and Abuse’, in the back pages of his book. (M 143-5)
The man who abuses his female intimate partner has surreptitiously kidnapped her by invading and colonizing her mind so she doesn’t know she has being kidnapped. He does this in order to have a sexual slave. The goal of all his tactics to have his sexual needs met without negotiation – this is what Don Hennessy says and I wholeheartedly agree with Hennessy. The abuser might also enjoy having a domestic slave, but his sexual entitlement is usually at the root of it.
If a man is discovered kidnapping one of his Israelite brothers, whether he treats him as a slave or sells him, the kidnapper must die. You must purge the evil from you. (Deut 24:7, CSB)
This verse in Deuteronomy is seldom discussed, but it perfectly applies to domestic abuse. It tells us that God thinks kidnappers are so dangerous it is best to get rid of them in order to protect the community. The Abuser as Kidnapper and Slave Master.
God’s Word tells us the opposite of what Chris Moles teaches about how we are to deal with men like this.
The Bible says we must put out of the church those who profess Christianity but are revilers (verbal abusers), idolators and stand-over merchants. The Bible gives us lots of guidance about how to deal with such people. If we know of heinous sinners who are hypocritically passing themselves off as believers in the church, we ought to
hand them over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh...I [Paul] wrote to you not associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves. (1 Cor 5:5, 11-13)
I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. (Rom 16:17 NIV)
Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from every brother who walks irresponsibly and not according to the tradition received from us. (2 Thess 3:6 HCSB)
…having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. (2 Tim 3:5 NIV)
If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your home, and don’t say, “Welcome,” to him. (2 John 1:10 HCSB)
I wish those who are disturbing you might also get themselves castrated! (Gal 5:12 HCSB)
And whoever does not receive you or hear you, when you leave there, shake off the dust that is under your feet, for a witness to them. (Mark 6:11 NMB)
Not convinced yet?
Maybe you are thinking that perhaps, somewhere, there are passages in the Bible which tell Christians to exert arduous effort over a long period in the hope of getting men who abuse their wives to acknowledge their sins.
You might be recalling this verse:
We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. (1 Thess 5:14)
In this verse the apostle is giving advice to believers (read the preceding verses in that chapter). It is fine to be guided by this verse when we are responding to victims of abuse. We can encourage victims if they are fainthearted, help them if they are weak, be patient with them while they are still in the fog, and admonish them if they are unruly (which they seldom are).
But Chris misapplies “admonish the unruly…be patient with everyone” to abusive men (C 9:20). And he cites this verse in order to justify the extremely lengthy counseling he does with abusive men. (…big sigh from Barb. We need to keep saying that the Bible makes it clear that abusers are not believers.)
Another passage of scripture you might be recalling is the place where Paul instructed Timothy to gently correct those who are in opposition:
The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (2 Tim 2: 24-6)
However, Jesus was not gentle with the scribes and Pharisees, so this precept is not to be taken as a blanket rule for all situations.
And Chris Moles knows that gentle correction does not work with abusive men. Chris knows he has to work long and hard “giving information” to abusive men. He knows their opposition to admitting their sins is obstinately entrenched. He knows that getting them to admit their wrongdoing is like a wrestling match. Here is what Chris says in one of his presentations to Christian leaders (Z 1:32:18):
On average from a criminal perspective, in the large groups I lead (those groups are mandated for eight months) I’m just trying to get acknowledgement. It’s a wrestling match.
When I first started this work I thought, “Here’s the goal: everyone’s gotta be an advocate and champion for women!”
Now [since I’ve had more experience of working with these guys, my goal is changed:] They just gotta move!
In effect, what Chris is teaching to biblical counselors and pastors will keep them downplaying or ignoring all the scriptural precepts I have cited.
*Citations in this post are shown in grey, with each item designated by a capital letter.
The Chris Moles Digest gives a link to each item cited by a capital letter.
¹ Although we endorse what Lundy Bancroft says about domestic abusers, we do not recommend Lundy Bancroft’s healing retreats or his Peak Living Network.