Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Trusting Experience Over Scripture – a Common and Deadly Error

Galatians 1:6-8 ESV  I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—  (7)  not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  (8)  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

Many people who claim to be Christians also claim to believe the Bible to be God’s Word and our authority for what we believe and do. And yet in my conversations with them, I find that few really do consult Scripture as their primary source of truth. Instead, they turn to the “bible” of their own experience.
Let me explain.

As you know, one of the core evil tools of a domestic abuser is his (or her) disguise. Wolves in wool. Those who profess to be Christians (and these are the majority that the victims I talk to are married to) put on an impressive “saintly” disguise. As a result, many victims who are still caught up in that deceptive fog and confusion produced by their abuser, cling to the notion that the abuser is a Christian. Or at least that he might be. This lack of clarity keeps them “hoping” for change and causes victims to feel sorry for the poor fellow whose past has caused him to be what he is. Then along comes some pastor or “biblical counselor” and you have this scenario:

Matthew 15:14 ESV  Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

The Bible in contrast provides crystal clear sight in these matters and dispels the fog. It is like the chart plotter gps system on my boat when the ocean is fogged in. You may not see the jetty rocks, but they are there and you had better believe the gps screen that shows your boat’s position rather than trusting in your own sense of direction which, in the fog, will make you think right is left and east is west.
Our experience and feelings may led us to conclude that someone is surely a Christian. And if we had been back in Jerusalem in Jesus’ day, our experience would have led us to conclude what the masses believed about their religious leaders:

Matthew 23:25-28 ESV  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  (26)  You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.  (27)  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.  (28)  So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Very, very often I point people to Scripture, and typically the place I recommend to them is that little book of First John. Having been fed a pack of false teaching by their churches and pastors, they are operating on the “bible” of their experience. They trust their own wisdom instead of learning about God’s wisdom (which is foolishness to the unsaved man). And the fatal error they inevitably are led to in all this is that someone can walk and live in sin, without repentance, and be a true child of God. This is that blinding fog and it leads teacher and follower into a pit.
The Bible leads to life and light and truth:

1 John 2:9-10 ESV  Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.  (10)  Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.
1 John 2:15 ESV  Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
1 John 3:6-10 ESV  No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.  (7)  Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.  (8)  Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.  (9)  No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.  (10)  By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

God’s Word is like the rising sun that burns away the fog and enables us to see for miles and miles. Our experience as our bible not only maintains the fog, it makes it even more dense and blinds us. So when I hear someone tell me, “I just know he is a Christian. He wants to do good and he really does love me, but his background has made him be abusive,” then I know that I am speaking with a person who is being guided by their experience and by their own thoughts and opinions, rather than by the Word of God. And I know that they will most probably try to explain away the clear statements of God’s Word in order to press the square peg into the round hole of their own “bible.”
Let’s not be deceived. The wicked, fallen heart and mind of man can be incredibly deceptive. And in particular, “religious” people can be masters at puttting on their devilish makeup. God sees through it all, and if we are wise, by His Spirit and Word, we will increasingly be enabled to see through it too.

1 Samuel 16:6-7 ESV  When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed is before him.”  (7)  But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”



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  1. Carolyn

    Spot on!

  2. Innoscent

    One argument my abusive ex-husband would throw at me when I clearly showed the truth from the Bible on some point, was that I was presenting my own interpretation. No matter what the Bible texts said on conversion, being born again, forgiveness, repentance, etc. He would “explain away the clear statements of God’s Word in order to press the square peg into the round hole of [his] own “bible.” Exactly that!!

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