Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Is He a Christian?

Psa 119:9-16 Beth How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. (10) With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! (11) I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (12) Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes! (13) With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. (14) In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. (15) I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. (16) I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

Most of you married an abuser who was “a fine Christian.” You believed he was. His claim to be in Christ seemed genuine. And even after the abuse began (which was probably from the very first day you met him, but was so deceptive), you continued to want to believe he was a believer. He said so. Your pastor said so. The people in your church were just sure of it. And yet….

So how can we know if a person’s claim to be a Christian is the real thing or not? How can we be wise in this respect? And in fact, as a very important side note – how can we have the assurance that we are born again? These are the things I would like to talk about here.

As you can see from the scripture above, and in the entirety of this long Psalm 119, the Psalmist had a hunger and thirst for God’s Word. It was a superficial ability to quote Bible verses, nor was it a love for theological systems. Yes, it is a good thing to know sound doctrine. To know that man in his sin is totally depraved, that God in His mercy elects His people to salvation based on nothing within themselves, that Christ actually accomplished the salvation of His own whom the Father had given Him, and so on. These truths are vital.

But being skilled and knowledgeable in theology like this is an ability that unregenerate people can have, and which many of them do. There are lots of seminary professors who are not born again. Many pastors preaching on the planks of the confessions of their faith, are not born again. And so many of you have told me how your abuser could debate and discuss theology like a pro. How he could quote big chunks of scripture, and so on. Yet in fact he was evil, a child of the devil. By the way, I have no doubt that the devil himself is quite a master at theology – and you know how he quoted and perverted Scripture to Jesus in the wilderness.

An indispensible and sure sign of the new birth, of becoming a new creation in Christ by faith alone in Christ alone, is something quite different than all that. It is what Psalm 119 talks about –

Psa 119:46-48 I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame, (47) for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. (48) I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.

See it? A love for God evidenced by a love for His Word. A desire to know God’s Word so that he can keep that Word. A delight from the heart in Scripture. It is in fact a love for God and a love for God’s people, fueled by a love for God’s truth. The wicked man knows nothing of these things.

Let me illustrate further. Recently and with increasing frequency, I am receiving notes and emails from people, most of whom are abuse survivors, which have a common theme. They are extremely thankful that they have found our online sermons and Bible studies (livestreamed and uploaded to Facebook, Youtube, and Sermon Audio). Why? Because they are being fed God’s Word which they love. They tell me that they are watching every video of every sermon and every midweek Bible study, that they have begun to follow, for example, the podcasts of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and so on. That is to say, they have a real hunger and thirst for God’s Word. They don’t have to be pushed. They don’t have to be told “get with it now! Read your Bible. Know the Lord!” Because they DO know Him and it is evidenced by their zeal for His truth. They hear the voice of the Good Shepherd in the Word and they are sick and tired of listening to strangers who are false shepherds.

Now, I say all of this to emphasize that this love and hunger for God’s Word is an inevitable aspect of knowing Christ. Where it is absent, there is no reason to conclude that a person is a Christian even if by outward word and appearance they seem to be. This thing is not about buying all kinds of theology books, becoming expert on what the Puritans said about a certain doctrine, knowing everything John Calvin or Luther or Augustine taught. Those things can have value if pursued out of the right motivation. But they are also things that a wicked man can excel in. What he cannot fake however is this genuine love for Christ and His Word, so that it is sweet to him, so that it corrects and reproves him when necessary, so that he can keep his way from sin, so that he can love others more and more.

When a “christian” lacks these things, you can be sure that this is no person to trust.

Now, when it comes to pre-marriage counseling, this is what I am doing. I tell the person inquring about it, this – “Tell your perspective spouse that you want to go through the Bible studies we have put online. For example, tell them you want to go through and discuss together, the series on First John. And then keep doing this with the other series we have published. Keep doing it. And watch carefully what happens.” Because what will happen in the case of a fake is that he/she is not going to have that hunger and thirst. He might try to fool you for a time, but it won’t last. There will be excuses. He won’t “like the style.” He will argue. He will be the teacher. Or in other cases he might just go through the motions of listening, but that is all it will be.

And that will tell you just what kind of a person you are really dealing with. Make no mistake. The majority of people who claim to be Christians….aren’t.


When You Can't Benefit Them Anymore – They are Done With You


Wising Up to the Abuser's "Christian" Facade


  1. Carrie

    Always appreciate these thoughts. I would like to add….actions are important to prove “faith” amd true Christian walk. No fruit will show no Christ.

  2. I absolutely agree with all of this…
    When I was dating my former husband, he decided we needed to memorize Scripture together. Sometimes the verses he chose ended in the middle of a sentence, but I would memorize the entire sentence. He got angry with me for not following his rules. He also judged my acquaintances, telling me whom I should – and shouldn’t – spend time with. The red flags were there all along.
    For abusers, faith is both a tool and a weapon.

  3. E.

    This is so true. A fake Christian may show initial enthusiasm to study God’s Word but it won’t last. He may even purchase the book and the workbook for a Bible study series and flip through them and say, “Wow, this is really good!” And then he will never open them again.
    In fact, he may interrupt every single time his victim tries to study the Word. He doesn’t want her to be fed with the truth from outside sources because that would lead her to discern his true spiritual state and eventually separate from him.

    • Sue

      Several years ago, had read an article about narcissists – that they tend to not like reading, because to comprehend written words, one has to go outside of self. Wished i’d of printed that short article.

  4. CLG

    My husband calls himself a “Bible Junkie” He is “in the Word” daily and probably knows more scripture than anyone I know. Yet, he continues to live in his sin rather than repent and seek restoration. His knowledge has only increased his criticism of church leadership, pastors and Bible study teachers. No know knows as much as him and no one is in the word as much as him. My doubts about him being a Christian came when a counselor that met with husband asked me if I thought husband was a Christian. That question left me speechless and opened my eyes to the truth. If there is no fruit, no love and no personal growth, it isn’t real.

  5. Many of my so-called Biblical counselors didn’t care about fruit. Even though my husband admitted that he was the problem, the counselors were set on seeing ‘the good’ in him and giving him room ‘to grow’. I was to be patient and loving, etc.
    To some he now claims to be a Christian, to others not??

  6. IamMyBeloved’s

    “Everyone who hates his brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him.” 1 John 3:15
    Jesus clarified this even further when He said if you are even angry with your Bro/sis you have committed murder in your heart, let alone desiring to actually harm someone. Abusers are angry and cause harm. Enough said.

  7. Relate

    Thank you for publishing this, and every word is relatable. After being married to one of satans very own – yes, the Bible-quoting, church-going, small group attending, Sunday school teaching, charming ….monster – who was gravely deceitful and highly abusive behind the scenes….. I vividly remember how weird it was to see the abuser read the Bible after we were married and I experienced his quick release of abuse, or for that matter, it was so weird to sit in church and see him act like he was taking in the sermon – it was like it was a show, and such a contradiction – now I know, it was and is so much more evil than just that.
    I have read through the tear filled notes in the pages of my Bible – where I literally hung on to the Lord knowing somehow he knew what was going on when I was not even sure what all the evil was that I now had in my life, I just knew it was tied to the twisted mess of being married to the abuser. I did not understand how deep the river of tears could be until I saw satan wear the mask as a Christian in my very own home. It is horrifying to know the demonic realm is literally in that close – in the flesh.
    There is distinction though, and you will know it – hunger and thirst for the Lords word is NOTHING like the sales pitch Bible quoting manipulation of the deceivers – you will know it when you feel that cringe, that knot, that awkwardness, that almost sick feeling, that part of you who can’t stand being there seeing them with a Bible, it feels wrong, you can’t place it you just know it’s all wrong – their words might sound right but ….. no matter how well they play the part you know something just isn’t right…. Their hunger and thirst is of a different kind – one for power, of thirsting to be equal to God, of using their self proclaimed superior standing with the Lord to lie, cheat, justify and literally destroy the very people and homes they were supposed to protect.

  8. Questioning

    I struggle with this post. I don’t doubt it’s truthfulness but the problem is, does that mean those of us who have lost our passion for reading the Bible due to horrendous abuse are not Christians? For the first few decades of my life, I had that passion but in the last few years, after suffering horrendous abuse and where my children are still having horrendous abuse inflicted on them by our abuser, I have a real spiritual block that I cannot read the Bible without being angry that God continues to allow the abuse of my precious children. Every time I end up convincing myself it’s not God’s fault that some humans are incredibly evil, I still come back to “if God is omnipotent, why doesn’t he protect my sweet innocent little girls from abuse?”
    I have read every answer I can find about why does God allow suffering and I still don’t understand. To the point where I can’t just pick up the Bible and read.
    Does that mean I’m not a Christian? Is that why God feels so distant to me? Is that why He lets my daughters be abused? Am I being punished for failing to be a Christian? How do I get my passion for reading God’s word back? What if I can’t get it back?
    I know something in me broke spiritually at a certain moment a few years ago. Am I incapable of being a Christian anymore? I keep trying to fix it on my end and I keep praying to God to fix it on His end but what if this can’t be fixed? What if the very reason I’m angry at God (the failure to protect my daughters) is precisely why God ignores my prayers (punishing me for being angry)?
    Maybe it means I’m not a Christian. I don’t know anymore. I pray and I pray and I pray and not only are my prayers unanswered but I hear nothing. It’s literally like being a vacuum where there is no sound to be heard, not even a whisper, just total blanketing silence.
    I know it means I’ve failed to be a Christian but why does God punish my girls for my failure?

    • Jeff Crippen

      Questioning- Your comments remind me of this:
      Psa 73:1-14 A Psalm of Asaph. Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. (2) But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. (3) For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. (4) For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. (5) They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind. (6) Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment. (7) Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies. (8) They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. (9) They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth. (10) Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them. (11) And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?” (12) Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. (13) All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. (14) For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning.
      I understand your questions. Church buildings, hymn books, even the Bible itself can become, through the twisting and evil perversions of the wicked, very triggering for us. (And by the way, this is one of the reasons we started the online church outreach – just because many victims cannot go into a local church anymore). And of course as you say, it comes down to “God, where are you? Why do you allow this?” This does not necessarily mean that we are not Christians. It could, if the person is such that they finally and ultimately hate God and reject Him – which I do not sense from your comments here that you have done. If you had, you would not be struggling with these questions as you are. Many other Psalms are the words of God’s people wondering and asking and feeling that God has left them.
      The Psalmist goes on though:
      Psa 73:16-28 But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, (17) until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. (18) Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. (19) How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! (20) Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms. (21) When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, (22) I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. (23) Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. (24) You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. (25) Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. (26) My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (27) For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. (28) But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.
      Ah yes, the end of the story. “Then I discerned their end.” In a moment, in an instant, they will fall into ruin forever and ever. In other words, we must look ahead to Christ’s return, to that Day when all will give account before Him, and in the mean time realize we live in exile in a hostile world that hates Christ and His people.
      Let me make one other observation. It could well be that some of your struggles in all this (and I am very, very sorry that wicked people have oppressed you and your children so badly. I understand. I’ve had quite a taste of this business myself for many years). But it could be that some of your struggles are stemming from having been fed the false and trite teachings in the majority of churches that parade as being God’s Word. Telling us all kinds of untruths about what to expect in this life. Much of it is very similar to and even worse than the stuff Job’s friends layed on him.
      And this is why I am trying to do as much teaching as I can online – the study through the Gospel of John, the Revelation study, and the Sunday sermons. Because when we begin to understand what the Bible really says – about who is a Christian and how the evil abusers are NOT, about God’s plan in Christ for us being far greater and more wonderful than we have been told….then that hunger and thirst to know more of Him and His blessings to us in Christ returns. Largely, most of what claims to be “christian” has been feeding us the line that we can and must be happy and well-liked and buddies with everyone and soooo forgiving that we wish the best for the evil ones who hate and oppress us….and it is no wonder that the real Christian finds himself/herself gagging at it all.
      May the Lord bring you comfort and encouragment and may He bring judgment upon the wicked who have oppressed you.

    • Z

      Dear Questioning,
      Pastor Crippen’s answer to you containing Psalm 73 and it’s promises of the “end” of the wicked vs the “end” of God’s true people has saved my sanity more times than I can count. No one had ever preached before on that Psalm which goes directly to the heart of the question so many abused and oppressed Christians have for God. As the Psalmist did back in those day as well. Nothing is new under the sun. The wicked seemed to prevail then and they do now.
      BUT. God’s Word has the answer for that agony of watching the wicked prosper on earth and get away with their evil and also their phony acts of “professing to be God’s people”. I’ve experienced it all my life.
      When Pastor wrote about Psalm 73 things were illuminated for me. I started looking at the END of the wicked, since this life is not the end. And I looked at MY “end”-the Lord Himself will take me up into glory with Him forever. No wicked phonies ever again to be seen “prospering”!
      It IS hard to live as a true Christian in this world. I used to be under the teachings of a promised “abundant life” here on earth for all Christians and I wondered why my life was instead filled with abuses by both parents and being hated by my own “professing Christian” parents and siblings and enabled by all the “christian” relatives and church people. And later being abandoned by pretty much everyone I ever knew because I went No Contact with all of the abusers and those complicit. I, too, thought God wasn’t hearing my constant cries for His help. But He finally extricated me from them. He got me “out of Babylon/Egypt” by divine intervention. He opened my eyes to the demonic realm I was associating with (they were the family I was born into so it was hard to extricate myself) and stood with me and gave me the strength to walk away for good and stand alone (with my dear, godly husband) in this life. With the Lord as our only true friend. I’m realizing THAT is the “abundant life” on earth! To have the King of Kings as my best friend who will NEVER leave my side or forsake me. The wicked only have each other! Other wicked people!
      So I fix my focus on my END, my next life, realizing how evil this world is. Having as little to do with it as possible. I dwell on the glory to come for me.
      I hope this helps you in some way to know God has not forsaken you. He has a glorious future in heaven for you. He will prepare a feast for you in the presence of your enemies. He will judge them and cast them off into eternal darkness. While He rewards you with eternal glory. God bless you. I’m praying God reveals Himself to you through Psalm 73 and other Scriptures as He did for me when I was completely at a loss about the prosperity of the wicked on this earth. It is just an illusion. Temporary. It is not what they can look forward to forever. God will see to that.

  9. Lynn

    Thank you Pastor Crippen you clearly articulated the difference of who is a Christian versus those who aren’t but profess to be.
    My entire family had all of the outward appearances – the church attending, the reading of the Bible and any other “Christian” living book they could get their hands on. They have all of the head knowledge but none of the regeneration that marks a true believer. My grandfather was one of those men. Loved to read but the message of the gospel didn’t fully penetrate his heart. He stayed married to a wicked woman who also professed Christ for more than 60 years and went through the motions of what he believed was acceptable Christian behavior before his death a few years ago. He was more influenced in life by the “Christian” living books he read than by the Bible.
    My father has followed in his dad’s footsteps, allowing someone else’s view of scripture to make a deeper impact than scripture itself. One of those books convinced him that I was demon possessed because I would not blindly obey him and my mom as they continued their abuse and coercive control of my life.
    It is a unique wound to have a parent, one of the two people who’s job it is in life to love you and raise you to be a godly person, yell at you, telling you that you are acting demon possessed. It hurt deeply, which I suspect was his intent in order to get his own way regarding something that he believed I was supposed to be doing for him and my mom that I wasn’t currently doing. It opened my eyes to the depth of my father’s wickedness beyond his emotional abandonment of me as a child. I knew enough of scripture to know that the accusation was a lie. A true Christian can’t be in dwelt by a demon, and told him so, which he didn’t like. My grandfather supported my dad’s accusation which broke our fragile relationship. I knew I could not trust the words of men in my family professing to know and follow Christ, yet bore no evidence of it in their lives.
    I like your recommendation for testing romantic relationships with Bible study to see how they react. The “first John” series, the “wise as serpents” series, and the “does God love everyone” series are what I would use to test their heart and see if their faith is genuine. All three have been so helpful to me. How others react to them tells me what I need to know about their faith in Christ.

    • Ms. E,

      Amen, Lynn. I would absolutely recommend the “Does God Love Everyone” series for a test. My former abuser was a fan of the prosperity gospel, where the pastor tells you that God is going to bless you. He did not factor in the conditions of obedience and justice for blessing.

  10. Walker

    Questioning, my heart breaks for you. It is so hard to understand, it is devastating that God allows evil to go on and does not give relief for some time. We wonder in agony, where is the kindness, protection, and justice we know that love provides???? We know that as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. So He must have reasons for allowing what He allows when His children are suffering in a situation they cannot change.
    I appreciate this post, Pastor Crippen, and immediately took it to heart as a reminder of what to look for in a prospective companion. And then I thought of my father, who so frighteningly abused my children and me when my abusive spouse left us–the glee he expressed (!!!!) was so shocking and surreal, because, although I never felt loved by him, and honestly his prayers at dinner seemed fake, absolutely everyone I am aware of would vouch for him as a highly commendable person and he has served in church for years. I ended up going no contact with him because he just did not ever express any horror at how he treated my children and me–and then he let me know he began leading Bible studies through an international Bible study organization. So then I started wondering again–did I miss something? Did I miss his repentance? It is truly confusing that he could be so seemingly committed to studying the Bible and yet not be repentant. At this point, specific fruits I have been looking for in professing Christians are: Do they have a loving heart of flesh? Are they honest? Do they love what God loves and hate what God hates? Thank you for your reminder that sincere reverence and appetite for God’s Word is also a critical test of a true believer.
    Again, Questioning–my heart goes out to you. May God help you to feel seen, heard, and cared for by Him. Dearly loved and cherished. I think He understands and has compassion on us when we feel angry over what He currently allows. He hates injustice and will deal out retribution and provide relief perfectly in His time. He is good.

  11. Notlongnow

    Another important aspect is they won’t obey God’s word. They may do so in areas that won’t cost them, or make them look good, but when their back is against the wall and it’s a clear choice between obeying Gods commands or saving self, they will choose self.

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