Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Abuse and Divorce: This is the False Teaching Wayne Grudem and the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Put Upon Victims for Years!

I published an article Monday about how Wayne Grudem’s recent “discovery” that abuse is grounds for divorce, was devoid of a confession of sin for all the false teaching he and his camp have put upon abuse victims. His “no divorce for abuse” command (wrapped up as “biblical”) has caused all kinds of additional oppression to victims and provided an arsenal of ammunition for abusers. So, where is Grudem’s grief? Where is his confession of the sin of distorting God’s Word? I have yet to see it.
This article is one that I published some time ago and it shows what Grudem and friends have been teaching all along until very recently. In fact, I would not be surprised at all if many pastors and counselors still adhere to this statement. Notice, as you read it, that these kind of people equivocate. That is, they use language that is deceptive. So that you have to see what they don’t say in order to get the clear picture of what they really are teaching.
Mary Kassian (www.girlsgonewise.com) wrote about the U.N. Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on her blog, November 25th.  She is to be commended for this.  However, in her article, she said that she had emailed Wayne Grudem (editor of the ESV Study Bible; Member of the board of directors for the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood; Professor at Phoenix Seminary) and asked him what he would like to say in regard to this U.N. day.  This is what he replied with (and Kassian agrees with it):

I strongly deplore any abuse of wives by their husbands and I believe the Bible teaches clearly against it. When pastors learn about abuse occurring in a home in their congregation, they have an obligation before God to seek to bring an immediate end to it, through direct personal conversation with the abuser, support of the abused, professional counselling, through means such as church discipline, protective personal intervention in dangerous situations, using law enforcement and other legal pressures, extensive prayer, and, if necessary, legal separation. Pastors also need to encourage their church members and attenders to tell someone in church leadership if abuse is occurring, so that appropriate means can be brought to bring an immediate end to it. Nobody in a leadership role in CBMW thinks that abuse within a marriage is justified by the biblical teachings about husbands and wives.  [Wayne Grudem, Ph.D., Research Professor, Phoenix Seminary, and co-founder and past president of CBMW].

The bold-faced words are mine.  I bolded them because they tell us that Grudem still denies that abuse is grounds for divorce.  You see the very same position in the following statement on abuse that Kassian quotes from the CBMW:
Statement on Abuse
Adopted by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood at its meeting in Lisle, Illinois in November, 1994.

  • We understand abuse to mean the cruel use of power or authority to harm another person emotionally, physically, or sexually.
  • We are against all forms of physical, sexual and /or verbal abuse.
  • We believe that the biblical teaching on relationships between men and women does not support, but condemns abuse (Prov. 12:18; Eph. 5:25-29; Col. 3:18; 1 Tim. 3:3; Titus 1:7-8; 1 Pet. 3:7; 5:3).
  • We believe that abuse is sin. It is destructive and evil. Abuse is the hallmark of the devil and is in direct opposition to the purpose of God. Abuse ought not to be tolerated in the Christian community.
  • We believe that the Christian community is responsible for the well-being of its members. It has a responsibility to lovingly confront abusers and to protect the abused.
  • We believe that both abusers and the abused are in need of emotional and spiritual healing.
  • We believe that God extends healing to those who earnestly seek him.
  • We are confident of the power of God’s healing love to restore relationships fractured by abuse, but we realize that repentance, forgiveness, wholeness, and reconciliation is a process. Both abusers and abused are in need of on-going counseling, support and accountability.
  • In instances where abusers are unrepentant and/or unwilling to make significant steps toward change, we believe that the Christian community must respond with firm discipline of the abuser and advocacy, support and protection of the abused.
  • We believe that by the power of God’s Spirit, the Christian community can be an instrument of God’s love and healing for those involved in abusive relationships and an example of wholeness in a fractured, broken world.

Notice once again the glaring absence of any affirmation that divorce is a biblical means of dealing with abuse.  Abuse victims/survivors will quickly understand that this statement dooms victims to a lifetime of working to “restore relationships”, to “involvement in a process of reconciliation,” of “ongoing counsel and support,” but divorce?  Forget it.  Remarriage?  Forget it.  Abusers love this sort of talk.  If the victim will just believe God and trust Him and keep doing all she can, God can bring her abuser to repentance and they can live happily ever after.  That is a fairy tale.  [Also notice that they tell the victims that they need counseling too.  For what?  PTSD?  That would be fine.  But I suspect this “counseling” is going to me more of the ilk of “you aren’t perfect either, you know.”]
As long as any theologian, author, or organization refuses to tell victims that they can divorce their abuser because the abuser has already treacherously divorced them by ongoing, hard-hearted violation of the marriage covenant, then my ears are deaf to everything else they have to say.  I refuse to use the ESV Study Bible for this reason.  Grudem’s notes in the back forbid divorce for abuse.
And by the way, what is this business of “legal separation”?  Where is the biblical case for that?  Is it not a limbo state of married but not married?  Doesn’t it sound a whole lot like one of those Pharisaical half-measures that inevitably are required when our interpretation of Scripture makes no sense?

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5 Comments

  1. Lynn

    I will never believe in the sincerity of a professing Christian or institution that doesn’t recognize that ALL abuse is a sin and reason for divorce.
    🚨Grudem’s CBMW statement on abuse doesn’t recognize:
    – SPIRITUAL abuse 👀
    – Abuse of power 👀
    – Financial abuse
    – Psychological abuse
    – Emotional abuse
    As legitimate forms of abuse that believers should be protected and freed from.
    Abuse in any relationship is grounds for termination. Marriage and family are no exception to that. To do so demonstrates the idol you’ve made of the institution at the expense of the people being harmed. You hold people in such bondage with this wicked belief, instead of helping them heal from and get free from their abusers. If I knew what I know now at 18, I could have gotten started healing 2 decades faster. But the guidance of misguided church people who worship marriage and family more than God encouraged me to stay in my abusive family because that’s what family does they told me, it sticks together.
    No thank you. If everyone else in your family jumps out of an airplane without a parachute, it doesn’t mean you have to follow them. They will get their perfect reward for a life filled with wickedness from God.
    My issues with CBMW’s view of abuse are:
    1 They have a distorted view of what abuse is.
    If you don’t know what abuse is and how to define it properly, you become an ally of evil and help perpetuate it. That is what has happened with CBMW. They crafted some seemingly pro-victim language, but at its root is still death because they do not understand the nature of evil and their role in perpetuating it globally.
    2 They think they can help abusers heal from being abusers 🤢🤮. #false
    You can’t heal an abuser. You can only enforce the consequences their behavior deserves and remove them from your life as much as you can depending on your specific circumstances. I know not all people can go no contact with their abuser, but if you can, I highly recommend it. Keeping them in your life if you don’t have to will result in them continuing to slowly poison your mind and cause your body further damage.
    3 They think abusive relationships can be restored 🤢. #false
    They can’t. They must be ended in order for the victim to heal. This is why it’s so important to understand and clearly define abuse. When you do it wrong you do great damage to yourself and those around you.
    4 They believe abusers can be considered a Christian 🤢🤮. #false
    Abusers are NOT Christians. They are emissaries of Satan who enjoy inflicting harm on others and creating strife. They are reprobates on their way to their promised eternal destruction. Not all of humanity will be saved. God has chosen some of his human vessels to be used for mercy and some for destruction. Abusers are marked for destruction because they did not accept the love of the truth and be saved. They want to be God, and will not accept the free gift Christ gave them by repenting and placing their faith in Christ.
    We must understand the difference between abusive actions and being an abuser. Let’s take a look at King David. He abused Bathsheba and Uriah for his own selfish desires and to cover up his sin. When confronted with his abuse by the prophet Nathan, he genuinely repented. But note that repentance didn’t stop the consequences his actions wrought on those he wronged and his descendants. It resulted in his own son trying to kill him and his son raping his daughter, with the Davidic line being primarily a line of wicked rulers until God completed his promise to David and Abraham in sending Christ into the world.
    In the New Testament Paul also showed abusive behaviors that resulted in the stoning of Stephen. But when the truth of Christ was revealed to him, he repented. God transformed him and he became the apostle to the Gentiles. Paul’s wicked actions were a result of misguided beliefs, not of an abusive mindset focused on entitlement and worship of self, that once corrected ceased the behaviors that caused the abuse.
    Abusers do not repent when they are confronted with sin. They cling to their sin and use every excuse in the book as to why they are not wrong. They double down hard, victim blame, project, sin level, anything to obscure the fact that they are revealing their status as children of the devil. Any Christian who cannot recognize that there are some people that God cannot and will not save remains an ally of abusers. So to those who adhere to the CBMW, I tell you, your actions are in alignment with the devil, not God. You are an ally of Satan, not God. Repent of your complicit behavior regarding abuse victims and be restored to Christ, lest you remain his enemy and spend eternity in hell.
    How do you think God will respond to those who saw his bride (his church) being abused by wolves, yet did nothing to stop them? Do you think he will extend grace to them if they have not repented and turned from their sin? No. He will say “depart from me, I never knew you” and then punish them as accessories to the battery of his bride.
    God decides whether or not a person is a member of his household, not man. No amount of rebuking or correction or loving the abuser will bring about the desired results of repentance and contrition.
    5 They believe they can discipline an abuser and bring about repentance. #false
    Only God can bring about repentance in the heart of mankind. Abusers have made the choice that they will pursue their own agenda, no matter what the cost and who they harm. No amount of discipline will change that. All you get is more abuse and an even stronger, outspoken enemy for bringing their sin to light.
    6 They believe that abusers can change. #false
    Abusers can’t change because they don’t want to. History and science show that abusers do not to change who they are. They grow worse over time, not better. When you spend a lifetime of wickedness, don’t think that when your time comes to leave this earth that you will be able to repent and be saved. You won’t. Your heart will be so hardened against God that you will reap the reward your life demands, and it’s not eternal life.
    7 They believe their efforts to “discipline” an abuser will bring about the spiritual healing an abuser needs. #false
    The only way an abuser has any hope of repenting is if God allows it. The trigger needs to come from God, not man. The church must do its part in obeying God and excommunicate the abuser, turning him/her over to Satan for the destruction of their flesh, and diligently pray imprecatory prayers to bring about God’s promised justice on the abuser for their wicked actions. If God does grant the abuser repentance, it must be followed by evidence, not just a personal declaration.
    A few key marks of what genuine repentance looks like for an abuser:
    – Unprompted restitution for harm done
    – Willingness to give victims whatever is needed to support their healing
    – Changed behavior proven over time
    – Public confession of sin in front of the church and/or online if the abuser’s actions were made public (E.g. abuse of power scandal involving a pastor would publicly apologize for his sin and share how he’s going to act out his repentance with his victims [restitution, confession to the authorities if a crime was committed, etc…])
    Don’t see that? It’s all manipulation to gain access to those they’ve harmed and start back up. It’s why I don’t believe any of the social media influencer pastors, authors and theologians who are exposed as either being abusive themselves or training abusive ministers are genuine Christians. They love their position and the favor of men more than following Christ. We see this with Grudem. No genuine repentance has been demonstrated for the damage his false teaching has caused countless women over the last three decades. I can’t remember a time when one of the popular pastors demonstrated genuine repentance for the damage their damaging teaching has done. Given the abuse enabled by the CBMW, there should be great weeping for the damage they’ve done to the victims of their abusive theology and their empowerment of abusers in the body of Christ, and a deep desire to help restore those they’ve harmed, but that’s not what we see. We see empty words that sound smooth at first glance but are just as filled with dead men’s bones as the men who perpetrated the false theology and bad doctrine.
    8 They believe relational restoration is the goal in dealing with abusive relationships, not healing for the victims so they can get free from the abuse they’ve been enslaved in and justice for the abuser.
    That is the wrong mindset for dealing with abuse victims, and an outcome that adds spiritual abuse to the list of abuses the victim is now carrying. Not all relationships can be or should be restored. Abusive relationships shouldn’t be restored. They must be ended.
    9 They believe healing comes from earnestly seeking God. Seeking God is to be done because of who God is, not to get a desired outcome – e.g healing. Can we pray for healing? Absolutely. But to say that healing comes to those who earnestly seek God is deceptive.
    Non-Christians are healed every day through modern medicine. Are they earnestly seeking God for healing?
    What about those believers who earnestly seek God and aren’t healed this side of heaven?
    When Elijah prayed to God to raise the widow’s son from the dead, was the son earnestly seeking God for his own healing? Of course not! He was dead. His mother and Elijah sought his healing on his behalf because he couldn’t do it for himself. Christians should be like the widow and Elijah on behalf of the abuse victims in their midst who are battling with a death of sorts, not placing the pursuit of healing solely on the victim and God, when most of the time they can do something to help heal the wounds of those victimized by abusers in the church.
    While I believe each person has a role in their own healing from abuse, so does the church. Sadly, it is failing miserably in today’s professing church. Most of the time they add a layer of spiritual abuse on top of the abuse the victims experienced at home.
    CBMW’s beliefs about abuse do not create a safe environment where Christians who have been abused by a spouse or family member can heal. They are toxic to victims, to marriages, and to women in general. They hate women by subjugating them into a lesser position that Christ did not place them in, which invites abuse in those who practice it. Christ calls us to freedom in him. Men and women are equal in the sight of God. Anyone or thing that gets in the way of that is not of God. including all of the CBMW teaching about abuse and women. Their ideology oppresses women into staying in relationships that Christ is calling them to leave. So if you are trapped in an abusive relationship that is governed by complementarian nonsense, I invite you to be free in Christ. Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thx Lynn. True stuff here. I hope many will listen and learn – but I’m not holding my breath that the CBMW crowd will. They will most likely condemn us for exposing them.

      • Lynn

        No worries Pastor Crippen. I’m not holding my breath either.
        I know that many in the CBMW crowd are bound and determined to cling to their misguided beliefs about divorce and women. The reason I respond is that if there are people in that environment that are looking for answers to make sense of their experience, and I can shed some light on why the seemingly harmless rhetoric that the CBMW crowd keeps pumping out isn’t actually biblical or harmless I feel compelled to do so.
        There is so much false teaching and misleading Information about how to interpret scripture and live as a Christian, if I can help shed light on the truth and give others like me who were trapped in abusive relationships for so long the clarity they need to take that step towards freedom in Christ, I’m going to do it. Those who use the Bible as a weapon to oppress others are not of God, but of the devil. Their day of reckoning is coming. Until then, stand firm in the faith. Seek after God in prayer and study his word. Embrace the freedom Christ grants his flock and rejoice. We are one day closer to the return of Christ. I can’t wait.

        • Sue

          The only big-name preacher – that i can think of ;/ – who actually cared about souls, even the ones, who couldn’t give much (if only pennies) in the offering plate, was Charles Spurgeon.

  2. Be free

    They are an intriguing front – and ironically the abuser and his parents tried pushing the marriage intensive retreat on me, of course.

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