Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Category: False Teaching Page 1 of 13

A Fresh Look at Evil and an Open Call to all who Teach on Marriage – Ephesians 6

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:10-12)

Most Christians think that they understand the Apostle Paul’s words here in these familiar verses from his letter to the Ephesians. The Christian armor. The devil, and so on. I am writing this post for two reasons, 1) to demonstrate that in fact most Christians, pastors, teachers, authors, and counselors in fact have a very, very minimal or even non-existent notion of what Paul is speaking of here, and 2) to encourage us all to take a fresh and deeper look at the nature of our enemy.

Let’s begin with the second point first.

Recently I watched a superhero movie — Dr. Strange. I liked it. Oh of course the worldview and theology in it was total fantasy, as it was meant to be. But there were some thought-provoking lines in it. One was when Dr. Stephen Strange went to Katmandu (you always find ultimate truth in some Buddhist monastery type place, right?) in search of a way to heal his injured hands. He connected with “the ancient one” – a bald lady named “the ancient one” – and she introduced him to regions beyond. He was told to “forget everything he knew.”

Now, of course this kind of mind-emptying eastern mystical stuff is completely foreign and even opposed to the truth of God’s Word. We don’t empty our minds to know Christ, but He does give us a new one. And in some ways you might say that a Christian has to “forget everything he knew” in order to know Christ. You see this for example in 1 Corinthians where the wisdom of God is contrasted with the wisdom of man.

Most Christians think that they know about evil. They might even be able to quote from Ephesians 6 word for word. But what I am trying to emphasize here is that we simply do not understand our enemy or his tactics until we get firmly hold on what Paul is saying here. We think we know. But we do not.

Think about it.

Paul says pointedly, for we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against rulers/authorities/cosmic powers over this present darkness/spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places. Flesh and blood we know. Touch it, feel it, see it, smell it. It’s people. But non-flesh and blood, ah, that is a different story. Let me put this question to you pointedly and I hope that it serves to greatly humble all of us, especially if you are someone who has been preaching or teaching or writing books about marriage. The question is this:

Really, just how much do you know about rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, this present darkness, spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places? How much? Be honest. If you are a “teacher of Israel” as Jesus admonished Nicodemus, and you do not know much at all about such things, how can you venture to teach others?

Let me ask you still another question:

What if, just what if, there is a realm of darkness in this creation, operating its destruction, lying, deceiving, enslaving, that you really know hardly anything about? What if what you have been taught about evil is woefully lacking? What if you are wrong, in other words, about the enemy of our souls? And yet you are presuming to teach the church.

Now, I can hear many saying at this point, “I know quite a lot about evil and our enemy. I have my Bible. I know what it says.” Do you? Do you really? Do you truly know (to repeat) rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, this present darkness, and spiritual forces of evil? I am not speaking of knowing a list of facts. I am asking you if you have a true, working, experiential knowledge taught to you by the Spirit of God through the Word of God and through hard experience in this warfare. Let me answer for you. You do not. Unless you have personally been “touched” by these spiritual forces of evil right down where you live, you simply are ignorant of its nature and its tactics.

Humble admission of this ignorance is the starting point for growing wise in these matters. Arrogant insistence that you know is only a guarantee that you will remain ignorant and continue to be an ally of the enemy.
Do not grow defensive as these things are put to you. Those of you who have been preaching to others or writing books on marriage will make your greatest mistake if, when you are critiqued and your errors are pointed out, you react by circling your wagons and refusing to listen to the people who do know this evil. We at Unholy Charade see this ALL the time. I don’t know if we have ever had a well-known author or pastor humble themselves, acknowledge their need to learn, and ask for help. Rather it has been circle the wagons and fire back. The problem is, they end up firing back at the victims of evil, not at the evil itself.

Here is one more line I took from the Dr. Strange movie that really is particularly good. Dr. Strange was a well-known and famous surgeon, but he was very arrogant. The Ancient One (remember, don’t take your theology from the movies!) told him that there was one fundamental truth that he absolutely had to learn. Here it is:

It’s not about you!

And yet typically when we try to point out the errors  of the preachers, notable teachers and authors, when we try to steer them to solid facts about the nature and tactics of evil, they react as if it is all about them. “How dare you criticize my book. Don’t you know how many copies have sold? I just don’t understand how you can be so mean to me.”  It’s all about them, you see.  But it isn’t all about them. It is all about God’s truth in Christ, about exposing the evil of this present darkness, and about setting the captives free.

The Lord has taught myself and all the host of our readers some hard, hard lessons that most of the time took decades for us to finally get. [And I still fall prey to the enemy at times. I haven’t fully learned yet]. We have all been touched (some more, some less) by this devilish evil we call abuse. It came into our lives intimately, personally, in the form of evil people whose lust for power and control knew no bounds. Sometimes that evil stood in a pulpit, sat on a church board, served as a missionary, headed up a para-church ministry, shared the same bed in a “Christian” marriage, or some other “angel of light” disguise. But it all came down the road of our life. “Something Wicked this Way Comes” as the Disney movie title puts it. It came our way. Lying, deceiving, confusing, destroying. Until the Lord in His grace by His Spirit began to lift that confusing fog and we were enabled to see it for what it really is.

This teaching was not our doing. It was the Lord’s work in us. We wrote books. We started this blog. We interact with abuse survivors and victims and sometimes with abusers. And you know the remarkable thing that we saw right at the start and which we still see virtually every single day? We see victims thanking us, telling us things like “you saved my life,” or “your books tell the very story of my life of abuse.”  NEVER have we had an abuse victims tell us that what we have written and taught harmed them, enabled their abuser, and held them in bondage longer. Never. Why? Because the Lord taught us personally through hard, hard years of abuser attacks what the nature of this evil and our enemy is. We have shared in the same evil our fellow-survivors have.

In contrast (and we say this humbly, not arrogantly nor vengefully), when we critique a book on marriage, for example, and our readers comment on our critique and tell their stories about how that book or other ministry hurt and harmed and endangered them, it is VITAL that the authors listen to them. Vital! Here are the people taught by the Lord in the fire, people intimately acquainted with evil, telling the authors or pastors or Christian counselors — “no, you don’t know. You don’t understand. Listen to me and I can tell you how your teachings are enabling evil because you do not truly know it” — and what is happening most every time? The “authorities” refuse to listen. They are dismissive toward them. They act with an air of superiority. And if the victims persist in trying to speak out, the “teachers” become angry. Some even start playing the victim. “Oh, I just cannot understand why all of this negativity is being directed at me.”

And so here is still another call to such “teachers of the church.” Admit that your real knowledge of evil is very, very limited. Confess that yes, when you wrote your book or taught your seminar or preached your sermon series, you had absolutely no inkling about this thing called abuse. You did not even conceive of such an evil person existing, let alone in the church. And most of you still don’t. And many of the “most” don’t want to know.

How can anyone possibly write a Christian marriage book, or really any Christian book at all, while remaining ignorant of the nature and tactics of evil? Consider one more time at least the titles Paul gives these “principalities and powers” in Ephesians 6 and confess to the Lord that there are very likely many truths about this evil that are entirely outside your realm of experience. Listen. Listen to the voices of the victims who are very ready and willing to help open your eyes, if you will simply step down from your high horse and listen.

They Go too Far — Watch Out for Leaders who Have a Book or a Word for Every Aspect of Your Life

1Co 4:3-6 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. (4) For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. (5) Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (6) I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.

You are looking at just PART of the books that John Piper has written. Recently a member of our church packed them all up and brought them to me. Well, I am glad to report that the person saw Piper’s errors some time ago. I am keeping these for now as we research his books for false teaching, specifically his works-based false gospel.

But here is my point, and this is why I put this picture here. One of the characteristics of an errant preaching, writing, teaching ministry is that, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, the person goes “beyond what is written.” That is to say, they teach authoritatively (supposedly with Scriptural authority) on just about every nut and bolt of life. They tell you very specifically “how to” –

  • Have sex
  • Educate your children
  • Arrange your meals
  • Use your leisure time
  • Surf the web
  • Do your work
  • Purchase a car
  • Get (or not get) a divorce

And on and on and on they go. I suppose we could add another “how to” – they tell you how to think.  And if they are really good at doing all of this in a charismatic and convincing manner, they gain a following (often a very large following) of people whose experience of “Christ” goes no further than, “well, let’s see what John Piper says about that.” This is dangerous.

Yes, God’s Word can be applied to every aspect of our lives, and should be. Whatever we do, Paul says we are to do to the glory of God. But in walking with Christ, each individual Christian is indwelt and led by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit enables us to take the “condensed soup” of Scripture, expand upon it properly, and apply it to our own lives. It is the proper task of a pastor or theologian to assist us in understanding God’s Word with the goal (Ephesians 4:11ff) of seeing us grow up into the fullness of Christ so we don’t keep getting knocked off course by every trickster that comes along.

But so many go too far. They go beyond what is written in Scripture. In doing so, they quite often take us back under the law and bring us into bondage. Or they swing quite the other direction and lead us down their road of libertinism (I’m ok, you are ok, most anything is ok. Have a good time).

This going beyond what is written is often put into play when church leaders or other Christians or famous writers of enough books to fill a big box or two, begin to feel that they need to inject themselves into the lives of their people, control them, tell them…function as their conscience and even try to be the Holy Spirit. Many of you have had this happen. Here comes Mr. or Mrs. “builder of a fence around the Law so we are sure no one sins” poking their nose into your life. “You know, I noticed that you said/did such and such. I don’t agree with what you said/did. I will tell you what you should say/do.” And this very same thing can be done from the pulpit or in the myriads of books that the more skilled Holy Spirit players write.

I am not saying that we are to be total rebels and cast off any accountability to one another. If a professed Christian is abusing his wife (and he isn’t a Christian if he is), that guy needs to be confronted and held to accounts. Evil needs to be exposed. Error in teaching must be corrected. But what I am addressing here is specifically this business of “going beyond what is written” and judging one another in areas that the Lord has told us all to just cool our jets and wait until the Day comes when He will sort it all out.

There is something just not right – scary even – about one human being writing over 60 books, many of which are “how-to books” and even “how you must think” books. Books that come at you from the angle of “Look at this new thing I have discovered in the Bible.” Or worse, they present a “new thing” claiming that it is still just the orthodox old thing, but in new wrappings. What kind of a person is going to be produced if they were to read all 60 of John Piper’s books? Or 30 of them? Or 20? Or 10? (I sound like Abraham dealing with God over Sodom:).

Why are we doing so?  That is, why are we focusing on John Piper in these posts?  Because of his huge influence on so many Christians and their thinking. Because this influence has contributed to creating an environment in our churches that we at this blog have to work to expose every single day. An environment that oppresses the weak and enables the wicked. A works-based twisting of the gospel will do that every time because it takes our eyes off of the finished, glorious work of Jesus Christ and sets our focus upon what we must DO to be right with God.

1 Cor 4:6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.

Do as they say, Not as they do?? What does this mean?

Mat 23:1-3 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, (2) “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, (3) so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.

Have you ever read these words of Jesus and been confused? I have. Wouldn’t you think that we should disregard what such hypocrites say as well as what they do?

Well, recently a commenter on this blog gave an account of how he was taken in by a similar hypocrite and his comment I believe sheds some light on why Jesus said what He said:

My wife and I have a friend that has been at our home the past three days. A family that were pillars in the church….married over 50 years….the husband a mentor to me when I was a young husband and father….who come to find out, behind closed doors in the home abused his wife and children. So instead of a home filled with the love of Jesus it was a house of horrors. Pray for the family. Pray for their safety especially the wife. Pray for wisdom.

So what you are telling us Pastor Crippen is even though I broke bread with this man…studied the Word together, prayed together, shared our deapest thoughts and concerns…learning to be a godly husband and father with him…he did this as a wolf, as a fraud, as a hypocrite? I should be weeping losing a friend. But I find myself not…instead there is this steadfast anger in my soul….not a raging anger….just a steadfast mad….might it be righteous anger? I am now doubting he never became a new creation in Christ as he claims.

Thank you Wade, for sharing this.

The scribes and Pharisees “sat in Moses’ seat.” This brings to our minds how Ezra read the Scriptures to the people after they returned to the land and apparently that tradition continued in the synagogues as some teacher would read and expound the Law given through Moses to the people. We see it in Jesus’ actions at Nazareth:

Luk 4:16-20 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. (17) And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, (18) “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, (19) to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (20) And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.

Hypocrites, in other words, are very capable of stating scriptural doctrine. Of quoting Bible verses. So when these Pharisees in the synagogues read Moses’ words, Jesus told the people to do whatever the Pharisees “told them to do,” ie, whatever the scriptures said. BUT the application of the Law by the Pharisees is what the people were to reject. Because these wicked counterfeits warped and twisted the real meaning and spirit of the Law.

Remember that people in Jesus’ day, just as so many people have been down through the centuries, did not have personal access to the Scriptures. People didn’t carry their Bible around and I would imagine that myriads of people wouldn’t know how to read it if they did. So they were dependent upon their synagogue leaders to read God’s Word to them. THAT is the part Jesus is telling them to hear and do. But the actual practical interpretation and handling of it was botched and was to be rejected. Jesus was upholding the Law as God’s Word, but was denouncing the ways the Pharisees and scribes twisted and perverted it.

And that is what Wade (author of the comment above) has experienced in this guy whose mentoring even benefitted him. I have experienced the same thing more than once, only to learn later that the person I thought was genuine was a fraud. And as I looked closer, I could see how such people misapplied and twisted God’s Word.

You can think of many examples of this very thing. Think for instance of the “godly” and saintly and wise preacher who was well-known and appreciated by thousands, and then is found out to have been living a sham all along. Did we benefit from his “ministry”? Yes, in many ways. To the extent he was truly communicating God’s Word in the Bible to us, we did. BUT, we had better go back now and closely examine how we might have bought into some of his applications of Scripture because in some way ALL of his applications are going to be tainted.

Really, I think what Jesus is saying is simply what we refer to as “sola scriptura” (if I spelled the Latin correctly). Scripture alone. Yes, God gives us pastors and teachers and so on (Ephesians 4), but our sole authority for what we believe is the Bible alone. We err greatly if we make any human being our authority.

Practically, what will inevitably happen when we are dealing with a hypocrite, is that if we will apply Jesus’ instruction here, it will not be long before the hypocrite hates us and leaves us. Because hypocrites demand that we do as they do. When we make Scripture our only authority and thus do what God says to do, the counterfeit will be incensed – and exposed.

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