Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

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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.

Twisted Theology Produces a Den of Abusers Parading as the church

With remarkable frequency we meet abuse victims, mostly Christians, who originally met their abuser in a local church. Or in a Christian college or similar setting. In the church! Why? How can this be?
Well, the answer is not only that abusers are exceptionally deceptive, but churches far and wide have embraced such unsound, twisted theology and warped handling of the Scriptures that evil, unregenerate people are readily embraced and pronounced “saved.” This is why, as we have said before, how we answer the apparently simple, but not so simple question—”Just who is a Christian?”—sets the course for what follows.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Romans 8:5-9)

I know of a professedly “Christian” organization that repeatedly announces its “Christian” mission. It hammers that mission statement home to all of its employees and insists they get on board showing “the love of Jesus” to the world. And yet all kinds of vile language is habitually practiced and tolerated in this “ministry”. People who are in no way Christian, who don’t even profess to be Christian, are told to get on with the mission.

What does this tell us? It tells us that this “ministry” is in fact essentially universalistic in doctrine. That is to say, everyone is capable of being a Christian. Everyone is a Christian — as long as they mouth the “mission.” And this is precisely what is going on in so many local churches today. People who have not repented, who still walk in sin, but who mouth the right “Jesus” words on Sunday (or on Facebook) are pronounced saved and born again and the rest of us are told that the only real sin we could commit is to call such counterfeits on the carpet. That, you see, would be judgmental. And we must not be judgmental you know.

So what happens? The local church becomes the field of play for the wicked looking for an easy target. The soul of the wicked desires evil; his neighbor finds no mercy in his eyes (Prov 21:10). Here comes young Sally who has been taught all the typical distortions about love, forgiveness, patience, and submission and BAM! He sees her, gets his hooks into her, and you all know the rest of the story from there.

Jesus came to a den of thieves like this and cleaned house. It’s long past time that we do the same. To refuse to repent and throw out the soul-thieves, is to participate in their evil and to be condemned right along with them.

Isa 1:10-17 Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! (11) “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. (12) “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? (13) Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. (14) Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. (15) When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. (16) Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, (17) learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

Wising Up to the Abuser's "Christian" Facade

2Th 3:1-2  Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith.

Wicked and evil men. We need to be delivered from them. But who are they? What do they look like? Who did Paul have in mind here?
He was thinking of wicked and evil people who claim to be Christians.
I have been thinking recently of the many battles we have had over the years with wicked and evil men (and women) who crept in among the flock of Christ, wearing a disguise of wool. Their evil deeds opposed the ministry of Christ in many devious ways. That is what Paul speaks of here – pray that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, but we know that it is going to be opposed by wicked and evil men.
How do we know that these enemies Paul speaks of were professing Christians? Well, because of that little phrase at the end of verse 2 – “For not all have faith.” Think about it. It’s a no-brainer that unsaved people do not have faith. No one expects them to. If Paul’s phrase here was just him saying “by the way, not all human beings have faith, you know,” it would elicit a kind of “duh, no kidding” response from us.  The Apostle surely did not mean that. What he does mean is, these wicked and evil men who oppose the progress of the gospel claim to be believers in Christ, but they are not. We must recognize, he is telling us, that not all Christians are. Not everyone in our churches is a Christian. Not everyone who looks like such an eminent saint of God really is.
And the frightening thing about this is that what seems to be the prevailing climate in most churches today is that it is an unpardonable sin to ever question someone’s claim of belonging to Christ. The order of the day appears to be – “if someone says they are a Christian then we are bound to assume they are and never question the reality of their profession.” Where does that thinking come from? Not from the Bible, that’s for sure.
Notice also what Paul asks the Thessalonians to pray for in his regard. Deliverance.
That Paul and his comrades would be delivered from these wicked, evil men who are parading as Christians, infiltrating the churches, duping people with their flattery and false doctrine. We all need deliverance from these kinds of people.
Do you think that there are no wicked, evil men parading as Christians in your church?
Think again. Pull out your Bible, go the the New Testament for starters, and start skimming along through it beginning at Matthew 1. Every time you come to a verse or section that is addressing wicked, evil people under the disguise of religion, opposing the gospel and creeping into churches to mislead and enslave, use a highlighter on those verses. When you are done, sit back and look at what you see. Virtually every page of the New Testament will have your highlighter yellow on it.
Which leaves us with a sobering and searching question: why are most professing Christians ignorant of such a prevalent warning in God’s Word? Why is it that wicked, evil people like abusers can hide so easily in and be enabled by local churches? This question always leaves me shaking my head in amazement. I can only think it is because

  1. Many local churches are filled with unregenerate people who do not have faith and thus lack the discernment of the Holy Spirit
  2. Many professing Christians don’t want to get into the battle with evil because it will cost them too much
  3. God’s Word has been so dumbed down in our pulpits that the people of Christ are dangerously naive about the enemy and his tactics.

You might be able to suggest more reasons.
Not all “Christians” have faith. Not all “Christians” are Christians, but are in fact wicked, evil people come in among us with the purpose of opposing the gospel of Christ and the freedom that Jesus has won for us. We need deliverance from them, and that deliverance begins with opening up our Bibles, BELIEVING what God says, and maturing in Christ so that we can discern good from evil. Let’s wise up to the abuser’s facade.

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