Cindy Kunsman accurately pinpoints the heart of spiritual abuse. ❤
We’re exploring the reasons why so many victims of abuse have been told by their churches to remain in an abusive relationship. “Abuse of authority,” or even just a plain misunderstanding of authority, was an easy place to start. Obviously, if anyone believes that he was ordained by God to do whatever he likes to you, even if he thinks he’s acting in your best interest, he’s going to override your God-given right to make your own decisions.
In survivor-land, we call that “abuse.”
However, this next “loose screw” is a bit more subtle. It’s called presuppossitionalism, (Dang, did I even spell that correctly?) and it takes a moment to make the connection between this eight-dollar-word and our discussion. You wouldn’t immediately say, “Oh, by believing in presuppossitional apologetics, I’m going to be stuck forgiving horrific abusers and sweeping their sins under the rug!” Heck, you might even be happy to know such a long, intellectual-sounding word! (I was. Wink, wink.)
Thanks to Hester at scarletlettersblog, my eyes were opened to how presuppossitionalism has infiltrated so many aspects of the Christian life. Her work helped me realize that, when mixed with abusers, this is a truly toxic doctrine.
Let me add that I’m not a seminarian, or a trained theologian. However, since churches have to be filled with non-seminarians at some level, knowing how the laity filter and distill these doctrinal ideas should be important to any pastor. If I’m wrong about any doctrine, I don’t mind you pointing it out in the comments. Just don’t think for a minute that laity all across the Church aren’t seeing it the same way.
First, some definitions for the real world:
Presuppossitional apologetics is a fancy way of saying: It’s stupid to even try to reason with unbelievers about whether or not God is real, or Christianity is true, because God is the source of knowledge. God is the one who gives us the ability to reason. If this or that person isn’t in a relationship with God, his reasoning is inferior to the reasoning of people who are in a relationship with God.
On the surface, this might make sense to some believers. Obviously, if we’re in a personal relationship with the creator of the universe, then we night assume that Creator would be a source of knowledge about any subject you might be interested in studying.
However, presuppositionalists take it to the next level with statements like this:
The argument in favor of Christian theism must therefore seek to prove if one is not a Christian-theist [he means a regenerate believer] he knows nothing whatsoever as he ought to know about anything … On the contrary, the Christian-theist must claim that he alone has true knowledge about cows and chickens as well as about God.
Do you know anything about cows and chickens? I don’t, and I married an egg farmer’s son. I would probably kill a whole flock of chickens before I ever got an entry-level job at the Tyson factory. But, according to this genius (a dutch Calvinist theologian named Cornelius Van Til) I would naturally know more about chickens than the president of the Tyson corporation, because I know Jesus.
“Well, that’s ridiculous,” you might say. “I would never believe such a stupid concept!”
Maybe, but let me ask you this: would you rather hire a Christian plumber, or a non-Christian plumber? Does a Christian pastry chef make a better cake than a non-Christian pastry chef? Would you trust your kids’ health to a non-Christian doctor?
“No, but we could trust that a Christian plumber would be honest, and wouldn’t over-charge me, or perform shoddy work.”
Really? Well, what if honesty or laziness is a sin that the Christian plumber or baker or doctor still struggles with? Should we plumb their spiritual lives to see if they’ve developed all the fruits of the spirit? Should we examine their Bible study habits to see if they bake a good cake, or can unclog a toilet, or can tell the difference between strep and the flu?
Christians have been called gullible for a reason. We genuinely want to believe the best about everyone—and for that reason, we can be exploited by almost anyone. If an abuser has a working Biblical vocabulary, and can turn on the tears at will, he or she can likely convince any of us that repentance, holiness, or spiritual growth is happening before our very eyes. This means that abusers are attracted to the church. We give them credibility. We give them social capital. We give them a convenient hiding place.
Boz Tchividjian quotes a convicted child molester who says, “[I] consider church people easy to fool…they have a trust that comes from being Christians. They tend to be better folks all around and seem to want to believe in the good that exists in people. I think they want to believe in people. Because of that, you can easily convince, with or without convincing words. – convicted child molester –
If we genuinely have higher reasoning abilities than unbelievers, then why are we “easy to fool?” Why didn’t we know better than to allow child molesters into our doors?
If presuppossitional thought trickles down from the leadership, imagine the thought process in a church member who goes to report abuse:
1) You report the abuse the leadership
2) The pastor assures you that the abuser is repentant, and urges you to
1. forgive the abuser and
2. examine what role you may have played in the abuse.
Now, mix “presuppossitional” theology with the first loose screw, “abuse of authority,” and see what rattles around. The very act of stepping out of the leader’s umbrella is sinful. Plus, the leaders know more than the secular authorities.
Would you honestly think you had any other options at this point, besides doing what the pastor says? If Christians know more about cows and chickens than any farmer does, (cluck, cluck, moo!) wouldn’t they know more about abuse than any police officer or women’s shelter? Would you doubt the abuser’s repentance? Would it even cross your mind to do a google search through (gasp!) unbelievers’ web pages, about other ways of dealing with an abuser? I mean, heck, these so-called “victims” or “advocates” don’t have the Spirit of God! They can’t lead me in to all truth! And with all those pesky mandated reporting laws, what about the redemption of the abuser?
Which brings us to loose screw #3…
Jeff Crippen knocks it out of the park, as always. ❤
Luk 14:1-6 One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. (2) And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. (3) And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” (4) But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. (5) And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” (6) And they could not reply to these things.
One of the prevalent dangers in the church – especially in the conservative, Bible-believing church like the one I pastor – is that of falling prey to wooden, literalistic interpretation of Scripture that totally misses the heart of God…
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Nate Morales, a former staff member at Covenant Life Churches, was found guilty recently on five counts of sexual assault.
According to Brent Detwiler, who attended the trial, a pastor that was called to testify, Grant Layman, KNEW about the abuse, and didn’t report it to the police.
The fact that the sexual abuse occurred at all was horrific. The fact that a pastor (who is a mandated reported in most states) covered it up–which allowed Morales to continue to secure ministry jobs, and have access to children–is nauseating.
However, the fact that we as a church are continuing to allow these systems to stay in place–systems that allows pastors to have this kind of life-or-death control over people–is mind-blowing.
“What systems?” you may ask. “This has nothing to do with any system–this is one sick, twisted individual who infiltrated a church.”
A year ago, I would have thought the same thing. Then, ATI, Vision Forum, JPUSA, Voice of The Martyrs, Pensacola Christian College, Bob Jones University, and of course CLC church (of Joshua Harris’ “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” fame) all were involved in searing sexual abuse scandals.
Few of these organizations are directly related to one another, yet most of the victims said the same thing: “I (or my child) was sexually abused. I went to the leadership of the church/organization. The leadership assured me that the abuser had repented, and told me not to go to the authorities. The leadership also asked me (or my child) to examine my/his/her own heart to see what role I/we had played in the abuse. And repent. And forgive the abuser.”
(Please, if you need a moment to vomit, by all means take that moment right here.)
Then, today I found out Christianity Today had the gall to publish an article by a convicted sexual abuser, and refer to his crime as “slipping into sin.”
What is happening in the church?
I believe that these horrific sexual abuse scandals (and the cover-up that followed) are the direct result, and the final, rotten fruit, of several theological screws that came loose in the church. We as believers honestly didn’t address each isolated issue when it came up. Individually, while they may be weird, they each seem fairly harmless, like they’re “no big deal,” and we don’t want to cause division by making a stink about them. But when all the loose screws came rattling down, the very foundation of the Christian life was undermined. And we didn’t even notice.
Loose Screw #1: Abuse of Authority
Loose Screw #3: Predestination of….Everything?
Loose Screw #4: Sin-Leveling
Loose Screw #5: Mountains out of Molehills
Loose Screw #6: The Sociopathic Concept of God
Today, I’m going to focus on Loose Screw #1, and I will hopefully add a new post every week, if Baby Agape keeps sleeping well. I’ll come back and add links to each Loose Screw when each post is live.
I want to add that I’m simply a layperson in the church–I’m a worship leader and skit writer–and I’ve not been to seminary. However, that should make pastors and theologians sit up straighter and ask themselves, “How did this type of screwball thinking make its way into the church? What are we communicating? How are we communicating? And how can we be more faithful to God’s word?”
Loose Screw #1: Abuse of Authority
Many churches have embraced an unbiblical model of “authority” for so long that they’ve forgotten it’s not in the Bible:
It’s called “The Umbrella Model.” Apparently, if you or I stay under these cutesy little umbrellas of authority–in other words, if we as wives obey our husbands, or if we as church members obey our pastors–then we’re SAFE from the Devil’s evil schemes.
Kids are being taught this at an early age now:
Because GOD GAVE THIS AUTHORITY, going against this authority is going against GOD HIMSELF. Going along WITH this authority is following God’s true will, God’s best plan for you, etc. And this will KEEP YOU SAFE.
This is ludicrous for several reasons. For starters, nowhere in the Bible are believers promised protection from any of Satan’s attacks if they just blindly do what the guy in charge says. In fact, Paul directly confronts Peter when he’s theologically messed up in the head.
Wait, an APOSTLE can be wrong? Someone who walked with Jesus while He was physically on this earth could need correction from a fellow believer? Say it ain’t so!
It is so. We’re not only supposed to question apostles, we’re supposed to question prophecy. We’re supposed to study, to grow, to ask God for wisdom, AND submit ourselves to authority. We’re to love God with our heart, MIND, soul, and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves.
Oddly enough, we’re not even promised protection if we do what GOD HIMSELF says. Jesus promises us that “in this world, we will have trouble.” Hebrews 11 states pretty clearly that some of God’s people will be great overcomers, and some will…not.
The Rotten Fruit
Dang, if people are following this authority, then how did all these kids get abused?
No one would willingly embrace a theology that says, “If your child is molested, you have to forgive the offender, not go to the cops, and let the molester walk free, as long as he cries and says he’s sorry. You also have to consider what YOU did to seduce the crackpot who crept in on you during the lock-in.” No.
However, did we as the Body stand up and say, “That’s not Biblical,” when our churches required women to wear skirts ? Or when a leader proclaimed that all families should home school? Or that getting married is our highest calling? Or that God didn’t have vocal chords?
We’d say, “We don’t want to cause division over something minor. Is this a ‘sprinkling or immersion’ type of debate? That is so not an issue. Who cares? We want to have unity!! We love these people! Heck, every church has its quirks, right?”
In my experience, few people want to challenge a pastor, teacher, or person in “authority” over whether or not a teaching is Biblical. We either go along with it, or if it’s an egregious error, slide out the back door, and look for another church. Either way, the teaching is allowed to stay, grow, and affect people’s lives.
“Hey, is it getting warm in here?” says the frog, sweating…
We see the cover-up of sexual abuse, because some brave people brought it into the light–but what do we not see?
How many people made other decisions under this authoritarian system?
How many people chose/didn’t choose a specific college, because a “spiritual authority” counseled them to?
How many people stayed/didn’t stay in a certain relationship?
How many people chose/avoided a specific career field, or a specific mission field?
How many people handled conflicts, money, property, child-raising issues, under this type of authoritarian system, all believing it was the Biblical way to do so?
But we didn’t challenge this system, until we caught someone with their pants down.
We must start speaking up.
The authoritarian structure gives the church member no other options.
There’s no appeals process. There’s no one else to turn to. In this false theology, “outside of the umbrella” is the land where Satan can attack you. And heck, those unregenerate people don’t know as much as your pastor or husband or teacher does anyway–so why would you even try going to secular authorities?
Which leads us to Loose Screw #2…..