Heresy and Blasphemy in Counseling the Abused

[This post appeared three years ago and generated heart-wrenching comments from people who have similar experiences to that of the young woman mentioned in the opening paragraph. I thought it worth returning to.]

A New York Times article included an alarming comment from a young woman who said she’d gone to a counselor at her Christian university regarding sexual assaults she’d suffered while young:

The person who supposedly counseled me told me if I reported a person like that to the police, I was damaging the cause of Christ, and I would be responsible for the abuser going to hell. He said all of my problems were as a result of my actions in the abuse, which mostly took place before I was 12, and I should just forgive the abuser.

You can see the bullying tactics evident in this type of “counseling”:

  • Don’t report it. Think of how that will harm the body of Christ.
  • Besides, any problems you’re experiencing now are because you didn’t handle it correctly when you were only 12 years old.
  • In fact, everything about this is your fault because you haven’t forgiven the one who preyed upon you. Shame on you for not being a forgiving person!

If this young woman’s report is true, then shame on that counselor.

Going to Hell

One other thing about this bullying that jumped out at me is the part about hell. Note what the woman said she was told:

If I reported a person like that to the police … I would be responsible for the abuser going to hell.

There is so much wrong with that counseling. It plays upon a victim’s emotions, it serves to protect the abuser, and (as I argue here) it’s heresy. Whether this particular counselor actually said it it or not – and the Times article doesn’t report a response from the counselor, unfortunately – this isn’t the first time I’ve run across this misbegotten doctrine of salvation and hell.

Bottom line: no one’s actions are sending another person to hell. The Bible explains that under the New Covenant each person is responsible for his or her own sins.

In those days people will no longer say, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes — their own teeth will be set on edge. (Jeremiah 31:29-30.)

It’s right there in the Bible, everyone is responsible for their own sin. So how can anyone teaching the New Covenant gospel of Christ say that a victim of another person’s sin is responsible for that person’s destiny, whether to eternal life or eternal death?

They can’t.

Any assertion that reporting a sex abuser means the victim has now consigned the abuser to hell is completely unbiblical. It’s also a horrible thing to say, trying to put that responsibility on a person who has already suffered. And that makes it doubly un-Christlike.

Jesus … went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” …

He [said] to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:14-21.)

If there is a Christian college advising its students that reporting abuse will lead to the abuser’s eternal damnation, it is completely missing the point of the ministry of Christ and should close its doors immediately rather than continue in this blasphemy and heresy.

After all, using Christ’s name to protect the abuser at the expense of the victim is blasphemy and promoting this teaching about hell and damnation is heresy. Both of them – blasphemy and heresy – hurt the very people who should instead be ministered to and comforted in Christ’s name.

Blasphemy and heresy – what a college curriculum.


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20 Responses to Heresy and Blasphemy in Counseling the Abused

  1. Courtney says:

    Wow, that’s really messed up – what happened to that poor girl. I definitely agree that something like that should be reported, and as soon as possible!

  2. Pingback: Heresy and Blasphemy in Counseling the Abused – GBFSV SPIRITUAL ABUSE VICTIMS' RECOVERY

  3. Fortunately, the Bible does not read like the reality at this “Christian” university – God’s Word includes the truth about His followers, from Saul to Paul. God protects neither human institutions nor individuals from their falls and pride is a deadly sin. Jesus died for repentance not cover-up.

  4. Pastor Bob says:

    Where to start, since such ugliness abounds form men and women. -pause- here goes:
    “Any assertion that reporting a sex abuser means the victim has now consigned the abuser to hell is completely unbiblical. It’s also a horrible thing to say, trying to put that responsibility on a person who has already suffered.”
    — The victim has gone through what some call a living hell. It can take years for the victim to gather enough courage to speak about it. Many years ago i removed a youth leader, discipleship team after hearing about something similar. It pains me to hear of such foolishness masquerading as “Christian.” (yes, the victim did get qualified help and had recovered nicely)

    sadly the “Blame the Victim” mentality is still around, and the tactics are changing. We as Christians need to be aware of the changes that Satan and his ilk are using. We say victim for a reason, that person was the prey of a predator. In reality there should NEVER be a situation of “wrong area” or “missed signals” since all are expected to conform to the key word RESPECT.

    To shift any responsibility to the victim is folly at it best and destructive at its worst. Pick the scenario, the predator looks for the opportunity and takes control. Whether it is through trickery or taking advantage of trust, when the victim communicates NO or is clearly unable to, the predator has crossed all boundaries.

    I do hope the victim in the story was able to receive the proper counseling needed.

    • Tim says:

      “Pick the scenario, the predator looks for the opportunity and takes control. Whether it is through trickery or taking advantage of trust, when the victim communicates NO or is clearly unable to, the predator has crossed all boundaries.”

      This should be taught in every pastoral care curriculum in every seminary and Bible school, PB.

      • Pastor Bob says:

        This I learned from my work with victim’s assistance programs and community chaplaincy programs. The phrasing is based largely on older ideas of “consent” which I don’t think have changed much.

        Wonder how many would really like to see predators got to hell, or “burn in Hell.”
        (Is that safe to comment on?)

        • Muff Potter says:

          Not me Pastor Bob. It would violate my conscience. More humane to simply wink them out of existence with no inheritance in what the Jews call Olam Ha-Ba (the world (or worlds) to come).

  5. How sad and infuriating to see this kind of coverup happening, all in the name of protecting the perpetrator and the “cause of Christ” – whatever THAT means. Surely the cause of Christ is freedom and truth, not lies.

  6. Nancy2 says:

    “Don’t report it. Think of how that will harm the body of Christ.”
    Oh, I see …… Letting people sexually abuse children is safe and healthy for the body of Christ.
    Right??? And the final destination of our souls depend on what others say about us? Yep. Heaven is going to be a mighty lonely place.
    This counselor should be trembling in fear. He/she may go to hell because this young lady told the truth about his/her abusive form of counseling.

    • Tim says:

      It’s all about controlling others.

      • Pastor_Bob says:

        We have never pushed the victim to prosecute. TI is emotionally scarring to endure the attack in the first place. The challenge of reliving it to testify can be overwhelming for many. There have been some cases where the victim did not need to testify, but one cannot count on that.
        To decide for the victim (either direction) is horrible.

  7. Freedom Dawns says:

    This travesty extends to abuse in all forms, sadly. It’s the “Christian” version of “she was in a tight dress and had some alcohol, no wonder she got raped.”

    I went to a very modern, non-denominational church in middle & high school. We were taught at youth group to be careful about our actions and words so that we didn’t cause our ‘christian brothers’ in the group to sin. Such as what kind of bathing suits we wore, not holding hands during group prayer, not taking our sweaters off in front of them, not talking about showers or being in bed, being mindful of what we wore, etc. Meanwhile, I knew the boys were being told that it was their jobs to protect us and guard us and treat us like treasures. Nothing about their actions causing us to sin, oh no.

    It took me years to leave my abusive alcoholic narcissist husband because well-intentioned Christians were giving me horrific advice… that it was my job to submit to him, that it was my job to meet his needs in the marital bedroom, he was the head of the house, if I left then I would be the one breaking our marriage vows, I must not be praying hard enough if he isn’t changing, I must not be reading the Bible enough, I must not be on enough ministry teams, I need to read this book about my attitude, I need to read this book about forgiveness, I need to read ‘The Power of a Praying Wife,’ I must not care about my kids, what was I doing to provoke him, it takes two to fight, maybe I needed to clean the house better, there must be unforgiveness in my heart that God was punishing, there must be sin in my life somewhere else, God hates divorce, etc etc etc.

    It took reading a book by Lundy Bancroft called ‘Why Does He Do That: Inside the Minds of Angry & Controlling Men’ (an INCREDIBLE resource for victims & survivors) to realize some key truths:
    – his decision to abuse me was 100% his own
    – my faith, my relationship with God, and the fruit in my life had ZERO IMPACT on his decision to abuse me
    – my children and I have never, ever deserved abuse
    – God hates divorce, but God hates abuse more
    – he broke our marriage vows when he decided to abuse me

    The pure lack of context on “wives, submit to your husbands” is staggering. The way other Christians treated me during the worst years of my life very nearly caused me to lose my faith.

    I feel for this poor girl who has been re-victimized by this fraud of a counselor.

  8. Pingback: Heresy and Blasphemy in Counseling the Abused | The Executive Navigator

  9. This is why I really love what Taylor Swift did recently. She chose to use her power and privilege to make a statement that assault is wrong, and that it is the perpetrator who is responsible for their actions. And nobody else.

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