Holly T. Ashley

Oh did I type that outloud?

The Offender & The Church’s Response

By: David Ashley, M.A. Apologetics, M.Divinity

(The following is copyright protected and used by permission and is an excerpt of the Redemption. Restoration. Recovery. (R3) Domestic Violence Services and Training – Training manual). 

The Offender/Abuser

The offender will present in many different forms. But what she or he is, is an unbeliever. A slave to sin who has yet to completely surrender… s/he may be the “rich young ruler” of our day – asked to give up all they have, but refuse, walking away in the darkness from which he came.

The abuser (offender) is a family member of the victim, s/he has made a definitive choice to disobey God’s law which tells them to respect and honor their spouse. They have chosen to make themselves more important than the other person. They believe they are entitled to treat their spouse in a controlling, manipulative, disrespectful, overbearing, mentally abusive way and they will state their case as to why they are entitled to do so.

The abuser shows narcissistic, sociopathic and psychopathic tendencies.  Sociopaths and psychopaths tend to have some overlapping traits. Both sociopathic and psychopathic personalities are classified in the DSM-IV as an anti-social personality disorder that is characterized by a pattern of behavior which violates the rights of others, has little or no empathy towards others, will bend or disobey the law to fulfill their own wants and desires, and the behavior has been evident since childhood.

It is important to note – psychologists believe that the socio/psychopathic individual does not have a conscience. Therefore, we must make this perfectly clear – although Holly has a psychology background, Holly and David both are Christians who believe that the final authority on everything is the Bible. Therefore, the psychological perspective regarding the “conscience” is not biblical and therefore it is false.

God states that He created us in His image, and He created us all with a conscience:

 “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” (Romans 2:15).

The abuser has suppressed his conscience, having no feelings of empathy towards anyone and lacks shame and guilt. S/he has no sense of doing anything wrong.

 “The biblical concept of conscience is a fundamental self-awareness. Conscience is the moral ability to distinguish right from wrong. The conscience should provoke self-condemnation for bad behavior and encourage proper behavior. It is a person’s moral consciousness.”[1] 

The conscience is our moral compass and it gives us an inherent sense of right and wrong.  So, if the abuser can say he has no conscience then he can ultimately blame God for his actions, and we know that is a lie.  Romans chapter one is key here:  We as humans are all born with a knowledge of certain truths concerning God. We can discern certain truths, both morally and mentally, from creation.  Those who refuse to acknowledge the truth they know, and repress it in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18), will bring God’s wrath upon them.

This wrath is God ultimately giving men over to their depravity, and that “giving over” results in the inhibition of conscience, eventually as a process of repetition, it leads to a seared conscience or cauterized conscience which becomes desensitized to moral judgements.  It is insensitive and dulled to what is right and wrong. Biblically speaking, this is the same as someone with a hardened heart.

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:28).

Paul spoke of these individuals as people who were “seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron” (2 Timothy 4:2), and those who “because of the hardness of their heart (have) become callous.” (Ephesians 4:18-19) Both the seared conscience and the hardened and calloused heart perfectly describe the abuser.

According to A.W. Tozer, the foundation of the human conscience is “the secret presence of Christ in the world.” To support his conclusions, he points to John 1:9, “There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.” This inward moral awareness is simply the “secret inner voice” of the Lord “accusing or else excusing him.”[2]

“Psychopaths have a narcissistic and grossly inflated view of their self-worth and importance, a truly astounding egocentricity and sense of entitlement, and see themselves as the center of the universe, as superior beings who are justified in living according to their own rules.”[3]

Abusers will be cynical and callous, they will have an arrogant and inflated appraisal of themselves – For instance, they may not work because they are “holding out” for a managerial or professional position or they feel that the job market available is beneath them. To justify their economic position, they will make excuses or blame others. They are irresponsible, sexually exploitive, and also quite charming and impressive.

“His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.” (Psalm 55:21)

Pastors – Christian – Do not be deceived. Domestic violence is not just about physical assault! Jeff Crippen, author of A Cry for Justice, and several other books on domestic violence says this:

“Christians really have no excuse for being so naïve about evil.  The Bible which we hold to be the very Word of God, instructs us that man, outside of Christ, is a slave to sin.  He/she thinks and lives in agreement with the world (Ephesians 2) and with the god of this world, Satan.  Sin is his/her master.  Therefore, every word he/she speaks, every action he/she take, every thought he/she thinks, is impelled by that master, sin.  This means that the abuser, whose addiction is for power and control over his/her victim, is always functioning according to that craving.  They are always on task.  The “good works” they do are designed to gain power and control.  The zealous service they render to their church, his apparent love for people, is always online with their “firing solution” to hit their target:  power and control” (ACFJ, 37).

“So, you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:28).

Manifestations of these personality traits will not always be forthcoming. You will have to look deeper, ask questions that will give you answers to their cognitive functioning. Their cognition is the way they think and process information about others, themselves and the world around them. Asking the right questions will help you fully understand the warped mind of the abuser and help to predict abusive patterns – which is imperative to successfully bringing the victim to safety. Remember– you may never witness their abusive patterns of behavior – you are not married to them, you do not see everything! That is one of the many reasons I, (David), refers to these men and women as intimate partner terrorists (IPT) – because the pain is usually caused from the inside out and could blow up at any time.

The abuser will have a history of a lack of self-control and behavioral patterns that are impulsive, deceitful, aggressive, and will have a childhood history of conduct disorder.

Antisocial Personality Disorders are 70% higher in males than females. You will see the following as the most consistent symptoms:

  • Failure to conform to social norms with respect to biblical and lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for excommunication and arrest
  • Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure. This includes rants on social media, phone calls to friends and clergy regarding their “out of control spouse.”
  • Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead – or plan at all. They show a lack of self-control in every aspect of their life – indulging in personal self-gratification at the expense of everyone in the relationship.
  • Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated verbal and physical fights or assaults
  • Reckless disregard for safety of self or others. They may drive erratically on the highway – swerving in and out of traffic. Travel at excessive speeds. Engage in road rage.
  • Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations. S/He cannot hold a job for any stable length of time. S/he has never been able to complete a project – finish a sport – this behavior has been apparent since s/he was a child.
  • Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another. S/He will blame everyone and everything for their behavior – they will try to get the victim from getting counseling and/or going to church.[4]

An important factor: It will get worse before it will get better. Statistically, a victim of abuse is in more danger when s/he leaves the abuser – and therefore it is important to understand what you are dealing with. We are attempting to provide the church with the most comprehensive knowledge base to evaluate the situation and get the victim to safety.

When dealing with psycho/sociopathic behaviors we must be able to define, document, and articulate the danger to the victim, the proper authorities in order to get the victim into the most safe and secure environment possible.

Martha Stout in her book, The Sociopath Next Door, says:

“We are seduced as well by the acting skills of the sociopath.  Since the scaffolding of life without a conscience is deception and illusion, intelligent sociopaths often become proficient at acting, and even at some of the techniques employed by professional actors.  Paradoxically, the visible signs of emotion at will can become second nature to a cold-blooded –the appearance of intense interest in another person’s problems or enthusiasms, chest-thumping patriotism, righteous indignation, blushing modesty, weepy sadness.  Crocodile tears at will are a sociopathic trademark.” (P. 91).[5] 

Abusers will manipulate Scripture and those in the church with a very convincing superficial demonstration of repentance. Offenders can come across as the proactive spouse who is attempting to take the redemptive role in the salvation of the marriage.

“For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.  For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:2-7).

Weapons are available to the abuser in abundance – Blogs about abusive behaviors are available all over the internet and in bookstores. Abusers will learn how to maneuver through these “words of wisdom” – and also learn to twist Scripture to manipulate vulnerable – yet well-meaning, individuals who are not aware of the wolf in sheep’s clothing who stands before them. The Abuser must be treated as the unbeliever that he is. Crippen states, “We are fools when we want to pet and stroke a wolf into repentance.”

“But to the wicked God says; ‘What right do you have to, recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips? For you hate discipline and you cast my words behind you’” (Ps. 50:16-17).

Again, we cannot stress enough the importance of church discipline – if your victim attends your congregation (and again, tread lightly here, s/he might be just as well off doing home Bible studies in their safe-house for now), but none-the-less, the abuser/member of your congregation must be cast out!

“God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you” (1 Cor. 5:13).

When abuse occurs, the marriage covenant has been broken.  It is the abuse that tears apart the family not the victim’s decision to leave the marriage. On the contrary.  The victim does not need to stay in the marriage waiting for the abuser to change.  The abuser’s recovery is a separate issue and their change is their own responsibility.  To say abusers cannot change removes the responsibility for sin.  They can change, but most of them choose not to.  So, when God judges and punishes them, the punishment is just.

“Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends” (Ps. 7:14-16).

We must treat the abuser as an unbeliever.  Any person who feels entitled and justified by doing evil to another is not a Christian and for any pastor, counselor, psychologist, lay-court advocate, church, or leader to insist that the abuser is saved, is dangerous, disappointing, and ignorant of God’s Word – and it goes against God’s holy Word: How do we say such things? We don’t, the Bible does:

  • Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you” (Matt. 7:6)
  • “You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, you will recognize them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 7:16-21
  • “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.  “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Luke 6:43-46
  • My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27
  • 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 8:9
  • But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one 1 Cor. 5:11
  • The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 1 Cor. 2:14-15
  • Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Cor. 5:17
  • We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:6-8.
  • If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:20-21
  • Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:1-3.

Most will not repent.

The problem is that the IPT is a master liar and a master manipulator. The tongue of the IPT is probably their most effective weapons.  The IPT is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, putting on the charming, helpful, friendly, fun, Christian” act in public, but terrorizes their partner in private.

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.  And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So, it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. 2 Cor 11:13-15

So, you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matthew 23:28

How to counsel the Intimate Partner Terrorist (Abuser)

Taking into account that the abuser is NOT a born-again believer – go hard after the abuser with the Law of God and keep going after them until they understand the enormity of their sin.

The law isn’t used for salvation but for revealing the disgustingness of sin so the abuser can see their hopeless condition and cry out for the mercies of God.

For all of you who feel this is unloving, I beg to differ.  Speaking truth and exposing sin so hearts will break under the heavy weight of sin and look to Jesus alone for salvation.

A flippant youth asked a preacher, “You say that unsaved people carry a weight of sin. I feel nothing.  How heavy is sin? Is it ten pounds? Eighty pounds?”  The preacher replied by asking the youth, “If you laid a four-hundred-pound weight on a corpse, would it feel the load?”  The youth replied, “It would feel nothing, because it is dead.” The preacher concluded, “That spirit, too, is indeed dead which feels no load of sin or is indifferent to its burden and dismissive about its presence.” The youth was silenced!

Therefore no one will be justified in His sight by works of the Law. For the Law merely brings awareness of sin” (Rom. 3:20).

Because the Law brings wrath. And where there is no law, there is no transgression” (Rom. 4:15).

“For when we lived according to the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the Law were at work in our bodies, bearing fruit for death” (Rom. 7:5).

Paul Washer says:

“As stewards of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we do no service to men by making light of sin, skirting around the issue, or avoiding it altogether. Men have only one problem: they are under the wrath of God because of their sin (John 3:36).

To deny this is to deny one of the most foundational doctrines of Christianity. It is not unloving to tell men that they are sinners, but it is the grossest form of immorality not to tell them! In fact, God declares that their blood will be on our hands if we do not warn them of their sin and the coming judgment (Ezekiel 33:8).

To seek to preach the gospel without making sin an issue is like trying to heal the brokenness of people superficially, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace (Jeremiah 6:14).”[6]

The abuser must be brought to the point of recognizing his/her sin and understand the dangers of it before repentance and happen. You see the abuser must have a different view of sin and the severity of their sin and the righteous indignation of God before transformation can take place.

The Scriptures teach us that God not only hates sin but also that He directs that hatred toward those who practice it.

“We have all been taught the popular cliché, “God loves the sinner and hates the sin,” but this teaching is a denial of the Scriptures that clearly declare otherwise. The psalmist, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote that God not only hates iniquity, but He also hates “all workers of iniquity… We must understand that it is impossible to separate the sin from the sinner. God does not punish sin, but He punishes the one who commits it. It is not sin that is condemned to hell but the man who practices it.[7]

They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. (Titus 1:16)

The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. (Psalm 11:5).

The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. (Psalms 5:5-6)

This is the reason that we go after the abuser with the law, to expose their evil and call them to repentance.

If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts. (Psalms 7:12-13)

But, there are people in the church who know the truth of the gospel – have tasted its goodness, have partaken in the sacraments, and still it is rejected in their heart as reflected by their actions and behavior. Therefore, the Bible says that, “It is impossible to restore them again to repentance.”

“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.  For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God.  But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned” (Hebrews 6:4-8).

We are told to confront the offender, bring the offense before the church, and then cast him out.

When Jesus was preparing the disciples for His resurrection, John and Peter asked Jesus what was to happen to Judas. It is natural and fully within the scope of human nature to wonder about what God will do to the offender – or if we are doing enough – but Jesus had no hesitation when he told them flat out – “What’s that to you? You, follow me” (Jn. 21:22b).

“He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (Rom. 2:6-8).

The Redemption. Restoration. Recovery. (R3) Domestic Violence Services and Training manual is a product of Cross Strength Ministries, a 501c3 non-profit, religious organization. This product is copyright protected. 


[1] Mangum, D. (2014). Conscience. In Douglas Mangum, et al. (Ed.), Lexham Bible reference: Theological wordbook series. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[2] Tozer, A. W., (1994). The ground of human conscience: Christ’s presence in the world. In G. Smith (Ed.), Echoes of Eden. Camp Hill, PA: Wingspread Publishers.

[3] Hare, R. D., (1993). Without Conscience. New York, NY: Guilford Press. p. 38.

[4] Bressert, S. (n.d.). Antisocial personality disorder symptoms. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/disorders/antisocial-personality-disorder-symptoms

[5] Stout, M. (2005). The Sociopath Next Door. New York: Harmony Books.

[6] Washer, P. (2012). The Gospel’s Power and Message: Recovering the Gospel. Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books. p. 75–76.

[7] Ibid. p. 135.

One comment on “The Offender & The Church’s Response

  1. Tammy D Kihlstadius
    May 4, 2018

    This is so great. You have nailed it. Thank you for standing up for the abused.

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