Larry Crabb defines Spiritual Abuse
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When a person uses the Scriptures, when a person uses their position of authority to really indulge their own need to feel superior or to be in control or to manipulate or to make things happen that they think should happen; when they’re really serving their own agenda and calling it God’s agenda, whether they’re Elmer Gantrys and just pretending, whether they’re self-deceived, then I believe we’re talking about spiritual abuse, and that’s not a good thing.
When you’re living in a church situation where your pastor, where elders, where Sunday school teacher, where a father to child, Christian father to child, is using their position of authority to bring the Bible to bear in a way that makes you feel incredibly pressured and guilty and awful. I’m not talking about conviction of sin. I’m talking about: You better shape up or there’s going to be hell to pay—and said in a very nasty kind of a way, in a controlling kind of a way—then you’re in a spiritually abusive environment.
Any time a pastor, or any person, I don’t want to just pick out pastors, lots of wonderful pastors of course, but spiritual abuse can happen when anybody in a position of authority uses a Bible verse to control another, uses their platform to maneuver another to make a person feel something which is going to make them perform according to their expectations as opposed to releasing the power of the spirit of God in your life through the grace-filled experience of community. Anything that opposes that I would call spiritual abuse.
“The worst kind of evil is the wrong kind of love, love that clutches and possesses rather than loosening and liberating. . . . That is Lewis’ final statement on evil. Essentially, it is the wrong kind of love. . . . What the evil man calls love is only a sort of hunger aimed at the total consumption of the emotional lives of those around him. What he calls justice is the selfish granting of his own welfare and pleasure, whether on a personal or a universal scale. And what he calls good is that which will benefit his own aims at the expense or despite the needs of those around him. He is evil not because he wills to be an evil man but because he can do nothing else but will his own narrow desires.”
~ Janice Witherspoon Neulieb, reviewing Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis, in Christianity Today, 28 March 1975, page 16.