December 4, 2020

R. C. Sproul Jr. Says, “Take Off the Gloves”

By Chaplain Mike

NOTE: As many readers have pointed out, the column at Ligonier was written by R.C. Sproul, Jr., not his father. Forgive my sloppy reading. I still find the fact that this was posted on the Ligonier website encouraging.

* * *

I have always liked R.C. Sproul and benefited from Ligonier Ministry and his teaching. I don’t share all his conservative and Calvinistic convictions, disagree with his approach to discussions with Roman Catholics, and have thought he may depend too much on mixing philosophy with his Biblical and theological views. But my shelves hold a lot of his books. He is a good thinker, a fine teacher, and he has helped me many times.

I’m not sure what prompted Sproul’s entry, “It Was Nice While It Lasted,” on the Ligonier blog this week (maybe someone else does), but it certainly got my attention.

R.C. writes about being tired of watching the same old boxing match between “truth” and “unity.” He notes that “unity” had been gaining ground and making progress among various factions of the Church, but “truth” (at least various parochial versions of it) has bounced back off the ropes and is fighting back with a vengeance.

Then he makes this appeal:

So what do we do? Can we get truth and unity to kiss and make up? Only if we Christians learn to grow up.  We need to not only learn to distinguish between primary and secondary doctrines/practices, we need to learn to value them accurately.  Can we both agree that being wrong on baptism is not a damnable heresy, and also affirm that it is an issue that matters? Can I seek to correct my Baptist brothers in a way that speaks to them as brothers who are wrong on an important issue? And can I in turn hear with grace my Baptist brothers as they lovingly seek to correct my error on the issue? Can I be concerned that my charismatic brother is leaving open the door for false prophecy and at the same time understand that he is concerned that I am boxing in the Holy Spirit?

I have an opinion on virtually every issue that is being argued on the internet. I think some positions being espoused are good, sound, biblical. I think others are fallacious, dangerous, and unbiblical. I know that whatever the Bible teaches, that is what’s right and true. And I know the Bible teaches that I am often wrong. It is not Rodney King that asks if we can all get along. It is Jesus asking, in His high priestly prayer (John 17).  He is the Truth, and He calls us to unity. That comes in reflecting His character. He, even when He corrects us, is for us. He, even when we are wrong, loves us perfectly. He is lowly in spirit and will not break a bruised reed.

We will not change until we choose our heroes not by how cogently or fiercely they defend our position on this issue or that, but by how much they reflect the grace of Christ whatever their position.

Hooray for R.C. Sproul, Jr.!


  1. A quote from someone who models just what R.C. Sproul is talking about:

    The church learns better, becomes wiser and more mature through the constant discipline of debate whereby different points of view engage with each other and the truth is beaten out in that discussion.
    J I Packer

    • Is JI Packer good? For someone who is burned out on reformed theologymwould you recommend him?

      • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says

        Packer’s a moderately evangelical Anglican scholar/theologian. Which means the reform-ness of his theology is extra-moderate. I’ve pretty much enjoyed everything I’ve read of his and would recommend him.

        • One of the guys who I discuss theology with has suggested reading through “Knowng God” together and then discussing it in person. Right now we disuss deep theology and he’s asking me to start over from scratch. Is that a good book? I wouldn’t be reading anything John Piperesque or John MacArthur would I?

          • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says

            I haven’t read Knowing God but I’ve heard it’s a dang good book. You definitely wouldn’t be getting stuff that feels like Piper or MacArthur from Packer. I can say that I have no patience with Mac, and little patience with Piper, but I love Packer.

          • Packer isn’t what you’d call “from scratch” (nor is John Stott’s Basic Christianity basic). Years ago, before I had read Knowing God a friend of mine said, “You haven’t read it? Are you sure you’re one of the elect???”

          • Another great theologian (in my opinion) is the late Dr. Gerhard Forde.

            I don’t believe you can go wrong with any of his books.

          • I read “Knowing God” a few years after I came to Christ. It had a profound effect on me and I would recommend it. I don’t think he’s anything like Piper or MacArthur.

          • J.I. Packer’s “Knowing God” was a watershed book for me. Mostly because the things I learned there ended up getting me in trouble. Definitely not Piper, possibly halfway between him and C.S.Lewis. Packer holds to the 39 articles, which is known as “calvinism lite.” From what little I know of you, I don’t think this book would be awful, but Mere Christianity by Lewis is better. I find high-church protestant theologians to be generally easier to stomach, deeper thinkers, and good at balancing a passion for truth with a liberal inclusivity (within orthodoxy, of course).

          • Miguel said, “I find high-church protestant theologians to be generally easier to stomach, deeper thinkers, and good at balancing a passion for truth with a liberal inclusivity (within orthodoxy, of course).”

            I like that, Miguel.

          • You can try also R.F. Capon, The Fingerprints of God or The Mystery of Christ And Why We Dont Get It. Brennan Manning and his Ragamuffin Gospel is also very good.

      • I am listening to Packer in a course he taught and find him very gracious and Christ like.

        The above comment was in the context of his answering why Anglicans are so tolerant of theological diversity in their ranks.

      • When I first read him, I was very unimpressed, but since I’ve mellowed somewhat and gotten away from my more legalistic roots, I’d be willing to try him again.

      • Hi Eagle, I may be one of the few who doesn’t really like Packer & didn’t get much out of reading ‘Knowing God’. Still too Calvie for me….*slinks away, head hung in shame* I much preferred Tozer’s books on the character of God…though, hilariously, I can’t remember their name. Not too hard to find out I wouldn’t have thought.

      • It’s practically impossible to be an Anglican and fall prey to the many fundamentalist tendencies of american evangelicalism.
        ‘Knowing God’ is, however, very very systematic. it kinda treats the bible like a theological encyclopedia. if you can overlook that fact, then the book is awsome, especially if it is to be used as a springboard for discussion. you just gotta take the book for what it is, and then a lot can be taken from it.
        i know several people who are aquanted with Packer and they all say he is a very wise and thoughtfull person.

        • David Morris says

          I like Packer. He knows how to disagree with people. The funny thing is thouguh, that as far as some in the Church of England (and the Church of Canada) are concerned, he is the epitome of the conservative evangelical position. But then even NT Wright is too far for some of them.

  2. Just a quick clarification… it was R.C. Sproul Jr., not Sr. who wrote the blog entry. Either way, “Hooray for R.C. Sproul!”

  3. Quixotequest says

    This subject came up as a major theme in our church’s men’s conference last weekend. We are called to believe in God and to love, not to fight God’s battles which often just shows up in our lives as a lack of grace in secondary matters, of a desire to save the world from sin through our efforts of tying the church to cultural and political battles. We let the unbelieving world know us by what we are against rather than who we are for: Jesus.

    Things I like that emerged from our discussion:

    We can do better keeping our top priorities first:
    1. Belonging – Make our community one of love and modeled graciousness, where people can belong, even in their doubts or messed up lives, as they pursue God.
    2. Believing – Help our community, as we belong, be one where we turn together to the Bible and the Lord and seek rightness of belief, passion for our convictions, but grace where non-central things truly can manifest diversity in liberty.
    3. Behavior – Let us not make behavior our model where our community is just a system of religious rules. Let us trust in God to guide and correct behavior as belief is strongly resting in Jesus. Let us pray that unbelievers (or newer believers) don’t ask us what _we_ think (about behavior) until they are ready to study out for themselves what God thinks.

    • Agreed…Christianity in the United States is defined by what they are against. Not what they are for…In the process many Christians also come across as not believing or showing grace. So I think its only natural for many people to turn away from Christianity or stay away from it. They see the culural war, how Christians treat gays or each other, and people think, “Why would I want to be involved in that…?”

      • but by choosing christianity, one automatically states they are against ‘x’ . if you’re for Jesus, you have to be against the gay lifestyle, drunkenness, fornication, etc., b/c the Bible makes clear what God disapproves of. you can’t preach Jesus and take a contrary position to something clearly revealed in scripture. i concede that this what the world focuses on and the bulls-eye will forever be on that element of christianity.

        • But Thomas, not agreeing with someone’s lifestyle, choices or addictions, doesn’t mean we have to be “against’ them. The word implies judgement. Just because I claim Jesus’ name doesn’t mean I’m against anyone. However, some very prominent Christians have displayed a not so gracious image for the masses. But, in my circle of influence, I want to make it clear that I claim His Name, and will, by His grace love you……gay, straight, drunk, sober, fornicating or not fornicating. He loved me when I was in the sh*tter…..and I was blown away by that fact (once I realized it)! I can not, I will not, I refuse to make His love, mercy and grace in my life wasted or a joke.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Besides, “Judgement” is supposed to mean “binding decision.”

            Not “somebody gets it in the neck.”

            In current Christianese, when is “Judgement” EVER Good News?

        • Here, I simply thought that calling oneself a Christian meant you were following Jesus. All those vices you listed are really things that Christians are to walk away from. It’s not our job to tell the world they’re wrong for doing them. The Holy Spirit is pretty good at that.

          Also, what exactly is the “gay lifestyle” anymore? I know a few people, and really, their lifestyle doesn’t seem that different than the average person’s most of the time.

        • Quixotequest says

          A perspective Thomas: As an individual believer, when my identity is resting in the new heart Jesus gives me, is against all those sins – as a choice for _my_ life. By God’s grace He still loves me even when I individually still long for the natural man who died to Him when I put my faith in Him. Again, my identity in Christ does not desire sin for my life even as the natural man desires old ways and habits.

          My prayer is that those in my church community will turn to their new identity (or discover it if they don’t have faith) and God will work out holy behaviors and refinement in them. Meanwhile the sin I’m personally against as a choice for _my_ life must coexist with grace for others, wherever they are, and with trust that God works these things out with those who also trust Him. Doing this is not the same as saying it is okay for my faith community to become antinomian/lawless and preach sin is okay. But also no reason to take on the larger culture – it’s unsaved and not meant to be saved. The only culture to propagate (it seems reasonable) is one where individual sinners can belong and we all know to whom we turn to trust and for refinement: God in Christ. That’s who God cares about saving.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Christianity in the United States is defined by what they are against. Not what they are for…

        Isn’t that the definition of when a preacher’s in trouble?

        They stop preaching what they’re for and only preach on what they’re against?

    • In regards to behavior what Christians also need to understand is that they will make mistakes. It can be alcohol, porn, sex, affair, etc.. Christians are human and they will make mistakes. Everyone who is human will make mistakes. What bothers me is not the mistakes instead its how the community responds, and the way Christians can act like a shark in the water who just smells blood….. Each and every day Christians have an opportunity to show grace and love, and each and every day they ^&%$ it up. In some ways many Christians can also punish honesty and that forces people to continue in unhealthy behavior because they feel trapped. Why confess to an affair if you are just going to get hammered and tossed out? But Christians have created a culture of perfection where they expect people to be perfect all the while they still sin and hide behind the facade. Many people outside the chruch and agnostics (like myself….) see through the facade becuase of our understanding of human nature. Do you think Christians don’t struggle with pride, alcohol, sex, family problems, work problems, illness, etc.. ? Come on!! Why do they hide it? If people like David or Moses or Elijah made mistakes while serving God why do Christians act like and assume they wont? People are human!!

      The missed applications of grace and love are staggering. In addiiton Christians miss opportunities to model forgiveness. They miss opportunities to show second chances. They miss opportunites to show love. They miss opportunities to be different from the world. Becuase of how they act they are no different than the world.

      Just think what would have happened if Christians stood next to Anthony Weiner when no one else would? Same with South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford.

      It amazes me as to how simple the gospel is and yet how complicated or harsh some people make it.

      • “It amazes me as to how simple the gospel is and yet how complicated or harsh some people make it.”


      • “Jesus loves me, this I know…for the Bible tells me so.”

      • Quixotequest says

        Thanks you, Eagle. Another +1 for the “disbelievers” in our lives who honestly hold us believers to accountability for the only thing we are asked to do relationally with others: to love as He loved us so that by our love He shall be known among all the nations.

        • Quixotequest…I’m really trying to figure things out and figure out how to move forward. That’s all….I’m stuck. I’ve read a good chunk of agnostic material, visited blogs (ie Friendly Atheist, etc..) and hung out in places such as I can see where people come from. I think agnosticism and atheism at times can be a reaction to the ugly parts of Christianity. Tonight after dinner I am continuing to read Philip Yancey’s “Where is God When It Hurts” and some of the stories in there of how Christians can increase or add to suffering is stunning.

          For example it talks about how one mother leaned her son was gay and had AIDS and her distress in that some Christians believe that AIDS is God’s punishment to gays. Heck I heard that when I was in Crusade. (oops Cru….) In the same chapter (or a later one) it talks about how one women who was in a wheelcahir dealing with a spinal injury had some of her hopes crushed by what Christians say or do in promising she would get better, when she didn’t.. Likewise Yancey got into how cancer sufferers who deal with extended illness feel like they let down people who pray for them, and yet don’t heal of recover. I read some of this and shake my head in disgust. Where is the good news in such situations I ask?

          Yet in other part sof the book he does write about how positive acts have contributed to helping others out and showing a deep, deep love in the process. I wish I would have seen more of this.

          So I’m wrestling with stuff, meeting with a couple of people here in the DC area and talking to them at length. The plan this weekend is to get together with a close freind of mine and continue the discussion on the problem of evil.

          Christianiity doesn’t have to be like it is today. If the church removes the politics, removes the judgement, the hate and the siege mentality; that would be a great start. Leave behind some of the perverted theology (ie rapture and obsession with End Times) and if the church stopped being like Jonah to the world; and I think people would notice. Many Christians confuse love and acceptance. They think that loving someone means that they have to accept their alcoholism, being gay, having a kid out of wedlock which came about through a one night stand that grew out of a bar encounter, etc.. Christians can love someone regardless of where they are at.

          It’s not complicated….just love people. You guys do that and people will notice.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      3. Behavior – Let us not make behavior our model where our community is just a system of religious rules.

      Because Strict Islam will always be able to out-compete us in that department.

      • That was why I became Muslim. I had learned how to follow the rules. It was the loving Jesus thing that confused me.

  4. David Cornwell says

    Having so many doctrinal positions and entire denominations and movements defined by certain experiences or “truths” really shows us how much we do not know with certainty. However we can affirm the historic creeds along with the story presented to us in the New Testament (and Old). We will never comprehend all truth, because the mind of God is beyond scrutiny, except on those things that He is clearly revealing to us. With humility we need to admit what we do not know and love our brothers and sisters wherever they found.

  5. Dan Crawford says

    Having listened to R.C, for many years, I am stunned. (But grateful.)

  6. I think we could find unity if we stopped fighting over truth (or what we think is truth) & started fighting for integrity.

    • How do you have integrity if you are willing to give up truth?
      What unity do you have if it is not based on truth?

      • I would say truth isn’t really something that any individual or group can hold onto or claim for its own. Yes, at the core to call oneself a Christian means affirming certain core truths – mainly the affirmations laid out in the historic creeds. As far as things beyond that, I think all Christian traditions for the most part have some elements in them that point to the truth. There is room in these things, though, to have some amount of humility.

  7. That is a very interesting statement of truth. “Unity” and “truth” just cannot seem to get along. Christian factions are becoming more united by not in truth.

  8. It seems to boil down to what is one persons “secondary issue” is another’s “primary” issue. My father is an elder of a free-evangelical church and I am an elder of an LCMS Lutheran church and this issue is at the forefront of our discussions. We both agree that Jesus died for the forgiveness of our sins. An absolute agreement on salvation through faith only. However, when I assert that God’s forgiveness was brought to me as an individual in my baptism (as an infant) and during communion with Jesus body and blood last Sunday He denies those positions as biblical. In essence the he asking me to disregard God’s sure and certain promises for me (faith, trusting Gods promises). This is not secondary. The most important thing I need to be certain of is that the forgiveness at the cross was brought to me when His promises are tied to the sacraments.

    If we cannot agree on some of the most clear and certain promises in the bible than everything else is suspect. I am thankful however, that in this country bloodshed does not happen because of these differences and that in these discussions of differences, my Christian brothers love me and care for me despite our differences. I have deeper relationships after these heated discussions happen and I still have a friend.

    • Rob…….This is what happens when one worships the Bible instead of God Himself.

    • Quixotequest says

      May I suggest that the intensity we feel about secondary issues honors our passions for God and the important place church community serves the life of the believer. They are very likely worthwhile reasons around which to build an ecclesia (a gathering or cultured group of believers). The early scattered Christian churches did not attain a unity of culture from the get-go – why should we stress over it? It’s only because the World sees our variety instead as division because we are lacking in grace and love.

      The Apostles and Evangelists contended for a unity of belief on primary gospel matters to which we ascent today in the foundational creeds. May I suggest that our intensity of feelings and passions about secondary matters – secondary because we can rationally admit that biblical grace can permit diversity of practice and sincerity of belief even if we passionately feel otherwise – does not make them primary. Not at all. No matter how passionately we desire to congregate with others who also share those passions similarly.

      It should not limit our gracious fellowship with others of different denominationalist and secondary passions because we are united in our primary love of Christ in whom we are absolutely aligned on the gospel foundation. This gracious love does not obligate us for the necessity to sit together in the same pew on Sunday. It is not ecumenism with those faiths not aligned on the gospel. But our pew loyalty does not grant us a more certain truth than others for whom we share the same foundation of the apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ as our cornerstone – a foundation we can agree has been laid and need not be re-laid (1 Cor 3:10-11).

  9. I am really encouraged by some of the reformed crowd coming to this position. Another great read other than Forde or Packer is Paul Zahl.

  10. His statement kind of reminds me of C.S. Lewis’s analogy of the hall and the rooms.

  11. Its not just the reformed coming about like this. I just read in John Paul II’s “Crossing the Threshold of Hope” where he says he believes what unites all Christians is much greater than what divides them, and believes more and more will come to see this. That was written over a decade ago, and perhaps it is true that the ecumenical movement has only continued to gain momentum since. I see signs of it everywhere, but I’m looking for it. Reformed folk do tend to be pretty bad, especially reformed Baptists and some Presbyterians (the TR’s), but the Sproul gang has always seemed to me to be on the more generous end of their tradition.

  12. Chris Gentle says

    It is interesting that we as churches discuss our differences, yet to those outside the church we are all the same, they can;t see our differences. I am reminded of Francis Schaeffer’s little book ‘The Mark of a Christian’ where is notes that Jesus says the only way that the world will know that we are Christians is by our love for one another.

  13. I have a very personal question to the audience. I am facing a situation in which I have to love my mother-in-law whose second husband is a pastor of a charismatic church and both of them are personally heavily involved in casting out demons and when we have any disagreements they accuse me of being possessed by a demon. They could care less about unity and they are convinced that they are the owners of the only truth.
    My wife and I left the evangelical church about 2 years back and are looking for a new home either within a catholic or orthodox community which are not considered as truely Christian by my in-laws (altough they would not say that openly). We have three pre-teen kids.
    My question is: How do I practically love my in-laws in this difficult situation? Do I keep hoping for a change in their thinking? We have been trying for many years without any success.
    Do I give up all hopes for their change and let just pretend that truth and unity do not matter? Or shall I say: we love you, but we strongly disagree with what you do and it will be bether if we see each other once or twice a year? I am leaning towards the last option but then am I not unloving?
    I will be greateful for any hint in this difficult sitation.
    Thanks a lot.

    • Chris Gentle says

      What a difficult situation, you are on the right track with needing to love them, to love unconditionally is not easy when obstacles are put in the way.
      Truth and unity do matter, but that doesn’t mean we have to bend the truth for the sake of unity. As it is your wife’s mother, her feelings on the issue become crucial in forming a way forward.
      There is no easy solution, these comments come with the encouragement to keep on loving, but that may mean that boundaries need to be put into place.

    • I pray that you find the right balance – tough situation.

    • I would suggest healthy boundaries and remembering your audience.

      Healthy boundaries means something different for each person/situation, but possibly you don’t discuss theology with your mother-in-law anymore. For me it would include ‘no accusations of demon possess as your trump card’. And if you decide to talk about it, you find a time and place that the kids are not involved (nothing ruins Christmas like grandma saying mom is possessed by a demon).. Using “I” and “we’ statements can help a lot. Such as ‘we interpret that scripture in a different way’ or “I understand this verse based on x, y or z’ – it’s disagreeing without any ‘you are wrong!’ added in. And it is loving to disagree with grace.

      Remembering your audience – if your mother in law is deeply entrenced, she probably is not going to change any time soon. BUT your children will be watching to see how you navigate this stormy sea and they can be greatly influenced by 1) a parent willing to hold tight to truth when it would be easy to bend to pressure (we just read Galations 2 and even Peter caved under pressure at one point and Paul had to call him on it). and 2) by a solid example of a Christian behaving with grace – not shouting, not being combative, but simply being willing to say/ live ‘we disagree, but we still love you and will be kind and gracious to you’

      • Elizabeth is spot on. I would only add that those boundaries should involve your in-laws keeping their “witnessing” and conversion attempts away from your kids, who are much to young to process this sort of conflicting education about the Faith. If they want to bat this around one-on-one with your eldest when s/he is eighteen and can process the different ideas…fine. But your kids need to be taught YOUR view of the Faith right now, when they are still growing and immature in mind, body, and soul.

        AND….I would limit the amount of time you spend with them~a couple of times a year sounds about right. Your wife can meet them for lunch the rest of the time, where they can only drive demons out of the wait-staff but leave you and your kids in peace.

    • Martin,

      My friend, I have been right where you are. For your family’s sake, do not walk but run from this toxic relationship. I don’t see any good coming to your wife and especially your children by continued exposure to this unbalanced view of Christ and His church. Your children need and deserve your protection. For the love of God, give it to them.

  14. Thanks very much for the hints, we have tried the approach proposed by Elizabeth, we asked them many times not to force their theology on us, but mother-law simply always has to talk about the ways she is serving God, making her to look very spiritual and although you know their theology is corrupt, it is very tiring when you have listen to her self-praising all the time we are together. So we asked them if we could simply avoid the topics like faith, service to God, etc. from our conversations altogether and this was the point when she went heavy on me. My wife is very tired of having to listen that we do not provide good care of the kids spiritually and although my wife would love to have a “normal” relationship with her mom we are gradually losing any hopes for a significant change to the better and we are thinking how to face the abusive behavior of mother-law without cutting the relationship completely. May be the only way for us at this point will be to seek help from a family counselor.

    • One more Mike says

      You’ve already come up with your solution:

      “Do I give up all hopes for their change and let just pretend that truth and unity do not matter?” Yes. Basing your happiness on someone else “changing” is the road to more pain. Your “truths” are so far apart there’s never going to be agreement. “Unity” left the station long ago.

      “Or shall I say: we love you, but we strongly disagree with what you do and it will be bether if we see each other once or twice a year?” There you go. Who’s important here? Your family or your in-laws? You characterized your Mother-in-laws behavior as abusive (and let’s don’t argue the definition of “abuse” please) and from what you’ve said your wife also considers this behavior abusive. Don’t put your family through this. I speak from painful experience here.

      “I am leaning towards the last option but then am I not unloving?” This is a situation where the most loving thing you can do is let your in-laws suffer the consequences of their behavior. I personally believe that people who blame demon possession for everything and go “casting out demons” like they’re spreading bird seed open the portals wider for demons to enter, it’s asking for trouble, and I could be totally wrong but I stay far away from those folks. Once again, who’s important here? You may have to cut the relationship completely to mitigate the damage to your family.

      As far as seeking help from a “family counselor”, give the money you’d spend there to a good ecumenical charity and spend weekends as a family building houses with “Habitat for Humanity”.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I personally believe that people who blame demon possession for everything and go “casting out demons” like they’re spreading bird seed open the portals wider for demons to enter, it’s asking for trouble…

        Don’t forget this is also the classic Witch Hunt/Conspiracy attitude. Everything that does not agree 1000% with Me (and God) is a DEMON. Next thing you know, faith becomes superstition and The Anointed Righteous are Smelling Out the Witches under every bed

        “People readily swallow the untested claims of this, that, or the other. It’s drowning all your old rationalism and scepticism, it’s coming in like a sea; and the name of it is superstition.” He stood up abruptly, his face heavy with a sort of frown, and went on talking almost as if he were alone. “It’s the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense and can’t see things as they are. Anything that anybody talks about, and says there’s a good deal in it, extends itself indefinitely like a vista in a nightmare. And a dog is an omen, and a cat is a mystery, and a pig is a mascot and a beetle is a scarab, calling up all the menagerie of polytheism from Egypt and old India; Dog Anubis and great green-eyed Pasht and all the holy howling Bulls of Bashan; reeling back to the bestial gods of the beginning, escaping into elephants and snakes and crocodiles; and all because you are frightened of four words: ‘He was made Man’.”
        — G.K.Chesterton, tail end of the Father Brown Mystery “The Oracle of the Dog”

    • At this point then it’s healthy to recognize a toxic relationship for what it is and put some distance between you if that is what is best for you and your kids. Knowing that doesn’t make it any easier, but it avoids passing the abusive behavior along to the next generation.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      …we asked them many times not to force their theology on us, but mother-law simply always has to talk about the ways she is serving God, making her to look very spiritual…

      i.e. Christianese One-Upmanship. Me Sheep! You Goat! Haw! Haw! Haw!

      Like Elizabeth says, that’s toxic. It’s psychological abuse with God invoked as cosmic justification (primary violation of 2nd Commandment). I would guess your in-laws are the type who Always Have To Win. Even if their Winning is over the bodies of you, your children, and their faith. And that they are “in-laws”, i.e. Not My DNA, that would only make things worse. Sounds like you’re in a real bad situation; the only way might be to bug out and escape the damage radius.

      • Quixotequest says

        Great perspectives. I don’t have a lot to add to the good advice. Here are a couple based on my own strained family relationships. (We left Mormonism.)

        Don’t say, “I love you, but … ” The person only hears the “but”. It’s like getting a hockey puck knocked right back in your face.

        You may say something like, ” I love you. And, I also love that we are (or can be) united in Christ. However, families are not a given necessity for an eternally healthy relationship. Some things matter more:

        “When you accuse us of XX, it makes us feel YY. That’s not healthy. We are brothers and sisters in Christ; nothing can change that as long as our faith is in Him. We also want to spend our time together in healthy relationships, and unless this changes we can’t grow together. Why, then, spend time together? I’ll still always love you and love the hope and possibility for a good relationship. Our relationship as family will not grow forward if XX behavior does not end. Our relationship may even be over. Wouldn’t it be nicer to love each other, love the Lord, AND have a healthy relationship together? The kind that matter where we are united in love and kindness not just DNA?

      • Thank you once more, your thoughts are greatly appreciated.