Books On Spiritual Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Cults & Legalism

The Shattering The Shattering by Marsha "Marty" Barth- Marty Barth is a former United Pentecostal Church member, from the same church as myself in NJ, though she was born in West Virginia and now resides in Pennsylvania. I have fond memories of my friend and was surprised, but not surprised, to find she had authored a book as she has always been talented in this area since I knew her. Marty experienced and shares about her child sexual abuse, in the hope of reaching out to others who have "lived under the cloud of darkness and silence" as she once did. This is her story and she shares about how God can tear down the "veil of silence" so your heart may begin its healing. A second book was released in March 2017, The Shattering II: Breaking the Silence.

The Prodigal Daughter The Prodigal Daughter by Sharon Stairs Fullarton- Sharon Stairs Fullarton is a former United Pentecostal Church member and both her parents were licensed ministers. Sharon shares about sexual molestation, rape, being forced to give up her baby girl, and her walk away from Christianity at a young age, believing that God didn't love her. She later turned back toward God and was also reunited with her daughter.

Spiritual Abuse Recovery Spiritual Abuse Recovery Workbook by David Henke- This is a workbook created to help those who have been victims of "friendly fire." The link will take you to a page on Watchman Fellowship where the book may be ordered.

Churches That Abuse Churches That Abuse by Ronald Enroth- One of the first books on the subject that I read. Deals with some of the more extreme church abuse, giving insight into how these groups can make your exit painful. The book is out of print, but you can read it in PDF form here.

Recovering From Churches That Abuse Recovering from Churches That Abuse by Ronald Enroth- Follow-up to the above book. Covers issues facing those who leave abusive churches. I enjoy reading personal experiences, yet many again covered more severe circumstances than mine. The book is out of print, but you can read it in PDF form here.

Toxic Faith Toxic Faith: Experiencing Healing Over Painful Spiritual Abuse by Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton- Discusses what toxic faith is and some beliefs found in such a system. When does religion become an addiction, and what is its progression, are some questions answered. Examines recovery issues and the characteristics of healthy faith.

The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church by David Johnson & Jeff VanVonderen- Broken into three parts, the authors cover abuse and its victims, leaders and why they are trapped, and recovery from abuse. One of the first books read, this was harder to read as it touched on several things I had seen or experienced. If you only want to read one book on the subject from a Christian perspective, try this.

Pushing Back the Darkness: One Woman's Awakening from the Nightmare of Spiritual Deception and Bondage Pushing Back the Darkness: One Woman's Awakening from the Nightmare of Spiritual Deception and Bondage by Jennifer Redcay and Becca Anderson- "For almost 10 years every waking moment of Jennifer's life was a nightmare. This is her story. Jennifer didn't hold up a sign asking to be lured into a cult. Instead, she followed in the footsteps of everyone she loved and trusted-her aunt, her mother, her sister. All had joined the group before she did. Her hunger for approval from a father figure completed her fall into the control of a seemingly kind and charismatic cult leader who turned into an abusive tyrant. He told her how to live, how to think, even how to pray, and nearly stole her soul. But even he could not prevent her eventual awakening to God's light and love breaking into her utter darkness through surprising people and circumstances. Pushing Back the Darkness is a gripping read you won't be able to put down. But it goes beyond Jennifer's personal story to explain cult dynamics, to help you identify harmful groups, and gives real-world advice and resources for helping someone exit a spiritually damaging group."

When A Good Church Goes Bad: Recovering From Spiritual Abuse by Casey M. Sabella- Casey is a minister and was part of a church that appears to have started OK but later went bad. He shares some of that story and gives his thoughts on what to do if you find yourself in an unhealthy church. The book has links to his website where he has brief audio for each chapter plus a questionnaire for each that may be downloaded. An easy read and overall a good book, though I disagree with some of what he says. This is a re-release of a much older book so older versions will not have the extra added material.

12 Christian Beliefs 12 Christian Beliefs That Can Drive You Crazy by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend- Easy to read book that would be good to occasionally re-read. Though this book does not specifically deal with spiritual abuse. I have included it since it deals with some Christian beliefs which are not biblically based or are distorted. A book to make you think.

Healing Spiritual Abuse Healing Spiritual Abuse: How to Break Free from Bad Church Experiences by Ken Blue- Good book that delves into majoring on minors and missing the point, healthy church leadership/discipline, and healing by grace. Audio files of Ken Blue's talks on spiritual abuse, grace and other topics may be found here for free.

Breaking Free Breaking Free!: Rescuing Families from the Clutches of Legalism by David Miller- Reading this book shows the author had his own encounters with legalism. Discusses many aspects of the issue and the bondage it produces. Thought there was too much trying to neatly package people into two categories, though.

The Drift Into Deception The Drift Into Deception: The Eight Characteristics of Abusive Christianity by Agnes and John Lawless- The Lawless family was involved in the shepherding movement and their book shares some of their experiences, as well as outlining some warning signs of an abusive group. You will see just how abusive things can get! I got the impression that they may not believe in the gifts of the Spirit being active today. The appendix was a nice touch and covers some background on William Branham. The chapters on how to get out and where to go from there need to be expanded.

Reaching the Hurting Reaching the Hurting: A Biblical Guide for Helping Abuse Victims by Samantha Nelson- This is a book to help those who have been a victim of sexual abuse.

A New Suit for Lazarus A New Suit for Lazarus: Shed the Rags of Conformity and Put on Christ's Custom-Fit Faith by Joe Battaglia- I feel he tried to cover too much, too briefly. Though better toward the end, I rated it as just okay. The book is separated into three sections: freedom, a unique identity, and a renewed mind.

Mistreated Mistreated by Ron Lee Davis- This is not about spiritual abuse, but may be helpful in dealing with what happens to many of us when we leave these churches. "A quick turn of the wrist, and the knife is in your back. Someone you always trusted has suddenly turned on you. And you've got to decide: What will you do when you're mistreated."

Authority Abusers Authority Abusers by George Bloomer- From Amazon: "Church was never meant to hurt so much. The wounded and weak have been preyed upon. Hurting souls have been frightened into submission by leaders who use people to improve their own self-esteem and advance their careers. Tragically, this has all happened within the church where salvation, healing, freedom, and love should abound."

Twisted Scriptures Twisted Scriptures: Breaking Free from Churches That Abuse by Mary Alice Chrnalogar- Written for those in an abusive discipleship or controlling church. From Amazon: "Twisted Scriptures reveals in depth how the Bible can be distorted in ways that rob you of the liberty Jesus died to give you. You might be shocked at what you discover. This book uncovers the subtle but powerful techniques by which, in the name of truth, controlling leaders manipulate and intimidate countless believers. It also supplies tools for overcoming persuasive, deceptive teachings and practices."

Exposing Spiritual Abuse Exposing Spiritual Abuse by Mike Fehlauer- From a review on Amazon: "To all those who love God but who do not want to be abused in God's name by their church leaders, you'll love this book. If you've ever felt you've given your best and you didn't run at the first sign of trouble in a church, but there came a point when you had been stripped of so much inside that you had to go, yet you were talked about from the pulpit as if you had given up on God, this book is for you! ...For those who would try to tell you that this book is not from God, remember this--David had a submissive attitude to Saul, when he was in Saul's house and afterwards. But when Saul tried to kill David because of his own emotional demons, DAVID RAN and GOD BACKED DAVID! So don't let church leaders tell you that you're wrong to leave a church in which abuse is being justified in God's name."

Wounded Wounded by Terry Wardle- From Amazon: "How accessible is God's healing touch for people who are hurting from emotional, relational and spiritual abuse? The author's account of his transformation from despair to hope through the tender care of Jesus Christ is an invitation to all who are in need of inner healing."

Mending The Soul Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse by Steven R. Tracy- From Amazon: "This book provides a well-researched biblical and scientific overview of abuse. A broad overview, it deals with the various types of abuse, the various effects of abuse, and the means of healing. Abuse can be sexual, physical, neglect, spiritual, and verbal. The chief arguments pursued throughout the book are: (1) abuse is far more rampant than most Christians realize, but due to human depravity and satanic influence, widespread abuse is predicable. (2) All types of abuse create profound, long-term soul damage due to the way abuse perverts various aspects of the image of God. (3) God is the healing redeemer. Human salvation came through horrible physical abuse. (4) Healing must take place in the context of relationships. Humans are deeply impacted by others due to being made in the image of God. Just as surely as abusive relationships have tremendous power to wound the soul, so healthy relationships have tremendous power to nurture and heal the soul."

Ethics And Spiritual Care Ethics and Spiritual Care by Karen Lebacqz- From Amazon: "Allegations of "spiritual abuse" have been made both in practice and in the literature; the term is being used with some frequency. The development of this term and its implications requires some scrutiny and response, as sexual abuse is not a good model for understanding spiritual abuse."

The Jesus I Never Knew The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey- From Amazon: "What happens when a respected Christian journalist decides to put his preconceptions aside and take a long look at the Jesus described in the Gospels? How does the Jesus of the New Testament compare to the 'new, rediscovered' Jesus---or even the Jesus we think we know so well? Philip Yancey offers a new and different perspective on the life of Christ and his work---his teachings, his miracles, his death and resurrection---and ultimately, who he was and why he came. From the manger in Bethlehem to the cross in Jerusalem, Yancey presents a complex character who generates questions as well as answers; a disturbing and exhilarating Jesus who wants to radically transform your life and stretch your faith."

Healing Spiritual Abuse Healing Spiritual Abuse & Religious Addiction by Dennis Linn- From Amazon: "Discusses the realities of spiritual abuse and religious addiction, how they are defined, the reasons they exist and how people can move beyond vulnerable life patterns in order to enjoy a more life giving relationship with God and with a healthy faith."

More Jesus More Jesus, Less Religion: Moving from Rules to Relationship by Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton- By the authors that wrote "Toxic Faith;" this is a follow up to that book. From Amazon: "Drawing upon an additional ten years of observation and personal experience, Steve and Jack offer new insights in the search for lasting joy, fuller freedom, and greater understanding, and a more honest experience of God. Be set free from man-made rules, churchianity, Phariseeism, judgment, and legalism. Easily recognize misconceptions of religious performance, accountability, and fear-based duty."

Cults Cults, New Religious Movements, and Your Family: A Guide to Ten Non-Christian Groups Out to Convert Your Loved Ones by Richard Abanes- From Amazon: "To help guard yourself and your loved ones against unbiblical spiritual systems, 'Cults, New Religious Movements, and Your Family' offers a concise overview of ten religious groups that a young person is likely to encounter in the 21st century."

The New Age Cult The New Age Cult by Walter Martin- From Amazon: "Based on thirty-five years of study on the New Age Movement, the foremost expert on cults addresses the No. 1 controversy within the church today. An invaluable reference work for scholar and layperson alike."

The Kingdom of the Cults The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin- From Amazon: "The authoritative reference work on major cult systems for nearly forty years. Working closely together, Ravi Zacharias and managing editors Jill and Kevin Rische (daughter of Dr. Martin) have updated and augmented the work with new material. This book will continue as a crucial tool in countercult ministry and in evangelism for years to come. Among cults and religions included are: Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism, New Age Cults, the Unification Church, Baha'i Faith, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and more."

Another Gospel Another Gospel: Cults, Alternative Religions, and the New Age Movement by Ruth Tucker- From Amazon: "A comprehensive survey of major alternative religions in the United States, including new groups since the 1960s. Crystals, shamans, guided imagery, healing meditation---why have these New Age practices been so eagerly accepted by so many North Americans? Why were Mormonism, Christian Science, and Baha'i so warmly welcomed earlier? 'Another Gospel' explains how these and other alternative religious movements appear to meet people's needs. Ruth Tucker's overview illumines the personalities whose alleged revelations spawned historical heresies in all the major cults in the United States. She highlights important controversies within each movement as it aims for religious respectability. She pinpoints how the doctrines and practices of a dozen contemporary groups---as well as the New Age Movement---deviate from orthodox Christianity and shows how to reach out to cult members. Appendices describe lesser-known cults, such as Swedenborgianism and Rosicrucianism, and provide cults' statements of belief."

Out Of The Cults Out of the Cults and into the Church: Understanding & Encouraging Ex-Cultists by Janis Hutchinson- From Amazon: "A one-of-a-kind counseling tool that discusses the special challenges and emotions faced by former cultists."

Toxic Churches Toxic Churches: Restoration from Spiritual Abuse by Marc Dupont- From Amazon: "Spiritual abuse devastates its victims perhaps more than any other form of violation, because it targets those who are most unprepared and vulnerable. In 'Toxic Churches,' Marc Dupont reaches out to those who have given their time, money, and talents to the Body of Christ, only to find themselves hurting, frustrated, and confused. He also writes to Christian leaders who may have inadvertently hurt the flock of God entrusted to their care."

What's In Your Pulpit What's in Your Pulpit: An Example of Spiritual Abuse by by Jeremiah I. James (pseudonym; actually Wesley J. Chase)- From a review on Amazon: "I have read this book now three times and each time I find more about what is actually happening. I never thought it could happen in our small town, but it did. The more that we talked to people in other areas of the state, the more we found out that this book was getting circulated and read by many. The incidents that were written about there in the book, were as if the author had been in each of the churches and found out startling evidence that proved his theory right. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to find out if they have this going on in their church."

The Pharisees' Guide to Total Holiness The Pharisees' Guide to Total Holiness by William L. Coleman- From an Amazon review: "People who are otherwise morally upright, insightful into their own spiritually and that of other people, and alert to errors in thinking and behavior, often fall victim to their own righteousness. This book by William Coleman gives a thorough and theologically sound study into this sort of tendency and it causes the reader to look at his or her own biases."

Twisting the Truth Twisting the Truth by Bruce Tucker- From the author of "Oneness Pentecostal Churches: Their Doctrine and Practice." (see books that refute Oneness Pentecostal beliefs )

When God's People Let You Down When God's People Let You Down: How to Rise Above Hurts That Often Occur Within the Church by Jeff VanVonderen- From a review on Amazon: "Jeff Vanvonderan does it again. His wisdom, written with a "probe like" dialogue into your heart, helps the reader better understand his or her hurt, and therefore overcome it. Even for readers who have not found themselves hurt by ignorant, but certainly well meaning, people, this book is strongly recommended. It will prepare you with the tools to handle the hurts that come your way."

Tired of Trying to Measure Up Tired of Trying to Measure Up by Jeff VanVonderen- From Amazon: "'Tired Of Trying To Measure Up' is written for Christians who live under a deeply ingrained code of written and unwritten expectations and rules that shame them and drain them of spiritual strength. Here are some tell-tale signs: --Always struggling spiritually, but never feeling anything but tiredness. --Always feeling guilty--nothing is ever "good enough." --Rest is impossible--even when it's needed. --Performance expectations prove you'll never "measure up." --The Christian life has ceased to be a joy. If those signs match your experience, this book is for you."

Soul Repair Soul Repair: Rebuilding Your Spiritual Life by Jeff VanVonderen- From Amazon: "Do you fear that God is angry with you? Do you wonder if God is really for you? If God really loves you? Deep down many of us believe that we are not good enough, and never will be good enough, to have a meaningful relationship with God."

The Lambs Workbook The Lambs Workbook: Recovering from Church Abuse, Clergy Abuse, Spiritual Abuse, and the Legalism of Christian Fundamentalism by Jeri Massi- From Amazon: "An interactive study book designed for victims of clergy abuse, this book is based upon Bible study to help Christians overcome abuse from churches or clergy. Appropriate for either group study or private study, this book supplies six weekly lessons and a seventh, closing review lesson. It also supplies six weeks (42 days) of short, daily devotional studies to help the reader understand that God Himself, as Jesus Christ, has shared in suffering unjustly at the hands of false religious leaders."

Spiritual Abuse Recovery Spiritual Abuse Recovery: Dynamic Research on Finding a Place of Wholeness by Barbara M. Orlowski- From Amazon: "Spiritual abuse, the misuse of spiritual authority to maltreat followers in the Christian Church, is a complex issue. This book shows how people processed their grief after experiencing spiritual abuse in their local church and how they rediscovered spiritual harmony. Their spiritual journey shows how one may grow through this devastating experience. This book offers a thoughtful look at the topic of spiritual recovery from clergy abuse through the eyes of those who have experienced it. It invites church leaders to consider this very real dysfunction in the Church today and aims to demonstrate a path forward to greater freedom in Christ after a season of disillusionment with church leadership."

Cult Proofing Your Kids by Dr. Paul Martin- From an Amazon review: "Dr Martin shares his expertise about cults in this practical book written especially for concerned Christian parents. The book has 3 divisions: The Cult Problem, in which the author defines a cult, discusses fringe churches and examines the reason why people join cults. This section also looks at the myths of cult involvement and provides information on spotting a cult. Part 2, Teaching And Parenting Cult-Free Kids, provides tips for parents and advice on how to develop critical thinking skills in children; this chapter includes a list of books recommended for sharpening your critical thinking skills. It also looks at cults and friendships, cults and the church and cults and society. Part 3 is titled Recovery From Cult Involvement."

Recovery from Spiritual Abuse by Juanita & Dale Ryan- From Amazon: "'Recovery from Spiritual Abuse' is part of a 15-title series, Life Recovery Guides, in which Christian counselors Juanita and Dale Ryan provide help and encouragement for people hurt by life in one way or another."

How to Recognize Shepherdship Error by Ronald House & Judy House- What is the role of the pastor and the members? How should a church be governed? Gives answers to these questions, as well as warning signs.

Girl At The End Of The World Girl At The End Of The World by Elizabeth Esther- From Amazon: "Elizabeth Esther grew up in love with Jesus but in fear of daily spankings (to “break her will”). Trained in her family-run church to confess sins real and imagined, she knew her parents loved her and God probably hated her. Not until she was grown and married did she find the courage to attempt the unthinkable. To leave. In her memoir, readers will recognize questions every believer faces: When is spiritual zeal a gift, and when is it a trap? What happens when a pastor holds unchecked sway over his followers? And how can we leave behind the harm inflicted in the name of God without losing God in the process?"

Imprisoned in the Brotherhood Imprisoned in the Brotherhood: A search into the fundamentalists' "web of tradition" by Don C. Marler- Former UPC member. This was re-released after his death but that version was not well edited.

Updated March 13, 2017

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August 23, 1997
Copyright © 1997-2017 by Lois E. Gibson
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