Matthew 23:15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
I have written several posts that deal with the leaven of the Pharisees. Yes, I believe that much of evangelical Orthodox doctrine is in fact what Jesus called the leaven of the Pharisees. In Matthew chapter 23, Jesus calls out the Pharisees for their practices. It is my belief that one of the originators of spiritual abuse was the Pharisees of the first century. The above verse could be ascribed to much of evangelical Orthodox Christianity today. In fact, if you read the 23rd chapter of Matthew, it becomes obvious that much of what is written here could be charged against evangelical leadership. One of the underlying causes of the spiritual abuse issued by the first century Pharisees was their legal – constitutional reading of Scripture.
I find it very interesting that the word that is translated as hell in Matthew 23:15 is the Greek word Gehenna. As I have established in other posts, Jesus's references to Gehenna, always pointed toward the impending judgment that was about to come upon the Jews, their city, and their temple. So in essence, he was warning the Pharisees that while they struggled so hard to create converts, that they were in reality converting them to face judgment.
In order for spiritual abuse to gain a foothold, there has to be a method of developing fear within individuals. There can be no spiritual abuse without fear. Here again, with much of evangelical Orthodox Christianity, fear is maintained ultimately by the view held of the Scripture. Leaders claim to have the correct, only interpretation of the Scripture. They convince the members of the group that… to not hold that view… would in some way anger God, and remove them from place of favor. They convince members that there is a very narrow way to gain God's favor. When you think about God's favor, it always comes to the view held of grace. Grace is defined as God's favor toward an individual… Favor that is unmerited. To control by fear, the leadership has to place restrictions or limits on the extent of God's grace. This is mainly accomplished in evangelical Orthodox Christianity by adopting a legal constitutional understanding of Scripture.
This is one of the main reasons that it is so important to see clearly that Jesus and his followers did away with the legal – constitutional understanding of Scripture, and replaced it with a solely redemptive view. It highlights the importance of Scripture passages like 1John 4: 18. "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love." If the above passage of Scripture is true, then, there can be no spiritual abuse. It should be so obvious that the leaven of the Pharisees… In other words, the doctrine of the Pharisees… Is one of the main sources of spiritual abuse. Any time that leaders use fear to control, it is spiritual abuse. Paul says in 2Corinthians, "for the love of Christ controls us." This is the supernatural way that individuals are transformed. It is by the love and grace of Christ.