A Review of “The Heart of Domestic Violence” by Chris Moles

molesIt seems inappropriate to call a book on domestic violence good. The topic is, after all, so horrific and despicable. Chris Moles knows that, he’s a trained batterer interventionist and Biblical Counselor. He has seen the horrors of the situations and their long-term impact. It is from that place of awareness and compassion that he has written The Heart of Domestic Abuse. The book is unique because it is written about abusers, deals with the heart issues, and gives a protocol for evaluating real change.

There are a number of good books written on the subject of domestic violence. I am personally grateful for Justin and Lindsey Holcomb’s work Is It My Fault? and Brenda Branson and Paula Silva’s Violence Among Us. But both of these volumes, and myriads of others are oriented towards care for the abuse victims. We need lots of help in this area, especially considering that the church often fails to take them seriously and provide long-term care for them. The volumes geared towards their care and support are invaluable, and yet there seemed to be this gaping whole in counseling, especially Biblical Counseling. How do we counsel and evaluate abusers. Moles has stepped into that gap with real help.

The subtitle of his book lays out the focus of his work: Gospel solutions for men who use control and violence in the home. His work aims to give counselors real help, grounded in the Scriptures, for counseling abusers. He recognize the absolute role and importance of the authorities in these situations. He himself works for criminal corrections and state-wide agencies as a batterer interventionist. Yet, he believes the church still has a role to play in discipling abusers. As he writes:

I, too, believe that the church is called to bear the weight of the cross while the government is ordained to wield the sword (Romans 13:1-17). We are not called to enact the punishment due a violent man, but to yield to the government, and if needed, demand justice. However, that is not the end of the story. Some who hold this view see the church as responsible to care for victims and their children, which I agree, but that our responsibility to the perpetrator is complete when he is incarcerated…We cannot assume that our responsibilities to our sister and brother have been met through the courts. (12-13)

He notes that the court does not address the heart that drives a man towards the use of control and violence. It may, in fact, only make him more angry and more strategic. The church’s responsibility to the abuser is greater than simply holding him accountable and reporting him to the authorities. For his sake, as well as for the sake of his family, more long-term counseling and accountability is needed. Moles is the man to guide us through this process.

The book’s major contribution is its discussion of the heart of the abuser. Moles firmly believes that domestic abuse is a heart problem. He points out the futility of viewing it as an anger problem and especially as a marriage problem. Anger is certainly part of the equation, he states, but “if we only address anger and anger cues we run the risk of leaving the heart untouched, encouraging ‘polite’ abusers or patterns of control that are nothing more than ‘respectable’ forms of abuse” (11). There are also serious ramifications for marriages, yet the fundamental problem is far more intrapersonal than interpersonal. Doing marriage counseling in cases of domestic violence may actually result in more serious harm than good, especially for the victim. Instead, Moles wants to focus on the heart of pride that seeks control.

The heart of pride needs to be addressed and Moles seeks to help us both understand it and confront it with the gospel. He lists the “fruit of a violent heart,” identifying nine common traits of abusers – ranging from active aggression to economic control. He walks readers through how to identify root motivations, noting that “control is the goal” (37). He also gives readers an annotated list of 30 manifestations of pride to look for, and compares that with a list of manifestations of humility. This list becomes extremely helpful for evaluating heart-level change.

Of particular value is his discussion of power-over and power-under. Writing from within a complimentarian perspective Moles notes the ways in which men abuse the Scriptural teaching to justify their own pride and control and violence. He notes the importance of more careful examination of the Scriptural texts and guides counselors in how to help abusers understand the distinction between the Bible’s teaching on male headship and their abuse of it. These chapters are worth the book!

The most difficult aspect of counseling an abuser is evaluating their progress and change. I can speak from experience at this point, and Moles himself knows this too. He guides us carefully through the process of confrontation, instruction, accountability, and evaluation. Abusers are mater deceivers and so it is important that counselors not be naive. Chris is gives lots of cautions and helps in evaluating a counselee’s progress. One way he does this is through the inclusion of case studies at the end of each chapter. Readers will follow Patrick’s story as it unfolds. At the end of each chapter you read more detail about his situation, have opportunity to answer questions about your counseling process, and then read Chris’s own concerns about the situation and his goals at each step of the development. This is and invaluable resource for counselors.

I know of no other book like The Heart of Domestic Abuse. The list of endorsements in it reveal just how valuable and how needed this work is. Domestic abuse is a serious problem, especially within the church. Counselors and pastors need to do all they can to be equipped to address these matters wholly, in conjunction with legal authorities, and with the gospel. Christ Moles has given us a tremendous resource and I commended it to all in positions of leadership.

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  1. […] A Review of The Heart of Domestic Violence by Chris Moles – I loved this book and am so pleased that this review has gotten a lot of attention. This is a unique and important book, especially within the Biblical Counseling community and thus needs to be shared broadly and read by all in ministry. […]

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