Churches That Abuse — Online Book

The publishers of Apologetics Index have received permission from Dr. Ronald M. Enroth to post online the full text of his book, Churches That Abuse.

Also online, the full text of the sequel, Recovering From Churches That Abuse.

While Churches That Abuse has now been out of print for a number of years, it continues to be of great help to — as the cover states — those hurt by:

  • Legalism
  • Authoritarian Leadership
  • Manipulation
  • Excessive Discipline, and
  • Spiritual Intimidation

Ronald M. Enroth is a leading scholar and national resource on cults and cultism whose special perspectives are heartily welcomed by both the secular and the religious society. He is professor of sociology at Westmost College and the author of many books on cults and the new religions including The Lure of the Cults and New Religions and Evangelizing the Cults.

The following description comes from the book’s front flap:

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When does a church cross the line between conventional church status and fringe status? What is the nature of the process by which any given group devolves into a fringe church or movement? What are some of the signs or indicators that a given group is becoming abusive of its members and is headed for the margins? When should a member consider bailing out?

Churches That Abuse answers these and other important questions about abusive churches. This important new book warns and informs readers about the “fringe” churches and groups that operate in this country–organizations and churches that are not necessarily characterized by doctrinal deviation but have particular traits that make them behavioral and sociological outsiders. It also helps readers identify and beware of abusive tendencies in more “normal” Christian churches.

Ronald Enroth identifies what is meant by “abusive churches.” Then, he describes abusive churches, using the ten identifying traits of control-oriented leadership, spiritual elitism, manipulation of members, perceived persecution, lifestyle rigidity, emphasis on experience, suppression of dissent, harsh discipline of members, denunciation of other churches, and the painful exit process. Finally he shows readers how to discern fringe churches and offers several “red flags” that can be discerned when convention churches drift toward the fringe.

Churches That Abuse tells who the abusers are, how their techniques operate, and what the consequences are for marriages, small children, and teenagers. Where most books stop after reporting problem areas, this one continues and offers suggestions for those helping victims of abuse. And it can be read beneficially by those who are involved in abusive churches and have no one to turn to.
– Source: Front flap, Churches That Abuse, by Ronald M. Enroth


When it was first published, the book came with telling endorsements:

“It takes someone of Dr. Enroth’s stature and scholarship, as one of the most respected and recognized experts on American religious movements, to take the reader through the experiences of individuals, couples, and families from their first meetings with the various churches that will abuse them spiritually, psychologically, and financially and to let the reader see the inner state such abuse produces.

This is the most sophisticated, in-depth presentation yet made of the psychological and spiritual consequences of what various pastoral and church-group abuse produce. Not only of value to the religious community, it will be of great use to psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, physicians, and academicians. This is a book for those helping and those needing help. Timely, authoritative, and valuable. Gripping reading!”
Margaret Thaler Singer, clinical psychologist and emeritus professor, University of California, Berkeley. Inside back flap, Churches That Abuse, by Ronald M. Enroth

The following endorsement were printed on the back of the book’s dust jacket:

“Churches That Abuse is a book which the Christian church has long been waiting for … a well-documented and invaluable exposure of spiritual abuses resulting from power-hungry leaders who use guilt, fear, and intimidation to control their churches. This is a most essential tool for the discernment so much needed today.”
– Johannes Aagaard, Director, The Dialog Center International, Denmark

“A much needed and singular volume of case studies related to churches which abuse their members. Having collected the testimonies of numerous persons who have departed from such abusive churches, Enroth has woven this material into a larger tapestry of interpretation of the characteristics and methods of abusive churches. This he has done with professional skill and pastoral concern.”
– James Leo Garrett, Jr., Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

“We have been waiting a long time for such a book. It is a landmark event in this field and will be of immense value to former members of abusive groups, their families, and helping professionals.”
– Michael D. Langone, Director, American Family Foundation

Churches That Abuse, by Ronald Enroth

“A timely work. Enroth shows not only the individual crises suffered by abused believers, but the challenges these churches pose for the whole of Christianity. A very sobering and thought-provoking effort.”
Richard J. Mouw, Provost, Fuller Theological Seminary

“Enroth demonstrates convincingly that authoritarian preachers, who twist Scripture and pass themselves off as Spirit-filled men (seldom women) of God, unconscionably exploit the trust of sincere and credulous believers for their own selfish benefit. We can benefit much from this timely, informative, and helpful treatment of the problem.”
– Richard V. Pierrard, Indiana State University

“In story after chilling story, Enroth reveals how authoritarian fringe churches mislead their flocks and inflict hard. Perhaps this book will prevent more potential victims from being ensnared by religion’s outlaws.”
– Thom Schultz, Publisher, Group magazine

For additional reviews, see the reader reviews at


The full text of Churches That Abuse has been placed online at Apologetics Index by permission from the book’s author, Dr. Ronald M. Enroth.

© Copyright 1992 by Ronald M. Enroth.

While this book is no longer in print, second-hand copies can often still be obtained via booksellers such as

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First published (or major update) on Wednesday, August 6, 2008 Central European Time (CET).

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