Is It Normal?: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

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16 Responses

  1. JM says:

    Duane, I like the way you break this down. Thank you!

  2. Duane Arnold says:


    Thanks! It really is basic. So many excuses are made for conduct and actions that are way outside of anything that might be considered normal…

  3. Michael says:

    This is brilliant and the place we need to start to move forward.
    I hope everyone involved in the current debacle reads this and makes it a foundation piece to rebuild their ideas of what a church is.

  4. Steve says:


    Do you see any dangers with being normal? For instance can churches end up systemically abusing the sheep simple because everyone else is doing it? For instance it was normal to have slaves at one time. That doesn’t make it good or right. Infact it was evil. Jesus never told us to be normal. To be honest I think this article needs a lot of improvement but also the points you did make were right on. I just don’t like the term normal. I never was a normal kid growing up and compared to the world, the church certainly is not normal. Can we use a better word. Maybe Holy?

  5. JM says:

    While I haven’t related all that I saw and experienced in my tenure at CC (or other entities, for that matter), I can safely say that all of it forced me to look at ways to identify what is not “normal”. Coming from a background in which my family was influenced by a cult, I have been essentially traumatized by what I have seen happening inside of what was supposed to be orthodox “Christian” institutions. Much of the disgusting activity that happened seems to mimic the Magician’s trick. (He causes the eyes to look in one direction while the real “trick” is happening out of view.) As in the case of the recently exposed perverse ministry of PFM, it is apparent to me that they were able to get people (including leaders) to believe and focus on the supposed “orthodoxy” of the group. All the while, abuse was rampant and their orthopraxy was that of a cult. Many have said that the reason CC (McClure) did not recognize what they were seeing was because CC had much of the same unchecked operating practices. This site is glutted with accounts that would make such a view reasonable. (Some PFM accounts state that CC people even looked on while interns were being berated.)

    In my early Christian walk, my heart was very much towards exposing aberrancy because of the tragedies suffered in my family from the cult influence. I merely wanted to see people set free as I felt I had. In my innocence, I was shocked to see that CC’s promotion of discernment ministries cloaked extreme and unrepentant immorality all the way to the top and decidedly unChristlike behavior by many of its leaders who had complete power over their people. The shock continued when I read materials published by CC’s own people that supported this awful behavior by pastors. CC was so void of shame about their unbiblical practices they actually codified it and put it into print. When a man like Chuck Smith has been allowed to have the kind of power over people’s minds such that they will defy Scripture because he says it’s okay–you have a major component of a cult. I have never had trouble saying that “outloud”. No theology will save that group from the eventual chastisement they deserve when they foolishly allow themselves to rationalize cruelty to God’s people. God does care for His people and there are consequences for those that continue to treat them badly. If I was a leader inside of CC, I would want to deal with this issue sooner rather than later. It’s better to do it voluntarily.

    I am watching the CFM situation with a magnifying glass because of the wider implications. Let’s see if the “wise” who are willing to clean up that situation will understand the greater opportunity that they are being given.

  6. Duane Arnold says:


    I could have said much more in this article! I used the word “normal” in terms of a basic standard of conduct and practice. One person mentioned that we should simply act as “Christians”. I’m sure that many involved with abuse, may consider themselves to be “holy” as they claim (falsely) that they are doing God’s work. Some things – proper boards, not being involved in nepotism, and proper pastoral care – are in my mind, normative…

  7. Duane Arnold says:


    ” Let’s see if the ‘wise’ who are willing to clean up that situation will understand the greater opportunity that they are being given.”

    The question is, will it be “cleaned up” or “covered up”?

  8. Midwife says:

    Thank you Dr. Duane W.H. Arnold. As much as I love the Jesus People days of the 70s and 80s, I’m afraid we threw the “norm” (normal became a very bad word), out with the preverbal baby’s bath water. As young Christian families, many of us veered off the beaten path of “normal” and in many ways became fearful of using or teaching our children critical thinking and the boundaries needed to keep us all safe with each other. My prayer is that we turn this way of thinking around and make “normal” a good word in our own lives and in the church. Your article here shines a bright light on the correct path we need to understand and hold our pastors and elders accountable to.

  9. JM says:

    History says, “Covered Up.” 🙁

  10. Michael says:

    Duane had to step away with a family emergency…he’ll be back when able…

  11. Steve says:

    Duane,. I see your point. However Guassian bell-curve normal in CCA circles has a long history. For these pastor’s I suggest they become abnormal. This new way may become normal in a good way for the rest of us.

  12. Duane Arnold says:


    Back for at least a time…

  13. Duane Arnold says:


    It’s probably time, and perhaps past time, to say that much of what passes for “normal” in CCA circles, is “abnormal”.

  14. Jean says:

    When I read several of the testimonies, which described what you call “bullying, displays of anger, belittling someone, humiliation of an individual, etc.,” I was reminded of my experience in military basic training. These were intentional tactics of breaking individuals down, to be rebuilt into a cohesive unit designed to follow orders.

    I am shocked and disappointed that a Christian ministry would engage in such tactics, and, while I have no evidence, I wonder if these tactics were imported into the ministry intentionally to obtain similar results to military basic training. Analogous to church growth methods of evangelism, these ministry abuse tactics import worldly methods to build and support a ministry. What may be normal in certain secular contexts is abnormal in the kingdom of God.

    At the root of the problem, in my opinion, is a severe lack of trust in God and His Word, which mediates His will to the Church. Leaders who claim immediate (or special) access to God’s will for the purpose of (or the end result of which is) controlling and dominating others should IMO be marked and avoided.

  15. Steve says:

    Jean,. I think you are on to something with the military. I know ? n my bad experience in my ex-CC the second in command from Moses himself was infact a retired military officer on a Nuclear powered submarine. The Moses supposedly gets the vision from God and the first officer will do everything to make vision a reality taking the heat off of the supreme leader for it’s implementation.

  16. Duane Arnold says:


    Yes, I think you’ve hit on at least part of the psychology of the situation.

    I think as well, it has much to do with lack of personal integrity. Fully formed adults recognize the “give and take” of adult relationships. Most of us work with people who have opinions and perspectives that are different than our own. A person who lacks a sense of personal integrity, or who is personally insecure, is the one who tries to control and dominate in such situations.

    Concurrent is the idea that if you can dominate, control or bully, questions will not be asked… about boards, about finances, about accountability…

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