Chronology of Books on Spiritual Abuse and Recovery

General Resources on Spiritual Abuse and Recovery – as of March 2012

I’ve been working on this reference/resource list for a while now. If all goes well, I’ll be updating it periodically. It’s a select list (but I’m trying to get it more and more comprehensive over time). I’m looking for Christian books primarily, plus a few that are from other religious/spiritual backgrounds and some academic volumes. I’m also including a few select titles on spiritual abuse and cults that are now considered “classic,” regardless of whether they are Christian in their perspective or not. Overall, this includes books that deal with such topics as:

  • Authoritarian Leaders
  • Church Discipline
  • Dechurched Disciples
  • Faulty Teachings, Heretical Teachings, and Cults (some general, some very specific)
  • Legalistic Theologies
  • Recovery and Restoration
  • Religious Addiction
  • Spiritual Abuse
  • Toxic Churches/Organizations

I also wanted to put these books in chronological order, as a potential study tool for understanding how the history of wider Church-based concern about “malignant ministry” has developed. This is in part because, as a 20-something-year-old, I endured a devastating church split that came closer to claiming my faith than anything before or since. That was in 1978, and it would be a dozen years before some of the very first (and also what have turned out to be some of the very best) resource books were published for survivors of such horrific experiences. All I had then were the Scriptures, a few friends to process things with, and a tenuous clinging onto Jesus Christ, that gradually over time turned into a tenacious commitment.

If you prefer an alphabetical version of this list, it is on this page: 4 Spiritual Abuse Book Lists and Visual Bibliographies. I’m also including scans of the book covers in that version.

This first edition is as of March 2012, and it includes 84 titles. I have divided them into clusters of five-year periods, mostly to break up the text and make it a bit easier to consider the unfolding record of how the Holy Spirit was moving to provide resources for health among God’s people. (Note: Just because a book is listed here, that doesn’t mean it is always a flawless critique; especially if the authors were involved in an authoritarian cult, they probably had “blind spots” that made them susceptible in the first place. Those didn’t always get cleared up just because of leaving the cult or conducting an extensive analysis of their experiences.)

The year published is up front (a great aid for the MS Word sorting function!) and then they’re (supposed to be) in alphabetical order by title within each year. That’s followed by a total number of books for that five-year period, plus what seems to me to be some of the key themes. (That’s part of what’s intriguing to me … to reflect on how what comes up later relies on resources that supplied a foundation beforehand.)

Finally, if you’re aware of titles I am missing, please use the contact form to let me know. I’d be glad to add whatever books fit with the overall themes of this particular list, even if I’m not from the theological perspective that the book takes. Thanks! And as I add books to the list, I’ll update the numbers on the totals.

Also, if you have insights from this hindsight exercise, please consider sharing them here – either in the comments or through the contact form. (Due to spam, I’ve set comments to close automatically after a post has been up for a while.)


Two (2) books – church discipline, scripture twisting.

1977 Calling the church to discipline: A scriptural guide for the church that dares to discipline by Roy E. Knuteson (Action Press, 1977).

1980 Scripture Twisting: 20 Ways the Cults Misread the Bible by James W. Sire (IVP Books, 1980).


Six (6) books – personality cults, church discipline, cults.

1982 By What Authority: The Rise of Personality Cults in American Christianity by Richard Quebedeaux (Harper & Row Publishers, 1982).

1983 Unholy Devotion: Why Cults Lure Christians by Harold L. Busséll (Zondervan, 1983).

1985 A Guide to Church Discipline by J. Carl Laney (Bethany House, 1985).

1985 Church Discipline That Heals: Putting Costly Love into Action by John White and Ken Blue (InterVarsity Press, 1992). (Healing the Wounded: The Costly Love of Church Discipline appears to be an earlier version of this book, from IVP in 1985.)

1985 When God’s People Let You Down: How to Rise Above Hurts That Occur Within the Church by Jeff VanVonderen (Bethany House, 1985).

1985 Why Cults Succeed Where the Church Fails by Ronald Enroth and J. Gordon Melton (Brethren Press, 1985).


Two (2) books – grace versus legalism, mind control.

1989 Tired of Trying to Measure Up: Getting free from the demands, expectations, and intimidations of well-meaning people. by Jeff VanVonderen (Bethany House, 1989).

1990 Combatting Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-selling Guide to Protection, Rescue, and Recovery from Destructive Cults by Steven Hassan (Park Street Press, 1990).


Nineteen (19) books – spiritual abuse/cults and recovery, church discipline, authoritarianism, Shepherding Movement, Word of Faith, Toronto Blessing.

1991 The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen (Bethany House, 1991, 2005).

1991 Toxic Faith: Experiencing Healing from Painful Spiritual Abuse by Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton (1991; Shaw Books, 2001).

1992 Church Discipline That Heals: Putting Costly Love into Action by John White and Ken Blue (InterVarsity Press, 1992). (Healing the Wounded: The Costly Love of Church Discipline appears to be an earlier version of this book, from IVP in 1985.)

1992 Damaged Disciples: Casualties of Authoritarian Churches and the Shepherding Movement by Ron Burks (Zondervan, 1992).

1992 Recovery from Spiritual Abuse (Life Recovery Guides) by Dale Ryan and Juanita Ryan (InterVarsity Press, 1992).

1992 Toxic Christianity: Healing the Religious Neurosis by Paul Deblassie (Crossroad Publishing Company, 1992).

1993 Churches that Abuse: Help for Those Hurt by Legalism, Authoritarian Leadership, and Spiritual Intimidation by Ronald Enroth (Zondervan, 1993). Note: Dr. Enroth has kindly given permission for full text editions of his two books on spiritual abuse to be available online at Apologetics Index: Churches that Abuse (1993) and its sequel, Recovering from Churches that Abuse (1994).

1993 Faith that Hurts, Faith that Heals: Understanding the Fine Line Between Healthy Faith and Spiritual Abuse by Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton (Thomas Nelson, 1993).

1993 Healing Spiritual Abuse: How to Break Free from Bad Church Experiences. The Biblical Answer to the Wounds of Legalism by Ken Blue (InterVarsity Press, 1993).

1993 Recovery from Abusive Groups by Wendy Ford (American Family Foundation; Revised edition, 1993).

1994 Captive Hearts, Captive Minds : Freedom and Recovery from Cults and Other Abusive Relationships by Madeleine Landau Tobias and Janja Lalich (Hunter House, 1994).

1994 Healing Spiritual Abuse and Religious Addiction Matthew Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Dennis Linn (Paulist Press, 1994).

1994 Out of the Cults and Into the Church: Understanding and Encouraging Ex-Cultists by Janis Hutchinson (Kregel Academic & Professional, 1994).

1994 Recovering from Churches that Abuse. The road back from spiritual abuse. Healing for families who hurt. Reentry for survivors of cults and sects. Guidance for pastors and counselors. by Ronald Enroth (Zondervan, 1994). Note: Dr. Enroth has kindly given permission for full text editions of his two books on spiritual abuse to be available online at Apologetics Index: Churches that Abuse (1993) and its sequel, Recovering from Churches that Abuse (1994).

1994 The Love of Power or the Power of Love: A Careful Assessment of the Problems Within the Charismatic and Word-Of-Faith Movements by Tom Smail, Andrew Walker, and Nigel Wright (Bethany House, 1994).

1995 Holy Laughter and the Toronto Blessing: An Investigative Report by James Beverley (Zondervan, 1995).

1995 Recovery from Cults: Help for Victims of Psychological and Spiritual Abuse by Michael D. Langone (W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition, 1995).

1995 The Drift into Deception: The Eight Characteristics of Abusive Christianity by Agnes Lawless, John Lawless (Kregel Publications, 1995).

1995 The Toronto Blessing – Or Is It? by Stanley Porter and Philip Richter (Darton, Longman and Todd, 1995).


Fourteen (14) books – religious addiction, cults, Waco, healthy leadership.

1996 Religion in Context: Cults and Charisma by I. M. Lewis (Cambridge University Press; 2 edition, 1996).

1997 Charismatic Curses: Exposing Spiritual Abuse in the Church by Dennis Cramer (Author, 1997).

1997 Clergy Killers: Guidance for Pastors and Congregations under Attack by G. Lloyd Rediger (Westminster John Knox Press, 1997)

1997 Twisted Scriptures: Breaking Free from Churches That Abuse by Mary Alice Chrnalogar (Zondervan, 1997; 2000, revised edition).

1997 Walking Out of Spiritual Abuse by Marc DuPont (Renew, 1997).

1997 Why Waco?: Cults and the Battle for Religious Freedom in America by James D. Tabor (University of California Press, 1997).

1998 Cults in Context: Reading in the Study of New Religious Movements by Lorne L. Dawson (Transaction Publishers, 1998).

1998 The God Game: It’s Your Move: Healing the Wounds of Religious Addiction & Religious Abuse by Leo Booth (SCP Ltd, 1998).

1998 When God Becomes a Drug: Book 1; Understanding Religious addiction & religious abuse by Leo Booth (SCP Limited, 1998).

1998 Wolves within the Fold: Religious Leadership and Abuses of Power by Anson Shupe (Rutgers University Press, 1998).

1998 Wounded Workers: Recovering from Heartache in the Workplace and the Church by Kirk Farnsworth (WinePress Publishing, 1998).

1999 Cults: Faith, Healing and Coercion by Marc Galanter (Oxford University Press, USA; 2nd edition, 1999).

1999 Escape from Church, Inc.: The Return of the Pastor-Shepherd by Glenn Wagner (Zondervan, 1999).

2000 More Jesus, Less Religion: Moving from Rules to Relationship by Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton (WaterBrook Press, 2000, 2010).


Eighteen (18) books – control, legalism, Shepherding Movement, de-churched Christians, Charismatics.

2001 Charismatic Captivation: Authoritarian Abuse and Psychological Enslavement in Neo-Pentecostal Churches by Steven Lambert (2001; Real Truth Publications, 2003, second edition).

2001 Counterfeit Revival: Looking for God in All the Wrong Places by Hank Hanegraaff (Thomas Nelson, 2001).

2001 Exposing Spiritual Abuse: How to Rediscover God’s Love When the Church Has Let You Down by Mike Fehlauer (Charisma House, 2001).

2001 Hearts of Fire: Cult Recovery and Spiritual Transformation by Kara Sorensen (Xlibris Corp, 2001). Shamanic and psychological.

2001 Religious Abuse: A pastor explores the many ways religion can hurt as well as heal by Keith Wright (Northstone, 2001).

2001 The Church and the Dechurched: Mending a Damaged Faith by Mary Tuomi Hammond (Chalice Press, 2001).

2002 A Churchless Faith: Faith Journeys Beyond the Churches by Alan Jamieson (SPCK Publishing, 2002).

2002 Cults and the Occult by Edmond C. Gruss (P & R Publishing; 4th Updated edition, 2002).

2003 Breaking the Bondage of Legalism by Neil Anderson, Rich Miller, and Paul Travis (Harvest House Publishers, 2003).

2003 Confronting Jezebel: Discerning and Defeating the Spirit of Control by Steve Sampson (Chosen, 2003, reprint edition).

2003 Cults in Our Midst: The Continuing Fight Against Their Hidden Menace by Margaret Thaler Singer (Jossey-Bass; Paper Edition Revised edition, 2003).

2003 Deadly Cults: The Crimes of True Believers by Bill Bryson (Praeger, 2003).

2004 Hawaii and Christian Religious Addiction: A Survey Of Attitudes Toward Healthy Spirituality And Religious Addiction Within Christianity by James Slobodzien (Dissertation.Com., 2004).

2004 Shepherding Movement: Controversy and Charismatic Ecclesiology (Journal Of Pentecostal Theology Supplement) by David S. Moore (Continuum, 2004).

2004 The Shepherding Movement: Controversy and Charismatic Ecclesiology by S. David Moore (Continuum, 2004).

2004 Toxic Churches: Restoration from Spiritual Abuse by Marc DuPont (Chosen, 2004).

2005 Full Gospel, Fractured Minds? A Call to Use God’s Gift of the Intellect by Rick M. Nañez (Zondervan, 2005).

2005 The Rhetoric of Religious Cults: Terms of Use and Abuse by Annabelle Mooney (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).


Nineteen (19) – clergy misconduct and malfeasance, spiritual terrorism, authority abuse.

2006 Toxic Faith: Liberal Cure. A Reasoned and Judeo-Christian Response to the Alarming Assertions of the Religious Right by Daniel Bruch (Xlibris, 2006).

2007 Exposing Church/Spiritual Abuse by Dr. & Mrs. Emmanuel Akpan (Christian Services Network; 1st edition, 2007).

2007 Life After Church: God’s Call to Disillusioned Christians by Brian Sanders (InterVarsity Press, 2007).

2007 Rogue Clerics: The Social Problem of Clergy Deviance by Anson D. Shupe (Transaction Publishers, 2007).

2007 Spoils of the Kingdom: Clergy Misconduct and Religious Community by Anson D. Shupe (University of Illinois Press; 1 edition, 2007).

2007 Surviving Toxic Leaders: How to Work for Flawed People in Churches, Schools, and Christian Organizations by Kenneth O. Gangel (Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2007).

2007 The Toxic Congregation: How to Heal the Soul of Your Church by G. Lloyd Rediger (Abingdon Press, 2007).

2007 When Religion Is an Addiction by Robert Neil Minor (HumanityWorks!, 2007).

2008 Authority Abusers: Breaking Free from Spiritual Abuser by George Bloomer (Whitaker House, 2008).

2008 Not of My Making: Bullying, Scapegoating, and Misconduct in Churches by Margaret W. Jones (Pluck Press, 2008).

2008 Post Charismatic? Where Are We Now? Where Have We Come From? Where Are We Going? by Rob McAlpine (David C. Cook, 2008).

2008 Religious Addiction, Mental Health and Spirituality: A Psycho Religious Approach in the Context of the Brazilian Community by Regina Pinto-Moura (Xulon Press, 2008).

2008 Soul Repair: Rebuilding Your Spiritual Life by Jeff VanVonderen, Dale Ryan, and Juanita Ryan (InterVarsity Press, 2008). Added January 2015; recommended by a reader.

2008 Spiritual Terrorism: Spiritual Abuse from the Womb to the Tomb by Boyd Purcell (AuthorHouse, 2008). (Covers all major world religions.)

2009 Healing the Soul after Religious Abuse: The Dark Heaven of Recovery by Mikele Rauch (Praeger, 2009). (Based in part on interviews with persons from five major religions.)

2009 This Little Light: Beyond a Baptist Preacher Predator and His Gang by Christa Brown (Foremost Press, 2009).

2009 Unveiling Terrorism, Fundamentalism, and Spiritual Abuse by Bill Whitehouse (CreateSpace, 2009). (Addresses related topics from a Sufi perspective.)

2010  Cult Survivors Handbook: How to Live in the Material World Again by Nori Muster (Amazon Digital Services, 2010). (Digital only.)

2010 A Guide to Church Discipline: God’s Loving Plan for Restoring Believers to Fellowship with Himself and with the Body of Christ by J. Carl Laney (Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2010).

2010 Spiritual Abuse Recovery: Dynamic Research on Finding a Place of Wholeness by Barbara Orlowski (Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2010).

2010 The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love: Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline (IX Marks) by Mark Dever (Crossway Books, 2010).


Five (5) books – critiques of Charismatic movements, New Apostolic Reformation (NAR); reconciliation; personal accounts of surviving spiritual abuse.

2011 In Pursuit of Prodigals: A Primer on Church Discipline and Reconciliation by Stephen Davey (Kress Biblical Resources, 2011).

2011 Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom by Jack Watts (Howard Books, 2011).

2011 Wandering Stars: Contending for the Faith with the New Apostles and Prophets by Keith Gibson (Solid Ground Christian Book, 2011).

2011 What Happened to the Fire? by J. Lee Grady (1994; Fleming H. Revell Co., 2011).

2012 Crooked Cross: A Journey Out of Religious Abuse by Willow (2012; CreateSpace, 2012).