A-Spiritual Abuse Book Lists


  • Spiritual Abuse Article IndexIncludes all series and individual posts on futuristguy writings on spiritual abuse topics, plus links and one-paragraph descriptions. Also includes links to multiple case studies and archives on spiritual abuse.
  • Spiritual Abuse Book Lists – Two extensive lists of primary Christian books on spiritual abuse – categorized and chronological – and tips for how to use each.
  • Spiritual Abuse FAQsSeven years of futuristguy writings on spiritual abuse, toxic organizations, and recovery – put into FAQ format.
  • Spiritual Abuse Legal/Media Research Resource page on technical topics related to spiritual abuse, e.g., non-profit problems, different “thresholds of evidence,” child abuse and mandatory reporting, hostile work environment, “digital dissent,” SLAPP suits, documenting and writing your story of spiritual abuse.


I’ve been working on two reference/resource lists for a while now – and am presenting them in two versions: chronological order, and alphabetical within several key categories. Each serves a unique purpose. Both use 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, the lists include books that deal with such topics as:

  • Authoritarian Leaders
  • Church Discipline
  • Conditioning, Mind-Control, Brainwashing, and “Reprogramming”
  • Dechurched Disciples
  • Faulty Teachings, Heretical Teachings, and Cults (some general, some very specific)
  • Legalistic Theologies
  • Personality Disorders and Abuse: Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic,Obsessive-Compulsive, Paranoid, Passive-Aggressive, Psychopath/Sociopath, Sadistic
  • Recovery and Restoration
  • Religious Addiction
  • Spiritual Abuse
  • Toxic Churches/Organizations/Systems

You’ll find the chronological version linked below to a blog post from several years ago. The full categorized and alphabetical list is posted below in full.

Top Three Most Common

Theological Problems in Malignant Ministries

[This section was added November 2014, from a comment I made on a thread at The Wartburg Watch. I have edited it slightly for clarity.]

There’s an interesting pattern that I recognized a while back when I was working on a comprehensive list of Christian books about spiritual abuse that have been published since about 1990. I included books from every theological bent possible.

I didn’t do a list and run a tally, but the impression kept lodging in my memory and distilled out that the three *theological* problems mentioned most often were:

  • Authoritarian leadership and some variation on the Shepherding Movement.
  • Word of Faith with its sort of pray it, say it, don’t delay it — or conceive it, believe it, receive it — mantras!
  • Prosperity gospel, where God’s blessing on you/your ministry is supposedly validated with wealth.

It’s all insidious, but it does seem that maybe Word of Faith shows up more often in the charismatic zone of theology, while Prosperity Gospel in the most baptistic zone. Meanwhile, some form of Shepherding seems to undergird all malignant ministries and sick church systems. The worst of the worst will have all three conjoined in a “toxic trifecta.”

P.S. After I really started paying more attention to spiritual abuse survivor blogs starting in about 2008, it still took me something like three more years before I finally understood why those who’d been blogging on the subject kept saying, “The issue isn’t legalism, it’s authoritarianism.”

For those who are Narnia fans, maybe it’ll help to see legalism as a counterfeit of what Aslan does in singing the world into existence in *The Magician’s Nephew*. But instead of good things spring up out of the ground at the sound of His voice, all kinds of corrupt, evil, zombie-ish things spring out of the grounds from where authoritarian leaders sing out their commands.

Spiritual Abuse Resources – The Chronological Version

See the following link for a Chronology of Books on Spiritual Abuse and Recovery. The books there are clustered into five-year periods from 1976 to 2015, and publications go through early 2012. If you know of additional titles, please feel free to let me know via the Contact page. From this grouping technique, we may see some patterns about what issues were emphasized in what eras.

I 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 all I had back 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. 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. Somewhere along the line, it just made sense for me to do my own research writing on spiritual abuse, toxic systems, and recovery because I knew from experience what it was like not finding information to answer relevant questions.

Spiritual Abuse Resources – The Categorized Version

  1. General Resources
  2. Bullies, Leaders, and Enablers with Personality Disorders
  3. Cults and Extreme Abuse Organizations

This page represents a long-term project of creating an annotated bibliography on subjects specifically related to spiritual abuse and recovery. I will work on it when I can …

  1. The first stage involves merely listing a group of books and linking them to their webpage either on Amazon or on the publisher’s website. This is not everything available on the overall subject of spiritual abuse; it is a select list.
  2. Second is adding descriptions, reviews, and/or additional links for each book.
  3. Third is creating some kind of cross-indexing for researching such core topics as aspects of specific theologies that often lead to spiritual abuse. (Abuse can happen in any Christian theology or denomination – however, certain theologies definitely are more susceptible, given their perspectives on authority, perfectionism, commitment, maturity, etc.)

Three notes: First, I have chosen books that I have already read, or intend to read, that are directly relevant to different audiences and their responsibilities: survivors, every disciple, leadership team members, and congregations as a whole. I have tracked a lot of these books since suffering through a nasty church split in the late 1970s. Some of the newer titles are ones gleaned from other bibliographies or reference lists, but in both cases, I spent a significant amount of time surfing for publisher descriptions, outlines, and reader reviews to finalize my selection for this resource list.

Also, nearly all of the books in this bibliography present a Christian perspective. Those from other philosophical or religious points of view are included because they deal with specific issues that the Christian books might not, or bring in the perspective of other professions or disciplines, such as legal, psychological, organizational development, etc.

Finally, I think it would be instructive to compile as comprehensive of a list as possible of Christians books directly dealing with topics of spiritual abuse, church discipline, malignant leaders, etc. – and then think them through in chronological order by year of first publication. (Many of the core books have gone into revised editions or reprints. When that’s the case, I’ve listed multiple publication years.) That would allow us to consider additional patterns that emerge from the historical flow of events and topics of concern over the past few decades. Such a study could yield some intriguing principles from the past that will help us in the future.

So – here are overviews of the current sections in the bibliography. (I may recategorize them once I’ve gotten a more complete listing.)

1. General Resources. Most of the books in this section address a broad combination of issues related to spiritual abuse and recovery, and are written at a basic to intermediate level. The approaches and combinations vary, based on the intended purposes and primary audiences: survivors, their family and friends, pastors and other church leaders, counselors, theologians, trainers, researchers, etc. Some books serve as general introductions, others are more of a case study (such as the Word-of-Faith and Shepherding Movements).

2. Bullies, Leaders, and Enablers with Personality Disorders. There are many intermediate and advanced books available on the personality disorders and personas are often displayed by those who bully others. Most of the books written at those levels are for counselors, therapists, and people in charge of workplace issues. I have selected a few such technical books, plus others that are written at a more popular level for the everyday person who needs an overview of how someone with such a personality disorder acts and how to work with/around them successfully.

3. Cults and Extreme Abuse Organizations. This section includes classic and contemporary resources on “cults” – organizations at the more extreme end of the spectrum of belief and behaviors – as well as abusive practices to keep people from leaving. These kinds of cults typically have theology that is boldly anti-biblical, and leaders who are exceptionally charismatic and/or controlling. They use a series of techniques to “program” followers to the point where they will engage in activities that are unethical, illegal, immoral, and even self-destructive for the sake of the leader and/or organization. So, cults represent in highly concentrated form what can happen in the run-of-the-mill church or ministry that becomes extremely toxic.

1. General Resources

Authoritarian Leaders, Dechurched Disciples, Legalistic Theologies, Religious Addiction, Spiritual Abuse, Toxic Churches, Recovery, Restoration

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

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

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

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

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

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.)

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).

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

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

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

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


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

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

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).

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

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

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).

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.)

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

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

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

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).

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

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

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

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook: A Guide to Healing, Recovery, and Growth by Glenn Schiraldi (McGraw-Hill, 2009, second edition).

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).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Bullies, Leaders, and Enablers with Personality Disorders

Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic,Obsessive-Compulsive, Paranoid, Passive-Aggressive, Psychopath/Sociopath, Sadistic

The following books address a range of personality disorders and situations related to bullying. Personality disorders addressed include: Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic, Obsessive-Compulsive, Paranoid, Passive-Aggressive, Psychopath / Sociopath, and/or Sadistic.

Destructive Leaders and Dysfunctional Organizations: A Therapeutic Approach by Alan Goldman (Cambridge University Press, 2010). A professional book that deals with a broad range of personality disorders and how each affect peers and subordinates in organizational/business settings.

Emotional Vampires: Dealing With People Who Drain You Dry by Albert Bernstein (McGraw-Hill, 2002). (Revised and expanded second edition scheduled for June 2012 release.) Uses a similar broad set of personality disorders as the Destructive Leaders and Dysfunctional Organizations book, but writing it at a popular level.

The Allure of Toxic Leaders: Why We Follow Destructive Bosses and Corrupt Politicians – and How We Can Survive Them by Jean Lipman-Bluman (Oxford University Press, 2005). Written at a more popular level.

The Bully at Work: What You Can Do To Stop the Hurt and Reclaim Your Dignity on the Job by Gary Namie and Ruth Namie (Sourcebooks, 2nd edition, 2009). Written at a more popular level. The Namies also have a website, Workplace Bullying Institute.

The following books are mostly written at a popular level, and deal with a specific personality disorder or situation rather than a range of disorders related to bullying.

Borderline Personality Disorder for Dummies by Charles H. Elliot and Laura L. Smith (For Dummies, 2009).

The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander: From Preschool to High School – How Parents and Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle of Violence by Barbara Coloroso (2003; William Morrow Paperbacks, 2009, updated edition).

Disarming the Narcissist: Surviving and Thriving With the Self-Absorbed by Wendy Behary (New Harbinger, 2008).

The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout (Three Rivers Press, 2006).

Why is it Always About You? The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism by Sandy Hotchkiss (Free Press, 2003).

3. Cults and Extreme Abuse Organizations

Conditioning, Mind-Control, Brainwashing, Recovery, and “Reprogramming”

Brainwash: The Secret History of Mind Control by Dominic Streatfeild (Picador, 2008).

Captive Hearts, Captive Minds: Freedom and Recovery from Cults and Other Abusive Relationships by Madeleine Landau Tobias and Janja Lalich (Hunter House, 1995).

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

Cult Survivor’s Handbook: How to Live in the Material World Again by Nori Muster (Kindle Edition, 2010).

Cults in Our Midst: The Continuing Fight Against Their Hidden Menace by Margaret Thaler Sanger (2003, revised edition).

Dune by Frank Herbert (1965; Ace Trade, 2005). A classic work of sci-fi/speculative fiction that focuses on the dynamics of almost every source of abuse of power imaginable – family, gender, technology, profession, artisanship, genetics, political, cultural, etc.

Hearts of Fire: Cult Recovery and Spiritual Transformation by Kara Sorensen (2001). (This book is based in shamanic and esoteric spirituality traditions.)

The Manipulated Mind: Brainwashing, Conditioning, and Indoctrination by Denise Winn (Malor Books, 2000).

Misunderstanding Cults: Searching for Objectivity in a Controversial Field, edited by Benjamin Zablocki and Thomas Robbins (University of Toronto Press, 2001). An important middle-road among the theoretical approaches to “cult studies.”

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (1949; Plume, 1983). A classic work of dystopian literature that embodies all kinds of mind-control and behavior-modification tactics, which typically show up in some form in extreme/cult groups.

Recovery from Abusive Groups by Wendy Ford and Wendy Wolfberg (American Family Foundation, 1993, revised edition).

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

Scripture Twisting: 20 Ways the Cults Misread the Bible by James Sire (InterVarsity Press, 1980).

Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships by Janja Lalich and Madeleine Tobias (Bay Tree Publishing, 2006, second edition).

Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of Brainwashing in China by Robert J. Lifton (1963; University of North Carolina Press, 1989).