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Identifying Poisonous Teachings

By Barrington H. Brennen, August 4, 2011

 WORD Format



Over the years I have written a few articles about toxic faith.  In November 2008 I wrote in an article entitled “The Church Must Change” that “Toxic faith prevents one from searching deep into the word of God and one’s life with an open mind.  It makes one depend on someone else to guide one’s life more than the Creator.   If one can break away from this poisonous faith, there will be a beginning of hope and a prevention or avoidance of abuse in all its forms.”   Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton in their book “Toxic Faith, Experiencing Healing from Painful Spiritual Abuse” list the forms and variations of toxic faith.  They are: compulsive religious activity, laziness, giving to get, self-obsession, extreme intolerance, addiction to a religious high.


In the Bahamas we claim to be a people of religious faith.  However, far too often the faith displayed is toxic.  There is too much damming and condemning and not enough encouraging.  There is far too little teaching that transforms lives and too much teaching that frightens people in to the kingdom.  Far too many church members are not being taught to think for themselves or are not taught that they really should think for themselves.  Thus, I thought to share from the book “Toxic Faith” these three topics for your personal enrichment and discussion:  “Erroneous Beliefs That Can Fuel Toxic Faith,”  “10 Rules of a Toxic Faith System,” and “Characteristics of Healthy Faith.”


Get the together with your family, church or community group and discuss each point.   Discuss with an open mind.


Erroneous Beliefs That Can Fuel Toxic Faith:

1.      When tragedy strikes, true believers should have a real peace about it

2.      If you had real faith, God would heal you or the one you are praying for

3.      Material blessings are a sign of spiritual strength

4.      The more money you give to God, the more money he will give to you

5.      I can work my way to heaven

6.      Problems in your life result from some particular sin

7.      I must not stop meetings other's needs

8.      I must always submit to authority

9.      God only uses spiritual giants

10.    Having true faith means waiting for God to help me and doing nothing until he does

11.    If it's not in the Bible, it isn't relevant (all truth is in the Bible)

12.    God will find me a perfect mate

13.    Everything that happens to me is good

14.    A strong faith will protect me from problems and pain

15.    God hates sinners, is angry with me, and wants to punish me

16.    More than anything else, God wants me to be happy (free from pain)


10 Rules of a Toxic Faith System:

1.      The leader must be in control of every aspect at all times

2.      When problems arise, find a guilty party to blame immediately

3.      Don't make mistakes

4.      Never point out the reality of a situation

5.      Never express your feelings unless they are positive

6.      Don't ask questions, especially if they are tough ones

7.      Don't do anything outside your role

8.      Don't trust anyone

9.      Nothing is more important than giving money to the organization

10.    At all costs, keep up the image of the organization or the family


Characteristics of Healthy Faith:

1.      Focusing on a personal relationship with God in Christ, not religion

2.      Looking to God to meet the needs for security and significance

3.      Growing in faith as evidenced by walking into pain

4.      Respect for the personhood of others

5.      Serving others for their sake

6.      Being vulnerable

7.      A trusting atmosphere

8.      Celebrating uniqueness by recognizing people's spiritual gifts

9.      Relationships being the heart of everything

10.    People being taught to think

11.    Balanced thinking rather than extremes in black and white

12.    Non defensive

13.    Non judgmental

14.    Reality based

15.    Able to embrace our emotions

16.    Able to embrace our humanity as evidenced in the ability to allow for mistakes

17.    The ability to laugh


Barrington Brennen is a counseling psychologist, marriage and family therapist and board certified clinical psychotherapist in the USA. Send your questions to   or call 242-327-1980 or visit 





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Permission is granted place links to these articles on social media like Google+, FaceBook, WhatsApp, Pinterest. etc..    Permission is also granted to print these pages and to make the necessary copies for your  personal use, friends,  seminar, or meeting handout.  You must not sell for personal gain, only to cover the cost to make copies if necessary.    Written permission (email) is needed to publish or reprint articles and materials in any other form.   Articles written by Barrington H. Brennen, Counseling Psychologist, Marriage & Family Therapist.  P.O. Box CB-13019,  Nassau, The Bahamas. or  Phone contact is 242-327 1980.   
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