Are Boundaries Biblical? Collection

This collection includes articles reviewing the teachings from the Boundaries website.

The "Boundaries" teachings of Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend have become increasingly popular with both the Christian and secular market. Sadly, many Christians have failed to carefully examine the teaching. It contains some biblical principles, but it also contains some secular principles that can damage relationships. I personally know families living distant and estranged due to these teachings. 

This collection includes articles reviewing the teachings from the Boundaries website.

This article explains the basic premises of the boundaries teaching as highlighted in the first and last chapters of the book.
Overview and introduction: How Cloud judges traditional Christian answers, psychological answers, and his answers.

This article examines the three Scripture passages most often used by Boundaries books and online articles to explain the foundation of their teaching.

This article explains the benefit of using "guidelines" instead of boundaries. Boundaries promote protection from difficulties; guidelines promote reconciliation.

Reviews of some of the articles from the Boundaries website:  

Hope or Sin: Are "Boundaries" feeding selfish hearts or strengthening hearts for the Lord?
Beware of teachings which blame-shift problems onto parents. It's popular but leads to big losses all around.
A review of the Boundaries article "Unsafe People Exist at Church Too." Is it fair? Is it Biblical?
It's hard to believe this is a "Christian" ministry making this recommendation. 
Christians understand that we are fallen human beings who need grace. So why do we choose "Boundaries" instead? 
This article reviews the Boundaries article "Wise, Foolish, or Evil" comparing it's teachings with Scripture.
John Townsend believes husbands are supposed to submit to wives just as wives are supposed to submit to husbands and all submission problems are the husband's fault. This article compares those views with Scripture and with the experiences of a wife married 50 years.
Other Pertinent Devotions:
The word "boundaries" has taken on a whole new meaning in relationships, and Christians are setting ungodly boundaries at the encouragement of poor counselors.  
Exaggeration is always deceptive, and it does great harm when we use it to avoid reconciliation and forgiveness.
There are some popular self-righteous excuses for avoiding calm, mutual discussion in troubled relationships. This 1-minute devotion gives the Biblical view of such problems. 

Family relationships can be messy at times, but genuine Christians will refuse to make any of these 6 damaging choices.

It's a popular cultural idea, but it's not biblical to "Trust Your Heart." However, many of the Boundaries articles encourage us to do that very thing. This 1-minute devotion explains why trusting our hearts is an unbiblical idea.
The story of Joseph is especially pertinent to our discussion of the Boundaries teachings. It was Joseph's brothers who tried to set up boundaries, not Joseph. Of course, they were violent and ungodly, but that's one of the major flaws in the Boundaries teachings: it's often the immature or vengeful family member who sets up the boundaries, and it prevents them from growing up. Christians may be able to avoid their Genesis 50:19-20 situations but they won't be better people because of it.

Most adult children are “speck-finders” when it comes to their parents, but the blessings belong to “log-removers.” This 1-minute devotion explains.
This collection includes articles reviewing the teachings from the Boundaries website.


  1. It is better to trust God than to put confidence in man, He says. It is good to prayerfully consider different perspectives. If you have neither been a toxic person nor been controlled or damaged by one, and your family members are all willing and able to mature discuss problems or differences, that's truly great! But the church has at times been guilty of leaving abused people feeling hopeless, sinful, etc. Jesus set boundaries. No one could lay a hand on Him until the Father's time. He disappeared from a crowd at least once. He separated himself to have private communion with the Father. He laid down His life, but He did not lay down His authority as God the Son in the synogogues. He taught. He rebuked. He loved in accordance with His nature as detailed in I Corinthians 13 and elsewhere. He was not an "enabler." I so appreciate these Bible Love Notes, and agree with so much of what you say, but some osf the "Boundaries" teaching is needful in the church and the home. I suffered for lack of it, but by God's grace, came through my excruciating experiences compassionate toward others rather than being a hurt perso hurting people. I hope that is always true of me, because I never want to hurt someone the way others have hurt me.

    1. Dear Hojawile,

      It sounds like you believe that my opinion is based on my experiences as having a wonderful family without any toxic or controlling members. I purposely do not air my personal family situations online, but you couldn't be farther from the truth. And I know that if I had followed Boundaries teachings I would never have understood God's power to change my heart even when others refused to change.

      In addition, the way the words "Toxic" and "Abuse" are used by Boundaries teachings rarely qualify as either of those things. I have dealt with toxic and abusive behavior and the many boundaries articles and resources I’ve studied rarely address behavior that is actually abusive or toxic. I personally know families estranged by the Boundaries teaching when their problems were normal interaction between fallen human beings.

      But these experiences are not the reason I have written these posts. I've written them because I have examined the actual teachings presented by Cloud online, and they directly contradict Scripture in some areas and in many areas they give instructions without the clarification needed to apply them biblically.

      But let me address some of your specifics":

      "the church has at times been guilty of leaving abused people feeling hopeless, sinful, etc."
      This is true, but it is not representative of the church, and the problem is not their lack of teaching about boundaries.

      "Jesus set boundaries. No one could lay a hand on Him until the Father's time."
      Jesus is God, perfect in every sense, fully aware of every thought and attitude of a person's heart. We are not able to discern things as He discerned them. We cannot see into men’s hearts. However, I believe that the Boundaries teaching often puts us in the place of God, and that is a major problem with the teaching.

      The Bible tells a different story: For example, Joseph had genuinely toxic people in his family, but Joseph never set up boundaries. Scripture implies that his brothers never genuinely repented to Joseph, nor dealt with their issues until their father died, and when they came to him begging him not to use his power to harm them, He said this: Genesis 50:19-21: “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.”

      You also mentioned 1 Corinthians 13. If we read that chapter with ourselves in mind, not trying to conform others but to conform ourselves (which is the heart of the Gospel), we read that love is patient, kind, not proud, not dishonoring others, not self-seeking, keeping no record of wrongs, always persevering. Even though Boundaries teachings encourage us to forgive, they encourage “record-keeping” and an end to perseverance.

      We should never allow ourselves to be physically abused, nor are we required to choose friends who are negative or difficult. But God gives us our family, and He expects us to persevere in family relationships, not set up boundaries.

      If you read these articles with an open mind, you will see how much the Boundaries teachings contradict Scripture. If I had followed the boundaries teachings in regard to my family problems, I would have protected myself from some of the very hard things I experienced/experience, but I’d have lost so much in the process.