Boundaries: Unsafe Christians

Reviewing Boundaries website teachings and comparing them with Scripture. 

A review of the Boundaries article "Unsafe People Exist at Church Too." Is it fair? Is it Biblical?

For an introduction and review of the Boundaries online teachings, see Are Henry Cloud's Boundaries Teachings Biblical?

I am concerned about the teaching and advice of the Boundaries site. If it were a secular site, I would not review its articles; but its authors claim that their principles are Christian, and many Christians are following their teachings.

In their article Unsafe People Exist at Church, Too, they describe a woman with depression and an unspecified problem with someone named Joey.(1) She shares her problems with her small group and, from her description, the group responds in a legalistic, insensitive manner.

So the Boundaries counselor tells this young woman that she shouldn't assume that people in the church are always going to be helpful. This is true...not everyone in the church is wise or godly or kind, and we should seek help from people who are mature in their Christian faith.

But the author goes farther than this. He claims "the church has to be seen the way God describes it" as a place where we find "judgment, pride, self-centeredness, manipulation, abandonment, abuse, control, perfectionism, domination, and every kind of relational sin known to humankind." 

I'm not aware of anywhere in Scripture where "God describes" the true body of Christ in such negative terms. 

The Bible addresses sinful people within the church, but 1 Timothy 3:15 calls the church "a pillar and buttress of the truth."

The author doesn't claim everyone in the church is terrible, but he presents an overall negative view of churches. And this seems to be a reoccurring theme in Boundaries teachings.

In other articles, Cloud claims that "traditional Christian answers" have failed to help people (source):

"Faced with this kind of help [traditional Christian answers], sufferers either learn to fake healing to remain in the church, or leave the church, deciding that their faith provides little solace for their emotional pain.… Looking for answers that work, and not finding them in the church, they turn to psychology. Often psychological methods succeed, and hurting people find relief."

"As a Christian, a psychologist, and a fellow struggler...I have tried the 'standard' Christian answers for others, and myself and have come to Job’s conclusion: they are worthless medicine." 

Cloud claims that God gave him methods of helping people that can't be found in traditional Christian teaching.

With that in mind, I share the advice the author offers the young woman who found "unsafe" people in her church:

"So, the long and the short of it is that we have to work to find safe people, using our wisdom, discernment, and character. We gain wisdom and discernment through knowledge and experience. But if our own character problems get in the way of using our knowledge and experience we will make poor choices. We need to make sure that we are facing the weaknesses inside and dealing with them, becoming people of character who can choose other people of character, with a knowledge of what they look like. As we get the log out of our own eye first, we will be able to see clearly."  (underlining mine)

The author believes a suicidal woman can use her knowledge and experience to develop godly character. Then she will be able to find safe people by comparing their character to her own.

Is this article accurate, balanced, fair, and biblical? Does it confirm the truths below?

A review of the Boundaries article "Unsafe People Exist at Church Too." Is it fair? Is it Biblical?

Proverbs 3:5-7: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil."  

Proverbs 26:12: "Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them."   

1 Corinthians 3:19: "The wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight." 

Also see James 1:5, Proverbs 2:6, Psalm 19:7, and 1 John 4:6.

Foot Note:

(1) The author does not explain "the problems with Joey." When her small group said that her problems stemmed from not walking with the Lord, could she have been involved in an immoral relationship with Joey? Christians are supposed to gently correct and rebuke fellow-Christians if they are involved in sin (James 5:19-20; Galatians 6:1). These details matter, and without them, this article could be applied in destructive ways.

For a collection of helpful articles about specific Boundaries errors in their teachings about marriage, family, and church relationships, see Are Boundaries Biblical Collection.

Bible Love Notes


  1. I love your scholarship in these articles, and consequently you, sister. I believe in you more than so many other writers. You stay directly on God's Word, and I believe you rightly divide the word of truth. - BillHamilton