3 Truths about Gaslighting Every Christian Should Know

Updated Jun 11, 2024
3 Truths about Gaslighting Every Christian Should Know

"…So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes." - Ephesians 4:14

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation and control where the intended target is deliberately fed false or misleading information. If a lie is repeated often enough, loud enough, and long enough – soon it is just assumed to be truth, and it causes people to question what they believe to be truth. 

There are certainly a great many expressions that come and go with each generation. Even though “gaslighting” was more or less derived from a 1944 film called Gaslight, the expression didn’t really come to common usage until 2010 or a bit later. The story involves a man who uses tactics—including dimming the gas lights—to convince his new wife she is suffering mental issues to justify his efforts to keep her isolated and then search for her dead aunt’s extensive jewelry collection. 

Gaslighting can certainly be a serious and abusive issue. The “gas lighter” tends to be controlling and narcissistic to their own ends. The victim quite often simply buys into what they are being manipulated to believe – about themselves or about their lives.

(Please note – if you believe you are being “gaslighted” in an abusive manner, please seek immediate counseling and reach out to godly friends.)

Of course, words do migrate. A word's connotation might be a bit different as years pass and usage becomes more widespread. Such is the case with “gaslighting.” Originally, the “gas lighter's” intent was clearly abusive and nefarious. Today, it seems to be used more to discredit someone’s belief system—to construct a system of lies that makes one question what they believe to be truths. Deliberate deceit is used to manipulate others into questioning their own understanding of what they thought they knew.

Needless to say, a significant amount of gaslighting occurs politically – on both sides of the political aisle. Campaigns and campaign ads can say pretty much anything they want as they throw accusations back and forth – and if the ad or the statements are repeated enough, the truth gets buried. 

Gaslighting is also a common technique employed by cult leaders to manipulate and control members. These leaders present altered versions of events, history, or teachings, causing members to question what they thought they knew. They distort reality to their own advantage to gain fidelity and allegiance.

But…gaslighting also has a significant impact on Christianity, our faith, and the gospel message.

Photo Courtesy: Image created using DALL.E 2024  AI technology and subsequently edited and reviewed by our editorial team.

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1. What Does the Bible Say about Gaslighting?

The very first time gaslighting was used is actually written in the Bible: Genesis 3, the fall of Adam and Eve.

Now, the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” - Genesis 3:1-5

One of my favorite Bible teachers used to say he could just picture Satan leaning against the tree – to prove his point that “you will not certainly die” if you touch the tree. Of course, too, God had not said, “You must not touch it.” His words and actions were enough to make Adam and Eve question God – they began to believe Satan when he said, “You will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Thus, they ate the fruit of which they had been told not to eat, and the rest is history.

While the Bible never specifically uses the term, it does provide some general guidance on dealing with people who are manipulative and dishonest:

A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin. (Proverbs 26:28)

Paul warns against what we now call gaslighting:

 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery, they deceive the hearts of the naive. (Romans 16:17-18)

…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (Ephesians 4:14)

Even in the first century, there were those who tried whatever method would work to pull people away from the truth they had been taught by Paul. They would lean into intelligent-sounding messages that contradicted Paul’s message.

But what about today? In our modern times, there are indeed non-believers who employ the gaslighting technique to steer people away from the messages of the Bible, as well as casual believers away from their Biblical faith. Even believers may start to question what they thought was true – and perhaps alter their stance on Biblical doctrine. But there are also those who identify as Christian who may unintentionally use gaslighting to divert from the grace of God by perpetuating such falsehoods which they have come to accept as truth.

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Pastor talking to a young man after church; what is gaslighting?

2. Does Gaslighting Exist within the Church?

Apparently, believers in the city of Galatia were getting twisted around and manipulated. Paul thought this important enough that these were his first words following his greeting:

"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel - which is really no gospel at all. Evidently, some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ." - Galatians 1:6-7

“…turning to a different gospel…” “…throwing you into confusion…” “pervert the gospel of Christ.” Powerful words. Yet, we see it happening today. Common verses are taken out of context in the entirety of the Bible – or distorted and twisted to support their arguments.

How many churches do we now see that embrace the LBTQ movement? Who has turned away from the messages against sexual immorality and specifically against homosexuality? Arguing, “We are not to judge others…” or “Jesus never spoke about homosexuality,” they embrace what the Bible clearly calls immoral. (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Jude 1:7; Romans 1:26-28; Genesis 2:24) Yet, there are believers who accept the falsehood rather than the truth – perhaps because they have loved ones who are gay, and they simply want to believe that these are not offending God.

Pro-abortion advocates claim the Bible never speaks against abortion. Yet, this comes strictly from a lack of understanding of the entirety of scripture. (Jeremiah 1:5; Psalm 139:13-18; Isaiah 44:24; and the entirety of warnings to not murder.)

Have you ever heard the words, “Well, we know the Bible was written by men”? The implication is that the Bible is not to be entirely trusted. We hear these words even from those who call themselves believers. Of course, it makes one wonder how they came to believe in Christ Jesus – since the gospel message is entirely found in the Bible “written by men.” Yet, Paul tells us the entirety of scripture was God-breathed:

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." - 2Timothy 3:16-17

You may also have heard that the Bible has been “translated so many times, we don’t know what it really says.” Again, the intent is to impugn the integrity of scripture. Yet, of all the “versions” and translations, what cannot be found is a single significant theological difference. Not one. Any differences are quite minor – rendering the Bible a true representation of the original manuscripts.

We sometimes may wonder how believers seem to wander so far from Biblical doctrine. Yet, it is easy to see how those who are not students of the Bible might be easily influenced. On the other hand, often, their own desires lead them to listen to false teachings that lead them away from the truth. In his letter to Timothy, Paul warned about this some 2000 years ago:

"For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 2Timothy 4:3

We need only look at the success today of the prosperity gospel – which, as Paul says, is really no gospel at all. 

Cultural Christianity seems rampant – those who say they believe in Jesus but who simply want to talk the talk but not walk the walk. Gaslighting gives them the perfect out.

Photo Credit: 

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Couple having a serious discussion; what is gaslighting?

3. How Can We Protect Ourselves from Gaslighting?

It should come as no surprise that others use the same technique that Satan used in the garden – to get some to question what Jesus said and what he didn’t. “Jesus never said he was the Messiah.” “Jesus never said he was God.” Both of which are falsehoods – 

"The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” - John 4:25-26

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. (John 14:9)

Yet, these lies could be believable to someone who is not saved or who believes but doesn’t study their Bible. These, then, could lead to the conclusion that Jesus was just a prophet or a wonderful teacher. The incredible author C.S. Lewis put it this way:

“I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God. ' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher ... You must make your choice.”

The thing is, we must be prepared. We must know how to answer those who make such ludicrous arguments in an attempt to discredit our faith and/or weaken our trust in scripture. Often, it is even believers who begin to believe the lies, not realizing they have become victims of gaslighting. 

The Apostle Peter puts it this way:

"But in your hearts, revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…" - 1Peter 3:15

Peter may be referring to why we have faith in Christ, but the Bible is certainly the source of the “hope that you have.” It seems that we must also be prepared to defend the Bible when the time comes.

As was said earlier, if you believe you have been the victim of gaslighting – in this case, have accepted and believed lies about the Bible – consult with a trusted Bible teacher. Consult with truly godly friends. Join a Bible study small group or a home church.

After all, if we believe enough to give our lives to Christ or even enough to want to look into it – then isn’t it worth discovering for ourselves the absolute truth?

"I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better." - Ephesians 1:17

Related Resource: How Should Christians Respond When Slighted or Gaslighted?

In this episode of The Thinking Christian Podcast, James discusses the convergence of Easter and the Transgender Day of Visibility that occurred this March 31st. After clearing some ground about the Bible's teachings about our misdirected desires and actions, as well as what it means to be made in the image of God, James discusses the political messaging that can be a distraction to the Church (both on Easter and beyond). Listen in, and be sure to subscribe on Apple or Spotify so you never miss an episode!

Photo Credit: Image created using DALL.E 2024  AI technology and subsequently edited and reviewed by our editorial team.

SWN authorGreg Grandchamp is the author of "In Pursuit of Truth, A Journey Begins" — an easy-to-read search that answers to most common questions about Jesus Christ. Was he real? Who did he claim to be? What did he teach? Greg is an everyday guy on the same journey as everyone else — in pursuit of truth. You can reach Greg by email [email protected]  and on Facebook

Originally published Friday, 24 May 2024.