V"We are incurably religious people. Deep within our flesh is this conviction that we have to rehabilitate ourselves by caring enough, trying enough, working hard enough.
Then I found myself writing these words:“In our flesh we are always looking for something we can do to get right with Him rather than trusting what He has done to make us right, so He can get on with doing something right through us.” "
Critique of the Ministry of Eric and Leslie Ludy
The Presupposition of this Critique:
That Law and Gospel are central to the Christian faith.
The Purpose of this Critique:
To show the underlying theology of the Ludy’s ministry.
To show that their theology is not consistent with the Bible.
To show that their theology is damaging to Christians.
Authentic Beauty and It’s Impact on Christian Girls
From Authentic Beauty, beginning on page 66: “Imagine it is your wedding night... you finally arrive outside the bedroom door of your new home... no sooner do your feet touch the floor than you begin to sense something is wrong. Your husband notices it, too. “What is that smell?” you ask. Piles of garbage are everywhere. A group of your past boyfriends are casually leaning against the wall. ...this is supposed to be your wedding night..and it is quickly turning into the most horrifying experience you could ever have imagined. You glance over at your groom. He is hanging his head mournfully and dejectedly making his way back down the hall.
“Wait! Where are you going?”
“I’m sorry,” he says, shaking his head sadly. “I just can’t be with you tonight ‐ not like this.” ...yet when it comes to intimacy with our Prince, Jesus Christ, so many of us do just that. We pray for more intimacy with Him, ask Him to join us in the innermost part of our being, but we fail to realize there is so much garbage in the way that He can hardly get through the door.”
This disturbing example of shame‐based motivation is one of the key passages in Leslie Ludy’s book Authentic Beauty. It is upon this idea of Jesus not being able to be with us ‐ “not like this” ‐ that she bases the rest of the spiritual sections of her book.
It feels like Leslie Ludy has forgotten one of the key verses pertaining to our salvation: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” ‐Romans 5:8
Let’s look a little deeper. In this story Leslie is painting a picture of a God who walks away in disappointment when our lives are not cleaned up to His specifications. How do we reconcile that with the God who sent His Son to us while we were still sinners? See also Romans 5:6: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”
It could be argued that in this story Leslie Ludy is speaking of “continuing” intimacy with
Christ, or sanctification. She is speaking of the “relationship” we have with our “Prince” Jesus. So, after we are saved, as we work through our sanctification with fear and trembling, do we have to fear that God will say “I can’t be with you like this...” ? Should we be concerned that if we don’t clean up enough Jesus won’t be able to “get through the door...” ?
Colossians 2:10 says “In Him you have been made complete.” It’s done. We’re not lacking
anything. And “if anyone sins we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 1 John 2:1 Christ is our advocate, not a disappointed lover. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says “Therefore if anyone is in Christ he IS a new creation...” and, even better, “their sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Hebrews 10:17
If you haven’t thought through this before it may come as a revelation: We did not need to clean up to receive salvation ‐ neither do we need to clean up to continue to have intimacy, blessings, approval or a relationship with Christ. Even more than that WE CAN’T. It is beyond our ability, beyond our pay grade, beyond everything.
This is one of the most difficult things to accept about Christianity. And this is part of the reason the Ludy’s ministry is so appealing. It appeals to our flesh.
Leslie Ludy continues to spread her own gospel as she shares “practical advice” for “cleaning out your sanctuary.” Cleaning out your inner sanctuary is a process where you go through all kinds of lists that Leslie Ludy has come up with so you can confess, in a specifically prescribed way, your sins in all these areas. Some of these things are not specifically sins. You are told to go through it thoroughly and carefully. The promised result? Intimacy with your “Prince.”
Sanctification by the sheer will of the believer to do the right thing, say the right words, confess the right sins and become the right Christian ‐ the one who will live a “radiant, lily white life.”
Once you become a Christian she believes you need to live as His princess ‐ and here is what she says Jesus has to say about that... (p. 65) “ To live as my princess I must become the center of your very existence. Your innermost being must become a set‐apart place, a sacred sanctuary worthy of my Presence.”
The problem here is that, just as we do not need to clean up to receive salvation, neither do we need to clean up to continue to be saved. Once we become a child of God we ARE set apart, we ARE worthy of His presence. According to Leslie Ludy, if we can’t accomplish her definition of a set apart life, we fail to live as Christ’s Princess. We’re not worthy. That is the weight of her words, the honest, stark truth behind them. The weight of “becoming... worthy of His presence” is a huge, heavy burden to place, as Leslie does here, on the shoulders of adolescent girls. It is a burden Christ never placed on
Christ came to release people from burdens, not place burdens back on them! Now Christian girls hear those same message from the world and instead of hearing a different message from “god” they hear the same song, different verse. If you are pure, you’ll find a man. If you are pure then God will have an intimate relationship with you. If you follow this “formula” which is “God’s plan” then He will bless you. On the surface it appears that the Ludy’s teach clear law and gospel ‐ but they mix in glory theology. Their messages don’t focus you back on the cross ‐ they instead put the focus back on you.
This subtle mix makes their teachings more dangerous than outright heresy because it is more difficult to discern what they are really saying.
Leslie has an audio file on her website that contains some very good Gospel truths about
salvation ‐ that Christ does not hold our sins against us. It sounds as though she is preaching exactly what the Gospel is. She says we do not deserve salvation and yet we have been pardoned. But then she says (speaking of repentance) that “then it [our sin] is no longer a hindrance point in our relationship with Him.”
To God’s eyes, there is no hindrance point. There is nothing. He is King, we are in His Kingdom. He is Father, we are His children. Jesus intercedes for us, and He sees us through the sacrifice of His Son. Jesus died “once for all” ‐ just once for all the past, present and future sins. To believe that when you repent, THEN you are forgiven is to minimalize Christ’s sacrifice and put Him back on the cross every time you sin. Leslie lists off all these things that we do not have to do to be forgiven ‐ or as she says, to “restore intimacy” and yet she then tells Christians that there IS something you have to do ‐ repent of that specific sin! And “in that very instant, it is done, the work is finished, it is nailed to His cross and is no longer a part of who we are.”
Leslie Ludy is telling Christians that the work of forgiveness of their sins was NOT finished when Christ said “it is finished” but it is finished when we repent. When WE lay our sins before Jesus. When WE go through their five step program. When WE take the steps needed to restore intimacy.
I wouldn’t take the word of someone who could only point to one passage ‐ or one book ‐ out of hundreds of pieces of material and I don’t expect you to either. Here are a few excerpts from their books and website to illustrate my point further.
Describing a series of classes at Ellerslie:
“Through this series, students will learn how to find vibrant success in their prayer life, build mighty personal faith, and overcome spiritual weakness in order to be truly ready and able to make a godly impact upon the world.”(http://ellerslie.com/Semester_Training_Overview.html)
Again we see an if/then system with the onus ‐ if ‐ placed upon the believer. Here it manifests in the phrase “in order to be truly ready and able.” Christ makes us truly ready and able to make a godly impact upon the world when we are saved. We do not need to conform to some standard of godliness before we are ready to make an impact. He can use us wherever we are.
Leslie Ludy’s devotional number 5 (http://www.setapartgirl.com/Devotional/Entries/
2010/10/18_answering_the_call.html) states: “He can transform you into a radiant, victorious, worldchanging set‐apart young woman. All you must do is come to him with a heart fully surrendered.”
Once again, the truth that once Christ saves you then you are set apart is completely ignored in favor of making your “set apart” ‐ness dependent on your ability to come to Him with “a heart fully surrendered.”
In a popular video titled The Ellerslie Passion (http://ellerslie.com/The_Ellerslie_Passion.html)
Eric Ludy proves again that he is an amazing speaker ‐ but also promotes their version of “glory theology.” He says “We have massive holes in our life that give the enemy access to do with our life what he sees fit to do. Well, you say “that’s horrible, I’m a Christian!” Yeah! You’re a Christian with breaches! You are not supposed to be a Christian with breaches. One of the key definitions of Christianity can be a man or woman whose walls are repaired, who is made strong so they are useful to God...”(http://
So why is this teaching about breaches wrong? For the same reason that it is wrong to
say that our sins are forgiven “the moment” we confess. It divides “christians” into two categories: Those with breaches and those without. Those who are “just saved” and those who have made Christ their Lord. Those who are just “adding a little morality” to their lives and those who have “cleaned out their inner sanctuary” and are “fully surrendered.”
Leslie Ludy’s devotional on putting emotions in their place: http://www.setapartgirl.com/Devotional/
“...our emotions and desires certainly can be instruments of God to help direct our lives, but only when they are fully yielded to Him. Most of us never truly die to self – we never really walk through the painful process of laying every hope, dream and wish of our heart upon the altar before our King, or of letting our identity become swallowed up in Him.”
The painful process she refers to here is their Five Steps to Freedom/Cleaning Out Your
Sanctuary process. Even if she wrote this section only to encourage girls to continue to seek what is good (as in: “Test everything, hold on to the good...”) then her wording is problematic and dishonest. The wording of “fully yielding” again puts the burden on the believer, rather than on the Holy Spirit, despite her saying in other places “...we do not have to do this alone...” We still have to DO it and the emphasis is on our doing rather than Christ’s already‐has‐done. Not to mention the fact that NONE of us ever truly die to self! We will always have moments where we choose to walk by the flesh instead of
by the Spirit. And yet, in the eyes of God, our identity IS swallowed up in Him.
Remember the wording of the Bible: We ARE made new, we HAVE OBTAINED an inheritance,etc. Contrast that with “never truly die to self...” and “painful process...” and “laying every hope...” and “letting our identity...” and, the ever present ‘fully yielded/yielding...” Verses like “Be Holy, as I am Holy...” are used as inspirations to try harder, do more and make yourselves holier instead of seeing them for what they truly are: reminders that we can not ever be Holy through actions, we are not ever going to make ourselves holier by anything that we do. We do not become “set apart” as we distance ourselves from this world, but instead we are already set apart from the moment we know we have sinned and we believe through faith ‐ which is
itself a gift given through God’s grace.
From the Ellerslie Church statement of faith: “While we do believe that the gifts of the Spirit are in operation today, we believe that the main evidence of a fuller in‐filling of the Holy Spirit is the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit in a believer's life”
There is no “fuller in‐filling” of the Holy Spirit. When you have the Spirit, you have the Spirit. That is that. You are a new creation, you have been given the Spirit. There is no more Spirit you can get!
Do the Ludys Teach a Formula?
In Authentic Beauty Leslie recommends her “Cleaning the Sanctuary” form that you can find online at http://www.setapartgirl.com/innersanctuary_files/Cleaning‐the‐Sanctuary.pdf Eric Ludy has a similar protocol for guys. On the second page you find this heading: Five Steps to Freedom. On Eric’s “guy version” it says Five Glorious Steps to Freedom.
Often when you are wondering if teachers or a group are performance‐based or formula‐based it’s quite subtle and difficult to tell if they are actually teaching a formula or if they just want toencourage people to live Godly lives.
It’s not very often that it’s as blatant as FIve Steps To Freedom.
Is That Wrong?
It is important to note that there are no Bible passages or verses supporting this Five Step
program. Not in the Bible, and not in their material. The only verse included is “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23 (King James)
This verse isn’t even applicable to this process, because it’s about simple repentance ‐
acknowledging that we can do nothing and it is about GOD doing the searching, the trying, the knowing and the leading.
This passage from the book “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse” by Dave Johnson and Jeff Vanvonderen shows a much clearer picture of what the repentance described by David should look like: "We cannot save ourselves, Neither can we sanctify ourselves. When we are redeemed, we are given a brand new heart, implanted by the Holy Spirit. (see Ezekiel 37; Hebrews 11) With that new heart comes a new desire to love God, to serve Him, to live holy. But the question still remains: HOW? The answer given all too often is, "try hard, do more, really mean it this time." Interject the language of
brokenness into that approach. "I can't. I can't subdue it, I can't control it, I am powerless." When we come to that terrifying realization ‐ which we will do everything to avoid ‐ we begin to develop a hunger for our only hope: sanctifying grace." (emphasis mine)
The formulas of Eric and Leslie Ludy are only another human attempt to circumvent the needed realization of our complete failure to begin to fulfill the law. It is encouragement ‐ but encouragement to try hard, do more, really mean it this time. That is what our flesh wants to hear. From Rosenius’ Devotional Commentary on Romans: “Lift up your eyes. Overlook the roughness on the surface. ...If you have the persuasion that you cannot be without Christ because of your sin and unworthiness, this is the simple and lasting sign that you are ‘in the Spirit.’ ...Should we presume that where a Dr. devotes his time all is well and happy? No, where the doctor is there is disease and need. Those who are well (as unbelievers presume themselves to be) do not need a Doctor.”
And what does Romans say about those who are “in the spirit?” There is no condemnation!
Rosenius quotes Praetorius who said “We are not to worry about the judgments of the law any more than the infant lying in the cradle playing with its fingers.”
Are the Ludy’s Teachings Spiritually Abusive?
To answer this question we must take into account the fact that the Ludys do not yet have a large “following” like a Pastor would ‐ they lack the “shepherd” aspect. Because of that it is difficult to judge at this time if the traits of Authoritarian and Suppresses Criticism are applicable. If their church and programs at Ellerslie grow it will be easier to watch for these signs in the future. We are going to look at the other three traits. You can find an outline or “profile” of spiritual abuse at this website: http://www.watchman.org/profile/abusepro.htm
The Ludy’s absolutely preach an image conscious gospel. With the emphasis on “true beauty,”“authentic beauty,” “true purity,” and constant emphasis on things like “...a young woman who is truly fulfilled, radiant and beautiful is one who has made Jesus Christ her all in all...” and “mediocre standards of the world” you can see that their wording and focus is not on what Christ has done but how we should “make” Jesus our all in all so we can be “fulfilled, radiant and beautiful.” (from Leslie Ludy’s
“my message” section of her website: http://www.setapartgirl.com/set‐apart‐message.html )
Wording from chapters in Authentic Beauty: “Lily White,” “Beautiful Reflection,” “Shaping the Outward Lifestyle,” “Lily Whiteness and Romance,” “Feminine Mystique,” “Confident Sparkle,” “Set‐Apart Life.”
The spiritual abuse profile says “Impossibly high legalistic standards of thought or behavior may be imposed on the members. Their failure to live up to these standards is a constant reminder of inferiority.”
That “reminder of inferiority” and the feeling of “If I am a good enough Christian I should be able to do and attain all that the Ludys say I should” is one of the things I have seen figuring prominently in the words, lives and attitudes of girls who subscribe to the Ludy’s teachings. I could hardly find a page in Authentic Beauty that didn’t concern outward appearance. It is often amended with phrases like “His lily‐white princess” and a token reference to the Holy Spirit who “make(s) an ongoing passionate relationship possible” but it always is followed or preceded by “if you then clean up and clean out your sanctuary...” or “you must surrender [your] entire life to him.”
From the spiritual abuse profile:
“A most natural assumption is that a person does not get something for nothing. Apart from the express declarations of salvation by grace through faith God has given in the scriptures, it would be natural to think that one must earn salvation, or at least work to keep it. Thus, in abusive religions all blessings come through performance of spiritual requirements. Failure is strongly condemned so there is only one alternative, perfection. So long as he thinks he is succeeding in his observation of the rules, the follower typically exhibits pride, elitism, and arrogance. However, when reality and failure eventually set in, the result is the person experiences spiritual burnout, or even shipwreck of his faith. Those who fail in their
efforts are labeled as apostates, weak, or some other such term so that they can be discarded by the system.”
The quotes already cited ‐ especially the section from Authentic Beauty where Leslie says God is like a bridegroom who leaves you when you are sinful ‐ shows the perfectionistic tendencies inherent in the Ludy’s ministry. A quick perusal of their website will reveal many, many more anecdotes that push people toward “perfection” that they say we must attain. It’s difficult to see that is their agenda because there are places where they say that it is by Christ’s strength that we attain this new “level” of the gospel. They say that the Spirit “helps” us, but they don’t say we can do nothing. Eric Ludy’s sermon, The Costly Gospel, is introduced in this way: “If the power of the Gospel is to
be fully realized in the life of a believer, then that believer must first be emptied. The principle of the Gospel is always "first death, then life." “ Eric just said something very, very true ‐ the Gospel (and since he capitalized it we can be assured that he is speaking of salvation) is always first death then life! Death in our sins until Christ saves us. But what Eric does not acknowledge is that at the moment of salvation the Gospel IS fully realized! There is nothing more to be done! Even if Eric Ludy is not saying that there are “stages” of salvation, if he is not saying that you can attain a “better” christianity or be “more
christian” or have your christianity “fully realized” in your life, then his wording is, at the very least, dishonest and manipulative, written in such a way as to get others to desire this “full realization” in their own lives that he has found. Human nature is to want the best and to BE the best ‐ to have this “full realization” of the Gospel in their lives.
This perfectionistic attitude is absolutely contrary to the words of our Savior when he spoke of being the least, a servant of all. When you make being “set apart” something that you attain instead of something that you ARE in Christ, then you foster arrogance and pride. You foster self‐righteousness and those who are self‐righteous can’t help but project perfectionistic standards on others. It’s even worse when, like with the Ludys, your self‐righteousness is portrayed as being a sold‐out, awesome, set apart and holier Christian. Self‐righteousness with God’s stamp of approval.
“Abusive religions must distinguish themselves from all other religions so they can claim to be distinctive and therefore special to God. This is usually done by majoring on minor issues such as prophecy, carrying biblical law to extremes, or using strange methods of biblical interpretation. The imbalanced spiritual hobby‐horse thus produced represents unique knowledge or practices which seem to validate the group's claim to special status with God.”
We have to ask ‐ do the Ludy’s push the idea of themselves and/or their followers having a special status? Let’s look again at the words of Leslie Ludy in her “My Message” page on her website:
“In every generation, there are a few...”
Their whole ministry is built on the idea that “a few” Christians will hear them and “give God the pen” to write their story. A “few” special Christians will discover that they can follow this formula and live in “absolute abandonment” to Jesus. While the Ludys are not a cult of Christianity, per se, they definitely do encourage their followers to think of themselves as special. Not because they have been washed by the blood, but because they have “cleaned out their inner sanctuary” and therefore have this level of intimacy with God that your “average” Christian does not.
When talking about her book “The Lost Art of True Beauty” (more “special” language) Leslie says: “In today’s sex‐obsessed society, pop‐culture’s idea of feminine beauty seems to be all about looking like the hottest models, movie stars, or pop‐singers. But the end results are often tragic ‐ overwhelming insecurity, eating disorders, and sexual promiscuity. “
The results of living that life from outward pressure or from feeling like they need to do more,try harder, also ends in tragic results. You have girls trying to live up to “God’s standard of Beauty” which holds even more pressure and even more promise than the pop‐culture’s ideal. When Christian girls read books like this they trade one outward pressure for another.
Is There A Place For “Christian Living” Encouragement?
I can say a resounding YES to the idea that we should encourage one another in the way we
should now live. Christians need to hear that:
They are called to Holy Living
They are unable ‐ even with the Holy Spirit ‐ to accomplish the Holy life.
Any “accomplishments” they make are completely the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
They WILL fail.
No matter what they will never achieve a higher standard of being a better Christian.
God sees them as having already attained the standard. Completely. Perfectly. All due to
Christ’s sacrifice for us.
So then, out of gratitude we do not “try harder” or attempt to become “set apart” and attempt to “clean out our inner sanctuary” but we just respond with gratitude and admit we can’t clean it out ‐ but God has.
We see in Romans 14:1‐2 that we are to “Accept Him whose faith is weak, without passing
judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.”
According to the ideas behind the Ludy’s teachings (and often according to their exact words) the people who have “fully surrendered” are those who are stronger in their faith, those who are more spiritually mature. And spiritually mature means, to them, those who have given up worldly things ‐ beauty magazines, boyfriends, short shorts, etc. And yet here in Romans it describes the stronger faith as the one who has more freedom in Christ ‐ the one who isn’t burdened with “disputable matters.”
According to this verse, not only will the youth at (convention) be learning from those whose theology undermines the foundation of the Christian faith, but those whose faith is weak! We should be accepting of them ‐ not of their message, but of them ‐ as a weaker brother and sister in Christ. Not bringing them to share their weakness and spread it among our youth in the guise of spiritual maturity!
Things that you do, sacrifices you make, yielding and following formulas can make you feel like you are doing something more for Christ or like you are becoming His Lily White Princess. But it can’t strengthen your faith. It also isn’t an accurate measurement for how strong your faith is because if you are doing Christian things out of duty, obligation, desire to have a sanctuary worthy of intimacy with God or whatever Ludy phrase you wish to use, then guess what? It isn’t really faith. Or strength.
As has been mentioned before, the strength and the faith lies in saying I Can’t Do It and
developing that hunger for sanctifying grace that comes from the Spirit.
Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by keeping the law? Of course not, for the Holy Spirit came upon you only after you believed the message you heard about Christ. Have you lost your senses? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? (Gal. 3:2,3)
This diluted version of glory theology, this teaching that undermines Christ’s sacrifice and
pressures and elevates human effort and will is causing me to ask “have you lost your senses?” :) Not in a judgmental way ‐ in a sympathetic way. I grew up with theology much stricter than that of the Ludys and I thoroughly understand how appealing it is and how, sometimes, it is impossible to find the bad in the midst of the christian‐ese.
Romans 12:2 says “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” This verse could, on the surface, support the theology of the Ludys. But investigation of the original language shows that being conformed is something that shows an outward pressure ‐ good or bad ‐ a pressure to change. Even if the pressure is “Biblical” if it is pressure it is “being conformed.” It is “trying to become perfect by your own human effort.”
Transformed has an entirely different meaning. It is the meaning of metamorphosis. Being
changed from within, as a caterpillar changes into a butterfly. This is a process completely alien to the caterpillar who rests in it’s cocoon. This change is being done to it, not being initiated by the caterpillar.
This is true sanctification.
Colossians 2:6 says: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus, so walk in Him.”
How, then, have we received Christ? By His power. By His initiation. By His strength. By His sacrifice. By nothing of our own merit.
So walk in Him.