Can psychopaths be saved?

Posted on 01/30/12 65 Comments

Three years ago I was interviewed by “Christian Cinema” about my then new book Finding God in the Shack. At one point in the interview I talked about the way that grace could even break through the hardened shell of a pyschopathic serial killer:

When I was growing up, I lived near the Pacific Northwest, and we got the Seattle TV stations. I remember hearing every day about this person called The Green River Killer. He was a serial killer who had killed more than 70 women in the Pacific Northwest.

Gary Ridgeway [sic] was caught in 2003, and they had a sentence hearing for him. At the hearing, they had victim impact statements that I saw. There were people whose daughters, sisters, and so on, had been brutally assaulted, raped and killed by this guy. Some of them said, “You’re going to burn in hell for eternity,” and other things, and he sat there with his head bowed.

But one guy got up there and said, “God told me to forgive. He didn’t say who to forgive, He just said forgive.” And suddenly, this person Gary Ridgeway [sic], who’s supposed to be a sociopath, had big tears rolling down his cheeks. I thought at that moment that forgiveness is the most powerful force in the universe.

If I do say so myself, it was a powerful moment in the interview, one used to significant, dramatic effect (though that doesn’t necessarily carry through to the transcript). Few images are more powerful (and for some, offensive) than the picture of a completely debased murderer being extended grace by a bereaved parent.

Some time after I did the interview I mentioned the case to a Christian friend who is a clinical psychologist. However, he didn’t share my warm response to the story. Instead he acted rather dismissively. He pointed out that there are many possible reasons Gary Ridgway may have been crying at that moment, and if he really was a psychopathic personality the tears weren’t the first sign in a story of redemption.

I had to admit he was right. I really had no idea what the tears meant. I chose to interpret them in accord with a narrative of sin-forgiveness/repentance-redemption. However, that didn’t mean they were repentant at all. They could mean all sorts of things. “Self-pity” my friend suggested, but not repentance.

Since that rather deflationary exchange I have read up on psychopathy, and while I am certainly no expert, I now recognize with a deepened sense of alarm the conceptual problems the psychopathic personality presents to the Christian theologian. I’ll be saying more on that in a subsequent post. But for now I want to consider a couple other examples where Christians have misunderstood the psychopathic personality by fitting certain individuals into that same facile framework of sin-forgiveness/repentance-redemption.

Before considering our two examples, I’ll point out two key reasons why Christians are likely to be mistaken in appropriating notorious psychopaths into redemptive stories. To begin with, Christians naturally gravitate toward examples of extreme sinners coming to grace. So-called “trophy conversions” then become a way to strengthen the faith and draw others into it. Thus, you can think of the way one time notorious gang leader of New York,  Nicky Cruz was embraced by Christians after his conversion. Cruz quickly gained a popular following (like many I read his classic autobiography Run Baby Run) because he who had once known the mean streets of New York now knew God’s grace. Since there is nobody more debased than a psychopathic serial killer, these become the ultimate trophies. (Incidentally, less than 0.1% of psychopaths kill. We’ll come back to that later.)

Second, psychopaths are master manipulators who crave attention, including the kind of attention they receive from being considered a trophy conversion. This makes the Christian community vulnerable to being taken in by the psychopath who is only too happy to role-play a starring part in the narrative of redemption.

Ted Bundy

The first case involved perhaps the United States’ most prolific and infamous serial killer of all, Ted Bundy. In 1989 James Dobson interviewed Bundy shortly before his execution. Bundy was well aware that Dobson wanted him to identify as the impetus behind his crimes the social ills that Dobson himself had targeted at Focus on the Family. And Bundy the psychopath was only too happy to oblige as he focused in on the destructive role of pornography as “his newly contrived ‘devil made me do it’ defense to help explain his almost unfathomable murder career.” (Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth, The Only Living Witness: The True Story of Serial Sex Killer Ted Bundy, (Authorlink, 1999), 340).

To be sure, I share Dobson’s revulsion of pornography and his belief that it contributes to many social ills. But in his desire to find a repentant poster child for his fight, Dobson completely ignored the fact that Bundy is first and foremost a psychopath. The consumption of pornography undoubtedly spurred on Bundy’s litany of crimes, but to blame pornography for Bundy is like blaming blood in the water for the shark. Perhaps the shark wouldn’t have attacked when it did had the blood not been there, but the the blood didn’t turn a benign fish into a shark. The shark was the shark by its nature. And Bundy was a psychopath by nature.

Jeffrey Dahmer

Dahmer, the cannibalistic serial killer from Milwaukee, may not have been quite as “prolific” as Bundy, but he was equally grisly, and the discovery of his crimes in the early 1990s deeply scarred the public consciousness. So it is no surprise that many Christians were over-joyed when they heard reports that Dahmer had become a Christian and was seeking baptism. At the time I remember hearing Dahmer’s name often mentioned as an example of grace breaking through to the chief of sinners, in this case a serial killer who dismembered and ate his victims.

Some people were skeptical of course. But consider the following response to those skeptics from Roy Ratcliff in his article”Saving Jeffrey Dahmer“:

This question bothers me. Why question the sincerity of another person’s faith?  Baptism represents a change in lifestyle. A person is expected to change after  being baptized. When people don’t change, we begin to wonder. Why were they  baptized? Did they did not fully comprehend what was involved?

In other words, Ratcliff (who was the Wisconsin minister who baptized Dahmer) wanted people to consider Dahmer not for his heinous crimes but for his life post-baptism.

Fair enough. I take that point. Nonetheless, it is frustrating that Ratcliff seems to display a blissful ignorance regarding the characteristics of a psychopathic personality. We’re not simply talking about John Newton, former slave trader, finding God and penning “Amazing Grace”. We are talking rather about a manipulative, amoral, completely narcissistic psychopathic personality. Does this mean Dahmer is beyond redemption? We’ll talk about that later. But it certainly does mean this: that the highest degree of skepticism is always warranted whenever a psychopath begins to speak about redemption.

  • Robert Gressis

    Not only is there the worry about the possibility of redemption for psychopaths, but there’s also a question of their moral status, period. It may be the case that psychopaths lack certain of the preconditions — e.g., empathy — necessary to appreciate morality. And if they can’t appreciate morality, a question emerges of what our obligations are to them.

    Now, of course, animals and babies can’t appreciate morality either, and we have moral obligations in regard to them. But of course, many people think we’re entitled to do all sorts of things to animals that we’re not entitled to do to adults. E.g., we’re allowed to control where infants and animals go, and even teenagers aren’t granted full autonomy.

    Long story short, they’re a problem not just for Christians, but for everyone who believes in intrinsic moral worth.

    • randal

      Well put. I’ll be delving into some of these issues in a subsequent post.

    • Morrison

      I’ll be blunt, and its a failure on my part, and makes me a lousy Christian, but I don’t care if Psychopaths are saved or not.

    • MattK

      “…animals and babies can’t appreciate morality either….” Re. animals, this may be true to a first approximation (since most animals are insects if for no other reason). But there is evidence of empathy and a sense of fairness in several mammals such as chimps and dogs. Experiments have demonstrated that rats have some empathy for other rats. I don’t think that they appreciate morality intellectually (obviously) but empathy and fairness do not seem to be strictly confined to humans.

      • randal

        My favorite example is vampire bats who share their extra blood by vomiting it into the mouths of other vampire bats. If those other vampire bats don’t share their extra blood when they have it then the original bats who vomited their blood into those hungry mouths will do so no longer.

        The question here is whether or to what degree we are projecting a moral dimension onto animal altruism.

        • MattK

          That’s a neat example of reciprical altruism. I hadn’t really thought of it as an example of a moral system but I suppose in some sense it is.

  • Jerry Shepherd

    Hi Randal,

    Very interesting post. I’ve had neither the time nor the excessive interest to read anything about psychopaths. What little I know the subject comes from documentaries and popular representations in TV crime dramas and one episode of House! So I’ll be interested in what other information you pass on to us in your replies to queries to this article as well as in any further articles. One question I’d like for you to address is the whole nature/nurture question. My understanding, perhaps very deficient, is that psychopaths are incapable of true concern for other persons, and that this incapability is very much a matter of brain chemistry. What does your research indicate to you as to whether this brain chemistry is simply there at birth? Or does it result from environmental and developmental factors? Or are these latter only exacerbating factors?



    • randal

      I’ll be addressing some of these issues in a subsequent post. Suffice it to say at this point that there is a difference between those who opt to use the term “sociopath” and those who use the term “psychopath”. The former implies a greater role for social factors in creating the individual while the latter has a greater emphasis on innate factors in terms of brain chemistry, genetics, et cetera. While there may be cases where environment is formative and reinforcing of innate genetic and biochemical traits and tendencies, the sociopathic diagnosis is undermined by the cases of children who are raised in a perfectly normal household and yet evince deeply disturbed behaviors from the very youngest age.

  • Walter

    If the answer is “no” then why would God create such individuals in the first place? I know the knee-jerk reaction is to claim that it is one result of living in a fallen world, but what does it say about God’s character if he creates some individual souls in such a way as to make them utterly unsaveable. Not a problem for Calvinists since they already believe that God creates many if not most individuals with zero hope of redemption, but is does seem to pose a bit of a problem for non-Calvinists.

  • pete

    Actually, it is a fantastic display of of Calvinism, and judicial principles that Calvinists, Arminians, and Atheists alike embrace.

    Note, the psychopath does not choose to be a psychopath. They just are.

    And as such, they choose to either commit or refrain from certain actions, regardless of the harm it may conflict on another human, and in pursuit of pleasure.

    Our court systems hold them accountable for crimes.

    The “I was made this way” excuse just doesn’t work.

    If we accept the sentencing of psychopaths for their crimes, regardless of their inability to not be a psychopath and in a secular “civil” society, why is there such congnitive dissonance when it comes to issues of God’s sovereign election?

    • pete

      Seems to me like Romans 1 supports Romans 9 quite nicely.

    • Jerry Rivard

      Pete, do you really not see the distinction between a) a society holding its members accountable for their crimes, irrespective of their ability to not commit them, for the protection of that society, and b) an omniscience and supposedly omnibenevolent creator deliberately making someone an irrevocable psychopath and then burning them forever in hell because of the way they were made?

      The “I was made this way” excuse certainly ought to work on the maker himself!

      • pete

        Jerry says:

        “The “I was made this way” excuse certainly ought to work on the maker himself!”

        Paul in Romans 9:19-24 says:

        “You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?”

        And Pete says:

        Who are you, O Jerry, to say what God “certainly ought” to do or not do?

        With respect to God’s election, or a psychopath’s condemation, the difference is a matter of scope, and not type.

        The electric chair is a better fate than hell, but both are God’s justice served for the wickedness of his rebellious image bearers.

        The psychopath appears to be yet another natural teaching point, displaying the truth of justice being served by punishing people for their secular or spiritual crimes, regardless if the psychopath or reprobate were ever able to choose their nature.

        • Jerry Rivard

          Who are you, O Paul, to preach morality from a period in human history when slavery was the norm?

          Why should the words Paul wrote two millennia ago inform my morality today? His moral philosophy, as expressed in the passage you quoted, lacks insight and compassion. Why should I care what he wrote? He possessed no special knowledge of the universe, and in fact was more ignorant of its workings than the average third grader today. Why should I believe it?

          Suppose your child draws a picture and then, displeased by the way it turned out, starts hitting and kicking the picture. Would you smile and say to yourself “he’s such a good boy” or would you think maybe you had an obligation as a parent to investigate that behavior and help him to put his emotions in perspective? I’ll assume the latter.

          Paul is saying, in effect, that human beings are the property of god, and that therefore god has the right to torture them. Just as the drawing was your child’s property. God made us, the child made the drawing. Of course there are differences. The drawing is not conscious, so it does not suffer the punishment inflicted on it. And the child can only “torture” his flawed drawing for so long, not for eternity.

          And most importantly, the child will grow out of it, but your god never will. Your god is Anthony Fremont. We should all be grateful that he doesn’t exist.

          • pete


            We live in a society that one half advocates for abortion, while most of the other half remains silent.

            With aborition, corporate greed, indifference to slavery around the world just so long as it props up our economies…………. you think we are more moral than 1st century Palestine.


            Secondly, you think it is alright for the creation to punish psychopaths, but not the creator?


            • Christie

              God did not create people to be psychopathic. It was the fall of the angel called Lucifer and the interbreeding between the fallen angels and humans that created this abomination of evil incarnate. In the bible it says that there is a special place in hell for those fallen angels that have corrupted God’s favorite creation.

        • Jerry Rivard

          “With respect to God’s election, or a psychopath’s condemation, the difference is a matter of scope, and not type.”

          Absolutely wrong. The psychopath is punished by the society in which he lives, which did not create him. The reprobate are punished by god for being exactly the way god created him. How is this unclear?

          • pete

            Again… you think you can punish the psychopath, but the creator can’t.

            The huburis displayed further confirms my Calvinism.

            Sad but true.

            • randal

              There is a rather glaring disanalogy Pete. Human beings did not create the psychopath with the inability to grasp emotion and empathy for others.

              • pete

                I quite clearly understand the disanalogy.

                As you yourself assert that we did not create the psychopath, it appears you give leave for the fact that the psychopath was created in the first place.

                There certainly is a congruency between God’s creation of psychopaths, and God’s creation of the reprobate. I think both Arminianism and Calvinism are comfortable with that prima facie assertion.

                Simply put, I object to other creation taking for themselves an authority or priviliege that they deny the creator.

                To me, and I think to God, that is an exceptionally arrogant posture for humanity to adopt.

                • Ray Ingles

                  On what foundation does the principle that ‘the creator of something owns it’ rest?

                  • pete

                    on the principle that life is a gift, and God has blessed us thoroughly with that gift.

                    Life is within God to give and take.

    • randal

      Pete, I think your analysis is a bit half baked. The Calvinist repudiates the principle “ought implies can”. That is the crucial principle at issue. It isn’t clear that it is relevant in the case of psychopathy however because it isn’t obvious that the moral perception the psychopath lacks is essential to the proper observation of society’s moral norms. I suggest that we hold off on attempting to vindicate our pet theology until we’ve thought through the full implications of the phenomenon.

      • pete

        You may see it as half-baked.

        I see it as a natural occurring phenomena that at least prima facie shows logical and moral congruency between judicial sanction against an offender based on choice above and beyond nature.

        After establishing the similarity in type, since I hope nobody feels Ted Bundy was not served justice, I then proceed to draw a link between Ted Bundy’s terrible irrevocable punishment, and the ultimate terrible sactions that God sentences rebellious image bearers at the end of the Bible.

        In accordance with general revealtion, I think it is fair to say that the psychopath shows us that people can justly be punished regardless of their nature, and that the punishment, although terrible and irrevocable, satisfies the principles of justice.

        As such, I do expect a two-bird with one stone approach for supporting Calvinism and ECT is going to draw a response ;)

        • Walter

          I see it as a natural occurring phenomena that at least prima facie shows logical and moral congruency between judicial sanction against an offender based on choice above and beyond nature.

          A psychopath may be justly punished because he or she is willingly violating the laws of the community where he or she lives–regardless of whether they can’t *feel* that what they’re doing is immoral. The key here is that the psychopath made a free choice to commit acts that society condemns. The analogy breaks down when applied to Christian theology. God sets an impossible standard of righteousness that no human being can live up to. He also creates all human beings since the first two with a hardwired desire to rebel against His standard, then sentences everyone except a lucky few to an eternity of suffering for not meeting a standard for which no one that He creates is capable of adhering to in the first place. That is twisted.

          • Jared

            What if the argument moves away from extremes?

            What about other intrinsic character traits? I have a temper; a colleague is jealous (seemingly) by design; my mother worries like no one else I have ever met. Each of these characteristics seem hard wired into us.

            If we expect an out-and-out psychopath to be punished for his crimes of nature by our standards, isn’t is just a matter of degrees by which we are accountable for our own nature? Don’t I deserve punishment for my angry nature? Doesn’t my mother for her worrisome nature?

            The point is that if we’re assuming justice is served by punishing nature then it’s open season. (so to speak)

            • Walter

              For the sake of the discussion I am equating psychopathy with total amorality. The psychopath would know at an intellectual level that it is wrong to rape and murder, but it would not *feel* wrong. Thus if the psychopath rapes and murders despite knowing that it is wrong on an intellectual level, he or she should justly be punished, or at least be locked away to protect society. The scenario would be different for an insane person who through a mental defect has an insatiable need to harm or kill others. This person would still need to be isolated from the rest of society, but this person would deserve treatment for a mental defect, not retribution for acts committed because of a compulsion brought on by a mental disorder.

          • pete

            As for Christian Theology, you are mistaken.

            Calvinism confirms that God’s will and human free choice is compatible.

            Bad guy wills their actions for evil, and God wills it for a greater good.

            You may disagree with my perspective, but you are mistaken about Christian Theology (the subset of Calvinism)

            The point is that how you see psychopaths is how Calvin and I see the reprobate.

            Its the same.

            • pete

              I meant to say “Calvinism… which is a systematic perspective within Christian Theology”

            • Walter

              Calvinism confirms that God’s will and human free choice is compatible.

              Calvin believed a lot of things that make little sense.

              The point is that how you see psychopaths is how Calvin and I see the reprobate.

              Its the same.

              Yes, I know. It’s why I drew the comparison in the first place. There seems to be something very wrong when a person can praise a deity who creates a torture chamber in his divine basement, and has every intention of using it to further his own glory. Then this same deity creates the majority of people to be completely irredeemable, actually insuring that his torture chamber will be thoroughly populated. This concept of god is monstrous.

              • pete

                Well, I see God primarily through his historical acts of glory and mercy.

                I don’t know how God’s sovereignty marries up with human free will, but I believe it to be so.

                I think that hell is the final irrevocable punishment for spitting on the Cross of Christ.

                I think that in light of God’s decree of death for sin, and further righteousness in sending his own begotten Son, I simply don’t think we are in a positon to judge God, or tell him what he should or should not do.

                • Walter

                  I don’t know how God’s sovereignty marries up with human free will, but I believe it to be so.

                  I believe it is *not* so. If I am controlled, my actions are not free, and the one controlling my actions would be the ultimate source of my actions.

                  I think that hell is the final irrevocable punishment for spitting on the Cross of Christ.

                  Doubting certain Christian dogmas is not the same thing as “spitting on the cross.”

                  …I simply don’t think we are in a positon to judge God, or tell him what he should or should not do.

                  I am not judging God; I am judging your human conception of God; I am judging your fallible, human theological beliefs about God. When people say you shouldn’t judge God, what they are really doing is trying to deflect honest criticism from their own particular views about God.

                  • pete

                    And my “fallible views” come from what I have on good evidence is an infallible book, supported by time tested evidence.

                    You do more than enough criticising of my view of God.

                    Do you care to share your own, so that I may be edified by them?

                    • Jerry Rivard

                      Pete, could you cite a few examples of the evidence you are referring to?

                      You say there is evidence that the bible is an infallible book. What evidence is there of that? Is there any evidence to the contrary?

                    • Walter

                      “And my “fallible views” come from what I have on good evidence is an infallible book, supported by time tested evidence.”

                      Even a hypothetically infallible book is only as good as the interpreter of that book.

                      Every sect is a certificate that God has not plainly revealed his will to man. To each reader the Bible conveys a different meaning. –Robert Ingersoll

                    • Jerry Rivard

                      Seriously, Pete, what is your evidence that the bible is an infallible book?

          • Mary

            One thing you omitted in this comment about God creating man that has fallen from grace ( at the Garden of Eden) and now contains this sinful nature. God has also given us the promise of eternal life in that if we admit our sinful nature, and we believe on his son Jesus Christ (Whom He raised from the dead) we can be redeemed back to God. Once this is done in sincerity towards God, you will have a new nature,- which is not from this world, and this choice will lead you to all truth through his Word. So God did provide a way for you to be an over comer,- but you have to be willing to take this first step of faith and believe in His Son whom he sent to redeem the world back to himself.

    • Walter

      We punish them because they still freely choose to break the law. Even if they have no innate sense of morality, they would still know that society can and will condemn them for certain actions if they are caught. If a person is insane and commits crimes, they receive treatment instead of punishment. Insanity would be more analogous to the Christian dogma of Total Depravity. People would be born “insane” with an insatiable desire to sin and can not help what they do. That type of person should receive help instead of retribution.

      • pete

        Thats why there is a difference legally between the criminally insane and psychopaths.

        In Canada, we have the “NCR” (not criminally responsible) designation.

        A person who doesn’t know whether you are a human or zombie is different than Paul Bernardo or Clifford Olson.

        And it is reflected in verdict and sentencing.

        • Walter

          Thats why there is a difference legally between the criminally insane and psychopaths

          I agree.

          Where you and I differ is that you see humanity as analogous to psychopaths, whereas I would say that “insane” would be a far better analog for the Augustinian notion of total depravity–a notion that I reject, of course.

          • pete

            insanity would imply that people don’t really know what they are doing.

            I believe that people know what they are doing, and just don’t care.

            We all (except really small children and the insane) know what is right and wrong.

            • Walter

              insanity would imply that people don’t really know what they are doing.

              I would look at it more like an extreme compulsion. An insane person might have a compulsion to seriously harm others. They would not be held morally accountable for doing something that is beyond their ability to control. Christian theologians claim that we humans are born with a compulsion to commit acts of sin, so why are we held culpable for a nature that we did not ask for, a nature which compels us to do bad things?

              • pete

                Nope…. I’m right…. and here is why.

                I had a childhood friend, whose schizophrenic brother chopped his mom to death with an axe, and nearly killed his dad who was trying to defend the mom.

                Why did this happen? His positive symptoms (positive meaning that which is added to normal human experience, while negative symptoms are that which are taken away from normal human experience)….

                His positive symptoms led him to believe that his mom was a zombie of some sort.

                He wasn’t compelled. He did the same thing that most people would do to a real zombie if one was to cross their path.

                Just like a person would drink sand that they thought was water from an oasis.

  • Jag Levak

    “To be sure, I share Dobson’s revulsion of pornography and his belief that it contributes to many social ills.”

    “Contributes” is pretty vague. I could similarly think that Christianity has contributed to many social ills, but 1) that doesn’t mean that Christianity necessarily and unavoidably led to the many bad effects and outcomes which were associated with it, 2) doesn’t mean that elimination of Christianity would have eliminated the bad outcomes associated with it, and 3) doesn’t do anything to weigh the possible benefits against the ills.

    Is your belief based on anything other than your own personal revulsion of porn? Is there any social ill that you think it contributes to which has seen an upward spike reflective of the massive increase in porn consumption brought about by the internet?

    “But in his desire to find a repentant poster child for his fight, Dobson completely ignored the fact that Bundy is first and foremost a psychopath. The consumption of pornography undoubtedly spurred on Bundy’s litany of crimes,”

    Which brings us to the question of what, exactly, constitutes pornography. What I’ve heard is that thorough searches of Bundy’s property turned up only cheerleader camp brochures (thousands of them), majorette magazine photographs, and “true crime” books and comics. Not the sort of material which most people would consider porn, but it apparently served that function for Bundy. I also recall a child porn prosecution case in Florida many years ago where the prosecutable material included pictures of 10 to 14 year old girls in underwear cut from Sears and other department store catalogs. If it is used as stroke material in a manner like pornography, is that all that is needed to make it de facto pornography?

    “We are talking rather about a manipulative, amoral, completely narcissistic psychopathic personality.”

    That could describe more than a few religious leaders.

    • randal

      “Is your belief based on anything other than your own personal revulsion of porn? Is there any social ill that you think it contributes to which has seen an upward spike reflective of the massive increase in porn consumption brought about by the internet?”

      I think Brad Haggard provided a number of good sources in your discussion with him.

      “Which brings us to the question of what, exactly, constitutes pornography.”

      I think a reasonable way to deal with this issue is to identify different ways that a medium might be considered pornographic the two most obvious being the intention of the producer and the intention of the consumer.

      Finally, you are correct: some charismatic religious leaders arguably are psychopaths, although we should be careful about applying the label too liberally.

      • Jag Levak

        “I think Brad Haggard provided a number of good sources in your discussion with him.”

        Really? They didn’t look so good to me–as I covered in that same thread. And the only study which purported to show a temporal relationship between porn and a societal ill was that laughable Playboy study that even Brad had to concede was a joke. I did not find where any of his links showed an increase in any societal ill corresponding to the internet porn explosion.

        “I think a reasonable way to deal with this issue is to identify different ways that a medium might be considered pornographic the two most obvious being the intention of the producer and the intention of the consumer.”

        So when producer and consumer have different intents, which gets priority? And which intent do you think is the one “contributing” to societal ills?

        “some charismatic religious leaders arguably are psychopaths, although we should be careful about applying the label too liberally.”

        Which raises the obvious question: who has the better shot at coming to grace–the psychopath who knows he is doing wrong, or the psychopath who is convinced of his own righteousness?

  • pete

    I am so sinful. I forgot the title of this post.

    Of course a psychopath can be saved. A psychopath can be saved if God intervenes in their life in a very special way.

    Since Jerome was cited as mistranslating the vulgate, adding “pennance” in place of the correct “repent”, the greek word for “repent” implies a changing of the mind.

    Since psychopaths do not have the necessary comnponent (remorse) for repentance, they can not be saved…. unless….

    God changes their mind so that they can repent.

    Just like God can change our minds so that we jettison pride, lust, envy, greed, hate and so forth, so that we desire to bow at the feet of the Lord Jesus Chist.

    So from a Christian perspective:

    we can either throw up our hands and say that the psychopath cannot be saved…. since they don’t have the ability to express remorse and repent…


    We can see that God has the ability to choose some people for the regeneration of their minds, psychopath and non-psychopath alike, for the purposes of redemption.

    My prayer is that we soon experience the legitimate testimony of a former or current psychopath to either confirm or deny my hypothesis.

    • pete

      All this is to say that we can not save ourselves.

      Only God can save us.

      • pete

        and if you turn to Him, he will save you.

        Thats my final word.

  • Ed Babinski

    God on Trial, The Philosophical Significance of Psychopaths: Postmodernism, Morality, and God by David N. Stamos

    A Baptist deacon for 56 years, this guy could no longer stay quiet about Calvinism’s belief that some babies are predestined for eternal hell. He wrote a book, Calvin the Psychopath:

    Quite a few of the more infamous statesmen and churchmen of history were not called criminals only because they were powerful enough to define what was “crime” in their society.
    –Robert Anton Wilson, The New Inquisition

  • Ed Babinski

    Benedict Carpzov (1595-1666) [a jurist of strict Lutheran opinions], lived to a ripe old age and looked back on an admirable life in the course of which he read the Bible fifty-three times, took the sacrament every week, greatly intensified the methods and efficacy of inquisitional torture [see his work, Neue sachsische Kriminalpraktik], and procured the death of twenty thousand persons.


    Hugh Trevor-Roper, The European Witch Craze [See also Johannes Janssen (trans., A. M. Christie), History of the German People After the Close of the Middle Ages, Vol. XVI (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd., 1910), p. 199-201]

    • randal

      Personally I prefer the legacy of George Muller.

  • not korah

    Why can’t we just accept that some people are simpy made this way? The Bible has NO problem telling us this, but with all the psychology myths and ideas we are trained up with, we insist on wanting to believe that all can be helped. For those of us old enough to see, psychology has a new theory every year and they don’t bother telling us, they just present the latest one as fact. One of the things about psychopaths is that they are ALWAYS okay with what they are. It’s the gift they are given on this earth. Their brains don’t process emotions like shame or guilt and they also can’t feel grateful. They are the perfect representation of satan, so once you realize this, read John 8:44-45. Jesus didn’t tell us to try to “understand” these evil people. He just called them what they were. Mri’s can show if someone has the brain functioning of a psychopath, so it doesn’t have to be a big long drawn out debate. It can be proven in the span of a day in an mri set up to check for it. Youtube has videos.
    Isaiah 66:3 “They have chosen their own ways, and their souls delight in their abominations.” Psalm 58:3 “Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies.” How can it be that since they are BORN this way, that they have CHOSEN to be this way? Who knows for sure but my guess is that God knew (as He does) that this person was going to be against him, against all, before he created him, and God just gave the rest of us a chance to see it in a physical representation. We didn’t have mri’s in the past but for those of us horrifically familiar with psychopathy, there are MANY other ways to tell.
    The biggest thing is that there is no truth in them, this if from John 8:44-45. This is the key to all of it. There is NO TRUTH IN THEM. 2 Tim 3:1-5 is also a perfect “checklist” to use. Dr. Hare has his but the one in 2 Tim is much better with harder hitting truths. At the end it tells us what we are to do with them and that is to have NOTHING to do with them.
    So many lies we are taught in the church, in the world and how there is no real disticition between what the church teaches and psychology. That we should try to “understand” it and fix it. But not everything is meant to be fixed by us humans and this is one of them. What we could spend time doing is learning the TRUTH about Gods word and then reaching out to people in need of this education. Be a servant to all, right? But remember, it’s a servant of JESUS, to all. Jesus DID NOT serve Satan or bow down to him and when we serve, it is as a servant OF JESUS, so we too should not bow down to evil. We see over and over through examples of the holocaust etc that if you don’t take a stand against evil, and try to allow it in in small parts, or small ways just in order to “get along,” that it eventually overruns and overtakes everything. As much as we hate to admit it, psychopaths are unreedemable. Too bad, get over it. But if you don’t want to believe it, please feel free to start a clinic for treating them, where you are leagally responsible for them, and where we can send them so that they can be helped. I would like to have the other clinic, the one far away from yours, for the victims of these evil people. I’d love to show these souls that Jesus loved them enough to show other people that psychopaths were evil from birth to death, and that with all the lies they’d been taught like” we’re all the same” (sinners, yes, but not all are psychopaths) and then help them truly recover and heal by teaching them their own weakness, which is what psychopaths prey upon, and then giving them the tools to identify and stay away from them. Matthew 10:16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Education about evil so we can identify it and turn away from it, if possible.
    For those of you who are not familair with the horrors of being in any kind of relationship with a psychopath, and you feel like I’m being unresonable (remember the devil sounded sssoooooo reasonable when he was talking to Eve) please pray that God shows you the truth, through His Word. I would love to be completely ignorant about psychopathy, but God thinks differently, so here it is.

    • Sally

      Thank you, what you say is true. I’ve been the victim of a psychopathic Church pastor and I can only say “I hate him”. Psychopaths are evil liars, abusers and tormentors and excellent con artists. This wretch is known to the Church leaders, yet they ignore it all and have chosen to attack his victims.

      I, and another lady whom he told to “Go to Hell” (she was also physically assulted by his son) were sent letters from the Church’s Legal Department, accusing us of defamation and threatening court action if we continued to talk. This was a result of reporting this wretch and his abuse etc. We now attend another Church.

      This psychopath leaves a trail of destruction everywhere he goes, yet he is just moved from place to place instead of being punished and sacked from his position. I believe it is because they are afraid and don’t want to face the situation.

    • !?!

      So God sends people to hell for there genes? Because it’s been show pretty clearly that psychopathy is primarily genetic. Also would you favor a eugenics solution? After all that would be the fastest way to deal with this problem and they’re all going to hell…

      • 2 Corinthians 13:8

        Discernment, discretion, God is always forewarning his people that who they choose to procreate with DOES matter. But we live in a culture (most western cultures promote this) that we should not discriminate (discern) and they tell us that
        if we don’t pretend that we are all the same, that WE are evil and judgmental. So those of us with a conscience were forced to deny the innate voice that forewarned
        us that we may be in grave danger. Some of us were so completely bamboozled by the lie that we are all born as a “blank slate,” that we married psychopaths and gave birth to their offspring.

        The Bible is always clear on things and yes, people will go to hell for being evil, as per the above response, it says that God knew before they were born that they were against him and he gave us a way to identify them. He BLESSED us
        with the ability to identify them (psychopaths), but instead of being grateful or letting other humans know this, people who WANT the lie of the world to work, battle amongst themselves. Why? Because we were never told the truth by anyone. (Psychology or Christian churches) So any who promote denial that some people are born evil, (deny the truth) and since we were raised on this lie and taught
        that WE were evil for thinking that people could be BORN without hope for being “good”, we get mad when told the truth. If the opposite of what we were taught is true, we are forced to see that we’ve been lied to on such a colossal level, and will have to go back over our whole life and learn to see
        the truth rather than what we were told was the truth, well, it’s a severe shock to say the least! It’s daunting,
        heartrending, soul-crushing, yet oh-so-true and necessary. But this is where those of us who are born with a conscience may find our only true hope. “The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed
        in spirit.” This doesn’t seem like a gift to those who have been so badly destroyed by evil but, guess what, WE are truly blessed. Psychopaths LOVE what
        they are and yes, they chose. “From the womb the wicked go astray, from the womb they are wayward and speak lies.” Instead of looking at what these commenters have to say, look instead to God’s word. But the non-psychopaths have a chance to know God.

        WANTING to believe something is true does not make is so. WANTING to be able to fix everything doesn’t make it so either.

        But what if you’d been told the truth since you were born? What if others had cared enough about YOU (and the others here) who’d be so broken and bruised, that they’d taken the truth from God’s word and taught it to us from our childhood?
        What if we didn’t have to be so very badly destroyed because those who went before us were willing to speak the truth and deny the lies forced on their heads by people who were incapable of caring about others?

        Ravi Zacharias pointed out that when Christianity is removed from a society, the eastern religions are quick to fill in the gap. In case you aren’t aware of one of the traits of a psychopath, let it be pointed out. PSYCHOPATHS ARE
        ALWAYS AGAINST SOMETHING OR SOMEONE. ALWAYS! They are against God certainly but this inherent trait to be against (He will OPPOSE and EXAULT himself…) is
        always there. Now, many of the “most” western cultures (those that pride themselves on their humanitarian accomplishments), are actually full of the most dangerous type of psychopath. These are the socialized psychopaths
        that operate within the realm of society and get their fix by being stealthy and manipulating within the framework of societal norms. These uber-civilized cultures proudly point out that they’ve removed God from almost every aspect of
        their society. One of the reasons that they can be so successful is because they can APPEAR to be so much more benevolent and NON-JUDGEMENTAL (discernment
        is of God, they’ve managed to get rid of the need for this) than others. (Oh, by the way, this is another tactic of the devil and psychopaths; they seem good IN COMPARISON to others, as they set themselves up to look this way.) If you
        can get the majority of people who are psychopaths to be against a “common enemy” you have a better chance of keeping their evil occupied. These very civilized cultures did two very strong things (pointed their high percentage of psychopathic populations) toward two targets. One was sports, and this came in the form of soccer. The other easy target (because it was so strong and shiny,as it had the light of God) was the United States. (No worries here though as
        the US is quickly catching up with the cultures that deny God and remove him from their culture.) The common hatred for the US is a predominate theme in many western cultures. And soccer, with its wide-spread appeal, was also a great diversion. Busy, Busy, Busy. Let’s keep the psychopaths focused on the evil United States even though when they need its strength and generous-heartedness, they are never shy about DEMANDING that they do something and then they are just as quick to accuse it of not doing enough. Now if you’re OFFENDED by what is written here, just think about it. Not just for a day but for a while. Weeks. If you are NOT a psychopath and have been raised on the stuff written above, REALLY LOOK AROUND YOU. Try not participating in US
        bashing. Try not to have an opinion about the soccer scores or the team that’s winning or losing. Try/test kindly and gently inserting a Bible verse with the name of Jesus in it. See what the reaction is of your countrymen. Do they get edgy or angry when you refuse to US bash? Do they get angry when the name of Jesus is mentioned, even when done so in a loving manner? These are signs that you are dealing with (at the very least) people who are against God, but you may also realize that you have been completely hoodwinked by your entire country. Now, back to the seeming benevolence of these humanitarian cultures. They denied that people were born evil; they did away with the forewarnings of
        God’s word and even human observances (after all most of us COULD SEE that genetics played a part in lineages but with the advent of psychotherapy we were forced to deny this), and they embraced and invited in those who practiced the eastern religions. How do these societies look now? Was their seeming benevolence (look at how kind-hearted WE are in comparison to you meanies!) rewarded with the expected lie forced on us by psychology? Did the majority of these people you invited in, blend into the culture and love in return, and appreciate the kindness shown to them? No. Why? Because SOME PEOPLE ARE BORN EVIL, AND
        KNOWS how it works. IT DOES MATTER WHO WE LET COME INSIDE OF US and this includes SPIRITUALLY. Inviting “spirits” in who are not of God will overtake and possess your soul. The same with not noticing that there are
        entire cultures who have many people who are psychopaths.

        Eugenics. You asked if this was a solution to the problem. Well, when a person has sex with someone of the opposite sex they are in effect practicing this, so EVERYONE practices eugenics to a certain degree. And even though they don’t
        CALL it eugenics, cultures that promote no birth control and force people to procreate without all the facts, are practicing this. Maybe you should turn your anger and hatred on these cultures and religions and see the response you get. It won’t be pretty.

        It’s a NARROW gate, the gate that leads to life, and it is often lonely in this world. There’s a good little cartoon video series on Youtube that’s based on the book, “The Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan, (downloaded by Scott Cawthon)
        and it may help your heart if you choose to view it. But pay attention, the main character Christian is often alone on his journey, and he has to perpetually discern who is genuine and who is not. This is an accurate way to look at this
        life. If you are a Christian in this current world, even though it appears that we have a shiny facade with medical breakthroughs right around the corner and technological
        advances that boggle the mind, nothing has changed in the spiritual sense. This world has the same sin and the same genetics that it had when the first human was born to man (he also happened to be the first psychopath, Cain). We also have the same God. And through his Word, and through his sacrifice of himself /and his son Jesus, we have the same hope that those who turn to him had. Hope for the future…….that we will spend eternity with The TRUTH.

  • Charlee

    NO ! But they can become Salvation Army Officers !!

  • Dr Herbert Barber

    Those who argue on behalf of psychopaths have never been the target of these evil sub-humans. My wife and I have been destroyed by not one, but two, psychopaths over the last 10 years… far worse than words can describe. May Satan have mercy on their souls, for these people will indeed spend eternity in hell. As for my opinion, hell can’t be hot enough for them.

  • Elizabeth

    I believe that psychopaths are not human, they are of Satan and only know how to destroy people’s lives.
    There are some in The Salvation Army as Officers and nobody has the guts to send them packing. Instead, those who report their abuse etc are branded the villains.
    They are nothing but evil predators. I know because I was a victim and it still haunts me. I will never recover.

  • colton

    I see this article and I have asperger syndrome, a mild symptom of autism spectrum disorder. I feel hurt yet maybe bitter about some comments.
    Though I feel deeply regretful for everything these commentators have gone through.

    I accepted Christ when I was 7. Though I reflect know and I remember that I heard Satan tell me that God was stupid. On the way home from my grandparents my Dad told me that I should pray to receive the Holy Spirit in my heart, this was July 15th, 2005 . Later that day I saw a cartoon w/ imagery of Hell and I was repeatedly crying in fear for an hour.

    A similar experience happened when I was 9, I came home from Wednesday night church and something ( a demon or spiritual force) told me that I was going to die in ten minutes and be in hell. i cried and my sub- conscience saw flames.

    Since last school year, when I was a freshman I have had hard times controlling my sub-conscience. One time I began talking w/ my parents about everything hard in my Biology class (I never passed a test since the 2nd one of the semester) and all of a sudden I was shaking and getting angry w/ my parents because they couldn’t understand what was going on
    and I pointed my finger in front of the bed and told Satan to leave. Something was telling me that I should shoot my parents.

    Two weeks earlier the same day as the Newtown incident, (which I didn’t find out until later), in the middle of class my sub-conscience had a rampage and I went into the city killing men ( not women, or children). Then My parents were there I told them to shut up ( my brother wasn’t there probably because he didn’t care), and I ended up falling off a cliff.

    Again, I’m not trying to ask for a therapist here, but i wonder Ha(s) – Satan a.k.a “the accuser” been messing with me through my life.? Sometimes I feel like I’ve reached for God’s grace and sometimes not, (the time right after Newtown I was mad at God for everything – Sub-conscience, Autism, Satan and uneasiness). My email is

  • Heartbroken

    I love a person whom I believe is a psychopath.I chose to walk away for my own safety but I still love him with all my heart. I know it’s easy to debate when it’s someone you hardly know or can detach from but this is tormenting me. There is nothing I would want more than for him to change but I know it is impossible.I pray to God to ease this pain for me.I don’t understand why he would be punished in such a way.I cannot describe holding someone in my arms with all the love I had to give and see that it is not able to get through his shell.I am heartbroken and don’t know how I will ever find peace.Thank you for letting me share my story here since no one knows it.

    • Pris0ner

      I have empathy for you. I know your story all too well.

  • NoWay

    Dahmer was baptized into a sect (Stone-Campbellite) that teaches that water-baptism is necessary for salvation. That’s a far, far cry from being saved.
    Bundy probably went along with it so he could spend his last hours with a woman in his cell (the pastor’s wife). I mean, look at his response when Dobson brings up his “salvation”. Zero emotional response, obvious complete lack of interest.
    Berkowitz (Son of Sam), though, might well be a different story. His testimony is quite powerful.

  • Wow!

    One can be a slave trader without being a psychopath or at least a secondary psychopath?

  • El_Del

    Psychopaths have no morality, therefore they can’t feel guilt and repent. This might seem unfair to the psychopath. But, God has a perfect sense of justice and will judge everyone according to their behaviours and thoughts, in the context of the opportunities and resources they were given. This includes psychopaths being judged in a perfect way that, with our finite sense of God-given justice, we will find satisfactory. I don’t know what will happen to psychopaths, but when I find out what it is, I doubt I’ll disagree with it (same with people who never hear the Gospel and thus can’t accept Jesus). In the meantime, if we are wronged by psychopaths, it is not for us to condemn or postulate on their eternity, but to forgive.