Dr Caroline Leaf and Her House of Cards

Dr Caroline Leaf has built herself an empire like a house of cards.

Not like the Netflix drama, “House of Cards”.  Dr Leaf is nothing like Frank Underwood, although some of President Underwood’s best quotes might be applicable to her ministry … “The road to power is paved with hypocrisy, and casualties” and “There’s no better way to overpower a trickle of doubt than with a flood of naked truth”.

Rather, Dr Leaf’s empire resembles a giant house of cards.  It might look majestic and inspiring, but it only takes one puff of scrutiny and the entire thing collapses on itself.

Many people have asked me over the years, in person and on comments on the blog, whether I have ever spoken to Dr Leaf, Matthew 18-style, about the concerns that I have with her ministry.  Did I approach Dr Leaf privately first, then approach leadership, before going public?  Have I given Dr Leaf the right of reply?  Am I just being critical for criticisms sake?

To mark the auspicious occasion of Dr Leaf’s arrival in Australia for her 2016 tour, I’ve decided to definitively answer those questions.  Knowledge is power, so I think it’s important that Dr Leaf’s followers, and those who read my site looking for answers, can see the process that has taken place.  That way, people can judge for themselves whether my actions and Dr Leaf’s responses are justified or not.

I heard Dr Leaf preach for the first time in early August 2013.  I had heard her name bandied around, but didn’t know anything about her, so while she was in Australia that year I decided I would find out who she was and what she had to say.  I attended her service at Kings Christian Church on the Gold Coast, and I left with very strong concerns about her scientific and scriptural accuracy.  How was I to respond?

In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus gives us the following template for resolving issues between believers,

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

The verse talks about sin here, though for the record I’m not saying Dr Leaf ‘sinned’ when she spoke, although some of what she said certainly flirted with heresy.  Still, it was important enough that I felt it needed to be addressed.  So I followed the biblical pattern as best as I could.

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.”
That’s a bit hard because Dr Leaf chooses to avoid the rank and file members of the congregations she visits.  Certainly on that day I first heard her preach, she was nowhere to be seen after the services.

“… take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’”
Again, that’s a bit hard when Dr Leaf disappears after the service, and moves from church to church.

However, I tried to do the next best thing, in that I e-mailed the pastor of Kings Christian Church to voice my concerns.

“If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church …”
I also took step number three.  I took my concerns to the church worldwide via my very first blogs on Dr Leaf’s ministry.

As it panned out, the senior pastor at Kings offered to pass on my concerns to Dr Leaf.  A short time later, I got a reply from Dr Leaf’s team, not privately in response to the e-mail, but publically as a comment on my blog.  Mac Leaf, Dr Leaf’s husband, didn’t address any of the significant issues that I raised, but asserted that his wife was completely justified and I was clearly out of touch.

And so I replied to his ad hominem dismissal, and my reply has become the most read of all of my posts.  As part of that blog, I gave an open invitation for Dr or Mr Leaf to respond.  The offer was met with stone cold silence.

I’ve made other offers since.  I offered to meet with Dr Leaf in any city in Australia, at my expense, to discuss my concerns and give her the opportunity to respond.  More silence.  I expanded the offer to include any city in New Zealand as well.  Still no response.

In August last year, Dr Leaf came to preach at Nexus Church in Brisbane.  This was only the second time I had an opportunity to hear her speak live.  Her teaching hadn’t improved any, but I thought that I would at least introduce myself and shake her hand as I considered that the honourable thing to do.  However, I was physically blocked by her presidential style detail – she was literally surrounded by eight people and there was auxiliary guard posted at the door to block anyone from approaching her human shield.  I doubt even President Obama would have more people surrounding him.  Ironically, Dr Leaf’s main text that morning was of the woman with the issue of blood.  At least that woman got to talk to Jesus.  I didn’t get anywhere near Dr Leaf.

After another year of silence, Dr Leaf is again flying south for the winter.  For the first time, Dr Leaf has planned a workshop in Australia on this trip, the “Think and Eat Yourself Smart” workshop in Sydney on the 20th of August.  When I first learned of her workshop in April, I thought it was too good an opportunity to pass up.  There was no question and answer time on the program for the day, but that didn’t bother me.  The sound of Dr Leaf’s silence was deafening, and I wasn’t going to waste my time trying to foist myself on her.  But I wanted to attend to get a deeper perspective on Dr Leaf’s food fantasies to better deconstruct them.  I booked my ticket on-line on the 12th of April and when the ticket was confirmed, I booked my flights and accommodation.

On the 27th of May, six weeks after booking my place at the workshop, I received the following e-mail: “We have cancelled your registration for the Think and Eat Yourself Smart Conference in Sydney, Australia.  Here is your refund advice. Blessings, Dr Leaf Team.”

No reason was given for the cancellation, and when I questioned the decision, no explanation followed.  The most I got was a belated offer to refund my flights and accommodation costs.

Now, I realise that critiquing someone’s work in such great depth isn’t exactly endearing and I’m not on Dr Leaf’s Christmas card list, but being a critic isn’t grounds for refusal of entry.  Not that Dr Leaf ever seemed to care about what I said.  She made no effort to communicate with me over the last three years, at all, and she certainly hadn’t changed her teaching.  She seemed completely indifferent to what I had to say, so cancelling my registration was unexpected.

I could think of many reasons why she or her team would take this action.  One of them was that I might have personally offended her.  It has never been my intention, but perhaps I misread the sound of her silence, and rather than Dr Leaf completely ignoring my work, she had been following it and was offended by it.

I decided that the most mature thing I could do in this situation was to approach her directly to apologise, not for my ongoing critique of her teachings, but for any unintentional personal offense, and to see if there was any scope for compromise.  I sent the final letter to her via her husband’s e-mail on the 22nd of June.  I offered my sincere apologies for any personal offense she may have taken, and I offered to meet with her whilst in Sydney, either before or after her workshop, to see if there was any middle ground.  If she did not want to meet, or if we met but ended up agreeing to disagree, then I promised not to make any further contact with her.  We would shake hands, and that would be the end of it.

On the 6th of July I received a reply.  Not from Dr Leaf, and not from her husband, but from her lawyer.  The general gist of the letter was, You’re welcome to your opinion, but you’re not welcome to hear her speak.  Dr Leaf has no personal grudge against you, but don’t ever try to make any personal contact with Dr Leaf ever again.

I offered an olive branch and Dr Leaf took it from me, slapped me in the face with it and threw it back.

So ladies and gentlemen, this is where Dr Leaf and I stand.  I feel like I’ve done everything that I could’ve to resolve my concerns with Dr Leaf in the manner ascribed in Matthew 18:15-17.  I never wanted to be best buddies with her, or to be even vaguely liked by her, but it is disappointing that she can not bring herself to write a couple of sentences of reply to my offer of apology.

Many will consider her actions entirely justifiable.  They might say that I’ve been rude or harassing, that trying to contact her directly was simply intimidating, and that I have no right to question her since I’m not a cognitive neuroscientist.

I could understand that logic if I was personally harassing and intimidating her, but I’ve always tried to remain critical of her work, not her personally.  I have only seen her twice in person, and only ever tried to talk to her once.  I have only communicated directly with her once, and that was rebuffed.

Others will consider that the problem lies with Dr Leaf herself.  They may consider her actions demonstrate a fragile ego, or extreme hubris, or anti-intellectual hypocrisy.

Perhaps she realises that her house of cards empire is built on indefensible science which forces her to avoid scrutiny at any cost.

Who knows?  Her refusal to engage means that we’re all none the wiser, and all we can do is speculate.

All I can say is that I’ve tried to follow the biblical model for resolving interpersonal issues, gone out of my way to give Dr Leaf the courtesy of the right of reply, and to act first and apologise when I thought personal offense may have been taken.  That Dr Leaf has not taken up my offer on any of it is no skin off my nose, but I don’t think there is anything more that I can do.  The ball remains in Dr Leaf’s court, or house of cards as the case maybe.

What do you think?  You’re welcome to express your opinion in the comments section below.

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6 thoughts on “Dr Caroline Leaf and Her House of Cards

  1. Dear Edward,
    I thank you for your detailed account of your attempts to communicate with Dr. Leaf.
    It would seem to me that your next step would be to approach the Authority presiding over the hosting church(s).
    If you can do this and leave the matter in their hands, there seems to be nothing further for you to do.
    At the end of the day there is One that will judge all things.
    Ecc 3:7
    Carl Emerson

    • Hi Carl,

      Thanks for your comment. You make a good suggestion. I didn’t mention this in the post, but I have previously written to the National Executive of the Australian Christian Churches since they are the overseeing body of the church I personally attend. Their response? To sum up the theme it was ‘It’s too complex for us and it’s not our responsibility anyway.’ Other church denominations have been more responsive, especially some of the baptist churches, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

      I continue to encourage people who are concerned by Dr Leaf’s teaching as I am to contact their pastor and their church’s governing body themselves, as the voices of many are more powerful than the voice of one.

      But yes, you’re right, I don’t think there is anything more that I can do. I’ve done what I can and it’s up to Dr Leaf and the Christian Church as a whole to decide what happens in the future.

      Thanks for your comment and take care.

  2. We LOVE you Brother! You have been and are amazing. A class act and brilliant in Word & deed.

    You have demonstrated a noble spirit and MANY thank you for it. It doesn’t seem like she’s “exalted” so much anymore within American churches…not like she WAS since you’ve been gallantly defending the Faith. Still…the damage is done in the wake of her 15 minutes (the damage she has caused to the church with her twisted teaching, opinion and fables).

    WELL DONE! You have been gracious and wise and at the same time keeping a sense of humor. God will honor that!

    GOD BLESS YOU and yours!

    Thank you for all you have so carefully and thoughtfully exposed and written on. I would love to be able to write like you. Write a book! Another book. The deception is rampant. The Apostate is everywhere.

    Prayers of encouragement and support, health and favor to you and your loved ones.
    T/K

    2 Timothy 3 New International Version (NIV)

    3 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—

    5 having a form of godliness but denying its power.

    Have nothing to do with such people.

    6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses,

    so also these teachers oppose the truth.

    They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected.

    9 But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.

    A Final Charge to Timothy

    10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.

    12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

    14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

    16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

    • Thanks T/K. Your encouragement is more than generous and very kind. Dr Leaf’s teaching has been very influential, but if we continue to promote the truth, the truth will win out. Keep spreading the word.

      And I’ve written another book, it’s currently going through the publishers. Watch this space.

      I certainly appreciate your prayers. They’re much appreciated.

      Again, many thanks and all the very best to you.

  3. Thank you for this review on Dr Caroline Leaf. I did attend her latest talk at Curtin University in Perth WA. I am grateful for the information you have presented, especially in the area of what controls our thoughts the mind or brain etc. I thought you might like to know that an email after the event was sent out to all participants at the conference to clarify that some Dr Leafs comments surrounding subscribed medications were not upheld by the leadership team that engaged Dr Leaf to speak that day. I must say as a lay person in the audience I was concerned about some of the suggestions made by Dr leaf but had to resort to the Internet to find some information to inform myself of what was going on here. Your comments have certainly shed more light on the information given, thank you.

    • Hi Doreen, Thanks for your kind words. It was interesting to hear about the e-mail from the leadership team distancing themselves from Dr Leaf’s remarks about prescription medications. Her advice on psychiatric medications has concerned me for a while now, but this is the first time I’m aware that a leadership team has publicly distanced themselves from that particular advice.

      I’d love to see that e-mail for myself. If you’re willing to supply me with a copy, I’d be very appreciative. If you can reply with a functioning e-mail address, and I’ll e-mail you privately.

      Again, many thanks, and all the best.

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