responding to Joy about Debi Pearl

I decided to make my response to a comment left by Joy into a blog entry for anyone else who might have the same concerns that Joy has regarding my assessment of Created to Be His Helpmeet.

Hi Joy, and thanks for being willing to continue this dialogue. It is so much more refreshing than drive-by commenters who only want to blast away and never come to any sort of understanding of what I am saying or to help me understand another position. I appreciate your thoughtful and gracious response.

I would wholeheartedly agree that one of Debi Pearl’s motivations for writing Created to Be His Helpmeet is to encourage women and to help them have what she calls a “heavenly marriage.” I believe that her intentions are good ones and that she actually believes that the suggestions she makes in her writings are “Biblical” and will produce good fruit. However, truly good fruit is the result of godly wisdom (James 3:17) and the work of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5: 22-23), not a man-made or woman-made paradigm.

The problem is that Debi Pearl has taken some concepts that are true and good, has combined them with some silly notions of her own, and has made them the cornerstone of what she believes it takes to have a “heavenly” marriage, creating a paradigm for women to follow. And the most dangerous aspect of it is that she has sprinkled it all with Scripture and pronounced it “biblical” so her readers believe that it is found in Scripture and if not followed, will cause them to sin. In fact, Debi Pearl herself claims that it is THE WAY to have a “heavenly” marriage. She has made believing and following her pattern in her own marriage the standard for all marriages when Scripture makes no such distinction.

Let’s look at just the areas you mentioned.

First, you mentioned the “wisdom of her years.” I agree that there is value in gleaning insights from women who have been married many years and who are enjoying the fruits of having children and grandchildren. As you read through my blog, you can see that I have a high regard for older women, both ones I know in real life, those I have met online, and women I have met on the pages of their biographies and books. You will also see that I take very seriously the season of life I am now enjoying as an older woman and the purpose of this blog is to encourage homeschooling moms (and anyone else who comes this direction) by pointing them to Christ and to the Word of God as our standard. I hope no one ever takes away any promotion of a paradigm to follow when they read here!

I can probably list several dozen older women I know who have enjoyed and still enjoy “heavenly” marriages but whose relationships look nothing whatsoever like the one Debi and Mike Pearl have. Most of them are in Christian marriages, have a high regard for the Word of God, and are enjoying children and grandchildren who also love the Lord. I also know many unbelieving couples who have been married for decades who wouldn’t understand the first thing about Debi Pearl’s perspective on marriage who have still enjoyed a wonderful relationship and continue to do so. There is no special formula for achieving a “heavenly” marriage and to advertise a book that says that there is, is the first problem I have with Created to Be His Helpmeet. The standard for truth is not in what Debi Pearl describes as a “heavenly marriage” but rather,what the Scripture actually teaches about relationships that are honoring to God.

Debi Pearl has placed a wife’s submission to her husband as central to having a godly Christian marriage and I agree that submission is important. But what troubles me is how that concept is being interpreted by the Pearls and how it is not taught in context as one of the many one anothers of Scripture. A man and a woman in a Christian marriage are, first and foremost, brothers and sisters in Christ. All of the one anothers are commands that apply to them…to admonish one another, serve one another, submit to one another, love one another, forgive one another, exhort one another, etc. These actual commands of the Word of God are abysmally missing from Created to Be His Helpmeet. In fact, her misunderstanding of the word “help meet” is at the core of the problem with this book. In Hebrew the word is “ezer” which is often used in Scripture to describe God as our ezer. It is a military term that, when applied properly, demonstrates how women are to be engaged in spiritual battle alongside of men.

And there are other ways that Scripture is either taken out of context, ignored, or completely absent. Debi Pearl’s examples of the three types of men, for example, cannot be supported anywhere in Scripture and by placing a husband into one of Debi’s categories, it can prevent a woman from obeying the commands “to admonish” or “to exhort” or to expect a husband, a brother in Christ, “to serve” or “to submit.” Imagine if I wrote a book that placed just one command, like “to admonish” at the center of the whole relationship, how out of balance and destructive that relationship would be!

And as far as Debi’s list of admonitions to women as you noted on page 154 of her book, I do not believe these are all commands for all women. Do you agree, for example, that all women are to have long hair and to have their heads covered when praying? When it says women are to keep silent in the churches, how is that interpreted? Can women sing in church? Testify in church? Her admonition for women to be keepers at home has been interpreted by many that women are never to have a job outside the home, no matter what the circumstances might be. Other godly Bible believing Christians disagree. My friend, Sue, for example, who has been married for years to a disabled husband who was a former pastor, teaches school and has to in order to keep a roof over their heads. They have a heavenly marriage. Are they sinning? According to Debi Pearl’s list, she is dishonoring God and is to repent of this in order to have a heavenly marriage. Also, there are examples of women throughout Scripture who made a living of their own, such as the women who accompanied Jesus and the disciples in order to financially provide for them and Lydia, the wealthy seller of purple who ministered alongside Paul. We do not know if any of these women worked from home or were in the business world. We also don’t know if they were married or had ever been married and if their marriages were heavenly or not.Many things on her list that she sees as requirements, again, are taken out of context of Scripture and placed into a paradigm Debi has created for godly womanhood and heavenly marriage.

Joy, I understand that, from Debi’s perspective and within her paradigm, she believes that following what she has written will lead to a heavenly marriage. But the truth is that following her pattern is, first of all, not required for all women and secondly has lead to the spiritual and emotional death of many women. I am not saying that all families will fall into this situation because I believe there are husbands and wives who genuinely are contented with following the Pearl pattern and believe they are living the only way one can live and have heavenly marriages. But I do know that forcing women into a man-made paradigm by telling her she is sinning if she doesn’t obey it is spiritual abuse that often leads to spiritual death.

The truth is that the way a marriage becomes truly heavenly is for each husband and each wife to pursue, really pursue, a relationship with Jesus Christ, to commit to obey the Word of God, to set aside each of their own agendas and paradigms, and then as they walk in the Holy Spirit, as they are sanctified, a little at a time each day, they will grow closer to one another. Godly wisdom will manifest itself in purity, peace, gentleness, mercy, a willingness to submit to one another, the fruits of the spirit, and no role-playing (the true meaning of hypocrisy). (James 3:17)

One more thing to note: Debi Pearl is not the only writer who does this, by a long shot. Read my review of Passionate Housewives Desperate for God by Jennie Chancey and Stacy McDonald or listen to the discussion I had with Spunky on the Botkin Sisters’ book So Much More in the patriocentricity podcasts for more examples of paradigm peddling.

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Comments

  1. lost and found says

    Great points made here Karen, thank you. When I first became a christian, the Holy Spirit had a lot to tell me about some of the ways in which I had been treating my husband. Through the admonitions of the Holy Spirit, and God’s Word, within a few months my husband and I had resolved many of our “issues”. Being the dutiful perfectionist that I am though (and the idolater), I desired to go a step or two further and read a bunch of books on “Christian Marriage” and how to have one. Even though the Holy Spirit had done a masterfully precise job of guiding me through some very choppy, and highly individual terrain, I really wanted a list to check off, a god that I could touch and see. So then started a merry-go-round ride of reading a book and implementing the “lists”. I also began to do this with child rearing books and homeschooling books. What a mess! Eventually, what a surprise, I couldn’t even hear the Lord anymore and my once hearty desire for His Word and heartfelt prayer had waned considerably. My relationship with my husband suffered more in those three years than in the previous 14! My husband, I’m sure, felt like he never knew what to expect. I was absolutely “role playing” and he knew it. It felt and looked very unauthentic and even a bit manipulative. Nowadays I stay away from many of these self-help type of books. I’m certainly not saying that they’re all bad but it’s too tempting, at least for me, to use them in a self-sanctifying way. God’s sanctificaion is sooooo much better!

  2. says

    lost and found, if I had a nickel for every time someone has shared a similar story of the destruction that paradigms bring on their families, we could go out for lunch and take our friends, too!

    Thanks for sharing with such clarity and being so transparent.

  3. Jerzy says

    Karen, you speak succinctly and graciously. I’m amazed at all you do and how you manage to be encouraging at the right time (at least for me).

    This may not be the proper place for this, but I don’t know where else to put it. “Lost and Found’s” post struck a nerve.

    I’ve been a Christian my whole life but I’ve never heard “the Holy Spirit” or “the voice of God” at least not knowingly. I can look back and see certain aspects of my life and think, “Oh, that might have been God”. But I can also look back and think, “Well, that was definitely not God but I thought it was”, like when I was following patriocentric advice. Since adjusting my beliefs on that whole thing, I’m now officially paranoid that I’ll fall for something else that is wrong.

    How do we know when it’s God and when it’s the person talking, or our own voice in our head? I “read” a lot of voices – how do I know when they’re from God and when they’re not? I need to know when He’s speaking, not while looking back at what’s already happened, but while looking forward to address the future.

    I can hear the popular answers – “Hold what you hear up to the light of Scripture” and “Listen to the still, small voice” but I get caught up in lexicons and having to learn Hebrew so I can read the original because there are so many mistranslations, and frankly, I don’t hear small voices. I don’t hear anything. Most of the time I fall asleep trying to hear something. So I just keep on going, hoping I’m doing the right thing and believing the right thing, the whole time not knowing if what I do pleases God or not and if any of it really matters.

    I so desperately want to hear the voice of my Savior but I don’t know what it sounds like.

  4. lost and found says

    Jerzy – I was a radical faminist, extremly liberal, Christian hating, husband ruling (or trying to rule!) woman when I was first saved. I was also at times very angry and stubborn. Jesus and His ways was an EXTREME change so any promptings I “heard” were very distinctive and foreign to me at that unique time.

    All this to say that I don’t “hear” Him in that manner so much any more. As my mind has been renewed through his written Word and as I have grown in Him, I don’t hear a lot of clear directives. Often, I too have wondered why this is and I too, get distressed sometimes when I hear people say “God told me that this is the car that I am to buy” or “God told me that peaches were on sale at the Shop and Go and they WERE!” or some such thing, I don’t really get it. And although I wouldn’t split hairs with anyone who claimed to have an experience like that, I think that for most Christians, God’s leading is subtle and in HIS timing. For instance, getting back (somewhat!) to the original post, I prayed for a couple of years that my husband would come more regularly to our family integrated church, that he would lead family worship, that he would get a different job so that he would have more time to “disciple” his children the way the gurus claim it must be, and on and on. (Meanwhile I was totally missing that everytime he took my kiddos fishing or camping or to McDonald’s he was “discipling” them, that he’s kept his higher paying job because he knows how important it is for me to stay home and he doesn’t want to jeopordize that, and although he’s always felt like there are some nice folks at our local FIC, some of that teaching just doesn’t set right with him.) I felt like God wasn’t even listening or, on bad days that He didn’t even care. Now I see that His lack of immediate resonse (what we all want, right?) was actually His letting me come to the end of myself, AGAIN. Now I see that His not answering those prayers was His answer. I also don’t feel SO condemned anymore, as if my wrong move is going to cause me to lose His approval. I am learning to rest now and enjoy the journey a little more. I am the daughter of The King! Hallelujah! He loves me if I get it right or I don’t – I WILL NOT CEASE TO BE HIS CHILD!! So if I make a wrong turn or a bad decision He still loves me!! (Tears in eyes!)

    Now we’re really off topic but I hope this helped. So much of what you said resonated with me – I know just how you feel. CS Lewis is credited for saying something like ‘the most important things in life are simple but profound’. Like following Jesus, like trusting Jesus to be our salvation. It really is fairly simple but the Big Name Teachers would love for you to feel as if it is not. More insecurity, more confusion equals more money – dare I say.

  5. lost and found says

    Thatmom – I would love to introduce you to my frieds and all go out to lunch! You are the best!! Hey maybe someday – you never know!

  6. says

    Boy is this a great bunch of ladies here! I feel like I’ve happened upon a pot of gold.

    Jerzy – I hear you!
    Lost and Found – I hear you, too!

    My story with voices is too long to go into here. I’ll suffice it to say, I don’t hear them and I don’t listen for them. I learn of Him in Scripture – the words I know He’s spoken. I pray, and He leads me by way of my renewed mind, wisdom, and circumstances. I don’t find Scriptural basis for the “listening” I hear referred to often. God is perfectly capable of making Himself heard. When I see God communicating to people (meaning those in the Scriptural narrative) I see Him doing it on His timing, interrupting regular life, sometimes a prayer to do it.

    Trust Him, living and breathing the grace and love we’ve been shown in the Gospel, seeking to extend it to others.

    “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Gal. 6:2
    “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Gal. 5:14

    That is the sum of obedience to Christ and insomuch as our heart’s desire is to do this very thing we can know we are being led of the Spirit. (And if the Lord wishes to speak in another fashion, He is more than able to make Himself heard and understood.) And this is not to imply that any of us does this perfectly, far from it. We are imperfect vessels. Christ knows this and has chosen just such “clay pots” to display His glory – His grace.

    Anyway, I just wanted to add my, Amen, to what Lost and Found said.

  7. says

    Jerzy, what a great comment! I think, if we are honest, each of us have had the same thoughts throughout our entire Christian lives!

    After I read it and the really helpful responses from Laurie and lost and found, I started making a mental list of those things that have been helpful to me in sorting through various teachings. This morning Clay and I talked about those things as well and I am in the process of composing a post on this subject. (As usual I am too wordy for a comment section!) It is almost finished but I teach a speech class this afternoon I am getting ready for so it will probably be late afternoon or evening before I get it posted.

    You really made me have to think, girl! Thank you….I love be stretched and challenged! And I love how much I always learn from my sisters in the Lord.

  8. Jerzy says

    Thank you so much, ladies, for responding to a fallen traveler. I have been “picked up” by your understanding and responses, truly.

    Karen, I have been stretched mentally and gained so much wisdom and insight from your blogs. Thank you for being a common sense voice in a world full of uncommon sense. I’m going to go thank the Australian daughter who first directed me to your site so long ago.

  9. Peaches says

    Enjoyed your article, Karen. I was emotionally damaged by Debi’s teachings for about two years. I had read their magazine and watched some of their marriage videos. When you see her, she’s OBVIOUSLY a happy woman, so I thought her way must be THE way. When CTBHHM came out and I read that, the red lights finally came on and I knew the Pearl’s were way off base. I think Debi has figured out what works for HER marriage and how to honor HER husband, but boy that sure doesn’t work for all marriages.

  10. L says

    Another one here who has trouble with the “voice of God” stuff. I DO know some people who have had periods in their lives where God gave them specific dates, instructions, etc. and looking back it really does seem to be God (like my friend’s whirlwind courtship and marriage with so many precise instructions they heard) so I do believe it can happen. However, she no longer has God speak to her like that. That seems to have been a special time and not the way He always will talk to her. For me, I have often talked to people (well, complained) that I can never say for sure, “That was God telling me to do something.” I started to pay more attention, though, and realized that the vast majority of the time when I hear people talk like that, they are actually using their brain/intuition/common sense and mislabeling it. I personally feel “scared” to attribute something to God that was not really Him so I am very, very wary of saying it was Him unless I know for sure. A lot of people think it brings him glory to credit Him for so much…

    So, I have more peace nowadays about my lack of hearing voices, but haven’t got it figured out either.

    Oh, and I liked the post, Karen! 😀

  11. Marlana says

    Thank you for this review. It very well expresses some of the concerns I had when reading the book. I found the part about Mr. Visionary ironic because all of her distributions of him described me (yes, women have visions too!); I even have the nickname A Voice In the Wilderness. Lol.

    I appreciate men who delight in my visions but yet won’t follow me when I go too far. I hope that any wife would have similar boundaries with her visionary husband.

  12. says

    Greetings! I stumbled upon your blog while looking for info on this book by the Pearls. I appreciated your critique and enjoyed my visit.
    Liked your before/after wedding pics too 🙂 – I’ve been happily married for 38 yrs – God is good. He’s truly the one who builds our “Heavenly Marriages”.

    Blessings sister.

  13. Stephanie says

    Karen,
    Thank you. My husband had treated me badly from the first day of our marriage. Shoving cake up my nose instead of feeding it to me at our reception was just his first act of dominance. Years ago he confessed to 2 affairs, using prostitutes, and many other sins involved in the cover up. I believed that, because he had confessed and was under church discipline, I had to forgive and make the marriage work. God hates divorce. Right? We had just recently started homeschooling and I went looking for help to be a better wife so that my husband would be satisfied with me and not easily lured by unscrupulous women. Because, he was never seeking them, he was just weak to their temptations he said. Not too far into my search I got Debi’s book. My husband loved Mike’s writings and had put them into practice. He was a reformed man and doing what Mike said was used to help prove it. I now know that he also got a bit of stroking for his narcissistic ego from such male dominated literature. I saw my husband in Debi’s descriptions of men and applied everything I could from her writings. I went from being a woman with a deep and diligent personal study of the Scripture to relying on my husband’s teaching and instruction. I dressed, cooked and kept quiet to please him. I made moves and distanced myself from support networks and family, because his sense of adventure required it. I lived in poverty and quite literally in the dirt to help him meet his dreams. All the while feeding our miserable kids lies of how God would bless us for supporting daddy without question. I squelched everything I was and became an extension of him. So did the children. I excused what he did and declared him head of the home. I praised him endlessly. His reform lasted about as long as he had accountability and supervision. As soon as the church released him and said he was restored, he began to return to his old behaviors. Like a dog to its vomit. I saw what was happening, but thought that if I just continued as Debi said he would come back around and I’d have a heavenly marriage. He began breaking small promises, became cold and distant, more aggressive with the kids, requiring things in bed that I was uncomfortable with and on and on. He eventually began to lie and I knew it. He started to distance himself from anything spiritual, but in public he put on great displays as a dedicated, godly, family man. Slowly his behavior became so bad towards me that I was having panic attacks, suicidal thoughts. nightmares, and was often hiding in the closet to cry. I wanted to run away because I just wasn’t capable of being a good enough wife and mother. I thought that the kids would be better off alone with him. Everyone loved him so what was happening in our home must be my fault. Right? The formula wasn’t working. I was the miserable failure. I wanted to die and because I had left my spiritual discipline for my husband’s anemic, spiritual teaching, I had little help in that way. He was dropping “too spiritual” friends left and right, so I became as unspiritual as possible so he wouldn’t drop me. I even began to drink with him, though I don’t like alcohol or how it makes me feel. I just wanted to please him in any way I could. This past winter he left us. He is now successful and has dropped the family who suffered through all his abuses in the process. Signs of an affair were quite obvious the year before he left. His treatment of the kids became nearly as bad as his treatment of me. Our daughter’s emotions became so unstable that she was pulling out her hair. But his public act was still amazing. One of the few reasons he gave for leaving me was that I didn’t follow enough of what was in books like Debi’s. If I had he could have tolerated me. But now I’m not the woman he wants to spend the empty nest years with. Before he left me he went to our pastor (who didn’t know our marital history) and described me as unstable, abusive to the children, and the sole cause of all of our marital problems. He then also went to elders to do the same thing. My pastor admitted that he initially was convinced of my sin and mental health problems. He fully expected to help me and by fixing me get my husband to come back home. Thankfully, he and the elders listened to me before passing final judgment and they are now my support network. Through speaking with a licensed therapist in our church I was able to understand that what was going on in our home was narcissistic emotional/psychological abuse. My husband fed off of materials like the Pearl’s produce and used it as Biblical backing for his natural sin tendencies and personality disorder. I want to scream whenever I hear people talking about formulas to fix marriages or make great ones. No formula will work without two humble and willing people. And if both are humble and willing, no formula will be necessary. When a man is hell bent in his sin, formulas like Debi’s can quite literally lead women to the point of death. I spend many evenings asking the kids’ forgiveness for letting them be abused, letting myself waste away, and correcting what I consider nonsense like I learned from Created to be His Help Meet and To Train up a Child. I thank God daily for releasing me from an abusive man. I am free in my soul and emotions for the first time in 20 years. Even in the midst of divorce I have joy and peace. Does God hate divorce? Yes, I think he does. But he clearly also hates injustice, oppression, abuse, and those who ignore such things for the sake of their formulas and the doctrines of man.

  14. says

    Stephanie, my heart goes out to you. I am so very sorry that this has been your experience and I am grateful you shared here. {{{{{}}}}}

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