Thursday, September 6, 2007

Conclusion

To conclude, this book seems like more of a self-help book (i.e. do what I say and you, too, can have a glorious, made-in-heaven marriage!) than a serious book that focuses on solid Bible principles. This book is very similar to a popular secular book released a few years ago by Dr. Laura Schlessinger entitled The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands. The problem is that CTBHHM often tries to use Bible-speak to support opinions and advice that are in no way Biblical, and this is what makes it dangerous, in our opinion. Debi is writing a book about “God’s plan for marriage” with a very shaky doctrinal basis. Here is one of the “self-help” sounding quotes from the book.

Page 122: “My conclusions can be said to be scientifically correct. That is, the evidence” that leads to my conclusion is reproducible: Anyone can test it and get the same results. When any woman does as I have done, the blessings are incredible!... I know that the angels in heaven stand amazed at how much a man can love a woman, how he can break down weeping at the thought of how precious she is to him. The reason he loves her so is because she IS precious. She has earned his total admiration and love. She is what God asks of a woman, and the end result is a man who cherishes her beyond anything this world can know… If you want what I and thousands of women have, then you must follow the plan the way God wrote it in the Bible.”


Debi’s plan for a marriage made in heaven has a lot of the characteristics of a fad diet – including great short-term success (because what marriage wouldn’t be a lot less conflict-filled and “happy” if the woman started treating her husband like a king, served him tirelessly, never questioned any of his decisions, fulfilled his every whim, and gave him frequent, good sex?). However, it seems like this might get pretty boring in the long term, resulting in either “cheating” and a sense of failure, or monotonous emptiness. It is hard to imagine a man finding true, lasting, and deep satisfaction in a partner who is not finding herself in God, growing in His wisdom, and functioning in obedience to Him as the woman He created her to be.

This is not the way we want our marriage to be – one of us “manipulating” the other in order to earn his love and make things “heavenly” and “glorious”. How sad and pitiful is seems to me to think of my wife trying to find her identity and life’s meaning in me rather than in God.

It is a curious grace of God that the life he commands is not only pleasing to Himself but also the best possible life for us. He has every right to ask us to give up our joy for his sake, but he doesn’t. We break forth into joy only after picking up our cross. Any teaching that seems second-best has the ring of untruth. The Pearl’s picture of marriage seems neither glorious nor made in heaven. It seems to us thin, one-dimensional, lightweight, monochrome, and made for Wal-Mart.

I don’t want a wife made in my image; I want a wife made in the image of God. Keep me far from the purring, ego-stroking, yes-woman; give me the iron that sharpens iron. Give me the beauty that is true and lasting. I don’t want anyone to sing my praise; what a poor subject for song! Sing with me the glory of God. We will tell Him of His faithfulness to you and to me. Call no one rabbi, especially not me, for we are brethren. Come with me, my sister, my bride, to the feet of Christ. We will each, both of us, listen to Him and learn the truth. We will live in truth and the truth will set us free. I forgive you; please forgive me. Let us pray for our children and our home. Come, my sister, my bride, and we will don the armor of God together. With the breastplate of righteousness will I protect you, and with the shield of faith will you protect me. Who is the one who would excuse a violence against you? Come, we will skewer him with the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

44 comments:

Kathy said...

Thank you for all the work you put into this evaluation. Well done!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this review. I have been struggling with this book for the very same reason while being confused why everyone around me seems to love it.

Ann said...

Can I just say "Amen" and "How did you get my notes on CTBHHM??" I was just working through the book this summer and you've hit on EVERY point I found too. This book is dangerous and not a kind of book that is good to read and "spit out the bones". It's honestly so bony and gristly that there's nothing nutritious in it at all. Thank you for all your work - I know firsthand how much work it is to critique this book. I'm going to send people to this blog to explain my feelings about the book instead of doing the same thing over again. God bless you!

Mel said...

I wanted to thank you both for this study. My friend Ann and I have been talking about one, and as she said this morning, it is like you had her notes!
I have tried to read this book, but always end up needing a shower it makes me feel so icky.
All of the points you made are the same ones I posted on my site when i banned this book for study.
Thank you again!

Clay said...

WOW, what a closing paragraph!

I read everything. Very well done!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your words of truth. That book is spiritual abuse. It mise well be the manuscript to the movie called " stepford wives".

It is refreshing to read a husbands commits on it. IMO that book makes men out to look like mindless bossy bully s*x addicts that can not manage to take care of themselves. If I were a man I would be affended by that book.

Gidg said...

Wow!! I am so glad to have read this. I got this book last year to read with a women's group at our church. For some reason, it never worked out for me to meet with them, and I am so glad I read your review before I got too deeply into it. I do love my husband very much...and I do want to reverence him....but lined up with scripture. I think I would have a serious problem with being told I couldn't study scripture or have devotions with my kids.
On another point, I DO have a close friend who was in an abusive situation, did exactly what Debi said for years, and is now separated from her husband (probably ending in divorce)... because doing what Debi said DIDN'T WORK. It was the same woman who was leading the Book Discussion I mentioned above. Ironic, eh?

Again, I cannot thank you enough for posting your review. I am definitely linking to it from my blog. :-)

Candi said...

I have not read the book in question, but it seems as if you have put a great deal of research into helping women (and men, too) understand the shortcomings of a book that is clearly very dangerous.

My only point of disagreement is in your remarks on The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands. I have read it, and it's companion (Woman Power) and they have offered me a great deal of perspective on how to effectively love my husband. Having read the remarks on the book and the quotes you have provided, I have to say I do not see the similarity in the two books. Dr. Laura's approach is reasonable and truthful, whereas this book seems more like the ramblings of an insecure, possibly abused woman.

I do have to say, though, great props to you on making available the flaws in this book. I'm sure you have helped clarify what would appear to be a lot of confusion for many women who have read this harmful book. God bless.

margit said...

wow wow wow. thank you so much for your critique - well written, well researched, well done. amen and amen on last paragraph. wish my husband would read it, too, and put it in an anniversary card some year! thank you and God bless you as you both grow closer to Him. margit

Anonymous said...

I am getting married in May to a wonderful Christian man. Someone gave me this book at a bridal shower. It terrifies me because I know some women believe it. Thank you for your comments and hard work.

Anonymous said...

In response to "Mel", this is so funny, but,I keep telling my friends that I ,too, felt that I needed a shower after reading this book!! It reads to me in many parts like a trashy novel. I was almost red in the face at some of the more graphic analogies and stories that she uses. It's almost like she needs some "shock value" to promote her ideas, rather than truly finding them in the Word.
The really amazing thing to me, though, is the seeming "blindness" to these "Sexual references" and scare tactics used over and over in Debi's book when you are talking to someone who loved the
book.They seem to not even remember them.Am I too sensitive?
I have also noticed that my friends who have sadly endured abuse in their homes,as children or adults seem to be the ones flocking to this book. I am having a hard time understanding why...? Any insights into this? The only conclusion I could come to is that they are seeking "comfort" in the idea that if they do everything "right" ei. the Pearl way, that their homes will be protected.Likewise, my husband would not even like me if I began to do half of the things suggested in this book!! It honestly borders on husband-worship.Thanks for your great work.This is an important endeavor as there are so many being led astray.

Laura said...

(Please see the end of my comment for my question) In all due respect, I understand all you have stated in your evaluation. However, I must say that at age 49, as a 17 year Christian, and wife of 12 years, this book has totally revolutionized my marriage and my walk with God. I am experiencing a heavenly marriage, feeling more whole as an individual and excited about life. Now, I do believe that I am one that easily separates the wheat from the chaff. Personally, I did not have a problem with the areas that seemed harsh, as I just skim over those parts. Because the scriptural principals I've learned on biblical submission have so transformed my marriage, I feel that this material needs to be taught, which leads me to the reason I am writing: Is there comparable (sound doctrine) material that can be used in a classroom situation?

gabenris said...

I am so thankful for your review. I truly appreciated the gentle, fair, kind, and Biblical way you both interacted with the book and presented your thoughts for others like me. To be honest, I actually was challenged and convicted by CTBHHM, and I still am even after reading your balancing blog. Especially Debi's chapters fleshing out Titus 2:4-5 -how can I argue with what God has to say in those verses? It was helpful to dwell on them with Debi for a while and apply them practically to my own new marriage. I am glad for all the Scripture references and corrections you listed, - I was very uncomfortable with some of these things (i.e. the curse being mistaken for God's will - definitely caught that one). All I have to conclude is that after reading that book and weighing it with the truths in your blog and my own experience, I am worshipping God, thankful for Christ, loving the Creator's design in marriage, deeply respecting God's word, appreciating my husband, and longing to be a better wife.

stayathomemyheart said...

Thank you so much for this long, well-thought out review.

I just wanted to say something somewhat-positive about CTBHHM. I was also disturbed by the book, mostly disturbed by the descriptions of mean-sounding husbands in the book. I jokingly told my friends the book should have been titled, "How to Be Married to a Real Jerk." Many times while reading the book, I thought to myself, "Wow, if this author, and these women can be so respectful in difficult situations, I can work on being sweeter toward the amazingly caring, respectful husband God has given me!" The book made me feel absolutely delighted to have my husband!!!

Anyway, thanks again for the review, and thanks to all the people who left comments. I would like to see more discussion amongst your readers on some of the finer points of theology regarding submission.

awbrk said...

this was an amazing review! I just stayed up all night reading it, researching it for myself and studying it in comparison. YaY for you guys! Although i am sure that you will be the subject of some silly article that Michael writes about secular christianity or something like that. I appreciate your truthfulness and boldness to stand up to this. Deception is most deceiving to Christians when it comes from "within" and I feel this book does just that. I pray that women reading it can discern the truth and stand on it. There are some good principles, but wow...this goes beyond extremism. Thank you again!

Anonymous said...

I read this book. It is now buried deep in the county landfill where it belongs.
Any book that encourgages women to endure abuse is trash!

Tiffany said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Meepers said...

Wow! That was a lot of info to take in! I am 27 yrs old and have been with my husband 7 years, married for 4 of them. This book is AWESOME, it has greatly helped my marriage and I read it every year. My friend and I even bought a case of these books just to be able to hand them out and we're about to buy another. Yes, the Bible should be a couples main focus for their relationship, but this book has opened the Bible up for me. I now reasearch things I never would have before this. I gleaned what I need from CTBHHM and love it. Have you taken your thougts to the Pearls yet, or just hoping one day they'll see your blog? Also, this book is for your wife, had she tried the main techniques without you knowing you would have loved it! Thanks again for your views, I love seeing the other side of things and this helped a lot!

Michelle said...

Even though this a few years after you wrote this I want to say Thank you :)
I read the book and thought I needed to conform to this way of thinking even though I felt like I as a person was ceasing to exist and my walk with God meant nothing except in light of my husband (who I love dearly).
This morning I read your site and feel like someone opened the prison door and set me straight!
I ripped up the book and threw it in the woodstove and canceled my subscription to their magazine.
From this moment on I will stay on the Word of God and not some false interpretation of it.

Anonymous said...

My daughters gave me CTBHHM as a gift .They hadn't read it but as soon as I did I told them what I thought .And I never read it again.
My marriage improved vastly when I told my abusive husband -you can't treat me like this ,what you are saying about me is not true etc.
The Pearls' take on woman and abuse is abusive.

Lia said...

I must say thank you for your review. It definitely brought up some valid points. I read this book at a very low point and I feel that I really did get out of it what God wanted me to get: loving and being submissive to my husband cannot depend on his attitude toward me. Example: I'm not going to cook him dinner because he didn't put the clothes away. I was practicing some serious bitterness toward him. The statement that hit me the most went something like this: You practice bitterness, he practices apathy, you are both practicing divorce (paraphrase). It shocked me to the core, having been divorced previously. It was the wake up call that I needed. That being said, I found that overall Debi felt that we should all lead a semi-amish type of life and that if we can't grow our own veggies, we're in trouble! I guess I'm getting divorced, cause I have one serious black thumb!!! Let me also state that I am married to a non-believer and that I have yet to find any book on this subject that would help me with some of the struggles I encounter.

Faerylandmom said...

I am very thankful for reading this review. I just got home from the first day of a women's study using this book.

I am a mature Christian, and have full confidence that I can filter the wheat from the chaff. This book is not Scripture, is not infallible, but I also believe that God can choose to use broken vessels.

I appreciate your respectful, detailed critiques, and I am glad I read this before digging in. I will be on alert, and will be double-checking everything.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I'm so glad I found your blog. I was reading Spunky's review when I came across your entry. A friend loaned me the book due to ongoing problems in my marriage. The first three chapters didn't raise any flags. At this point, I thought wonderful! Something I can apply and remedy some problems. I had even ordered myself a copy. I continued reading and began to feel really icky. I thought of course that it was just me being convicted but by the 20th chapter I wanted to put it down and not read anymore. I'm so glad to find out it wasn't just me. I cancelled my order for the book and ordered Elizabeth George's book
"A Woman After God's Own Heart", purportedly to be better. We'll see. Thanks, Kathy R.

Cameron said...

I am doing a home study on this topic and was comforted to find your blog. I wanted to do a study with this book because I truely believe there are definate nuggets. I am glad that I am not alone in my confusion of her scripture taken out of context. The study I am doing at my house is going really well, however the focus is not on her book, but on Gods words to us. I do feel Debi Pearl has the right motives, maybe just too harsh of an execution. I found myself put off by her anger and extreme situations that she used as examples. "Above all these things is love" and at times I feel her words were the opposite of loving. We must, as children waling in truth, know that the only absolute is Gods word and it is a filter for all things in our lives. This book should be read by all christian wives however, with anything given to us, we must sift it through Gods word and allow Him to give us the truths. I do appreciate Debi Pearl for getting such an important topic out and putting it in the face of christian wives.

Anonymous said...

A comment for stayathomemyheart:

True submission needs to be "out of the heart"!

I submitted for years . . . and I mean YEARS! . . . out of "duty". There is TRULY SUCH A DIFFERENCE! One is REAL. The other is birthed out of hypocrisy.

Every woman and every man are unique in the Lord. In the long run, our concern as wives should be that our own husbands are pleased with us. Some of us are loud and noisy. Some are blunt and forward. Some of us are fat and ugly, but as long as our husbands are pleased with our "form of submission" - we should be content. It is their call (our husband's) - and their love that we seek after - not the formulas nor opinion of others.

This is the kind of relationship that Jesus wants us to have with him also. A love based relationship and not a fear based relationship.

Blessings.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this blog. I was given 'Created...' several months ago by a friend who leads a Bible study for hundreds of women. Immediately, even before reading it, I felt burdened, like I had yet another pile of demands laid upon me for my failing marriage. I remember wishing someone was giving my husband a book--not me! Before she gave me the book, however, she was telling me of a Bible lesson she was preparing, in which she was teaching the women in her study that it was Dinah's fault (in the book of Genesis) that she was raped and left for dead because she left the covering of her father's leadership. I was so confused as to what in the world she was talking about, but realized after reading your blog that her lesson was greatly influenced by the teachings of this book.
It is such a relief to hear your balanced critique before I was swallowed up by another pound of guilt and responsibility for my husband's own sin nature! Thank you!

Mike G. said...

Tremendous review!! The bible says to "test the spirits" and you both did that very well.

My wife started reading this book and red flags soon went up. There are some good points and some points that severely need biblical testing.

Thank you again for your time and efforts.

Anonymous said...

You have done a great service by taking the time to write this very thorough review. Thank you!

I recently read their other book, To Train Up a Child, and found it to be the same kind of thing: some nuggets of wisdom mixed in with some nonsense and also quite a bit of alarming stuff. I was really shocked, as it had been recommended highly by someone I respect. Come to find out, she hadn't followed ALL of the things the book said; I guess she trusted me to sort out the wheat from the chaff. But I think the "chaff" in that book is so dangerous that I would not want to trust that any given reader would be able to sort it out.

Anonymous said...

You have done a great service by taking the time to write this very thorough review. Thank you!

I recently read their other book, To Train Up a Child, and found it to be the same kind of thing: some nuggets of wisdom mixed in with some nonsense and also quite a bit of alarming stuff. I was really shocked, as it had been recommended highly by someone I respect. Come to find out, she hadn't followed ALL of the things the book said; I guess she trusted me to sort out the wheat from the chaff. But I think the "chaff" in that book is so dangerous that I would not want to trust that any given reader would be able to sort it out.

Anonymous said...

You bring up some good arguments against some of the points that Debi made. I also agree with you that she makes a lot of good points that I too agree with and then uses poor examples to explain her points. I don't think Debi is taking scripture out of context on everything, but what human doesn't take something from scripture out of context. Any material you read from any author is imperfect and can screw up what the bible says. No I don't agree with her on everything but I do think she is on the right track as far as what being a help meet looks like in the bible. Wives should let their husbands be the head over them, we should be thankful and joyful wives, have lots of sex, etc. Not everyone will read this book and see it in the same way you see it. She does tend to be extreme in her beliefs about abuse, and being silently submissive. I don't think that is what God was telling us from those verses. Anyway, I am still going to finish reading the book and in the end the word of God will be the foundation upon which I live my life. I like books that challenge my beliefs and think they can be a great tool to strengthen our faith and help us grow vs. just reading things that we agree with all the time.

Anonymous said...

Thank you....my sister gave me this book and while I do believe there is something to be said about submitting to your husband to a certain extent...I felt like I was worthless after reading this book and I don't believe that was God's intent.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I just finished this book and found it very disturbing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this!! I was looking up the title for a friend, because the women in our church were encouraged to read it prior to a discussion we will be having in anticipation for a Marriage Retreat in a few months, and I came across this blog. I am shocked! A very well-respected couple, loooong-time Christians and marriage partners, recommended this book! Granted, I have not yet purchased and read the book, but some of your examples seem that they would be glaringly obvious, even to younger Christians, as not quite biblically based, to say the least! To suggest that men are carnal, as an excuse for many things, has always irked me, but to discount one's personal walk with God as missing something without a spouse?!? All I can say is that I am bookmarking this page, and likely printing it out to keep with the book, if I even buy it!

Anonymous said...

I think the major problem with the Pearl's writing is that they think *we* are in control of every aspect of our lives. According to Pearls, wives can control the outcome of their marriage and we can just choose to *stop* sinning anytime we please. There is NO mention of grace or forgiveness in ANY of Michael or Debi's writings. I unsubscribed to their magazine for this exact reason. Women can't control everything as much the Pearl's give us credit for.

Anonymous said...

I became interested in this book after seeing it highly recommended in a blog.

The blog is written by the wife of a Christian man who sexually attacked both me and his own sister.

Your review stands solidly on its own and was extremely helpful, but your concerns are further validated by the sobering fact that the wife of a sociopathic rapist gushes praises for this book.

Especially since his future daughters are his only remaining victim pool of unsuspecting, vulnerable girls who adore and trust him, and who can be easily groomed for spiritual and physical abuse inside his own home. CTBHHM is like a blueprint for delivery of that nightmare.

Thank you for your hard work. It has enlightened me considerably.

Jake Break said...

Excellent critique on a very confusing book. Your patience with the Pearls' poor reasoning and communication skills is admirable. I believe that a married couple will take from this book what they bring to it. I have a sister who loves this book, and she has a wonderful, solid marriage. And I have a sister-in-law who also claims to love this book, yet her marriage is one of the most miserable that I've ever seen. Same book, different couples, vastly different husband-wife relationships. "Created to Be His Help Meet" has, I believe, little power to profoundly change a marriage for better or for worse. What it does have, however, is the ability to reinforce and magnify preexisting attitudes and behaviors--whether good or evil. Thus, a solid, healthy marriage could benefit from this book, while a dysfunctional marriage would likely suffer further deterioration from it.

Trish said...

Thank you for this thorough and biblical review of a book that I struggled with from the moment I opened it. I have some friends that want to do a study on being a biblical wife. I'm wondering if there's a printable format of your review that is easier to print so that I can take it to friends and address the concerns I have. They don't have access to the internet so I cannot send them to this blog. Thank you so much for standing for truth!

Ria said...

Awesome! Thanks for articulating what I knew was not from the Lord. You were so respectful and gentle except for the part about glorying in silence. I noticed your anger and sarcasm :) maybe I'm wrong :) I just didn't remember her being that cookoo. Anyway, good job! I believe that you confirmed the check in my spirit I had about this book. I don't think the church should shy away from these issues but address them in meekness and in truth like you just did. Glory to God!

Anonymous said...

I AM SO GRATEFUL that I found this blog post. SO grateful. Someone gave me this book because she thought it would "help me." My husband and I went through the book together and were really upset by what we read. I have been struggling with this book and all of what you said helped me put into words exactly what I was feeling. THANK YOU.

JoyfulJ said...

Thank you for writing this.
I read this book in the 2nd year of my marriage. I agreed with most of it at first. Then as I lived life, the sentiments and ideas she proposed soured and showed their true colors in face of true scripture.
But in no way could I express it in such a clear and concise a manner as you have. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for writing this blog. A good family friend of my Fiance', I am getting married next week, called me out of the blue today to talk. In this conversations she told me that she had bought this book for me and the guy version for my soon-to-be husband. She had previously given a book to my fiance' that I had a read a few chapters of and some red flags were raised. So, hearing she was giving yet another book, I googled the book and came across your blog. I will not be reading this book as a fresh Christian newly-wed. It would only harm myself and my marriage and I was so thankful when my fiance', hearing about all these points, said he won't even let that happen. Thank you, again, for taking the time and effort to create this blog.

Mrs Peterson's Place said...

Outstanding!!! You put into words all the things my heart was trying to tell me as I started to read it and started to "lose" myself. It was my husband who said he didn't want a wife like that he wanted the fiesty ornery woman he married. I love my guy!!

And thank you for the beautiful paragraph at the end. May God's glory be known and His peace reign in your heart.

Faith said...

I haven't read the book in question (and I don't plan to buy it, either), but I often read things similar to this blog and they all suffer from the same problem.

I’ve heard Christians trying to defend the Bible against accusations that it is a patriarchal book — without any real success. Feminists have done a good job of exposing just how patriarchal the Bible is. It’s not just a case of “different roles”. Just look at the bare facts.

God always speaks as a male (each person of the Trinity is referred to as “He”), creates a male first, makes a female merely as a companion/help for the male (and curses her for her disobedience with the dreaded “he shall rule over you”), chooses males for pretty much everything apart from when necessity demands a woman (e.g. Deborah, Esther, Mary), incarnates, lives & resurrects as a male, picks twelve males to carry on the work, and has everything written down by males — and when the second person is used in teaching, it is almost always males who are addressed. (Females are almost always spoken of in the third person.)

The whole tenor of the Bible reeks powerfully of male dominance. Women are at best bit-part players (even in the two books named after women, both women are submissive and under the authority of men — their lives would be anathema to modern, educated Western women). And there are some glaring instances of just how inegalitarian the Bible is. God turns a blind eye to polygyny, for example, but polyandry would be classed as adultery and punished by death under (divinely-given) Israelite law!

Christians will cling to verses like Galatians 3:28, overlooking the vast bulk of other inegalitarian statements and admonitions that Paul makes about women. God in the Bible clearly approves of patriarchy. God is — according to you — omnipotent. He surely could thus have established an egalitarian civil society in Israel in which male and female equality was laid down firmly. His law, however, treats women effectively as the possessions of men. The attempts of Christians to make the Bible compatible with the culture of today really are laughable. Feminists have demonstrated that the Bible does not teach complementarianism (let alone egalitarianism), but an unrepentant patriarchy.

At least those curious folk who follow patriarchy (e.g. the Pearl couple) are consistent. The rest of you implicitly acknowledge that you cannot reconcile Biblical teaching with the inevitable victory of feminism, and therefore attempt to re-imagine the Bible. You’re feminists at heart (as the comments here reveal, if only you could see it): stop being bashful about it and come out of the closet — honesty is meant to be a Christian virtue, after all...

Jilly said...

Your last paragraph almost had me in tears it was so powerful and Godly thank you so much!!
~Jilly oxo