Thursday, September 6, 2007

Point 3

Point 3: CTBHHM consistently asserts that a woman/wife bears responsibility for a man’s/ husband’s sins, going so far as to say a husband’s complete sanctification and deliverance from temptation is provided to him through his wife and her actions. It seems to teach that women are deceived by Satan but men are not, and that men’s primary weakness is their desire for (or to please) women. Therefore, women cause men to sin (or not) by their actions and submission.

This book blames the downfalls of Adam, David, Solomon, and Samson directly on the women in their lives (p. 111). While women arguably had a role in misleading each of these men, the Bible makes it very clear that these men made their own choices and bear the blame for their sins. Nowhere in Scripture is Bathsheba blamed for David’s sin or the brokenness it caused. Scripture does, however, put clear blame squarely on David’s head. Adam tried to blame Eve for his sin (just like Eve tried to blame the serpent for hers), but God was not impressed – he meted out punishment to each guilty party. Romans 5 repeats several times that sin came into the world through one man (Adam), clearly placing blame on him and his choice. Solomon and Samson were certainly misled by their wives/lovers, but it was their choice to give in to their appetites/lust and choose to live with/become vulnerable to/be influenced by these women. James 1:14-15 makes it clear that we each, individually, invite sin into our lives. Just as great parents can produce a child who willfully chooses sin, so a perfectly submissive wife does not guarantee her husband’s purity or sinlessness. To put the burden of a husband’s purity/thought life/ability to withstand temptation on the shoulders of his wife, as this book does, is not only unbiblical, but it is a burden too heavy for any human being to bear. Simply being responsible for our own behavior and thoughts is enough of a job!

In a particularly eye-brow-raising interchange (p.28-32) that is characteristic of a lot of the advice in the book, a “desperate wife” writes to Debi about her husband’s emotional affair with an office secretary. Debi suggests that the woman engage in a full-on competition to win her husband back, using the weapons of coquetry, feminine wiles, blushing, dependence, smiles, staged anger towards her “rival”, teasing, frequent sex, etc. It is clearly the woman’s responsibility to keep her husband faithful to her – not through love, prayer, and beauty of character, but through using the same techniques as her “rival”. “You can stand on your rights and stand on truth, but it won’t save your marriage.” (p.29) “If you feed him well, emotionally and sexually, her cooking won’t tempt him. God is on your side. Fight and win.” (p.32) In our understanding of Scripture, God is never on the side of using “feminine wiles” as opposed to standing on His Truth. The woman writing this letter has deep concerns and her marriage has deep issues, and Debi’s response addresses none of these. The woman is never once encouraged to even pray for her husband or their relationship. Instead, the reply reads as if it came straight out of a cheap women’s magazine like Cosmopolitan. Instead of Scripture (since there isn’t any, even twisted Scripture, to support this approach), she uses a secular song from Loretta Lynn called “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man” to back her advice up. In the absence of scripture, she also repeatedly threatens the woman with certain divorce and destitution if she fails to follow this advice. Debi’s response contains no true respect for any of the players involved the struggle. It reduces the husband to a helpless hormone-driven carnal animal and labels the rival a “cheap office wench” and “hussy” in the “dime-a-dozen class”. Perhaps the most disturbing sentence in this reply is the assertion that, “God has provided for your husband’s complete sanctification and deliverance from temptation through you, his wife.” (p.29) This statement is completely unbiblical and terrifying.

One final observation we want to make here is that Debi seems to have very little true respect for men in this book. She presents the vast majority of men as “carnal” creatures (she uses that term frequently) with little potential for moral strength and an extremely limited ability to control their appetites. It is up to women not to tempt them and to keep them in line, both by the giggling/flirting/providing good sex mentioned above, and by an extreme, unquestioning submission, which will somehow magically produce a redeemed, caring husband with his appetites in control. (The letter above actually says to “get down on your husband’s emotional level, and make yourself more attractive than that office wench, and do it now, today!” p.31) Never once are women even exhorted to pray fervently and faithfully for their husbands (in fact, we can’t think of an instance in this book in which women are exhorted to pray for their husbands at all). It is never appropriate for a woman to have any expectations of her husband. She should never confront him except for three or four specific issues (anal sex, cross dressing, stealing and possibly pornography viewing, although the last was unclear). If a husband is consorting with prostitutes, frequenting strip clubs, excessive in his corporal punishment, exposing his children to trashy TV programs, abusing his wife (up to an unspecified point) or spending all of his pay check and bringing nothing home, these things should be tolerated and ignored and the husband treated like a king and a “#1 Daddy”. The wife should suffer in silence for the glory of God. For a few illegal issues (like stealing or sexually abusing his children), a wife is advised to simply call in the force of the law (but not necessarily confront her husband). Women are encouraged to “hold their standards and hold their man” (p.67) if their husband thinks otherwise. In several places in this book, Debi warns women against trusting that their husbands will stay faithful to them just because of their vows. No, women must be ever vigilant to keep their husbands happy and satisfied, with the threat of unfaithfulness or divorce looming always before them.

One odd assertion, repeated several times in the book, is that Scripture gives women the opportunity to transform their husbands and bring them to Christ solely by their submission (1 Peter 3:1-2), but that men have no God-given ability or opportunity to transform or change their wives (p.131). While there is never any specific Scripture that lays out exactly how men can bring their unbelieving wives to Christ, Acts has several examples of men who became Christians and were followed immediately by their entire households. Scripture also has many examples of how a Christian can witness to a non-Christian, and how Christians can help each other grow in Christlikeness. There is nothing to indicate that this is not applicable to a relationship between a husband and a wife (or that the only way a wife can help her husband grow is by silent submission)!

Like so much of the book, here is an important truth which Debi expresses well, then stretches to an extreme. Women do have a huge role safeguarding their husbands’ virtue and exampling Christ to them. But it is no where near such an omnipotent role as she suggests.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

You know my husband cannot stand Debi Pearl and what she "teaches". He feels that men are responsible for their actions, and to state otherwise is tearing them down. He feels she does as much damage to marriages as an liberal feminist does, and is just like them, if not worse.
Men everywhere should stand up and tell her not to speak of them as one would a dog. Even a dog can be "trained" not to do certain things. She teaches men can't even do that.

Clay said...

I had to put the book down after I read the advice you quoted in this post! I know how wrong she is! What worked for me in a similar situation is drawing boundary lines in the sand, tough love, dignity and strength.

I meet with a group of ladies for Bible Study. One of them homeschools and the book was all the rage. She had heard such good things, and the homeschool group was ordering it by the case so she bought each of us a copy. All four of us had similar reactions, it was like being stabbed with daggers, it speaks death!

For me it was a visceral emotional reaction and I really couldn't have done the level headed analysis of WHY that you have provided here.

Thank you for serving the body of Christ in this way. I hope many people who have been hurt and mislead by this material can read your edifying rebuttal.

Clay said...

I had to put the book down after I read the advice you quoted in this post! I know how wrong she is! What worked for me in a similar situation is drawing boundary lines in the sand, tough love, dignity and strength.

I meet with a group of ladies for Bible Study. One of them homeschools and the book was all the rage. She had heard such good things, and the homeschool group was ordering it by the case so she bought each of us a copy. All four of us had similar reactions, it was like being stabbed with daggers, it speaks death!

For me it was a visceral emotional reaction and I really couldn't have done the level headed analysis of WHY that you have provided here.

Thank you for serving the body of Christ in this way. I hope many people who have been hurt and mislead by this material can read your edifying rebuttal.

Ginger said...

This was an interesting discussion, thank you...

Panshrmu said...

I have been reading through your posts and am encouraged. After hearing so many good things from homeschooling boards, someone actually sent the book to me as I live overseas.I read it but didn't get the warm fuzzy feeling all were talking about. There were some things that spoke to me, but many things that put up warning signs.
I honestly think that this book could do more harm than good as many people take things like this as written in stone and do not seek out the truth. Nor do people nowadays seek guidance and counsel but look to a book for a quick fix.
I am glad to see someone standing up and writing out plain and simple the fallacies in the book.

Anonymous said...

I am grateful for your opinions on this book! A friend gave me this book as a wedding present with all beautiful intentions, but as a new wife, I feel like I was very vulnerable to any type of advice thrown my way. As I read the book, many of its points encouraged me and helped me understand my husband, but I couldn't help but wonder if the letter Mrs. Pearl wrote to the struggling wife you are talking about was at all biblical or comforting. Obviously this woman is in desperate tears, not knowing where to turn, and needing God's grace and strength to forgive her husband and work through the healing they need between each other (if the husband was even at that point of wanting restitution, which I doubt), and Mrs. Pearl offered no comfort, only a challenge to compete. Just reading this poor woman's letter made me desperate to know what a woman should do in a situation like that, and I would love to hear someone teach on how we can serve as wives in the protection of our husband's hearts. (If the authors of this blog have any thoughts, please share them!)

I also have some concerns about many of her insinuations of blame towards the wife for issues in the husband that are obviously huge faults of character in HIM, not in her. Being a new wife, I am very aware how much I can be responsible for inspiring good in my husband, and how being quick to forgive and affirming the best in him challenges him to overcome temptation. But I do not believe that I am the one responsible for the wrong in him, but rather that he is susceptible to the enemy's schemes. I just saw a friend walk through her husband's emotional affair, and blaming herself was one of the first tactics Satan tried in bringing her down. I believe Mrs. Pearl's teachings have nuggets of truth, but the insinuations she gives can be very detrimental to struggling women who are already eager to blame themselves for their husbands' wrong.

Andreea said...

Hi there! I hope you'll poste my comment too. I am a wife and a mother of 2. I read the book last year and God used it for the healing of my marriage and the strenghtening of my relationship with my husband. My husband also read some of it and he agreed. He is so excited about it and says every married woman should read it. I read you critique and I only found to be real this point:it is true that Debi lacks grace when she is speaking about ladies that were struggling.I believe that God made man and woman in His image, for His glory and that the married woman is the glory of her husband and was created for her man -as the Bible says 1 Cor 11:7-9, and was created as a helpmeet. Genesis 3:16 talks about man ruling over the woman as well as 1 Tim 3:4 says "One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity", so my husband needs to rule the house that includes me and the children. When I obey my husband I obey God because He has given me him as a head, and his head is Jesus. What can be more wonderful? To be a helpmeet means to serve. Servanthood is not smth humiliating unless we are proud or full of self. Jesus washed His disciples'dirty feet and our wicked sins. I believe, like the Bible says and also Debi, that if we submmit to our husbands we submmit to God(unless they ask of us smth ilegal or imoral as Debi specifies).
thank you for your time
Andreea, Romania

Anonymous said...

the bible also says we must obey God rather than man, the Bible and obeying God comes before our husbands. this book is only for the undiscerned Christian baby.