Thursday, September 6, 2007

Point 4

Point 4: Its use of Scripture often seems wrong or out-of-context—so often that we frequently feel as though the author is stretching to find scriptural support for her own pre-determined conclusions.

Debi misuses Scripture frequently, and we have not attempted to write down every single instance. Instead, we will point out just a few places (not previously mentioned) in which we think Scripture is dangerously misused (or missing). Then, in the following section (point 5), we will go through one specific chapter (chapter 11, “The Nature of Man and Woman”), and point out each specific misuse (as we see it) that Debi used to make her point that women should not attempt to be spiritual.
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Pages 117-118: “Your husband, dud that he may ‘appear’ to be, is appointed by God to be your immediate Superior Officer in the chain of command. Your position under him is where God put you for your own spiritual, emotional, and physical safety. It is the only position where you will find real fulfillment as a woman. Don’t worry about the quality of his leadership, for he is under the oversight of Jesus Christ… The emphasis is not on women submitting to men, but rather on women showing, here on earth, the heavenly pattern of the Son submitting to the Father. ‘He is not saved!’ you say. God’s word remains the final authority. Your husband is your knight in God’s protective armor. Even if his armor appears a bit rusty and dull, it is still the armor of God, your safe covering in everything… It was God’s design, before the fall, that the woman’s desire would be to her husband and that he would rule over her. This relationship was not punishment, but after the fall it would be a source of suffering for the woman. This relationship was not punishment, but after the fall it would be source of suffering for the woman.”

Not only does this quote have no scriptural evidence that God designed man to rule over woman before the fall (there is none), but it also suggests that women are not supposed to put on their own armor, but should simply stand behind their husbands’. They should completely trust in their husband’s spiritual leadership, even if he is not a Christian, rather than cultivating their own personal relationship with Jesus. It even seems to imply that a non-believing husband is wearing the armor of God. In our understanding, Ephesians 6:10-18 (putting on the full armor of God) applies to both men and women.
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One of this book’s stories is about Judy, Debi’s “Queen for the Day” (pages 126-130). Judy’s husband unrepentantly frequented strip clubs and consorted with prostitutes. Judy decided that her call was simply to love and reverence her husband, never approach or question him about his sins, and teach her son to think he was the greatest, no matter what he did (for example, they went to his workplace and held up a huge sign saying “#1 Daddy”. Debi asserts that in some mystical way, Judy’s submission and reverence to her husband “prevented her husband’s sin from damaging her son”. She uses 1 Peter 4:8 (“Above all, love each other deeply, for love covers a multitude of sins.”) and 1 Corinthians 7:14 (“For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.”) to “prove” this. Most likely, in the case of the man frequenting prostitutes, the son will grow up to either hate his father and despise or pity his mother, or will learn that he can do the same thing to his wife and still be served and reverenced as if he were a king. In any case, these verses seem barely related to her point, much less serve to prove it.

Debi concludes her story by saying on p.130, “God has called us to a higher plane. It is on this higher plane that we discover the wonder of life, of love, and of forgiveness. And it is the place where we will come to be cherished. Few men are able to continue being angry, lustful, and selfish in the face of such a strong force as being reverenced.” There is just enough truth in this quote to make it dangerous. The truth is that God has called us to a higher plane that includes forgiveness (although He also values truth and repentance). The danger is in suggesting that women earn the right to be cherished by reverencing their flagrantly unfaithful husbands, and in suggesting that reverencing their husbands is some magical force that will irresistibly redeem them (there’s no Scriptural back-up for this).
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Another troubling part of the book is the chapter about “three kinds of men” (chapter 8). This chapter makes some excellent points about marriage and loving your man as he was created to be (rather than as you would like him to be), but it makes some troubling Biblical parallels. Debi asserts at the beginning that there are basically three types of men, and that God “made each male to express one side of his triad nature. No single man completely expresses the well-rounded image of God. If a man were all three types at the same time, he would be the perfect man” (p. 75). She then goes on to describe each of the three types: Mr. Command Man is like God the Father, Mr. Visionary is like the Holy Spirit, and Mr. Steady is like Jesus. Characterizing men this way without reference to God is fine, but saying these personality types reflect the Three Persons of the Trinity is a sort of unscriptural pop psychology. Not only does she suggest that women do not reflect God’s image (since she says the three types of men together would express a well-rounded image of God), but she also draws up a pretty poor picture of both God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Her portrait of Mr. Command Man (God the Father) sounds like it comes directly from a domestic violence publication warning of characteristics of a possible batterer (he wants his wife to wait on him hand and foot, wants to know her exact location and activity every single moment of every day, lacks tolerance, is forceful and bossy, and corrects his wife without thought). To us, this is a man who needs grace to have the humility of Christ. To excuse him as the image of God the Father is to give him an excuse for sin which the Bible does not provide. Mr. Visionary (the Holy Spirit) has tunnel vision, tenaciously focuses on single issues, is a church splitter, and will easily pick up and relocate without any idea of what he is going to do for a living at his new location (although most Mr. Visionaries will “just sit around the house and complain”).
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Debi spends half her book expanding on two verses in Titus 2:4-5 (referring to older women teaching younger women): “Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” Debi uses the original King James (which is the only inspired or legitimate translation in the English language, according to the Pearl’s website – all others are “New Age”; they even say that the King James is to be preferred to the original Greek, p.53.) The KJV verse ends with the words “so that the word of God not be blasphemed”. Debi then spends 8 chapters expanding on the 8 words used in the 2 verses of the KJV. She explains exactly what she means each of these 8 words mean in lengthy chapters (with little reference to the original Greek), then states emphatically that any women who does not comply with her definition of these 8 words is not merely causing others to blaspheme the word but is herself blaspheming the word of God. Please note, we actually agree with the majority of what Debi teaches in these 8 chapters, but are upset at how she misuses Scripture to support it. Here are two examples:

Debi has a chapter (chapter 16) on “loving your husband” based on these verses. Despite the fact that the Greek word used for “love” in this Titus passage is philandros, means to be “fond of man, affectionate as a wife”, and has nothing to do with sexual love (eros), Debi’s entire chapter is about sex. She states that whenever a woman does not have sex with her husband for whatever reason, physical or otherwise (even if it is causing her pain), then she is sinning and blaspheming the word of God. We do believe that wives have a responsibility in this area and that Debi makes good points (1 Corinthians 7:1-6 would have been a much more appropriate basis for this discussion, and says nothing about blaspheming God’s word!), but using this out-of-context Scripture to accuse women of blaspheming God’s word when they refuse intercourse for any reason is clearly not what the passage in Titus 2 intended.

The KJV says that older women should teach younger wives to be “keepers at home” (translated “busy at home” in the NIV). Debi interprets this (with no reference to the original language or Biblical text) as meaning that mothers can NEVER leave their children with babysitters for any length of time, for any reason. She uses the example of a missionary wife who left her infant with someone else for 10 minutes to help her husband with his ministry. The infant was molested, a clear and tragic consequence of blaspheming God’s word (Debi never addresses the fact that the husband probably asked his wife to help him, one of the many inconsistencies we will address in the next point).

These are just two of the ways in which we think Debi’s 8 chapters expounding the 2 verses in Titus (telling women they are “blaspheming God’s word” whenever they disagree) go way beyond what the original text intended. Please again note, we actually agree with the majority of Debi conclusions in this section, but are upset at how she misuses Scripture to support them.
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Debi’s “exposition” of 1 Corinthians 11 (pages 248-251) is so mixed-up that we barely know where to begin. In short, Debi says that this passage is not about propriety in worship in the early church, and is not even about head coverings, but that the sole focus of this passage is on the ordinance of male headship, one of the ordinances she says God commands us to follow. (We are not disputing male headship, but we are saying that it does not appear to be the primary subject of this passage, nor do we ever see it put forth in Scripture as an ordinance like baptism or Communion.) She says some other strange things, too – that woman was created in the image of man, and that a woman’s head covering or long hair says to the rulers of darkness of this world, “I belong to this man, and I am under his safe spiritual headship; you can not mess with me.”
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Before leaving this section, we should say that we looked at some of Michael Pearl’s other Biblical teaching on his website and read some critiques of it online, and it seems to be troubling in several ways. Beyond believing that the KJV is the only inerrant Scripture for the English speaking world (even more inerrant than the Greek), Michael believes that we are born without a sin nature and can achieve instant and complete sanctification (deliverance from sins) by believing and claiming the right message. His teaching makes it sound like he believes he has been without sin for several years. He says numerous times that “almost all churches fail to grasp this truth”, that “all commentaries are wrong on this point”, and other statements that make us uncomfortable (whenever someone believes they are one of the few in history to understand a core doctrinal truth correctly, it raises red flags). Since Michael’s beliefs & doctrine inform most of what Debi teaches in the book (she says she is completely under his protection & teaching), this is troubling. We have not given Michael’s teaching a complete and fair hearing. We don’t mean this paragraph as a full critique; we are only relating reasons for concern.


Natalie said...

I thought about buying this book. I think you do a great job of pointing out the twisted parts, & reading so many inconsistencies with scripture, which I understand and agree with every one of yours that I've read so far, I'm soooooooooooooo glad I did not buy this book!

We are created for the glory of God!

char said...

Thank you for your diligence. You covered many of my concerns. A question remains in my mind about Titus 2:3-5. I always read the phrase "that the word of God be not blasphemed" as modifying the older women. They have grave responsibilities toward the younger women and if they do not teach, then the word of God will be blasphemed.
If we view the Scripture as Debbi does, then young, inexperienced girl-brides who don't know any better, are being expected to not blaspheme God's word. When older women, like this author, can't even demonstrate kindness in response to letters, do we really think the honor of God's Word is hinged on young women?
I'd like to hear your thoughts. Perhaps there's a Greek scholar out there who could shed light on this potential case of mixing modifiers.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. I used to get their newsletter and try to follow their teaching. Doing that resulted in two very abusive marriages. Then one of the newsletters printed the chapter about the 3 types of husbands and I was truly horrified to see my heavenly Father so insulted. That kind of teaching is what drives people away from God.
I finally learned, with my second husband, to become secure in my relationship to my Lord, to accept no more excuses for abuse (which included no more excuses for me tolerating it and me nor he making excuses for him doing it), and to stand up for myself. And things got so much better. And yes, it is scriptural. Jesus himself said that we are not to lord it over each other, like the gentiles do. And, in Christ there is no east or west.....male or female. We are equal in the sight of God.