Thursday, September 6, 2007
All the quotations from our critique of Created to Be His Helpmeet come from the 2004 edition by Debi Pearl, published by No Greater Joy Ministries.
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It is with some pain that we point out the serious concerns we see in Debi Pearl’s book, Created to Be His Help Meet (CTBHHM). Her book has points of wisdom, sometimes deep wisdom, and several sections full of endearing energy and joy. We think a well-versed Christian might well enjoy winnowing the wheat from the chaff, finding things useful and challenging. Unfortunately, we think that taking this book at face value could cause a great deal of lasting harm (or prevent a great deal of good development) in a woman's relationship to God, herself, and to her husband.
First, we want to affirm and make clear where we agree. We believe that Scripture is the ultimate authority for life, and that everything written in the Bible is true, and a solid basis for all of our beliefs and actions. We believe that the Bible teaches women to submit to their husbands, and that men are to be the heads of their homes (and that it also teaches a lot of other things about marriage relationships). We believe everything the Bible says about men and women.
My wife did find some challenging truths in this book. In her own words: Only God can change hearts, and my responsibility is not to change my husband, but to focus on my own heart, attitudes, and actions. My respect towards him and my submission should not hinge on whether or not my husband “earns” it, but should be an act of the will and of obedience to God. When I entered into the vows of marriage, I committed to love, honor, and respect my husband no matter what, and that often means choosing to die to my own desires and feelings. I can choose to make the right choice, remain joyful, and honor my husband no matter what our circumstances. I also recognize that this book was written for the purpose of teaching women how to act towards their husbands, not the other way around. I liked the way the book challenged women to choose joy and choose thankfulness, no matter what their circumstances. I thought the poem Debi wrote at the end of the book was beautiful and contained depth.
[Writing together again] Indeed, Debi’s book drove us into the Scripture—unfortunately, many times, only to find she was wrong. This book is troubling to us, especially in the ways it seems to be twisting and misusing Scripture. Please understand the following reflections not as a personal attack, but as a sincere attempt to voice our misgivings towards using this book to teach any women, but especially new Christians. Listed below are our main concerns with this book, followed by more detailed descriptions of each point (you can click on any of the point numbers & you'll be taken straight to a more detailed description of that point).
Point 1: CTBHHM takes away the very heart of a woman’s identity as a child of God, created in His image, by Him and for Him. It takes a wife’s God given role – being a help meet to her husband – and asserts that for every woman, being a help meet (as defined by Debi Pearl) encompasses her sole purpose for existing and her only true identity. It goes so far as to state that Eve was created in the image of Adam rather than in the image of God.
Point 2: It presents a woman’s husband as a mediator, a kind of high priest, between herself and God.
Point 3: It 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.
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. We feel it is more appropriate to first study the scripture and let it guide the conclusions.
Point 5: It discourages women from spending time in prayer, Scripture study, or meditation on Scripture, hinting that a woman’s spiritual connection to God is primarily determined and built through her actions towards her husband. It asserts that that there is no woman in Scripture who is commended for doing “spiritual” things (i.e. praying, reading Scripture, etc.)
Point 6: The book itself is full of inconsistencies and can be very confusing.
Point 7: CTBHHM advice to women involved in an abusive situation (it advocates enduring in silence for the glory of God) is not only Scripturally suspect, but is also potentially lethal. The book also suggests that when a woman is abused by her husband, it is usually her fault.
Point 8: The writing often lacks grace and compassion towards those struggling, calling women names that should never be used to describe human beings made in God’s image.
Below are some of the passages from the book that we found most troubling:
Page 21: “If you are a wife, you were created to fill a need, and in that capacity you are a “good thing”, a helper suited to the needs of a man. This is how God created you and it is your purpose for existing.”
Page 22: “Are you engaged in active goodwill toward your man? That is God’s perfect will for you. When you are a help meet to your husband, you are a helper to Christ, for God commissioned man for a purpose and gave him a woman in fulfilling that divine calling. When you honor your husband, you honor God. When you obey your husband, you obey God. The degree to which you reverence your husband is the degree to which you reverence your Creator. As we serve our husbands, we serve God. But in the same way, when you dishonor your husband, you dishonor God.”
Page 23: “Men are created to be helpers of God. Jesus willingly became a helper to the Father. The Holy Spirit became a helper to the Son… God made you to be a help meet to your husband so you can bolster him, making him more productive and efficient at whatever he chooses to do.”
Page 58: “When a woman gets old and realizes that there is no man to love and cherish her, it is sad indeed, for she has failed in the very purpose for which she was created – to be a suitable helper for man.”
Page 230: “Just as my husband finds security and meaning in submission to his head, so I become the person God created me to be in submitting to my head – my
usband. …our submission to our husband should be viewed with the same love and fervency as our submission and love for Christ. The text says that we submit “as unto the Lord,” as if we were submitting to the Lord. Since my husband’s authority is delegated by God, when I submit to my husband, I am recognizing God’s authority, and I am indeed submitting to God.”
Page 250: “Adam was created for God’s glory. God made a person like himself – someone who could enjoy the things God enjoyed. Woman was created as a glory to the man. God looked at his friend, Adam, and knew that Adam needed someone for his own glory. So God reached into the body of man for a rib and made of it a woman. Bone of his bone, cell of his cell, RNA of his RNA, in the image of the one from which she came.” [Our children were made “from” my wife’s body, yet they were not created in her image. Neither was Jesus created in Mary’s image, even though he came from her body.]
Page 252: “The Scripture clearly teaches that the only safe place for a woman is under her husband’s authority.”
Page 270: [In a discussion of enduring abuse in silence:] “Women who threaten to report him to the law,’… are rebellious. They will never make it to the hall of fame found in Hebrews 11, where Sara was listed, nor will they make it into a heavenly marriage here on earth. They will go to their graves unloved and uncherished, a total failure as the woman God called them to be.” [Kind of tough on a woman being abused by her husband.]
We do believe that Eve was created to perfectly complement Adam and to help him fulfill the job God gave him. We find no Scripture, however, to back up the assertions that a woman’s sole purpose in existing is to be a help meet to a man, that only men have a direct role in fulfilling God’s purpose, or that a woman’s reverence toward and submission to her husband is an exact measure or direct corollary of her reverence toward or submission to her Creator.
Women, as well as men, were created by God and for Him. A woman, as well as a man, has a direct link to God through Christ and has a God-given purpose to fulfill in His Kingdom. Any woman who fails to find her primary identity in Christ and her life’s purpose in living in responsive obedience to God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, will be left unfulfilled – no matter how well she obeys and reverences her husband. We are all, men and women, called to submit fully to God. It is in submission to God, her Father and the lover of her soul, that a wife chooses, in obedience to God, to submit to her husband - not the other way around.
Mrs. Pearl’s interpretation of the first chapters of Genesis is her basis for the rest of her book. She asserts that Eve was created to be Adam’s help meet (which Debi defines as servant to Adam), that only Adam was given the command to rule both over Eve and the rest of creation, and that Eve was made in Adam’s image (rather than God’s image). She makes it clear that she thinks God’s purpose for Adam was to rule Creation, and that God’s purpose for Eve was to serve Adam. Rooted in this assertion is her teaching that men are given a purpose by God and women are given to men (“God’s gift to men”, p.21) to help them do whatever men choose to do. Men find their identity in serving God, while women find their identity in serving their husband. We believe that Debi’s reading of Genesis 1&2 (and the rest of the Bible) is incomplete.
In Genesis 1&2, Adam is created and is given the job of tending the garden (not ruling it, in Genesis 2, which contains the only “job” or mandate given to Adam alone). God sees that it is not good for Adam to be alone and that he needs a helper. The Hebrew word for “helper” or “help meet” used here is used 19 more times in the Bible-- to refer to help given in battle—usually from God. God helps but he is not our servant. It is a wife’s role to help her husband, but it does not follow that she exists merely to serve her husband’s agenda.
A suitable helper cannot be found for Adam among the animals. God puts Adam to sleep and fashions a woman out of Adam’s rib. He then gives both the man and the woman a mandate to rule over Creation. They were both created to fulfill God’s purpose – each of them with a vertical relationship to God and a direct role in fulfilling His commands. Yes, Eve was created as Adam’s help meet, but she was his help meet in fulfilling God’s mandate to them both, not his help meet in making him personally fulfilled. Genesis 1 contains some crucial verses that Debi Pearl never quotes:
Genesis1:27-28 – “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’”CTBHHM asserts that Eve was created for the sole purpose of being Adam’s servant. Scripture seems to make it clear that Eve was created to be Adam’s companion and help meet, yes, but in order to help Adam serve God and carry out God’s mandate for His creation. There is a crucial distinction. Women do not find their sole identity and purpose in God through men in a bent way, but are created to have a direct, vertical relationship with God, working with men to fulfill God’s purpose for them and for Creation.
Never in Scripture is Adam given the command to rule over Eve, or are men given the command to rule over their families or their wives, despite what Debi asserts (for example, on page 136, she says, “Man was created to rule. It is his nature. But the only place most men will ever rule is their own little kingdom called home.”) Lead, yes, but rule, no. In fact, the only command given to Adam to rule over creation was also given to Eve (to “them”). The Bible does say that men will rule over their wives, but this is not a command – it is the result of sin entering the world – it is a part of the curse (Gen. 3:16). On page 229, Debi quotes the curse and concludes that “According to God’s very words…she is to be under her husband’s rule. That is the will of God.” Indeed, Debi seems to center much of her book on how to fulfill the curse in your marriage. Applying this logic to the remainder of the curse builds a very amusing picture. Should we eschew efficiency for toil as the will of God? Endure the weeds that God has planted (rather than pull them)? Maybe medicine is evil whenever it forestalls death? We have never heard any Bible teaching that the curse is to be prescriptive to our lives as redeemed Christians.
Instead, Paul calls Christian husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church, sacrificially. He even calls for mutual submission, out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21). A husband is called to be a foot-washing leader--not a ruler, president, or king of his family, all analogies that Debi uses frequently in her book. The curse is not a picture of heaven. It is a burden, a crippling that we feel every day. By the grace of God, we want to love our wives, but our words come out harsh, our hearts are hard, and our bodies full of restrained violence. Indeed, we at times rule over them and crush so much joy that could have been ours.
Below are some verses from the Bible which contradict Debi’s assertion that women were created solely for the purpose and glory of men and find their complete identity in being a help meet to a man.
Colossians 1:15-17 – He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.Women and men were created by and for Christ.
Colossians 2:9-10 – For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.Women and men have been given fullness in Christ. Women do not find completion in a man or in serving a man – they find it in Christ.
Ephesians 2:10 – For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.Both men & women were created in Christ Jesus to do good works, prepared by God for us.
Galatians 3:26-29 – You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Both men and women find their identity and being in Christ.
Galations 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live through faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!Christ lives in each woman who has invited Him in. Righteousness is found through Him, not through being a perfect help meet to a man.
1 Corinthians 7:8, 34-35 – Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am… An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world – how she can please her husband.Paul made it clear that a woman did not have to be a help meet to serve God or have a true purpose in life. In fact, staying unmarried led to greater effectiveness in certain areas. Unmarried women, according to Paul, had not “failed in the very purpose for which they were created – to be a help meet to a man.”
Romans 12:1&2 – Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern on this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.We come to know God’s perfect will by offering our bodies as living sacrifices to Him – the ultimate in submission! Debi tells us that God’s perfect will for a woman (she uses these words) is to be a help meet as she defines it. (On page 73: “What is God’s perfect will for your life? To be a good help meet.”)
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.
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.
The following is a critique of the Scripture that Debi uses in chapter 11, “The Nature of Man and Woman”. In this chapter, she says that women are not meant to be “spiritual” and that women should not spend (and are not created to spend) a great deal of time in prayer, quiet time, Scripture study, or similar “spiritual” endeavors. Instead, a woman’s primary spirituality comes through serving her husband in practical ways. We agree that serving one’s husband can be a “spiritual” act, but we don’t believe this defines the sum total of a woman’s spirituality or relationship to God. In this section, we will quote Debi, then write how we think she is using the Bible in a manner that goes beyond its intended meaning.
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Page 105: “God created man with a nature that is aggressive, and then commanded him to exercise dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:28).”The verse referenced is part of a command God gives to both men and women. It says nothing about God creating man with an aggressive nature.
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In pages 106-108, Debi imagines a lot of things about the Creation story that are found nowhere in the Bible. She delves deeply into Lucifer’s exact thoughts and knowledge. She asserts that because Satan was male himself, he knew the man could not be deceived, and so he waited until God created the weaker vessel, Eve, whom he knew could be deceived. There is nothing in Scripture to suggest that Satan knew the thoughts, strengths, and weaknesses of Adam and Eve, or that he knew in advance that God was going to create a “weaker vessel” after Adam. Debi goes into great detail about the nature of Adam, Eve, and Satan, even when there is no Biblical evidence for this. In fact, in these 2 ½ pages, she provides just four references, none of which support the bulk of her assertions without a great deal of imagination and stretching.
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On page 109, Debi holds up Miriam as an example of a woman whose false leadership proves women should not try to be spiritual. “Her desire to be on an equal footing with Moses has left her name in infamy, for our admonition (1 Cor. 10:6,10).” The two verses referenced have nothing to do with Miriam – they have to do with the Israelites being punished because they set their hearts on evil things and grumbled. The actual Scriptural story (in Numbers 12, which Debi never references) shows that both Aaron and Miriam criticized Moses and challenged his authority and were equally at fault. In fact, Aaron’s leadership (i.e. golden calf) carries a lot more infamy than Miriam’s. This story does nothing to advance Debi’s point that women most often have a false spirituality, any more than Aaron’s bad leadership in the Bible says anything about men’s ability to lead well. The leadership of both Aaron and Miriam is given legitimacy by God in Micah 6:4. (We are not saying women should lead; we are merely pointing out that Debi uses Scripture badly.)
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Page 110: “When Jesus spoke a parable about the kingdom becoming corrupted with false doctrine, he illustrated it with a woman bringing in the corruption (Matt. 3:33).”Here is the verse from Matthew 13:33: “He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.’” Not only is the yeast in this parable a good thing (not corruption), but the fact that Jesus said a woman mixed it in simply means that women kneaded bread in his culture and has nothing to say about the spirituality of women.
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Page 110 & 112: “In the book of Revelation, it is a woman, typically called Jezebel, who deceives the church. We are told that she did it through her teaching.…. The ‘last days’ profile of Christian women is that of the religious prophetess, Jezebel… Revelation 2:20 says that Jezebel ‘calleth herself a prophetess’ and men received her as a teacher, showing that she was part of structured Christianity, ‘ministering’ to the saints. Jesus warned the Church against the teaching woman, Jezebel. Any woman who defies the scripture’s prohibition against women teachers in the Church is following in the grave tradition of Jezebel.”
The woman Jezebel, mentioned in Revelation, was a false teacher, leading others to commit sexual immorality (sometimes with her, it appears) and eat food sacrificed to idols. The problem in this passage is clearly centered on what Jezebel was teaching the church to do, rather than on the fact that a woman was teaching. This passage, in itself, says absolutely nothing about the spirituality of women as a whole, just as passages about male false teachers (and there are many) say nothing about the spirituality or teaching ability of men as a whole. It also says nothing about women in the last days. Again, we are not supporting women teaching, we are simply concerned about the poor use of scripture.
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Page 110: “Women are either directly or indirectly responsible for most of the past and present cults in Christianity.”
What? Most, if not all, major cults were started by men. What evidence do we have that women were responsible? Of course women were indirectly irresponsible, since all men, including false prophets, have some female influence on their lives. This is not even close to being Scriptural proof for her point.
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Page 111: “Adam, the first man, Samson, the strongest man, Solomon, the wisest man, and even David, the man listed as being after God’s own heart, were all brought down by the women they loved.”
God didn’t seem to think so – He made it clear in the Bible that each one of these men were brought down by their own sinful choices. Their sins were on their own heads. We addressed this teaching at greater length under Point 3.
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Page 111: “God gave us a careful and stern warning as to what women would become in the last days. The prophetic picture of this woman is now in full array. It is the spiritual Jezebel, who is the exact opposite of a help meet, that is the death knell of the most noble institution on the earth – the family.”
What in the world does this mean? There are no Scriptural references at all. This is followed immediately with a portrayal of the Jezebels of Revelation 2 and 1 Kings, which have nothing to do with what women would become in the last days.
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“The Jezebel Profile”, on page 112-113, meant to prove that women should not attempt to be spiritual, is profoundly mixed up. Debi points out that Jezebel was more spiritual and religiously devoted than her husband, and also suggests that Ahab’s emotional volatility and depression (keeping his face turned to the wall) were because of his controlling wife. 1 Kings points out that Ahab was already wicked (following in the sins of Jeroboam) before he married Jezebel – marrying her and beginning to worship Baal only compounded his wickedness. He “turned his face to the wall” because he couldn’t get the vineyard he wanted, not because his wife was directing the family. Most importantly, Jezebel was spiritual, yes – but she was zealously worshipping Baal! To draw a parallel between Jezebel, Baal worshipper, and women who truly try to listen to and follow the one true God of heaven and earth is pretty weak.
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Debi follows this “Jezebel Profile” with Scriptural profiles of two “ideal women” who honored him: Ruth and Esther. She concludes with: “God has laid down only a few simple rules for women to follow, because they are consistent with our feminine nature and the nature of men” (page 114). Are women not meant to follow the same commands and rules in Scripture that God gave men? Debi gives no Scriptural back-up for this statement.
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Debi moves on to the Virtuous Woman of Proverbs 31:
“If this passage in Proverbs had been written from our modern perspective, it would have extolled her for having a ‘quiet time’ and being a ‘prayer warrior,’ teacher, or counselor. In all Scriptural profiles of righteous women, including Proverbs 31, no such concepts are ever mentioned. In our culture, we have lost a clear understanding of what constitutes a virtuous woman… What we label spiritual, God labels ‘Jezebel.’ “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD” (Isaiah 55:8). A woman working beside her man is a spiritual force for them both. A woman providing good sex and fun company is offering her husband a spiritual benefit.” (pages 114-115)
Debi leaves out the many times in Scripture where a woman’s spiritual connection to God is pointed out. Even in the Old Testament, where the main connection to God was through the temple (which was primarily a place for men), there are examples. Esther spent 3 days in prayer and fasting before she approached the king, and called all the other Jews to join her. Hannah prayed fervently for a child, and was commended by Eli. Miriam and Deborah (one a prophetess and the other a judge) both sang public songs to God that are recorded in Scripture. Anna, a prophetess, worshipped in the temple night and day, praying and fasting. When Jesus came, he encouraged women to approach him directly. He told Mary of Bethany she had chosen the right thing when she sat at his feet and listened to him. There were many women in the early church whose contribution included more than having sex with their husbands. Paul commends Euodia and Syntyche for contending at his side in the cause of the gospel (Phil. 4:3). Priscilla and Aquila taught Apollos, according to Acts. The personal greetings at the end of Paul’s books (for example, Romans 16) are full of the names of women who helped build the early church; most are mentioned as individuals. On her website, Debi says that mothers should never even do devotions with their children, even if the father is not a Christian (teaching Bible stories “on the fly” is okay, but not formal devotions). This is very unlike Timothy’s mother and grandmother, who were commended by Paul for passing down their faith to Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5; the fact that Timothy’s father was not mentioned means that he was probably not a Christian).
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The final section of this chapter, called “Time to Consider”, contains this quote:
Page 116: “The very first command God ever gave to the woman was, “Thy desire shall be to they husband and he shall rule over thee” (Gen. 3:16). Is your desire toward your husband? Do you live to please him?”As we have stated in a previous section, God’s first command to both women and men is in Genesis 1; it is his mandate to be fruitful and multiply, and to rule His creation. The verse quoted here was not a command; it was the curse!
In conclusion, we believe that both men and women have a direct relationship to God through Jesus, and are meant to cultivate and deepen it through prayer, meditation, Scripture reading, and Scripture memorization.
Even a woman who agreed with every word written in this book could be very confused about some of the conflicting advice.
For example, Debi writes that a woman should be subject to her husband in everything: “every decision, every move, every plan, and all everyday affairs (p. 54)”. However, in her chapter about being keepers at home, she writes that God’s will is for mothers to always be with their children, never leaving them with a babysitter even for a few minutes. And what if a man wants his wife to work or do something that doesn’t involve the children’s presence? “This is where firm conviction of faith in God becomes vital. God can make a way for you to obey both.” (p. 210). What a cop-out! There’s no guarantee that God will! What if He doesn’t? What do you do then?
Debi and Michael provide a few instances in which a woman should confront her husband rather than submit to him. These are confusing – what criteria did they use to choose them? Why these instances and not others? They are limited, pretty much, to having anal sex, letting your husband cross-dress, and stealing. (For things like the husband abusing the children or the wife, it is a bit more hazy. For sexual abuse of the children, the woman should call in the law but still be subject to her husband. For abuse of the woman herself, she should maybe, sometimes, call in the law, but should most often submit in silence for the glory of God – more on that in the next section.) For the few instances in which a wife should not submit, the force with which the Pearls suggest she confront your husband is surprising. For example, if a husband wants to cross-dress, a wife “must make it known that he is an unsaved man, on his way to hell, and that she is not going to dishonor her Lord” (p. 267). This seems inconsistent with all the other advice in the book about a wife never saying anything negative to her husband. To be consistent, shouldn’t a wife use a gentle manner to make an appeal?
The story at the beginning of the “exceptions” chapter written by Michael is also confusing. In it, a woman talks about how she fixed up her study so she could spy on her husband to see if he was viewing pornography. When she found out he was, she was so overcome with rage that she threw rocks through the glass window, then broke the computer screen with more rocks. The children woke up and stood in the room, crying, while she yelled at her husband hysterically and threatened to tell everybody she knew. Even after she calmed down, she threatened to talk and talk and talk if he ever shut himself up in a room again. She also put into place extreme accountability measures (policed by herself). She concluded that she was glad she had done all that she had – otherwise, she would have “grown old and bitter knowing he was an unfaithful deceiver” and would have come to hate him.
We both finished this letter expecting that Debi would write a vehement reply, pointing out everything this woman had done wrong in not reverencing her husband and in acting as his conscience (screaming at him in front of the children, blackmailing him, etc.). After all, she called the woman who ignored her husband’s strip-clubbing and consorting with prostitutes a queen and extolled her for publicly announcing and teaching her son that he was a wonderful daddy. To our great surprise, this letter actually gets no commentary, and its placement at the beginning of the exceptions chapter puts it in a favorable light. We are left to conclude that the Pearls support this woman’s actions and attitude. Why? Is porn worse than going to prostitutes and strip clubs? Even if it is, does the fact that her husband was doing it make all of these women’s actions, words, and attitudes (vehemently opposed in other parts of the book) right? What is the reader to conclude?
These are just a few of the inconsistencies we noticed in the book. Of much greater concern was the book’s unclear and dangerous teaching on domestic violence, which we address next.
[Please click on "Older Posts" below to read our final 2 points & conclusion!]
Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women, and an average of 3 women per day are murdered by a husband or boyfriend. Almost one-third of American women report being physically abused by a husband or boyfriend, and this proportion is even higher among specific ethnic groups.
The book makes two problematic points: 1) A wife is usually responsible for the violence done to her, and 2) A wife should usually risk life and limb to remain submissive and bring glory to God. Point one is illustrated by this quote,
Page 79: “A Command Man who has gone bad is likely to be abusive. It is important to remember that much of how a Command Man reacts depends on his wife’s reverence towards him. When a Command Man (lost or saved) is treated with honor and reverence, a good help meet will find that her man will be wonderfully protective and supportive. In most marriages, the strife is not because the man is cruel or evil; it is because he expects respect, and is not getting it. When a wife plays her part as a help meet, the Command Man will respond differently. Of course, there are a few men who are so cruel and violent that even when the wife is a proper help meet, he will still physically abuse her or the children. In such cases, it would be the duty of the wife to alert the authorities so that they might become the arm of the Lord to do justice.”This quote puts the pressure on the wife to prevent her husband from abusing her. It suggests she can prevent abuse by obedience, honor, and reverence. This doesn’t work. Research on domestic violence shows that an abuser will hit his wife for a matter as simple as burning the dinner or him having a bad day at work or coming home drunk. Debi doesn’t seem to understand the pleasure of power, especially absolute power. It is the wife’s inability to prevent violence, even by her diligent attempts to obey, that perfectly expresses the abuser’s absolute control. The power is God-like, determining good and evil beyond her ability to comprehend. Men love power, especially Command Men.
This quote puts the guilt of abuse on the wife’s head (except for a very few unspecified cases). Even though it says that a few men are so bad they should be reported, there is no specification of when to make this distinction. An abused wife reading this book could, in retrospect, always identify some thing she thinks she could have done to stop her husband’s violence. Advice like this serves only to continue a cycle of submission and abuse often described in domestic violence studies. We believe, no matter what a wife does or does not do, a husband should never be abusive toward her. Abuse for any reason, even if the wife is not submissive or reverent , is cruel and evil.
A particularly troubling story shared in this book is of Sunny (pages 132-134, the chapter on “The Great Mystery”). Sunny married a man who started to abuse her during her first pregnancy (no surprise, since research shows that women are significantly more likely to be abused by their husbands when they are pregnant). Over the next 7 years, Sunny endured regular alcoholic rages and beatings, as well as her husband’s “flaunted unfaithfulness”. He often left her and the children alone for weeks at a time. During Sunny’s 3rd pregnancy, her husband came home drunk and tried to kill her with a butcher knife. Only the “miraculous intervention of God” spared her life. Debi meets Sunny at church and Sunny confesses to plotting her husband’s murder. After hours of counseling Debi asked Sunny to make a choice between leaving her husband once and for all, or staying with him and beginning “a campaign of winning his heart and saving their life together.” Sunny’s heart is changed and she decided to go back and submit to her man: “Sunny really wanted God’s will in her life. She had grasped an eternal vision about life, and she now believed God could save her man.” Before Sunny returns to Ahmed, Debi warns her that “blabbing” about Ahmed’s “faults” only compounded the problem, and from now on, Sunny was never to speak ill of him again. (Sunny was already doing everything else right: she was “already obedient, faithful, cheerful, a keeper at home, and a help meet”. Reverencing her husband by not speaking ill of him was the only thing lacking.)
Sunny returned to her husband, reverenced him, and her husband immediately, miraculously became a completely changed man and eventually became a Christian.
We are happy for the fairy tale ending, but very worried about the message this story gives to women in dangerous relationships. Statistics show that men do kill their wives, quite frequently. Even with everything Sunny was doing right, her husband still tried to kill her and her unborn child. Sunny’s options should have included more than either leaving Ahmed for good or returning to him in submission and silence. Not only did Debi send pregnant Sunny back to her dangerous and violent husband, but she took away Sunny’s ability to even speak of her husband’s violence to anybody. We don’t know whether Ahmed stopped abusing Sunny – because if he did continue, Sunny was not allowed to speak of it any more. We are not denying the fact that God can work a miracle like it appears he did in Ahmed, but we do think that it is both irresponsible and extremely dangerous to suggest that women can guarantee the identical outcome if they just do the same thing as Sunny, especially when such a choice is couched in pious Bible-talk – as God’s clear will, the result of grasping an “eternal vision about life”.
What to do about violence is a difficult question, both Biblically and practically. The answer isn’t always to run away, or to suffer in silence. The Bible portrays several responses. In his trial, persecution, and crucifixion, Christ suffered in near silence. But earlier, when the crowd tried to toss him over a cliff, he simply walked away, because his time had not yet come. The apostles, especially Paul, often suffered violence or the threat of violence. Their responses were highly varied: being lowered in a basket outside the city, public speeches, threats of civil action, walking to the next city, striding directly toward danger, and going to court. I suspect the responses varied because the purposes of God varied. We know Christians fled from Saul and that this served to spread the gospel and church to new lands. This pattern has repeated itself down through the centuries. The Bible rules out a few responses to persecution: vengeance, resentment, etc., but it leaves a variety of options. If persecuted, what should we do now? Only God knows, and through His Spirit will tell us.
What should abused wives do? What should they do for the children they protect, born and unborn? What should we tell them to do? Pray, certainly. Give them options, maybe. Steer them away from vengeance and resentment. Trust that God will guide them. Maybe to some, like Sunny, He will give redeemed marriages. Maybe others should flee, and some should call the police or go to court.
Blaming women for the violence is less likely to be helpful. Abused women also need to know how they can appropriately communicate their abuse to others, rather than being told to follow what Michael calls the “doctrine of suffering abuse in silence for the glory of God” (p.265), a point we discuss next.
Michael uses 1 Peter 2 & 3 to teach that women in abusive situations should suffer in silence in order to bring glory to God. 1 Peter 2 encourages slaves when they suffer for doing good and uses the example of Jesus’ suffering which brings us salvation. The beginning of 1 Peter 3 encourages women to submit to their unsaved husbands in hopes of bringing them to salvation. Michael ties these two passages together and teaches that women are to suffer in silence, even at the hands of abusive husbands, in order to bring glory to God. Here are some representative quotes:
Page 263: “Lady, you were created to give glory to God. When God puts you in subjection to a man whom he knows is going to cause you to suffer, it is with the understanding that you are obeying God by enduring the wrongful suffering. And when you suffer wrongfully, as unto the Lord, you bring great glory to God in heaven.”
Page 263: “Has your husband reviled and threatened you? You are exhorted to espond as Jesus did. When he was reviled and threatened, he suffered by committing himself to a higher judge who is righteous. You must commit yourself to the one who placed you under your husband’s command. Your husband will answer to God, and you must answer to God for how you respond to your husband, even when he causes you to suffer.”
Page 264: “You can freely call your husband “lord” when you know that you are addressing the one who put him in charge and asked you to suffer at your husband’s hands just as our Lord suffered at the hands of unjust authorities… I know that this must be an amazing doctrine to many of you. Nonetheless, it is no less radical than Jesus was radical, and it is God’s way.”
Page 265: “For the eyes of the Lord see all that take place. His ears are open to your prayers when you obey him and obey your husband. And then comes the promise: if you are following God, no harm will come to you by doing what is good… You will receive a blessing when you suffer for righteousness’ sake, that is, when you obey God by obeying your husband and not returning evil for evil. You will be happy, so don’t be afraid or troubled by the things you must endure.”Again, the Pearls have enough truth in this teaching to make it dangerous for a wife who is being seriously abused by her husband. Jesus does call us to (and is our example for) a life that includes suffering – both daily suffering in the sense of taking up our cross, and suffering that arises specifically from following Him. Sometimes (and again, Jesus is our example in this, as 1 Peter 2 points out) such suffering can be redemptive.
1 Peter 2 encourages slaves to serve God in submission to their masters (just or unjust), and to suffer in silence for doing good. This was a God-empowered response to someone in a position from which he or she had no escape – a free and grace-filled choice a slave could make from a position that involved little or no other freedom. However, this teaching has not prevented Christians from reading the rest of the Bible and being at the forefront (and rightly so, we believe) in ending slavery around the world, bringing South African apartheid to an end, and working to ensure equal rights for African Americans here. The Bible teaches a strong message both about God’s concern for the powerless and dispossessed, and about the imago dei – the image of God stamped on each person, male and female. We are called to treat all men and women with respect and reverence simply because they bear God’s image and are important to Him. We believe that we, as Christians, should speak and work against abuse and violence wherever it occurs. This includes abuse and violence within a marriage. CTBHHM does not do this.
Wives in the Roman world had a position similar in some ways to that of slaves—powerless and inescapable. Since a wife must, at times, suffer violence, she should do so to the glory of God, according to I Peter 3. She should not suffer passive-aggressively, resentfully, or sullenly. Peter doesn’t address whether women should escape or contact the authorities, since these alternatives were not available at the time. Church discipline would not have applied to these unbelieving husbands. We don’t believe that the “doctrine of suffering abuse in silence for the glory of God” goes so far as recommending that a wife being beaten by an alcoholic husband do nothing other than submit to him in happy silence and reference (such a wife could receive encouragement to do exactly this from reading this book).
Women enduring the physical and emotional shame and de-personhood of domestic abuse, as well as struggling with the often overpowering fear that abuse brings, should be provided with more options that “suffering in silence for the glory of God.” CTBHHM does not provide any more options, except for a vague statement that abused women will probably stay in their marriages, and so should “understand how to speak and conduct yourself in a way that will maintain your physical and emotional safety and ultimately win your husband” (p. 270; in the context of the book’s other teachings, this most likely means women should try to be perfectly submissive and therefore not anger their “Command-men”). Women who “threaten to ‘report him to the law’ … are rebellious. They will never make it to the hall of fame found in Hebrews 11, where Sara was listed, nor will they make it into a heavenly marriage here on earth. They will go to their graves unloved and uncherished, a total failure as the woman God called them to be” (p.270). The only practical example we are given in the entire book of a woman responding to domestic violence is that of Sunny and Ahmed – an example that creates a dangerous precedent.
Finally, we suggest that an abusive man is not functioning as he was created to be, and needs help and redemption as much as his abused wife. The one option given to wives in this book, to suffer in silence, leaves little opportunity for their husbands to get the help, accountability, and counseling they often need to change.
One of the funniest examples to illustrate this point (p. 217-219) involves a letter a woman named Vicki wrote to Debi because she was “tired and discouraged”, frustrated that her husband wouldn’t fix the sink or the screen door. Debi opens her reply letter by asking Vicki to take the “Standard Dumb Cluck” test. The first question in this test is “Does natural healing not interest you?” Indeed, all of the questions in the “Standard Dumb Cluck Test” except the last have absolutely nothing to do with the original letter. Debi follows this test with, “Well, are you a dumb cluck?”, then writes an extremely harsh letter about how Vicki should get her lazy self off the couch, learn to use tools, and take some initiative. Not knowing the situation, we’re not disputing Debi’s advice, but are disturbed by the complete lack of courtesy and compassion in the letter, a style unfortunately carried over into many of Debi’s other letters. Debi is essentially presenting this woman (whom she knows nothing of except for a one-paragraph letter) to thousands of readers as a silly, lazy “dumb cluck” bum.
The verse just before Titus 2:4-5, which Debi spends so much time exploring, says this: “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.” To label another woman (all of the following are direct quotes from her book) a “cheap office wench”, “cheap office hussy”, “lazy, complaining wife,” “cranky, demanding leech”, “skinny swine”, “rebellious”, or “hillbilly ugly, which is worse than everyday ugly” in a book to be read by thousands, simply based on one letter or observation, comes dangerously close to slander. At the least, this approach does nothing to show the love of God or the respect we should all show to people made in His image (women included, we believe!).
Debi constantly holds the threat of divorce and the miserable life that would bring over the women reading her book. Women should never be secure in their marriages or their husband’s love, but should always know that the fate of their marriages, their husbands’ fidelity and love, and their happiness, rests solely on their ability to take Debi’s advice, follow her teaching, and be lovable and “precious” all of the time. The following are pages in which Debi threatens women with all kinds of vivid, drawn-out, melodramatic, worst-case scenarios if women “disobey” her advice: 29-32, 66-67, 69-70. All of the scenarios contain a quote similar to the following (p.66): “If you continue to dishonor your husband, the above scenario will likely become your own nightmare – soon!” Here are some representative quotes:
Page 31: “It is a mistake for a wife to take her position for granted, to assume that love and contentment exist because ‘we are husband and wife’… Never demand that a man love you and cherish you because he ought to. Earn every smile and shared moment. Cultivate his love for you… A woman holds her man with the fragile threads of adoration, thankfulness, delight, and just plain fun.”Unfortunately, a lot of what Debi is saying here does have truth to it – not Biblical truth, but the cold, hard truth of living in a fallen world where the curse is very much still in action. However, if women are following Jesus and finding themselves in Him, fear of husbands leaving them should not be their primary motive for loving and reverencing them. Women should love and reverence their husbands because the love of Jesus is in them and they are responding in obedience to His commands. 1 John 4:18 says that “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Moreover, a woman reverencing and serving her husband primarily so that he will love, cherish, and be faithful to her makes a pathetic parallel to the Great Mystery of Christ loving His Church.
Page 131: “Men may allow the lust of the flesh to pull them away from that which they value, but they will try to get back to that comfort zone. It is this natural need for his own family that keeps a man caring for and bearing the responsibility for his wife and children. When a woman does not provide for her husband a comfortable nest and a reverent attitude, she has to rely on his goodness to ‘keep him’ faithful. She is a fool to expect him to be a good husband when she is not being the help meet God has created her to be.”
Page 139: “It doesn’t seem fair that the wife is expected to honor and obey her husband even though he has not earned the right; yet she must also earn the right to be loved… If my husband were talking to men, he would tell them to love their wives regardless of how they act. But remember, this is me, the aged woman, telling young girls what they can do to make a heavenly marriage. You cannot command your husband to love you, and you have no right to expect him to love you when you are unlovely. But God has provided a way for a woman to cause her husband to love and cherish her.”
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.