The letter I sent to my pastor about the Pearls. By MarynMunchkins
This morning’s message was wonderful. I love how you bring grace and mercy into every message, and call legalism and self-righteous behavior what it is. It’s truly a blessing to listen.
Unfortunately, my husband had an experience this week which was less than gracious and kind. He took someone from the church out to lunch, who informed him that he was ungodly, his wife was unsubmissive, his children were out of control, and that he had no hope of ministry unless he got “his house in order”. His Christianity was also called into question because of sin that has already been forgiven.
I don’t bring this up to so you will address that person. My concern is far greater. You see, this person based their beliefs and judgment of our family around the ministry of Michael Pearl. I don’t know if you’re familiar with him, but I do know for a fact that there are families at *** who are. I’ve known several families in the Southern Baptist church who have actively used his materials.
I’m writing to you because I’m deeply concerned about them. In fact, I consider much of his teachings to be utter heresy. While I see my opinion supported in my own study of Scripture and confirmed by several wiser Christians than I, I’d like you to look at it and give me your opinion.
Michael Pearl’s website is http://www.nogreaterjoy.org He boasts a comprehensive ministry to families, and his website is well organized and designed.
To illustrate some of my concerns, I’ve selected a few quotes from his website.
One of my primary concerns is his belief that there is no original sin, and we are born in a neutral state – able to choose between good and evil, but not being inherently either. He also believes that we are instantly sanctified at the moment of salvation – that a true Christian cannot, in fact, sin after receiving Christ. I can see no support for this theory in Scripture, and, in fact, see much the opposite.
He says “Man has spent many years “undoing” the character of God in himself and his society.” Yet the Bible clearly says that “There is none righteous.” We are certainly made in the image of God, but we do not possess His character, and therefore cannot undo it.
He has the audacity to add to Scripture and claim he knows what God would have written. “If Hebrews 11 were to continue until the present, it would read something like this: “And the followers of Christ, though they were living in bodies of flesh, believed God that they were indeed baptized into his body and thus freed from sin. They went out into the world, walking by faith and hope and so, though they never saw their glorified bodies or the throne on which they were seated, they believed God against the sight of their eyes and so walked in holiness and victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil. While the world looked on the things that are seen, these sons of The Last Adam, believed him who is invisible and so inherited the kingdom and entered into the city which had foundations whose builder and maker is God.” He claims and firmly believes that sin is contained only in the physical body, not the mind or soul; and with salvation comes the literal death of the physical body and the absolute freedom from sin.
This blog article ( http://allthings2all.blogspot.com/2005/09/michael-and-debi-pearls-no-greater-joy_30.html ) is a great summary of that issue. You can actually listen to Pearl’s series on Romans online at http://www.nogreaterjoy.org/index.php?id=romans-audio to hear exactly what it is that he is teaching.
Pearl has very strong views of the typical Christian church. “Face it, the church today is not a sanctuary from the world, nor is it a “holy” place. In the best case scenario, it is a slice of the world where there is an attempt at evangelism and worship. But on average, the church is a social club composed of a mixed multitude. Far too often, the church is a recruiting ground of pedophiles and fornicators.” And “The church itself is actually a mission field. There was a time when the church was a place of worship for believers, and evangelism was done in special meetings or out in the homes and streets, but today, the churches invite the rattlesnakes to come into the house.” I won’t speak for you, but I am more interested in having sinners come to church than keeping my children from ever being exposed to them.
Michael Pearl’s solution is to segregate from rest of Christianity. While he does say “Don’t leave the church, anymore than a missionary would leave the field because there are sinners there.”, he also says “The homeschool movement is more than an educational alternative. It is parents putting on the brakes and saying, “my children will not ride this train to hell; I will take charge and direct my family in a different path.” You are part of a cultural shift, and a spiritual awakening. We are in the midst of a revival of the family. It must extend to a revival of community as well. The public church is no longer to be trusted with your children any more than the public schools.” Please understand that I certainly am cautious about the people I entrust with my children – including those at church. But, having just had the unfortunate experience of being told that our family wasn’t good enough to associate with by one of Pearl’s followers, I realize that his teaching goes far beyond being cautious of our children. It’s judgmental. It’s legalistic. It’s unforgiving. And the solution offered is to run from the community – “I would like to tell them to move to a community like Cane Creek and escape the world” – and avoid any and all other Christians that see differently. It’s far different from Paul’s advice to as much as possible, live at peace with all men. There is no grace extended to fellow Christians, nor an attempt to correct what is perceived as sin. They only run away and hide in self-righteousness.
He segregates from the state as well. None of his married daughters have marriage licenses. His opinion is, “None of my daughters or their husbands asked the state of Tennessee for permission to marry. They did not yoke themselves to government. It was a personal, private covenant, binding them together forever—until death. So when the sodomites have come to share in the state marriage licenses, which will eventually be the law, James and Shoshanna will not be in league with those perverts. And, while I am on the subject, there will come a time when faithful Christians will either revoke their state marriage licenses and establish an exclusively one man-one woman covenant of marriage, or, they will forfeit the sanctity of their covenant by being unequally yoked together with perverts.”
Their teachings on marriage and submission are equally distressing. Michael Pearl seems to suggest that the man of the house should always be reverenced, and never openly questioned. Debi Pearl encourages a woman to always let her husband take the lead – even to the detriment of herself and her children.
This article shows their attitude very clearly.
“It’s called “the circle of love.” You please him, and he likes it – then he pleases you, and you love him – then you honor him, and he grows”
I see this as being diametrically opposed to Paul’s description of marriage and submission. The husband is to love the wife as Christ loved the church, and the wife is then to submit to him. Placing the responsibility of a happy marriage on the shoulders of the woman and her attitude is simply wrong.
I know for a fact that women who follow the Pearls have counseled other women enduring relationships with adultery and pornography that if they were better in bed or had a better attitude at home, their husbands would be satisfied at home.
Debi Pearl herself says “You can wake up in the morning with a song in your heart, kissing your child and laughing at the sunlight sprinkling your room. You can serve, give, forgive, and enjoy the victory you have in Jesus. And when you feel that hurt, angry spirit rise up, you can open your mouth in praise and thanksgiving to God that you are free from sin and bondage, and free to be glad. In that kind of atmosphere, a child grows stable and complete, a selfish man stops fighting and trying to defeat and subdue.”
She places the wife in the impossible position of being God to her husband, and causing him to repent. She tells the wife that it is her Christian duty to endure all things from her husband, and that God will bless her, regardless of the husband’s sin or abuse towards her.
This quote, in particular, illustrates just how far they are willing to sacrifice women and children for a sinful, unrepentant man. “But if your husband has sexually molested the children, you should approach him with it. If he is truly repentant (not just exposed) and is willing to seek counseling, you may feel comfortable giving him an opportunity to prove himself, as long as you know the children are safe. If there is any thought that they are not safe, or if he is not repentant and willing to seek help, then go to the law and have him arrested. Stick by him, but testify against him in court. Have him do about 10 to 20 years, and by the time he gets out, you will have raised the kids, and you can be waiting for him with open arms of forgiveness and restitution. Will this glorify God? Forever. You ask, “What if he doesn’t repent even then?” Then you will be rewarded in heaven equal to the martyrs, and God will have something to rub in the Devil’s face. God hates divorce—always, forever, regardless, without exception.”
Their views on children are horrifying. I am well aware that Christians are arguing over many aspects of discipline and parenting. But there are few who can read the advice of the Pearls and not be shocked by what they claim to be “Biblical”.
You can read the first chapter of their book “To Train Up a Child” at http://www.nogreaterjoy.org/index.php?id=to-train-up-a-child They are extraordinarily punitive, adversarial, and behavioristic. They compare a child to a dog or a horse, and equate training an animal to raising a child.
“Most parents don’t think they can train their little children. Training doesn’t necessarily require that the trainee be capable of reason; even mice and rats can be trained to respond to stimuli. Careful training can make a dog perfectly obedient. If a seeing-eye dog can be trained to reliably lead a blind man through the dangers of city streets, shouldn’t a parent expect more out of an intelligent child? A dog can be trained not to touch a tasty morsel laid in front of him. Can’t a child be trained not to touch? A dog can be trained to come, stay, sit, be quiet, or fetch upon command. You may not have trained your dog that well, yet every day someone accomplishes it on the dumbest of mutts. Even a clumsy teenager can be trained to be an effective trainer in an obedience school for dogs.”
The Pearls seem to forget that children are still created by God with a free will, and not just animals to be trained. They have a choice and will just as every adult.
They suggest setting up an toddler to fail, and then switching them in order to ‘train them’ to obey immediately.
“Place an appealing object where they can reach it, maybe in a “No-No” corner or on the apple juice table (another name for the coffee table). When they spy it and make a dive for it, in a calm voice say, “No, don’t touch that.” Since they are already familiar with the word “No,” they will likely pause, look at you in wonder, and then turn around and grab it. Switch their hand once and simultaneously say, “No.” Remember, now, you are not disciplining, you are training. One spat with a little switch is enough. They will again pull back their hand and consider the relationship between the object, their desire, the command, and the little reinforcing pain. It may take several times, but if you are consistent, they will learn to consistently obey, even in your absence.”
He promises complete and utter perfection from a child if you are consistent with this type of “obedience training”.
“Most children can be brought into complete and joyous subjection in just three days. Thereafter, if you are consistent, the children will remain happy and obedient. By obedient, I mean, you will never need to tell them twice. If you expect to receive instant obedience, and you train them to that end, you will be successful.”
Please realize that this is a far greater issue than whether to spank. I have my own opinions and beliefs on this subject, and choose not to bring them into my concerns about the Pearls. This man teaches that INFANTS should be switched on a regular basis.
“You must start training your children one year before their first birthday, because if you don’t, they will be trained without your input.”
Michael Pearl makes a distinction between “training” and “discipline”, but the fact of the matter is that, for him, both involve hitting a child with a switch.
At this time, there is a case pending trial of a mother who used Michael Pearl’s methods on her child, and the child died.
Mandy Locke has written an excellent article covering Michael Pearl in more general terms.
I don’t want to make his child training advice the point of my concern, although it sickens me. But, unfortunately, most of the people I know who do follow Michael Pearl’s teachings begin with his advice on raising children. He preys on their fears as parents and promises them perfection. He claims any fault with your child is your fault, and consistency would fix any and all problems.
I see and have seen too many well-meaning Christian parents sucked into this lie, and lose sight of the goal. The women mentioned in Mandy’s article – Chris and Meggan – are both friends of mine. I been told of the damage their children, their families, and they themselves have suffered as a result of Michael and Debi Pearl.
Women, in particular, are susceptible to damage. They are told that they are ultimately responsible for the well-being of their children, the care of their home, and the happiness of their husband. They are expected to be perfectly consistent, perfectly happy, and perfectly willing to do anything asked of them. It sets them up to be taken advantage of and abused.
It puts men into an artificial place of elevation within the family, instead of holding him to be the servant that he is expected to be to his wife and children. It borders dangerously close to idolatry. It gives him a sense of pride and arrogance that is hard to overcome.
I really appreciate you taking the time to look at all this. I realize it’s incredibly long, and very full of information. Please don’t feel any hurry to respond – I know there’s a lot of material here. I’d love to meet with you at some point and discuss it.
Thanks so much for your willingness to help, and the amazing job you do sharing grace with all of us at *** each week.