It began with a feeling of uneasiness…..
I started to read what had been described to me as a “Christian book for women”. That seemed OK. I mean, I am a Christian woman. But I rapidly became more & more uncomfortable with what I was reading. There was a coarseness about it that jarred with my understanding of Christianity.
By the time I was only partway through, I was partly nauseous, & partly appalled that this little missive was being passed around in Christian circles. The name of the book was Created To Be His Helpmeet, by Debi Pearl….and not just the book, but Mrs Pearl was appalling me. Her husband’s contributions were even worse.
I was raised in a “ Holiness “ church. I had met all kinds of people with all kinds of convictions, many of which I found odd, but it never crossed my mind that these folks were anything other than genuine Christian people……and now I had my first encounter with the Family Pearl, and I devoutly wished I had never heard of them. Frankly, they scared me to death. And that was before I heard anything about their “child rearing” techniques. I had only one thing to go by: CTBHH. It was enough to send me back into my Bible, trying to find out in what manner these people could possibly have interpreted Scripture, in order to draw such bizarre conclusions from it.
I had been raised to be discerning, especially in the matter of Biblical interpretation. It didn’t take me long to realize that here was a strange breed: These people were a “Bible-based cult”. I had never heard of such a thing; I had believed that cults were odd sects which clearly departed from the words of my Bible. Now, I was facing a cult that claimed to be rooted in Scripture. How could this be???
I should have remembered World History class. The fact that history was (& is) awash with the names of groups who also claimed to be “true Christians” whilst promoting another gospel—that should have been my tip-off.
It wasn’t. My tip-off was that queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I wish it had been enough. Enough to enlighten me as to how insidious the Pearls & their skewed theology could be. It would take years, & an exposure to more of their poison, before I broke free of my “different people interpret Scripture differently” mentality, long enough to smell the whiff of sulfur that signaled that the Pearls were being inspired, all right; the problem was to awaken to who & what was their inspiration.
But, one thing was clear very early on: This was not the truth. This was not of God. And this was most definitely NOT Christian teaching. This is what the pastors of my childhood would have called “carnality”.
Thus it begins.
What I want to talk about is another book by Mr & Mrs Pearl: “To Train Up A Child”– hereafter, TTUAC.
The Pearls’ teaching flows from their theology. Their theology, that is, determines how they behave. Michael Pearl states that he has been “ teaching and living” a life free of sin.
He claims, that is, to be what my elders in the faith called “sanctified wholly [holy]”. (He spends a lot of time denying this, but it is in print on his own site. He says his position is that of Baptists; I have yet to meet a Baptist who believes this. Not even my grandfather, the Baptist minister’s son, & the Free Methodist local preacher, who surely knew what each believed!!).
Let me begin with what I was afraid might take the most time to find, & turned out to be as easy as calling up my own church’s website, & doing a little minor checking of links:
I am copying & pasting here, from :
Sanctification is that renewal of our fallen nature by the Holy Ghost, received through faith in Jesus Christ, whose blood of atonement cleanseth from all sin; whereby we are not only delivered from the guilt of sin, but are washed from its pollution, saved from its power, and are enabled, through grace, to love God with all our hearts and to walk in his holy commandments blameless.
[The following provision was adopted by the Uniting Conference (1939). This statement seeks to interpret to our churches in foreign lands Article XXIII of the Articles of Religion. It is a legislative enactment but is not a part of the Constitution. (See Judicial Council Decisions 41, 176, and Decision 6, Interim Judicial Council.)]
One of MP’s defenses, you see, is that what he believes is standard doctrine in a Christian church. He uses language which might easily lead readers to think that he is teaching the standard Wesleyan sanctification.
Let’s examine that for a bit:
(A) “that renewal of our fallen nature by the Holy Ghost”.
What does that mean? Well, first, let’s say what it does NOT mean: It does not mean that when, upon salvation through faith, by the grace of God, we become regenerate [are saved; enter into a state of grace; accept Christ as Saviour; etc]. It does NOT mean that we never sin again. It does not mean that we can never sin again. Because look at what it says: “renewal of our fallen nature”.
Now a renewal means that something is made new again; not that it has just become new, but that something occurs after that initial ‘becoming’. My grandfather—would that he were here to explain it; he would surely do better than I!– He called this ‘entire sanctification’, and he knew that it meant something apart from salvation.
I know this for a very good and sufficient reason: He talked about it, studied it, read Wesley, and then…..He decided that as a born-again Christian, he could not claim something that he did not believe.
Which was when, before a gathering of Free Methodists over an area of several states, when he was asked (as every FM pastoral candidate—like UMC candidates—is asked), “Are you expecting to be sanctified wholly in this lifetime?” as part of his proposed ordination as a deacon, he said, after a long pause: “Well, truthfully, NO “ .
It was clearly not his salvation that was in question. Without that, he would have never been a candidate. No, it was something subsequent to salvation: entire sanctification in this lifetime.
(B) “ received through faith in Jesus Christ, whose blood of atonement cleanseth from all sin”
John Wesley did not preach what has been called “cheap grace”. No, he preached that it is the duty of every Christian to grow, to increase in faith, and to live more and more closely to Jesus Christ so that we may be presented before Him on “That Day”, not with our sins merely “covered over”, but with them washed away, gone, that we may be as holy as we can be, that “we may not be ashamed”.
He & his younger brother Charles and their friends at university were called “The Holy Club” because of their constant striving to be as pleasing to God as was possible in this world. It was a taunt, but they accepted it, & gladly. It was, after all, what they sought to attain.
In time, they would be convinced that they were never to achieve it, and then, one night in Aldersgate Street, John Wesley wrote, “My heart was strangely warmed”, and he realized that as we are saved by the blood of Christ, so are we also:
(C)”whereby we are not only delivered from the guilt of sin, but are washed from its pollution, saved from its power”. We are not able to make ourselves holy any more than we are able to make ourselves regenerate. It is Christ, & Christ alone Who can make us live holy lives. It is to God alone that the glory for sanctification is due. And then we :
(D) “and are enabled, through grace, to love God with all our hearts and to walk in his holy commandments blameless”.
And it is here is where the Pearls go terribly, terribly wrong. Here is where they lose all touch with sound Christian doctrine. Because they teach that the “rod” which they call for using on children can cleanse from guilt. Only the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary can do that. Anyone who says otherwise is teaching another ‘gospel’, as the Apostle Paul warned us, and said of such a teacher, “ If we, or an angel from Heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, if anyone preaches another gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed”. (Galations 1: 8-9).
I am not a theologian. I have never pretended to be.
But when my Bible says, twice in as many verses, that anyone who preaches anything other than “Jesus Christ and him crucified”, that that teacher is a false teacher; and that such a teacher is to be accursed–
When that happens, I say, I am fearful. And I put down that book, TTUAC, and I put down Mrs Pearl, & I put down NGJ Ministries, and I stand well back from it, and from every word that comes out of the Pearls’ mouths and pens.
Because I remember also what Paul said, of himself, that he prayed “lest [he] should be a castaway”. Michael Pearl, & NGJ has claimed for a piece of wood (or perhaps even more bizarrely, for a piece of rubber hose) what the Bible claims only, ONLY for Christ Himself, & Him crucified.
This is serious business, folks. This is not a small matter. He who is not with the crucified Christ is not with us; is not of us. And there are only two positions where we can stand:
We can stand with Jesus Christ. Or we can fight against him.
When it comes to a choice between Michael & Debi Pearl’s TTUAC (& the rest of their writings), and the One With the Nail-Scarred Hands….For me there is no choice. I will stick with the Christ who suffered & died for me.
Whose side are you on??