Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Created to Be His Help Meet - Part 1


This is the first of several posts on Created to Be His Help Meet by Debi Pearl. This post is jointly written with my husband.

Our family has benefitted from the ministry of Micheal and Debi Pearl. Their ideas on tying strings of fellowship and training are helpful as we parent our children. Their writing is direct and, whether you agree or disagree with their ideas, at least you know where they are coming from.

I read the excerpt for Debi's newest book, Created to Be His Help Meet, in their newsletter and thought that it would be equally helpful in my desire to be a better wife. Indeed, she provides many helpful reminders that are easy to forget in the day-to-day life of a busy household. Obedience, submission, and reverence are things that you can never hear too often. I am grateful that Debi is bold enough to attack these issues head on without regard to "trendy wisdom" or pop theology.

But those feelings were over-shadowed by a growing concern that in her zeal to present her case she may have moved into areas unsupported by Scriptutre. These areas need to be examined to determine whether they are indeed Scriptural.

The Review

Years ago, my mother played a silly trick on my dad. He loved apple pie. One day she didn't have time to prepare a pie for him so she threw a few apples and some spices into a pot and set it on the stove to simmer. Soon the house was filled with the aroma of "apple pie." But the reality was far different than the sweet fragrance. When my dad went to get a piece of the pie there was nothing there except the scent of a pie and some ingredients to make him think there was a pie. There was no substance. The truth of the pie was missing. Created to Be His Help Meet made me feel just like my dad felt that day -- disappointed and hoping for something better.

Don't get me wrong. Debi presents some important ingredients for a "heavenly marriage" but other key ingredients are missing. And some of the ingredients she uses are mixed together in such a way that the substance of a "heavenly marriage" is just not there.

What is a Heavenly Marriage?

Debi doesn't actually define a "heavenly marriage." She states, however, that one is possible solely on the basis of the woman's efforts. Consider what she writes on page 30,

It doesn't take a good man, or even a saved man to have a heavenly marriage. But it does take a woman who is willing to honor God and by being the kind of wife God intended.
The flawed premise is that as long as the woman is willing to honor God and be the kind of wife God intended, then she can have a "heavenly marriage." This puts all the weight on the woman and takes Christ, the power of the cross, and the husband out of the picture.

I agree that a foolish woman can tear down a marriage. But a wise woman can do all the right things and still her husband may depart from her. She is not a failure because he is a fool.

On the other hand, even in a good marriage, can it be called heavenly if the man is well-served but never comes to repentance or to know Christ? That's not what I call a heavenly marriage.

To me a "heavenly marriage" is one where the head of the man is submitted to Christ and in turn is the head of a reverent wife. To call a marriage heavenly simply because a woman obeys God and her husband creates an expectation that will not necessarily follow. No matter what the wife does, the man has the liberty to choose or reject Christ (and her) regardless of a woman's behavior.

Where in Scripture does God make a "heavenly marriage" or a failed marriage the sole responsibility of the woman?

Debi's Game Plan

Her prescription for a "heavenly marriage" begins with a merry heart. She states on page 26,
And the day you have a merry heart with be the first day of rebuilidng your marriage into the heavenly gift it was meant to be.
I agree that a merry heart is necessary to a marriage and I appreciate the reminder. But to say that this is the first ingredient is misleading. Consider what D. James Kennedy states as most needful to a marraige. In his book Save a Marriage, Save a Nation (Recently available free from Coral Ridge Ministries) he states on page 17,

I'll tell you what the Bible says you should do if you don't love your husband, if you haven't loved him for years, then you should go home, get down on your knees, repent of your sin, and ask the Lord and your husband to forgive you.
Without this first step, a woman is relying on future good behavior (a merry heart) to cover past sin. It's as if Debi expects that a wife can flip on the "merry" switch and that alone will atone for all past wrongs and sins.

Isn't it more appropriate to confess and repent of our sins to Jesus and our husbands first? Only after that can a "merry heart" do it's work free from the guilt and shame of sin. Then when our husbands begin to experience the joy of our merry hearts, or any other changes we may make, they will know the true source of these changes -- Jesus -- and give Him the glory.

Debi does briefly mention a woman in the Bible coming to Jesus but that's not until the end of Chapter 4. She never addresses confession and repentance to our husbands. Confessing our sins to Jesus and our husbands is critical to the full restoration of the marriage, even if our husbands refuse to confess their wrongs.

The most obvious omission comes at the end of the book when Debi speaks of Diana on p. 248. The woman's husband has left her over the single issue of the number of children they should have. Debi asserts the woman is blaspheming the Word of God and then states,
I have no answer for Diana, whose husband left her with an overflowing quiver of children to rear alone. There is no sure refuge for all the families who have split over this issue.
No answer? No refuge? Christ is our refuge. Confession and repentance are the tools He uses to bring about restoration. A "merry heart" won't take you very far without them. That is a huge ingredient of truth left out of the book.

Debi's Doctrine of Santification

Debi's idea of "complete santification" does not appear to have any Scriptural basis.

Here is her answer to a woman whose husband is having an emotional affair. She acknowledges the husband is wrong but then makes this assertion on page 29 without any supporting Scripture,
God has provided for your husband's complete sanctification and deliverance from temptation through you his wife.
I agree that the woman is part of a mutual sanctification that takes place between a husband and a wife (see Genesis 2:18 and 1 Peter 3). But to say that a woman provides for "complete santification and deliverance from temptation" is incorrect. Instead, II Timothy 2:19-22 states,
Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work. Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart
And in Hebrews 2:18,

For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them
that are tempted.
Christ and the husband also have a role in the complete sanctification from temptation -- arguably a greater role than the wife. Is the wife really completely responsible for the purity of her husband's thought life or behavior?

From there Debi reduces the solution to our husbands' temptations to our attractiveness. And for some odd reason resorts to unncessary name calling more often associated with immature high school girls, not a mature woman of God. From page 31,

Get down on your husband's emotional level and make yourself more attractive than that office wench and do it now, today!

I agree we are at war and that war has a physical element to it. But Debi's answer to everything seems to be a smile and a roll in the hay. (Nothing wrong with that. We didn't get 6 children without our share of fun!) But to suggest that intimacy with our husbands (more often, more exciting, whatever) is the cure misses the more important point. You can't successfully fight a spirtual battle with only carnal weapons.

The battle we are in is primarily spirtual. I know a few women who are competing with a "virtual wench" and not just computer or video images, but also words in chat rooms and voices from someone on the phone that can't be seen. We are not just in a visual competition for our husband's affection, but a spiritual one as well. A spirtual battle calls for spirtual weapons.

I prefer the approach Esther took. She used her beauty, wit, and courage but primary relied upon her greatest spiritual weapons -- prayer and fasting. Only Jesus can satisfy and cure a sinful appetite. Only Jesus can completely fill that void in a man's heart. We aren't going to do it alone by "exhausting" his desires. That's like trying to cure a drunk by giving him lots of water to drink.

"Rolling in the hay," visual appeal, and joyously pleasing our husbands all have there place, but ultimately a spiritual battle requires spiritual weapons. Debi does not mention this. Another missing ingredient.

Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here. If you choose to comment please keep it to a discussion of the book itself. Any extraneous or personal comments directed at the Pearl's or their ministry (good or bad) will be deleted.

Please read the comments section. There are lots of comments even if it says zero.


Anonymous said...

Your scriptural referrances are almost comical. It sounds to me you are looking for something to be wrong therefore stretching the meaning of what is portrayed. free from lust of your wife??? so everytime you have sex you are sinning according to you but God created sex to be enjoyable with your spouse! I completely disagree with your view of debbie pearls book.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the comment above, I think the poster has totally misunderstood your meaning, which if I correctly understood you, you meant that while there is nothing wrong and a lot right with having a good sexual relationship with your hubby, sex alone cannot address issues that are spiritually rooted, such as a lack of repentance.

I have read this book and am right now still reading through it and I find much in it that is greatly helpful as far as truth plainly stated. I'd say 90 percent right on and helpful but ten percent concerning.

The bit about providing for a husband's complete sanctification, if quoted accurately here, would be disturbing because it subtly makes the wife elevated above Christ and the cross. The shed blood of Christ and walking in the Spirit is the complete provision for anyone's sanctification. I think she is right that we women have tremendous power and influence and we can win spiritual victories merely by embracing God's parameters for our design. But we still have to remember to have a meek and quiet inner person that is pleasing to God. Sometimes the tone, such as when referring to the office wench, is anything but. Can you imagine Mary the handmaid and mother of the Lord, or Ruth the Moabitess, or Esther speaking thusly? When we call names we are guilty of evil speaking. If one who says " You fool" is in danger of hellfire because its a term of contempt, then probably using other terms of contempt is territory we ought to stay out of.

I think the danger in the way some of the teaching is phrased might be summed up as: There is a difference between humbly and obediently surrendering to God as we trust in His ways and His design, and moving from there into a "sanctified" spirit of presumption and control. The key I think between a woman who is submitted to God and her husband yet is not a doormat, i.e. confidently using her gifts and abilities to support her husband and teach younger women, produce for her family ala proverbs 31, and one who is actually still out of bounds, though making it seem righteous, is the absence or presence of that meek and quiet inner spirit that is of great value in the sight of God.