Michael and Debi Pearl are not new on the Christian home-centered, homeschooling scene. I first read one of their books almost 15 years ago. Yet, their popularity (notoriety?) seems to have grown in recent years.
The blogosphere has been a-buzz since Debi Pearl’s recent release, Created to Be His Helpmeet. Initially a great many women gushed about Mrs. Pearl’s folksy common sense approach.
In time, however, Christian women began to look more closely at Mrs. Pearl’s teachings and theology. If you haven’t yet read them, check out these reviews by three homeschooling, conservative Christian women.
These doctrine-related concerns about the Pearls are not new. I know several people in real life and online who have voiced their reservations. And even Douglas Wilson wrote several years ago in a review of “To Train Up a Child”:
“The innate sinfulness of the child is denied, which leads the Pearls to sharply distinguish training from discipline. Training is what the innocent infants and toddlers get, and is identical to what puppies get when they don’t go on the newspapers. Discipline supposedly comes later when sin enters the picture. While this is not a book of theology, a Finney-like Pelagianism runs near the surface. And while there are some similarities between animal training and child-discipline, the distinctions between the two are not adequately maintained in this book. The result of this confusion is not only heretical, but also offensive to any parents who value the dignity of their children.”
The Pearls’ theology is questionable, at best. Which is why I was so alarmed when I friend brought me a copy of “To Train Up a Child” in Russian. She was given it by her church in Kyiv, and she knew I was involved with planning a Family Conference. She was trying to provide a helpful “Christian” resource available in Kyiv (knowing the challenge it is to find such things.)
It saddens me that American Christians have funded the translation and printing of a book that is so harmful to the growing Ukrainian church. Exporting American sub-cultural imperialism is the least of my concerns. What about failing to convey the amazing grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? What about advocating disfunctional family relationships in a culture that is often struggling to find healthy family models? What about advocating an activity that is illegal in Ukraine as a key part child training?
I hold no personal animosity towards the Pearls. I oppose their teaching because we have very different foundations theologically. I oppose their teachings because it leaves little room for the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of the parents and children, husbands and wives. I oppose their teachings because they cause more harm to families they claim to want to help.