Pearls Po-Russki

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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.

Keer
Spunky
Sparrow

Just this week, Catez has added some thoughts and insights related to the Pearls and their theology. Also, check out this similar thread on the Pearls and Semi-Pelagianism.

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.

For further reading:
Authoritarianism and Isolationism Among Us
Parenting Decisions: Discipline
On the Pearls and Parenting
CTBHHM: A True Story
TTUAC: A True Story
Avoiding Millstones

42 thoughts on “Pearls Po-Russki

  1. Amen! I started to write a post similar to this a bit ago, but abandonded it because I was unable to make it tactful enough. Also because I still treasure that friend whose feelings I hurt the last time I posted about the Pearls… :)

    Scary to see this in Russian. I’m so sorry to hear that.

  2. Thank you for putting these links together. I share your concern over the Pearl’s ministry but haven’t studied their books enough to justify voicing my opinion! I really appreciate what a resource you have made your blog to be!

  3. Hitting children. It’s illegal in Ukraine. Have you seen the billboards? The Pearls advocate using an implement to start “switching” children from an early age–even as young as six months. They call this “training,” which they differentiate from discipline, and it is taught in a very behaviouristic conditioning sort of way.

    What I find very concerning (both in passing around their books in the US and in Ukraine) is that it is taught in their writings in a “You must do this” or you’re ruining your kids/disobeying God sort of way. It is taught outside of a personal relationship with parents, without knowing whether the parents struggle with alcoholism, anger issues, depression, other dysfunctional patterns–and may be especially prone to greater instances of abuse.

  4. TulipGirl,

    This is how I often feel when I engage with nonbeleivers and listen to their perception of Christians. I always want to say “Not all Christians are like this.”

    I do hope there are Christians who are counterbalancing the Pearl teachings in Russia as they are in the US.

  5. Not to start another controversy, but….it seems to me that the Pearl’s (only glanced at To Train up…. before I knew it wasn’t for us) and the Ezzos (was convinced this was the way to go–fortunately I had an easy going son who was content with about anything that was going on, and by the time I had my daughter, she put me in my place!)are in the same category.

    I have thought about blogging on the topic of popular Christian materials that want us to abandon the liberty we have to follow our conscience for a formula. We are so tempted to have the right method that will ensure us that our children will walk with the Lord, be well behaved…you fill in the blank. Maybe I will write a book called, “How to Raise Christian Children” and it will be 200 pages that say, “Repent, Cry out to God, Approach the Mercy Seat, Love like Jesus, Pray like the Persistent Widow.” And then I will hopefully follow my own advice.

  6. Lisa,

    Do it! I just posted along the same lines. Maybe if we all start talking about it it will become a revolution in parenting! Prayerful parenting: Let God direct your steps! ;) Novel concept.

  7. Thank you for exposing this teaching. Not only is it causing suffering in children in Christian families it is misrepresenting G-d to people outside the church.

  8. I always struggled with the Pearls because I saw such a lack of grace for others, including those in their own family. Glad to see some thoughtful evaluation– both yours and the links.

    Thanks, TG.

  9. I’m kind of on the fence about Michael Pearl: I don’t believe he’s the Messiah, but I don’t think he’s the Antichrist either. Yes, TTUAC has some good childrearing tips, in my opinion, and others that I’d just ignore.

    What kind of puzzles me is why all those people who dislike the Pearls’ material (TTUAC, No Greater Joy, etc.) are so obsessed with it. If I don’t like something, I just avoid it. For instance, I don’t like the taste, texture, smell, etc. of red meat, so I don’t eat it. And I don’t hyperventilate every time I pass by a hotdog stand.

    If anything, this negative publicity about the Pearls might give them some attention – the attention of people who might actually discover the Pearls have something useful to say.

  10. The Pearls teach life changing principles for those that have enough common sense to apply them properly. Through the Pearls’ ministry, we learned how to enjoy our children, my marriage an absolute pleasure and I have full confidence in my salvation through Jesus Christ. I don’t understand how a Christian woman could read Debi’s book and not be encouraged and enlightened…and anyone who reads To Train Up a Child and applies the principles properly will see a wonderful difference in their children.

    The Pearls have raised godly children and have a wonderful marriage. I trust them not because of their words but because their methods work. I’ve seen it, I’m living proof of it. I have a happy household, dare I say a joyful household, obedient well-adjusted children, and a husband that loves me more than he ever has. I would suggest you open your eyes and your heart and take another look!!

  11. It was nice of you to welcome the readers of NGJ to your website, in anticipation of your website’s mention this month in NGJ. After reading your comments and the posts here, all I seem to hear is an over-emphasis of you and your posters preference to lean on one of God/Christ’s attributes – “Grace”. Grace is great, but it is not the only attribute of God, there is also Justice, Righteousness, Sovereignty, Veracity, Love, Omniscience, and Omnipresence. You cannot divorce one attribute from the other, and that is what it seems you are trying to do when you are simply trying to teach your children about only Grace. I could get into an entire religious discussion about this, but reading the Pearl books over the years, I had enough common sense to know that they were not advocating legalism and ignoring all other attributes of God in order to advocate a strict disciplinarian approach to training a child. However, very young children, whom their early books focus on, need very concrete boundaries, and this is the heart of what their books taught. Our family has used these principles to great affect. Their principles voiced in their books simply clarified the teachings I was given as a child, and how my husband and I wanted to raise our children. Our children are now 15, 14, and 11 years and are wonderful to be around, and have always been, thanks to good teaching. I also urge a common sense reading of these books with a good biblical understanding of God’s Word. Don’t water-down God’s word into “one key theme like only “Grace”. Yes, God is Grace, but one attribute doesn’t trump another.

  12. I recently read “To Train Up A Child”, and I liked the book. I agree with L.H.’s statement that “The Pearls teach life changing principles for those that have enough common sense to apply them properly.” I appreciate the Pearl’s point of view, and I will be ordering more books written by them. I will also be sharing these wonderful books with my friends and family. There is nothing wrong with training your children. Prov. 22:6 & Prov. 29:15

  13. I appreciate your loving open arms for the NGJ peps that show up here. I for one conceder myself a hip momma. I come from a very religious background and Praise The Almighty have been freed from that.We believe in worshiping The Creator in spirit and in truth! That I feel is what the pearls do! None of us will ever all agree on ALL doctrine until we get to the kingdom! The pearls however give a biblical no nonsense approach to child training that I really have gleaned from.Their testominy says it all. They have 5 grown children that all walk in truth and from my knowledge have never strayed from the Messiah. THAT IS MY GOAL! As believers what other goal should we have. If you choose to fly by the “grace” of your life then you have a 50/50 chance with your kids. Nothing is fool proof but I will say that pro active training seems a much better option than apathy in hopes of it all turning out all right.

  14. Have any of you even read the Pearls books or are you just going off of hear say? You can not truly weigh the matter unless you have read their material. You pretty much have to throw out the whole Bible if you don’t take into account all the verses of reproof using the rod. Or maybe you haven’t even read the Bible. Maybe you have just taken that on hear say too.

  15. What are we doing anyway? What is our goal as parents? Hmm??? :???: Well, mine is to raise God-fearing (where I come from that means loving, respecting, adoring,worshipping,OBEYING)
    children who serve their communities, are upstanding, respectful, love Jesus with all they are. I want to teach them to listen to the Holy Spirit, know his voice. I was blessed 4 years ago to be told about the Pearls. Thank God!!! Finally, an answer! I won’t go into my childhood experience, but it wasn’t rosy or totally horrible. Anyway, basically I needed direction. And that is what I got from them. I don’t know them personally, but I love their teachings and I love them for boldly proclaiming what this country needs. Parents who parent their children! Not schools,daycares, churches, grandparents. Come on, people….God’s word is not politically correct!!!! :idea: And neither can we be as Christians. God’s word is black and white, no gray areas. For the person who said switching a baby’s hand is wrong must have never had any kids. I have 3 and the youngest is 9 months old. So your saying when he crawls over to the electrical outlet and trys to pull on a chord I should just gently reason with him? Are you kidding? There is no reasoning. He must learn his boundaries, with love. No, I gently spanked his hand and said “no” and removed him from the situation and focused his attention on something else. Now, believe it or not, when he crawls over there he just stops and looks at it…but does not touch. You know why? Because he associates pain with that outlet. I love my children enough that when I know they are endangering themselves I’m willing to inflict a little pain into their life in order to insure they avoid a HUGE pain in their life. And it’s not always with “the rod”. It may just be with words, reproof, or taking privileges away. Just like God does with us. If we are in a relationship with Him, and communicating with Him He will keep us in check. It all starts with love. And there is a lot of that going on in our home. And although God is love, he is also many other things BECAUSE He loves us. And like someone else said The Pearl’s books are for common-sense people. NOT alcoholics, abusers, and people who are NOT parenting their children. Well, maybe they are for them…but NOT the CRAZIES :roll: , and you people know who I’m talking about, okay! I agree with the person who said you can’t pick and choose God’s word. It’s all or nothing baby. I could go on and on, but I won’t. I just felt that it’s time somebody speaks up. Everybody has a right to their opinion. But as Christians there is NO wavering on God’s word.

  16. Susan,

    I really do welcome the mothers (and fathers) who were referred to this site by NGJ. A common thread I’ve found among parents who are drawn to the teachings of the Pearls is a desire to follow the Bible as well as have their family glorify the Lord. Those are things we share.

    I must admit my first reaction to your comment on an “overemphasis” on grace was one of incredulity — how can anyone ever overemphasize the amazing grace by which we are save, by which we live and move and have our being?

    Yet, you clarify what you meant as you referred to God’s attributes. . . Interestingly, one of the catalysts the Lord used in our family’s shift in perspective in parenting was study and mediation on the attributes of God. The Lord’s holiness and justice, His sovereignty and goodness, His immanence and transcendence. . . none of the attributes of God are de-emphasized in our home.

    It seems that when you (and I assume others) see “grace” what first comes to mind is “attributes” of God.

    When I see “grace” what first comes to mind is sola gratia, by grace alone. . .

    As Dr. Riddleberger explains, “. . . thus when we speak of grace alone (sola gratia), we are speaking of the fact that God saves us, because of his mercy and graciousness toward us, and not because of something – indeed anything – in us that makes us desirable to God. We really cannot understand grace alone unless we understand what it is, exactly, that sin has wrought upon us.”

    When I speak of grace, I am speaking of how daily I understand that apart from God’s grace towards me, apart from His saving grace, even my most valiant efforts amount to nothing. Both in eternity and in the here-and-now, I am dependent upon the Lord.

    And when I speak of grace in parenting, that is what I am seeking to convey to my children — their profound need for a Saviour each day, in each moment.

  17. I would encourage those who share about the “wonderful” families they see with great kids — there are also wonderful families who have struggles, who have children who struggle and who don’t live inside their homes how they appear outside their homes.

    This is true in families who follow the methodologies of the Pearls as well as those who follow the methodologies of other teachers — whether within the Christian community or not.

    While I can assume we all desire to have our children walking closely with the Lord, I can also assure you our children WILL struggle along the way. Their struggles may be internal and hard to see. I know that many of my struggles with sin have been ones that no one but the Lord saw.

    Or, their struggles may be very external and ones that are embarrassing for the family and the church.

    Either way, the Holy Spirit WILL bring the sin in our children’s hearts (and our hearts) to the surface.

    And what then?

    My goal in parenting is for my children — by God’s grace — to be able to see their sin and see it for the ugliness that it is, and to turn to the Lord in repentance and look to Christ alone, the Gospel alone as the answer to that sin.

    That is the Biblical. That is the Gospel lived out. That is the big picture — but what it looks like day to day in parenting our teens and tweens and toddlers?

    That is something for which we have to look to the Lord. And while we can receive encouragement from other parents, ideas for tools to use in difficult moments — we need to continue to compare these tools to the “big picture.” Will this help me and my child be dependent upon Christ?

  18. Jen,

    Yes, I have read TTUAC, as well as many of the other materials written by Michael and Debi Pearl. My first exposure to their materials was. . . oh. . . probably 16 years ago. I do not subscribe to their newsletter, nor have I read everything they have written. I am not trying to provide a comprehensive critique of their teachings. I am trying to encourage parents to look at what is written by Michael and Debi Pearl with discernment.

    Even though Scripture is quoted throughout their writings, very often Scripture is used without careful exegesis. I take the Bible seriously, as God’s word, and so I strive to handle it carefully and look to what the intent of Scripture is — and not what I want it to say.

    I’m sure you’ve heard the call to be like the faithful Bereans, those who heard the teachings of Paul and did not accept them until they studied the Scripture to see if what he was saying was consistent with God’s revealed truth.

    Even with the teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl, we need to carefully examine it in light of the Scripture. I have done that, and rejected the Pearls’ teachings.

    (If you like, please join in the discussion here about the careful use of Scripture and the Pearls.)

  19. I am confused? What exactly is the argument here?
    Are some of you disputing the “Rod Of Correction”? Because if that is true arent you disagreeing with Gods Word?
    Or are you just disagreeing with the method of which you use the rod?

  20. Hi, Shanna!

    As to the “argument” here. . . actually, I much prefer to engage in dialogue and discussion. I and others visiting tulipgirl.com have pointed to flaws in the parenting teachings by Michael and Debi Pearl — theologically as well as practically.

    The discussion does include topics related to “the rod,” but goes beyond it as well.

  21. The Lord has used Micheal and Debi Pearls “To Train Up a Child” mightily in my family and in my friends families lives. My husband and I have the most wonderful daughter. She’s 1 1/2 years old and I was at the mall with 3 of my friends and there was a bunch of tempting objects on a shelf in one of the stores. My daughter reached up to grab one of the items and I said “Anna, no touch.” She didn’t let me down. As usual she pulled her hand away and joyfully came back to me. Thank you Micheal and Debi for sharing the insight that God gave you.

  22. Hello,

    I am 18 years old and the third child of eight, with seven happily living at home. My mother was shown the Pearl’s material long ago, I believe, shortly after I was born. She and my father read TTUAC and listened to their tapes on child training. Ever since I can remember the rod has been used on me. My mom and I have the closest relationship, one of sweet communion and respect. I love my parents with all my heart. I believe the Lord caused this material to be brought to them and that it is His way of training children. Now that I am older and see the same methods being used on my younger siblings (from ages 6-15), I am convinced that it works. I am living proof. I have read the Bible since I could read and there are several “black and white” commands to use the rod on children in training.

    My mother was convicted of many things written in Mrs. Pearl’s book “Created To Be His Help Meet” even before she read it. I’ve seen great changes in her marriage with Daddy. He is daily becoming a godlier father and protector to his four girls and three boys.

    My oldest brother is not such a good example. He is 26, just divorced his wife of 3 years and still ‘sowing his wild oats’. My mother was not saved when she had him, neither was she married. Therefore she did not train him (using the rod, quiet admonitions, Bible references, etc.) much in his early life. There are many factors that account for what he is today. It is not only his lack of early training but I can see that it made a big difference. He has little respect for his mother. He still thinks he doesn’t have to honor her-the one who bore him.
    I am not saying he is bad all around; he has many good traits. Daddy taught him much and he is an upstanding, hardworking man because of the training he got AFTER he was 4 years old.

    BTW, I have been listening to Mr. Pearl’s CD series called “Sin No More”. It is the Biblical gospel of Salvation. I highly recommend it.

    Thank you for reading.

    Joyful in Christ!
    Melody

  23. Last week on vacation I was sitting on the porch swing rereading TTUAC. It’s been 3 years since I read it last and now that my little girl is 2 and we have a new baby, I felt like a refresher was in order. I was going through chapter 4 on “Tying Strings” when my little girl asked to come out on the porch with me. “What-do-ye-ear?” she asked. “Daddys reading on child training so I can be a good Daddy.” I said. She started walking over toward the steps and I waited till any closer and I wouldn’t be able to grab her if she fell. I said, “Okay sweetheart, close enough.” Instant obedience. (We’ve been working on that one!) She stopped looked around, then looked up at me, thoughtfully and with full understanding said “Daddy I love you.”

    She’s my little buddy. No “terrible twos” Just me and my little chums. We enjoy a relationship built on mutual respect. I don’t force her, I encourage her. Sometimes that encouragement comes in the form of a little switch, sometime it comes in the form of a kiss. Any way it comes, it always comes drenched in love, and backed by truth. Just as God could demand my love, I could demand obedience. (Am I not the soveriegn in my home? Do I not have the ‘power’?) Just as God does not violate my will to choose him, neither will I violate my daughters will to obey. But thank God for His loving example; “For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth” Heb 12:6 This is the Grace of God! (Heb 12:15)

    The Pearls have never claimed to be perfect,(I have actually heard him say the contrary) and I’m sure the host of this blog would agree that she falls in line with them on that point without doubt. The fact will always remain that in every fish there are bones or scales of some kind to be avoided. That holds true for a Pearl or a Tulip. Oh, I think I just got the Tulip thing! (I am slow this morning) Well truth is truth right?!

    Thanks for the opportunity to post!

  24. I came across your post looking at some information on the Pearls. Yours appears to be one of the only ones still taking comments :)

    I think I’m just mostly confused, lol, by all this stuff written on the Pearls. Their information has blessed my family.

    Mike Pearl’s Bible teachings are all taken right out of the Scriptures – I’m constantly confused by all the labels thrown about.

    But all these people are saying Mike Pearl says children are sinless. He doesn’t though – he emphasizes that even a little baby will choose to sin.

    You’re all saying that Mike Pearl denies the blood of Christ is needed to save sinful man – but he says over, and over, and over, and over, that it is only by the power of the blood that we are saved.

    He says flat out that his child training information is principle-based. It’s not scripture.

    I also don’t understand the labels you ladies are placing on him when he says our children are not damned if they die in infancy or early childhood. Do you think your stillborn baby was cast into hell because you didn’t have the chance to explain the gospel to him? The Bible says that all will stand in judgment – but it seems to me that judging a newborn baby as guilty simply because of great-granddaddy Adam is what will make most people in our world into God-haters.

    Or perhaps Catez, whom you seem to agree with, can imagine that little babies do in fact have a way of telling God “yeah, I was supposed to be a terrible sinner so you’re justified in casting me down to hell. Sorry I didn’t at least get to sin first, though.”

    Anyways, to me I keep seeing a whole bunch of the words and classifications of men tossed around. A lot of hysterical “he’s a baby whipper” (but anyone who reads the material will see that’s not true) cries. And again, more labels.

    Nothing about the freeing blood of Christ Jesus, nothing about the freedom we enjoy in him, and nothing about how it does our children a favor to be raised in a loving household.

    Except, that is, in the comments :)

  25. Pingback: TulipGirl » Blog Archive » Heartbroken. Angry. Again.

  26. To all of you who want people to stop reading the Pearls books & teachings, How is your family life? marriage? children, do they obey?? If you so don’t like them, then you better have something better for the world.Don’t put someone down, if you can’t replace it .We have been greatly Blessed by them.

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