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October 01, 2005

Pearls Po-Russki


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.


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


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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.

Posted by: Megan at October 1, 2005 03:48 PM

Good topic. Somebody was telling me about how great this book was. Honestly, as soon as I heard the author I kind of tuned out.

Posted by: Amie at October 1, 2005 10:02 PM

Thanks for the link, TG, and the support. This is an emotional topic for some!

Posted by: sparrow at October 1, 2005 11:23 PM

Just seeing the book cover again makes me sad and very tired.

BTW, the "child discipline" link is changed, although it is redirected.

Glad to see you blogging a bit more.

Posted by: Carol at October 2, 2005 07:55 AM

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!

Posted by: Annie at October 2, 2005 11:46 PM

I'm just curious - what is the activity that they advocate that is illegal in Ukraine?

Posted by: Dawn at October 3, 2005 03:56 AM

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.

Posted by: TulipGirl at October 3, 2005 06:50 AM


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.

Posted by: karen at October 3, 2005 07:17 PM

Oh, for those who haven't yet read it, check out Megan's review here. (You have to scroll down or do ctrl+F to search.)

Posted by: TulipGirl at October 3, 2005 09:17 PM

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.

Posted by: Lisa at October 5, 2005 06:58 AM


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.

Posted by: sparrow at October 6, 2005 12:27 PM

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.

Posted by: Debra Baker at October 7, 2005 02:12 AM

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.

Posted by: Rae at October 8, 2005 03:04 PM

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.

Posted by: Emily H. at October 14, 2005 01:13 PM

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!!

Posted by: L. H. at December 21, 2005 11:56 AM

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