Saturday, February 9, 2008

Created To Be His Help Meet?

God has set the type of marriage everywhere throughout the creation. Every creature seeks its perfection in another. The very heavens and earth picture it to us. -- Martin Luther

Created To Be His Help Meet by Debi Pearl is a book about how women can make their marriages heavenly. She and her husband, Michael Pearl, put together a variety of writings on marriage, family, gender roles, and children training (I am least familiar with their advice on childrearing, because I am childless and don't read much on that subject). While I have found that the Pearls have some helpful and insightful things to say, I part ways with them on a number of issues and foundational beliefs (i.e. some of the way they interpret scripture). I would never discredit their ministry on a whole and I respect them as fellow christians who mean well and do a lot of good.

So, I'm not bashing here, I just wanted to make that clear before Deann pulls out her nine and busts a cap into my brain... hehe!

Anyhow, Created To Be His Help Meet is a beloved book among many wonderful women in my church. I love and respect these women and their devotion to their husbands, children, and God. And because I value their perspective, I am curious about what they think of this blog. It's put together by a married couple, much more conservative than I, who share a lot of common ground with the Pearls, and do not personally attack them or berate them. They do, however, question some of their teachings, examine some of the claims put forth in Debi Pearl's book and the scriptures used to support those claims.

Here is a summary of the points this particular site examines as it appears in the blog's introduction. Ladies, if you so wish, pick the ones that most interest you and share your thoughts. Others, who have constructive input, may also weigh in. I want to be fair to the Pearls. I would like to hear from people who agree with them and people who do not. I want to know if the people who admire them and are better acquainted with their teachings find these criticisms to be fair, a cause for concern, or invalid and the reasons why. But let's keep it nice! :)

Point 1: CTBHHM takes away the very heart of a woman’s identity as a child of God, created in His image, by Him and for Him. It takes a wife’s God given role – being a help meet to her husband – and asserts that for every woman, being a help meet (as defined by Debi Pearl) encompasses her sole purpose for existing and her only true identity. It goes so far as to state that Eve was created in the image of Adam rather than in the image of God.

Point 2: It presents a woman’s husband as a mediator, a kind of high priest, between herself and God.

Point 3: It consistently asserts that a woman/wife bears responsibility for a man’s/ husband’s sins, going so far as to say a husband’s complete sanctification and deliverance from temptation is provided to him through his wife and her actions. It seems to teach that women are deceived by Satan but men are not, and that men’s primary weakness is their desire for (or to please) women. Therefore, women cause men to sin (or not) by their actions and submission.

Point 4: Its use of Scripture often seems wrong or out-of-context—so often that we frequently feel as though the author is stretching to find scriptural support for her own pre-determined conclusions. We feel it is more appropriate to first study the scripture and let it guide the conclusions.

Point 5: It discourages women from spending time in prayer, Scripture study, or meditation on Scripture, hinting that a woman’s spiritual connection to God is primarily determined and built through her actions towards her husband. It asserts that that there is no woman in Scripture who is commended for doing “spiritual” things (i.e. praying, reading Scripture, etc.)

Point 6: The book itself is full of inconsistencies and can be very confusing.

Point 7: CTBHHM advice to women involved in an abusive situation (it advocates enduring in silence for the glory of God) is not only Scripturally suspect, but is also potentially lethal. The book also suggests that when a woman is abused by her husband, it is usually her fault.

Point 8: The writing often lacks grace and compassion towards those struggling, calling women names that should never be used to describe human beings made in God’s image.


Marissa said...

i dont even understand biblically where any of that could be true

Tia Lynn said...

I hear ya, I adamantly disagree with many stances of the Pearls, especially on biblical interpretations.

Here's the thing. I have found that the book actually helps women who have GREAT husbands and who probably are overly controlling, so it simmers them down a bit. But if you are someone who has a horrible husband, I find the book to verge on being dangerous (like with a certain someone we know).

And I do disagree with how the author uses scripture (which is the foundation of her thesis) to lay out the model of marriage. I don’t think it’s done maliciously or purposely, but I still think the questionable sections should be challenged. Hence, my post. :)

David said...

Wow, great post and you put it much nicer that I would have.
But I wholly disagree with their child-rearing philosophy as well...

Terry said...

I think that sometimes in an effort to confront a valid concern, people tend to swing to the opposite extreme. You know that I am pretty conservative in my views of marriage and family. But I would never put my husband in place of God in my life. And if he falls into sin, that would be HIS sin, not mine(see James 1:14), regardless of any shortcomings on my part because neither of us is perfect. For example, I'm almost 7 months pregnant, and my figure isn't the best right now. It probably won't be for at least 6 months after this kid is born( maybe more!). If my husband turned to pornography, is it because I've allowed myself to get fat? I'd heard of this book and was considering reading it but you have given me pause. Yes,I am my husband's help meet but I am not an appendage to him. After all, on judgement day, he will not be there to advocate for me. My life has to stand on it's own merits. Now, I still believe that scripture is clear on the issue of submission, respect, and doing all we can to allow our husbands to fulfill their God-given calling as leaders in the home, but there is such a thing as balance.

musicmommy3 said...


Have you personally read the book? I have it on a shelf and have not read it yet.
The concerns from this couple, if this is truly what Debbie Pearl is saying, are valid.
I want to hear from someone who has read the book. I want to hear if they think this is the direction DP took when she wrote it.

I'll tell you what. I cannot respond till I read it. Give me a few days and I'll let you know what I think.:)

keithandjennifer said...

I HAVE read the book, The points that were brought up here (Points 1-6) are not at all what I got out of it. (Expect maybe points 7 and 8.) The book helped me see how my husband viewed things and how my reactions affected him. It is a book written to women. Micheal Pearl is just as firm with men in his writings. However, I would like to say that I do not agree with everything the Pearls say.

I will also say that if I had read this the first few years of my marriage I would have probably burned it. However, after 13 years of marriage and 2 kids (with on on the way), I can see the wisdom in some of her points. I would say if you are a newly married( first 5 years of marriage) and find this offensive. Put it on a shelf and read it again after year 12. :)

Christy Fritz said...

I read the book a few years ago, and the blog yesterday.
I struggled with points 1,3,5 after reading the book. Way too much self-imposed unhealthy guilt. I don't think my problems stemmed from reading the book, although I did seem to let it turn my focus from prayer, and remembering grace, to more of a works oriented life again. I remember thinking, now I have the perfect plan, and can make it all better if I just do such and such, that she said, and dove into being a perfect Pearl follower... that was the problem, not the book. I started to do this with their child rearing material, but was a little stronger in my identity as a mother, so was not as easily swayed. Although, I dabbled for while, which was unwise.(They'd be the first to say that) I confused my children. I couldn't be consistant with some of their training methods and didn't find them as helpful for us,as other things I was already doing, so that was that. They have other great stuff on their website about loving your kids that I really enjoy reading. I know many that do use and not abuse their methods though, and have great families. I think they are inconsistant in implementing them and are not Pearl followers though, I think there is a difference.
The Pearls have much wisdom in their writings, but also some bad theology and wacky interpretations of scripture, that I don't understand and don't really care too. I'll still read them... but now after reading this critque, possibly with my Bible closer to my computer.:) If anything, reading their material has taught me to be more discerning.
If concerned about justice for women and chidren as social issues... her work I would say could be considered dangerous in the wrong hands. I would not recommend it to anyone, without really knowing them and their situation at home.
I may pull the book of the shelf agian one day, but it will be many years from now at best.

Mike L. said...

It seems to me that this book does correctly highlight what the bible teaches about marriage and about womens roles within society.

However, the bible is NOT an instruction book for us today. That isn't why we read the bible. It's instructions were for a specific culture in a specific time. Any suggestion that we should go back thousands of years in our progress is crazy.

So I completely agree with their analysis of scripture, but I completely disagree with the idea of going back to an ancient worldview simply because the people who wrote our sacred texts were part of a society of Misogynists. These ancient poets and priests were doing their best to create a good society with an ignorant ancient worldview, but their best is not our best. We can do better. That is called progress.

Terry said...

Musicmommy makes a good point. Let me read it and I'll be able to give a more informed opinion. Speaking of which, I never heard back from you on my opinion of the Wallis book, 'God's Politics'. Were you stunned speechless or something?:)

Terry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
keithandjennifer said...

Totally disagree with you Mike. If the bible is not an instruction book for us today then what are you following? Jesus' teachings, which are included in the Bible, were for that culture, this is true. But, they also transcend to ours as well. Our "culture" is not as advanced as we think. If we are so advanced then why does our "culture ways" mostly end in divorce. To think that you know better and have progressed beyond the word of God is ignorant.

Mike L. said...


I'm not sure what you mean by "what are you following". I am following the truths contained in the bible. The truths that trancend time are not the cultural norms of that society. The deeper truth is a desire to build a society that produces peace and justice (even for women!). The particular rules that one ancient society used do NOT transcend time. Polygamy, slavery, sexism, totalitarian governments, and horrible views on war and violence are all supported by these ancient authors. We should not try to adhere to their rules, but we should look underneath them to find the deeper goals they were attempting to accomplish. We should learn from their mistakes as they attempted to implement God's will. Not everything they tried worked. The bible is a record of their attempts. We should not repeat their mistakes. These particular rules are not "God's word". God's word is the deeper truth which these sacred texts attempt to point us to.

Lower divorce rates are not a measure of success. Forcing women to stay in abusive relationships does not define succes. What good are long lasting marriages if women are oppressed throughout society?

I don't think we have progressed beyond the word of god. I think we've learned from the mistakes captured in these ancient writings (and others). We should look for new innovative ways to implement their intentions without falling victim to their ancient worldview. Their intentions transcend time, their Misogynistic ways do not.

Susannah said...

I have read the book. So has my systematic theologian-husband. ;)

We both are in thorough agreement that the Bible's teachings on marriage apply 100% to today. Insofar as CTBHHM teaches the Pauline view, we are in agreement.

Point #1, I believe, the critics are reading into the book. I did not at all come away with that sense.

I didn't notice Debi saying that husbands act as a mediator for the wife. I do know some people myself who believe that, and we disagree with that teaching. I think it's a misreading of Ephesians 5:25-26 (what Christ does for we, the church, is interpreted as a husbandly duty). Scripture is pretty clear that there is only one mediator and that is Jesus. I don't know if the Pearls teach something different from this, but I haven't picked it up in what I've read from them so far.

Point 3 is wrong, wrong, wrong. What Debi is saying is that you can't change your *spouse* and you must look to *yourself,* making sure your behavior is Christlike.

Point 4 is too vaguely put to answer. We need specific examples.

Point 5 is also not what Debi says in the book. Now, I think she may acknowledge that wives/moms are typically busy people, so a lot of us have to do our relating to God much in the way Brother Lawrence did, by practicing the presence of God. (My words, not hers.) But she isn't emphasizing personal devotions in this book. She is emphasizing what a wife's devotion should be to her husband. I'd like specific quotes, cause I think there may be misunderstanding here.

Points 6 & &: Yes, I feel there are inconsistencies in the book, mostly arising from the real life examples provided. A couple of them left some big question marks over my head. As for the instruction given in the book, I feel it is biblical. A couple of the examples, however, were way out. In one example, the wife should have been counseled to find safety from her husband, who had threatened her with a knife. Now, elsewhere on the Pearls' site, you will find exactly such counsel. For some reason, in the book, that did not happen. She should have been clearer about that.

In another example, a woman throws a rock through a window into the room where her husband is viewing porn. No comment provided from Debi. Strange anecdote!

I could have done without those two specific instances (and perhaps others--it's been a while since I've read the book), but overall, I feel Debi's admonitions should be heeded. The reason they are not is simple: the influence of feminism in the church takes precedence over scripture.

If you prefer a more scholarly book on this subject, I heartily recommend Wayne Grudem's Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth: An Analysis of More Than 100 Disputed Questions. (Yes, this is the same Wayne Grudem who wrote the definitive text on Systematic Theology. He's trustworthy as a biblical scholar.)

I would read Dr. Grudem's book first, CTBHHM second. Judge the second by the first, and especially by scripture itself. (Grudem's book will lead you to the relevant texts.) Debi is not a scholar by any means, but I feel her book has been very helpful to our marriage. Her admonition on gratitude leading to joy alone is worth reading. I also found her book helpful in giving me a better understanding of my husband, so I could support him more sympathetically. Who knew he was a Visionary. :) It fits precisely with the Myers-Briggs personality scheme, too, so what she's observed through practical common sense is confirmed in psychology.

Anyway, if I had more time, I could do more of a point-by-point. I'm about to re-read CTBHHM pretty soon, so maybe I can weigh in later after seeing where these folks get their impressions.

Oh, and I should say I haven't examined Michael Pearl's theological teachings at all, so I can't comment on them, but I don't think they bring much to bear on Debi's book.

Susannah said...

One more point: This was a book to wives only, not to men. That's why it seems so one-sided to its critics. We can't change our spouses. Marriage is no place for controlling manipulative behavior. We must leave our spouse's conscience to the Holy Spirit.

Michael Pearl is currently writing a book to the men. He is also asking for input. I'm interested to see what comes of it.

Tia Lynn said...

I’ve read most of it, Angela. I had to put it down after Debi talked about a woman having every biblical right to leave her husband but if she did, she would (according to Debi) sleep in a cold bed for the rest of her life, alone and bitter, as her punishment. Well I’d rather sleep in a cold bed than stay married to an unrepentant cheater/beater.

I tend to take issue when people give advice (even wise advice) and pass it off as “God’s only way” to do something. And I don’t appreciate the pearls overriding Jesus’ teaching on divorce. They seem to adhere to a “no reason for divorce ever” mentality, but Jesus Himself gave clear examples of “deal breakers” in a marriage.

Terry, if I gave you pause, I would say read it anyway and judge for yourself. I do want to be fair. :) And I wrote you a response and thought I send it, but saved it in my draft box! I’ll resend it!

Hey Jennifer, glad you weighed in on this one, since you’ve read the book in its entirety. I know you said you didn’t get out of the book what points 1-6 claim, but how do you interpret the quotes and citations they list on their site? Do you feel they are taking them out of context? And play nice with Mike! :)

Susannah, thank you for all your resources. I will take a look into them. Was your comment based solely on the excerpts I included in my post or did you actually visit the site? Because the people who run the site tackle each point more in depth with specific quotes, scriptures, and examples. They actually discuss in detail the examples you cited, and much more.

I find some of the quotes listed hard to get around and pretty disturbing or unclear and confusing at best.

Tonya said...

I've read the book several times and I think it's worth reading for the woman who is established in Christ and not overly prone to legalism. I found the book, while not perfect by any means, to be thought provoking and scripturally sound for the most part. I did notice that DP used verses out of context in places and in other places I thought "that is NOT what I think that verse means", but the basic premise of the book was right IMO.

I didn't love her use of scare tactics, but I recognized that she was trying to make women think beyond the misery of not having the perfect husband in the moment they are driving him insane with their nagging. I know SO many women who say "I wish I had worked on my first marriage. It wasn't that bad and it could have been fixed and now I'm in the same mess for the second (or third) time and still have the same problems I had 20 years ago."

I did love all the talk about choosing joy and a good attitude. And I loved the chapter on understanding what kind of man you married. Boy did that help me!

I didn't find anything (in the post you linked to)to be what I thought when I first read the book except the parts about fear and some of the uses of verses. I never felt belittled or like I wasn't supposed to have my own relationship with Christ or anything. But I've read lots of Pearl so I kind of knew where they were coming from. And I also know where they stand on abuse so that doesn't worry me.

Ther Pearls are not the sole mouthpeice of God to this generation. They are just people who have a wonderful marraige and have raised godly kids who are raising godly kids, and they are offering their advice. And CTBHHM is not the Bible and shouldn't be read as such. It's just a book that talks about how many women have turned dull or nightmarish or sad marriages into really good marriages. I believe that husbands and wives function best as one person, one being the head and the other following. Having two heads is unnatural, isn't it?

I believe that Paul's words don't need to be reinterpreted for this day and age, and I don't consider him a mysogonist. I am very secure, comfortable and truly happy in my womanhood. I don't feel that because I am supposed to submit to my husband, I am a lesser person in any way. I feel quite valuable, secure and excited in my God given role. I realize that all women do not share that understanding though and I am fine with that. I've also found that you can't give someone else your understanding. They have to find understanding for themselves. Many women can not glean anything from this book because it turns their stomachs from the get-go. There are a plethora of reasons for that I'm sure, and that's fine. Just read the Bible for God's views on roles in marriage. (Lots on that topic but no time for it here.)

Personally, I get a bit fatigued with discussing this same book over and over again. Someone is always trying to convince me that it is swill, and I had a different experience. I just say "If you don't like it, don't read it". I am not one to throw the baby out with the bathwater and I don't expect infallibility out of the Pearls so my expectations may be too low for the majority of their critics:):):).

musicmommy3 said...

OK my dear Sista-friend. I started the book yesterday and finished it today. I will say that I read the other blog you showed us first and took that into consideration while I read. I also took into consideration the many positive reviews I have heard on it. So, what I’m trying to say is that I read it with an open but critical mind.

First of all I want to say 2 things that I think are important.
#1- Everyone reads through a lens of experience and personality. That will color things for people, in that, what they notice in the book may be different from others.
#2- You have to understand who you are reading. Debi and Mike Pearl are “in your face” very black and white believers. You will not find coddling or compromise. That said, you have to take what they say and move it down a few notches sometimes. i.e.: the part where she is saying that you MUST find your emotional support in your husband. My husband and I LAUGHED over that. I am a high maintenance woman emotion wise. My husband got off pretty easy in the material needs and primping dept but I need LOTS AND LOTS of emotional talk time. There is NO WAY my under emotional husband could meet that need. He LOVES when I can hang out with another woman and use up a bunch of words and emotions come home and share the cliff notes with him and go to bed. That makes him happy. If I was never sharing things with my husband and always looking outside my marriage for emotional fulfillment then, that would be dangerous and wrong too. That’s what I mean about taking things down a few notches.
That said…if you take Debi’s book as a step by step instruction book on “how to hold your man” you may loose him. :P
You have to take the heart of what she is saying and apply that.
For instance…she talks in her book about greeting him at home at night with a nice dinner, looking pretty, etc. Making him feel like a king… The king part is fine but I know I tried that awhile back and it was a DISASTER. Not the king part but I was trying to cook more gourmet meals like my husband likes and try to have the house as clean as he requests and I was STRESSED OUT!! He finally told me that what he really wanted was peace in our home. I had been trying to do the things he liked but it wasn’t working because I was either pregnant or dealing with toddlers. LOL

I tend more towards legalism so if I’d read this book in the first 5 years of our marriage it would have been bad. Growing up I wasn’t cherished for who I was but for how I performed. So, when I read the book I had a hard time distinguishing that I didn’t need to perform like the “perfect wife” to “keep my man” but that’s my personal experience and my personal lens.

The parts I LOVED were the parts about choosing thankfulness and gratefulness. Practicing good thoughts instead of practicing bad or bitter thoughts and not ruining your marriage in your mind. It was worth the read just for the first half of the book about not reacting to situations/husbands and about walking in obedience to God by honoring/respecting/obeying your husband even when they don’t deserve it. The other GREAT part was the part that talked about the different types of husbands and how to best support whatever type you have. That was worth its weight in gold.

OK now onto what I think of the points and, yes, I read the other blog in detail so I would understand where they were coming from on the points.

Point #1- Yes; I did see some of that in the book.

Point #2- I personally didn’t get that but I DID see how someone else could come to that conclusion. You’ll just have to read the other blog to understand where they were coming from.

Point #3- Again, I can see what they are saying. I may have gotten a touch of that but I also think we DO have to look at how our actions/words/critical spirit affects the bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. Spouses DO feed off of each other and I think our reactions and words are important. If you look at the book as a whole I would say that overall they believe men should take responsibility for their own actions but that a wife could cause her husband to stumble in some areas.

Point #4- Yes. I think she did take some Scriptures out of context and some I don’t read the same way as her. IMO, this would not be such a problem if someone who gave more gentle answers wrote the book. She presents her way as “this is the ONLY way to have a Christ like marriage and everyone should be doing it this way.” I think that’s why she is a little tough to swallow for some readers.

Point #5- I agree a bit with Susannah in that Debi is saying that you can worship God while doing the dishes. I think this is true. Mommies with small children often don’t have time for devotions and if you are neglecting your family to spend 3 hours a day in the Word and prayer, by yourself, then that may be selfish.
I also understand where the couple in the other blog is coming from and agree with much of what they are saying in their critic of this point –excerpt from the other blog…
“The following is a critique of the Scripture that Debi uses in chapter 11, “The Nature of Man and Woman”. In this chapter, she says that women are not meant to be “spiritual” and that women should not spend (and are not created to spend) a great deal of time in prayer, quiet time, Scripture study, or similar “spiritual” endeavors. Instead, a woman’s primary spirituality comes through serving her husband in practical ways. We agree that serving one’s husband can be a “spiritual” act, but we don’t believe this defines the sum total of a woman’s spirituality or relationship to God.”

Point #6- Yes.

Point #7- Yes and No.
Yes-CTBHHM advice to women involved in an abusive situation (it advocates enduring in silence for the glory of God) BUT I will say that she is coming from the premise that, statistically speaking; most abused women choose NOT to leave their husbands.
Sometimes I got the feeling that she was way off on this and other times I got the feeling that she held these women in awe because it was just such a beautiful thing they were doing.
NO- The book also suggests that when a woman is abused by her husband, it is usually her fault
I believe that she was again coming from the premise that the women were going to remain with their husbands and she was teaching techniques that would not get them hurt so often. Although, the other blog brought out this really good point- “This quote puts the pressure on the wife to prevent her husband from abusing her. It suggests she can prevent abuse by obedience, honor, and reverence. This doesn’t work. Research on domestic violence shows that an abuser will hit his wife for a matter as simple as burning the dinner or him having a bad day at work or coming home drunk.”

Point #8- Yes, there is a lack of grace and some name calling. The name calling didn’t bother me too much because it was usually done for descriptive purposes. The lack of grace did bother me. However, in Debi’s defense, I think the majority of the time they are getting letters from women who are ready to get divorced over very petty things and the scare tactics (as Tonya so well put them) are to get women to REALLY THINK about what they would be loosing if they divorced; which is a good thing to think about but to make the “a woman having every biblical right to leave her husband but if she did, she would (according to Debi) sleep in a cold bed for the rest of her life, alone and bitter, as her punishment” statement is a bit over the edge on dramatics. If your husband is an abuser or an unrepentant cheater you are already sleeping in a “cold bed”. –My opinion.

I think both Tonya and Christy put it best…
Christy when she said:
The Pearls have much wisdom in their writings, but also some bad theology and wacky interpretations of scripture, that I don't understand and don't really care too. I'll still read them... but now after reading this critique, possibly with my Bible closer to my computer.:) If anything, reading their material has taught me to be more discerning…
I would not recommend it to anyone, without really knowing them and their situation at home.”
And Tonya when she said, “The Pearls are not the sole mouthpiece of God to this generation. They are just people who have a wonderful marriage and have raised godly kids who are raising godly kids, and they are offering their advice. And CTBHHM is not the Bible and shouldn't be read as such. It's just a book that talks about how many women have turned dull or nightmarish or sad marriages into really good marriages.”
“I am not one to throw the baby out with the bathwater and I don't expect infallibility out of the Pearls so my expectations may be too low for the majority of their critics :):):).”
Sooo good Tonya and Christy!! I agree with those things wholeheartedly.

I would not recommend this book to a Christian who took everything in every book they read as “God’s Word.” (There is only one of those and it’s pretty awesome!!) I would probably not give this to someone who was recovering from a “perform to be loved mindset”. I WOULD recommend it to someone who was tearing down her house with her own hands, someone who was living in bitterness because “she deserved to be treated better” or someone who needed to understand how her reactions could hurt the person she is supposed to love the most. I would recommend it to mature believers who can separate God’s words from her opinions.

I’m glad that I read the book. I gleaned from it. I threw out some of the info but what I gleaned I will pray through and let God speak to me and use it to make me a better help meet to my husband.

I will say Tia that this book could work for those who don’t have great husbands because even if he isn’t a good husband it doesn’t give us license to disrespect him or become bitter because of how we are being treated. We are responsible for our own actions. That said, I don’t advocate anyone staying in abusive situations unless they have clearly heard from God. God can do miracles but sometimes you need to GET OUT and escape the abuse. There is no good formula for that. That’s between you and God.

So, that’s my 50 cents worth!

Blessings!- Angela

keithandjennifer said...

Hey Angela that was $1.50 worth :) but well articulated and I agree with ya.....

Tia Lynn said...

Wow should post that on your blog too. :) Great thoughts. I agree we all have a biased lens that filters the information that comes to our brains! Good stuff.

Hey Tonya. Good thoughts. I don’t believe Paul’s words to need to be reinterpreted FOR today either (that would just be silly), but the predominate interpretation of Paul’s teachings (on women issues) have been debated for centuries, and the early church seemed to interpret them almost completely differently, since there are so many records of female teachers, deacons, leaders, evangelists, etc. etc. So while I agree scripture should never be toyed with to get a desired result that’s convenient for our time, we should also recognize that just because we have a tradition of understanding a passage in certain way, does not make it the right way either. I’ve been studying Paul’s writings on women for the past few months, and they are no where near as cut and dry as try people make it and the church history that follows is even more complicated and diverse when it comes to the application and understanding of Paul’s words on women issues.

Thanks everyone for weighing in. I hope the people who really glean from Pearls know that this was not an attempt to discredit them or demonize them. I disagree with them on a lot of things, especially divorce, abuse, and their interpretation of the creation account, but I don’t think they are evil people with a sinister agenda.

Mike L. said...

Tia Lynn,

Don't you think we already reinterpret Paul's words? I am fairly convinced that the words right in the text are already an "interpretation". Actually, Paul didn't even write all the letters attributed to him. At a minimum, Paul's words were an interpretation of Jesus' ideas, then placed into Paul's context, and then interpreted through the desires of the early communities, the reinterpreted through the structured church.

Most importantly, Paul's letters are directed at specific individuals and communities. If we take his position and apply it verbatim to our life 2000 years later, then we are bastardizing the meaning. We can only derive Paul's meaning and intention to address certain problems. We should not accept his solutions as universal by applying his advice out of context.

For example, Paul and his readers wouldn't really have any concept of a monogomus gay relationship. It wasn't a possibility in their culture. Gay people would have had to surpress their true identity and probably went insane in the process or lived double lives. So when Paul speaks about men lying with men, he is speaking about the particular sex acts common in the Roman Imperial circles with their slaves and servants. Specifically, I think he was throwing stones at the Roman/Greek aristocracy who more openly participated in this practice. But it still wasn't what we think of as homosexuality today. He wouldn't have any idea what you and I mean when we say homosexual.

The same is true of marriage and women's roles in society. If a woman today told Paul they were in school deveoping a career or learning to be a minister he wouldn't understand. Not because he disagreed in theory, but because he wouldn't have any reference for a woman doing that sort of thing in a Jewish society. Again, his reaction is likely a criticism against Roman (pagan) society that was becoming more liberal toward woman. The guy just wouldn't have know better. Kind of like my great grandfather who was a KKK member because he literally assumed people from Africa were a lesser species. Given Paul's setting he would have thought something similar about women. I would too if I lived in the first century.

Tia Lynn said...

Oh I definitely believe that there are cultural and historical contexts that need to be considered when reading Paul’s writings. I also believe there are places that were never meant to be universal commands, but solutions to particular problems in particular churches to a particular people because Paul was trying to unify the Christian church. There are places where he clearly states, “this is I talking and NOT the Lord” which means he’s using practical reasoning to deal with specific issues relevant to his time and place. However, I don’t think that negates the heart of his message or the places where Paul is declaring He heard directly from the Lord and so forth.

I do believe, as you said, that we (and every other generation) have reinterpreted scripture (for better and for worse,). I meant that I won’t pretend the scripture MEANT something else just to agree with my viewpoint, but I won’t just assume that our current understanding is always correct either, since history has proven that prevalent understandings of the scriptures has been abused to tragic degrees.

Staying on the topic of women’s issues, I actually believe Paul was a revolutionary on this front and that his words have been grossly misused and mistranslated to keep women from coming into their full spiritual inheritance. A close study of the original language, original manuscripts, and historical contexts reveals quite a different Paul, the Paul who wrote “there is neither male nor female, but all are ONE in Christ Jesus.” I’m still compiling my research on this subject and will be doing a multi-part study in a few weeks. You might find it interesting.

Mike L. said...

I completely agree Tia Lynn. You should check out the book "In Search of Paul" by John D. Crossan. He talks in detail about the "3 pauls" and which letters are more authentic. There was clearly more than one author of his letters or at a minimum they were tweaked by individual communities to suit their purpose. That is why Paul confuses so many of us and at times appears to contradict himself. That one book really helped me read Paul again. I was almost at the point of throwing him out with the bath water. Crossan saved him for me.

Marissa said...

The following is a letter/articl that Pastor Ray Bentley of Maranatha Calvary Chapel in San Diego (my moms home church now) write concerning women teaching and preaching. I think its right on and you might enjoy his thoughts on the subject


As many of you may know, Anne Graham Lotz spoke at Maranatha Chapel in February, 2006. I have had some people ask me about the issue of women teaching or preaching to the church, whether it is scriptural and where we as a church stand on this issue. Three particular passages in the Bible were cited in raising this question: 1 Corinthians 14:33-36, 1 Timothy 2:12, and Titus 2:3-5.

This is a sensitive subject to tackle, and devout Christians from different denominations will not always agree. For some of you reading this, you may even be wondering why it is an issue at all. With that said, I simply want to lay out the convictions under which our church operates.

In 1 Corinthians 14:33-36, the apostle Paul exhorted the church in Corinth, “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak...and if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.” I can certainly see that statement raising a few eyebrows today.

Was Paul really that hard on women and does what he said apply to our church?

First, I think it is good to go back to what Paul has said earlier in this letter, which puts these verses in their proper context. Read 1 Corinthians 11:5: “And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head — it is just as though her head were shaved…” (underlines mine). Here Paul has already stated to the Corinthian church that women in the services may both pray and prophesy, so this instruction must apply to the immediate context, which is the evaluation of prophetic messages. Thus it appears that the major responsibility for doctrinal purity in the church is to rest upon the shoulders of the men elders.

What I believe Paul was addressing in the chapter 14 verses was the issue of things being “done decently and in order” (verse 39). The whole chapter is devoted to various issues concerning the church services being out of control. The issue of women was one part of that chapter, and addressed specifically what occurred when some of the Gentile women would come into a meeting where, following Jewish custom, men sat on one side of the place and women sat on the other. During the messages or teachings these women were calling out loud to their husbands asking questions across the aisle, which disturbed the worship service for everyone. Imagine if we allowed people to call out questions during the teaching of the Bible on Sunday mornings – it would be chaos, and would interrupt the ministry of the Spirit through the gift of the pastor/teacher. So, Paul encourages the women under such circumstances to have their questions answered at home. He does not go back on his earlier word in 1 Corinthians 11:5 which acknowledged women’s ability to pray and prophesy in the church service. The context of the whole chapter is what Paul summed up in the final verse of chapter 14: “Let all things be done decently and in order.”

Also, we read in Acts 21:8-9, “Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied” (NIV). These four daughters of Steven, the first martyr of the Church, also prophesied within the early apostolic church.

The next scripture is 1Timothy 2:12: “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” Here the issue at hand is one of respecting authority. Women are permitted to teach. In fact older women should teach the younger women (Titus 2:3-4). But in this teaching ministry, they should not “lord it over” men. There is nothing wrong with a woman instructing a man, such as the example in Acts 18:26: “He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately ” (NIV, underlines mine). The word translated “silence” can also be translated “quietness.” But Paul does not contradict his word to the Corinthians that women may both “pray and prophesy” within the church (1 Corinthians 11:5).

For the most part, we do not believe, according to scripture, that women should be pastors, or for that matter, elders. Therefore we do not have women pastors or elders. We do believe that women can be deaconesses and that they can certainly teach, and are encouraged to teach, especially younger women, in Titus 2.

Different roles does not mean a difference in importance or value or equality. We firmly believe that in the eyes of the Lord, we are all equal. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).

Anne Graham Lotz spoke to our congregation under our pastoral authority, by our invitation. We knew her subject, a message from the book of Isaiah, which she share through her gift of prophecy, which is defined in 1 Corinthians 14:3 as being for edification, exhortation and comfort. She did not come as either a pastor, or an elder-- she delivered a message that God wants to speak to the entire body of Christ.

By the way, for more information about who we are as a church and to learn more about our doctrine and church government, I recommend the book “Calvary Distinctives” by Pastor Chuck Smith, Pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. It is available in the bookstore or online here.

I would like to encourage you, as Paul encouraged the Bereans in Acts 17:11, “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (NIV).

Take the time to examine all the scriptures in their proper context, and pray for God to speak to your hearts. I know He will.

In His Grace,

Ray Bentley

Tia Lynn said...

Hey thanks for sharing that Marissa. I really appreciate it!Most of that is exactly what I'll be covering in March.