Apparently Debi Pearl, and her husband Michael, have wide appeal through their “No Greater Joy” ministry. They have written numerous books on marriage that they claim have been read by millions. Their straight-forward, no-holds-barred, strongly-opinionated style is appreciated by some. In this work, Debi says her aim is to reveal God’s plan for a heavenly, joyful marriage as designed by God (pp. 15-16). Some of her emphases are helpful, as she encourages women (her target audience) to not sweat the small stuff nor undermine the marital relationship by focusing on their husbands’ faults (pp. 138-139). Instead, wives should be their husband’s biggest cheerleaders and encouragers. Her “twelve critical questions that could tear down her house” are worth pondering (pp. 206-207). Drawing from Titus chapter two, Pearl addresses eight things required of a woman. Not all will agree with her applications, but many of them should be considered. She strongly advocates for wives to focus on the home, stay out of the work force (p. 236), raise their own children (p. 196), and not follow the trend of intimacy between women (pp. 192-193); but rather concentrate that intimacy on their husbands, learning how to appeal to their husbands rather than challenging them (p. 222) and developing a happy, cheerful spirit that brings joy to all in the home.
But all is not well. Through misinterpretation of Scripture, exaggeration, legalistic demands, and experience-based exegesis, Pearl goes astray on many fronts. Below is a general summary.
- She views males (but not females) as created to be helpers of God. She bases this concept on the example of Jesus being the helper of God, and the Holy Spirit being the helper of Jesus (p. 23). Following these paradigms, males should be the helper of God. This both misunderstands why God created humans and depreciates the Trinity.
- Men are created to be served and wives are to be on constant call to serve them (p. 269). She writes,
A man will allow his woman many, many faults, as long as he knows she thinks he is great… She can dress awful, be grossly overweight, have terrible hair, not cook so well, be a little lazy and dumb, and not be one bit pretty, but if she will just think and show that he is wonderful, he will love her. It sounds simplistic, but it is the way of a man with a maid (p. 150).
This idea is a generality and an exaggeration at best.
- But the above point fits well with Pearl’s view that men can easily be manipulated through the use of feminine wiles, sex appeal, and sex (pp. 31-32). “I quickly arrange myself in a very inviting seductive pose. It gets him every time. It sure is handy being a woman” (p. 42), shows her approach.
- It was men, according to Pearl, who were given the command by God to subdue the earth, not women (p. 105). A quick read of Genesis 1:26-28 would dispel this idea, where the Cultural Mandate is given to both man and woman.
- Because a man is designed to subdue (p. 146), a woman is designed to serve her husband in his effort to conquer, not be his partner but his servant (pp. 91-93, 96, 269, 312).
- She misunderstands Genesis 3:16, believing that men were commanded to rule their wives even before the Fall (pp. 116, 128, 245), and woman’s pain in childbirth would be multiple births (p. 263).
- Of course, this leads to the Gothard-like chain-of-command in which God works directly through the husband to lead the wife, but He does not work directly through the wife (p. 60).
- In Pearl’s system, it is up to the wife to bring complete sanctification to the husband (p. 29), to have control over whether they will be heirs together of life (p. 40), and to clean up all his messes (pp. 40-41, 55). Healthy change in a marriage is always up to the wife (pp. 118-124), and the wife can lift up her man; but a man cannot lift up a wife (p. 227). Everything to enhance a marriage is in the hands of the wife, and she is held responsible.
- By contrast, the wife is almost always to blame if the marriage is not good and things go wrong (pp. 66-67, 72, 91-93, 158, 255, 277).
- Women are also to blame for male lust. It is the seductive clothing of women that causes men to lust—men are not to be blamed—it’s women’s fault (pp. 139, 211-219).
- Pearl claims there are three types of men (pp. 75-93) and develops stereotypes and ways to understand men from such ideas (pp. 106, 108, 253, 254), much like the enneagram does. All such generalities are too broad to be helpful and not drawn from Scripture.
- Lucifer is a male (she doesn’t seem to understand that Lucifer is a spirit, not a human), which is why he is so aggressive (p. 107).
- God speaks to His children directly, apart from Scripture (pp. 109, 318-327), and angels do as well (p. 331).
- “God needs our prayers” (p. 318). On the contrary, God needs nothing.
- Once a woman marries, she believes what her husband believes, apparently no longer having any views of her own (p. 246), nor is she to ask anyone but him biblical questions.
- Apparently, an unmarried woman is a failure. “When a woman gets old and realizes that there is no man to love and cherish her, it is sad indeed, for she has failed in the very purpose for which she was created—to be a suitable helper to a man” (p. 58).
The above thought may sum up Created to Be His Help Meet well. While Pearl honors marriage and encourages women to submit to and respect their husbands, her book moves far beyond Scripture in expressing how to live out their roles. Pearl is mostly offering her opinion, based on faulty interpretations of Scripture, her personal experience, and the experiences of others. Since she often is not drawing her applications for marriage from Scripture, the reader should beware.
by Debi Pearl (Pleasantville, TN: No Greater Joy Ministries, 2014), 331 pp., paper $16.95
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Southern View Chapel