Question

Thanks again for a very well prepared and vital sermon.  I hope that the church took it to heart…
There is one disagreement that I have however regarding your comment about Michael Pearl and his book, “Train Up a Child”.  I have his book and found it very helpful in approaching child rearing in a Godly and respectful manner.  It is unfortunate that this terrible incident of the little girl who was abused and killed at the hands of her adopted father, has cast a negative light upon Michael Pearl.  In fact, CNN did a hit job on the Pearl’s portraying them as complicit  and ignorant.  However, the book does not say anything to provoke such an evil act as the adopted father has committed. The man is clearly an abusive and wicked father who went far beyond what Michael Pearl advocates and even contradicts much of the Pearl’s Godly advice.   In fact, many children die every year at the hands of abusive parents which go unreported.  The only reason the Pearl’s were featured, was due to their strong Christian stand on child rearing.

Answer

Thanks for your question. I’m glad you found Michael Pearl’s book helpful. As parents, we face unprecedented challenges and we must be resourceful in facing these challenges. In drawing on resources, we must take care that we discern false doctrine. Doctrine drives behaviour. The Bible warns us repeatedly to guard our doctrinal beliefs. Doctrine is the lens through which we perceive and our perception influences our behaviour. An analysis of Pearl’s doctrine can be found here.

I think it is unfair to conclude that the Schatzes are wicked people. They may be. It’s also possible that they are sincere people who were committed to rearing their children according to their understanding. We do not know the complete story of Lydia’s torture. We do know, however, that her beatings were interrupted by frequent prayer breaks, which indicates the Schatzes were adhering to a spiritually-based doctrine. We also know that Pearl teaches the importance of breaking a child’s will. It is easy to understand how a parent might prolong a “spanking” when they believe a child is being defiant and they need to break its will. If Pearl quoted the scripture in Prov 13:24: “He that spares his rod hates his son: but he that loves him chastens him betimes.”, without providing a proper scriptural understanding of this text to his readers, then he leaves his readers to misinterpret the scripture and to act in abusive ways toward their children.

God is a Family

As a member of God’s church, you have the advantage of understanding the gospel of the kingdom of God. You understand that God is a family and that He is in the process of expanding His family. Michael Pearl does not understand this. You can see his statement of beliefs here. When we understand that our families reflect the family of God, we will never resort to the torture of our children. This fundamental doctrine of God as a family shapes everything we do.

Our children are not given to us to do with as we please. They are not our property. They are God’s children, given into our care, so we can raise them to be what He wants them to be. Many believe their children are properly trained because they have a good secular education and have learned society’s concept of right and wrong. This is not what God has in mind for training our children. On the other hand, those who understand their responsibility to train their children according to God’s standards must do so with the full understanding of the God family. We must understand the kingdom of God and the family of God in order to gain a deeper and proper biblical understanding of how to raise our children.

Michael Pearl’s Responsibility

The absence of the context of the gospel combined with the advice to use 1/4 inch plumbing supply line to hurt a small child is a recipe for disaster. Lydia Schatz is not the only child to be killed by parents who are followers of Pearl.

While journalists can be very tricky in setting people up for interviews and portraying them in a context that is different than the interview, I found the piece by Gary Tuchman to be fair. Michael Pearl had ample opportunity to share his teachings in his own words. The example he gives of how he would beat a 7-year old child with 15 lashes of a 1/4 inch plumbing supply tube was excessive and chilling. Parents who lack critical thinking skills can easily fall into the trap of blindly following such advice and not understanding what they are doing.

Again, if Michael Pearl does not explicitly provide proper scriptural understanding of the biblical texts regarding disciplining children, he is complicit in the misguided acts of his followers.

 

 

  • George

    Thank you for your response to my question.  I checked the reference you linked to regarding the Pearl’s doctrinal understanding on Original Sin and don’t see the relevance of this to the discussion at hand of Child rearing in general and Corporal punishment in particular.   Sometimes the obvious and clear understanding of God’s word in context is all that is needed to establish proper biblical child rearing principles.  Hence, God enables most Christians of varying denominations to benefit from His word in raising Godly children.  Just as societies who have established principles of Judeo Christian understanding have benefited their nations and citizens so christians who adhere to the simple principles found in Proverbs and other biblical passages benefit their children.  There is no need to have an understanding of the True Gospel in order to raise Godly offspring.  

    My main point in labeling the Schatzes as wicked was to show that this “torture” as you called it, was the unusual outcome of this particular father who chose to beat his child to death.   You mention that this is not the only incident of a Parent who read the Train Up a Child book to have killed his child but don’t reference it. Moreover, I don’t know if there are any other incidents as you referenced but even if there were, considering the book has sold over 500,000 copies, that would hardly be evidence to support your contention that the Pearl’s are unbiblical at best and misguided at worst.   I also used a switch to discipline my children and didn’t need to be told that spanking a child more than several times in the appropriate body area is wrong.   It’s commonsense.  If you read the book you will clearly see that the Pearl’s teach to lovingly and carefully discipline your child without losing control.  This is supported by the fact that hundreds of thousands of books have been sold and one incident has occurred.  

    I viewed part of the CNN interview and felt it was very biased against Christians who choose to use corporal punishment. First, the title of the feature was called, “Ungodly Discipline”, I suppose that is a definite opinion stated beforehand.   They also had the Prosecutor stating his contention that since the Pearl’s book was found in the home of the incident, therefore, the Pearl’s were complicit.  Many people believe that the bible has been the cause of war, ignorance and corruption but that assertion doesn’t make it true.  

    The bottom line is that some parents abuse their children and only a callous and wicked person is capable of beating a child to death irrespective of what their library collection consists of.

    • Thanks Bro. George for your follow up question. You said that you didn’t need to be told spanking a child more than several times is wrong. Not everyone is as stable as you are. Very few have the doctrinal underpinning that you have. Common sense is not so common. Your experience reading Pearl’s book can’t be used as the norm.

      I made the link to the analysis of Pearl’s doctrine to demonstrate how flawed belief results in flawed teachings. The fact that Pearl teaches that children do not have original sin is relevant to our discussion. When you combine the underlying belief that parents can save their children from becoming sinful with the following advice: “A swift whack with the plastic tubing would sting but not bruise. Give 10 licks at a time, more if the child resists. Be careful about using it in front of others — even at church; nosy neighbors might call social workers.”, it doesn’t take much to see how a sincere follower of Pearl’s teachings can end up abusing their child.

      The other tragedy I was referring to was that of Sean Paddock. In March of 2004, his mother was charged with murder and Sean’s death was attributed directly to Pearl’s training advice. These murders, of necessity, are public. How many cases of child abuse are out there that are never reported? How many children are seared for life because of what has happened to them at an early age? How many parents don’t understand true doctrine and apply Pearl’s advice beating their children with a plumbing hose to break the will of the child?

      Doctrine matters! It frames everything we do.

      1Tim. 4:16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.

      Prov. 4:7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

      For the record, I count myself among those who believe the Bible has been the cause of war, ignorance and corruption. That’s why I introduced my sermon by saying, “The Bible is not enough.” The Bible is a complex book and easily misinterpreted. The true gospel is what unlocks the meaning of the Bible. The Bible is not for everyone. It was written exclusively for God’s people. In the wrong hands, it can be extremely dangerous! You say there is no need to have an understanding of the true gospel in order to raise godly offspring. Perhaps we need to define godly offspring.

      By godly offspring, I didn’t mean people who are good citizens, who pay their taxes, contribute to society and go to church. By godly offspring, I meant human beings who are ready to be born into God’s eternal family.

      Marriage – a covenant relationship for life between two flawed and very different human beings – is a complex relationship. Layer on top of this complexity, the fiery darts of the devil and you have a recipe for disaster. One in two marriages end in divorce. Of those that remain together, the majority are not really happy and adultery is rampant. Christians are no exception. In fact, Christian pastors may be among the worst offenders. Research done by the Fuller Institute of Church Growth indicates that 37 percent of ministers “have been involved in inappropriate behavior with someone in the church.” Divorce and remarriage among Christian ministers is staggering. There is a growing moral breakdown in the Christian ministry.

      The point of my sermon was the foundation of successful child rearing is godly marriage. “Without vision, the people perish.” To achieve God’s vision of marriage, both spouses must be “smitten” by the true gospel. They must understand it, embrace it and love it. Only then will they have the internal drive to engage their spouse in the manner of Christ.

      Learning to engage each other in a Christ-like manner will enable them to then raise children with the vision and compassion of Christ. They will see their children as not belonging to them but to God. They will understand that God has entrusted their children to them. They will understand that they are raising, for a time, future members of God’s family. With this understanding, they would never torture or traumatize. Moreover, the relationship they have with each other would be the greatest lesson in godliness for their children.

      Through their marriage, their children will learn respect for Christ and the Father, loving expression, respect for authority, commitment to the gospel and fidelity to their partner. These lessons would be embedded deeply into their psyche and as they mature, they will find themselves naturally behaving as their role models. While discipline is absolutely essential, it will never replace the role modeling of human relations that comes from a gospel-based marriage. Moreover, the discipline itself must be based on an understanding of the true gospel and the true identity and potential of children.

      The bottom line? Doctrine matters! The true gospel must drive everything we do. We need to embrace the gospel and show the world the true blessings of godly marriage and childrearing. The difference between a gospel-driven family and families that have been blessed by elements of the Bible must be striking. That is our responsibility! Let’s help each other live it!

      • George

        Adrian  said, “To achieve God’s vision of marriage, both husband and wife must be
        “smitten” by the true gospel. They must understand it, embrace it and
        love it. Only then will they have the internal drive to engage their
        spouse in the manner of Christ.

        Learning to engage each other in
        a Christ-like manner will enable them to then raise children with the
        vision and compassion of Christ.”

        Although I understand your point about the vision God has for families I still can’t agree with your point that this will make such a significant difference in marriages or child rearing.  I think you are discussing two separate points here. 

        The self evident biblical knowledge about love, patience, training a child, loving your wife, sharing, giving etc. etc. is clearly communicated to even the simplest of bible readers.  God would clearly want to have people benefit from following His moral principles so that they would both be blessed and held accountable to those principles which inevitably would be violated due to human nature.  

        I have looked into the two cases of parents who killed their children after reading Micheal Pearl’s book.  They are obviously troubled people who lack the love of God.  As I said before, the book has sold over 500,000 copies and two children have been killed. If there were a significant doctrinal problem with the Pearl’s regarding corporal punishment there would be many more deaths attributed to them. 

        In fact, many parents in the WCG would use corporal punishment and they had the true gospel.

        • Hi Bro. George,  

          I think you have gotten to the heart of our difference in perspective.

          You say, “The self evident biblical knowledge about love, patience, training a child, loving your wife, sharing, giving etc. etc. is clearly communicated to even the simplest of bible readers.  God would clearly want to have people benefit from following His moral principles so that they would both be blessed and held accountable to those principles which inevitably would be violated due to human nature.”  

          I don’t believe this is the case.

          I believe the Bible is not written for everyone. I believe it is a coded book written specifically for God’s saints. It is only God who can unlock the Bible and He only unlocks it to those in the first fruits harvest.  
          “He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” Matt 13:11  
           
          This doesn’t make those of us in the first fruits harvest better than others, it just means we are called earlier for his purpose.  

          “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” 1 Cor 15:22-23  
           
          When Adam turned his back on God, he cut himself and his children off from God. The great lesson we are all involved in is to learn that man cannot live without God. To say that “God would clearly want to have people benefit from His moral principles” is true, but there is a time order associated with God’s desire.  

          Through God’s great design, He is redeeming mankind, but in a specific order. The Bible is a best-selling book but it is not for everyone. The fact that people read it and benefit from it is wonderful, but that is not God’s focus. They will have their time to learn the deep truths of the Bible:  

          “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” Rev 20:12  

          With respect to corporal punishment, I didn’t understand the comment, “In fact, many parents in the WCG would use corporal punishment and they had the true gospel.” I don’t believe I ever said understanding the gospel negates corporal punishment or that corporal punishment is wrong. The Bible endorses corporal punishment. My point is that an understanding of the true gospel puts child rearing and corporal punishment in proper perspective and that perspective drives and dictates our behaviour.  

          Teaching parents to beat a child until you break his or her will is dangerous. Without proper context this will inevitably lead to abuse.

          You said, “Although I understand your point about the vision God has for families I still can’t agree with your point that this will make such a significant difference in marriages or child rearing. I think you are discussing two separate points here.” My point is that the vision God has for families MUST make a difference in our marriages and childrearing. Understanding the glorious message of the gospel should elevate our marriages and childrearing. Sadly, it often doesn’t.
           
          If a marriage is troubled, a child will become anxious and troublesome. All the corporal punishment in the world will not be as effective as getting to the root cause and bringing Christ and the gospel into the marriage. The foundation of the home is the marriage and the center of the marriage must be Christ. Getting marital relations right first is the key to successful childrearing.  

          Two children too many have been killed as a result of Pearl’s teaching! Moreover, it doesn’t take much to imagine how many children are suffering from abuse as a result of Pearl’s teaching. Pearl has attempted a noble work, however, without the context of the true gospel, it lends itself to tragic consequences.  

          Thanks very much for your insightful questions. We may have to agree to disagree. However, the open exchange of ideas is very healthy. Active engagement is how we digest God’s word. Thanks for forcing me to think more deeply about what I said and for sharing your perspective.

          • George

            Hi Adrian.

            I appreciate your efforts to explain your point and I agree that the full knowledge of God’s plan as revealed in the Gospel should definitely motivate us to have blessed marriages and blessed families. 

            You believe that the principles of how to have a successful marriage and family are a “mystery” that needs to be revealed.  I take exception to that.  The principles of a healthy and vibrant marriage are not cloaked in mystery as they are clearly revealed for anyone to see.  If the bible says to give and sacrifice for my wife than that is self evident and beneficial. “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”.  For example, many good books have been written by James Dobson, Stephen Covey and other mainstream Christians based on simple, revealed truths in the bible.  Remember, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil enables a person to learn both good and evil. 

            This is why I said you are making two different points here.  They mystery of God’s plan for man and principles of a healthy marriage.  Should we as a church have the best marriages because of our unique and revealed knowledge?  Not necessarily because of the application of the biblical principles already stated.  However, I believe that the access to God’s Holy Spirit and the degree which we yield to it in our lives should enable us to have better marriages. 

            My point regarding the WCG is that they understood the true gospel and both used corporal punishment the same way as Michael Pearl advocates and yet the divorce rate is high and many of their children fell by the wayside.  In fact, I have heard of a high number of abusive and misguided families in the WCG.  

            In conclusion, I understand the mystery of the bible but that mystery is not cloaking how to have a successful marriage.  That mystery is what God is doing to work with Man and how He will reconcile the world and bring about the restoration of all things.

          • Hi Bro. George,

            I appreciate where you are coming from and I now understand your point about the WCG.

            While you may be seeing two different points, I am making one point. And it is this:

            Doctrine drives behaviour. The meaning of marriage is rooted in the gospel, however, the true gospel is a mystery. Therefore, only God’s Church can truly understand marriage and how to build the high calibre marriages God is looking for.

            Some may access aspects of the divine principles of godly marriages, and give great advice on building successful marriages. However, we must see that the gospel goes far deeper and God’s vision is far higher than what humans can do on their own. Without the Holy Spirit, it is impossible to access the higher truths of marriage and family. With His Spirit, our understanding will continually grow deeper.

            The WCG had the gospel but didn’t have a full understanding of it. We are building on their foundational understanding. We are beginning to understand how the gospel drives marriage and family and how marriage and family are the basic building block for community. Hopefully, you have noticed a difference in the CGI ministry compared to the WCG ministry. The WCG had a dictatorial model for the ministry. The WCG didn’t make the clear connection between the gospel, family and the ministry. The church is the household of God, therefore, the gospel principles of marriage and family equally apply to the church, as they will ultimately apply to the kingdom of God. We must honour the past but we must not be stuck in it. Knowledge increases. My statement referred to the church today, “upon whom the ends of the world have come.”
             
            God’s Spirit is not accessible to everyone at this time. The Schatzes are not the only ones who are, as you put it, “troubled and lack the love of God”. We are all troubled and lack the love of God unless God heals us with His Spirit. Pearl’s book has been sold to 500,000 people – the majority of whom are “troubled and lack the love of God”.

            While there are many people who desire to have godly families and raise godly children, God is only interested in working with His saints at this time – not the vast majority of mankind. He is getting His saints ready to serve all mankind. We can’t afford to be complacent about marriage and family. We know a little about what it takes to build a godly marriage, but we mustn’t think we know it all. The more we know, the more we must realize how much we don’t know and the more we must hunger and thirst for more of God’s truth. The more we realize how much we don’t know, the more we will realize how little the world knows.

            1Pet. 4:18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?

            We must be so astonished by the truth of the gospel and so energized by the power of the Holy Spirit, that when we consider the power of the devil and human nature, what we achieve in our marriages and families can only be described as a miracle. While I respect and have benefited from the work of men like Covey and Dobson, I also see the day when they, if they are not in the firstfruits harvest, will be our students (I say this with all humility). 

            Thank God for the gospel! Let’s help each other to build the types of marriages and families that are worthy of the gospel! In so doing, we will be a greatly needed light and do more to show the way to God’s truth than many sermons!

          • Bro. Adrian

            Unfortunately, we have another case of child abuse resulting in death. Once again, Michael Pearl’s book To Train Up a Child is implicated. 

            http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2011/10/26/tuchman-hana-williams.cnn?hpt=hp_c2