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.