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The concept of authority is central to Bill Gothard’s teachings. So much so, that I remember performing a coronation ceremony crowning my dad “king” of our family as a Wisdom Booklet project. I was 16 at the time, and struggling with authority being defined as dad’s complete control over every aspect of my life. My father determined not only what was modest, but also which outfit was appropriate for most occasions where his children were seen in public. The standard was not modesty, but rather, his preference. I don’t remember my mother purchasing a single piece of clothing; dad bought it all and brought it home for her. I struggled to buy her Christmas gifts, as I had no idea what she liked. Considerable time passed with her deferring this basic choice, and soon she truly had no idea what she wanted. She only knew what pleased my father.
My mother had become a Christian at the age of 22. Her discipleship on the concept of submission consisted of Elizabeth Rice Handford’s book, “Me, Obey Him?” A single quotation from its pages is an apt summary: “The Scriptures say a woman must ignore her “feelings” about the will of God, and do what her husband says. She is to obey her husband as if he were God Himself. She can be as certain of God’s will, when her husband speaks, as if God had spoken audibly from Heaven!” The book had been a gift from her pastor’s wife. For decades it was the go-to book on “godly submission”, passed around in fundamental circles like a treasure that would negate the need for marital counseling and guarantee conjugal bliss.
It is no coincidence that the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) and The Advanced Training Institute (ATI) rose to such prominence in the same time period.
Submissive wives, in their misplaced desire to be in the will of God, never questioned the scriptural basis for the path their husbands chose. After all, his voice was the voice of God. Conservative Christian leaders failed to call out the inaccuracies, opting instead to be grateful for the counterbalance to the feminist movement it provided. Like the widow who gave her last two mites to a God who didn’t demand it via a religious system that scorned her, women everywhere suffered in silence, giving rise to unprecedented patrio-centricity and an “umbrella of protection” perched atop an iron rod. My mother believed with all her heart that this type of submission was the only way to please God.
In 2004, No Greater Joy ministries echoed this idea, recycling it in a book entitled, “Created to Be His Help Meet: Discover How God Can Make Your Marriage Glorious.” Across America, submissive mothers and well-meaning pastor’s wives bequeathed to the next generation this secret to a peaceful marriage. But is peace at any price really peace? Are wives truly acting as a help [fit] for their husband by not calling out the unscriptural nature of legalistic control?
Women with the backbone to disagree with Mrs. Pearl’s equating of submission and obedience were swiftly discredited, often labeled “Jezebels” and shamed into repentance for their pride and rebellion. In a later article, “Becoming a Multi-Colored Girl”, published on August 15, 2011, Mrs. Pearl makes a revealing statement. She declares, “As Adam was created in God’s image, Eve was created in Adam’s image. God could have shaped two clay figures and breathed life into both, but he chose to take the woman from the man’s own flesh and bone. I have come to see that tiered process as very significant, making it consistent with nature that the woman should be the helper in the chain of command.” This theological statement revealed what her instruction has said all along; that women are not an expression of the unfathomably complex aspect of God, but rather a creature ranking somewhere in the food chain between men and animals.
Where is the outrage?! Where is the indignation by Christian leaders at this inaccurate representation of God?! Is it any wonder that patrio-centricity has crept across all denominational lines? Any wonder that countless unmarried adult women have forsaken the example of godly women like Elisabeth Elliot and Amy Carmichael to become part of the stay at home daughter phenomenon?
That a prominent “support ministry” of families proclaims that women do not have a biblical right to vote? It is actually not surprising. Behind every modern day Pharisee is a woman who silently nods and smiles. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and never faster than when all parties believe it divinely sanctioned.
Despite the inevitable consequences of twisting scripture, “Created to Be His Help Meet” has ranked far higher than it should on Amazon.com in the marriage and family category for eight long years, endorsed by the silence of fundamental leaders. Then recently, out of the blue, something wonderful happened. Tim Challies, one of the most widely read, conservative, Christian bloggers in cyberspace and author of “The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment”, did something remarkable.
Here is his review of “Created to Be His Help Meet”, Part 1.
Part 2 may be found here:
May all my sisters who keep a copy of this heretical volume on their nightstands under their Bibles hear the truth. And may it set them free.
Thank you, Mr. Challies, for being brave enough to call out the error. I pray you are only the first of many to do so.
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