There are parts of the Christian life that can be easier caught than taught. A godly mentor is able to serve as a powerful display of the way truth works itself out in a life. The second chapter of Paul’s letter to Titus commands older women to take an active role in mentoring those who are younger and Debi Pearl steps into the role of mentor in Created To Be His Help Meet. At the time of writing this review, it has been on the market for 8 years, yet it is still ranked inside the top 3,000 books on Amazon and sit at #35 on the list of marriage books. It is selling well and is gaining influence.
Pearl seeks to be the Titus 2 woman, sharing with her readers wisdom that she has accumulated in many years of being a Christian, of being a wife, of raising a family. But there is a serious problem. Throughout the book, Pearl shows that she is a poor and unwise mentor. In place of the wisdom and the fruit of the Spirit that ought to mark a mentor, she displays a harsh and critical spirit, she offers foolish counsel, she teaches poor theology, she misuses Scripture, and she utterly misses the centrality of the gospel.
(Note: I am familiar with some of the controversy surrounding the Pearls and what they teach regarding disciplining children. To keep this review focused, I will not discuss their child-raising techniques.)
Areas of Agreement
Created To Be His Help Meet is not entirely bad, of course, and Pearl offers several valuable insights. She and I agree that the Lord has created women to be distinct from men not only in body, but also in role. In his wisdom, the Lord has given to men the position of leadership in the home and he has given women the complementary, helping role. She says, “When you are a help meet to your husband, you are a helper to Christ, for God commissioned man for a purpose and gave him a woman to assist in fulfilling that divine calling. ... As we serve our husbands, we serve God.” Pointing to the Trinity, she shows that there is nothing inherently undignified in a helping role: “Men are created to be helpers of God. Jesus willingly became a helper to the Father. The Holy Spirit became a helper to the Son.” She shows that a husband and wife who embrace these roles are able to be a display of Christ and his church. “Knowing that my role as a wife typifies the Church’s relationship to Christ has molded my life. As I reverence my husband, I am creating a picture of how we, the Church, should reverence Christ.”
That broad theology of complementarity is a consistent thread from the first chapter to the last and, when combined with some wise and clever insights, assures that there is some value in this book. Alas, these nuggets of gold are surrounded by too much waste, too much folly masquerading as biblical wisdom.
Perhaps most troubling and most noticeable of all the book’s weaknesses is the anger and harshness that pervades and influences so much of what Pearl says. This is one of the harshest, angriest books I have read on this side of Richard Dawkins and this critical spirit is displayed in insulting language, in lack of sympathy, and in the passing of harsh judgments.
Here is an example from early in the book: “A few years back, there was an overweight hillbilly woman who worked in the local store in our hometown ... this woman was ugly, I mean hillbilly ugly, which is worse than regular ugly.” Not surprisingly, this woman does not end up being the hero of the short story Pearl tells of her. First she mocks her ugly appearance, and then her ugly demeanor.