I remember when we were new Christians, and new parents, I read the Pearls avidly. We got the news letter and the books. I was not raised in a Christian home and was very, VERY naive about the Christian community in general. I believed that anyone who claimed to be a Christian was one. And the Pearls spoke with such authority. Spank, spank well, spank often, spank hard and save your child from Hell. Well, golly. I wanted to be a good Christian parent! I didn't want to raise children for hell, I wanted them to be raised for heaven! My motives were at least probably 90% pure. The other 10% was also feeling a little smug at how superior my children would turn out than the rest of the world, but I wasn't really even aware of that in myself. At the time anyway.
I remember, as I set in to implement this parenting paradigm how every little fault of my children (Two at the time.) stood out to me. I had to be 100% consistent. Every time. And there took a subtle shift in my thinking-the basis of my relationship with my children was framed more on their performance than on the fact that they were my children. The book promised that if I was 100% consistent every single cotton pickin' time, my children would become the sunniest, happiest, best natured children on the block and I would be the envy of every mother who beheld them. So until I could train everyone of these little defects out of their character, I really couldn't enjoy their company. I was constantly analyzing everything they did to find some wrong heart motive that I needed to train out and was fearful I would miss something, or that I wouldn't see something and then they would be going to hell. I was so frustrated because I couldn't reach the level of perfection the book promised and since this was Christian parenting, (and anyone who disagreed was obviously deceived at best and a lazy, pagan socialist at worst, so I knew they must be telling the truth!) then it must be me who was the failure. And thats what I finally resigned myself to being. Coming to terms more with the sovereignty of God and my other meandering doctrine path into Calvinism and covenantal parenting was what finally gave me some relief after over ten years of being enslaved to this legalistic mindset. Thank God for His mercy. So I kind of wandered into the more legalistic, fundamentalist homeschool movement by the back door (that is false doctrine) and came out of it also through the door of doctrine. Interesting. (And folks say doctrine doesn't matter.)
Here is a post on a specific doctrinal points of the Pearls that pretty much summarizes where I was enslaved. Now as I read it the falseness jumps out at me. But as a new Christian, and in a church that wasn't very doctrinal in it's teaching, I didn't have the discernment. My goodness, the awesome sense of
responsibility and failure are still so present to me, I can still feel the weight of them.
Some have reduced this to a spanking/not spanking debate, but I don't think that gets to the heart of it. No spanking advocate endorses that level of spanking -not even the Pearls. But what does matter is the great questions of all mankind-the nature of God, the nature of our relationship with Him and with each other, His sovereignty versus our responsibility, the nature of Christian children.