Patriarchal-Complementarian Movement, Women and the Church

Mike Pearl and Women in the Church

In the last post, I mentioned Mike Pearl of No Greater Joy Ministries.  Mike and Debi Pearl are quite popular in the homeschool movement.  Years ago, they published a book called “To Train up a Child”.  They practically gave it away, the price was so low.  It was actually a pretty smart marketing tool because people connected with the ideas in the book,  bought loads of books and gave them to their friends and family members.  There are some decent nuggets of truth.  After people connected with the book, they wanted more and so they signed up for the free newsletter and then people were hooked.

The Pearls speak all over the country, give presentations on parenting, marriage, proper roles of husband/wife, etc.  I think my husband and I have gone to at least two of their workshops.  They espouse Patriarchal teaching, homeschooling, courtship, spanking with a 1/4-inch plastic plumbing line.  If I remember correctly, their children who married did not get a marriage license – as it was not necessary.  They grow their own gardens, get into healthy eating, etc.  I’m pretty sure they are King James only people.

Ok, I fess up.  I’ve been sucked in this movement for many years.  I even went along with some of it.   Now I’m in the process of trying to evaluate everything that I have learned over the years and test it up against scripture.  

Does Mike Pearl’s teaching on women measure up to scripture?  Would marriages benefit from following this teaching?   This video is just over 7 minutes long.


A reader/friend sent me this regarding yesterday’s post with Wade Burleson’s sermon on Sarah in Hebrews 11:11.  I thought it was fantastic and had to share it:

Listening to the sermon, I remembered how Abraham had passed Sarah off as his sister and decided to “help” the Lord by having a child with Hagar, who bore Ishmael. (Neither actions were based on “faith”.)

Next I thought of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1.   So I decided to look that portion of scripture up to see what was there. The whole chapter is interesting, but I’ll only paste in a few verses to illustrate:

21 Then the man Elkanah went up with all his household to offer to the Lordthe yearly sacrifice and pay his vow. 22 But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “I will not go up until the child is weaned; then I will bring him, that he may appear before the Lord and stay there forever.”

23 Elkanah her husband said to her, “Do what seems best [Literallly “in your eyes”]to you. Remain until you have weaned him; only may the Lord confirm His word.” So the woman remained and nursed her son until she weaned him.”

I had read that chapter so many times and I never ‘saw’ this before. But she had freedom to make her own decision. About “going up” for the yearly sacrifice. Here was another example. 

This is so good!  Thank you for the e-mail, friend!




60 thoughts on “Mike Pearl and Women in the Church”

  1. A pastor once told me that when we're being ridiculed or excluded we need to make sure it's because we're following Jesus and not because we're being weird. A lot of what is popular in some of these circles is just plain weird. May God give us the wisdom to see the difference.

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  2. You didn't lose your brains. Sometimes we just don't see that people who we THINK are working for the greater good are actually workign towards their own betterment, in disguise.

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  3. Julie Anne, I will alert someone I know who was up close with these people. From what I have heard, my thoughts are to tell you to run the other way and don't look back.Due to gay marriage being allowed in places and that it may later be allowed in other states, they will not marry according to the laws of the land because they do not wish to be associated with this. So instead there is a ceremony and a private contract drawn up between the couple.

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  4. Buff – You are right. I've got much more to talk on this. Here's the deal – – – this homeschooling movement – – – – we think just because there is a homeschool convention and it has "Christian" in front of the name, then everything is cool. I'm ready to expose not only church abuse, but abuse going on in the homeschooling movement by promoting teachings like this. It's rampant. And then what happens is people take this stuff home to their home churches and spread it to other like-minded or gullible people and present it as "the right way to fill-in-the-blank". It's a setup. Because we were in the military and had to transfer duty stations and move a lot, I've seen it time and again. I saw it on the East coast and on the West coast. There are many people like my daughter, Hannah, who grew up in this environment and we are just now seeing the fruit of this type of teaching. Some of it is not pretty.

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  5. In my opinion the Patriarchal movement is only a more oppressive branch of an already questionable set of doctrines around "complementarian" thinking which puts men in charge and diminishes the role of women in churches as well as in families.Yes, I do believe that God has a structure for the family that is "ideal" but I don't think it is as well defined as these people suggest.

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  6. Julie Anne – I know I've been quiet for a while, but I'm still checking in and reading. It's been a rough few weeks….But I have to speak up about the Pearls. Their teachings are every bit (if not more) dangerous as Doug Wilson's. I have read of several stories where people who were following "To Train Up A Child" to the letter killed their children. I know if you check the search area at Rachel Held Evans site (http://rachelheldevans.com/), you'll find some posts about it, as well as Elizabeth Esther's site (http://www.elizabethesther.com/)… They have both written about it. There is a quote from this book that is chilling to me, especially as a survivor of child abuse: "Never reward delayed obedience by reversing the sentence. And, unless all else fails, don’t drag him to the place of cleansing. Part of his training is to come submissively. However, if you are just beginning to institute training on an already rebellious child, who runs from discipline and is too incoherent to listen, then use whatever force is necessary to bring him to bay. If you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring and are unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise. You are to rule over him as a benevolent sovereign. Your word is final."Similar kind of 'conquering' language used by Doug Wilson. Sit on him and spank him until he is totally defeated. Really. A child that is hysterical is to be handled this way. I actually heard him say that the 1/4 " plumbing line is perfect in size and will not 'leave a mark'.Again, they are dangerous….

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  7. I'm not sure how you could hear someone advocate use of plumbing line on a child and think the preacher is sane unless you are desperate and think perfect obedience and control are needed to prove you are a perfect parent. Notice he says women can sing and women can talk about the food and arranging it, but nothing to do with ministry. Strange idea of ministry. He seems to forget that some of Jesus' best ministry moments had to do with food. And when do our hearts often soften toward God? Through the ministry of music. But then I also happen to think he's an idiot – if the only way men will lead is for women to shut up, then the men need some training in interpersonal interaction. Should we all shut up at times? Of course. But if we take every verse in the Bible literally then we actually have to take it literally. That's scary.

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  8. Jeannette – I'm sorry to hear you've had a rough few weeks. You have been missed. I completely agree with you about the comparison with Doug Wilson – that conquering language sends shivers down my spine.And you are absolutely right about the plumbing line and "not leave a mark". We heard this both times at his workshops and I'm pretty sure it's in written materials as well. It makes me wonder if there was some sort of testing done to determine which spanking implement would leave the least marks.

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  9. I should clarify – I don't mean scary as too hard a road to walk. I mean scary as in we are all huge failures. Besides, this man obviously picks which scriptures he will take literally and which he will ignore.

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  10. Jackie – the plumbing line is all about training; hence, the title of their book, To Train Up a Child. If I remember correctly, they would encourage parents to set up traps for the children in order to test their obedience.

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  11. "dangerous" and abusive indeed! Jeanette, good to see you. . i’ve also just come off a difficult few weeks. .when they codify the discipline like this—that is absolutely freakin sick! the dangerousness of this abusive domination should be patently obvious to everyone, yes? btw, my fundi-pastor-father used to beat me with a leather belt, it left marks! how wonderful, huh? look at the research of John Money who connects masochism and other sorts of sexual muckedupness to childhood beatings and such. . these abusive monsters are in the business of creating freaks that are often too broken to healthily relate to their significant others! (the whole Robin Norwood "women who love too much" syndrome). .

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  12. Thus leading to the idea that God tests us to check on our obedience. Poor kids. And poor parents who are so desperate to raise perfect kids, not trusting God to help them when it's horribly hard and embarrassing, that they fall for this trash. Teaching a child self control and healthy interactions, yes. But run from people like this. And maybe acknowledge, for those who used his methods, that it was a selfish desire to control your own life that led you to fall for this.Know that I say this as a parent who raised difficult children and know that I failed many times and fell back on my own ideas – after all, life is easier with a "trained" child, isn't it? Sometimes I too wanted them to obey as well as the dog. But kids aren't dogs, nor does perfect obedience make a perfect Christian.

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  13. Jackie – When you say "it was a selfish desire to control your own life" – are you referring to the environment in the home? I think for me (and it most likely was me who led my husband to some of this crap), there was a sense of wanting something different than what I experienced as a child. We both came from dysfunctional families and we were looking for guidance and I suppose a parenting handbook. For a while, the only "outside" source of information was Focus on the Family, but James Dobson did not provide practical parenting advice. So many of us were looking for a "parenting formula". When these types of people came along, we finally had some ideas/rules we could implement immediately.

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  14. Good word – "diminish", Joel. Diminish the role of women – – – yes – – into what they want women to be; ie, this woman "JA" ought to be tending only the dh/children and has no business having a blog. How many pastors told me that along this process? Probably a handful – – and these guys were all strangers telling me how to live my life.

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  15. Lois – the issue of not getting married civilly also reminds me of others in the fringe who have told they government they don't want them to be in "the system", so they have no social security #, do not file taxes, etc. When I went to family camp, I heard the story of a family with more than a dozen kids. None of the babies had birth certificates, no social security #s, they did not believe in insurance, so there was no medical insurance nor vehicle insurance. The father was the patriarch who had church service in his own home – it was hours long. They homeschooled, did no outside sports or anything. I don't get this kind of control over people.

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  16. Julie Anne,I had Kelly check and you didn't leave your brain at our house. We looked everywhere. I hope you'll forgive my odd sense of humor. Any reader of your blog knows your brain is working very well.My guess is the need for control comes from ignoring a simple teaching of Jesus. The evil we need to worry about comes from within not from the outside. I was at a Bible study once where the leader was teaching that it's the father – husband's responsibility to keep evil out of the home. When I reminded him that Jesus teaches that evil comes from within he became visibly angry. When we try to keep ourselves clean by focusing on the outside, we will fail. That failure will lead either to repentance or to a stronger desire to control the outside.

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  17. Thank you so much for your honest and openness in exposing this stuff~a lot of what was coming off the pulpit from the 'former' church is beginning to make sense to me now, thank God today is a new day and He is leading us to understanding about how I got here. Now I can learn and move onto what He has in store for me. I am grateful for each new day, hopeful that Christ is healing the places where I was led astray and eager to what the Holy Spirit is doing in all our lives.

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  18. Craig – why are you asking me to forgive your GIFT of humor? Sorry, I won't do that :)I think your 2nd paragraph really sums up the core of Patriarchy. So if I stretch that a bit, if a child is wayward spiritually, then it is the dad's fault and he would be seen as a failure. You've given me more to think about.

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  19. "He is leading us to understand about how I got here" JA nods her head in agreement, right? Meaghan!!That's what I've been doing – – thinking, reminiscing, questioning, evaluating, not wanting to repeat the same mistakes, but wanting to learn, grow, share, and also give an opportunity for voices to share here because I learn so much from this community. Love you, sis. Miss you! Must do lunch next time in PDX!!

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  20. The maternity home where I volunteer has a few of the Pearl's book on their shelf for the girls to use. I keep asking for them to be removed, but they have remained. I may have to just slip in there and take them off and see if anyone notices. This kind of abusive and grace-less parenting makes me sick.

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  21. The Pearls are extremely dangerous. Their teachings seem so innocent on the outside, but look at their fruit on the inside, look at their daughter and son in law Rebekah and Gabe Anast. RUN when you see this name, and this doctrine.

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  22. Julie Anne, thanks. The rough patch is ongoing….but I am still here. monax, no worries on the spelling. I got the leather belt growing up, too. It was part of my potty training, actually. It was usually my mother. The last time my father tried to beat me with a belt, I was 14 and fought back. That ended the physical, but the emotional abuse continues to this day, which is why I no longer talk to my mother at all. It's bizarre…it wasn't until I got into therapy 5 years ago that I was actually able to see that I was physically abused. I know that sounds like the ole religious caricature – the therapist planted the idea that you were abused. But that is not the case. She just helped me see that it was abuse. You see, I was taught by my mother what abuse was – she had me read stories of 'real' abuse – and the unspoken understanding was that I was not abused. Ironically, it is something recorded in my baby book in her own writing that got that first definition of abuse from my therapist. It is recorded under "Potty Training" and says, "2 1/2 years old and she can go all day without and accident. But 75% of the time she is just lazy or stubborn and whippings with a belt don't even help." Mind you, this was right about the same time I was first molested…..sigh.

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  23. Jackie C. ~At some point either in the book or in a forum on his blog, Pearl actually equates children to being like animals. He even teachers that if we don't disciple (beat with a plumbing line, sit on, dominate) our children, then we don't love them because in teaching them to submit, we are saving them (yes, as in from hell) – that our children are 'saved' through being taught by disciple. There is no "Jesus" involved.

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  24. A few years ago I critiqued Debi Pearl's book, "Created to Be His Helpmeet" because it had been highly praised and recommended at our small church's women's retreat. I was appalled at the sick way Debi encourages women to manipulate their husbands. Throughout, scripture is twisted to try and support her beliefs. My husband also read the book and it hit the bedroom wall a few times during his reading. He couldn't fathom that anyone would believe such crude and twisted nonsense. It made him mad.On one hand she tells women how to get what they want from their husbands and on the other hand she tells them that they are lesser beings than men and even if your husband abuses you, you have to take it humbly (you probably deserve it). Debi says that women shouldn't study the Bible because their "nature" makes them unable to understand deep spiritual concepts. They have to ask their husbands what the Bible says and what they should believe. On their website, Debi stated that man was created in God's image but woman was created in man's image (was taken from Adam's side). Therefore, men are much closer to God and understand things that we lowly women can't. I'm no feminist. I believe that we have different roles and I submit to my husband (that's why he also read the book before we went to the pastor about it) but I also believe that we are equal as individuals before God. There is no Greek or Jew, male or female….There are so many things wrong with the Pearl's teaching and I cringe at the thought of anyone giving their materials to young Christians. Debi's book was one of the reasons we left the church we were going to. There is so little discernment in many churches now. The pastor said he thought this book was pretty good. This from someone who had always been a stickler on doctrine. There were other things going on. The woman who ran the retreat and praised the book was a big contributor and her husband a close friend of the pastor. He wasn't going to risk offending.

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  25. Julie Anne – selfish desire to find that parenting formula. I know lots of times it's because we're clueless and take information where we can get it (Dobson has some but it never worked for mine, and I still feel bad about the whole squeezing the neck muscle). A parenting formula does make life easier and it's seductive to think there is one. We assume that the world we see is reality. Then we want that – no dysfunction, kids who grow up to love God and be active in the church, kids who never make choices that limit their lives, happy family at the supper table. I think that desire and lust for the "reality" is selfish. If we turned to God and desired what God put in our heart, we would be able to live without the approval of others (because for a lot of people that has a lot to do with it), and without the control issues that makes us think we are the ones who determine how our family and kids turn out. I also though blame people like the Pearls and people we interact with, especially people at church. Imagine if you had seen other parents with imperfect kids, if a mom who appeared to have it all together laughed at Bible study about how she was a mess a lot of mornings and sometimes didn't want to get out of bed and face the chaos. Or that the real reason she came to Bible study was to have child care for a few hours. Wouldn't you have felt better? What if she admitted that it didn't matter what she did, her 3-year-old would throw temper tantrums at the grocery store. You would take a sigh of relief. It's like when people read the story of your Hannah and go, "Oh, I'm not the only parent who does stupid stuff." Universality. We all do dumb things and if we'd admit, we'd probably be more joyful and we would make fewer mistakes. Or at least we'd stress less about them.

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  26. I think you've said it exactly – people don't want to be seen as a failure. How much of that desire to be seen as doing well is at the core of mistakes we make in this area? That's what I mean by selfishness. We don't want anyone to think we don't have it all together.

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  27. Jeannnette – first thank you for sharing about your personal experiences. I'm sorry your early life was so hard and so glad you were smart enough to get help when you needed it.Saved by discipline – so then we are probably rewarded when we get to heaven if we saved our children? What a wicked (I rarely use that word) philosophy. What really bugs me about these people is that they know by now that their methods don't work. They have to unless their hearts are completely hardened.

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  28. I checked out a video with Rebekah and Gabe Anast on youtube. She is so beaten down and so unhappy and can't even admit it. Her father talks about how his kids and grandkids are always laughing with him – probably because they know they'd better. There's no laughter in Rebekah. She's not the picture of joy (which I thought was the point anyway, not laughter), just the picture of a sad woman. Want to know what these parenting techniques get you? A daughter who holds herself so stiffly that it appears she can barely stand her husband's touch. A daughter with no light in her eyes or joy in her face. What a heartbreaker.

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  29. Spanking a child for potty training is so sad, Jeannette. And I'm reminded that when Hannah was 3 years old and her father/my husband was sent to the Persian Gulf, she regressed and started wetting the bed at night after having been potty trained for a year. It was an emotional response to her grief.No wonder you were having accidents around the same time you were molested. That is a completely natural response. So sad!!

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  30. I think you are correct that a lot of people have that drive to have it all together. I'm not sure that I fit in that particular mold. I've never felt that we measured up to the standards of others. I seemed to take some ideas from certain parenting "programs", but nothing seemed to fit perfectly for me and my family. One thing that I really dislike is dishonesty. I can't fake having it together if I don't. I've never had it together. I'm a work in progress. And let me tell you that as of 9/13/12, I have a long ways to go.

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  31. Beth, you mention similar thoughts that others mentioned in the reviews on Amazon. I haven't read the book, but having seen them at workshops at least a couple of times, I can vouch for what you have said. There was also something a bit odd about the way they discussed their sex life at the workshops – it seemed over the top. I think they were trying to share with the workshop participants that their sex life was great, but then also shared how they would tease each other suggestively in front of the children and would traipse off to the bedroom almost in a showy fashion. I"m all for a healthy sex life, but this seemed a bit off to me.

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  32. Couldn't watch the whole video — technical problems, probably on YouTube. I found myself snickering at the point early on (around 2:00), where he says, "We've had this practice in our church for years… The women are actually grateful for it…"Yeah, right. I have to wonder if he's actually asked them all about it, or given them any space at all to air grievances. I hate to think it about a Christian brother, but it feels like he's speaking for them.

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  33. Boy, I am a horrible wife…..because if you expect me to 'keep silent' other than to sing to you or make food arrangements, I'm going to end up singing you a song about where you can stick that pot luck supper.:-)

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  34. Buff – Ok, that's funny! I have to tell you – you know the "luck" in potluck is not a good thing for a Christian to be saying. Just so ya know. I was pretty much rebuked for saying "potluck" in stead of "pot=bless". I cannot make this stuff up.

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  35. I couldn't stand how nit-picky our family was "supposed" to be. We weren't allowed to sing "Father Abraham" (popular children's sunday school song because somehow calling Abraham "father" elevated him above where he was supposed to be (even though there was a "So let's just praise the lord" line in the song as well. No luck, no coincidences happened… Where do you draw the line? I wonder how many people I inadvertently turned off because I was forced to talk (and think) a certain way that made them feel inferior or that they weren't "good enough" and they must be terrible people because they didn't take it to the extreme that I/we did.

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  36. Boy, that was disjointed. I thought it was starting off about communication with kids and families – it's called "Open Family Communication", but noticed how Gabe got distracted into anti-government topics. It was strange how it drifted. Then I found another video on the sidebar that I clicked on. Check out the description: A reader of The Da Vinci Road book by Rebekah Anast mailed a list of questions regarding (mostly) how to "see" the truth in various conspiracy theories out there. Is there any truth to chem trails, US shadow government, secret societies, false flag attacks, etc? How can you know what part of a conspiracy theory is actually true, and what isn't? Pretty bizarre!

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  37. May I introduce you to me: Julie Anne, who at one time took this dude seriously. Yes, me, I drank the Kool-Aid. I am a work in progress and you guys who read my blog get to watch it all on display.

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  38. Better late than never! Welcome to reality.Thank you for sharing your journey. May it serve as a warning to others who haven't seen the light or may be thinking about becoming involved in one of these cult/churches.

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  39. A lot of this kind of stuff comes from men – and our needs to control and power (which seem to be normal psychological responses in men – maybe cause of testosterone?). It just goes too far when linked with an institution (ie: church power and structure) that has at it's core that men know what's better for women than they do…I could see why the one husband was mad reading that book. Power is a tricky thing – we all want some of it – but too much leads to horrible subjugation of the other – and no marriage could survive that.

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  40. I'm late seeing this, but – sure seems like this guy comes to a LOT of conclusions and guidelines that we do *not* find in Scripture based off of one verse found in all of the Bible. That's not to mention that this verse is found in 1 Corinthians: the same letter where the *entire* church body is encouraged to prophecy. I'm interested in knowing how he decides all the details: what is and what is not acceptable, and with what company, and where, and when, and how, and expects his conclusions to be universally the accepted standard, regardless of what we see when we look at the whole of God's Word.

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  41. It gets me how the Pearls scream, “God hates divorce,” at battered wives but ignore what PSALM 11:5 says about how God hates those who love violence.

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