Below is a result of my own reading of the book “On the Other Side of the Garden.” This book is becoming popular among women of the church and is being used as lady’s bible class material.
Virginia Fugate, is the wife of author Richard Fugate. They are very strong Calvinists, and this comes to the forefront of their writings. As I read through, I saw so many references to Calvinistic doctrine that the book was rendered useless. When one holds such distorted views like Calvinism, their entire viewpoint of scripture and their interpretation of verses is so affected by it. Often, throughout books like this, the false doctrine can be very subtle, and even mixed with some truth, so that the unsuspecting can be carried off slowly into error. Throughout the book, there is the constant reference made to the false doctrine of “the sin nature,” the foundational doctrine of Calvinism, upon which all things are built upon, including the message of this book. This alone is enough for a Christian who loves the truth to never use Mrs. Fugate’s teaching and advise.
One of the big issues with this book is Mrs. Fugate’s inability to study the Bible. I saw many scriptures abused, usually by taking one verse out of its biblical context and making it into something that fits Mrs. Fugate’s point. She quotes Isaiah 14:13-14 and states that Isaiah is referring to the beginning of time and Satan’s war against God (p.21), when the context is clearly about Isaiah’s present day and the pride of the king of Babylon, not Satan. She quotes 1 Corinthians 14:35, “if they (wives) will learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home,” and explains that wives must ask their husbands for truth because women are more prone to misguidance (p.90-91). However, when one looks at the context of 1 Cor. 14:35, they will see that Mrs. Fugate abused the passage, for it is speaking to the wives of the 1st Century prophets, and how their wives alone were not to ask questions while the church is collected for study, but their husbands (the prophets) could answer the wives’ questions at leisure. The rest of the church did not have that luxury, nor did they have the New Testament yet to study at home, so Paul’s instruction is sensible, in context. Another abuse of scripture is her teaching on 1 Timothy 2:11-12 (on page 91). She believes Paul’s instruction: “let the woman learn in silence… I suffer not a woman to teach,” is for everyday life; she states that a wife “is never to usurp his leadership position, nor is she to be his teacher.” She could only reach such a conclusion by taking scripture out of context and putting words in God’s mouth; because, the context of 1 Timothy 2 is about the public worship of the collected church, and therein a woman is not to take the role of leadership and teaching in the congregation. But Mrs. Fugate twists Paul’s instruction, concluding that a woman cannot share the gospel with a man. To be consistent, she must view Priscilla to be sinning when helping teach Apollos in Acts 18:26. Her doctrine that a wife cannot teach her husband is scary, but she lessens the blow by quickly contradicting herself, stating that “a wife is to ask her husband questions” as a method to bring about a husband’s repentance (p.91), but isn’t asking pointed questions a form of teaching? She proceeds to further confirm her doctrine by using 1 Peter 3:1-2. However, she again misinterprets scripture. She teaches that Peter is telling wives that they cannot teach their husbands the gospel, so the only way they might bring them to salvation is by godly example alone. This is not at all the point that Peter made. Indeed, Peter said that a lost husband may be won over by the godly conduct of his wife, but Mrs. Fugate believes that is the only way, while Peter views it as a last resort attempt. Notice how Peter began, saying “if any (husband) obey not the word,” look carefully, this context is about husbands that have already heard the word (possibly from their wives or someone else) and rejected it. Peter shows that there is still hope by the wife continuing to live a godly life, she may be able to influence him toward salvation. There is no truth to a woman not being allowed to share the gospel with others who may be men, especially their husbands.
Mrs. Fugate also spends much time on a wife’s submission to her husband. On pages 49-53, she strongly asserts that “Biblical submission is not synonymous with obedience.” This is error. Even the definition of obedience and submission she provides in her book stand opposed to her view. Obedience, she defines, is “under the hearing of commands,” while submission, she defines, is “under placement or position, status or rank.” The result of these definitions is the same, but not according to Mrs. Fugate. Nevertheless, consider Ephesians 5:22, which says “wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” The Greek word used by Paul and translated “submit” is defined by both Strong’s Greek Dictionary and Thayer’s Greek Lexicon as “to obey.” So, Mrs. Fugate spends an entire chapter arguing that submission is not obedience, but I must stand with the word of God; a wife is to submit to her husband, this means she must obey her husband. Take, for example, 1 Peter 3:5-6, which commands wives to be “submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham.” There is no difference in the terms according to God, but Mrs. Fugate still asserts that a wife can be submissive to her husband while not obeying him; this is blasphemous.
Mrs. Fugate teaches women a doctrine that she calls “Submissive Noncompliance” (p.54), which is the idea that you can always be submissive to your husband while not complying to his requests. This is wild! Webster defines “noncompliance” as “failure or refusal to comply with something (such as a rule or regulation).” Friends, “submissive noncompliance” is a mouthful of an oxymoron. No two words in the English language can contradict each other more than these; but Mrs. Fugate teaches it confidently. Her idea is that submission is merely an attitude of respect and does not have to always parallel obedience, so long as the wife remains respectful of her husband. She applies this doctrine of “noncompliance” to a husband commanding their wife to do something unscriptural. Now, it is true that we must always “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29), but this means, under the example of a husband leading a wife to sin, that his wife is simply to remain in submission to God and would therefore, in such a circumstance, not submit to her husband in that matter. Fugate contradicts herself when she explains that a wife can still be submissive in this matter while not obeying her husband. She also contradicts this later in her book, on page 164, when she advises women whose husbands tell them not to attend worship service: Mrs. Fugate says to the women “I recommend that you do not go – at least for a while.” Whatever happened to her “submissive noncompliance” and obeying God in such situations?
In other areas of her book, I found her advice to be very harmful. I already mentioned her erroneous position that a wife cannot teach her husband the gospel, but she goes further, even saying that “if you try to protect your husband from experiencing difficulties in his life, you will be interfering with God’s purposes for those pressures” (p.163). I say, if a wife follows Mrs. Fugate’s advice, then she would be interfering with God’s design for the woman to be the helpmeet. I have never heard such foolishness as a wife watching idly by as her husband sinks into difficulties (trouble with the law, financial decisions, etc.). God designed the woman to be the man’s helpmeet, that is, a capable helper, another set of eyes, another mind that is different but complimentary to his own. Sisters in Christ, do not listen to such foolishness, always help your husbands immediately in all things, do not let him get into trouble if you can help it. Save him! Teach him! This is well within your wheelhouse of responsibility as your husband’s helper. God gave man a helper because he needed help, Mrs. Fugate tells you not to help him when he needs it; who should you listen to?
I could spend much more time addressing the many other errors I found in this book, the looseness by which Mrs. Fugate deals with the word of God, and the assertions she makes about God and His word that are without warrant. But I hope that the above is sufficient for you to leave this book alone, for it will not advise you in the right ways of God. May you share this information with others who might be interested in Mrs. Fugate’s popular ladies class material, or who may have already been through the material. Calvinism is one of today’s most dangerous enemies of the church and the gospel, we mustn’t give it a place in our minds.