Friday, April 29, 2011

Love And Respect: Less than Biblical

The fact that Dr. Eggerichs is an integrationist is evident on the back cover of his book Love and Respect. It proclaims that the message of the book is “based on over three decades of counseling, as well as scientific and biblical research…” Reading the book confirmed that Dr. Eggerichs based his work primarily on psychology rather than the all-sufficient truth of Scripture. When he did use Scripture, Eggerichs often interpreted it through a humanistic, psychological lens rather than by sound hermeneutical principles. Some of the most glaring results of Dr. Eggerichs’ faulty hermeneutics are he misinterprets God’s teaching about marriage, misdiagnoses the reason for marital conflict, and reduces the process of sanctification to behavior modification.

In the first part of Love and Respect, Dr. Eggerichs’ says that the secret to a better marriage is for the husband and wife to meet each other’s primary needs. He defines those primary needs as love for women and respect for men. Eggerichs came to this conclusion from a flawed interpretation of Eph. 5:33 which says, “ Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband (NASB).” The problem is the apostle Paul is not defining needs in this verse, or in the surrounding context, but rather giving commands for how husbands and wives are to relate to one another in Christ. In Eph. 5:18, Paul commanded believers to be continually filled with the Spirit. In the verses that follow, 19-21, he unpacks four results of the Spirit’s filling. The last of those results is in verse 21 where the apostle writes, “be subject to one another in the fear of Christ (NASB).” Then in Eph. 5:22-6:9, a passage commonly labeled as household codes, Paul unpacks how a family filled with the Spirit should relate to one another. This passage has nothing to do with husbands and wives getting their needs met.

So how did Eggerichs reach his faulty interpretation? He, like many integrationists, embraces the popular psychological view of man as a needy, empty cup that must be filled. This is especially evident on page 37 where he talks about the wife’s love tank and the husband’s respect tank. Yes, husbands and wives have needs, but their needs are not primarily love and respect; rather, their needs are spiritual and physical. They, like all people, need food, water, clothing and shelter. Most of all they need Jesus Christ to forgive them, set them free from sin, and empower them through the Holy Spirit for godly living. Sadly, Eggerichs fails to emphasize or clearly proclaim these powerful, gospel truths.

Eggerichs goes on to say that when husbands and wives do not get their needs met it leads to what he describes as the “crazy cycle,” or more simply stated continuous conflict. Again, he misses the biblical truth. Conflict in marriage is due to the fact that husbands and wives are not living by the Spirit. As already noted, according to Ephesians, being Spirit filled results in husbands loving their wives, and wives submitting to their husbands. Any other response is the result of living according to the “old humanity” which Paul exhorted them to strip off in Eph. 4:17-5:5. In addition, husbands and wives are to put on the “new humanity,” “which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth (Eph. 4:24b NASB).”

James 4:1-2 gives further biblical insight into the cause of human conflict. James 4:1-2 says, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask (NASB).” In this passage, James says that conflict is not due to unmet needs, but rather unmet desires. These unmet desires can easily turn into demands. If someone does not give into our demands then we fight and quarrel to get them met. When we come to the place that we elevate our desires to point of need, and therefore must have them met in order to be content, we slip into idolatry. Certainly, it is not wrong for a husband to desire respect, and for a wife to desire love. However, to elevate these desires to the point where one cannot be content without them is idolatry. This truth is just one reason why Dr Eggerichs’ view of marriage is flawed and spiritually dangerous.

The second part of Love and Respect unveils what Dr. Eggerichs calls the “energizing cycle” which is his solution to the “crazy cycle.” The energizing cycle is his love motivates her respect; her respect motivates his love (113). In other words, you modify your behavior towards your spouse in order to get what you desire. The trouble is behavior modification is no substitute for the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. One’s behavior is an expression of his or her heart (Mark 7:21), and therefore, no lasting behavioral change can take place unless the heart is changed. As one cooperates with the Holy Spirit in the process of sanctification, heart change is the result, and changed behavior will follow. Furthermore, one’s motivation for obeying God’s Word should always be God’s glory not to get one’s perceived needs met (Col.3:17 and 1 Cor. 10:31).

This brief overview exposes just a few of the numerous flaws in Love and Respect. In spite of its many flaws, it does contain some biblical truth. Ironically, Dr. Eggerichs’ best and most biblical advice was in the last section of the book. For example, Eggerichs writes on page 274, "To the world it may make no sense for a wife to put on respect toward a husband who is harsh and unloving. It makes no sense for a husband to put on love toward a contemptuous, disrespectful woman. But it makes sense to God. These seemingly fruitless efforts matter to God because this is the kind of service He rewards." The problem is one must wade through and too much psychobabble to get to what is worthwhile. Frankly, it is just not worth the effort.