Several years ago, Sarah received the book Love and Respect, by Emerson Eggerichs, as a Christmas present. At the time, it went unread, sitting on a bookshelf collecting dust. Then last fall, Sarah picked it up out of curiosity and began reading a chapter. After reading just one chapter, she handed the book to me, rather irate, and asked me to read what she had just read. To say I was disgusted would be an understatement.
Since that day, I have committed to researching this book thoroughly, with the intent of dissecting it. However, while my research was ongoing, other projects demanded my attention. I have now finished a post that represents, in many ways, the culmination of the work I have been doing on this blog for the past 10 months. It now feels an apropos time to finish what I have started here.
Before, I begin, I want to briefly discuss some issues of methodology.
As I read this book for the first time, I discovered a number of problematic themes. I see merit in a chapter by chapter critique, but the reality is I would likely never stop writing. I could devote an entire research project to each chapter, and still not fully express the depths of my disgust. And at 24 chapters and 6 appendices, I would likely spend the next year of my life just on this project. That is simply untenable.
As such, I have decided instead to pursue a thematic approach. I will offer critiques on critical sections of the book based on one of four themes, each receiving its own dedicated post. The first post will look at the dangerous and disingenuous way in which Eggerichs manipulates Scripture to promote his own message. The second will be dedicated to the ways he talks about gender, sex, and sexuality and why they are damaging on every level. Third, I want to take a moment to examine the science Eggerichs claims supports his thesis. Lastly, I want to examine how Eggerichs’ teachings function in situations of abuse.
I’ll be honest. When all is said and done, I do not believe this book will have even half a leg left to stand on. This book is dangerous, it is false, and it has no place within the Christian church. As is always the case, my word must not be enough for the reader to draw a conclusion. Thus, the reader is encouraged to research my claims on their own to determine if they bear the burden of proof.
I fully recognize there are people who have found help in this book. There are aspects of this book which are undoubtedly helpful and, as with any book, a couple which only applies that which fits their situation and their marriage could likely find some helpful material. The problem here is that, while there me be some good content, a majority of the content is both dishonest and disconcerting. So much of what Eggerich has to say is firmly rooted in the language of male privilege and patriarchy. The reality is, the good content of the book does not in any way excuse the overwhelming amount of harmful rhetoric.
To look at it another way, those who have been hurt and misled by this book cannot simply be viewed as acceptable collateral damage. Yet, this is precisely how Eggerichs treats those who have been hurt by his teachings. This will be unpacked in each of the posts, but perhaps the most obvious and frankly disturbing way this happens is through his use of Scripture.
I want to begin by making something abundantly clear. Any book which bases its entire thesis on a single verse of Scripture is guaranteed to reflect precisely how far the author is willing to go to promote their personal agenda far more than their desire to present a carefully formulated study of Scripture. Yet, despite the deeply biased agenda Eggerichs is trying to advance, he still claims to be simply offering the “clear” teaching of Scripture. If he is to be believed, he has unlocked the entirety of God’s plan for marriage by taking a single verse of Scripture in the most surface level, and literal, way possible.
This is called proof-texting. Essentially, proof-texting occurs when a person uses a verse, or verses, of Scripture entirely out of context in order to promote that agenda they believe is correct. It is the Scriptural equivalent of begging the question, assuming one’s premise to be true and only considering evidence that supports the premise and/or manipulating existing evidence to ensure one’s premise remains unquestioned.
The reality is, Eggerichs’ argument is so woefully myopic and entirely disingenuous that it collapses under the weight of not only the Scriptures themselves, but of his own rhetoric regarding how to interpret them. As such, these will be the two categories by which I judge Eggerichs’ argument regarding the Bible’s supposed message of Love and Respect.
Love and Respect
Even if one has only read the cover, it stands obvious that the premise of this book regards the concepts of Love and Respect. However, in order to gauge precisely how self-defeating Eggerichs’ claims truly are, it is first necessary to highlight his basic premise regarding Scripture’s message for married persons.
In a nutshell, Eggerichs argues from a single verse, Ephesians 5:33 – “Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband” (NRSV) – that he has unlocked the “secret” of God’s will and design for all married persons. Thus, according to Eggerichs men and women are biologically programmed to desire certain types of treatment most:
Men value feeling the respect of their partner more than feeling loved.
Women value feeling loved by their partner more than feeling respected.
As Eggerichs sees it, these roles are universal. Every male and female functions at a biological level according to these drives. And of course, because the words “Love” and “Respect” occur in this specific way in this specific verse, his premise must be true.
And in case you were wondering if he actually takes this so far as to insist it is the absolute and clear teaching of Scripture which is binding for all persons, he makes this distinctly clear in the second endnote to Chapter 18. Here, Eggerichs makes this incredibly bold statement:
Beware of certain cultural voices. Some say submission never strengthened any institution except slavery. Others say submission only applies to the first century, which, by the way, they say about every New Testament teaching with which they differ. It would do all of us good to heed the scripture: “For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers… who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain” (Titus 1:10-11)
Apparently, Eggerichs takes this interpretation so seriously that he has no qualms promising that any person or couple which applies his principles will find that the “potential for improving your marriage is limitless.”
According to Eggerichs, the Love and Respect principle, as derived from Ephesians 5:33 teaches everything one needs to know about the proper relationship between a husband and his wife. For example, marriage is supposed to be a male dominated marital hierarchy. However, this is not truly problematic for Eggerichs because on page 52 he introduces a brief subsection headed, “Husbands Are to Value Wives As Equals”. He does this by adding 1 Peter 3:1-2 and 7 to the mix.
Wives, in the same way, accept the authority of your husbands, so that, even if some of them do not obey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives’ conduct, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives…Husbands, in the same way, show consideration for your wives in your life together, paying honor to the woman as the weaker sex, since they too are also heirs of the gracious gift of life—so that nothing may hinder your prayers.
In explaining these new verses, Eggerichs draws what he claims is a clear distinction between the words “honor” (command to husbands in 1 Peter) and “respect” (command to wives in Ephesians 5). He thus argues that the words “submit” – which occurs in Ephesians 5:22 (directed to wives) as well – is prescribing how a wife shows her husband respect, while “honor” is prescribing how a husband a loves his wife. Thus he goes out of his way to ensure his audience know that he believes “honor” functions as a synonym for “love” and has no connotations of respect. Instead, the husband is to treat his wife an equal “within the grace of God.”
On page 53 he states, “I believe the biblical order of things is that … the husband is to be considered ‘first among equals.’” As such, while they may in fact be equals, it is the husband who “is called upon to be the first to provide, to protect – and even to die if necessary.” He elaborates on this further with the claim that a husband must love his wife as “first in importance” and she must respect him as “first among equals.”
While this may still sound like inequality to some “feminists,” whom he openly paints as the enemies of God’s will on earth, Eggerichs assures the good and faithful Christian wife that all he is really asking them to do is give up the “final say” in a stalemate. Thus, he’s not asking them to hand over all authority, per se, only to allow the power differential to shift from a 50/50 battle of wills to a 51/49 split in which the husband is able to embrace the God given authority apparently implied by the instruction for women to “submit” to their husbands in Ephesians 5:22 and 1 Peter 3:1-2. But, obviously, 51/49 will look functionally equal in most circumstances. He isn’t asking them to be a “doormat,” only to embrace their divinely appointed feminine role as “first in importance” but, apparently, last among equals.
Wives, of course, are to take comfort in this words. After all, once a wife can accept this basic “biblical” principle of “unconditionally respecting” her husband, she can also accept that her lack of respect is in all ways equal to any unloving act committed by her husband. As Eggerichs repeatedly reminds her, if she can submit to her husband in a “respectful” manner – in a quiet and dignified manner – she will receive both the unconditional love of her husband and the favor of God.
Further, Eggerichs promises her that giving an abuser absolute authority in a relationship will not lead to abuse. In the end, a hierarchy of “equals” in which the man is submitted to as authority in respect by his wife, and in which the husband honors his wife in a loving fashion, is the prescription for all of the world’s marital woes.
Serious Rhetorical Inconsistencies
Many, reading the synopsis above, might not find the whole thing all that objectionable. It is quite common in Christian circles to hear this particular synopsis praised. I have often heard pastors and lay leaders extol the virtues of these principles, paraphrasing Eggerichs with the words, “Someone has to have final say, and God has placed that authority on men.”
However, a deeper look at Eggerichs rhetoric will quickly reveal precisely how utterly bankrupt his approach is. In fact, it will become quickly apparent that not even Eggerichs himself can keep the whole thing straight.
First, it is enlightening to look at what, precisely, Eggerichs tries to pass off as functional equality. For instance, Eggerichs states that the use of the Ancient Greek word for “submit” (hypotasso) in both Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3 to speak of wives indicates that a wife’s submission is to absolute and unquestioned authority. He even goes so far as to uses these passages assert a strict hierarchy in which the husband is the “boss” of the relationship, responsible to provide and make the final decisions on everything. He adds the icing on the cake when he addresses the notion of “mutual submission in Ephesians 5:21 by claiming that the only reason women are viewed as “totally equal” to men is because men have been “cowed” by the feminist agenda. It seems that, whatever “first among equals” is supposed to mean, even Eggerichs realizes he is working from a thin and disingenuous definition of equality.
This becomes even more clear when he claims that the only men who actually think women are “totally equal” to them are men who have been “cowed” by the feminist agenda. Eggerichs even proudly argues that Ephesians 5:21 cannot in any way imply actual “mutual submission” because, of course, this would violate his Love and Respect principle, and as he clearly stated in the above quoted endnote, there is no legitimate translation of Scripture which disagrees with this principle. Thus, Eggerichs has absolutely no issue weaving a strange tale of the fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2-3 through the warped lens of a sexist reading of 1 Timothy 2:14. Instead, he confidently proclaims that Eve was the deceived one, while Adam ate from a place of insight. Thus, he states, when a conflict arises between a man and wife, it is entirely appropriate for the husband to remind her that “Eve was the one who is deceived” and that God has placed him as the head of the relationship. 
But, of course, since this is God’s appointed authority over her, she is not truly becoming a doormat, but is being empowered by God to be the woman she ought to be. After all, while it may be about her relationship with her husband, that is only a penultimate concern. Eggerichs claims that her true goal ought to be to trust God fully that he has called her to submit in all things and that he will reward her for her submission. This, he claims, will make the pain of being unloved by her husband more bearable. At one point, he even goes so far as to quote a “full” clause of 2 Timothy 2:15 to ensure his reader believes that he is “accurately handling the word of truth. ”
Eggerichs goes on to explain that a wife is required to show respect even if her husband is abusive. He even has the audacity to claim that an abusive husband can still possess “good will” towards his wife. Thus, while he clearly states she has cause for divorce in cases of physical abuse, he notes that a husband who is harsh and filled with constant rage must be won over by full submission. This submission will be obvious to her husband because she will be completely silent and acquiesce to the will of her husband, regardless of her own wishes – a thought he supposedly supports via a brutal and intentional twisting of 1 Timothy 2:12.
This only becomes more disturbing when one considers how Eggerichs addresses actual stories of abuse. In one instance, he addresses a letter he received in which a woman tells him that his “Love and Respect” teachings only furthered the gap between her and her husband by empowering him to be even more harsh and abusive. Yet, Eggerichs responds not by noting that the woman offers a valid and disturbing critique of his work; but instead by shaming the woman, insisting that if she were to stop “playing the victim” she would realize that she had not actually fully submitted because, if she were to fully submit as Eggerich understands the word, her husband would have changed. In another instance, he tells a story of how his methods changed a relationship in which the husband was physically abusive by claiming that once she learned to be entirely submissive to him in all areas by “remaining quiet and dignified instead of arguing” the beatings stopped.
It is at this point, I feel compelled to ask a few questions:
- How can anyone insist that people are equal but not “totally equal”?
- Is there not a severe cognitive dissonance between telling a woman that she only needs to give up 1% of her influence in the relationship and the insistence that true submission is silence in the presence of disagreement and abuse?
- How is telling a wife that her “unconditional respect” will convert her abusive husband and is commanded by God not also an insistence that God values the empowerment of men more than her safety and well-being?
- How can one tell women they are equals while intentionally and maliciously working to disenfranchise them, robbing them of the ability to assert self and have an independent voice?
Even with these glaring issues, there is yet another incident within the book which ought to raise serious concerns. Specifically, it ought to cause great concern that Eggerichs tells a wife that if she is not sexually satisfying her husband at home according to what he wants, she will lose him to another woman. For husbands, he encourages them to use guilt and manipulation to gain compliance, advising them to say: “When you said you were just too tired to have sex, that felt disrespectful to me. I understand that you’re tired, but I hope you understand my need as well. It’s not that I’m just oversexed, I really need to hold you close.” As such, the wife is to submit to sex, even if she has no desire to consent to it, because her husband is the boss and he has urges which need to be satisfied.
This raises a couple of questions as well:
- Jesus says that a man who lusts has committed adultery and tells the man, not the woman, to take action by plucking out the eye that leads him into sin (cite). How, then, does Eggerichs make the lust of her husband the responsibility of a wife?
- How can Eggerichs claim that women are, in fact, equals if he tells them they have no actual agency over their body?
- Can there be equality between man and wife where the husband is advised to use his position as the hierarchical head of his wife to coerce her into sex, even if she has no desire to consent?
Emerson Eggerichs apparently can’t manage to keep his own Love and Respect argument straight. Recently, on his twitter account, Eggerichs decided to define the differences between “Love” and “Respect” with a strange comparison.
Despite his insistence on the universality of his principle, it seems not even Eggerichs himself applies it unilaterally. Instead, despite his insistence that all males are biologically wired to need and desire respect, he apparently has no problem with parents loving – but not showing respect to – their sons. This is odd, because he specifically states within Love and Respect that a good way for a wife to embrace respect for her husband is to consider how she would feel if someone treated her son the way she treats her husband. Again, more concerns are raised:
- How would this function, then, if she only shows her son love but does not respect him?
- If Eggerichs knows for a fact that males NEED respect to thrive, is his strange endorsement of parents not respecting their sons also an endorsement of intentional parent neglect?
Proof-text Vs. Context
While Eggerichs entire argument above seems self-defeating, it must never the less be recognized that Eggerichs tries to anticipate this claim. He warns that his arguments will seem illogical and even sexist to those “cowed” by the feminist agenda and our “secularized” cultural context. But to those who believe the “clear truth” of Scripture, this will be the wisdom of God revealed within their marriages.
As such, we must also consider whether or not Eggerichs’ argument can carry the collective weight of the passages he repeatedly cites in his own favor. While, I cannot possibly cover every single passage, I have cited several of his favorites above. My goal here is to demonstrate how egregiously he abuses these passages, and how little regard he has for the context into which the God he claims to worship inspired them.
The question I seek to answer here is,
Does Eggerichs proof-texted argument stand up under careful examination of the biblical text?
A quick analysis of Ephesians 5:21-6:9 will demonstrate that Eggerichs has completely ignored both the historical and literary context of Ephesians 5:33. He has, instead, focused on a handful of words, which he has interpreted according to his own preexisting bias regardless of whether such a translation even makes sense in context. The words focused on most are those rendered Love in verses 25-33 (agapao), Respect in verse 33 (phobeomai), and those rendered submit (hypotasso) and head (kephale) in verses 21-24. Eggerichs uses these four words as the hermeneutical framework or supporting his hierarchical views in Ephesians 5:21-33. Thus, it is important to study the original Greek of these words to see if Eggerichs treatments are apt.
First, let us consider the word kephale. In Ephesians 5 this word is used to designate the husband’s relationship to his wife, and to denote the way in which this position is modeled on Christ’s relationship to the church. The question, then, is what does it mean for a husband to be head of the home as Christ is head of the church?
In order to answer this question, it is helpful to consider the seminal work of Gordon Fee on the topic in his commentary on the first Corinthian epistle. As Gordon notes, there are two interpretative choices for the meaning of kephale – either head in the sense of being “first in rank and authority” or head in the sense of being “the source” (i.e. the headwaters of a river). Fee notes that kephale as a word depicting rank is fairly uncommon in biblical Greek, occurring only in a few places in the LXX. In the New Testament, this usage would be entirely unattested. Further, the use of kephale to mean “chief” or “highest ranking person” in classical Greek literature is also quite rare. He then points out that, in the context of 1 Corinthians 11, the structure of the passage as well as its argumentation make the notion of kephale as a term implying rank in a hierarchy entirely untenable. Thus, from other usage within the Pauline corpus, it seems unlikely that this is the intended meaning of kephale in Ephesians 5 either. This can be further seen by considering the use of kephale in Ephesians 1:22.
The Ephesian Epistle begins with a typical epistolary greeting. After his greeting, Paul proceeds to speak a blessing over the Ephesian church before offering a prayer for them, in which he states that Christ acts as “head over all things for the Church, which is his body.” In this way, Christ is the fullness of God for all and in all (vv. 22-23). The words which are rendered “head over all things for the Church” in the Greek read “kephalen hyper panta te ekklesia.”
This raises some interesting interpretive questions, especially for our passage in Ephesians 5 because the word kephalen here is a word depicting Christ’s “headship” in relation to the church. A close look at the Greek of Ephesians 1 will thus help provide a framework for interpreting kephale in Ephesians 5. For example, the word “hyper” which is rendered “over” in 1:22 actually bears the connotation of a person working for the benefit of another. Further, the word “panta” means “all things” and the words “te ekklesia” are rendered “for the Church.” Thus, the clause quite naturally reads that Christ is the “source of all things which bring blessing for the Church.” This fits quite nicely with the previous verses in the blessings section, which begins in verse 3 by stating that, in Christ, God has given us “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” Further, Christ is described as the one through whom all believers receive adoption (v. 4), the one in whom we are redeemed (v. 7), the one through whom we gain our inheritance as heirs (v. 11), and the one for whom the Holy Spirit seals all believers (vv. 13-14).
This naturally leads into Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians in which he asks that they might be granted insight and revelation in order to understand the greatness of God and the inheritance which they have received (vv. 17-18). He asks that they may know God’s great power, which he has made manifest in Christ through the resurrection (vv. 19-21). Here, as in Philippians 2, Christ is glorified in the resurrection and enthroned with the authority of the name that is above all other names (i.e. YHWH, v. 21). As such, all things are placed under the feet of Christ, which leads us full circle to the occurrence of kephalen in 1:22. Between the claim that all things are under Christ’s feet and the occurrence of kephalen, the words “kai auton edoken” occur. These words are rendered “and made him.” Further, edoken is from the word didomi which means to give something to someone. Thus, it stands, verse 22 states that God has placed all things under Christ’s authority, and has given him the role of being the caretaker of the church, his body, for which he is to pursue benefit for her and ensure so that he may be made manifest in all fullness through her. As such, the word kephale here is not about Christ’s rank in relation to the church, but his role in being a source of blessing and fulfillment in which the Church can find its meaning.
Kephale occurs again in Ephesians 4:15. In Ephesians 4, the theme is unity as the body of Christ. The Ephesians are reminded that each of them has their own gifting according to the freedom they have received in Christ. These gifts are to be used for the edification of the body of believers. Each member of the body is united thus under their head, Christ, by which the entire body is unified (vv. 1-15).
Because each believer now takes their identity according their position within the unified body of Christ, they are reminded that the old ways in which they lived must be behind them. They are made a new person in Christ, and in this new identity they may pursue the righteousness of God (vv. 17-23). As new creations in Christ, the believer must thus live not for personal gain or benefit, but with a loving kindness rooted in the forgiveness all believers have in Christ. Here, as in Ephesians 1, the notion of Christ being kephale of the church has nothing to do with a hierarchical ranking. Instead, Christ is the source of unity and gifting for all believers.
Thus, in both instances of kephale prior to Ephesians 5:21, the word has not been used to indicate any notion of hierarchical ranking of persons within the church. It would be entirely artificial to the actual context of the Ephesian epistle to suddenly shift the meaning of the word. Instead, Ephesians 5:21-6:9 functions precisely as a continuation of the themes already being developed in the book.
As Ephesians 5 begins, the audience is reminded of the distinctions between their former way of life and the life they now live in Christ. Just as Christ rose from the dead, the believer is exhorted to awaken from the death of their former self – an existence marked by darkness and impurity – and embrace the calling to be one in the Spirit in worship of Christ and God the father whom he reveals to us (vv. 1-20).
Having been exhorted for the last fifty-two verses to abandon their old ways and embrace a new way of life in Christ, it would make zero sense for Ephesians 5:21-6:9 to suddenly shift to enforcing a strict patriarchal hierarchy within the Christian family. Not only would it require this passage to use a definition for kephale entirely foreign to both the Pauline corpus generally, and the book of Ephesians specifically, it would also mean that the very author who has thus far demanded they abandon their former ways is suddenly telling them to embrace a social structure which is entirely rooted in their former cultural identity.
This brings us to the genre of Ephesians 5:2-6:9 specifically. In the ancient Roman world, the home was considered a microcosm of the empire. Drawing upon the philosophical teachings of Aristotle, the relationships of husband and wife, father and child, and master and slave were all considered critical to the order and peace of the Roman empire. Thus, just as the emperor was to rule the empire, the male pater familias ruled his household. The wife, child, and slave were all his subservients. Their identity was rooted in the honor of the home in the same way the citizen’s identity was rooted in the honor of the empire. To defy this honor was to bring disorder to the home, which in turn would bring disorder to the empire. Such dishonor was often met with severe consequences at the hand of the pater familias.
For this reason, foreign religions (e.g. Judaism and Christianity) were seen as a potential threat to the empire. Specifically, religions not rooted in worship according to Roman ritual were believed to not order their home properly. As such, it was not uncommon for Jewish apologists to create Hellenized household codes demonstrating that Judaism was, in fact, capable of maintaining an ordered household and thus incurring the favor of their Roman oppressors.
Into this environment that the Ephesian household code was written. Like Roman household codes, the Ephesian code focuses on the relationships between a man and his wife, children, and slaves. However, it does not simply regurgitate the strict ordering of a Roman household. Instead, in keeping with the theme of embracing a new life in Christ built upon unity and mutual love, this household code uses subtle variations to speak a profound truth rooted in the cross of Christ.
Specifically, the Ephesian code entirely upends the power and privilege attached to male authority over his household. The command for a wife to submit is hardly anything new. Nor is it anything surprising for this same command to be given to a child or slave. In all three cases, the Greek word for submit – hypotasso for wives and hypakouo for children/slaves – is derived from the root word hypo, which is used in Ephesians 1 to state that all things have been placed “under” the feet of Christ.
This is an incredibly important distinction because, in Ephesians 5:21, all believers are admonished to “be constantly subjecting (hypotassomenoi) themselves to one another.” The participle form here completes a set of participles providing indicators for how one is to “be filled with the Spirit” from verse 18. The prior participles are speaking, singing, making melodies, and giving thanks occur in verses 19 and 20; as each of these is expected to a be a regularly occurrence among believers, they are translated as imperatives. Thus, it is appropriate to argue that the final command for those who are filled with the Spirit is to be subject, or submitted, to everyone else in the community.
This command is reminiscent of Matthew 20, where Jesus instructs his disciples to be servants of all people, an imperative based in his own work through the cross of being the lowest of servants who is offered as a ransom for many (vv. 20-28). In this same way, then, the Ephesians are to strive to always pursue unity in word, worship, and deed.
Ephesians 5:21 is not only connected to verses 1-20, however. It also serves as the beginning of the household code. In fact, 5:22 – the command for wives to submit to their husbands as to the Lord – does not actually contain a verb at all. Instead, the entire sentence of verses 21-22 reads, “Be subject to one another in Christ, wives to their husbands as to the Lord.” As such, it is made quite clear that the command to be “subject to one another” is 5:21 is intended to serve as a heading for what comes. It is thus entirely disingenuous for Eggerichs to claim that the word hypertasso indicates that a wife ranks lower than her husband in a hierarchy while not applying the command to the role of the male within the household as well. Despite Eggerichs’ claims, there can be no hierarchy where everyone is commanded to place themselves at the bottom rung of the ladder.
This is further reinforced by the commands given to the pater familias to Love his wife. As Andrew Lincoln has noted, it is entirely foreign to the Roman household code for a husband to be told to love his wife. It is even more foreign for this love – from the Greek agapao – to be rooted entirely in the cross of Christ. This can be seen by looking at Philippians 2. In this passage, the believer is commanded to pursue the good of others before self as a response of agape love (vv. 1-4). This love is a love which, according to Philippians, is the same as that demonstrated by Christ on the cross (vv.. 5-11). Thus, if the mind of Christ is to self-limit, forsaking his position of authority to pursue the humility of servitude of others then it is no coincidence that the husband is instructed to love his wife as Christ loves the church and has given himself for her (Eph 5:25-27).
That is to say, that just as the wife is commanded to submit to her husband as the church has submitted to Christ (vv. 22-24), thus pursuing the oneness in all things described in verses 15-21. The husband is then also called to take up this call of submission. If he were placed in the position of hierarchical authority to which his wife must submit absolutely with “quietness and dignity” as Eggerichs claims, then the command of Ephesians would be nothing more than to maintain the status quo of Roman life. This would go directly against the grain of the argument put forth in Ephesians 4 and 5.
Thus, it is imperative to note that the love commanded of the husband in Ephesians 5 is precisely a love rooted in Christ giving himself for the church by his death on the cross. As such, it is entirely relevant to remember, as noted above, that this love is one which gives up rightful places of authority in order to assume the role of servant and pursue the good of the beloved.
As such, it cannot be that Ephesians 5 depicts a hierarchical ordering of the marriage because there can be no hierarchy where the man is commanded to abandon his patriarchal rights for the good of his wife. Further, this is emphasized by the fact that the father is forbidden from provoking his children out of entitlement or desire simply to push their buttons (6:1-4). Likewise, the master is commanded to “do the same” to his slave as the slave is commanded to do to him, submit (6:5-9). For the master this is manifest by abandoning abuse and threats and treating the enslaved with the dignity owed a member of Christ’s body.
Eggerichs has focused entirely on the submission of the wife and, from that, assumed that a patriarchal order was intended. However, as he has lost focus of the cross of Christ in his formulation, he has entirely misunderstood the notion of being “kephale” after the example of Christ. Thus, he misses that in Ephesians 5:33 is the command to love, and not the command to respect, which is truly revolutionary. No wife in the Hellenized world would dare disrespect her husband, but it takes a great deal of self-sacrifice to love one’s wife after the example of the crucified Christ of God.
1 Peter 2:18-3:7
As with Ephesians, the Petrine author here is setting forth a Christian vision of the Roman household code. In this case, the author focuses specifically on the institutions of slave and master and wife and husband. The reasons for this are readily apparent. In the verses leading up to this code, the believing community is commanded to respect human institutions as a manner of service to Christ and a witness for him. This principle is then applied to situations in which the person in power is an unbeliever. Thus a slave is reminded that he will not find the same equality within the home of an unbelieving master that he finds in the church. Thus, he may receive harsh treatment. However, this treatment is not condoned. Instead, it is depicted as an injustice in the same fashion that Christ’s suffering was also injustice.
This concept is then applied to the wife of an unbelieving husband as well. A believing wife is reminded that she will not win over her husband. The command to win him over through deed and not word is precisely rooted in the fact that it would be considered shameful for a Roman man to have his house in disorder. While she may be an equal to men in the church, she cannot expect the same in the home of an unbelieving husband. Blatant resistance to his authority through arguments and violations of Roman household sensibilities will not only endanger her, it will cause her husband and the community to see Christians as threats to the order of the empire. This will only serve to bring further persecution and suffering both upon the wife and the community. However, if her faith is lived out in actions which portray Christ faithfully to her husband while recognizing this precarious position, her witness may very well sway him.
The radical nature of this household code, then, is not in the commandments to the slave or the wife. Both of these are expected positions of submission. However, the role given the believing husband gives hope to those oppressed by the Roman patriarchal order. Just as the wife must submit to her husband, the husband must “in like fashion” show his knowledge of Christ by considering the weak position his wife is in. Whereas, when he was an unbeliever his concern was for personal honor and the honor of his family, now his concern is for the honor of his wife. This is not an insignificant turn of phrase. The Greek for honor in 1 Peter 3:7 is “timen” a word which means to recognize the value of something and thus show reverence or deference to it. It is ironic, then, that Eggerichs directly describes a wife’s “Respect” with the word deference, yet insists that the Respect of Ephesians 5:33 and the Honor of 1 Peter 3:7 are entirely different things. The reality is, the word for Respect, phobetai, also means to revere and respect.
As it stands, the “honor” which the husband of 1 Peter 3:7 is called to directly depicts the showing of respect which would require him to forsake any hierarchical position of power and, instead of pursuing his own honor, seek to recognize the dignity she is given as his coheir in Christ. This, as with Ephesians 5-6, is a radical subversion of the Roman social order and a direct contradiction to the claims of Emerson Eggerich regarding the gender essentiality of the words Love and Respect in Ephesians 5:33.
1 Timothy 2:12, 14
In the case of 1 Timothy 2, Eggerichs has truly shown the depths to which he will stoop in order to promote his sexist agenda. First, his use of 1 Timothy 2:12 to argue that a wife should never vocalize her disagreements with her husband is nothing short of a farce. While this verse is one of the most controversial in the entire New Testament, the context in which this supposed command for silence is made is clear. The command for the “silence of women” is rooted entirely in the concern for ecclesial order during the worship service. Thus, whatever the intent of the author regarding women and speaking in public worship, this verse was never meant to be applied to the marriage relationship. Eggerichs use of this verse qualifies as a spiritually abusive practice of intentionally disenfranchising wives within the marital covenant.
His use of verse 14 is equally disgusting. While, again, the exact meaning of Eve being deceived is disputed it is hardly the case that this passage paints Adam in a positive light. Consider that the passage actually states that, while Eve was deceived, Adam ate knowingly and willingly without being fooled about what he was doing. It is entirely unconscionable, then, that Adam be held as the one who possessed “insight” into the situation. In fact, it is entirely asinine to state that Adam sinned willfully and purposefully, yet also came out as the one who did the right thing as a leader. Eggerichs has again tipped his hand, as the reality is that Romans 5 places guilt for his actions firmly upon Adam. Eggerichs desire to silence women has clearly clouded his hermeneutic causing him to interpret the text by leaving the assumptions he has brought to it completely unexamined.
2 Timothy 2:15
A brief treatment is all that is needed to address Eggerichs egregious violations of all hermeneutical common sense. Eggerichs uses 2 Timothy 2:15 in a sidebar thus:
By ignoring unconditional respect for husbands, I (Eggerichs) had not been “accurately handling the word of truth.”
This is a strange quote, as the text of the actual passage reads:
Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth. Avoid profane chatter, for it will lead people into more and more impiety, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth by claiming that the resurrection has already taken place. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who calls on the name of the Lord turn away from wickedness.” (2 Tim 2:14-19, NRSV)
It is notable here that the context of the passage speaks directly into using words to spread disunity within the body of Christ. In fact, the following verses, 20-21, make a clear statement of equality for all believers. Thus, for Eggerichs to use this passage to claim he is “accurately handling the word of truth” while promoting hierarchical divisions in the church is not only ironic, it is a sinister example of the ways in which he creates and then exploits a fear of being on the “wrong side of Scripture” to disenfranchise the women of the church.
At the very least, the question must be asked:
At what point does the clear demonstration of a desire to promote the oppression of a people group via the blatant abuse of Scripture disqualify one as a minister of the Gospel?
In closing, I want to be clear. Love and Respect is a book based entirely on a lie. It represents nothing more than the hierarchical agenda of Emerson Eggerichs, who directly states that he thinks marriages would function better if women talked less and submitted more. This book does not represent an accurate, honest, or careful engagement of the biblical text. Instead, this is a dangerous book representing an agenda to ensure that the equality of women in both the Christian church and home, and equality directly rooted in the cross of Christ, is undermined.
I cannot in good conscience recommend a book this blatantly prejudiced for any person for any reason.
 Unless otherwise noted, all footnotes are in reference to Emerson Eggerichs, Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires, The Respect He Desperately Needs (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004).
 Cf 282-283
 1-4, quotation from 4.
 Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1987) pp. 501-503.
 “ὑπὲρ”, pp. 1030-1031 in BDAG (University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1999).
 “δίδωμι”, pp. 242-243, BDAG
 Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians, vol. 42 in Word Biblical Commentary (Word: Waco, 1990) pp. 356-365
 ibid 373-375
 “τιμή, ῆς, ἡ” p. 1005 in BDAG.
 Love and Respect, 174-175, 218.
 I have argued against this incredibly literal reading here.
 For my treatment, again see here.
 Love and Respect, 230.
 Love and Respect, p. 45.
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39 thoughts on “Love, Respect, and Proof-Texts”
I cannot complete reading your review. After repeated pauses as I read the article, I finally stopped at reference endnote 25. I find so much misrepresentation and outright twisting of what the Love and Respect book says in your “analysis”. I too, do not agree with the premise of the L&R book, but at least I am honest in my review of it (which I am working on).
As just one (of many) examples where you falsely misrepresent the book, see endnote 25, which references page 278 in the book. You say: “In another instance, he tells a story of how his methods changed a relationship in which the husband was physically abusive by claiming that once she learned to be entirely submissive to him in all areas by “remaining quiet and dignified instead of arguing” the beatings stopped.”
The L&R book actually says: “Another wife who had suffered physical and verbal abuse from her husband (which I absolutely condemn as wicked and urge a wife to seek protection and help for) and had gone back to him AFTER HE REPENTED, realized that she had not completely forgiven him and certainly wasn’t showing him respect. After coming across our materials, she began showing him respect, mostly by remaining quiet and dignified instead of arguing…” [emphasis in CAPS mine]
As is evident here, your representation of the book’s words is false and, basically amounts to slander. You appear to have an unkind attitude, on display in the blog article. You should probably remove this blog article as it does not really give a good testimony of a Christian according to the attitude spoken of in 2 Tim. 2:24-25.
Gary, as both a survivor of abuse and a person who has studied it in detail, I would like to outline something here.
First, the repeat offense rate of abusive husbands, even after repentance, is very high. The notion Eggerichs presents is that she OWES him respect.
This is patently false. That husband needs to demonstrate his repentance and they can heal over time. She does not owe him immediate submission or silence.
That advice, and the way it is frames in the book, is already damaging and dangerous.
Now, to paint “quiet and dignified instead of arguing” as respect is absurd. This woman needs to be speaking up and discussing this hurt with her husband, holding him accountable. Instead, because Eggerichs twisted Scripture beyond recognition, she thinks that respect equals silence.
Now, let us consider the part you didn’t quote:
“Their relationship improved considerably, and she says:
My heart’s desire is to win my husband to the Lord through my respectful behavior. I must admit I have to “mull over” some of your teaching, but it IS biblically based, and the Holy Spirit keeps revealing my rebellion, contempt, disobedience, etc. I keep asking the Lord for strength to implement your suggestions and He is so faithful!”
Notice a couple things:
Eggerichs says the husband “repented” and she went back. But, the relationship isn’t said to have improved until she started “remaining quiet and dignified instead of arguing.”
Now, why does Eggerichs not frame the husbands repentance as an improvement?
Given his previous talk of the crazy cycle, he is imply that their relationship was stuck in that cycle and ramping back up. And as he said earlier, that can result in abuse.
Eggerichs is implying that her decision to follow his teachings – and not the husbands initial repentance – is when the cycle was truly broken.
Notice that this woman says she is learning about her own “rebellion, contempt, disobedience.”
Now, earlier in the book Eggerichs has also stated that when women disobey their husbands and rebel against them as God’s designated leader, this causes the husband to act in an unloving way.
Now consider, a husband who withholds love to his wife because he feels disrespected is being neglectful. To intentionally withhold love from a person is an act of cruelty, it is emotional abuse.
And Eggerichs recognizes multiple times that this can also manifest in acts of physical and emotional abuse as well. He then asserts that any good-willed husband will change when shown respect.
He pays lip service to bad-willed husbands on 207-208, but says they are irrelevant because they will abuse no matter what.
But, and here is the kicker, he instructs women to treat even their unloving and abusive husbands as if they have goodwill.
He states that practicing his teachings will dismantle even the most toxic of marriage environments and the ability to repair a marriage is virtually limitless.
I could keep going, but as with most things, context matters.
The quote on 278, when held as a part of Eggerich’s larger teachings and as the culmination of his teaching by rooting it in obedience to God in the penultimate chapter of the book, is simply consistent interpretation of Eggerich’s own words.
Essentially, I assumed Eggerichs meant what he said in the previous 277 pages, and used that as the lens for interpreting his words and considering why he worded it the way he did.
Nothing slanderous or quarrelsome about pointing out his gross misuse of Scripture nor his lack of anything resembling solid advice for those being abused.
I’m always interested by persons who are quick to quote passages on not quarreling, but never note that Jesus accused the religious establishment of stealing the houses of widows, and called the Pharisees vipers and festering whitewashed tombs.
Even Paul had no small amount of invective for his opponents. He called Peter out publicly and once said he wished his opponents would castrate their selves.
This isn’t foolish quarreling, this is recognising where dangerous teachings lie and dismantling the lies on which they are based. I am correcting to prevent others from being deceived, Eggerichs has made it clear he will not be changing his mind.
But as the comment section of any of these posts bears witness, many women have been victimized by Eggerichs teachings. Many pastors have used these materials to shame and silence abused women.
None of that is a coincidence, and I had heard none of their stories when I wrote this review. I noticed the danger, and the stories I encountered confirmed what I had seen.
Lastly, slander must be intentionally and blatantly untrue. That hardly qualifies for my argument. I have practiced sound hermenetutical theory in using Eggerichs words throughout the book as the lens for interprtation of p. 278.
You can argue I’m wrong – you’re writing a blog post, go for it! – and offer a different interpretation.
But one thing you’ll learn about me. I don’t play nice with abusive ideology. I take very seriously the Gospel of Christ as embodied in his earthly ministry. That Gospel includes liberation of oppressed and abused persons.
Just as Jesus did not consult with the moneychangers before flipping their tables, I am not going to try to find a kind way to say “This book is dangerous and will enable abusers.” just so you or someone else isn’t offended by it.
Eggerichs is using the church to peddle patriarchy, an ideology of oppression and abuse. I’m not looking to leave those tables unturned.
The blog post will remain, as it represents a sound and solid analysis. If you think otherwise, you are welcome to offer a counterpost on your own blog. I’d advise reading the entire series of posts first, more there I’m sure you’ll disagree with.
I look forward to reading your detailed rebuttal of my position.
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https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.jswell said, Nate!
https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.jsI understand now why I hand such a reaction to this. My guidance system was telling me or trying to but being abused has taught me to distrust myself. My eyes have been open to how much abuse is within the church. I thought it was a safe bubble! Boy, was I wrong. But the extreme pain at this awakening…and I do not like this pain…is a gift from God. He wants to raise me up instead of push me down!
https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.jsI have also been involved as a peer counselor after much training & ongoing training, following leaving & healing from past abuse growing up & my first marriage. I found the very heavy handed, uneven “advice” for wives was not as Christ loves the church & far outweighed the amount & type of advice offered to the husband. And this book rationalized far too much damaging poor behavior on a husband’s part. Which would be different had wives been offered the same type of rationalizations, not that rationalization helps anyone truly grow. My point is that men were offered many excuses in this book, while women were being held to a different set of standards & relational values. That alone ought be a huge red flag for anyone seeking a mutually loving, respectful, fulfilling, authentic, healthy relationship.
Thank you so much for taking the time to research and write this critique.
Excellent work. Your efforts are a demonstration of studying to show thyself approved. You have successfully exposed the religious spirit behind Love and Respect. ANYTHING that places burden and bondage on anyone is NEVER of the Lord. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free; THEREFORE (permission from God) STAND FIRM and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” Galations 5:1
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Thank you for your amazing insight. I have a couple nieces who have just gotten married. They have totally immersed themselves in this type of thinking. I am already aware of the manipulation and role-playing that occurs when a couple professes a belief in complimentary marriage, but still fight to get their own way. This mindset interferes with direct communications between the couple.
Some men are brain-washed to think “loving” their wives means having the ablility to read her mind! A horrible situation. And when the wife desires something, she manipulates her husband indirectly so she doesn’t “appear” to be nonsubmissive. A healthy marriage is centered around honest communication and a desire to see your spouse do well– not some magic formula which claims to work for all marriages! Thanks again.
Thank you 🙂
Also, at ACFJ we have some posts about what is said to wives in 1 Peter and whether it means that wives must submit to abuse.
I was assigned to read this book alongside “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas, for a college course on biblical marriage. While reading “Love and Repsect,” much of what he said did not sit well with my spirit but at the time I couldn’t pinpoint why. Thank you for finally putting into words what I was struggling with!! I’ve since been married 3 years and my marriage is in shambles literally because of the topics covered by Eggerichs (my husband’s church very much promotes this hierarchy), and I have been putting up with my husband’s verbal abuse and emotional infidelity pretty much our whole relationship. But since he’s the only person I’ve ever dated (“True Love Waits,” right? 🙄) I had no one to compare him to and had no clue his behavior wasn’t normal or appropriate. So now we’re separated and trying to figure this whole thing out, and your words couldn’t have come at a better time. Thank you, I will be following your blog for the rest of your posts on this book!!
I’m sorry to hear about things with your husband. It is sad how these ideas keep destroying marriages. Especially since I know many are going to blame you if the marriage dissolves for not being the properly submissive wife.
I will keep you and your husband/marriage in my prayers.
Thanks for following 🙂
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balletluvr7….I’m so sorry. I get what you’re saying ’cause I used to think my horribly dysfunctional marriage of 32 years was exactly the way it was supposed to be. I thought we were normal, and even better than normal! “Yes, dear, “No, dear”, and on the way up, I said, “How high do you want me to jump?” That was my attitude. Not that I was always perfect, but I truly thought that was my role, and I tried to fulfill it. Imagine my surprise (tongue in cheek) when we finally divorced because he’d had at least 2 girlfriends, probably a 3rd, and he’s now married to the latest one. Hurray for them. My dear….just get set for the fallout because there will be those who will blame you for anything and everything (“What did you do that drove him to ______?”). And then you’ll also find that other men cover for your spouse. When “the guys” go out, they’ll be sure he’s invited, no matter how much he is responsible for the marriage fracture. There will be a certain level of shunning at church. Be prepared. And be careful who you confide in.
https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.jsI have also been involved as a peer counselor after much training & ongoing training, following leaving & healing from past abuse growing up & my first marriage. I found the very heavy handed, uneven “advice” for wives was not as Christ loves the church & far outweighed the amount & type of advice offered to the husband. And this book rationalized far too much damaging poor behavior on a husband’s part. Which would be different had wives been offered the same type of rationalizations, not that rationalization helps anyone truly grow. My point is that men were offered many excuses in this book, while women were being held to a different set of standards & relational values. That alone ought be a huge red flag for anyone seeking a mutually loving, respectful, fulfilling, authentic, healthy relationship. And his rhetoric used to shore up his use of scripture demonstrates his positions are not an accurate or careful engagement of biblical text.
More sound, helpful articles are found at – https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2016/07/11/love-and-respect-by-emerson-eggerichs-is-a-dangerous-book-one-star-review-by-avid-reader
and great resource:
Nate, have you read “Man and Woman, One in Christ,” by Philip Payne? This book does not deal with abuse in depth, but it is a carefully reasoned and very well researched contribution by a man who spent 37 years studying the scriptural texts that pertain to gender issues.
Payne believes strongly in the inerrancy and inspiration of scripture but after many years of study he came to conclude that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is an interpolation in the text, added over time by various scribes.
There is manuscript evidence showing that those words were first put in the margin of a copy of 1 Corinthians by a scribe or scribes, and later, when their copies were copied, the words were inserted into the text itself as if they were inspired scripture.
Payne’s website is http://www.pbpayne.com
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I haven’t read anything by him. I’ve heard of him though.
BTW, sorry it took so long to approve comments. My spam filter tried to spam all your comments. I believe I retrieved and approved them all.
Thanks for the link 🙂
Nate, you may be interested to know that at ACFJ we have several posts about 1 Peter. Here they are.
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I’ll take a look.
Nate, thank you for this post. I’m disappointed you’ve received so few comments thus far. As a fellow blogger, I know what that can feel like!
You’ve done an excellent job of unteasing and exposing Eggerich’s fallacies.
We shall put a link to this post on our A Cry For Justice page What Headship and Submission Do Not Mean.
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Thanks Barb 🙂 Appreciate it.
I don’t normally have high comment traffic here. Most comment on my social media. But I’m sure dropping this at 2:30 AM on the Sunday of a holiday weekend didn’t do me any favors in that department either, LOL.
Today is the busiest day the post has seen.
Could only get as far as him assuring women that submitting to an abuser wouldn’t cause abuse. This is the kind of book I’d throw across the room. Thanks for taking the time to review it so thoroughly. Too many people in my church like this guy. shudder
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Sadly, I’ve seen several churches that identify as egalitarian promote this book.
Greetings, Nate. I have been following and enjoying your blog for a number of months now.
I just thought I would share my own Love and Respect story. During a rough patch in our marriage, my wife read this book (I didn’t), and it sparked a conversation that did improve our marriage – but definitely NOT in the way the author intended.
Pretty soon into our discussion, it became clear to both of us that my wife actually values respect more than love. Although, truth be told, neither of us can imagine that “love” without respect would even be love at all. More like condescension. But to the degree that the two are different, she needs and craves respect.
In contrast, I lean toward the love side of the equation. I need to feel secure in being loved.
So basically, we were the opposite of the gender stereotypes found in the book.
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Thanks for the comment 🙂
Eggerichs goes out of his way to deny that people like you and your wife exist. He even presents letters from people who say they don’t fit into his paradigm, then resorts to shaming them, saying they’re just not being honest with themselves. Its pretty disgusting.
Another wolf. In sheeps clothing.
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Nate…the problem with the word “Biblical” is that people use it in such a way to justify a lot. When they play the “Biblical” card they are saying that you are not being “Biblical” Its a sham.
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I am glad you are taking this on in depth. It IS an agenda promoting book, not an honest look at scripture. It is not practical help for relationships. It is a club for beating women.
Respect is actually a very important part of human relationships. But beating it down into the box that “Love and Respect” makes for it misses the whole point of what a powerful tool respect can be in the hands of those who know how to use it.
Rather than go on about it, I’ll leave this here concerning a bit about the nuances of the concept and how it can be used to abuse rather than liberate.
(Note: this was written in response to a comp woman’s post on the book. Therefore, even though I don’t personally adhere to “the man is the leader of the wife” concept, I wrote it so that it would not offend those that do who might come over to my blog to read.)
Again, looking forward to seeing what you have to say on all of this. There needs to be huge push back against this book.
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