Emerson Eggerichs does not handle Scripture appropriately in Love & Respect.
So many people defend the book Love & Respect, saying that it is biblical and rooted in Scripture. And, indeed, Emerson Eggerichs has 230 Scripture references in his book.
This does not mean, however, that the book is rooted in the Bible or that it handles the Bible correctly.
Our study of 20,000 women, done for our book The Great Sex Rescue, identified Love & Respect as the most harmful best-selling evangelical marriage book, scoring just 0/48 on our rubric of healthy sexuality.
For several years, we have been endeavouring to warn people about the problems with how Eggerichs approaches sex. However, that is not the only problem with the book. This year, as we return to look at Love & Respect once again, we decided to do a deep-dive into Emerson Eggerichs treatment of Scripture.
Yesterday on the Bare Marriage podcast, Nijay Gupta, Joanna Sawatsky and I looked at how Emerson Eggerichs misuses Scripture. Today I want to share my notes for that podcast, so that others can see the issues.
These notes are not exhaustive; I tried to find several examples of each of the problems so that we could talk about it (and some of these things we didn’t mention yesterday because of time constraints). To go over all 208 references would be too onerous, and I want to make this as accessible as possible.
Even though we are specifically looking at Emerson Eggerichs’ use of Scripture in the book Love & Respect, I hope that reading this will help you be able to evaluate other books and pastors. The methods that he uses to twist and misconstrue Scripture are quite common, and so consider this an object lesson in the ways that we often go awry with the Bible.
A. Big Picture Problems with Emerson Eggerichs’ Approach to Scripture
Before we look at specific passages that Eggerichs misuses, let’s hone in on three approaches to Scripture that color all of the rest, and seem to explain why he treats Scripture the way that he does.
1. “Appeal to Authority” Method
The “appeal to authority” is a logical fallacy:
The Definition of Appeal to Authority
Insisting that a claim is true simply because a valid authority or expert on the issue said it was true, without any other supporting evidence offered.
Marshall McLuhan, a famous Canadian socioologist from the 1950s and 1960s, famously said “the medium is the message,” by which he meant that the way something is conveyed often changes the meaning of it (for instance, TV news has way fewer words than a newspaper account, and so TV tends to make things more sensationalized because there’s not as much room for nuance).
In Love & Respect, the “medium” by which the message is delivered is to quote Bible verses everywhere. On most two-page spreads there is at least one Bible verse in a call-out box. Bible verses are sprinkled throughout the book, both in the margins and in the text.
Now, this isn’t necessary a problem (though you will see below why it becomes very problematic).
But what is the message being given by putting Bible verses literally everywhere?
This book is rooted in Scripture, and so you cannot disagree with it.
Below are some examples of verses that are used superfluously (note how in each case, the verse does not add anything, and in many cases, only a few words of the verse are quoted anyway):
- “As God revealed the Love and Respect message, I experienced Psalm 119:130: “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding” p. 14
- “The Crazy Cycle is, indeed, “the evil of folly and the foolishness of madness” Ecc. 7:25″, p. 16
- “When counseling couples, I often ask “what causes fights and quarrels among you?”” James 4:1 p. 27
- “Using the Love and Respect Connection proves that “a man of knowledge increases power” Prov. 24:5″, p. 122
- “When you act on COUPLE you will “enjoy with your wife, whom you love” Ecc. 9:9″, p. 123,
- “If you are angry with your wife, even for “a brief moment” she is “grieved in spirit” and “rejected,” and needs reassurance that you love her Isaiah 54:5-8″, p. 156
By quoting Bible verses, even when they add absolutely nothing to the argument or to the text, the message conveyed is an appeal to authority–you must trust this book because it is full of Scripture.
2. Treating Verses as Proof Texts
Closely related to appeal to authority is the practice of proof-texting.
The Definition of Proof-Texting
Proof texting is the method by which a person appeals to a biblical text to prove or justify a theological position without regard for the context of the passage they are citing.
When proof-texting, the author starts with a supposition or theory, and then searches for verses to support that theory. Rather than approaching Scripture and asking, “what does this entire passage say? How does it fit in with the broader picture of the Bible? What is it trying to tell me?”, someone who is proof-texting will often search for keywords in Scripture until they find a verse that appears to say what they want it to say, often ignoring context.
People who make a practice of proof-texting often focus on just one verse, or even parts of verses, and rarely use whole passages.
Most of the examples that follow below in this post are of Emerson Eggerichs proof-texting.
To give just one, on p. 31, Eggerichs says: ”Runaway divorce statistics reveal that “insanity is in their hearts” (Ecclesiastes 9:3).
Here, he is using a verse from Ecclesiastes to imply that the Bible abhors runaway divorce stats. The problem? Divorce rates are actually at their lowest in fifty years right now. We don’t have an epidemic of divorce, if you look historically. And even if we did, divorce, in and of itself, is not the problem. What leads to divorce is the problem. If abuse rates are high, the problem is not divorce; it is abuse.
To use a snippet of a verse from Ecclesiastes which has nothing to do with divorce to prove social commentary about divorce without providing any data to support these claims is inappropriate, and an example of both proof-texting and appeal to authority.
3. Sidelining the Words of Christ
Jesus is the Word of God. He is the image of the invisible God. He has shown us the Father, because whoever has seen Him has seen the Father.
Thus, it is Jesus who is central in our faith. We interpret Scripture through the lens of Jesus.
Often, though, those arguing for patriarchy, or male leadership over women, virtually ignore Jesus in favor of quoting other verses in Scripture. It’s very, very difficult to argue for patriarchy using Jesus’ words and example, and so instead they go to other passages and leave Jesus’ example behind.
To show an example, the recent best-seller It’s Good to Be a Man, a defence of Christian patriarchy by Michael Foster, argues that we don’t actually need to follow Jesus, but instead should use Adam as our model:
This is a point lost in modern Christianity, where the focus is almost exclusively on the model of Jesus in the gospels. But while that model is of course perfect, it is not complete. It is a model of God, as the second Adam, humbling Himself to correct the mistakes of the first. It is not yet a model of Him ruling over the world as Adam should have. Jesus did not take up the rule of Adam until after His resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven (Eph.1:20–22). To see how God exercises dominion, therefore, we need to look to the rest of Scripture.
And with that sleight of hand, the rest of the book ignores Jesus.
A good rule of thumb when judging if a pastor or author is committed to Scripture is to look at how often they talk about Jesus versus how often they talk about God and the Bible. When people insist on saying, “The Bible tells us…” or “God says…” but they don’t talk about Jesus, it’s likely because the things they’re trying to teach you are actually in opposition to how Jesus lived and acted.
While Love & Respect isn’t as blatantly patriarchal as Foster’s book, it, too, virtually ignores Jesus. Only 11% of Scripture references in the book are from the gospel, but this does not mean that Jesus’ words and teachings are central.
Even when Emerson Eggerichs does quote the gospel, often the gospel passage quoted is itself quoting the Old Testament:
- “Matthew 19:4 tells us that God made them male and female.” (p. 32)
- Matthew 19:6, “two will be one.” (p. 163)
Or he quotes the disciples:
- “Realizing marriage demanded permanance and work, the disciples complained “If the relationship… is like this, it is better not to marry.”” (Matthew 19:10), p. 42
Even when he does quote Jesus’ words, Eggerichs often misapplies them:
- In a passage telling women not to speak up when something is bothering them, Eggerichs writes, “Ultimately, we must depend on “the Helper” the Holy Spirit, to “convict… concerning sin” (John 16:7-8), p. 269.
- Telling women to put up with atrocious things on earth because we will get our reward in heaven– “Jesus is preparing us to hear, “Well done.” He wants to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” p. 272-273.
- In the chapter these quotes are from, Eggerichs is reiterating how women must have unconditional respect towards husbands, using illustrations from husbands who were physically abusive, or husbands with such withering rage that she wants to get away and hide.
In Love & Respect, we do not see Emerson Eggerichs actually grappling with Jesus’ words and telling us how they should apply to marriage.
Those three practices–appeal to authority, proof-texting, and sidelining Jesus–color Eggerichs’ treatment of Scripture throughout the book. Now let’s turn to specific egregious examples of how Eggerichs mishandles Scripture.
B. Specific Ways Emerson Eggerichs Misuses Scripture
1. Quotes Pagans as Authoritative
In two instances (and there may be more; I only looked in detail at about 25% of the references Eggerichs used) he quotes pagans who are actively working against God in the story sympathetically, as examples to emulate.
a. The King’s Advisors in the Book of Esther becoming upset that wives may not respect their husbands
- In Esther 1, King Xerxes orders Queen Vashti to dance before his drunken guests, and she refuses. In response, the king’s advisors warn the king to take strict action against Vashti, “For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women, and so they will despise their husbands and say, ‘King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come.’ This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen’s conduct will respond to all the king’s nobles in the same way. There will be no end of disrespect and discord.” (verses 17 and 18)
- Eggerichs uses this passage to explain why men fear disrespect (as if we should be emulating pagans), pp. 57-58
- He later quotes: “Women virtually ask to be unloved when they “look down on their husbands.” Esther 1:17 (p. 59)
- It is the pagan nobles who are worried that wives will disrespect their husbands. Nowhere in the book is this lauded or called correct.
b. The Philistines’ attitude towards war
- Eggerichs writes: “a husband is geared to hear the command, “take charge and fight” (1 Samuel 4:9), p. 50
- In context, this is the exhortation given to the Philistines as they enter battle. The Israelites in this same story are instead relying on the ark of God rather than their own strength.
- Once again he uses an example of pagans to say, “this is the way men are”, even though in this story too the Philistines are not the ones to emulate.
2. Edits and Distorts Scripture to Change the Meaning
Love & Respect hinges on the thesis that women must show unconditional respect to their husbands. The only verse that Eggerichs uses to “prove” the unconditional part, though, is this:
- “The Bible teaches unconditional respect: “show proper respect to everyone… Not only to those who are good and considerate… but… harsh” (1 Peter 2:17-18), p. 43
The only problem? That’s not what these verses say, as I will share on social media later today:
Eggerichs took a command given to one group of people, and used qualifiers for it from an entirely different command given to an entirely different group of people. My husband cynically said, “Perhaps Eggerichs believes wives are slaves,” but regardless, this is an abominable way to treat Scripture.
But let’s assume that Emerson Eggerichs is right for a minute and that this text does teach us that we should give unconditional respect even to those who are harsh. Who is this text directed at? All believers. It is not written to women or to wives, but to everyone. Thus, if he is going to use this text to argue that women should give husbands unconditional respect, he should be intellectually consistent and use the text to argue that husbands should give wives unconditional respect, too.
3. Draws Conclusions Never Intended by The Text
a. Uses 1 Corinthians 7 to tell women, “if you think your husband doesn’t care about you, you’re wrong.”
Here is what Eggerichs gleans from 1 Corinthians 7:33-34:
“A scripture passage I often reference regarding goodwill in marriage is 1 Corinthians 7:33-34. Paul assumes that married couples in Corinth have goodwill toward each other. He points out than an unmarried man has more time for doing the Lord’s work but that a married man “is concerned about… how he may please his wife” (v. 33). Paul goes on to say that it s the same for a wife who “is concerned about… how she may please her husband” (v. 34). A good-willed husband does not try to displease his wife but to please her, as Paul clearly states in 1 Corinthans 7:33. I always urge a wife who is feeling unloved to be slow in asserting that her husband is unloving or does not want to love her. That is impugning an evil motive upon her husband, which is too drastic a judgement. True, a husband may not be as loving as he ought to be, but he is not consciously, willfully, and habitually trying to be unloving and displeasing. During those moments when a husband displeases a wife or a wife displeases her husband, it helps to keep certain scriptures in mind: “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41) and “Indeed there is not a righteous man [or woman] on earth who continually does good and who never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20)”
The purpose of 1 Corinthians 7:33-34 is Paul telling people that it is better to be single if you can, because a single person can devote their lives entirely to God, while someone who is married must focus on his wife as well.
Emerson Eggerichs uses this to tell women, “See! The Bible tells us that men are good-willed and care about their wives!” This is not what Paul ever intended by this passage.
b. Uses 1 Thessalonians 2:7 to say that the Bible teaches women are best qualified to care for children.
- Eggerichs says: “Despite feminism’s cries, a wife best qualifies as the one who “tenderly cares for her own children”” (1 Thessalonians 2:7), p. 200
- 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 actually says: “Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”
- This has nothing to do with women being best-qualified to care for children. Yes, women can nurse babies. But nowhere does the Bible say that women should be the primary caregivers, let alone this passage.
c. Uses 1 Peter 3:1-6 to tell women that they should not speak up if they are upset about something in marriage
Throughout the book Emerson Eggerichs quotes 1 Peter 3:1–that she should “win him without words”, and 1 Peter 3:4, that she should have a “gentle and quiet spirit”–to tell women that they should not speak up, but should stay silent and listen to their husbands’ insight.
It is said so many times I don’t want to list them all, but here are a few:
“The apostle Peter wrote to wives that if any husbands were disobedient to God’s Word, “they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior” (1 Peter 3:1–2; italics mine). Peter is definitely talking about unconditional respect. The husbands he mentions are either carnal Christians or unbelievers who are disobedient to the Word—that is, to Jesus Christ. God is not pleased with a man like this, and such a man does not “deserve” his wife’s respect. But Peter is not calling on wives to feel respect; he is commanding them to show respectful behavior. This is not about the husband deserving respect; it is about the wife being willing to treat her husband respectfully without conditions.” p. 18.
“What he is saying is that your quiet and gentle spirit will melt your man’s heart. If you’re in a conflict and you remain respectful and quiet as you distance yourself a bit instead of preaching, lecturing, or criticizing, what will he do? Well, it depends. If your quietness is the right kind of quietness—respectful and dignified, not pouty and sour—he will move toward you. He will want to comfort you and take care of you. In essence, he will want to show you love. For the good-willed husband, the wife’s quiet and respectful behavior will act as a magnet.” p. 220
- Peter is not talking about how a Christian couple handles conflict. Peter is talking to women in ancient Rome married to unChristian husbands, telling them how to help their husbands see Christ. In that society, wives could be killed for being disrespectful, and Peter and Paul’s aim was not to disrupt the social order, but to work within it. To use Peter telling wives to help their husbands come to Christ without preaching to them as instead Peter telling women not to speak up when something is bothering them in a Christian marriage is to misapply the passage.
- The Bible contains many positive examples of wives speaking up when husbands are in error: for example, Zipporah (Exodus 4:24-26); Sarah (Genesis 21:10-11); Pilate’s wife (Matthew 27:19). It shows strong women making up for the weaknesses of their husbands (see Abigail, 1 Samuel 25). And it condemns women for following their husbands unquestioningly (Acts 5:1-11).
d. Asserts incorrectly that only Eve heard the serpent
Totally deceived, Eve ate some of the fruit. Then Adam came up (or perhaps she went and found him). Eve gave Adam some of the fruit, and he ate as well (see Genesis 3:1–6).
It’s very telling how Eggerichs gets this wrong. The Bible tells us that Adam was with Eve the whole time (Genesis 3:6). One has to wonder why it is that when Eggerichs makes mistakes about Scripture, those mistakes line up with excusing men’s behaviour, and painting women’s in a worse light.
5. Uses Bible Verses to Disparage Women, but Not Men
Eggerichs quotes the Bible verses about nagging wives liberally in this book, but does not have an equivalent for husbands. Keith and I have already done a podcast looking at a blog post where Eggerichs uses the verses about nagging wives to silence women who may disagree with him. Just a few examples of what he does in the book:
- “It is better to live in a desert land than with a contentious and vexing woman” (Proverbs 21:19), p. 63. Eggerichs tells women that when they get negative in response to a husband’s stonewalling, they only hurt their marriages.
- “A wife “who brings shame” on her husband “is like the sickness in his bones.”” (Proverbs 12:14), p. 63. Eggerichs says that a wife’s scolding (again, speaking up when the husband is doing something wrong, like leaving wet towels on the bed) can start the Crazy Cycle.
The use of these verses paints women in a negative light compared to men, who are not given the same treatment.
Paints a Patriarchal Picture the Overall Context of the Bible Does Not
a. Asserts women are deceived so we shouldn’t listen to them
In his CHAIRS acronym of what respect means to men, I stands for Insight, or listening to his insight rather than hers. The main reason he gives for this is that women are deceived.
- “Is one automatically chauvinistic for asking a good-willed wife to consider that “it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman?” (1 Timothy 2:14), p. 230
Yet the 1 Timothy passage is written to correct a particular heresy rampant in Ephesus, and was not meant to be a treatise on women being deceived, because that interpretation is not in keeping with the rest of Scripture.
- Paul (the author of 1 Timothy 2:14) refers to 10 women in Romans 16, 7 of whom were his co-laborers in the gospel, among whom are apostles (Junia); teachers (Priscilla); and a deacon (Phoebe).
- God told Abraham to obey Sarah’s voice (Genesis 21)
- Mary Magdalene was appointed the apostle to the apostles, to tell them that Jesus rose from the dead. In a world that did not believe women’s testimony was equal to men’s, to put this message in the mouth of a woman was astounding.
- Women were prophetesses, such as Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, and more. In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul gives instructions on how women can prophesy in church.
- While 1 Timothy 2:14 does say that Eve was deceived, it does not say that women are any more likely to fall to deception than men. It merely sets the record straight about the Genesis story.
- The idea that women are not be listened to because they are deceived is not evident in Scripture–unless you choose to look at one verse out of context of the rest of the passage; out of context of how the author of that verse interacted with women; and out of context of how Jesus treated women.
b. Asserts that the main problem in the Genesis story is that Adam listened to his wife
- “Apparently, Eve concluded that she knew far more about what was best for her and her husband, and she influenced him to follow her lead. Adam “listened to the voice of [his] wife” and was cursed.” (230)
- Eggerichs believes Adam was cursed because he listened to the voice of his wife. Yet nowhere in Scripture do we find a theme that God is upset at men for listening to their wives. The issue in Genesis was not that Adam listened to his wife but that he listened to her about eating the fruit.
- Many counter-examples of men listening to women, or men refusing to listen to women at their own peril, can be found throughout Scripture. Curiously, Eggerichs doesn’t seem to mention them here.
To bring this home, let’s look at how Eggerichs practically applies this thought that men should not listen to their voices of their wives, while women should listen to the voices of their husbands:
For example, on occasion a husband may venture into that dangerous territory known as “Honey, you’re putting on a few pounds.” In truth, it is far more than a few pounds—his wife has let herself go, and he feels it is time to be honest. What he usually gets in return is, “You should love me no matter how I look.” Or he may be told he knows nothing about her eating disorder and that he should be checking on his own potbelly. If the husband is on the trim side (as many men with very overweight wives often are), she will bring up some other log that he needs to get out of his own eye—that time she caught him viewing Internet pornography or overindulging in alcohol.
The point is, it’s easy for a wife to discount or disparage a husband’s suggestion that she has some problem that needs correcting. Even if he is gentle and diplomatic in suggesting that she needs to make a correction to avoid hurting herself or others, he is quickly silenced. She is offended, wounded, and angered by his assessment. He is accused of being without understanding and compassion. He has no right to speak. And he will often wind up being shown contempt.
Eggerichs prefaces this passage using Scripture to say that women are frequently deceived and often resist listening to their husband’s voice, insisting instead that he listen to hers.
And then, once he’s “shown” that this is God’s will, Eggerichs writes this passage about a poor husband married to a wife whom he wants to lose weight. Please note that in this passage, the husband is asking the wife to lose weight, while the wife is replying that he may be drinking too much or watching porn. And Eggerichs says that to mention his porn use or drinking would be defensive, and giving him “no right to speak.”
I hope you can all see why this is problematic.
In Summary: Eggerichs Proof Texts Scripture to Support His Point that Men Should be in Hierarchy and Authority over Women.
He uses out of context verses, or even snippets of verses (or edited verses) to prove his point. He steers far from Jesus’ words or Jesus’ example, choosing instead to use verses that can more easily make his point.
He does not look at how the authors of these verses actually acted, nor how they treated women. He does not tell us the broader context or the story behind these passages. He does not use the passages for their original intent. Instead, he finds creative ways to use Scripture tidbits to prove patriarchy. He does not attempt to stay faithful to the original stories in Scripture, or the original intent in many of these passages, but instead uses them to support his view of male authority and female subordination.
This is not in line with how we should use Scripture, and it shows that Eggerichs is more committed to his own position than he is with learning what Jesus is actually teaching.
What do you think? Have you seen pastors do this with Scripture? How can we fight against this? Let’s talk in the comments!
Other Posts about the Issues in Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs
Must Read Overall Synopsis:
- Download our One-Sheet Summary of the Problems with Love & Respect
- Our Rubric and Scorecard Outlining Why Love & Respect Scored 0/48 on Healthy Sexuality
- An Outline of How Emerson Eggerichs Misuses Scripture in Love & Respect
- I’m Passing the Torch on Love & Respect. 10 Ways You Can Pick it Up
Basic Issues with Love & Respect:
- A Review of Love and Respect: How the Book Gets Sex Horribly Wrong
- Love and Respect: Why Unconditional Respect Can’t Work
- The Ultimate Flaw in the Book Love and Respect: Jesus Isn’t at the Center
- Is It Okay if Christian Marriage Books are Just a Little Bit Harmful?
Problems with How Emerson Eggerichs Handles Abuse:
- Dissecting a Sermon Series where Emerson Eggerichs Gaslights Abuse Victims
- Love & Respect is Being Used by the BDSM Community to Convince Wives to Submit to Domination
- How Emerson Eggerichs Misses Examples of Marital Rape
Podcasts Discussing these Issues:
- Why Unconditional Respect Isn't a Thing (and how the verse the book is based on, and the survey data the book is based on, don't hold water).
- An Example from Eggerichs' blog of Eggerichs Gaslighting Women (we work through line by line)
- Dissecting Eggerichs' Love & Respect Sermons at Houston's First Baptist Church, with His Dismissal of Abuse
- How Emerson Eggerichs Ignores Marital Rape, plus our interview with The Woman Crying in the Shower
- How Emerson Eggerichs Misuses Scripture in Love & Respect
- Our Love & Respect Wrap Up