Well, I wanted to begin my series of book reviews with a radically positive, gospel-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated, God-glorifying book. And there are some out there. I happened to just be finishing a book about marriage, so I decided to begin with it while it was fresh on my mind. So I won't begin with a gospel-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible saturated, God-glorifying book. Rather, I'll begin with one that claims to be some of those things, but I fear misses the mark.
It's not that I don't think husbands and wives can be helped by reading the book I'm about to introduce. The problem is I think any husband or wife, regardless of religion, culture, background, or goals could get help from this book on how to have a more comfortable marriage. I don't think the book begins with ultimate questions, therefore it ends with sub-ultimate counsel that ultimately won't achieve the right goals. In other words, if a self-absorbed husband and wife - trapped in the bondage of worshiping one another - sits down with this book, they could very well come out on the other side more proficient idolaters than when they began. If a self-absorbed husband and wife - burdened by the relentless nature of behavioral therapy - follows the counsel in this book, they could very well remain self-righteous legalists. That's where the danger lies. Even while the book is spot on in its diagnosis of relational issues from a human perspective, I wonder how well the offered prescription leads couples away from themselves and onto Jesus Christ.
The book I want to review is Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. I've been bombarded by this book's advertising for quite some time, which caused me to buy it only reluctantly. I thought I knew what it would be like. Number one, it's a Focus on the Family book. That tells the psychological, behavioral bent it will have. Number two, the cover speaks of, "The Respect He Desperately Needs." When I see language like that describing anything other than Jesus Christ, a red flag goes up in my head. Number three, when a book is book of the year at Family Christian Stores, and number 303 in all of Amazon.com, and number 1 in Christian marriage at Amazon.com, and number 2 in general marriage at Amazon.com, I question how God-glorifying it can be and yet be so appealing to such a wide variety of readers. Number four, when the back cover promises, "A Revolutionary Message" I tend to squirm. Number five, when a book promises I'll, "Discover the Single Greatest Secret to a Successful Marriage" I almost have to laugh. But I eventually bought a copy out of guilt, because I knew some folks who've read it, and I wanted to know how to interact with its content.
For starters, I want to say I don't think the book is heretical. While I disagree with it to some extent, there are parts that are downright good. I think the author has a sincere desire to help couples who feel trapped in what Eggerichs calls "The Crazy Cycle." He wants to help couples go from "The Crazy Cycle" to "The Energizing Cycle" and "The Rewarded Cycle."
The book begins with Part One: The Crazy Cycle. In this section, Eggerichs describes marriages that are conflicted with husbands who won't love and wives who won't respect. While he accurately describes couples in conflict, I fear he doesn't take seriously just how depraved we all are. He doesn't allow Scripture to shape his view of man. Rather, he just assumes the best about man, contrary to reality. He writes more from a secular psychological view of man than from a biblically informed theological perspective. He assumes those reading his book are what he terms "good-willed people." By that he means "that both of these people love each other a great deal. They do not mean real harm; they do not intend real evil toward one another. They are hurt and angry, but they still care deeply for one another." I simply don't agree with this assessment of any married couple. Yes, couples love each other. But many of us have seen these same couples commit atrocious acts toward one another, especially when they decide they've had enough. There's a thin line between love and hate in marriage. In fact, spouses have killed their mate - out of love. The most loving married couples can go out of their way to destroy one another in divorce - in a matter of days. James 4 gives a much more realistic view of man than Dr. Eggerichs.
Furthermore, Eggerichs believes that the wife needs love and the husband needs respect like they need air. When husbands and wives don't give love and respect, they are in essence, "stepping on my air hose!" I find this a little too strongly stated. This assumption is dangerous. It's assuming a man can't live without a woman's respect, and a woman can't live without a man's love. That's just biblically inaccurate and actually contradicts Paul's message in 1 Corinthians 7. So the overall problem with Part One is that it begins its diagnosis of marriage problems with years of counseling experience rather than a biblically informed view of man's depravity and lovelessness. Therefore, I believe Eggerichs goes into Part Two: The Energizing Cycle with an incomplete diagnosis of the problem. For the sake of brevity, I'll continue this review tomorrow.