A few weeks ago, I wrote about my beef (no pun intended) with the book Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs. I wasn’t terribly surprised when a few commenters responded in favor of the book, saying it had helped them tremendously. If the reviews on Amazon are any indication, the book has apparently helped a good many people. I certainly won’t discount those experiences.
However, that does not make the doctrine the book is based upon sound or biblical. The book may have some mutual submission-sounding guidelines sprinkled in its text, but readers encounter Eggerichs’ true premise on the cover – before they even pluck the book from the shelf – and that premise becomes the (unbiblical) framework for everything that follows. THAT is the problem.
Over on the Homeschoolers Anonymous blog, one man is sharing his experience with the teachings of Bill Gothard, founder of the far-right Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP). The writer, Dash, does not hide his feelings nor mince words (all emphasis in the original):
The greatest and most dangerous fallacy that I hear from Gothard apologists is the argument “Gothard may be imperfect, but his teachings are still right.” This is blatantly false. Everything Gothard teaches is wrong, all of it, even his direct Scripture quotes, because the CONTEXT is wrong.
The second greatest fallacy I hear from Gothard apologists is “Many families have a great experience in IBLP and ATI. If your family had a bad experience, it’s because you misinterpreted Gothard’s intentions.” This is also blatantly false. I believe Gothard does in fact intend for parents to beat their children. […] If you got 4-5 years into ATI and you actually applied everything in the publications that Gothard sent you,…you would have had an identical experience to mine.
I want to put a stop to IBLP, and I want to end Gothard’s legacy as utterly as possible. […] I want to burn his entire legacy to the ground, and stand amid the ashes and say to the world, “This was a man who ruined thousands upon thousands of lives. Nothing to see here. Please move along.”
To those outside of Dash’s experience, his words may come across as unfairly bitter and vengeful. But when I read them, I see righteous indignation. This is a sentiment I understand. Fundamentalism destroys lives. Bad doctrine destroys lives. And I’m just as passionate about putting a stop to it. The Bible says that false teaching is like the yeast that is added to dough (Galatians 5:9). Once you put it in, it spreads quickly and is very difficult to neutralize. That’s why I’m thankful for people like Dash, who will speak forcefully against abusive teachings.
I believe, based on the words he purposely chose, that Eggerichs’ intention is to prioritize the needs of men and minimize the needs of women. It doesn’t matter that a few good people managed to pick out the biblical bits and apply them in a wholesome manner. What Eggerichs is teaching is wrong because the CONTEXT is wrong. No number of positive anecdotes can change that. The people who achieved a desirable outcome with these teachings would have very likely had the same experience with materials based on good doctrine.
There is a saying that has popped up in churches within the past few years: “Chew up the meat and spit out the bones.” The saying was originally invented to encourage parishioners to overlook some of the minor doctrinal differences expressed by their pastors. But somehow the phrase has been hijacked to cover false teachings as well. The problem with false teachings is that the bones are disguised to look like the meat. Thus, many people cannot tell the difference between the meat and bones of bad doctrine. While one person is carefully picking out the meat, five others are swallowing the bones wholesale. They won’t realize their error until long after they’ve digested the bones and attempt to squeeze out their product.
Hint: It’s rarely pretty or painless.
This is why we can’t be content to “chew up the meat and spit out the bones” of bad doctrine. While some individuals are praising the benefits they have gleaned from Eggerichs’ book, others fail to see how his teachings are adding to a culture that regularly shames and oppresses women. Bad doctrine yields bad fruit, and good fruit is measured by more than just a few positive results. Good fruit also refers to how well a doctrine aligns with the gospel and adheres to the spirit of Christ.
I am instantly alarmed when I hear the meat and bones analogy. My experience has been that in those cases, it’s all bones. People like Joel Osteen and Creflo Dollar are wolves and it is unwise to subject yourself to any manner of false teaching.
We all have access to a Bible, so we have the ability to compare teaching to the genuine article. I’ve been trying to study the Bible more in depth one book at a time. Not only do I watch or listen to expository commentaries, but I find a commentary to read in addition to reading the Bible to hopefully spot inconsistencies. As of yet, I have found only minor differences, usually due to translational issues. This is not to say that I am immune to to false teaching, but I am making an attempt not to put all of my eggs into one basket. I’m not looking for things that tickle my ears or sound appealing, I’m searching for biblical truth, not experiential emotionalism. It’s not all that hard to spot a counterfeit if you are diligently studying the genuine standard.
It has been an interesting journey of seeing the world differently when I left my Penecostal church and have studied other ways of seeing how God is held, the most fruitful being my Jewish roots getting really explored. Jesus is/was a Jew, and by studying the Torah is/was a great way to see how his spiritual beliefs helped him “fulfill the law”. The way is narrow and has at its base, love. The fear bound beliefs (I can think of NOTHING that a young child could do to need a beating…it was not necessary to do to my children, nor to my beloved grandchildren. I haven’t read these awful sounding books, anything that smells slightly of that craziness, I avoid. best of everything to you.
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High five for following up on your piece on Love & Respect. So glad you highlighted Dash’s story, I appreciate his voice on shouting from the rooftops to expose abusers. Emerson is smooth, he knows how to work the crowd and many Christians do not ask what his “pet doctrine” that drives his ministry/misery. I think I remember him telling us pew sitters that John McArthur mentored him, that is telling, don’t you think?
What is it that fundies of all stripes have with women? I read a piece today where a man said that he attended a service at a baptist church this past week, and the pastor in the pulpit shouted out to the congregation that it is:
A SIN FOR A MAN TO PEE WHILE SITTING DOWN!!!!
I think the question we all need to be asking is why the gospel rests in the care of so many lunatics—and who let that happen?
I’ll tell you who let it happen—lazy members of congregations who never read their Bibles in depth and switch off their brains on Sunday morning under the false assumption that every word dripping from the mouth of their preacher is a message directly from God. It ain’t!!!
Oh I have to read your review about Love and Respect because I’m getting married and our pastoral counselor recommends it. yikes!