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.