Saturday, March 14, 2009

Love and Respect 3

In Love and Respect Eggerichs writes,

    Gottman's findings confirm what has already been in Scripture for some two thousand years. Chapter 5 of Ephesians is considered by many to be the most significant treatise on marriage in the New Testament. Paul concludes these statements on marriage by getting gender specific in verse 33. He reveals commands from the very heart of God as he tells the husband he must love his wife unconditionally and the wife must respect her husband, whether or not her husband comes across as loving. page 35-36
Two things are at work here. First, Eggerichs wishes to reinforce the position of husbands as leaders in the home. He assumes the leadership of the male by writing approvingly of this attitude,

    He may not be perfect as the head of the family, but you are quite willing to allow him to live in that role as you submit to his leadership. (page 211)
Next, Eggerichs wishes to find that scripture and the best of modern social science fall together. He wants science to confirm scripture for him. (I think we all know what happens when this is applied in other fields. I remember distinctly being taken to see a documentary which portrayed the footprints of humans walking alongside dinosaurs. Certain Christians wanted science to validate scripture. This obscures clear vision. It was later proven that the tracks were not human.)

Here is the scripture text in question,

    however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. RSV

    Neuerthelesse, let euery one of you in particular, so loue his wife euen as himselfe, and the wife see that she reuerence her husband. KJV

    Neverthelesse do ye so that every one of you love his wyfe truely even as him silfe. And let ye wyfe se that she feare her husbade Tyndale
There is no doubt that the word in Greek has as its primary meaning "fear." Phobeomai in the Liddell Scott Jones lexicon means "to be put to flight," "to be siezed with fear," "to be afraid," and "to stand in awe or dread of." In the BDAG, it is "to be afraid" and "to have a profound measure of respect for, reverence, respect with special reference to fear of offending."

The use of phobeomai in collocation with "God" indicates that it means to "respect someone who is stronger than you." Eggerichs is clear that when he uses the word respect he does mean to validate hierarchy with the husband at the head of the hierarchy. He writes,
    If you want a Love and Respect marriage, do not argue or fight against hierarchy. (page 213)
I understand Eggerichs to be saying that a wife gains love by acknowledging that she is in a hieararchical relationship with her husband, with him on top. The author of Ephesians does tell the wife to phobeomai her husband. He clearly says then that the wife must view the husband as having more power in the relationship.

However, there is a disagreement about whether we now interpret this author to be saying that the husband has earthly power, as does a slave owner or an emperor, or natural power as an adult does in relation to a child; or whether, as some theologians teach, it means that God intends the husband to exercise power over the wife.

I would argue that the author of Ephesians is commenting on the fact that the husband at that time had more power in the marriage relationship. A wife could not change this. In the same way, slaves were told to obey their earthly masters.

The first difficulty with Eggerichs use of the term "respect" is whether the English word "respect" conveys this difference in hierarchy and whether it can also be used of the way a husband is to treat his wife.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary says of "respect" - 1 regard with deference, esteem or honour. 2a avoid interfering with, harming, degrading, insulting, injuring or interrupting. 2b treat with consideration 2c refrain from offending, corrupting or tempting.

Other definitions and uses of the English word "respect" indicate that whle it can be used with reference to a hierarchical regard, it does not necessarily entail hierarchy. While Eggerichs uses the word "respect" to indicate hierarchy, Gottman does not. Gottman clearly says that "love and respect" are "mutual" and he speaks approvingly of "power-sharing." I am not aware of any social science articles that confirm the notion that hierarchical relationships provide more love for those under hierarchy than non-hierarchical relationships.

I will continue in my next post with a look at other ways Eggerichs uses the word "respect" and whether the scriptures specifically require a husband to respect his wife or not. There is more to be written about the Greek word phobeomai and its near synonym tima├┤.


Lin said...

Great points, Suzanne!

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog and wanted to say that I love it! The writing and logic is great and refreshing to read.