Friday, February 16, 2007

Is Five Love Languages Biblical?

If you have ever read the very popular book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, then you need to read this very biblical review of the book by David Powlison. Powlison will graciously guide you into understanding love from a truly biblical perspective.

(HT: Between Two Worlds)


Justin said...

My problem with this review in taking a brief glance at it, is that the author treat's Chapman's book as if it was meant to be a systematic theology, which it clearly is not. Obviously there are some world view assumptions which need to be considered, however why not consider the potential truth/wisdom (which the reviewer identifies) use it, and discard the rest? While agreeing there are some potentially questionable assumptions about cause and motivation in the ideas expressed, I doubt Chapman intended his book to be a treatise on Christian theology. m2c

p.s. This comes from a position of ignorance having read only a portion of Chapman's book. :)

Jason Parker said...

Hi Justin,

Thanks so much for your comment. I am really glad to interact with you about this, because it provides a practical test case for what it means to be thoroughly biblical in our thinking. I hope what I say here will be helpful.

Here is the question we must ask. Is Chapman's book merely incomplete, or is it actually biblically wrong? The point of Powlison's review, and I agree, is that Chapman's book evidences a serious misunderstanding of sinful human nature and, consequently, a serious lack of appreciation for the biblical remedy - redemption through Christ.

Note what Powlison says:
"But speaking love languages is
surely not the whole story. In fact, it is practical,
immoral wisdom—manipulation or pandering
or both—when it becomes the whole story. Part
of considering the interests of others is to do
them tangible good. But then to really love
them, you usually need to help them see their
itch as idolatrous, and to awaken in them a far
more serious itch! That’s basic Christianity.
5LL will never teach you to love at this deeper,
more life-and-death level. Chapman’s reasons
for giving accurate love to others, his
explanation of what speaking another’s love
language does, his ultimate goal in marriage,
and his evaluation of the significance of love
languages are deplorable.
The core premises of 5LL are simply false.
They pander to the very problem that most
needs solving."

I won't go on giving quotes from Powlison to back this up. Just read his review thoroughly.

Chapman's views are based squarely on unbiblical ideas of human nature - unbibical ideas which contradict the gospel itself. So if we discard what is unbibilical about Chapman's views, we have basically discarded the whole book. In other words, while Chapman says some true things, his entire paradigm is off, which will lead us down a spiritually fruitless (and potentially destructive)path.

If we want to be followers of Jesus, we must learn to be relentlessly biblical (Ps 119:105). We must resist all philosophies which take us away from Christ (Col 2:8-10). People who read Chapman's book will never learn from it the truth we talked about in last Sunday's sermon - we simply cannot do righteousness apart from Christ. They will never learn the biblical definition of what true love is. They will never learn to repent of their sinful selfishness. They may well actually come to expect things that are misleading ("My love tank needs to be filled.").

So, in conclusion, can we learn from Chapman's book? In a sense, yes. I can learn from reading Friedrich Nietzsche, too. But I would certainly not recommend him as a biblical thinker or a good guide to life. Neither would I recommend Chapman as a reliable guide to a good marriage.

Kermit S. said...

I still thought that Powilison's review was a little extreme, stating "the core premises of 5LL are simply false".
Surely, if you listen to Gary Chapman's book you do not hear him quoting bible verses left and right. And Gary Chapman never claims that his book is "the whole story", it basically just providing tips on how to show love to your spouse and others more effectively. Your comment above states "I would certainly not recommend him as a biblical thinker or a good guide to life." Chapman doesn't ever claim to be a biblical thinker, or an end-all guide to life. But the tools and framework he provides seem to be really good ideas to show your love to others.

Anonymous said...

Kermit S. - "But the tools and framework he provides seem to be really good ideas to show your love to others." Bingo. The danger lies in showing YOUR love rather than CHRIST'S love. If it's love from the spirit, and you're a believer = great. If it's love from the flesh = problem. There is a difference; 5LL dangerously skirts that difference.