Four Gracious Critiques of “The Five Love Languages”

Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages has sold over 13 million copies over the past almost-thirty years, making it one of the most popular Christianized self-help books ever. But how biblical is its message? How consistent is its counsel with the gospel, the message of the cross and Jesus’s call to self-denial?

Over the years, I’ve counseled and interacted with people who’ve adopted Chapman’s love languages as their relationship paradigm. Some found Chapman’s system helpful in understanding others, provided they knew how to discern Christ-centered truth from man-centered error; that is, how to eat the chicken and leave the bones. In some cases, however, the relational results have been disastrous, as the psychological system served to feed fleshly idols and selfish demands rather than growth in the sacrificial, Christlike love that flows from a proper understanding of the gospel.

Whether you think the love language formula is the best thing since sliced bread, or yellow flags popped up in your mind as you read it, you will find these four gracious critiques helpful and, I hope, will motivate you to love and esteem others as Christ loved you.

A Kind Critique of the Five Love Languages – In this 15-minute podcast, Dale Johnson interviews Jim Newheiser, Associate Professor of Christian Counseling and Pastoral Theology, and Director of Christian Counseling at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Love Speaks Many Languages Fluently – David Powlison’s article from 2002 is still, in my opinion, the most insightful critique of the love language paradigm.

Five Lust Languages? – A shorter read, Justin Taylor briefly summarizes Powlison’s article.

The Problem with Love Languages – This 3-minute video from Tim Challies is a simple, insightful critique that includes suggested ways to redeem this flawed system.

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