Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Jonathan Edwards on the Trinity

Consisting of an Inquiry into the Nature and Essence of the Most Excellent
and Glorious Godhead, and the Relation of the Persons thereof to One Another, 
Taken up for Explanatory Reflection by one of the most Brilliant 
and Profound Theologians in History
"The Best of Human Reason Perplexed by Divine Perfection"

This post wouldn't be complete without a Puritan-style title, for it features one of the greatest of their line. Following a complex essay on the nature of the Trinity, written in his characteristic, mind-bendingly logical style, Edwards concludes thus:

"But I don't pretend fully to explain how these things are and I am sensible a hundred other objections may be made and puzzling doubts and questions raised that I can't solve. I am far from pretending to explaining the Trinity so as to render it no longer a mystery. I think it to be the highest and deepest of all divine mysteries still, notwithstanding anything that I have said or conceived about it. I don't intend to explain the Trinity. But Scripture with reason may lead to say something further of it than has been wont to be said, tho there are still left many things pertaining to it incomprehensible. It seems to me that what I have here supposed concerning the Trinity is exceeding analogous to the Gospel scheme and agreeable to the tenour of the whole New Testament and abundantly illustrative of Gospel doctrines, as might be particularly shewn, would it not exceedingly lengthen out this discourse."

(from Edwards' Essay on the Trinity, as reproduced in Jonathan Edwards: Representative Selections, with Introduction, Bibliography, and Notes, Revised Edition, by Clarence H. Faust and Thomas H. Johnston, New York: Hill and Wang, 1935 & 1962, page 381)

Note the principles of Edwards' theological method:

1. Edwards accepted the fact that there are theological mysteries that cannot be fully explained.
2. Edwards acknowledged, even after extensive study and attempts to harmonize, that there were not only a few things, but "many things ... incomprehensible," pertaining to the Trinity.
3. Edwards recognized there were logical holes in his presentation, and admitted that his own reasoning was not sufficient to fill in these logical holes.
4. Edwards nonetheless accepted "Scripture and reason" as the guiding principles of his theological inquiry.
5. Edwards tested his reasoning by comparing it to the "Gospel scheme" and evaluating its agreeableness to the "whole tenour of the New Testament." He practiced Gospel-centered, Biblical reasoning within the accepted mystery of the Biblical revelation.
6. Edwards stood by the doctrine of the Trinity, not because he could present it in a perfectly coherent fashion, but on the firmer ground of Biblical revelation taken as far as reason could go with it.
7. Edwards wisely chose not to remove any part of the doctrine in order to make it fit within the bounds of his own intellectual capacities.

It is instructive to note that, in Edwards, the affirmation of mystery did not lead to a repudiation of logic, or the slightest mitigation of logical inquiry. Rather, Edwards humbly acknowledged the limitations of human reason while upholding the supreme reasonableness of the Scriptures themselves.

Let us likewise affirm the mysteries of Scripture, and both the necessity and limitations of human reason, in all our study of the Truth of God.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Improbability of God - A Response to Dawkins' Argument

I received this note from my friend, Chris DeVidal . . .

Found this on, website for Edgar Andrews' new book. Edgar is a Christian apologist and brilliant scientist with more letters behind his name than in his name.

He says, "The argument for the improbability of God, as advanced by Dawkins, seems to boil down to the following reasoning: (1) By common consent, the world is a highly improbable and complex system; (2) if God created the world He must be more complex than the world He created; therefore (3) God is less probable than the world; indeed, He is fantastically improbable; so (4) God probably doesn’t exist."

Since this world is so very complex, atheists rejoice in its rare existence (and in a way, I think they are right in rejoicing).

Since I personally know this God and know that He exists, and I know of His immense complexity (with all of its corresponding apparent paradoxes), and since this apparently means the probability of such a God existing is so very, very, very slight, all the more so I REJOICE in the rarity and preciousness and holiness (other-ness) of this God!!

Truly, there is NONE like Him!

Thank you Dawkins. Romans 8:28 :-)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Flip Side of Grace

Ten years ago, I heard someone say, "Thanks is the only thing you can give to God that He didn't give you first." At the time, I thought that was fairly profound. But then I made a discovery.

The Greek word for "grace" is also the word for "thanks" (Greek CHARIS). Some related Greek words are EUCHARISTIA (thankfulness, the giving of thanks - 15 occurrences in the NT), EUCHARISTEO (to be grateful, feel thankful - 39 occurrences in the NT), and EUCHARISTOS (thankful, mindful of favors - one occurrence). Notice that each of these words contains the root, CHARIS (this word is translated 130 times in the NASB as "grace," and 11 times as some form of  "thank-").

So, while the thought that we can give God something He didn't give us first is pithy-sounding, it is in reality nothing more than a religious cloak placed on the proud affirmation of a race that desperately wants to take credit for the genius of its majestic Creator. Even gratitude doesn't start with us; it's just the flip side of grace. Every grace package comes with a thankful response inside, like a self-addressed, postage-paid "business reply" card. We can't take any credit for it, but when we send it back we are telling God we received His gift. And we're requesting a lifetime subscription. Everything's paid for already - even the thankful attitude. Like faith and joy and love, it doesn't originate with us.

Every good thing that is given to us, as well as every evil thing that is used for our good (per Romans 8:28), is a gift of grace. Gratitude is the response of a heart that knows this. It is grace received and acknowledged, to the glory of God. For from Him, and to Him, and through Him are ALL THINGS.

There's nothing you or I can give to God, which He did not first give to us. Nothing.

You and I probably have a pile of those reply cards stashed away somewhere (try looking under your favorite collection of bitter complaints, they might be buried underneath). Let's drop those cards in the mail.

O Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Meet Dr. Andreas Kostenberger

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of meeting the esteemed Dr. Andreas Kostenberger, professor of New Testament and Director of Ph.D Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (located in Wake Forest, NC). Dr. Kostenberger happened to be visiting my pastor, and the two of them graciously allowed me the opportunity for some theological discourse over a cup of coffee. It was a joy to discuss some of our shared values: inerrancy, orthodoxy, love for family and devotion to Christ. Of course, I had to go to the farthest reaches of my Biblical and theological knowledge in order to engage in a relevant conversation with a scholar of his caliber, but Kostenberger's gracious attitude went a long way toward filling in the knowledge gap. Here is his academic credential: Mag. et Dr. rer. soc. oec., Vienna University of Economics; M.Div., Columbia Biblical University; Ph.D., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. That's "smart" with a capital S.

Dr. Kostenberger is not a "speculative" theologian with a focus on philosophical systematics. He's a solid textual and exegetical thinking machine with a deep insight into Biblical cultures, history and hermeneutics. In this sense, his works are intended to offer more of a concrete, foundationally grounded exegesis than a philosophical theology. His scholarship "in the trenches" of the text would form the solid base that underlies a "bigger picture" approach, such as that taken by men like J.I. Packer or John Piper. Without excellent, conservative scholarship of this type, there could be no basis for a THEOparadox (other than pure, simplistic Biblicism, I suppose).

Here is a short video of Dr. Kostenberger talking about his new commentary on the Johannine literature. 

Here is Dr. Kostenberger teaching about qualifications for ministry and the importance of family relationships at a conference. It's a great message for anyone considering going into the ministry, or any position of leadership in a local church.

Dr. Kostenberger's website: Biblical Foundations
Dr. Kostenberger's blog:       Biblical Foundations Blog
NOTE: They are currently giving away several copies of the commentary on John, for ministry-minded people who will use the book in ministry.
Dr. Kostenberger's many publications can be found here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I ran across a great article by Nathan Tiemeyer, a pastor who writes at a team blog called Every Square Inch. The article, which addresses the topic of divine mystery, is reprinted below. "Every Square Inch" is based on this Abraham Kuyper quote:
There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, "This is  mine! This belongs to me!"
That's a comprehensive view of the Lordship and sovereignty of Christ, and of His relevance in regard to EVERYTHING else. Kuyper would not have been overstating the case if he had mentioned sub-atomic particles and quarks as well. When it comes to ownership of knowledge, we often forget that Jesus Christ has absolute authority over every bit of Fact and Truth that exists, and He is not required to share ANY of it. We forfeited the privilege of possessing real knowledge when we traded THE TRUTH OF GOD for a lie back in the garden. We traded it for the mere "knowledge of good and evil," and the only way back to the knowledge of God is through His sovereign work of grace. Although original sin and total depravity don't seem fair to us, we need to look no further than our own lives in order to prove them. You and I have lost our moral rights completely, and must now rely entirely on the grace and mercy of the Supreme God. Ironically, that's a wonderful position to be in, for the particular kind of knowledge God is most pleased to bestow on sinners is the knowledge of Himself - not just the facts, but also a relational reality. Such mercy is entirely undeserved, and is a precious gift - as is the next breath you and I will take, should God allow. 

Although He makes us His friends and reveals Himself to us through the brilliant, soft gleam of creation and the more explicit  floodlight of His Word, there remain vast recesses of God's nature and essence about which even the most theologically astute person is totally unaware. The best theologian can't even think of the questions or articulate the categories or conceive of the possibilities in God's infinite depths. At the same time, even a child can know with certainty that those unrevealed areas do not in any way contradict the broad attributes He has revealed about Himself: That He is love, that He is just, that He is holy, that He is eternal, that He is pure, that He is good, that He is kind, that He is wrathful against sin, that He is truthful, that He is triune, that He is almighty, that He is unchanging in His essence, that He is judge, that He is merciful, that He is sovereign, that He is the Source of all that is good and noble and right and true. In the physical world, the interplay of light and shadow enhance beauty. Dark and light sharpen contrast, deepen clarity, and establish focus.

The article below is an excellent resource for anyone interested in the role of mystery in our understanding of God and His ways. Although many in our day have abused the truths of divine incomprehensibility and the human limits of epistemology, Tiemeyer presents a well balanced and theologically grounded case for mystery, based in part on a very well thought out overview of the book of Job. Enjoy these words of wisdom. 

In Defense of Mystery
By Nathan Tiemeyer

Left to my own devices, I don’t care a great deal for genuine mystery. In saying that, I don’t at all mean that I dislike, say, mystery as a method of story-telling. I’m a devoted fan of the TV show Lost, for example. That show’s ability to keep me and every other viewer constantly wondering is part of its enormous appeal. No, what I mean is that I’m not naturally given to embracing things in my real life circumstances that I can’t completely get my mind around. I’m often frustrated by—and sometimes even fearful of—things I don’t fully understand. My guess is that I’m far from alone in feeling this way.

This natural inclination, however, is somewhat at odds a biblical notion of the Christian faith. What I mean is that the Bible’s presentation of God and his interaction with creation (including and especially human beings) includes no small measure of the utterly mysterious. An obvious example: at some level, almost every Christian (let alone those outside the faith) wrestles with the question of how evil can exist along with a God who is both all-powerful and completely good. Or consider a related question recently discussed on this blog: how can God be both completely sovereign over our lives and yet we retain the ability to make meaningful choices, choices for which we are justly held fully responsible? Or how can God be both one God and three distinct persons, equal in power and glory? How can Jesus Christ be both fully God and fully man? How can the Bible be mediated through sinful and limited human authors—to the point that their distinct perspectives shine through their individual contributions—and remain ultimately the unified work of God himself, unadulterated and authoritative?

It’s certainly true that Christians are often willing to give up one or more of the beliefs listed above in order to relieve the tension of the apparent mysteries involved. But none of these difficult-to-reconcile statements are easily dismissed if we approach the Bible seriously. In fact, I would feel quite confident in arguing that each one of them enjoys the support of passage after passage within the Scriptures. (Unless we take their human authors to be bumbling idiots, relentlessly blind to the potentially knotty implications of what they assert, this is surely significant.) And in any case, I don’t think any Christian can give them all up and stay within the pale, so to speak.

So it seems that we need to come to terms with the mysterious. Interestingly, the same Bible that presents us with so many difficulties also provides the means to come to some manner of terms with them. For just one example, consider the conclusion to the book of Job. To summarize the plot: Job, a genuinely upright man becomes the focal point of a wager or contest between God and Satan. In the course of this contest, God gives Satan permission (!) to inflict Job with nearly incomprehensible suffering, including the loss of his family, his wealth, and his physical well-being. After a period of silent misery, Job begins a long lament, which includes defending himself against his friends’ belief that his own sin is the cause of his suffering. Finally, his understandable dismay at his predicament leads Job to openly charge God with injustice while defending his own integrity. His last extended discourse begins with these words: “As God lives, who has taken away my right…” (27:2, italics mine. I owe this observation to D. A. Carson's How Long O Lord, 166).

It is extremely important to note how God responds to this. Chapter 38 begins, “Then the Lord answered Job out the whirlwind and said….” Interestingly, what follows is not a direct explanation and defense of God’s conduct (or lack thereof) in regard to Job’s circumstances. Rather, God proceeds to ask Job a series of questions, including:

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone…? (38:4-7)

Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this. Where is the way to the dwelling of light, and where is the place of darkness, that you may take it to its territory and that you may discern the paths to its home? You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great. (38:17-121)

Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go and say to you, “Here we are?” Who has put wisdom in the inward parts or given understanding to the mind? (38:35-36)

God then concludes his initial response with this pointed question: “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it” (40:2). Job’s reply—noteworthy for its marked changed in tone—is to confess, “Behold I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.” (40:4-5).

But God is not done. He launches into another series of questions with the following words: “Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you will make it known to me. Will you put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?” (41:7-8). God then proceeds to asks Job if he can tame the great Behemoth and Leviathan. Job’s final reply is again worthy of mention:

I know that you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. “Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?” Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. “Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.” I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes (42:2-6).

Note that in all of this God never directly answers Job's charge and the implied question behind it (how can this be?). But he does answer. His point is not to assert, “I’ll do whatever I want regardless of whether it is just or unjust.” Rather—and this is crucial—it is along the following lines: if Job cannot understand and/or accomplish these ways and deeds of God, then it stands to reason that God might be capable of other things which Job cannot completely fathom, namely, bringing about Job’s suffering without sacrificing his just character. In other words, Job should not expect to understand all God’s dealings because he is Job—a finite, mortal man—and not God. Judging from Job’s brief replies to the Lord’s questioning, this is a fact that he indeed comes to grasp very well.

Please don’t misunderstand my point in relating all of this. I don’t suggest that any time we run up against something difficult to grasp, we should immediately retreat to throwing up our hands and proclaiming God and his ways to be an incomprehensible mystery. He has, after all, revealed to us a great deal of truth, truth available for us to carefully mine. We should do that as far as we're able. In fact, the church has a long history of sustained reflection on each of the doctrines mentioned above, which has done much to further, if not completely satisfy, our understanding of them.

But eventually, we'll run up against that which we won't fully understand. And what I do want us to consider is this: if God is really the God the Bible clearly describes him to be, if he really does have all that knowledge, wisdom, and power, wouldn’t it make sense for his being and ways to provide us with a substantial element of mystery? Even further, might it be somewhat alarming if they didn’t? Is a God completely or even largely comprehensible to human beings--we who have such a sterling record of understanding and wisdom--really God at all?

It’s something to think about at least. Maybe mystery isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Needs & Neediness - Part 2

Editor's Note: this is a long and fairly technical article, mostly due to the complexity of the subject, and the logic and Biblical studies involved. I have highlighted the more edifying or devotional parts in red. For readers who are not particularly interested in all of the details, you may find it useful to skim through and read the red highlights.
Editor's Note #2: This series was written in response to a question posed by Barry Wallace at this post. Although I'm going to argue my case strongly, I still respect Barry's opinion and won't be surprised if he disagrees with me. I could be wrong. But let the reader take all of the evidence into consideration and make his or her own decision. We're working on a sub-point here, not the essentials of the Gospel or the basics of Christian orthodoxy - although those things certainly play a part in the discussion. And I have no doubt that Barry and I would be in perfect harmony regarding those matters.
Editor's Note #3: Sorry for the way this looks. There are a ton of bugs in the new blogspot text editor, and I can't get it to format correctly to save my life. I've decided to give up on the aesthetics and just post this the way it is.
In part 1, we established some of the linguistic parameters of the word "need."

1. A "need" is defined by its associated purpose. (for example, I need light in order to see)
2. We can only legitimately use the word "need" when there is a clearly defined relationship of dependency between the subject, the object, and the purpose. (for example, my eyesight depends on light, and without light it is impossible for me to see - SUBJECT: Eyesight; OBJECT: Light; PURPOSE: Seeing).
Now I will attempt to show how and why these linguistic parameters - and Scripture - make the concept of "emotional needs" an illegitimate illusion. At the same time, I am going to be very careful to affirm that we have real needs similar to those usually touted as "emotional needs." Thus, it's not surprising that so many people embrace the emotional needs model of human behavior. The aim here, however, is to apply very precise Biblical thinking to the topic.
What is an "emotional" need? 
First, let's look at how secular psychiatrists talk about emotional needs (note the purpose and dependency in these statements) . . .
. . . our emotional needs often define the finer points of our relationships. Psychologist Dennis Sugrue says we must acknowledge those emotional needs before we can find someone who can fill them. "A need for intimacy, for sexual gratification and satisfaction, a need to be honored and understood and even accepted by our partner, these are all important aspects of who we are. Each of us has our own way in which these needs must be met in order to feel happy and secure" says Sugrue , an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan Medical School . . .  (Source:
But the happiness and security of a Christian come from God, not another person. Professor Sugrue apparently recognizes a potential problem with the psychological view and goes on to say this . . .
"If you are looking to a partner to make you feel worthwhile, to make you feel happy, to rescue you from a bored or unhappy life, if you are seeking someone to make you feel complete or whole -- well then you have some work to do, because these are needs that are never going to be met by any one other than yourself." (Source:
So, what distinguishes emotional needs that should be met by others from "work" that we must do ourselves? The professor does not elaborate on this distinction. Notice that the focus in this approach is on the assumption that one needs to feel a certain way and must depend on others to make this happen.
Now let's look at the approach taken by a Christian psychologist, Dr. Willard F. Harley, who authored the well known book, His Needs, Her Needs. Dr. Harley offers the following definition . . .
What is an emotional need? It is a craving that, when satisfied, leaves you with a feeling of happiness and contentment, and, when unsatisfied, leaves you with a feeling of unhappiness and frustration. There are probably thousands of emotional needs. A need for birthday parties, peanut butter sandwiches, Monday Night Football, I could go on and on. Some people have some of those needs while others have different needs. If you feel good doing something, or if someone does something for you that makes you feel good, an emotional need has been met. (Source: 
Now, that's a broad definition! Note carefully the number of Biblical references used to support this astounding claim. According to Dr. Harley, you and I are just brimming with oodles and oodles of "needs" all the time. We're slaves to our "cravings" and whatever makes us "feel good." And apparently the people who have the misfortune of being in proximity of demanding black holes of "need" like us are supposed to be fulfilling our cravings continually. 
A Few Problems . . .
-The term "emotional need" implies that in some way I depend on emotions. This is a huge problem, because reliance on emotion for anything is a road to disaster. Emotions are unstable by definition, and we must avoid every inclination to become dependent on them. Being reliable is not the job of an emotion because it is designed to be an effect rather than a cause.

-The term "emotional need" also implies that some legitimate (i.e. God-ordained and God-sanctioned) purpose can only be fulfilled after the presence of specific emotions has been established. This again is a huge problem, because it makes a legitimate purpose, for which man bears a responsibility, dependent on something that is inconstant (and often downright volatile) by definition.

We should grant, a la John Piper, that emotions play a key role in some of the commands God has given us. After all, how does one "shout for joy" without the involvement of feelings? However, we must not think the source of these Biblically mandated emotions is outside of God and His Word. Nor are these commands to be interpreted as beginning with emotion. Nor may we ever say that God commands us to make another person feel a certain way; rather, we are commanded to choose, think and do things which will inevitably result in particular emotions becoming increasingly present in us. As a specific focus for this article, we will show that obedience to marriage-related commands is never in any way dependent on emotions.
Note: we are not minimizing the significance of feelings. Rather, we are attempting to view them in their proper Biblical role, as intended by their Creator - nothing more, nothing less.
What's the Purpose?

It has been said that a man must love his wife because this is her greatest emotional need. As a corollary, it has been said that a woman must respect her husband because this will meet his greatest emotional need. Let's examine these claims carefully.
If I have a legitimate need for respect from my wife, what is the related purpose, and is it true that this purpose cannot be fulfilled in any other way than by a feeling that she is respecting me? In other words, what is the purpose of marriage, and how is it fulfilled? Clearly, the primary purpose of Christian marriage is to illustrate the Gospel, the story of Christ's love for His Church. For this purpose to be fulfilled, there must be several things: one man and one woman, for starters. There must also be love. And there must be respect. No problems there. But there must also be some disrespect, and there must sometimes be a lack of love. I'm sure I've just shattered someone's dream. Sorry, but it's true. I'll try to explain . . .

Does my wife's occasional (or extended) disrespect nullify the ability of my marriage to reflect Christ's love for His Church? Certainly not. Rather, it makes the picture that much more real, and it provides me with an opportunity to express an even greater love than I ever could if my "emotional need" for respect was continually and perfectly being filled. Christ died for a Church that had NO RESPECT for Him, and rather chose to kill Him. That is ultimate disrespect, and yet it is an essential element of the Gospel story. Christ died for sinners, evildoers and wretches. And if we didn't continue to struggle with sin after conversion, we would surely swell up with something even worse: Gospel-shrouding pride and cross-stifling self-righteousness!
Does my occasional (or extended) failure to effectively show love for my wife nullify the ability of my marriage to reflect the Church's high view of Christ? Certainly not. Rather, it makes the picture that much more real - not because Christ fails in any way to love the Church, but because the Church so often doubts her Lord's love for her. My very real lack of love for my wife elicits in her the same opportunity for faith and obedience that is produced in the Church whenever she feels that Christ's love for her is inadequate (though this feeling is unwarranted). Under suffering and strain, believers become fearful, and we sometimes lose sight of the imperishable love that undergirds us. But faith continues on through these times, through the dark night of the soul and on into the renewed brightness of morning. Eventually we rediscover the undying love that was always there. Likewise, a wife finds great blessing in Christ as she perseveres under the sufferings wrought by a hard-headed and hard-hearted husband (to be clear, I am not speaking here of abuse, but unfulfilled desires).
So, rather than diminishing the Gospel picture that is portrayed through Christian marriage, failures in love and respect become occasions for the Gospel to shine that much brighter! The trouble with the "emotional needs" teaching is that it implies I must feel Christ's love in order for the Gospel's purpose to be fulfilled in my life. It implies that He must feel my respect in order for the Gospel's purpose to be fulfilled through Him. And I am woefully incapable of producing those feelings in Him!
I am grateful that Christ loves me faithfully even when I fail to respect Him. I am grateful for the times I have continued to trust Him, even though I didn't feel His love. I am also grateful for the times I have been able to love my wife in spite of her struggles with submission. And I am exceedingly grateful for the Gospel's work in her, enabling her to respect me even when I have fallen terribly short of the mark in my love for her.
There is a very legitimate and real need for love and respect, in order for the Gospel picture to be portrayed in marriage, and there is also a legitimate need for their opposites. Without failure there can be no illustration of grace, forgiveness, and growth. The positive side of this equation is provided by God Himself, and the negative side - the failure - is supplied by us. Taken together, all of this paints the very best picture of the Gospel. None of this has anything at all to do with the emotions produced in one spouse by the conduct of the other. In fact, it is precisely at the times when I don't feel respected by my wife that I am most tempted to sin against her - and it is precisely at these times that my demonstrated love for her, springing from a reliance on God's grace and not from a dependence on my emotions, is most powerfully portraying the Gospel. In short, the ability of my marriage to illustrate the Gospel depends more on God's grace than it does on my emotions. In fact, with God's grace in view, my emotions become quite irrelevant to the purpose of marriage.
Emotional needs are neither legitimate nor real. They simply do not exist, because there is nothing Biblically essential that depends on the feelings generated by my response to another person's actions. Scripture calls me to obediently love my wife, with or without a feeling of respect from her. It calls her to respect me, with or without the feeling that I love her. This is why Ephesians 5 contains marital instruction in the form of commands, and not a single mention of emotions or feelings. 

With all of this in mind, let's consider this text, which might be considered definitive on the topic of needs:
II Peter 1:1-4 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust (Gk. EPITHUMIA - more on this word later).

The clear implication is that there is no legitimate purpose pertaining to life and godliness for which the ultimate dependence is on anything other than God and His Word. Relating this to our discussion, the respect of my wife is a product of God's work in her through the Gospel, and my love for her is also produced by His love for me.  A Biblical marriage is one in which both partners are drawing strength and comfort directly from God, and then sharing the benefits of that relationship with one another. Union with God is primary, marital union is secondary. The alternative is idolatry. 
There is no problem with saying, "A Christian marriage cannot fulfill its primary purpose without love from the husband and respect from the wife." God's marriage plan involves many legitimate needs and purposes. The husband is needed. The wife is needed. The Gospel is needed. Love is needed. Respect is needed. The fact that these components are needed is Biblically true and undeniable, and there are purposes and dependencies tied to each of them. But to call any of these components an "emotional need" is another thing entirely. Emotions aren't needs and needs aren't emotions.
Biblical sanctification is intended to change our basis of decision-making from an emotionally-oriented pattern to a command-and-promise-oriented path. It is designed to lead us away from a focus on what other people aren't doing for us, and toward a discovery of what we can and should do for them (in response to what He has done for us). Indeed, a lifestyle in which we "take up our cross daily" assures us that we will suffer. When I stop depending on my wife's respect - and the wonderful feelings I have when I am basking in the glow of it - I get the privilege of dying to self and finding a new life in Christ. This is the life of divine power and grace that is sustained by heaven's authority and is free from the uncertainties of earth-life. I must not demand that my wife fill me up with good emotions, for she is as undependable as I am. Relying on God means there is abundant supply and nothing essential is missing, ever. I have to die to my idolatrous dependence on her, and live in full dependence on Him. If the feeling that my wife respects me is not an "emotional need," what is it? The last word from the passage quoted above is not there by accident. That which corrupts the world also corrupts man's understanding of psychology - and it corrupts good marriages, too.

Distinguishing Needs from Desires

Bear in mind that Dr. Willard F. Harley defined emotional needs as "cravings." This is the perfect word for what we falsely call "emotional needs." a "need" and a "craving" are two entirely different things. Anything I need in order to create a feeling is nothing more than a craving! There is a huge difference between a legitimate spiritual or physical need and the mere "craving" of a sinful heart.

Let's compare the two:

Needs are a matter of fact. Desires are a matter of will.
Needs are objective. Desires are subjective.
Needs are fixed by purpose. Desires are subject to change by the whims of the human heart.

Knowing the difference between the two is essential, but certain universal sinful tendencies lead us to confuse them.

Idolatrous desire/lust/coveting (a.k.a. craving) leads us to think of mere desires as needs. For example: "I need a cigarette."
Self-sufficient Pride leads us to think of actual needs as mere desires. For example: "I don't need God!"

For believers, legitimate "needs" are of no great concern, for we have a Great Father who cares for us with great affection. Consider our Lord's reassurances in this regard . . .
Matthew 6:8 ". . . your Father knows what you need before you ask Him."
Matthew 6:31-32 "Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things."

On the other hand, dealing with our "desires" or "lusts" (a.k.a. cravings) is a key theme related to Christian growth in the New Testament. Consider these examples . . .

Mark 4:19 . . . but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires (Gk. EPITHUMIA) for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
Romans 6:12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts (Gk. EPITHUMIA)
Romans 7:8 But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting (Gk. EPITHUMIA) of every kind . . .
Romans 13:14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts (Gk. EPITHUMIA).
Galatians 5:24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Gk. EPITHUMIA).
2 Timothy 2:22 Now flee from youthful lusts (Gk. EPITHUMIA) and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but {wanting} to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires (Gk. EPITHUMIA) . . .

It is significant that the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Old Testament) uses the word EPITHUMEO for "coveting" in the 10th commandment (cf. Romans 7:7). EPITHUMEO is the common Greek verb for "to lust" (i.e., have strong desire for something, not necessarily sexual). EPITHUMIA is the equivalent noun.
Addressing an Objection
A significant objection to the view presented here is this: if man is made up of physical, spiritual, and emotional components, and there are clearly defined and Biblically legitimate physical and spiritual needs, doesn't it follow that there can be (yea, should be) emotional needs as well? While this objection sounds entirely plausible, it is grounded in a mistaken view of the psyche and therefore draws a false conclusion.
The word "psyche" comes from the Greek word PSUCHE, which means "soul." Psychologists are students of the soul, and are therefore dealing in an area of concern directly addressed by the Bible. They typically disagree with God's Word and are therefore flat wrong. But let's examine Scripture's view of the PSUCHE, or the "psychology" found in Scripture. 

Biblically, man is divided into two parts: material/physical and immaterial/invisible. The material/physical part is called the "body," while the immaterial/invisible part is called "soul" and/or "spirit." Some like to divide these into body and soul/spirit (two parts - known as the dichotomist view), while others are inclined to divide them into body, soul, and spirit (three parts - the trichotomist view). There are also other views, but our purpose is not to address these hair-splitting questions, for only the Word of God is a razor sharp enough to divide between soul and spirit. Perhaps there is a paradox in this.
Generally speaking, Scripture refers to the inner man, the immaterial/invisible part, as the "soul." When we speak of spiritual needs, we are talking about the needs of the inner man, the soul (or the soul/spirit, if you will). The inner man contains the three aspects of personality: mind, emotion, and will. The mind perceives, the will decides, and the emotions respond. To whatever degree there are legitimate, Biblical needs associated with these, they fall under the banner of spiritual needs, and they are all meant to be fulfilled by God Himself. Seeking another source is the essence of idolatry, and this is typically the path that is followed in the "emotional needs" paradigm offered by modern psychologists and Christians who adhere to their ideology.
Emotions are indicators of our thought processes and circumstances. They are the thermometer of our heart, as it were, while our minds and wills are the thermostat. In this analogy, our circumstances can be compared to the weather, and our hearts to a very inefficient HVAC system. Our minds and wills can be perfectly sound, but our emotions drag along, responding to yesterday's events or last week's pressures, or last year's life-altering event. Our minds and wills could be in outright rebellion to God's command, but our emotions might not figure it out and begin processing the facts until tomorrow. Or we may merely think of doing right or wrong, and find our feelings pulling us powerfully toward acting on those thoughts. But no matter how you slice it, emotions aren't needs and needs aren't emotions. Our need is not so much to experience particular emotions, as it is to pay attention and understand the effects they have upon us, and then to crucify the depraved desires which would lead us to idolize emotional experiences. As powerful as these emotions and desires are, the mercy of God is our only hope in this. So, rather than preach about emotional needs, preachers ought to feed us with the Gospel and lead us more and more to Christ as our ultimate and eternal Source of everything.

NOTE: If you read this entire article, give yourself a pat on the back and some much-needed (oops! I mean rightfully-desired) rest.