Monday, 24 February 2014

The Meaning of Marriage

Last year two marriage books came out around the same time. Based on these two reviews that should be read back to back, pretty much convinced me that if I was going to get one marriage book it would be Tim and Kathy Keller's.

Tim Keller has been described as a "third way" preacher. In his book, Generous Justice, Keller would compare how Republicans and Democrats considered justice and then present a third way, from a Christian perspective on how to view justice. This marriage book is similar. Keller looks at how our culture views romance, marriage, relationships and sex against ancient traditional cultures. He then presents a third way in the form of a Christian perspective showing how it is both progressive and conservative in different areas to the ancient and modern cultures.

One of the main strengths of this book is Keller's ability to analyse the current culture. We put so much emphasis on finding the right one or "soul mate" (which of cause historically was a pagan idea), that the person we ideally want cannot live up to the standard we put on them. Once you factor that the same standards are being applied the other way round in the relationship as well then no couple can realistically stand up against the weight of expectations. It is no wonder that people like the idea of co-habitation, or friends with benefits, or some other arrangement that allows the pusdo-pleasures of a spouse without it really impinging on our freedom. Of cause these arrangements lack a public promise, so also lack security and therefor the environment for love to truly flourish. We value sex and a romantic lover way too much, forgetting that both sexual drives and lovers highs fade. Instead, perhaps looking at the persons character, rather than sexual performance is better, longer lasting basis for a marriage.

One of the points of the book is that over time your partner (as well as yourself) will be a different person. The key is what framework is the marriage built upon for it to cope with two people changing over time. The book is loosely based on Ephesians 5:18-33 and looking at what Jesus did on the cross, the Kellers put forward a gospel framework to build your marriage on the Gospel. Jesus showed His love for us by His submission to the father and His sacrifice on the cross for us, our marriages should show this type of love for our spouse.

Although Tim Keller is a complimentarian, that position wasn't hammered as hard as I though it would have been (which probably means it was hit enough), instead generally there is the nicer language of "mutual sacrifice" for the other. That is not to say that roles of submission and headship is ignored, those issues are dealt with, and I think Keller does a very good job. If I had read this book before I wrote some of my posts, there is no doubt I would have been quoting form this book.

There are lots of good ideas in this book and is well worth a read (or re-read a few years later). I also thought this book would be good for engaged couples. Although engaged couples may not head a bunch of marriage advice (I know I didn't when I was engaged), this book at least sets up some realistic expectations of married life and points out our unrealistic cultural expectations in relationships and marriage.

Other books by Tim Keller I have read:


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