Last year I read lots of books on marriage! I reviewed three of them for The Briefing. Here's what I found.
There’s nothing like a bunch of marriage books to make your head spin. Mostly I avoid them—too many guilt-producing suggestions about the ‘must-dos’ of a relationship—but I’ve been writing a seminar on the topic, so it was time to hit the books.
What I found intrigued me. There’s little agreement amongst respected theologians about the why of marriage. They agree on the what—marriage is a life-long covenant between a man and a woman—and if you’re interested in the how, just head for the groaning shelf of your nearest Christian bookshop. But the how is just an empty handful of rules and tips without the why to give it shape and meaning.
So why did God make marriage? Traditionally, marriage was seen as having three purposes. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer says,
First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord…
Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication…
Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other…1
Children, sexual purity, and mutual help. These are biblical goals, and a helpful corrective to our romance-saturated view of marriage—but you can sense they all point to a greater goal. Christopher Ash says, “We need one unifying purpose of God to hold our thinking together.2 What, ultimately, is marriage for?
In my reading, there were three books on marriage that I thought came closest to answering this question: John Piper’s This Momentary Marriage, Timothy Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage, and Christopher Ash’s Married for God.They look in different directions to find the purpose of marriage—one upward, one inward, and one outward. Let’s consider them in turn...
You can read the rest at The Briefing.
1. Phillip Jensen gives a helpful perspective on how these goals have changed over time in ‘The Devolution of Marriage’ at http://phillipjensen.com/articles/the-devolution-of-marriage/.
2. Christopher Ash, Married for God, InterVarsity Press, Nottingham, 2007, p. 31.