Most people think they have a pretty good idea of what marriage is all about. It’s about love, honesty, respect, and that unmentionable thing the Puritans never figured out, thus becoming extinct. It is true that marriage does include these things. However, if we are to fully understand the meaning of marriage and all its implications, we must look to the Creator and Planner of marriage. Namely, the Lord God. This is precisely what Timothy and Kathy Keller attempt to do in their book, “The Meaning Of Marriage.”
Let me first say that this book is not only for married people; this is a book for single people, dating people, engaged people, etc. The title is somewhat deceptive. One would assume that the theme of the book is marriage, but this is not entirely true. Certainly Keller presents a great deal of biblical and practical advice.
The overarching theme, however, is the gospel and how it is reflected through marriage. Keller builds primarily on the passage that we hear poorly expounded at virtually every sappy wedding ever: Ephesians 5:18-33. Fortunately, Keller’s insights and expositions are much more helpful than the usual twenty minute ramble about women being submissive and men being loving.
He spends most of the first chapter explaining our culture’s view of marriage , as well as the history of marriage up to the present time. He brings attention to the decline in marriage, pointing out that the divorce rate is steadily increasing while happy marriages are decreasing. Everyone seeks perfection, but the problem is that no two people are ever perfectly compatible.
Our culture is crushing marriage under an avalanche of unrealistic expectations. Keller argues that the key to a healthy, thriving marriage is understanding the great mystery thereof, and the mystery is the gospel. This is the premise he expounds throughout the rest of the book.
A considerable amount of time is spent explaining that marriage is much more than a piece of paper; it is a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman for life. Keller does leave the possibility for divorce open in extreme circumstances. This is probably one of his weakest points in the book. The text he uses to defend his position is out of context and more elaboration is needed to know exactly when a divorce could be acceptable.
Time is also spent on the works and actions of marriage. It is inevitable that the blissful feelings of marriage will fade. There will be fights, differences, and days when you are not very happy with your spouse (I think Keller must have had video footage from my first year of marriage when he wrote this section). Keller states that, while we cannot control our feelings, we can control our actions; if we continue to produce actions of love, feelings of love will come.
He also argues that the mission of marriage is not primarily about us; it is about a desire to walk with your spouse on a spiritual journey and see them sanctified by the power of God.
Kathy Keller tackles the submission of wives section. It does seem more appropriate that a woman would write on this topic. She points out that submission does not imply inferiority – women are just as valuable as men in God’s eyes. However, there is a difference in role. A complementarian view is argued and argued quite well, I might add.
The section discussing singleness is extremely helpful whether you are married or unmarried. Many look to their spouse for completion, but only Jesus can bring ultimate fulfillment to our lives. Keller provides an exceptional exposition of 1 Corinthians 7, pointing out that singleness does not in any way make someone half human.
Keller concludes with the popular topic that everyone (whether single or married) will skip to, only to be disappointed by the lack of explicit content: sex. The content is, however, very practical and helpful. Sex is not about taking from your spouse, rather it is meant to be the most intimate way of serving your spouse.
“The Meaning Of Marriage” is a well-written book. The content is deep, yet understandable. Grounded in Scripture, it provides outstanding practical advice not only for those who are married, but also for those who are single. However, Timothy Keller is a human being so it would be a mistake to accept everything that he offers.
Despite a few weak spots, it is a solid, biblical resource that I would recommend for everyone who desires to learn the real meaning of marriage. 8 out of 10 stars.
|Eddie Kinsinger and his wife, Stephanie, are currently living in Elnora, Indiana. He runs a small online business and is enrolled in a pastoral apprenticeship program under the direction of Truth and Grace Mennonite Church. He enjoys sugar, with a small drop of coffee as a garnish, and is greatly annoyed when forced to write a bio–in the third person. He enjoys reading and good conversations with friends.
Keller, Timothy, and Kathy Keller. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing The Complexities of Commitment With the Wisdom of God. New York: Dutton, 2011. Print.