Review of The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller
The Meaning of Marriage upholds the Biblical standard of marriage and offers practical advice that can help marriages function more Biblically. It also provides guidance and wisdom for singles, whether they are seeking marriage or not.
Published by Riverhead Books
Chapter One – The Secret of Marriage
Our culture is simultaneously overly romantic and overly pessimistic about marriage. Since marriage is a divine institution and it points to the relationship between Jesus and His church, neither pessimism nor romanticism are appropriate.
Chapter Two – The Power for Marriage
Power for marriage comes through the Holy Spirit enabling us to serve the other and find our value in what Christ has done for us. Spouses should seek to serve rather than use one another.
Chapter Three – The Essence of Marriage
The intentional commitment of the marriage covenant provides an environment where intimacy and romance can flourish.
Chapter Four – The Mission of Marriage
The purpose of marriage is to move us into closer conformity to Jesus. Our spouse should be actively helping to sanctify us. And we should welcome them to do that.
Chapter Five – Loving the Stranger
Married couples help one another become more like Jesus by using the powers of truth, love, and grace toward the other.
Chapter Six – Embracing the Other
Kathy Keller (Tim Keller’s wife) wrote this chapter. She sets forward a complementarian interpretation of gender roles. Husbands are to be servant-leaders and wives are to submit to their husbands.
Chapter Seven – Singleness and Marriage
Singleness is valuable. There is some history of dating and courtship and some suggestions for dating for the purpose of marriage.
Chapter Eight – Sex and Marriage
Sex is not dirty, or just an appetite, or solely for individual pleasure. It is “a foretaste of the joy that comes from being in complete union with God through Christ” (p260).
The Meaning of Marriage is targeted at married people and single adults (both those seeking and those not seeking marriage).
Keller centers on the Biblical understanding of marriage as a picture of Jesus and the church. While it starts with a heavenly view of marriage, the emphasis tends to be on the interaction between husband and wife. It is very a very practical book.
Why It is Timely
Marriage is being devalued all around us. There are very few today who hold to a Biblical understanding of marriage who can also articulate it well. The Kellers incorporate both of these capabilities into the book. This book is timely because of the thoughts and attitudes around marriage in our world today and the lack of people able to address those thoughts and attitudes well.
What It Gets Right
It is dead on with what marriage represents – Jesus and the church. It lays out a complementarian understanding of gender roles. Their explanation of gender roles denies that men should be domineering and that women should be overly passive. The book gives a lot of beneficial insights of how husbands and wives can function together in a God-glorifying way.
What It Gets Wrong
One thing that I thought was odd was the chapter on singleness. That chapter spends little time on how good singleness is and more time on how to date. The (possibly) unintended consequence of that is to undo the words regarding how good singleness is.
There is an unfulfilling line of thinking in chapter 6 (starting on page 209) about the sometimes controversial topic of women working outside the home. Kathy gives some justification for women working outside of the home, but doesn’t deal with any of the standard scripture passages that are used on both sides of the argument. Regardless of where you stand on women working outside of the home, you probably won’t feel particularly challenged if you disagree with her or justified if you agree.
Even though the “What It Gets Wrong” section of this review is a lot longer than “What It Gets Right,” my complaints with the book are very minor. This is a solid book that will help married people enrich their marriages. There is a lot in it for singles, as well, especially those singles who are seeking marriage. John Piper’s This Momentary Marriage (my review here) resonated with me more than Keller’s book, but I don’t hesitate to commend Keller’s book to you, as well.