Book Review: The Meaning of Marriage
By Tim and Kathy Keller (Riverhead Books: New York 2011) 325pp
If you had a congregation full of young adult single professionals in Manhattan would you preach a series of sermons on marriage? Best-selling author and Pastor Tim Keller did. The series turned out to be wildly popular in the 6000 member Redeemer Presbyterian church. Seventy five percent of this congregation are single—making it one of a kind in American church life. Keller and his wife Kathy then adapted the sermons into a book, The Meaning of Marriage.
Keller writes, “My main rationale was that single people today need a brutally realistic yet glorious vision of what marriage is and can be…my primary goal is to give both married and single people a vision for what marriage is according to the Bible.” Keller and his wife Kathy have been married 37 years. He founded Redeemer Presbyterian church in New York City beginning in 1989.
While keeping singles in his mind, Keller writes, “This book is for those spouses who have discovered how challenging day-to-day marriage is and who are searching for practical resources to survive the sometimes overwhelming ‘fiery trials’ of matrimony and to grow through them.” Whereas the Kellers do draw upon personal experience and social science data, they declare in the introduction that “this is a book about the Bible.” Other modern marriage manuals become dated resources with the passing years. In the Bible you have teaching that has been tested by millions of people over the centuries in multiple cultures. There is no other enduring resource for marriage like it.
The book is laid out to explore Paul’s words on marriage in Ephesians 5:18-33. The chapter titles detail the journey the reader takes: “The Secret of Marriage”, “The Power for Marriage”, “The Essence of Marriage”, “The Mission of Marriage”, “Loving the Stranger”, “Embracing the Other”, “Singleness and Marriage”, and “Sex and Marriage’. Along the way passages from Genesis, the Gospels and the letters of Paul illuminate matrimony. Many Christians are unaware of the unified voice of the scriptures on Christian marriage and this book will give readers a firm foundation for understanding the uniquely Christian view of this sacred covenant.
Some parts of the Biblical teaching covered by the Kellers are hotly debated—most notably gender roles within marriage. The Kellers state their positions clearly. Though I found myself wanting to quibble some points here, I can say that everyone can profit from reading this section of the book. Taken as a whole this is a book to give to your single adult children, to newlyweds and to those mature Christian couples who never really thought about the grandeur of the enterprise of Christian marriage they entered into years ago.
In Hope and Confidence,