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on 17 February 2014
I read this for a clergy wives book group, and I thought I would love it because I loved Prodigal God and Generous Justice, but I only liked rather than loving it. This is a book that focuses on the ‘theology’ of marriage and tries to minimise specific application. In some ways this is good, because there are so many Christian books on marriage that say ‘this is our marriage and what we’ve learnt, so all marriages should be like this’, so it is good to have more of a focus on the theology.

I found most of the Bible stuff helpful but familiar material. He and his wife believe the Bible teaches differing gender roles (ie men as ‘head’ over wife), so this may be difficult for people who disagree with this interpretation and I wasn’t completely sold on their application of these verses, although they steer clear from being overly prescriptive about what this would look like in individual marriages, and the examples they give from their own marriage indicate that the application they envisage is far from a 1950s stereotype. For me, the great strength of this book for me was the vision it gave of what a Christian marriage could be like: I liked that they took Ephesians 5:25-27 “husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, making her holy” (p.120) as an injunction for both partners in a marriage to “help each other to become our future glory-selves” – to see the person that God created us to be and helping one another become that person in the context of great friendship and sacrificial love. This did what Keller does best: present an apologetic for Christianity that is truly attractive.

However, I do wish he had said more about the possibility of abuse. We had an animated discussion about this issue in our book club – it is difficult to describe what abuse looks like, because there is a sliding scale, and it can seem obvious to outsiders that hitting or raping someone is abuse (in an appendix the Kellers say that the loving response of a wife who is being beaten continually would be to get her husband arrested). Yet most people who are victims of abuse don’t realise their relationship is abusive for a long time, because it builds up insidiously and has become normalised. They reason: “yes, he hit me, but it was my fault for provoking him. He’s always warning me he has a bad temper. If I had submitted maybe I wouldn’t have provoked him”, or “well, I did say I didn’t want to, and that it hurt, but he said I was his wife and I had taken a vow to give him my body, so – that’s not really rape…is it?’ For this reason I wish Tim and Kathy had dealt with the issue of consent and not assumed that abusive relationships were self-evident. For example, the Kellers say that loving someone means having sex with them even when you don’t feel like it. When they say this, I imagine they have in mind the husband or wife who just feels a bit tired and would rather watch TV that night but agrees to put their tiredness aside and make love even though they don’t really feel like it at first, (and probably assumes that once they embark on it, it will be enjoyable for them as well). I do wish they had specified that particular situation instead of leaving it open for victims of abuse to assume that the Kellers are saying you shouldn’t complain about being raped in a marriage. Violence against women is frighteningly common, even in church communities, and I think increasingly Christian books on marriage and sex need to take this into consideration.

Overall, it is a good book for someone wanting a somewhat dense theology of marriage (with a thoughtful complementarian approach to gender roles in marriage), but not for those who are looking for more practical application.
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on 13 August 2014
My husband and I have been married for 30 years and wish that we had read this sooner! It is a very fresh, Christian view on marriage - what it's true purpose is and in general terms how to achieve that. Written by a couple who are not afraid to admit that they have had difficult times and written for everyone - whether married or single.
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on 19 October 2015
Great theological and practical view on marriage and human relationships in general. Using Ephesians 5 as a base text, Tim and his wife Kathy basically give an extended opening up of the passage, which reveals amazing views of God's design and purpose for marriage and it's reflection of a triune God, as well as very real, practical advice about seeking, maintaining and delighting in a marriage relationship.

As I said in the review title, you will hopefully learn as much about God through this book as you will about relationship advice, so don't need to be contemplating marriage any time soon to read it. The Kellers also give great advice on what to seek in a potential spouse, showing how Christian values are very different from what our (particularly western) culture says we need to find a partner.

Chapter 7 is on singleness which I found really helpful and also challenging to my own views. They make the case that Christianity is one of the few world views which holds singleness in high regard and not a lesser life. It is in the church, the family of God, that singles are able to learn and grow from time with the opposite sex, in an obviously less intense way than marriage, but nonetheless just as effectively. Also a challenge to churches to love and support singles, not making them feel, in the worst case scenario, as second class Christians.
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on 13 October 2013
I really enjoyed reading this book. It highlights both the joys as well as the difficulties of marriage. The thing I most liked was how the author shows how the difficulties encountered in marriage can actually have a profoundly positive effect on our lives and our growth as christians.
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on 8 November 2013
This is perhaps the most Biblical and comprehensive in-depth study on the meaning and purpose of marriage, and is such a helpful guide for singes, that I have just purchased two more copies to pass on to single, friends. An essential read!
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on 1 September 2014
Extremely helpful book for understanding what marriage is, and the implications of that. I read this in preparation for getting married, and discussing it with my fiancee was a wonderful way of deepening our relationship. Keller sets out realistic expectations for marriage, helping us look forward to marriage without seeing it as the fulfilment of our lives. This book is a lifelong investment, and will no doubt be re-read over the years.
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on 17 June 2016
There are many books on marriage out there. Out of the ones I've read this is definitely one of the best.

Tim Keller and his wife begin by taking a good look at the way the world and society around us and through history has viewed sex and marriage and how that effects views of marriage within the church, our own views too.

Having acknowledged the background we have, they then turn to the Bible to correct our distorted views of marriage.

There is a chapter for singles too, how they should view marriage. So it is not just a book for marrieds.

There is also a chapter on the controversy of headship and submission in marriage which they deal with very well.

In the end, whether you're a single, a husband or a wife, our model is the servant/leader who laid down His life for others.
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on 24 January 2014
I'm about 1/4 of the way through this, and it's excellent! A great biblical basis, with sound teaching and advice that is well applied to the practical and every day. I would thoroughly recommend this to any one considering marriage, engaged, or married already!
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on 3 May 2013
Timothy Keller has really expounded the topic of marriage with this book. He explains it from a biblical perspective and in an easy to understand way. I would definitely suggest this book to anyone considering marriage.
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on 1 June 2013
Marriage is all about the Gospel! That's all you need to know. But really, this book helps you put things into perspective. Read it!
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