If there is a genre of books which rivals the self help section of your local bookstore, it is maybe the relationship section. Personally I know of a rash of recent Christian books which dispense relational and marital advice. So when you are shopping for a marriage book you are really looking for what sets a particular book apart from the others, more ordinary marriage books. What set this book apart for me was not its snappy title, No Ordinary Marriage: Together for God’s Glory; rather it was endorsements from Kevin Vanhoozer (theologian and hermeneutical rock star) and Alice Cooper (actual rock star). Sorry Ed Young, Craig Groschel, Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Tim Keller and whoever else is writing marriage books these days, but you just don’t have much street cred until rock stars start endorsing your books. Maybe Kevin DeYoung can sit down with Brian “Head” Welch and get an endorsment for his new parenting book, Children of the Korn (I know of no such project but we can dream can’t we?).
Kidding aside, I think Tim Savage has written a decent book which helps Christians press into the meaning and sanctity of marriage. Drawing generously on patristic, reformers and puritan sources, Savage frames marriage theologically before turning toward practical questions. The book is divided into three parts:
In part one, he casts a vision of the meaning of marriage. Men and Women are joint image bearers of God are reflecting his glory as they love one another with self-sacrificing ‘cruciform’ love. In part two he addresses the particular words Paul addresses to women and men in Ephesians 5 and reflects on what it means to be ‘one flesh.’ Part three is where Savage addresses variously: sex, the way churches nurture marriages and family, learning to be realistic and gracious with one another and the gift of singleness. I think part three is the least cohesive and feels more like a ‘catch all’ section of other things that Savage thinks he better say, but he does offer helpful practical and pastoral advice. Part one, which frames marriage theologically and talks about God’s intent for marriage, is easily my favorite part of the book.
As a biblical egalitarian I did not agree with Savage’s exegesis of Genesis 3 or Ephesians 5 (Savage is a biblical complementarian). I don’t really feel like I have to, to appreciate much of what he says here to women and men, as he addresses both and talks about how both husbands and wives should love each other with cruciform (Christlike) love. He posits that the particular word to women is to ‘submit’ to her husband (be subordinate to him) while the word to husbands is to love their wives (Ephesians 5:22,25). Certainly he is right to talk about how women ‘ought to submit’ to their husband but he is wrong to say that this is ‘the particular word’ to wives expressed in Eph. 5:22. The verb translated ‘submit’ is not in that verse in the original Greek but is borrowed from the previous verse which says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” The passage itself puts the wives’ submission in the context of mutual submission (of which the husbands love is also an expression). I think you can certainly hold a complementarian view of gender roles from this passage, but you ought to at least signal the context of mutuality (which Savage does not do in his exegesis of Ephesians). My problem with his exegesis of Genesis 3, is that he interprets God’s curse on the man and woman as enshrining gender differences. Maybe, but there should at least be an acknowledgement that the curse represents a world gone wrong.
These small exegetical differences aside I probably agree with 90% of this book. Savage’s account of humanity’s creation acknowledges male and female as joint image bearers and he argues strongly that marriage done right should point beyond itself to our Triune Creator. I couldn’t agree more and found there was lots worth reflecting on (particularly as I near 10 years of marriage to a wonderful, godly woman). There may be better books on marriage out there (there are certainly worse ones) but this book can be the start of a fruitful dialogue with your spouse. Those with a more pragmatic bent may find this book challenging as Savage tends to talk about theology and ideals more abstractly, though he does point to a few concrete examples. I tend to think a lot of the more ‘practical books’ are fluffy but there might be a happy medium between those books and this one. Let me know if found it.
I received this book from Crossway Books in exchange for this fair and balanced review.