Two Reasons for Writing a Marriage Book

Yesterday, Tim Challies and I both reviewed Justin Buzzard’s new book, Date Your Wife. Overall, while we appreciated some similar elements (particularly the useful application), Tim and I came to slightly different conclusions on the book. This isn’t a bad thing at all—every reviewer has their own convictions and things they pick up on while reading and choose to focus on in the review.

But reading Tim’s review and reflecting on my own made me wonder—would it be helpful to differentiate between types of marriage books? In the last several months, I’ve read a number of books on the subject (and reviewed several of them here), and while I’ve found much common ground in them, there’s also a great deal of divergence. While there are a number of factors that play into these divergences (the emphasis of one aspect over another, theological bend, the author’s age and experience, and what not), I wonder if much of it comes down to different purposes. Here’s what I mean:

1. Some authors write to equip the next generation.

This is what I love about The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller, This Momentary Marriage by John Piper and Friends and Lovers by Joel Beeke. These offer guidance and encouragement for the generation coming behind them on how to build a godly marriage. What these books offer is insight from a time-tested marriage. The Kellers and Pipers, for example, have been married for over 30 years, so there is much to learn, particularly for a generation in which divorce is the norm. We don’t know what longevity looks like and steadfastness is a novel concept. And so we need to learn from those who have come before us and give their counsel serious weight—in a sense, being subject to our elders.

2. Some authors write as peers challenging one another.

This is the category where I’d place a book like Date Your Wife. Justin and his wife Taylor have been married for about 7 or 8 years. I’ve been married six. Our kids are all about the same age. So when I read a book like this, I don’t read it expecting the author’s got it all figured out, and maybe there are places where they completely gaff. It comes across more like one brother saying to another, “Hey, let’s work on our marriages together.”

I don’t know that these books are really intended to be “lasting” books, and they’re ones that won’t be helpful for every reader, but they will be for some. With them, the best approach is to consider “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable” within them and set aside the rest (cf. Phil 4:8).

(I’d considered a third category, but it would likely have come off as uncharitable.)

So which type should we give higher esteem? The answer is, “yes.” We should always give ear the counsel of our elders, provided they are worthy of imitation. Indeed, it’s fair to say that our elders’ insights should likely be given greater consideration. But we need to also be careful to not ignore the advice of godly peers. We need both—older men shepherding us and younger men spurring us on as they come alongside us. Youthful exuberance tempered by experience.

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  • Kim Shay

    I agree with your observation, Aaron. Frankly, Buzzard’s book would have hurt me deeply when I was a mother of young children, because I would have felt we were failing. My husband has always been a wonderful provider and leader, but his work situation has not always allowed freedom for date nights or trips. He works hard so that I can stay at home full time with the kids. When our kids got to be in the 8-12 age range, life became very busy, and our priority was finding time for family devotions or family events, because honestly, if you don’t spend time with the kids when they’re younger, when they’re older they won’t have any reason to come home. So we developed that. I am sure a younger couple will benefit from Buzzard’s book, but for me, it just doesn’t hit a note, and honestly, when my kids get married, I’m more inclined to give them Keller’s book or Beeke’s book.

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Great points, Kim. We’re currently in that stage of life where weekly date nights (outside the house) are simply not feasible; same with trips (such is the life of a one-income family). For me, the biggest take-away I had from the book was that “dates” don’t have to be big crazy events. Sometimes a homemade hot chocolate while talking on the couch qualifies.

      I wonder if the big thing that is an issue for many is the connotations of the term “date”?
      (As an aside, I’m more inclined to give Keller’s book, Kostenberger’s or Beeke’s as well. They’ve got more longevity built in because they’re not written from the age and stage being spoken to.)

  • Ninkendo

    I just finished reading Tim Keller’s book and wow. Just wow…that’s how I felt after reading the book. Talk about an immensely practical and wisdom packed book. The part especially about how to choose a partner really hit me in that it goes against the criteria that we normally use to choose someone.

    I’m thankful for discussions like this as it helps me discern the differences between various thoughts on a specific topic.