A while back, 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 it when we first reviewed it (although in hindsight, I definitely see where he was coming from). 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? During one season, I 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. At the time of its writing, Justin and his wife Taylor had been married for about 7 or 8 years. I’d 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, get unnecessarily prescriptive or share way too much information. It comes across more like one brother saying to another, “Hey, let’s work on our marriages together.”
Books in this category won’t be “lasting” ones, and they 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).
(Truthfully, there is a third category as well: books you should just chuck because they’re full of nonsense.)
So which type should we give higher esteem? We should always give ear the counsel of our elders, provided they are worthy of imitation. Their insights should always be given greater consideration. But it is prudent to consider the advice of peers, insofar as their counsel proves wise. We need both—older men shepherding us and younger men spurring us on as they come alongside us. Youthful exuberance tempered by experience.
Updated July 2014.