Customer Reviews: The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God
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on November 1, 2011
Tim Keller is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, New York since he planted it in 1989, and the church reflects the city's demographics: approximately 80% of the people (in a church of several thousand) are single. So Keller has a lot of experience in teaching, counseling and shepherding singles in particular. This book had its roots in the early 1990's when he did a series of sermons on marriage because of the skepticism, fear, and arguments that many of the singles in attendance had toward marriage in the beginning stages of the church - and still do today. He also wrote this book to share from his own experiences with his wife Kathy of 37 years and counting. However, most importantly he wrote this book to give a compelling vision of what marriage was designed to look like from the Bible from Genesis to Revelation - from the first marriage of Adam and Eve to the last marriage of Christ and the Church.

Keller states in the introduction, "its [the books] primary goal is to give both married and unmarried people a vision for what marriage is according to the Bible." I believe that Keller succeeds in giving a very compelling case for marriage from the three stands above - from his experience, his realistic apologetic of building a case for the benefits and values of marriage, and then giving a compelling biblical vision throughout the book for the beauty of marriage when it reflects the glory of Christ at the center of it all. He does not minimize the difficulties, or the effort and hard work involved in a marriage, but is clear-headed, and cogently eloquent in presenting the "complexities of commitment with the wisdom of God."

Here is a sample of an excellent example he gives for submitting to the Bible as God's manual for marriage:

"Think of buying a car: If you purchase a vehicle, a machine well beyond your own ability to create, you will certainly take up the owner's manual and abide by what the designer says the car needs by way of treatment and maintenance. To ignore it would be to court disaster...Plenty of people who do not acknowledge God or the Bible, yet who are experiencing happy marriages, are largely abiding by God's intentions, whether they realize it or not. But it is far better if we are conscious of those intentions. And the place to discover them is in the writings of the Scripture."

Some of the ambivalent views and objections to marriage Keller elaborates on and dispels in this book are as follows:

"Marriage is just a piece of paper that only serves to complicate love"
"Marriage was originally about property and is now in flux"
"Marriage crushes individual identity and has been oppressive for women"
"Marriage stifles passion and is ill-fitted to psychological reality"

The Outline of Keller's book is as follows:

Chapter One - A rich and deep discussion of Genesis 2 and Ephesians 5 bringing Paul's discussion into today's context and demonstrating "why the gospel helps us to understand marriage and how marriage helps us to understand the gospel."

Chapter Two - With great skill and penetrating insight Keller shows how the sin nature resulting in selfishness necessitates the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in making the saving work of Christ operative in bringing two hearts to beat as one.

Chapter Three - He helpfully shows what biblical love is - and what covenantal commitment is all about.

Chapter Four - He elaborates on the whole question of what marriage is for: "It is a way for two spiritual friends to help each other on their journey to become the persons God designed them to be...there is a kind of deeper happiness that is found on the far side of holiness."

Chapter Five - He talks about the power of truth; the power of love - via affection, friendship, and service all in the context of grace.

Chapter Six - An excellent discussion of the Trinitarian roles and how that translates into gender roles in a marriage.

Chapter Seven - On Singleness and Marriage. Here is a sample of some guidelines he gleans for singles in relationships before marriage:

"Recognize that there are seasons for not seeking marriage."
"Understand the "gift of singleness.'"
"Get more serious about seeking marriage as you get older."
"Do not allow yourself deep emotional involvement with a non-believing person."
"Feel `attraction' in the most comprehensive sense."
"Don't let things get too passionate too quickly."
"...don't become a faux spouse for someone who won't commit to you."
"Get and submit to lots of community input."

Chapter Eight - A good discussion of sex - realities and misperceptions - and the glory of it when it is practiced the way God designed it.

The book closes with a short epilogue and a short, but very helpful discussion on decision-making and gender roles.

All the chapters are very well written, have depth and penetrating insight, are logical and clear, balanced in dealing with the "then" and "now" of how the Scriptures apply and always pointing to Jesus at the center of the meaning of life and marriage. Dr. Keller knows what he's talking about and has done an outstanding job of building a great case for marriage in a culture that simply doesn't understand it and hasn't been consulting the Creator's manual and applying it in our marriages. I now have a new favorite book on marriage to recommend whole-heartedly to singles and married couples alike!
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on November 10, 2011
Marriage is clearly a troubled institution in American culture, and that includes even among American Christians. The problem is that so often Christians have accepted the world's definitions of marriage. While many Christian books have been written on marriage, Tim Keller's "The Meaning of Marriage" is one of the best.

What makes "The Meaning of Marriage" so excellent? At least four things. First, Keller gives a vision for marriage. His main reason for writing the book, in fact, was to give both Christians and non-Christians a vision for marriage. What is Keller's vision for marriage? Keller writes, concerning the meaning of marriage, that "It is for helping each other to become our future glory-selves, the new creations that God will eventually make us." More than this, Keller (in Chapter 6) relates marriage not only to "the dance of the Trinity" but also to Christ's love of the stranger (Chapter 5).

The second reason "The Meaning of Marriage" is so excellent is that Keller bases his views on the Bible. Time and again, instead of turning to what the world teaches about marriage, Keller returns to the Bible, especially Ephesians 5. While Keller begins with the Bible, he does more than just quote Scripture: he unlocks its meaning and applies it to our lives. This is what makes his teaching on writing so profound and powerful. While he doesn't cover every possible topic, he does give a theological vision for marriage that will change your marriage for the better or better prepare you for marriage in the future.

Third, in presenting a biblical view of marriage, Keller directly challenges the worldly views of marriage, including many that have infected the Church. Among the most popular of these myths is that we should be looking for our "soul mate," in the sense of finding someone we're presently in love with. This view minimizes the importance of the hard work that goes into marital love. Keller also rightly rebukes the idea that we should not go into marriage expecting to change the other person. To the contrary, marriage is precisely for the purpose of sanctifying one another, and Keller demonstrates some of the many reasons why marriage is such a powerful means of sanctification for Christian spouses. Keller takes on many other myths as well, for example, the idea that marriage is primarily for self-fulfillment, instead of mutual sanctification and becoming one with another.

Fourth, "The Meaning of Marriage" is both readable and practical. Keller's ideas are rooted in theology but are written in a very readable prose. Most importantly, his book is eminently practical. While it's not a "How To" manual and doesn't give you every detail, he does amply illustrate and explain his major ideas on marriage. So practical is "The Meaning of Marriage" that it's applicable not only to Christian spouses but also non-Christian spouses and Christian singles. He has, for example, a chapter on a theology of singleness (Chapter 7).

There are many profound insights in the book. There was little that was new to me as a priest and as a husband who has worked every day on his marriage for 18 years. But there were still many revelations and "Aha!" moments that reminded me of what it was all about and encouraged me to love my wife to an even greater degree. As I'm writing this, she's out of town on a business trip (which she never takes). I can't wait for her to return so that I can begin immediately putting into practice some of the things Keller has taught me.

Here are some of his best insights:
1. You never marry the right person. No 2 people are compatible. For this reason, marriage takes a lot of love and work. Also, marriage profoundly changes us!
2. Two-thirds of unhappy marriages will become happy within five years if people stay married. Keller uses this to demonstrate the power of making and keeping a vow. Promising is the key to identity and is the very essence of marital love.
3. Actions of love lead to feelings of love.
4. Marriage is a friendship, and friendship must have constancy, transparency, and a common passion, which, for Christians, should especially be Christ.
5. Each spouse should see the great thing that Jesus is doing in the life of their mate through the Word. And each spouse should then give himself of herself to be a vehicle for this work of God.
6. Your spouse IS the "someone better" you're looking for! This is true if you see him or her in terms of the glory God intends for them, a work to which you are called.

There's much, much, more, and each chapter holds its delights and wisdom for the reader. I highly recommend both "The Meaning of Marriage," as well as "The Mystery of Marriage" by Mike Mason!

Keller presents his teaching on marriage, based on a sermon series of his, in the following chapters:
1. The Secret of Marriage - how marriage and the gospel relate
2. The Power for Marriage - submitting to one another out of love
3. The Essence of Marriage - covenantal commitment
4. The Mission of Marriage - marriage and mutual sanctification
5. Loving the Stranger - the power of love (all 4 kinds)
6. Embracing the Other - man and wife as one flesh; the Trinity as a model for marriage
7. Singleness and Marriage
8. Sex and Marriage
Epilogue and Appendix (Decision Making and Gender Roles)
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on November 5, 2011
Tim Keller's The Meaning of Marriage is a wide reaching book on the topic of Marriage. Keller's focus is broad, and he says his "primary goal is to give married and unmarried people a vision for what marriage is according to the Bible" (p12). The book is vintage Keller: The style is conversational, the insights are thoughtful and the approach is entirely Bible focused, with a particular emphasis on Keller's type of Grace focused Christianity. This is not to say that only Christians should read the book. On the contrary, Keller draws equally from personal experience, biblical exegesis and a whole variety of sources, and he states bluntly that he has spoken on marriage at "innumerable weddings", adding that "Most people who do not share our ...Christian faith are often shocked by how penetrating the Biblical perspective on marriage is and how relevant it is to their own situations" (p14). In this review I'll aim to fairly describe the contents of the book in such a manner as to give you a good idea about whether you want to read it. (This is lengthy. Consider yourself warned!).

With regards to his experience, Keller is in a unique position. He's been married for 37 years, he's counselled countless married couples, and he's been both the pastor of a small church in Virginia and now a sizeable church (many thousand) in New York City where 80% of the congregation is single and most are young. This gives Keller some fine credentials for writing a book on marriage which is valuable to both unmarrieds and marrieds, and that is in touch with various perspectives.

Keller begins chapter one by aiming a salvo at contemporary culture's view of marriage. He bluntly says he is "tired of listening to sentimental talks on marriage", and continues with "much of what I've heard on the subject has as much depth as a Hallmark card" (p21). Keller does an admirable job of making an entirely sociological, empirically based case that marriage benefits individuals. But he also cautions against looking at marriage as a way of improving one's prospects of self fulfilment. Keller's vision of marriage is that through marriage "the mystery of the gospel is unveiled" (p48). And what does this mean? In Chapter two Keller suggests that it's all about submitting to one another, and that it is the transformative, sanctifying nature of the Holy Spirit who gives us the power to do this. He contextualises Jesus's words from Matthew as follows :"If you seek happiness more than you seek me, you will have neither; if you seek to serve me more than serve happiness, you will have both" (p59). Keller contrasts this Jesus focused, serving other approach with the results of Dana Adam Shapiro's Monogamy, where it was clear that self centeredness was "the heart of what led to marital disintegration" (p57).

In chapter three Keller argues that marriage is a covenant, and a promise of future love rather than simply a symbol of current love. He contrasts a "covenant" relationship with a "consumer" relationship. He notes that people will inevitably change throughout their lives, and thus that you will wake up one day and realise you're not married to the same person who walked down the aisle towards you. At this point, the covenantal understanding becomes crucial and you need to "do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling" (p104). The results of this will be that your attraction will be "transformed" into a humble appreciation of the other person and that your love will grow "wiser, richer, deeper and less variable" (p105). Keller argues that the view that feelings lead to action is mistaken and backwards- actions lead to feelings more reliably. This problem is compounded by the observation that feelings are fickle and we have a higher degree of control over our actions. And constantly acting to put our spouse first is necessary for a marriage that works and grows.

Chapter four is titled "The Mission of Marriage", and Keller writes about becoming "spiritual friends" and assisting each other on the journey towards holiness. The vertical nature of the relationship between God and man is contrasted with the horizontal nature of the relationships between people. Marriage is something that can more closely approximate our relationship with God than any other human relationship: "In his redemptive work, Jesus is both friend and lover, and this is to be the model for spouses in marriage" (p 119). In chapter 5, Keller gets more specific about how to "Love the stranger" (that you find yourself married to). Marriage has the power of truth- the power to show you the truth about who you are, as no other relationship can. If we allow our spouses to be honest with us, we can use this power to help transform us for the better. Marriage has the power of love, an "unmatched power" to affirm and heal (p146). But we must engage in loving acts with the right tools by being aware of our spouses love currency (or "love language) and understanding how to use those tools (p 149-161). But there's a conflict- we must use the powers of truth and love to benefit our marriage, and never to hurt our spouse (which would be very easy to do). How to do this? With the power of Grace- the most important skills in a marriage are forgiveness and repentance, and we can forgive and love even when our spouses don't really deserve it, because Jesus forgave us and sacrificed for us when we didn't deserve it either.

The final three chapters build on the earlier framework Keller has established for marriage, but they are more stand-alone in their content. Chapter six - penned by Tim's wife Kathy- is on gender roles in marriage, chapter seven is on singleness and chapter eight is on Sex.

Kathy Keller makes a Biblical case for men having sacrificial and serving authority and wives engaging in sacrificial and serving submission. A fair objection to this point is considered by Kathy but not entirely answered- if sacrifice and servanthood is coming thick and fast in equal parts from both sides, then practically what difference do the roles make? And how can decisions be made if both sides are meant to be serving each other, and can't agree? One needs to go to the Appendix ("Decision Making and Gender Roles") to get the specific, practical answer given by the Kellers: "This should be the place where the one the Bible calls "head" takes the accountability" (p243). In other words men make the final decision because men have "ultimate authority and responsibility" (p185). I personally am not 100% convinced that she effectively justified her belief that this is an "obligatory" command that God has instituted for all people in all places-one size fits all- rather than just a general Biblical guideline.

In Chapter 7, singleness is shown to be a good way of life according to Christianity because for Christians, our future is "not guaranteed by our family but by God" (p196). The early church had a "revolutionary attitude" to singleness by institutionally supporting widows- a very unique practice in that day and age (p195). Keller makes a persuasive argument, showing that the positive view of singleness given by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 can fit snugly within the overall gospel narrative. The chapter also provides some practical advice for those singles who have decided to seek marriage.

Keller finishes the book with a discussion on Sex. He says sex is a way for two people to reciprocally say to each other than "I belong completely, permanently and exclusively to you" (p224), and that using sex for anything less is not only morally wrong according to the Bible but also will cause personal harm. He discusses yet another revolutionary claim by Paul that "the husband's body does not belong to him alone but to his wife", in a time when women were considered the legal possession of their husbands. Keller talks about using sex as a gift to your spouse, as opposed to something for personal gratification- again, an example of a unifying theme in the book that marriage should be an other-focused, selfless thing. Sex "reflects the joy of the trinity".

Overall, I found the book to be well argued, insightful, and well sourced. I am someone who is dating but not married, and I look forward to buying a copy of this book for married friends who will bring a different, deeper perspective. It was common for me to be reading and to think "I wish I'd read this years ago!"- and I'm not even married! So I'm interested to hear the thoughts of those who are, or have been for a long while. I'm grateful that Keller has transcribed his vast life experiences and accumulated wisdom onto the pages of this book, and that he can communicate his ideas clearly whilst remaining realistically aware of opposing views and the philosophies that underpin them.

One query on the book is the lack of discussion about children. The Bible says we should "go forth and multiply", and the Bible also warns against having sex outside of the marital relationship. Put two and two together and clearly, excluding immaculate conceptions, Christians should only have children when married. Furthermore, most people who are married, whether Christian or not, do actually have children. So I was surprised at the total lack of specific discussion on how marriage relates to the process of raising a family. Also, although the book was somewhat practical, there were still occasionally times when I wished Keller would quit talking about biblical passages or his theories on marriage, and instead explain exactly how his theological or general point plays out in day to day life. These are both minor quibbles, however, and I would wholeheartedly recommend the book to others. 4 stars.
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on December 10, 2011
...if I had purchased this book 30 years ago. This fine book should be invaluable to young people. As he has done on other topics, Tim Keller does his usual excellent work taking apart the conventional wisdom on what makes a marriage and building a solid alternative. Other reviewers more than adequately cover the fine points of the book, but I felt there were one concern that, while it didn't detract from my rating, that should be noted.

The book assumes both parties want to make the marriage work. I could find nothing addressing the situation when one party is perfectly happy in a self-centered marriage. Perhaps that is best left to the marriage counselors.

NB: Read the notes at the back as you read the text. They are not merely listing of the references, but often add very compelling commentary,
Amazon incorrectly says this is from the Kindle Edition. I read the hard cover.
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on July 13, 2012
Tim Keller offers a different perspective to marriage. Marriage isn't about what your spouse can do for you, but how God can use you to love, nurture and help your spouse become the person God wants them to be. I highly recommend this book on marriage to anyone contemplating marriage or who is married.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon January 3, 2012
It must be intimidating to write a book on marriage. Store shelves are groaning under the weight of titles that claim to have the key to a happy marriage, or a biblical marriage or a gospel-centered marriage. To rise above such a crowded field a book needs to offer something different, something unique, something that distinguishes it from the pack. Tim and Kathy Keller have jumped into the fray with their new book The Meaning of Marriage and the distinguishing feature of their book is a deep gospel-centeredness. This leads the Kellers to invite the reader deep into the gospel of Jesus Christ and also compels them to show how the gospel extends to every part of marriage.

Though The Meaning of Marriage is written primarily by Tim Keller, his wife Kathy contributes in several ways, and most notably by contributing one of the chapters and by being the wife to whom Tim has been married for almost four decades. Tim explains that the book has three deep roots. The first of these is his marriage to Kathy, the second is his long pastoral ministry, particularly in New York City in a church dominated by singles, and the third and most foundational is the biblical teaching on marriage as found in both the Old and New Testaments. "Nearly four decades ago, as theological students, Kathy and I studied the Biblical teachings on sex, gender, and marriage. Over the next fifteen years, we worked them out in our own marriage. Then, over the last twenty-two years, we have used what we learned from both Scripture and experience to guide, encourage, counsel, and instruct young urban adults with regard to sex and marriage." They speak from the powerful combination of Scriptural grounding and real-world experience.

The book is comprised of eight chapters that flow logically from the biblical basis for marriage all the way to the sexual relationship within marriage. In chapter 1 they offer the very basic biblical teachings on marriage, showing how marriage is God's idea and that it is meant to reflect the saving love of God for us in Jesus Christ. In chapter 2 they show how the work of the Holy Spirit is fundamental to battling the main enemy of marriage: sinful self-centeredness. Chapter 3 is about love, looking at how the feeling of love relates (or doesn't relate) to actions of love. Chapter 4, "The Mission of Marriage," turns to the purpose of marriage and offers a long discussion of spiritual friendship while chapter 5, "Loving the Stranger," teaches three skills that every husband and wife ought to pursue.

Chapter 6, written by Kathy, celebrates the differences between the sexes, looking to the tricky subject of gender roles and complementarity. Singleness and wise thinking about pursuing marriage are the subjects of chapter 7 and the final chapter looks to the sexual relationship, showing why the Bible roots sex in marriage and how this relationship can best be celebrated within marriage.

Gospel, Gospel and More Gospel
I said from the outset that the distinguishing feature of this book is its deep dependence on the gospel. This distinguishing feature is also the book's greatest strength. Marriage simply cannot be properly understood or practiced without being rooted in the gospel. "If God had the gospel of Jesus's salvation in mind when he established marriage, then marriage only `works' to the degree that it approximates the pattern of God's self-giving love in Christ." For that reason the book goes nowhere until Keller has first exposited Ephesians 5 where we are told that marriage is a "profound mystery," that reflects the relationship of Christ and the church. Next to our relationship with God, there is no relationship more important than marriage, "and that is why, like knowing God himself, coming to know and love your spouse is difficult and painful yet rewarding and wondrous. The most painful, the most wonderful--this is the Biblical understanding of marriage, and there has never been a more important time to lift it up and give it prominence in our culture."

When Keller moves to "The Power For Marriage," the subject of chapter 2, he again builds from the gospel. Jesus Christ did not leave us on our own, but provided the Holy Spirit as the power to fight against and overcome sin. "The Holy Spirit's task is to unfold the meaning of Jesus's person and work to believers in such a way that the glory of it--its infinite importance and beauty--is brought home to the mind and heart." And when it is brought home to the mind and heart, it works itself out in marriage. This counters the self-centeredness that is intrinsic to our sinful natures. "To have a marriage that sings requires a Spirit-created ability to serve, to take yourself out of your own. The Spirit's work of making the gospel real to the heart weakens the self-centeredness of the soul. ... The deep happiness that marriage can bring, then, lies on the far side of sacrificial service in the power of the Spirit."

This gospel focus continues chapter-after-chapter, underlying discussions of friendship, singleness, sex, and complementary roles.

Covenant Renewal
The chapter on sex merits special mention for its power and careful attention to dignity. Keller begins by showing why it is so important that sex remains within the context of marriage. Only then does he turn to the actual ways that a husband and wife relate within the sexual relationship. Setting the sexual relationship within the greater context of the marriage covenant, Keller says that sex is a kind of covenant renewal ceremony in which you "rekindle the heart and renew the commitment" already made. "There must be an opportunity to recall all that the other person means to you and to give yourself anew. Sex between a husband and a wife is the unique way to do that." He goes on to say, "Sex is God's appointed way for two people to reciprocally say to one another, `I belong completely, permanently, and exclusively to you.' You must not use sex to say anything less."

Only a few pages are given to "The Importance of Erotic Love in Marriage" but they are instructive. They focus less on deeds than on the motives of the gospel-centered heart. "The Christian teaching is that sex is primarily a way to know God and build community, and, if you use it for those things rather than for your own personal satisfaction, it will lead to greater fulfillment than you can imagine." I dare say that by the time you've read this final chapter, you will want to run to your spouse and make love just to experience all the joy and fulfillment that the sexual relationship brings. It won't be about trying this or attempting that--not primarily--but just enjoying the beauty of what God has given us in the gifts of marriage and love-making.

A component of the book that merits special attention is its usefulness to singles. Keller's church is comprised predominantly of singles and anything he teaches must be applicable to them. This leads him to focus a significant portion of this book on being single and on pursuing marriage. What he teaches will be encouraging and helpful to those who have chosen a life of singleness and for those who are seeking a spouse.

This is a powerful book; it is my new favorite book on marriage and the best of all the books I read in 2011. The Meaning of Marriage elevates marriage, making it something beautiful and holy and lovely. And with it comes friendship and companionship and sex and everything else God has packaged into the marriage relationship. This book celebrates it all and it does it within the greatest context of all--the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Having read the book through two times, I've found myself wondering how to best measure or evaluate it, but perhaps these criteria are useful: Would I want to read it with my wife or would I encourage her to read it on her own? Would I recommend it to the people in my church? In both cases the answer is an unreserved yes. In fact, I bought the audio book and listened to it with my wife and her assessment is the same as mine: Though there are many great books on marriage, this is the one we will recommend first.
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on November 2, 2012
Since I had already filed for divorce and was ready to give up; I came upon this book and ordered it. It has helped me reopen my eyes toward the view of marriage. I was able to practice some of the suggested ideas and reconcile my marriage.
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on January 31, 2012
This is not a book about marriage but about how marriage could change your heart. It has the power to show us "the truth into who we really are"(167) And this is because the Bible likens marriage to Christ and the Church which is a great mystery. But it is in marriage that the gospel is unveiled which is the message of this book (48). Keller further hopes this book will inform each reader "who he or she should consider as a prospective mate." (12)

Here Tim Keller along with his wife Kathy (it helps to write a book on marriage if you are married!) discuss pointedly just how overly "idealistic" we are and "flawed in our understanding" in what we want and expect in a marriage partner (37). Fact is, when we fall in love we "actually love our IDEA of the person ...which is somewhat mistaken." (94) So there is a lot of misinformed and wrong expectations when a man and a woman seek a marriage partner. In fact "no two people are compatible" because we presuppose there is someone out there who is just perfect for us. But this is an "impossibility" (38) So Keller, in quoting Stanley Hauerwas (an ethics professor from Duke University), writes "we always marry the wrong person. We never know who we marry; we just think we do." And this is all because we all "change." Thus the "primary problem is ...learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married. Keller hopes this "may" lead to a strong marriage but adds "it is not because you married the perfectly compatible person. That person doesn't exist." (38) After all two sinful, selfish people coming together will experience the pain of becoming one because marriage will put us in everyday situations which will "profoundly change us." (40) Thus marriage is like the gospel wherein Christ changes us through His love and from that love we can be loved and accepted on a human level in marriage (48) That "is the great secret!" The gospel becomes our model and pattern for the journey of marriage as Paul writes in Ephesian 5 (49).

Keller points out that because relationships are like this one must become unselfish and seek the betterment of their mate. "Self-centeredness makes you blind to your own" but the gospel can refill you to love your mate when you are not getting out of the marriage what you want. (57) He also wisely informs us that getting to know each other will take a lifetime and in that lifetime one may be "five different men" but remember that even though change has occurred recall the vow "I am he who will be there with you" (92) But when our mate sees us at our worst and still commits to love us, love is so grand! "To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved, is well, a lot like being loved by God." (95)

Thus the Keller's combined maritial experience hold no punches in presenting the difficulties, pain, struggle and enjoyment married life can really be while telling us how marriage, ordained by God, seeks to change and make us more like Christ and His church

. Footnoted where applicable the book has 283 pages of easy reading and thought provoking themes. The book has eight chapter with chapter six written by Kathy. It what you would expect from a Christian book on marriage and was preached to Keller's church which is 80% single! Thus there is a lot of specifics here which really appeals to those singles looking towards marriage and not so much those already married.
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on December 6, 2012
The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy and Kathy Keller is a thoughtful look at marriage through the lens of Scripture. The Keller's pull no punches. This book is honest and transparent. They reveal some of the struggles they have overcome in their marriage and point readers to biblical solutions. The Meaning of Marriage definitely has a "Keller-like" feel to it. Much of the book is deep and serious (one of the many reasons why Keller's popularity continues to escalate), but it is filled with practical help for newlyweds and marriage veterans alike.

The thesis of the book is that "through marriage, the mystery of the gospel is unveiled ... marriage is a major vehicle for the gospel's remaking of your heart from the inside out and your life from the ground up."

The major strength of the book is the continual return to the gospel: "The only way to avoid sacrificing your partner's joy and freedom on the altar of your need is to turn to the ultimate lover of your soul. He voluntarily sacrificed himself on the cross, taking what you deserved for your sins against God and others."

The Meaning of Marriage affirms complementarianism and rejects the growing tide of egalitarianism. The apologetic for complementarianism is offered in a gracious manner and emerges in what may be the best chapter of the book (chapter six) which is authored by Kathy Keller.

My only complaint is Keller's argument that remarriage may be an option even when a previous spouse is still living. While he does not develop his argument at length, the popularity of the Erasmian view is alarming. Readers should refer to John Piper's work, This Momentary Marriage for the opposing view.

Overall, The Meaning of Marriage is a valuable book that should be devoured and utilized for years to come.

4 stars
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on February 12, 2012
Pastor Keller's The Meaning of Marriage is full of sage advice for singles and married couples alike. This collection of sermons provides Christ-centered wisdom that will especially benefit those who are about to enter marriage. How will love and expectations change as the marriage develops? What is the difference between self-seeking love and self-sacrificing love? In the first few chapters, Pastor Keller clearly dispels the myths engendering both overly idealistic and irrationally pessimistic views of marriage. He shows that marriage is a life-long process of serving one another that generates spiritual growth and emotional richness far beyond what could be attained through a naive pursuit of me-first self-gratification.

For those who have not yet committed to marriage, Pastor Keller also provides clear and strong advice on what traits to seek in a spouse. What should we and shouldn't we expect from our spiritual soul mate? Should we consider marrying someone who doesn't share our faith, or whom we don't view as our best friend? Should we expect our life outside of marriage to make up for intellectual and spiritual shortcomings in our spouse?

The nuggets of wisdom are scattered throughout the book with an order and logic that is not always evident, at least in my first reading. Looking for advice on when couples can divorce and why couples should try to work through issues if possible? Turn to Chapter 2, "The Essence of Marriage." Need to work through issues of communication and miscommunication? Try Chapter 5, "Loving the Stranger." Seeking guidance on balancing work and life? Try Chapter 4, "The Mission of Marriage." Interested in some statistics on why marriage is good for health and wealth? Try Chapter 1, "The Secret of Marriage."

The (dis)organization of the material suggests that it isn't meant to be a counseling book for married couples facing deep fundamental problems, as though a marriage could be saved through bullet points and executive summaries. In addition, the example of Louie Zamperini, who magically transforms from war-traumatized alcoholic to devoted husband, and of Brent, who had an affair and tried to leave his wife before having an epiphany that he wanted to stay with his wife after all, may provide cold comfort to the husband who has just been left by his unfaithful wife or the woman who is living with an alcoholic, troubled husband. How might couples work through difficulties associated with finances, family, infertility and infidelity? How can we balance gender roles with the challenges of a two-career family? In a chapter that feels like a long apology as to why women should feel proud about submitting to their husbands, Kathy Keller writes, "The Bible deliberately does not give answers to you." Here one may recall that Paul was writing from the perspective of an unmarried man, and that the Bible does not provide many examples of monogamous and happily married couples.

As is his usual style, Pastor Keller builds his arguments on a body of thought that expands beyond the literal Bible, drawing from C. S. Lewis (of course), Kierkegaard, the social sciences, and The New York Times, leading representatives of that intellectual zeitgeist in which the Redeemer congregation is thoroughly steeped. It is a stimulating and thought provoking read, and certainly not designed to quietly acquiesce to our cultural biases and prevailing norms. It challenges us to think more deeply about marriage and how God and Christ can enrich our understanding of both marriage and faith, and perhaps even to re-think the meaning of self and freedom.
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