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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 February 21, 2012
This book had so much substance and wisdom that it's hard to break it down into a cogent list of key points. My hunch is that married people would share that assessment, but since I can only speculate on that, here are some of the things I appreciated as a single reader.

There are a lot of books about dating and relationships out there (the more of which you've probably read, the older you are), but not a lot of them are focused on what it is you're aiming at: the marriage relationship. I've had the good fortune to grow up in a family with several long-term, healthy marriages (parents 34 years, two sets of aunts and uncles nearly 50 years, grandparents more than 70 years and still going), so a lot of what Keller says about the nature of marriage made intuitive sense, but I can't remember the last time I heard someone articulate it so clearly.

In particular, their stress on the importance of friendship struck me as one of the book's more radical themes, and something that could have powerful implications for how singles approach dating and potential partners. This perspective dovetails very well with John Van Epp's advice in "How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk - The Foolproof Way to Follow Your Heart Without Losing Your Mind)," about the variety of settings in which one should get to know a potential partner. Yet, as Keller notes (I believe, in an endnote on cohabitation), the typical structure of dating these days doesn't always provide many opportunities to share day-to-day type experiences with someone and observe how they handle mundane challenges.

I also found the discussion of sex refreshing, though some may be disappointed by the largely principial, abstract nature of that chapter. It was so wonderful to hear someone say, flat out, "Sex is for whole-life self-giving." I've written about this elsewhere, albeit somewhat speculatively, but the Kellers do a very nice job of balancing the biblical sex ethic's implications for both the boundaries and ethos of sex.

A final remark: even if you're not usually one who reads the endnotes in books, they're worth taking note of here. Several times I found a very significant point or observation -- even a multi-paragraph critique of Jennifer Knust's book "Unprotected Texts." It's well worth keeping the book cover's back flap in the endnotes as you read.

This is a book I will recommend to many friends (and frequently, alongside Van Epp's book when talking to fellow singles), and which I imagine will hold up well over the years. Highly recommended.
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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 June 15, 2016
Great book! I am not married however, I am divorced. I wish I had known about this book back when I was married. I decided to read the book as a single person to gain perspective and a better understanding of my reasons for getting marriage again in the future.
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on May 9, 2015
Love these Reformed Presbyterian authors' approach to marriage guide. NYC Manhattan Pastor Keller with Kathy, his wife, offer a biblical context for marriage and guidance from each. Very readable, practical commentary, encouraging. Highly recommend this book for personal or group study, applicable & practical for Christians and non-Christians.

Quality of this soft cover is good and gives room for notes, if you write in books.
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on May 14, 2017
Having read several marriage books and taught on the subject of marriage, one wonders what can God reveal though another perspective on marriage? Tim Keller and his wife unpack the purpose and nature of marriage in a perspective second to none. This book can give you practical ideas to improve your marriage on every page. Big picture wise, the book gives you an over view and purpose of marriage that singles, thinking of marriage people, about to get married, newlyweds, and/or anyone married for any length of time. If your marriage is stuck or thriving or anywhere in between then you need to read or listen to this book. I continue to return to sections of the book and can imagine doing so forever. Highly recommend and appreciated the wisdom in this book.
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on April 10, 2014
This book was really Good for those who want to get a better understand of the Christian View point of the Meaning of Marriage.

And like Everything else in life you take things with a grain of salt.
Not everything he said I readily agree with but he had some good reasons why he believed in that particular way of looking at the meaning & he had references to back him up . It made me reconsider my stance on the particular matter that I disagreed on him with.

I would Recommend this book to Non-Christians & Christians alike.

With the Non-Christians I would URGE the "Take it with a Grain of Salt" There are a lot of good points to consider mentally, despite who its coming from, but I would also say that this guy is not just some random, he Did go to school and get a degree. So he does know what he is talking about. And he DOES NOT FORCE his belief or lifestyle on you, but it is in every paragraph because again baring in mind this is the "Christian Meaning of Marriage" he is a teacher & preacher.

For Christian - You are in for an Eye-Opener if you didn't know this stuff already. Back when I was young they did NOT explain the Bible correctly which in my opinion hurt us as a whole. But Here is a pioneer of the Grace & Understanding Movement that breaks it down and really shows you that the Triune (God, Jesus, Holy Spirit) are actually seriously cool, down-to-earth, and Realistic!
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on October 25, 2015
This is by far, the greatest book we have discovered on marriage perspectives...extremely bibilical, God-focused and not culturally "correct"...profound insights...we read it as a family and everyone of us from our 18 year old daughter, 28 year old son and us, LOVED it. We would readily make it a "must" read for anyone who wants to understand a healthy, informed and super-balanced view of marriage BEFORE getting married...but instead of waiting until pre-marital counselling, treat your young teens to this one immediately, walk them through it, have great discussions, and watch their eyes get opened! EXCELLENT!
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on December 16, 2016
My wife and I are active in the marriage ministry of our church. It is crucial that couples realize what God's plan for marriage is and how they should receive and respond to this. We need to understand the message of the Bible as presented by the Kellers in this book.
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on August 24, 2015
I cannot say enough good things about this book! I have purchased and given away at least 5 copies to my friends now.

I have read it three times now and it even helped my write my vows. Keller does an outstanding job of treating the entire marriage proposition. If you are anything like me, you have always assumed that you get marriage. But just before proposing to my now wife, I realized that I didn't actually understand it well enough to know if she was the woman I would spend the rest of my life with. I mean I certainly loved her a great deal, but what does marriage have to do with it. I was lucky enough to have a good friend suggest this book, and it profoundly changed my view on, or more accurately opened my eyes to the entire issue. I had never really sat down and analyzed what it means to be married. Keller not only helps you down that path, but does it with great anecdotes and metaphors--truly, a informative yet entertaining read.
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