Book Plunge: Primal Loss

What do I think about Leila Miller’s book published by LCB Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The kids will be alright if the parents split. Right? I mean, the experts all told us it was for the best for the children. If the parents are happy, the children will be happy. Right?

Those children are now speaking and they are not happy. They are speaking about the damage that the divorce caused them. These are people who even if they have gone on to have functional lives, still carry the scars of divorce with them even into their own marriages and other relationships.

Now let’s be clear on something. This does not mean that divorce is never a sad necessity sometimes or the unforgivable sin. I believe that if there is a marriage where both people want to work for the good of the marriage, then they can work for it and reach it. This can include even in the case of an actual affair. There could still be times of separation that are needed, however, such as in the case of physical or sexual abuse.

Leila has seventy correspondents she has talked to about this matter. Each of them are asked about eight specific topics. They are left anonymous although details about each can be found in the back. No names are given.

The following are the eight topics.

1. Effects of the divorce.
2. Feelings as child vs adult.
3. View of marriage.
4. Are children resilient?
5. Speak to your parents then and now.
6. What society should know.
7. The role of faith in healing.
8. To those facing divorce.

After this, she has stories of hope of people who overcame divorce in their own marriages and are now happily married. Then, she has a section on what the Catholic Church teaches on divorce. The former section contains several short stories and the latter section is just a few pages.

The stories in the book of what the children went through are gripping and painful to read. They need to be read though. They need to be heard. These are people being raw and candid and not writing to impress. They’re not normally going on and on about themselves or being overdramatic. They are expressing the pain they have as a result of the divorce. They are urging people to work on their own marriages.

There are some further steps I would like to see from a book like this.

First off, I understand this is by a Catholic writer reaching Catholics, but I would like to see this work broadened beyond that. I would like to see Protestants and Orthodox included as well as other religions and even secularists. Is the role of divorce in the lives of these other people the same? Will an atheist be hurt by the divorce of their parents?

I also think this will be good for people outside of the Catholic tradition who read the book. Divorce hits all people groups and all people groups need some help with it. I would like to know what people in my Protestant tradition would say to these questions as well as what other people would say in other faiths or no faiths?

Sometimes, I also thought the large number was good, but it could also be good to have a book that would have fewer correspondents, but those would be far more extensive. Perhaps a sit-down style of interview such as could be found in a Lee Strobel book on the topic.

I would also like to know what encouragement would be given to couples who don’t have children and are considering divorce. If the reason given is the kids will be damaged, what happens if kids aren’t involved? What reason is given then?

Still, this is a book that needs to be read. We need to hear about the effects divorce has on a culture. No. The kids are not alright.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 8/17/2019

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The 60’s were a wild time in America. You had the Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam War, the space race and landing on the moon, and Woodstock. You also had a revolution that drastically changed society and that was the sexual revolution. This revolution has been on the move and is still in effect to this day. Unfortunately, while the American Revolution did bring about much good for us, the same cannot be said of this one.

Today, we live in a culture that is thoroughly confused about sexuality. Sure, we’re watching sex, we’re talking about sex, we’re dreaming about sex, and we’re just plain having sex, but we’re not really thinking about sex. We keep chasing after the god of Eros wondering why he flies away so often.

Maybe instead of moving forward on this path, we need to move backward. Maybe we need to undo the sexual revolution. Maybe we need to think more about what sex is and why it is so important to think about it.

To discuss the Sexual Revolution, I am bringing on someone who has written and spoken profusely about this topic. It is a field she never thought she would get into being an economics major, but it is where she has found herself. Today, she teaches from a Catholic perspective on the issues of sexuality and family. We are going to be talking about her new book, The Sexual State. Her name is Jennifer Roback Morse.

So who is she?

According to her bio:

Dr. Morse is the founder of The Ruth Institute, a global non-profit organization equipping Christians to defend the family and build a Civilization of Love. 

Dr. Morse was a campaign spokeswoman for California’s winning Proposition 8 campaign, defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. She has authored or co-authored six books and spoken around the globe. Her work has been translated into Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Polish and Chuukese, the native language of the Micronesian Islands. 

Her latest book is The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies are Destroying Lives and Why the Church was Right Along. (See below for a complete list of Dr. Morse’s books.) 

She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Rochester and taught economics at Yale and George Mason Universities. 

Dr. Morse was named one of the “Catholic Stars of 2013,” on a list that included Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI.

Dr. Morse and her husband are parents of an adopted child, a birth child, a goddaughter and were foster parents for San Diego County to eight foster children. In 2015, Dr. Morse and her husband relocated to Lake Charles, Louisiana, where the work of the Ruth Institute continues. 

Complete list of Dr. Morse’s books: 

  1. Love and Economics: It Takes a Family to Raise a Village (2001) 
  2. Smart Sex: Finding Lifelong Love in a Hookup World (2005)
  3. 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage (2013) coauthored with Betsy Kerekes.
  4. The Sexual Revolution and Its Victims (2015)
  5. 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person (2016) coauthored with Betsy Kerekes. 
  6. The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies are Destroying Lives and Why the Church was Right Along. (2018) 

I hope you’ll be watching for this new one. If you’ve been watching for awhile, the episodes are being worked on and coming up. There have been some snags lately, but they are coming. Just please bear with us.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Sexual State

What do I think of Jennifer Roback Morse’s book published by TAN Books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I want to thank Dr. J, as she prefers to be called, for sending me a review copy of this book. Dr. J’s book is about the sexual revolution and the damage that it has done. The book is definitely written from a Catholic perspective, but Protestant readers like myself will still benefit from it.

Dr. J starts with talking about many of the victims of the sexual revolution that have been silent. These are people who have been hurt by the tearing apart of the family, including the divorce culture. This isn’t to say that divorce should absolutely never happen, but when divorce is way too easy, it has led to people with their own fallen natures seeking to end a marriage easily. Even when Allie and I were still in our seventh year of marriage I was told by some people we had a “long marriage.” Very sad.

Dr. J contends also that all of this required the necessary involvement of the state. The government has been pushing much of this, which is definitely the case when we realize that Planned Parenthood is government funded. Many of our elites also have a great interest in the sexual revolution. Think about how many people got ousted in Hollywood and media by the MeToo movement.

Dr. J sees this built on three pillars. The first is the contraceptive ideology. This is the one that tries to separate sex and babies. As a Protestant, I didn’t agree with this one as much as the others. After all, even devout Catholics practice Natural Family Planning to be able to have sex without having babies.

There’s also the case of situations where the motive is entirely right to avoid childbirth. I know someone once whose wife had a serious bone condition. If she got pregnant, she could die. They have measures taken to make sure this doesn’t happen. Is that wrong? I don’t think so.

For this, I largely think it depends on the circumstances. I would definitely agree that anyone wanting to use contraception in order to have easy sex outside of marriage is in the wrong, but notice that in this case, it is the activity itself of sex outside of marriage that is wrong. Were we to live in a culture where sex was kept within the bounds of marriage, I don’t think this would be as much of a problem.

Of course, I definitely agree that abortion is an evil. The only possible exception could be if it is required to save the life of the mother and the baby would die anyway. Abortion is one of the greatest evils of our time and I find it repulsive to think that even many so-called faith leaders are accepting it.

From there, we move on to the divorce ideology. This one destroys the permanence of marriage. Again, there are times I think everyone agrees that divorce is a sad necessity, such as a highly abusive relationship, but even then, it is a tragedy because it means someone broke their promise before God and men.

On the other hand, I do know of some women who favor no-fault divorce because it allowed them to get away from abusive husbands where if things had gone wrong, they would have stayed in that situation and been punished by the husband. I am not a legal scholar at all, so I can’t answer what can and can’t be done, but I would definitely agree that divorce is too often done and too many couples go into marriage saying that if things don’t work, they can get a divorce.

Sadly, this can also lead to people assuming that moving in together before marriage to test out a relationship will work. In reality, this is something that increases your odds of divorce and puts you in a more dangerous situation and allows men and women to treat each other as test subjects. It’s especially bad for the woman. After all, the man gets all the rewards he wants, namely free sex, and he doesn’t even have to commit to the woman!

Finally, there’s the gender ideology. It first started with the goal to remove the gender requirement for marriage, but now it seeks to eliminate gender altogether. If we looked at how the feminist movement went down the path, it’s quite a development.

The first step was saying that women are equal to men. This wasn’t in an ontological sense but saying women can vote, drive cars, own property, hold a job, etc. Most of us today would have no problem with this perspective.

The second was saying that women are superior to men. This has led to men often being just sperm donors and having it be easy to cry out rape at any event. Women have tried to show they don’t need a man in anything. I often thought Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016 could have just been “Vote for me because I’m a woman!”

But then the third step went somewhere most feminists didn’t expect and some have argued against. Now, thanks to the transgender movement, women are men. This has also led to some amusement from many of us men. Now men are able to compete in women’s’ sports. When they win, now men are no longer just superior at being men, but at being women apparently. Of course, there’s no risk also that many young men won’t use the new laws on transgenderism to be allowed to shower with the girls. Nope. After all, we’ve learned men have no interest in looking at female bodies.

Each of these chapters is followed with the Catholic response. Again, Protestants can get something out of this. I don’t agree with the Catholic Church on many issues, but they do some of the best work in moral philosophy today.

A final section also has Dr. J talking about the gift of grace and such. This is also how she ended her book Smart Sex and Dr. J I think is truly at her best when writing about the gift. She does not write as a highly sophisticated theologian or Biblical exegete. I would contend it is the simplicity of how she writes that makes it special and many of us who are Protestant Christians can stand up and cheer at this point.

While many people will have different levels of commitment, I think most of us in the Christian camp will agree the sexual revolution has been a disaster. If we could return to saving sex for the person you are married to it would help us out so much. (Just think of how much we would not have to spend in researching and treating STDs) No laws will ever give us utopia as long as we are fallen human beings, but we can say that some ideas make it worse, and that includes the sexual revolution.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Sexuality in the New Testament

What do I think of William Loader’s book published by Westminster John Knox Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

William Loader is the scholar in the world who has probably written more on sexuality and the Bible than anyone else. Naturally, the Bible talks a lot about sex. Is it because the Bible is a perverse and dirty book as some would say? No. It’s because people talk about sex a lot and it’s a dominant feature in our society just like it was in the ancient world. Loader aptly gives us a warning on page 5.

“Sometimes wanting to know becomes impatient to the point of jumping too quickly to conclusions or filling in gaps with fantasy instead of coming to terms with the limits of our knowledge. Particularly in dealing with matters of sexuality it is not uncommon for people to become deeply involved emotionally in wanting, indeed, needing texts to say certain things which would reinforce or confirm their own beliefs and attitudes. This can happen from many different angles, both from those wanting to affirm what some might see as conservative positions and those wanting the opposite.”

This is a major point worth stressing. Many of us today want the Bible to side with us. Now we could take a totally foreign approach and say the text has no real meaning, but this is problematic as we should not approach any text this way. Could it be difficult to know what the author meant to say sometimes? Sure. There are matters open to dispute. Sometimes it isn’t and with many of these texts, I think the meaning is clear.

The first place Loader starts with is the texts on homosexuality. Loader looks at the various interpretations of all the texts in the debate and frankly, comes down on a conservative side, and this after looking at what most scholars are saying. This does not mean necessarily he agrees with that. I find it hard to tell frankly, but that’s a strength of Loader’s work. It’s hard to know what bias he himself might bring to the debate and frankly, I can understand much better if I encounter someone who says “Yes. This is what the text means. I just disagree.”

Loader also deals with some of the revisionist ideas such as the idea that the Centurion’s servant is a homosexual lover or that the Beloved Disciple was involved in a homosexual relationship with Jesus. These are times where I really think the homosexual reading is grasping at straws. As Loader indicated above, you can read anything into a text if you want to. We must all be looking to ask “But what does the text mean?”

Loader goes on from there to talk about marriage itself and what the Bible has to say about it. He interacts with ideas of polygyny as well and notes that it was limited, although the Damascus Document was pretty hard on it. Loader thinks this could be a minority position. Of course, polygyny would also be costly so few people would do it. Loader goes on from here to talk about issues of divorce and remarriage and pregnancy and child birth. Naturally, Loader will also touch on the household codes found in Ephesians and Colossians. He rightly states that the way the husband is to act to his wife still is the way Christ does for the church, which is loving and not violent or exploitative.

From there, we move on to adultery in the Bible. Many of the texts are quite clear on this and the idea is that sex is to be between a man and a woman in the covenant of marriage. I was pleased also to see a talk about what lust is in the discussion. I do think the command to lust is speaking about another person’s wife, which makes it a form of covenant, but I think it can also mean an excessive desire, a desire that dehumanizes the person and makes them only an object of sex. After all, today if a man and a woman are dating, it is not a problem I think if the man has sexual desire for the woman. He ought to. If he does not desire her, he has problems.

Now some will wonder about spiritual adultery. What does that mean? Looking at another woman with lust. Frankly, I like what Robert Gagnon said at a talk he once gave on a podcast about this where he said “If spiritual adultery is grounds for divorce, every woman could divorce a man on her wedding day.” Lust is something to be avoided to be sure, but let’s not be extreme in saying everything is adultery. Actual physical adultery is worse.

There’s a lot in the book that is covered and yet it is a short read. If you want a good lowdown on what the New Testament says about sexuality and scholars on both sides, you owe yourself to check out Loader’s work.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Answering Thom Stark on the Bible and Homosexuality

What do I think of what Thom Stark has to say on the Bible and homosexuality? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s not a shock that Thom Stark has jumped on the bandwagon with wanting to support homosexual behavior. Now he thinks he has hard questions for Christians. Really? Let’s see what he has.

If you’re a Christian who condemns homosexuality because the Bible condemns it, there are at least five things you must also do before you can condemn it consistently:

Well I guess we’re off to a bad start since I have other grounds for my condemnation, but of course, Stark has this idea that all Christians are the same. But hey, let’s leap into the text.

1) You must also condemn sex between a husband and his menstruating wife (an act condemned on equal footing with adultery, incest, homosexuality, bestiality, witchcraft, and child sacrifice in both Leviticus 18 and Leviticus 20).

On equal footing? Well no. Leviticus 18 doesn’t mention the punishments for certain crimes, but Leviticus 20 does. Leviticus 20 gives incest, homosexuality, bestiality, child sacrifice as leading to death. Witchcraft involves expulsion from the community. The same follows for sleeping with a woman while she’s menstruating since that involves blood and the punishment is being cut off. Homosexuality is right there with the ones that end in death and is thus treated differently. So sorry, point #1 doesn’t really work.

2) You must also acknowledge that, according to God’s laws, polygamy is morally acceptable to God, and is a standard type of “biblical marriage.” It is given tacit approval in the laws of Moses, in Deut 21:15-17, where a man with more than one wife is told that he must treat the children of unfavored wives equally to the children of favored wives. There is 2 Sam 12:8, where Yahweh reminds David that he gave Saul’s wives to him as a gift, and would have given David even more if he had asked. Then in the New Testament, only church elders are told they cannot marry more than one wife (ostensibly because more than one wife is a distraction from caring for the church family), a prohibition that does not apply to any other Christian.

Or being a good Christian, you could remember that this was a practice allowed because of the hardness of the hearts of people, much like divorce was. The NT has several indications about a time where God let some people have a little bit more leeway. But what about 2 Samuel 12:8?

And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.

Does this mean more wives? No. It refers to wealth period. Would God have given David other houses besides Israel and Judah? Israel was told to not expand their borders. It refers to increasing wealth entirely. It’s a way of saying “Look what all I gave you! Isn’t that enough?!”

3) You must also acknowledge that, according to God’s laws, it is morally acceptable to capture the women of your defeated political enemies and force them to marry you. “When you go out to war against your enemies, and Yahweh your God hands them over to you and you take them captive, suppose you see among the captives a beautiful woman whom you desire and want to marry, and so you bring her home to your house: she shall shave her head, pare her nails, discard her captive’s garb, and shall remain in your house a full month, mourning for her father and mother; after that you may go into her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife” (Deut 21:10-13). That is biblical marriage.

I suppose Thom would have preferred that the women be either killed or left to fend for themselves alone in the ANE. That they were allowed to marry was a way to protect the woman. Is that a different kind of marriage? No. It is still a man-woman marriage. It is a different way to enter into marriage but the reality of marriage as the union of man and a woman is the same.

4) You must also acknowledge that, according to God’s laws, it is morally acceptable to force a rape victim to marry her rapist. “If a man meets a virgin who is not engaged, and forcibly seizes her and lies with her, and they are caught in the act, the man who lay with her shall give fifty shekels of silver to the young woman’s father, and she shall become his wife. Because he violated her he shall not be permitted to divorce her as long as he lives” (Deut 22:28-29). This is biblical marriage.

And Thom again doesn’t realize that this was set in place to protect the woman. In the culture, she would have been shamed and seen as undesirable for marriage by being raped. Forcing her rapist to provide for her for the rest of his life would make him think twice about the activity. The woman would have welcomed the arrangement wanting the man to be punished and making him pay the price for her.

5) You must also acknowledge that, according to God’s laws, it is morally acceptable as a matter of course to own slaves. “As for the male and female slaves whom you may have, it is from the nations around you that you may acquire male and female slaves. You may also acquire them from among the aliens residing with you, and from their families that are with you, who have been born in your land; and they may be your property. You may keep them as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property. These you may treat as slaves, but as for your fellow Israelites, no one shall rule over the other with harshness” (Lev 25:44-46). You must acknowledge that the New Testament orders slaves to obey their masters, even while it tells their masters to treat them kindly. Nowhere does the Bible condemn slavery, and thus, if you wish to continue to condemn homosexuality simply because the Bible says so, you must never condemn slavery again.

Or we could try understanding the way slavery worked in the ANE. Sorry Thom, but you couldn’t just go to Wal-Mart and get a job. You had to work for someone else and the system set up for that was slavery, a way to actually care for the poor. It was nothing like the slavery that we saw in Civil War Times.

We could go on with things you ought to support: genocide, patriarchy, etc. But these five are a good jumping-off point. When you can honestly say 1) that you do not have sex during menstruation and that you excommunicate any fellow Christians who do, 2) that you support a man’s right to marry multiple women, 3) that you support a man’s right to invade a country, kill a woman’s husband or father, and take her as his wife, 4) that you support a rapist’s right to forcibly marry his victim and deny her right to divorce him, and 5) that you support a man’s right to purchase and own human beings as slaves and bequeath them to his children, then you may come to me and tell me that you believe homosexuality is immoral because the Bible tells you so. Until that time, suffer your own hatred in silence.

Ah yes. The hatred card at the end. You see, I took the time to write this post in the middle of stomping around my house talking about how much I hate homosexuals. When I meet other Christians, all we do is gather around and share stories of mean things we did to homosexuals that week. Please excuse me because after this post I have to go to a meeting where we will hold up our Christian flag and continue our prolonged hate of homosexuals.

Yeah Thom. That kind of drivel about hate means I just don’t take you seriously there. You see, believe it or not, hate can be a very good thing.

What?

You see, I take it you don’t support genocide, slavery, or patriarchy. I would wager you hate those things. Do you think that’s a problem? I don’t. I think if something is evil, you should hate it. Even if it isn’t evil, if you think it is, you should hate it.

Meanwhile, it would have been nice of you to explain what these passages mean that you think we should just throw out. It would have also been nice to have seen you touch a passage like Romans 1 and deal with what Paul said. Oh. Maybe next time you can look at the work of Robert Gagnon and comment.

But until then, it’s this kind of handling of the text that I just find completely unpersuasive and banks on people not understanding the historical context.

By the way, telling people to suffer it in silence is a way of saying “Shut up.”

How tolerant of you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Meaning of Marriage

What do I think of Tim and Kathy Keller’s book published by Riverhead? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This is the second Tim Keller book I’ve read and like the first one, I loved it and I hated it. I loved it because it’s just packed with excellent information and wisdom to help one be a good spouse and learn to appreciate marriage all the better. I hated it because in the midst of all of this, the Kellers smack you right between the eyes with what they’ve written so you have to take a good long look in the mirror and come to the conclusion that there are ways that you don’t shape up as the spouse that you are to be.

Tim Keller is the pastor of a church with thousands of people in New York and the overwhelming majority of those people are single, quite the rarity. Despite that, this book is based on a sermon series he did on marriage. Sermons on marriage are not just for married people. They need to be there for singles as well. Why? Because many of those singles just might want to get married someday and they need to learn to honor marriage the way God intended. If they don’t, they still need to honor marriage, such as avoiding having sex with other people, because they will be interacting with married people and even if you are not married, you can still work to build up the institution of marriage.

At the start, the Kellers want to dismiss with the idea of a Hallmark card. Marriage is usually treated like a fairy tale where you live your life feeling constant love for the other person. However, if this was what marriage was meant to be, then very few marriages would last. In fact, it could be the reason that many marriages do not last is because there are too many people who expect this. C.S. Lewis once wrote that the feeling of being in love is the explosion that gets the relationship started, but after awhile, it has to learn to rely on a deeper love that does not depend on the feelings.

The Kellers also give a history of marriage and show how in the Enlightenment, marriage came to be about fulfilling your own needs and not so much about self-denial. It came about fulfilling yourself as a person emotionally and sexually. Each person was entering more often for what the marriage would do for them and not what it would do for the other person. What a shock then that we wind up in a scenario where if the other person is not meeting our needs, well we just walk right out the door. Unfortunately, when we do this, we don’t realize that many of the problems from the marriage we still take with us and we just bring them into our next relationship, and then we probably bring even more since we’re trying to recover from a past relationship.

Tim Keller says that as a pastor, he points out to people that love is hard. Most anything that you want to do well, it requires sacrifice and effort. Look at the star athlete in any field. Could they have been born with some natural talent? Absolutely. Yet despite that natural talent, they had to work hard to do what they are doing today. We could in fact argue that love is very hard because it does go against our natural inclinations. Our natural mode of operation is to look to ourselves and take care of our own needs. Marriage calls you out of that to look to the needs of someone else.

The Kellers contend through their work that marriage is a picture of the Gospel. Of course, you can have a good marriage without knowing the Gospel, but if you know the Gospel well, it will improve your marriage. This is why they say that marriage is painful and wonderful. So is the Gospel. We can all appreciate good news about redemption in Christ and forgiveness, but with that good news comes the message that you are a human being who is not perfect and you are guilty of great wrong and need to seek forgiveness for your sins. We don’t like being told we’re sinners, and frankly, marriage has a great way of showing you the many things that you are doing wrong. I often tell guys that when you get married, it’s like God putting a big mirror in front of you and saying “Hey! This is what you’re really like! Do you like what you see?!”

The Kellers point out that at the heart of many divorces is a self-centeredness. You can see this because many times when someone divorces, they will often rail about what a jerk the other person was. Very rarely will they talk about all the things that they did wrong. (This is not to say there are no valid divorces. Sadly, there are.) This is of course our natural tendency. None of us really likes to look in the mirror and see who we are, but I often tell people who are married that the rule I apply in our marriage is when something goes wrong, I try my hardest to first look at myself and see if I did anything wrong. I’d like to say I always succeed at doing this, but I don’t.

Ironically, if we put the needs of our spouse first and seek their happiness, we can more often find our own happiness. The reality is many of us know this. A wife who provides a good romantic evening for her husband can enjoy the sexual act itself. Yet despite this, the greater joy she will often get out of it is knowing that her husband is going to bed that evening a happy man. (And yes ladies, we will go to bed happy men!) A husband will not normally enjoy spending money, but when he buys his wife some flowers, the great joy that he gets is not from spending the money, but from the joy that he brings his wife. We all know this! Why aren’t we living it more?

The Kellers then go on to speak about the people who ask why a piece of paper should matter so much. Keller says that if you say “I love you, but let’s not ruin it by getting married”, it’s a way of saying “I don’t love you enough to close off all my options. I don’t love you enough to give myself to you that thoroughly.” Getting that piece of paper is a public declaration with solid evidence that there is no one else and that all other doors are closed. Yes. The piece of paper does mean something. (Also, the Kellers are strongly against any idea of living together before marriage as that also increases your odds of divorce.)

Keller also talks here about our idea of passion and uses sex as an example. He writes that if you only have sex when you feel a time of great passion, then you will rarely do it and there will be fewer times of great passion as your spouse feels deprived. Why should they try to ask you for sex if they’re quite sure they will get a no answer? I happen to agree with those who say that many times someone should have sex even when they don’t feel like it. Once again, this is not about your needs. This is about the needs of your spouse. William Lane Craig has emphasized this as well.

There’s also the emphasis on what it means to honor your spouse. Breaking faith with your spouse means breaking it with God. It’s a shame that many couples enter the covenant of marriage and before a year is done, they’re looking to get out. When you got married, if it was in a church, you made vows to God and you made vows to man and you made vows to each other. Does that not mean anything to you? Those vows, the Kellers point out, are not just a vow of how you feel today, but they are meant to be vows that you will in fact keep loving your spouse in the future as well.

The Kellers also want us to know that in marriage, our goal is to shape the other person to be all that Christ wants them to be. We don’t just love them as they are. We love them as we see them becoming. We love to see what Christ is doing in them. You must be committed to your spouse’s holiness. As you do this, you will experience romance, sex, laughter, and fun, but those are not the cause of the great marriage. They are the result of it. The more that you are getting from your relationship with Christ and becoming like Him, the more also you will be able to impart that to your own family.

Aside from Christ, your marriage must be first. If your spouse does not think they are being put first, then you are not putting them first. That sounds hard, but it’s the truth. What would it mean if you have to convince your spouse that you are their first love? It would mean that you have done something to them to demonstrate to them that you are indeed not their first love. There has been someone or something else invited into the marriage and the person who feels rejected is just drifting into the background. You will not be able to have a great marriage if this is going on.

The Kellers also write about loving the other, and this in two chapters with Tim writing one first and his wife writing one on being a wife in the relationship. Tim writes about the power to transform, pointing out that he never really felt manly until he married. This is something I can relate to. I never did either, but now that I have a wife, I can fully delight in the masculinity that I do possess. This is also another reason why the sexual component means so much. It is the loudest way that a wife can scream to her husband “You are my man.” The rest of the world may look at me and see nothing special, but if Allie is looking at me and saying I am her man and her rock and the one she turns to, then I’m ready to conquer the world at that point.

Keller also writes to never withhold the primary love language. This goes both ways. A wife should not use sex as a weapon, such as punishing her husband by withholding herself when she doesn’t get her way. On the other hand, the husbands can often be quite guilty of this when they give the silent treatment.

The Kellers also have a chapter on the single life and marriage. It’s important to realize that if you are single, you are not looking for another Jesus. Your spouse is not supposed to be your savior. That is expecting too much of them. It is tempting to put your spouse in the place of God, but that is a recipe for disaster. Your spouse will not solve all the problems in your life. In fact, your spouse will quite often cause all new problems in your life.

The last chapter is on sex, and I think this is the way to go. OF course, this is the chapter most of us men want to skip ahead to, but we need to know all about marriage before we get to one of the greatest fruits of marriage. The Kellers write that sex is a covenant making activity. There’s a reason why in the bedroom, you will often get the greatest cries of love and passion. It is a passionate time and each person is practically under a spell. Earlier in the book, the Kellers write that it doesn’t necessarily start out this way. The Kellers write they were virgins when they married and the first time was frustrating, but like any other skill, it improves over the years. One of the greatest ways to improve it is to focus not on your happiness but on that of your spouse. Don’t try to perform. Just love one another. If you love one another, then there will definitely be times in enjoying that sex that you will indeed rock each other’s world.

Finally, sex is enjoyable not because it just includes awesome and incredible physical sensations, but because it reflects to the Trinity and the delight that our soul will have before God. Sex is often the closest we get to a moment of true ecstasy and an out-of-body experience in this life. (Is it any wonder some have even said that sex could be used as a proof that God exists?)

In conclusion, I highly recommend this book by the Kellers. I suspect I will be going through it again sometime, this time with my wife.

In Christ,
Nick Peters