Timothy Keller’s new book, The Meaning of Marriage, is an impressive and thorough account of marriage and its significance to both God and society. Keller writes with his usual flair of biblical exposition, cultural engagement, and insightful observations. This book speaks to both believers and non-believers on the sanctity and meaning of marriage, which shows that marriage ultimately points to something greater than ourselves and of this world, which is the union between Jesus Christ and His bride, the church.
The book begins with the Secret of Marriage in Chapter 1, which is truly engaging in that it speaks on the current dilemma and downfall of marriage, citing statistics that show how Western society is further falling away from God’s original intent of marriage. This chapter also speaks critically about society’s false expectations for marriage, believing that marriage and relationships should be about romance and self-fulfillment rather than friendship, self-denial, and servitude to others. It is a spot-on analysis of our society’s obsession with high ideals in a partner that is impossible to fulfill, which is why marriages easily crumble, and people abandon hopes of getting married altogether. Thus, cohabitation, sex before marriage, and other sexual sins are prevalent in society.
The rest of the chapters speak about the power, essence, and mission for marriage. Marriage between a man and a woman is an earthly reflection of the eternal covenant between Christ and the church. This is why marriages are intended to be lifelong and never to be broken (of course, unless the spouse engages in unrepentant adultery). Keller strikes at the heart of the problem, which is selfishness and unrealistic expectations in a partner, and offers the cure as quite simply the gospel. Once the gospel really dwells in the heart of a person and transforms him, then he or she is able to grace to the spouse. Grace, mercy, and love through servitude are fruits of a transformed heart that sustains a marriage in the long run. It is the opposite of selfishness, which is what destroys marriages. It really is all about understanding the meaning of marriage, what it points to, and how it is indeed a journey of mutual edification onto holiness rather than self-fulfillment without positive changes along the way.
This is a book I would highly recommend. Whether you are married, about to get married, or are single but looking someday to get married, this book will serve as an instrumental, foundational, and insightful look into the marriage. If you take the teachings in this book to heart, you will be prepared for marriage and know how to respond to your spouse in moments of discouragement and division. Overall, it’s a great book. It’s easy to read, interesting, truthful, and very true to what the Bible has to say about God’s intention for marriage. This is probably one of the best modern books you will find on marriage, not only the how of marriage, but the why of marriage.