Friday, June 15, 2012

Review of No Ordinary Marriage by Tim Savage

Marriage books pepper the shelves of every local bookstore.  Type “marriage” into an Amazon book search and you need to sift through over 119,000 titles.  Yet, No Ordinary Marriage is no ordinary marriage book.  Any book that has an endorsement from Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Alice Cooper (yes, that Alice Cooper) is sure to be extra-ordinary. 

Tim Savage, a council member for The Gospel Coalition, believes that the influx of marriage books, seminars, and the like displays that we are “hopeless romantics” that “cling to the notion that marriage can be satisfying” (17).  The good news is that fulfillment in marriage is attainable but in order to have this attainment the marriage must be about the glory of God. 

The main thesis of this book is that husbands and wives are called to “reproduce a likeness of [God] in such a way as to illustrate [His] glory” and that we do that best through cruciform love.  The beginning sections of the book set up and defend his main thesis.  The middle section looks at the husband and wives role in the marriage.  And the book closes with application for sex, church, day to day living, and singles. 

Every section of the book is infused with hope that comes from the gospel.  Such refreshing statements as this are found throughout:

…the God who can turn something as ugly as a crucifixion into something as beautiful as a resurrection can surely provide for the revival of our marriages. (53)

What I Appreciate Most:

Apart from his interesting take on how best to glorify God in marriage (which will be addressed in a moment) two chapters really make this book unique from other marriage books.  Chapter nine on the relationship between the church and marriage is very refreshing.  Savage believes that, “too often we are told that healthy marriages depend on loving communities and too seldom that healthy communities depend on loving marriages.”  Savage advocates a partnership between the local church and marriage that makes the relationship vital to both.  You church needs marriage.  Marriage needs the church. 

The other chapter that I thoroughly appreciated was chapter eleven on singleness.  There were a few times in the beginning stages of the book that I was left wondering what his argument would mean for singles.  I was happy that chapter eleven encouraged and edified single people in a way that other books do not.  I appreciate that while giving some “how to pursue a spouse” advice that Savage is balanced and encourages singles “not to relinquish your singleness too readily.”  (159)  I am not sure how many singles will pick up this book—but it would be found very beneficial. 

I also should mention that I greatly appreciate Savage’s caveat for women with abusive husbands. 

A truly submissive wife, as we have seen, seeks to minister to her husband according to his best interest.  It is never in his best interest to become the object of his abuse.  Instead, biblical submission may require a wife—on certain occasions—to create space between herself and her husband, in other words, to bring his abuse to an end by separating herself from him.  (69)

I am very grateful for that paragraph. 

One Question

I don’t think I necessarily disagree with Savage’s take on how the husband and wife best display the glory of God.  I’m just not certain that I am 100% sold on it yet.  Savage views the wife’s calling as a “proactive subordination”.  Taking his cues from Philippians 2:5, he believes wives are to model Christ in his subordination to Father, and “willingly ‘line up under’ their husbands, view the needs of their husbands as more important than their own, [and] seek to exalt their partners—and in doing so exalt themselves”. 

I’m not denying that husbands and wives are to model a cruciform love for one another and that this displays the glory of God.  But I have read Ephesians 5 as teaching a relationship between Christ and the church.  The wife in this picture is the church and the husband’s model is Christ.  So, I’m left curious when Savage says of Katharine Luther that she was, “called to provide a mirror image of the subordination of God’s Son”.  (70) 

Again, I’m not saying that I necessarily disagree with Savage I just find it interesting and need to think through it a little more.  Perhaps if given the chance to interview the author I will make that a question.

Should You Buy It?

There are a few marriage books that are more practical and more “nuts and bolts”.  I’m thinking here of Paul Tripp’s What Did You Expect or Dave Harvey’s When Sinners Say I Do.  They deal with theology but then spend a good amount of time fleshing that theology out.  So, if you are counseling a couple (or are that couple) that seem to have a pretty solid foundation and belief that marriage is for the glory of God these books might be a little more immediately helpful. 

However, if you are needing to step back and take a big picture look at the purpose of marriage there are few better than Tim Savage’s No Ordinary Marriage.  (Tim Keller’s book on The Meaning of Marriage may be in this category as well).  Even a couple that has been married for fifty years would find benefit from this book.  I know that I, personally, was challenged to model Christ more fully in cruciform love for my wife. 

Savage writes with grace, candor, and passion.  You will not be disappointed in purchasing this book, and you are certain to get some gem to strengthen your marriage. 

Buy it today: No Ordinary Marriage

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