— June 28th, 2012 —

Book Review: “Reforming Marriage,” by Douglas Wilson

“How would you describe the spiritual aroma of your home? The source of this aroma is the relationship between husband and wife. Many can fake an attempt at keeping God’s standards in some external way. What we cannot fake is the resulting, distinctive aroma of pleasure to God. Most marriage books address the mere externals of marriage, without seeking to understand the heart issues. Godly marriages proceed from an obedient heart, and the greatest desire of an obedient heart is the glory of God, not the happiness of the household.” — from the back cover

I bought this on the high recommendation of a friend. I was not disappointed.
Short, witty, and wise, this really is a great book, and I profited a much from it (even though I’m not married). In discussing “A Practical Theology of Marriage”, Doug Wilson draws from the marriage of Adam and Eve and the picture of Christ and His Bride, and shows us what we can learn from each example. Wilson writes on “Headship and Authority,” “The Duties of Husbands and Wives,” “Efficacious Love,” “Keeping Short Accounts,” “Miscellaneous Temptations,” “The Marriage Bed is Honorable,” “Multiplying Fruitfully,” and “Divorce and Remarriage.”
Here is one of my favorite quotes from the book, from the chapter “Headship and Authority”:

In this passage of Ephesians, Paul tells us that husbands, in their role as head, provide a picture of Christ and the church. Every marriage, everywhere in the world, is a picture of Christ and the church. Because of sin and rebellion, many of these pictures are slanderous lies concerning Christ. BUT A HUSBAND CAN NEVER STOP TALKING ABOUT CHRIST AND CHURCH. If he is obedient to God, he is preaching the truth; if he does not love is wife, he is speaking apostasy and lies—but he is always talking. If he deserts his wife, he is saying that this is the way Christ deserts His bride—a lie. If he is harsh with his wife and strikes her, he is saying that Christ is harsh with the church—another lie. If he sleeps with another woman, he is an adulterer, and a blasphemer as well. How could Christ love someone other than His own Bride? It is astonishing how, for a few moments of pleasure, faithless men can bring themselves to slander the faithfulness of Christ in such a way. (page 25)

Here’s another, from the chapter “Multiplying Fruitfully”:

No greater instrument of slander is given to those who resist the truth than when adherents of the “truth” do what any fool, saint, scoundrel, wise man, or high school sophomore can do (i.e., beget a child), and who then fail to bring up that child in the fear of the Lord….The Lord said that when someone stumbles a little one it would be better for him that a millstone be tied around his neck and he be thrown into the sea. What then are we to make of a male who begets little ones he will not teach, fathers children he will not feed, and sires offspring he will not pastor? As if one millstone were not enough, he has demanded more. (pages 121–122)

There are so many other excellent quotes I could post here!
There were only one or two points in the book where I though Mr. Wilson may not have gotten it right, but they are for the most part inconsequential. However, he wrote one chapter, called “Multiplying Fruitfully,” in which he discusses how children are a blessing and a gift from God. That is well and good, and much of his writing in this chapter is sound—except for the section where he describes his unusual position on birth control. In short, he believes that any kind of birth control which terminates a life (everything from the “pill” to infanticide and abortion) is automatically excluded by the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” However, he does believe that in some instances, preventative birth control may be used by a couple who a) understands properly the value of children (Psalm 127, etc.) and truly seeks to raise them in a godly fashion, and b) has the proper motives (I don’t recall him specifying exactly what those motives would be). Regretfully, Mr. Wilson did not get specific with the kinds of birth control he did allow—but I very strongly (though respectfully) disagree with him. I believe any use of birth control at all is wrong. (I wrote a good bit in the margins of the book, and perhaps I will post them on this blog sometime.)
The above aside, this book is excellent. Mr. Wilson spices his book with humor here and there and explains graciously yet firmly what our Scriptural duty as husbands and wives are. This book is highly recommended.
INDECENCY: None, per se; but there is one chapter, “The Marriage Bed is Honorable,” in which Wilson deals with the sexual aspect of marriage and its sanctity. It’s a longish chapter, and definitely worth reading, but parents should be aware of it’s being in there.
AGE RANGE: Mature, unmarried young men and women, at the youngest; and certainly married couples, or sons and daughters in the courting process.

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