When I come to the end of my life, I think one of the most influential experiences I’ve had will be the three year discipleship process I’ve had with one of my pastors. This needs further blogging at a latter time. I just finished reading Doug Wilson’s Reforming Marriage, which is the latest book I’ve read in the leadership training at my church. I thank God that he has placed godly men in my life that I can learn from and study with.
Reforming Marriage by Douglas Wilson
Doug Wilson is after something big in Reforming Marriage. Each chapter of this book seeks to help stir within the family a biblical love that he defines as keeping God’s commandments with a whole heart. This creates an aroma in the home that is filled with the presence of Jesus and is pleasing to God. The aroma starts with the relationship between the husband and wife and is to be modeled after the way Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25)
Wilson uses this text throughout his book to deal with the issues of headship and authority, the duties of husbands and wives, accountability, and sex among other things. He also mines tremendous insights from the first marriage (Adam and Eve) in Genesis 2 to provide a biblical picture of what God’s intent for marriage is. He decries the vast amount of marriage books that are chock full of worldly advice and lack biblical teaching. If we are to have healthy marriages we must first seek a healthy maturity in the Lord.
Wilson is intensely biblical in his arguments for what a marriage lived out with gospel-centeredness looks like. He constantly juxtaposes what the Bible says about marriage to what our American culture says marriage should be, and does so without compromise. His ability to articulate the problems in marriages, compare it to God’s design, and provide a road map on how to wander out of the muck, makes the book quite powerful. His experience as a pastor, study of the Bible, and sharp writing serves the reader well. Some sentences have the ability to grab you by the scruff and give a needed slap across the face.
For example, Wilson writes boldly to men by saying he will either lead well in his presence or poorly in his absence. To lead poorly is a rebellion against what God has called him to. He makes this point crystal clear when he draws insights into how God designed the marriage of Adam and Eve. God created Adam to be “defined by the work to which he is called, while she is defined by the man to who she is called (31).” One can almost hear the feminists howl as the sentence is read.
Wilson lays out a theology of marriage but does not fail to dive into the practical application of that theology. Chapter 5 is an intensely helpful chapter which lays out a way in which a husband can climb back on the leadership horse within his marriage and ride confidently in what God has called him to do.
The first half of the book was explicit in its reasoning from one point to the next and covered each topic thoroughly. Chapter 6 left me hoping for more, mainly in the topic of pornography. He spent one paragraph addressing the topic and a half page dealing with adultery, both of which didn’t give ways in which men should battle against those temptations. I found the chapter on divorce difficult to grasp and had to read several times. He did not give specifics on what he means by his three biblical grounds for divorce. For example, if a spouse can divorce because of desertion, what qualifies as desertion? I was left wondering what Wilson’s thoughts were on that.
Nevertheless, minus those problems, the book is gold. This is the first book I’ve read where I thought that I should re-read it on an annual basis. There is much to be mined from it. All men and women within the church would benefit from reading it as the seek to pursue gospel living within their marriages.