Ardent Cries

Posts Tagged ‘Marriage’

Books,Christian Living,Review

July 14, 2010

John Piper and This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence

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(By David Giarrizzo)

[On Friday of this week, July 16th, two Ardent Cries bloggers—Chad Bennett and myself—will celebrate 5 years of marriage to our wonderful wives. In light of that occasion, here is a short review I wrote about a month ago of Piper’s recent book on marriage.]

In a world where subjectivism, relativity, and personal feelings reign supreme, God has blessed some men with the wonderful ability of cutting through culture’s philosophical garbage heap and explaining the truths of God’s Word in a powerful, unambiguous way.

In my opinion, John Piper is one of those men.

His name has become a common word in the YouTube search field of many “New Calvinists.” His sermons have been downloaded and listened to on thousands of iPods. His books have been a blessing to Christians from differing denominational affiliations around the world. And it’s no wonder why Piper has become so well-known. Piper—alongside men like Sproul, MacArthur, White, Mohler, Dever, Horton, etc.—is telling the truth about God, His Son, His Word, and His world. It’s clear by his preaching, teaching, and writing that Piper get’s the Gospel; and it’s clear he wants others to spend their lifetimes getting the Gospel too. So I respect John Piper for being right about the most important things in Christianity.

This Momentary Marriage

Like all humans, however, Piper has his shortcomings. Some of Piper’s doctrinal flaws are readily apparent in his book, This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence. This work is a vivid example of Piper’s theological hits and misses interlaced within the same binding. I want to take the rest of this opportunity to briefly outline some of those hits and misses. I’ll start with the points of disagreement between Piper and myself (and truly, between Piper and a great number of others beyond myself) simply because I want to end on a positive note. For all of the positive statements that I want to make about this book, I am first compelled to highlight the negative aspects of the book because Piper devotes so much of his ink to them.

Misses

The Thesis—

 “…therefore, the highest meaning and the most ultimate purpose of marriage is to put the covenant relationship of Christ and his church on display. That is why marriage exists. If you are married, that is why you are married. If you hope to be, that should be your dream.”

With these words from chapter one, Piper establishes his central point and lays the foundation for the rest of his book. But the problem with this thesis is that while marriage does indeed reflect the relationship between Christ and His Church, in the beginning, when God created Adam and Eve and instituted marriage, He said nothing about marriage reflecting the covenantal love between Christ and His Bride. Instead, God said something specific about His purpose for marriage in Genesis 2:18: “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’” Companionship, then, was God’s purpose for marriage.

The reason this distinction is so important here is because upon this foundation Piper builds his argument against all cases of divorce and any possible allowance of remarriage. As Reformed Baptists, however, we do not make the same conclusion about the purpose of marriage. To quote our Confession: “Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife, for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue, and for preventing uncleanness” (LBC 1689 25:2).

Divorce and Remarriage—

“Whether you agree with me concerning the grounds of divorce and remarriage or not, I pray that we will all recognize the deepest and high­est meaning of marriage—not sexual intimacy, as good as that is, not friendship, or mutual helpfulness, or childbearing, or child-rearing, but the flesh-and-blood display in the world of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church.”

Piper spends two of the final chapters of his book laying out his argument against divorce and against remarriage after divorce. Piper himself has admitted that he holds a “radical, narrow” view amongst believers on this topic; in fact, Piper’s view of remarriage after divorce is not even the held position of his church. Nevertheless, he holds to his view strongly and explains it in part in chapters 14 & 15 of This Momentary Marriage. One of the strongest lines emotionally in chapter 14 is also one of the weakest lines logically: “Therefore, if Christ ever abandons and discards his church, then a man may divorce his wife. And if the blood-bought church, under a new covenant, ever ceases to be the bride of Christ, then a wife may legitimately divorce her husband” (p 159). Using this poor premise Piper continued to construct an invalid conclusion about the Bible’s position on divorce and remarriage.

Other Thoughts—On a non-theological level, I felt that This Momentary Marriage was pieced together from a series of different topics under the umbrella of the theme of marriage. While the book made sense, it just wasn’t as fluid as I hoped it would be.

Additionally, I felt as if this book could have been a lot shorter. Here’s what I mean: The amount of time Piper spent on reasserting his thesis (The purpose of marriage is to represent the covenantal love between Christ and the Church) and summarizing a previous chapter at the beginning of a new chapter was truly excessive. Piper is a naturally gifted communicator; and summary and recap is often important in asserting a specific point; but I felt like I was reading the same things over-and-over without much expansion on the original idea. In other words, Piper should have tried harder to keep it short and sweet.

Hits

 “There never has been a generation whose general view of marriage is high enough. The chasm between the biblical vision of mar­riage and the common human vision is now, and has always been, gargantuan. Some cultures in history respect the importance and the permanence of marriage more than others. Some, like our own, have such low, casual, take-it-or-leave-it attitudes toward marriage as to make the biblical vision seem ludicrous to most people.”

A High View of Marriage—In light of the poor arguments Piper presents, mostly on the topic of divorce and remarriage, what I really appreciate is Piper’s high view of marriage and low view of divorce. I appreciate this about the book because that’s the view I see presented to us in God’s Word.

“Staying Married Is Not Mainly about Staying in Love”—What a wonderful way to start a book on marriage. I think it was this chapter’s title (chapter 1) that first enticed me to read the whole book. There is so much truth packed into that statement.

Husbands and Wives—As expected, Piper does a fine job dealing with the roles of husband and wife in marriage. He lays out the biblically-defined roles of headship and submission, wraps each with the understanding of Christ-like love, and encourages Gospel-centered living within the home.

Singles and Married Couples—To be honest, I was a little surprised to see a chapter in a book on marriage devoted to a discussion about singles and singleness; but I think that’s the point. Piper acknowledged that many married couples in the body of Christ are in need of a greater awareness for the non-married within the flock. Essentially, this part of the book served as a reminder to show love and hospitality to others in our churches.

The Gospel—Finally, I wasn’t at all surprised to see how much of the message of the gospel Piper infused into this book. I am thankful for Piper’s ability to focus our eyes on Christ and a God-centered view of married life. For all of this book’s flaws, it still has much to offer to married believers.

Christian Living

December 9, 2009

Intentional Marriage

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(By David Giarrizzo)
Covenant SymbolsApart from one’s commitment to spend an eternity loving and obeying Christ, marriage is the most important commitment a person could enter into in life. As John Piper points out in his recent book, This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence, “The meaning of marriage is the display of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his people.” A marriage between a man and his wife is a life-long covenant; but a covenant which ends at death. Contrastingly, the covenant between Christ and His bride, the universal church, is an eternal covenant that will not falter, fade, or fail. One is temporary; the other is permanent. Earthly marriage is but a shadow of the much greater reality. This symbolism, then, is important for us to understand and teach. Marriage is a divine institution, a high calling. Marriage is something that Christians should be intentional about pursuing.

I was recently listening to a podcast of Al Mohler’s radio program which dealt with “the need for intentionality in the relationships young people pursue.”  (You can listen to that program here.) I was encouraged to hear this topic discussed on the show that day. The main thrust of the program’s discussion was centered on the point that marriage is a worthwhile goal for young people to pursue, just as noble a pursuit as an education, career, and place to live. But this message isn’t being widely taught in churches today. Granted, there will probably always be some sort of controversy over the methods unmarried people (and their church ministries) employ to get married; but my point is simply that unmarried people—who know that they are without the gift of singleness—should deliberately plan for marriage.

An attitude of intentionality about marriage naturally affects one’s perspective on relationships with the opposite sex. Friendships between single believers is a terrific “proving ground” for determining whether a brother or sister in Christ is potential husband or wife material. (And yes, I think that men and women both need to possess this intentionality about marriage.) But this requires an intentional mindset in addition to a mind that is able to discern God’s mysterious moving.

Dating too should have a purpose (see Joshua Harris’ fine book for more on this topic). Recreational dating (being romantically involved just for the fun of it) is not only unwise, it is unbiblical. Likewise, long, drawn-out, directionless relationships have little value and can actually take attention away from God’s design of marriage. Of course you want to get to know the person you may possibly marry, but don’t spend months and years wondering and waiting (for more on this, see this series of blog posts).  This does not mean that I advocate young people hurrying to the altar to get married to their boyfriend or girlfriend. Instead, I am encouraging an attitude of intent towards marriage and a spirit of submission to God. (There is some good advice relating to questions about marrying young here.)

The best place for young single adults to cultivate relationships and find a spouse is in the local church. Therefore, those of us who are married should unashamedly encourage younger single believers to pursue marriage with intentionality, especially those who are in serious relationships. Allow me to use a personal anecdote to illustrate my point. Prior to our marriage, when Paige and I were purposefully dating, some of the best advice we received was from those who knew us and cared for us and told us not to prolong the inevitable. I was 19 when I bought her ring. By today’s standards, that’s young. And, trust me, I felt young! But we knew that marriage was the goal that lay before us. We had been prayerfully pursuing that end throughout our courtship. Seeking God’s will for us marrying was our intent from the beginning. So when we were both convinced of God’s leading us towards matrimony, why wait until we both had college diplomas in our pockets and careers under our feet? God shows us that marriage is bigger than a college education and better than money-making careers when He tells us that the marriage covenant is a reflection of Christ’s covenant with His people (Ephesians 5:25-33). Therefore, I am grateful for my local community of saints and for those who encouraged us to pursue marriage without delay.

Finally, with such strong encouragement comes an equally strong warning: Marriage should never become an idol, something that is worshipped because of itself. Instead, marriage should be sought after and desired because of the God that it displays and the covenant that it represents. May we ever give God all of the praise and glory for the wonderful gift of marriage and for the much greater gift that it points to, our Kinsman-Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

Christian Living

November 2, 2009

Advice for Marriage

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Family at Home(By: Chad Bennett)

A few weeks ago I began writing on a book our family has been reading through, The Family at Home. The book is filled with helpful maxims and advice. I wrote concerning preparing for marriage and  helpful advice for married couples. This week I would like to finish the discussion of the topic by adding a few more helpful maxims for the married couple. Inevitably, there will arise disagreements in the marriage and our response to  these disagreements will do much to define our marriage. I found the following excerpts to be especially helpful and encouraging:

Often people would come to the previously mentioned couple to inquire and complain about their “bad husband” or “bad wife.”  The author says that “such complaints generally met the reply: ‘go back, then, and be thyself a better wife, (or husband) and see if that do not prevail with him (or her) to be a better husband (or wife.’)” We often find ourselves excusing our behavior because of some imagined fault in our spouse, but how much better might our marriages be if we sought to be a better spouse whenever we thought we perceived a fault in our spouse. The  couple would also often say, “Whenever differences arise, endeavor to persuade yourself that they must have arisen from some mistake or misunderstanding of your own; never suppose the other party in fault, or that any thing unkind could have been intended, but charge all the blame on yourself, and make it your business to promote reconciliation and preserve peace. This will at once mellow your own spirit, and win the other party to reconciliation and love.”

Another practical rule that I believe will prove especially helpful is to “let husband and wife never be angry at the same time: by this means family feuds and discord will neither come often, nor continue long.”

To summarize one final thought from the author – since marriage partners are arranged by God before they are joined on earth, though we might have had a richer, better tempered, or more attractive spouse none would prove better fit than the one our Lord has given us.

May we keep in our minds that our marriages model Christ’s love for His church to the world around us and strive with all our might to bring glory to God in how we love our spouse.

Books,Christian Living

October 19, 2009

Marriage

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(By: Chad Bennett)1599251116

Last week I wrote on the book our family has been reading through, The Family at Home. The book is filled with helpful maxims and advice. Last week I commented on the chapter concerning preparing for marriage and this week I want to continue that thought with the subject of marriage itself. I offer the following as helpful advice for married couples:

“Let your conduct be such as to render easy the duties of the other party.” Wives are to reverence their husbands, then we husbands should act in such a godly way that it commands reverence. Husbands are to love their wives; wives then act in such a loving way that it demands love.

“Let there be no secrets, and no separate interests. Do nothing that requires concealment, and never act in such a way as to provoke it.” Common interests and activities naturally create intimacy in the marriage and a lack of these shared activities will often cause a lack of intimacy. Avoiding secretive behavior in the marriage will prove beneficial to your own state of being as well as a safeguard from lying.

Husbands “Treat your wives always with respect. It will procure respect to you not only from her, but from all who observe it. Never using a slighting expression to her even in jest, for slights in jest, after frequent bandyings, are apt to end in angry earnest.” In other words, avoid speaking ill of your spouse even in jest, it can bring only pain.

Husbands and wives “remember the design of your union, to promote each other’s honor, comfort, and usefulness in this life, and preparation for a better. You are to walk together as fellow-travelers through the paths of time, whether smooth or rugged; and as fellow-heirs of the grace of life, helping each other by prayer, counsel, sympathy, and forbearance.” This incorporates the essence of marriage as companionship between helpmates with a God-given purpose in this life while yet preparing for a better life.

The author also adds the advice to “always keep in view the termination of your union,– ‘till death us do part’

Books,Christian Living

October 12, 2009

Preparing for Marriage

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1599251116(By: Chad Bennett)

Our family has been reading through The Family at Home for the last few months. The book is filled with short chapters on various topics relevant to the family, each filled with advice, maxims, and interesting illustrations from the authors life. This week I wanted to share some points from one chapter we found to be especially full with good advice. The author had a couple in her hometown who the people of the town regularly sought advice from when they were considering someone to marry. The couple would walk the individuals through a series of questions in an effort to lead them to carefully consider their decision. In a day and age when it seems little serious thought is given to the subject I believe this couple’s questions may prove to be of much benefit.

The first question they asked was “Have you consulted your parents, and what do they think of it? For you cannot expect happiness if you marry without the full consent of your own parents and the parents of your intended partner.” When we are young we are prone to believe we know more than our parents, but this advice is doubly wise. With age and experience comes wisdom and parents will often discern what a young person may not. We are also to honor our parents, who if they are opposed to the marriage may well prove a cause for dissension and strife.

The second question was: “What is it in the person of whom you speak, that makes you think you should love him (or her) better than all the world beside? You ought to be able to do this; for it is very foolish action either to marry without love, or to love without reason.” This was then followed with a series of questions regarding the potential answer to the first question. “Is it for beauty? Beauty is only skin deep, and sometimes covers a heart deformed …‘Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman that fearth the Lord, she shall be praised.’ Would you marry for money? Better have a fortune in a wife than a fortune with a wife…How does the person behave in their present relationships? Is he (or she) remarked as a dutiful, affectionate, attentive child; a kind brother or sister? For never yet was it found that the disobedient, rebellious son, or the pert, undutiful daughter, was fitted to make an affectionate, valuable husband or wife… Is the person humble, industrious, and contented? If not, your present lot will not satisfy her.”

Finally, “How is the one thing needful? Whatever you do, don’t let this be overlooked. Without true religion, you lose the best sweetness and relish of prosperity, and you have no provision whatever for meeting trials and afflictions…Be sure, then, you remember the scripture rule, ‘only in the Lord;’ and expect not the blessing of God if you violate it.”

“When all these matters are satisfactorily settled, and your choice is fixed, be steady and faithful.”

History,Preaching,Theology

July 22, 2009

A Story of God’s Providence and Provision

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koch_ruthboazBy David Giarrizzo

This past weekend our church family spent three days and two nights up near scenic Sedona, Arizona, for our annual family camp. The event provided an opportunity for many to escape the 116 degree heat of Phoenix and trade it for the more tolerable 101 degrees of Oak Creek Canyon. As nice as it always is to leave the fast-paced, big-city atmosphere for a few days and to relax and fellowship with God’s people surrounded by the beautiful mountains, trees, and streams of His creation, at this year’s conference we were especially blessed by the sound, biblical preaching of Pastor David Dykstra.

In four valuable messages Pastor Dykstra covered the four chapters of Ruth through clear, exegetical observations and practical, encouraging applications. The central theme of Ruth focuses on God’s providence and provision in a family’s life. Of course, though, while God is the central theme, there are many other thoughts and lessons that stem from the story like spokes on a wheel: wise and unwise decision making (Ruth 1); providing for God’s people (Ruth 2); the kinsman redeemer as a type of Christ (Ruth 3); and redemption from sin, adoption by grace (Ruth 4). Ultimately, as Pastor Dykstra pointed out for us, this story of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz is but one historical snapshot that is a part of the metanarrative of scripture as we see later through the life of David and the birth of Jesus in the opening pages of Matthew’s gospel.

But it was the focus on God’s providence in the story of Ruth that refreshed me most this weekend. To define God’s providence, Dykstra quoted from the Heidelberg Catechism which states,

27. Q. What do you understand by the providence of God?
A. God’s providence is His almighty and ever present power, whereby, as with His hand, He still upholds heaven and earth and all creatures, and so governs them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed, all things, come not by chance but by His fatherly hand.


In reformed circles, God’s providence, his sovereignty, his divine authority are spoken of often, especially as these attributes relate to election and salvation (and rightly so!). But as a Reformed Baptist, what I find most refreshing in this study is considering this doctrine while looking at a biblical example of God’s providence being acted out through the characters Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz. It was God in his providence who guided Naomi and her Moabite daughter-in-law, Ruth, to Bethlehem where Ruth would meet Boaz. And it was God who provided them food and safety and a kinsman redeemer. From the smallest details of this story to the most prevalent, we are assured from scripture that all things are under the authority and will of God (Job 42:2; Proverbs 16:33; Isaiah 46:9-10; Daniel 4:17; Matthew 10:29; Romans 9:14-21).

As I listened to these lessons from Ruth about the providence of God in all things—“fruitful and barren years…health and sickness, riches and poverty”—I was struck by the very little, seemingly insignificant things in life that I let come and go without even taking much notice of how God’s fatherly hand is involved. Last week, for example, my wife Paige and I celebrated four years of marriage. As I think back to the days before I knew my wife, and then the months and years we spent getting to know one another, and then the last four years that we spent getting to know each other even more, that 20/20-hindsight kicks in, and I am able to recognize the providence of God in initially turning my affections towards Paige and in the conversations and quiet moments we shared and through our friends and family and in other countless events that, put together, have led us to where we are today. And none of this by chance, but by God’s loving guidance every step of the way (Proverbs 16:9). As encouraging as this thought is, I am likewise reminded that I need to continually be transformed by the renewing of my mind that I may be able to “discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

I give glory to God for granting me with a wife who He knew would be a godly, faithful, perfectly suited helper and life-long companion to me. It was God’s providential hand that provided me with a wife. And whether it is the ancient relationship of Boaz and Ruth or the modern marriage of David and Paige Giarrizzo, the same God is the sovereign orchestrator of our lives and love. Praise God for His providence and provision!