The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘marriage

Keeping marriage special

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Many Christians in the UK will be aware of one or more of the various campaigns opposing the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill currently passing through the Houses of Parliament. There was significant opposition to this legislation in the House of Commons, though the Bill did pass its Second Reading and is now heading for the Committee Stage (keep up at the back). After this it will pass to the House of Lords, where their lordships will hopefully give it a good kicking.

Anyway, one of the campaigns seeking to muster principled Scriptural opposition to the Bill is called Keep Marriage Special (other campaigns are available). This particular campaign deliberately maintains a narrow focus on the teaching of Scripture with regard to marriage, avoiding other concerns (however legitimate). They have been having some technical issues with their online petition, but it is now up and running here.

The petition is for UK residents only aged 16 and over. Anyone answering this description can sign even if one or all of the other similar petitions have been signed (there are also printable petitions for download for those who may wish to sign up but who do not have ready access to the interweb). So, if you are interested, please check out Keep Marriage Special.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 1 March 2013 at 20:33

Posted in Culture and society

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Real marriage?

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The spring edition of The Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has a well-grounded and thorough critique of Mark & Grace Driscoll’s Real Marriage. It is worth reading, especially if you have not yet read the book and are considering doing so.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 21 April 2012 at 15:52

Posted in family

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Defining marriage

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For British readers (although I am not sure how this impacts upon the Scots), the issue of how marriage ought to be defined is a current and significant concern. It is presently the subject of a government consultation with a view to potential ‘redefinition’ providing for a shift away from the notion of marriage as “the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others” toward something that would provide for homosexual couples to marry (as opposed to the current provision for so-called “civil partnerships”).

How ought Christians – individually, as citizens of a particular earthly nation as well as citizens of heaven, and corporately, either as concerned groups or as churches, conducting their business as such – to respond to this? To some extent, this will depend on your view of the relationship between the church and the state, and the rights and responsibilities of believers – individually, corporately, and ecclesiastically – to address the powers that be.

There have been at least two responses with differing emphases.

The bigger and more prominent of the two to date has been the Coalition for Marriage (C4M). My sense of this organisation is that it addresses the matter primarily as a civic issue, relies more on general revelation (depending primarily on traditional and evidential arguments), and thereby and therefore embracing quite a broad sector of religious and irreligious persons who support the notion of marriage, an expression of an extensive co-belligerency (for example, the prominence of Roman Catholics has been noted by some commentators).

However, others – while not necessarily rejecting the propriety and reasonableness of such an approach – have wished to make a more distinctively Christian response on the grounds of special revelation (drawing arguments from the Word of God and seeking to express convictions either as a church or as individuals that reflect the convictions of evangelical, Bible-believing Christians) and therefore and thereby expressing a more pointed response which addresses the responsibilities of the civil magistracy to the God who appointed it. In this regard, my attention was recently drawn to Real Marriage, a relatively new player on the field, and the brainchild of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of England and Wales. Rejecting the Romish, Erastian and radical Anabaptist perspectives on the relationship (or lack of it) between church and state, their website allows for individual Christians to sign a petition calling for the preservation of the existing definition of marriage on Biblical grounds, and further provides for churches which consider it legitimate to be involved to identify themselves as supporters. My understanding is that these brothers would encourage people to sign the C4M petition, but also to sign their petition as a more distinctively Christian expression of concern.

I imagine that most of the readers of this blog would believe that citizens of heaven have certain duties and obligations and responsibilities grounded in a right relationship to the God-appointed civil authorities. However, of those, some may feel conscience-bound not to embrace the co-belligerent approach of the Coalition for Marriage, others would be happy to make an individual and/or ecclesiastical statement through something like Real Marriage (perhaps in addition to the C4M approach), and perhaps others still would wish to operate entirely outside such organisations.

So, if for some reason you have been wrestling with this matter and have been trying to work out how to respond in principle and by what means to do so in practice, I hope that by drawing your attention both to the Coalition for Marriage and Real Marriage, you will find illumination on the former and perhaps an opportunity for the latter.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 9 March 2012 at 12:21

Posted in Current affairs

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The call of the mild

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Kevin DeYoung does some straight talking to men (and women), dealing specifically with the issue of singleness and marriage, in an age when men need to learn to be men:

Men, you don’t have to be rich and you don’t have to climb corporate ladders. You don’t have to fix cars and grow a beard. But it’s time to take a little initiative–in the church, with your career, and with women. Stop circling around and start going somewhere. It’s probably a good idea to be more like your grandpa and less like Captain Jack Sparrow. Even less like Peter Pan. Show some godly ambition. Take some risks. Stop looking for play dates and–unless God is calling you to greater service through singleness–start looking for a wife.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 3 November 2011 at 12:24

Posted in Christian living

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“There never was such another”

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Kevin DeYoung passes on a description of the death of Sarah Hodge, wife of Charles:

The next death that visited Hodge was infinitely dearer to him. On Christmas Day 1849, just four months after her return to Princeton with her daughter and grandchild, Sarah “softly & sweetly fell asleep in Jesus.” She most probably fell victim to uterine cancer.

Sarah’s health had begun to deteriorate soon after her return, and by December her condition was such that Hodge had lost all hope of recovery. In her final weeks, he personally nursed Sarah, spending countless hours simply lying next to her. During these times, he held her hand, and conversed with her when she had the strength. The depth of their love remained so intense that Hodge later commented that “to the last she was like a girl in love.” During her final weeks, Sarah asked Hodge to tell her in detail “how much you love me,” and they spent time recounting the high points of their life together.

Hodge’s last hours with his wife were particularly poignant. As her life ebbed away, Sarah looked at her children gathered around her bed and quietly murmured “I give them to God.” Hodge then asked her if she had thought him a devoted husband to which she replied as “she sweetly passed her hand over” his face: “There never was such another.” (Charles Hodge, 258)

Kevin then asks a good question:

Married couples, if you imagine that your final moments together will be like this, rejoice and again I say rejoice. Let the thought of such bittersweet sorrow put your present troubles and conflicts in perspective. But if this scene feels like an impossible dream, what must you change now so you and your spouse can die like this later?

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 3 September 2011 at 12:31

A sequence of loves

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Love to Christ is the great and primary love; it drives and relativizes all other loves; it gives right priorities to all other loves. Brian Croft provides a warning against getting these priorities wrong:

If we love our ministry more than our wife, it is likely we could lose our wife.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 10 March 2011 at 14:16

Posted in Pastoral theology

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The poetry of pain

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Tim Challies shares a poem (take note: few holds barred) entitled I Looked For Love in Your Eyes, written by a woman whose husband’s soul had been poisoned by pornography. It will make your soul ache and your eyes weep. It may well send you back to the cross of Jesus for the cleansing of our sins and for grace to be pure.

The lady writes:

I saved my best for you.
Other girls may have given themselves away,
But I believed in the dream.
A husband, a wife, united as one forever.

Read the whole of I Looked For Love In Your Eyes. Learn the awful lessons that this poetry of pain teaches, and apply them, for the sake of your souls and your marriages.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 18 December 2010 at 16:40

Christian weddings

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Conrad Mbewe provides some interesting perspectives on Christian weddings in Zambia.  While there are clearly cultural nuances to be taken into account, the fundamental principles seem to be widely applicable:

It is clear to me that today’s young people need to address themselves to the issue of how they bear witness to their relatives and friends during their weddings. As long as they want to be as worldly as possible, they will not make their non-Christian friends and relatives see how real their Christian faith is. They will lose a vital opportunity to show them the difference that Jesus has made in their lives. A previous generation fought its battles and bequeathed to them their liberties. But I fear that today’s young people are using the liberties won for them by their predecessors to indulge themselves in worldly pleasures. I tremble to think of the kind of Christianity this generation of young people is passing on to their successors. Judged by the little I have seen at recent wedding receptions, the prospect is frightening!

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 19 January 2010 at 09:11

“Gospel Intimacy in a Godly Marriage”

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Gospel Intimacy in a Godly Marriage by Alan Dunn

Pillar & Ground Publications, 2009 (168pp, pbk)

The greatest threat to genuine intimacy in marriage, even when two redeemed sinners become one flesh, is sin.  Alan Dunn’s book on gospel intimacy is intended to help identify and overcome those barriers and hindrances to genuine closeness.

The author navigates the journey in the light of the doctrines of God, creation, fall and redemption.  He then addresses the grace of gospel love, and it is here that facing sin in a relationship comes to the fore.  Only the gospel can teach us to love our spouse in the face of remaining sin.  Realistically facing our sins, cultivating a disposition of forgiveness and forbearance, and the nature of those ‘gospel transactions’ that enable married sinners to press on together are all helpfully explained.  In the third part, the specific challenges of headship and submission, selfishness, unbiblical communication, and unavoidable death are assessed in the light of Scripture, with instruction, counsel and encouragement wisely and graciously offered.  The author’s experience as a pastor and husband is helpfully evident.

Clearly, the book is directed primarily to Christian couples (married or contemplating marriage).  Slightly unusually, but rightly, the weight of application is toward husbands as those called to set the tone of gospel love in a marriage (the section on headship brings out the nuances of this).  At the same time, Christians in various situations will find rich principles that will guide them not just with regard to marriage, but in understanding their environment, their hearts, their relationships with others, and the gospel realities which underpin peace and unity not just in marriage but in friendships, in the family more broadly, and in the church.

There are many books on marriage, but few that deal with the heart of the matter – in terms of sin and the gospel grace in Christ that overcomes it – with the brevity, clarity and profundity of this volume.  Practical on the deepest level, it is warmly recommended as a gospel recipe for repairing damage and developing and maintaining true intimacy in a godly marriage.

in a Godly Marriage

Alan Dunn

Pillar & Ground Publications, 2009

168pp, pbk, $10.95

ISBN 978 1 932481 19 8

The greatest threat to genuine intimacy in marriage, even when two redeemed sinners become one flesh, is sin.  Alan Dunn’s book on gospel intimacy is intended to help identify and overcome those barriers and hindrances to genuine closeness.

The author navigates the journey in the light of the doctrines of God, creation, fall and redemption.  He then addresses the grace of gospel love, and it is here that facing sin in a relationship comes to the fore.  Only the gospel can teach us to love our spouse in the face of remaining sin.  Realistically facing our sins, cultivating a disposition of forgiveness and forbearance, and the nature of those ‘gospel transactions’ that enable married sinners to press on together are all helpfully explained.  In the third part, the specific challenges of headship and submission, selfishness, unbiblical communication, and unavoidable death are assessed in the light of Scripture, with instruction, counsel and encouragement wisely and graciously offered.  The author’s experience as a pastor and husband is helpfully evident.

Clearly, the book is directed primarily to Christian couples (married or contemplating marriage).  Slightly unusually, but rightly, the weight of application is toward husbands as those called to set the tone of gospel love in a marriage (the section on headship brings out the nuances of this).  At the same time, Christians in various situations will find rich principles that will guide them not just with regard to marriage, but in understanding their environment, their hearts, their relationships with others, and the gospel realities which underpin peace and unity not just in marriage but in friendships, in the family more broadly, and in the church.

There are many books on marriage, but few that deal with the heart of the matter – in terms of sin and the gospel grace in Christ that overcomes it – with the brevity, clarity and profundity of this volume.  Practical on the deepest level, it is warmly recommended as a gospel recipe for repairing damage and developing and maintaining true intimacy in a godly marriage.

Jeremy Walker

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 19 December 2009 at 10:25

Posted in Reviews

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“Gospel intimacy” competition results

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OK: the results are in.  Again, thank you to all those who entered.  I shall be contacting you shortly to obtain a mailing address for your prize.  Alan Dunn, who wrote Gospel Intimacy in a Godly Marriage, has perused and pondered over the entries, and here is his response:

I’d like to thank all who took the time to read Jeremy’s interview.  I thought his questions were very good and I hope my answers were helpful.  I especially thank those of you who took the time to write responses to the competition question.  I enjoyed reading each response and have had to settle on the winners who will receive a copy of Gospel Intimacy. Most of the responses tended toward “sacrificial love,” as stated in several of the essays.  Such sacrificial love was profiled against the backdrop of extended affliction – especially the failing health of one spouse who was ministered to with Christlike sacrificial love.  Certainly such love is a display of forbearance and patience, all of which are integral to giving each other the kind of love we’ve received in Jesus.  However, I was looking more particularly for “gospel love,” a love that contends with the emergence of sin and overcomes it with the grace of forgiveness and then through the power of the gospel, works to bring spiritual change and maturation in both spouses.

So having said that, here are the results of the competition.  I’ve awarded four books.  I identified the four winners but found that three of the other essays each equally focused on “sacrificial love” in the midst of protracted affliction, and I was therefore unable to distinguish fairly between them.  Since the other four more closely approximated the matter of the gospel overcoming sin, they were selected as winners.

In fourth place: Dan.  His response concerned a sacrificial love that overcame the challenge of post-natal depression.  Although he doesn’t specifically state it, I would think that the husband in his account was faced with temptations to sin as he dealt, not with physical sickness per se, but the emotional distress of his wife.  The need to forgive sin rather than to forebear under suffering would be that much more likely.

In third place: Sarah.  She describes the gospel’s power to overcome class distinctions and social barriers.  Again, although contending with sin was not prominent between William Carey and Charlotte, they certainly were faced with the need to forgive others of their prejudice against them.

In second place: Guy Davies, if only because his response was eight pages long!  Guy brought out the fruit of the gospel evidenced in Jonathan and Sarah Edward’s marriage.  Their harmony and peaceable dynamics were the result of their mutual resolve to overcome sin with the gospel tools of repentance and forgiveness.

And finally – in first place: Cath, whose second submission specifically targeted “gospel intimacy” and “gospel love.”  Cath gave an account of the martyrdom of John Brown of Priesthill.  She then reflected on how his marriage to Isobel evidenced the harmony and unity borne of the gospel and that the couple’s love for Jesus was the supreme impetus in their lives and marriage.  Cath’s essay specifically enlarged upon “gospel intimacy” and “gospel love.”  Congratulations Cath!

Let me conclude with a submission of my own, and since I already have a book, it will not be considered as a contender in the competition.  It’s an example of gospel love from a marriage that I know about.  When the couple first married, both were professing Christians, albeit young and somewhat untaught.  It was not too long, however, before the husband started to drink and soon departed from any association with the things of God.  The wife however, continued to persevere in her love for Christ and faithfulness to the worship of God among the Lord’s people.  She took a stand for Christ and with her husband’s acquiescence, took her two boys to church as they grew into young manhood.  Over the years there were tumultuous times.  On a couple occasions, divorce was not out of the range of possibility and, some would say, even justified.  But the wife/mother persevered as a woman of faith and prayer, demonstrating obedience to 1 Peter 3:1-6.  In the midst of it all, she owned his conscience, and the consciences and love of her two sons.  In her early sixties, she was diagnosed with cancer.  She grew strong in the Lord as she drew near to death, while her husband became increasingly frantic with the fear of facing life without her.  In his desperation, he remembered the God of his youth who his wife had served all her life, and in his mid sixties, he repented and sought the Lord.  Before she went to be with Christ, she saw her husband saved, her marriage brought into alignment with the gospel, and both her sons in the pastoral ministry, having married godly women.  The power the gospel triumphed through a lifetime of gospel love.  The sin that would have otherwise destroyed her marriage and her sons was conquered by her faithful loving adherence to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  My brother and I are eternally grateful to the Lord for having given her to us as our mother and using her to bring us into God’s eternal family where we, with Dad, are now eternally brothers and sister in Christ. I didn’t use my Mom as an illustration in my book, but the Lord used her to teach me the power of gospel love in a marriage.

Perhaps this exercise has confirmed for me that the book could very well meet a real need among believers.  We need to make the gospel itself much more effective in our marriages.  We need to purposefully, intentionally, conscientiously bring the gospel to bear upon our dealings with each other’s sin.  We need to believe and expect that, as we give each other gospel love, the Spirit will work effectively in and through us to conform us to Christ and use our marriages to display the gospel and bring glory to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Thank you, Alan, for your careful and thoughtful response, and for the book as a whole.  To summarise:

The winners:

Cath ~ Guy ~ Sarah ~ Dan

Congratulations!

The others: thanks and commiserations, and I hope you will not be put off trying again next time.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 7 December 2009 at 12:37

Posted in Competitions

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Win a book: last call

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UPDATE: LAST DAY! ENTER NOW!

Greetings, sports fans!

Thank you to those who have entered the competition to win a signed copy of Alan Dunn’s book, Gospel Intimacy in a Godly Marriage.  Good to see a little zest in the entries (sportive accusations of cheating included!).

There is still time to enter, so please do – we need at least one more entry to make it truly a competition, and at least two to make it a healthy competition.  The deadline is close of play this coming Monday (Mon 30 Nov) so you have a good three days left in which to make your play.

So, leap across to THE COMPETITION and meet the challenge:

Please identify a particular marriage – either in your own experience or one from church history – which you believe demonstrates true gospel intimacy.  Please briefly explain how this is manifested in the marriage, and what you have learned (e.g. of Christ and his church, the nature of gospel love, how to demonstrate a genuinely Christlike love, etc.) as a result of learning about or observing this marriage.

Please leave answers in the comments section of the original post.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 28 November 2009 at 08:42

Posted in Competitions

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“Gospel Intimacy in a Godly Marriage”: an interview with Alan Dunn

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Gospel Intimacy in a Godly Marriage (Dunn)Please read to the end of this interview for an opportunity to win one of five signed copies of Alan Dunn’s book.

Alan Dunn is a good friend, and one of the pastors of the Grace Covenant Baptist Church, Flemington, New Jersey, and has been since the church’s inception in 1985.  He is married to Patricia, and they have three sons and one daughter.  He has recently authored the book Gospel Intimacy in a Godly Marriage: A Pursuit of Godly Romance (Pillar & Ground Publications).  He has previously written a book on masculinity and femininity called Headship in Marriage: In Light of Creation and the Fall.

impressive clergyman
Alan Dunn in full flow . . . or not?

Gospel intimacy . . . hmmm.  To borrow a phrase: “Is this a kissing book?”

No, and yes.  It is a “wuv, twue wuv” book.  I use the term “intimacy” to speak of the all-inclusive nature of the one-flesh relationship.  Marital intimacy entails a profound knitting of soul.  As we pursue soul intimacy with our spouse, we will inevitably foster physical intimacy as both kinds of intimacy feed into each other.  The book focuses on relational intimacy.  However, sexual intimacy, which is integral to marriage, will emerge from a wholesome relational intimacy.  If you’re asking, “Is this a book about sex?” I would say, “Yes, but it will improve that area of a relationship only as a result of cultivating a deeper intimacy of soul.”

Thank you for the explanation.  That being so, please can you give us a précis of the book?  What can we expect to find?

I’ve attempted to look at marriage in the light of who we are as men and women created in the image of God and as those redeemed by Christ and indwelt by His Spirit.  I consider marriage against the backdrop of the Bible’s large emphases on God, Creation, the Fall, and Redemption.  After I define the couple in terms of creation and redemption, I then consider the greatest challenge to marital intimacy: our sin.  Only the gospel can address the threat that sin poses to our marital intimacy, so we need to learn how to give each other “gospel love.”  We face other challenges to intimacy as well, such as who will take the lead, how to overcome our innate selfishness, how to cultivate wholesome communication patterns, and how to grow more intimate as we age and face the prospect of death.

For whom is this book written?

I believe that couples at every stage of their relationship would benefit from this book.  Since marriage is treated in the context of theology and the issues addressed are fundamental, it will speak to couples of all ages.  The concern of applying the gospel to our marriages is perennial.  When do we outgrow the liability of sinning against each other?  We need to gain competence in giving each other “gospel love” throughout the course of our marriages.  Each stage along the way confronts us with persistent and unprecedented challenges that can only be met by a believing application of the gospel.  So, couples who are contemplating marriage, young, middle-aged and seasoned couples will find help and gain perspective from the book.

Alan Dunn
The real, well-seasoned Pastor Dunn

I like the idea of a well-seasoned couple – a little salt and pepper, with a few mixed herbs, perhaps?  But, moving on, could or should a single Christian bother with this book?

Admittedly, I wrote the book for Christian couples, but that is not to say that our single brethren would not benefit from it.  Let marriage be held in honour by all (Heb 13:4).  I endeavour to profile marriage with biblical honour which is a concern for all Christians, married or single.  Also, the crux of the book deals with the practical matter of how to love with gospel love.  All of our relationships in the family, the church and elsewhere, are to express gospel dynamics.  Christian singles will find encouragement to love others by seeing how the gospel is to operate within a marriage relationship.

With many books on marriage in the marketplace, even from a Christian perspective, what does yours add that others lack?

I make no claim to know the state of “the marketplace” or what might be the dominant emphases prevalent in books about marriage.  Gospel Intimacy emphasizes the theology of marriage as well as the practical importance of conditioning the marriage relationship with the gospel.  Rather than a “kissing book,” it is more a “thinking book.”  It lays foundations in creation and the gospel and then asks the reader to think through such issues as marital leadership and communication between two believing sinners living in a fallen world.

What does your lovely and longsuffering wife think of the book?

She is lovely, isn’t she?  And, as you well know, she is longsuffering having put up with me for these thirty-two years.  As for the book . . . she appreciates the biblical instruction that undergirds the book, but she is less than enthusiastic about those occasions when I make explicit reference to our marriage.  Yet she understands that it would be unrealistic for a married man to write about marriage and not refer to his own marriage or to his own wife.  She’s longsuffering and realistic – which makes her all the more lovely to me.

Are there particular ways in which discovering and applying these principles has affected you and your marriage?

As many of us, Tricia and I entered marriage with naive expectations, few commendable examples, in a time of rampant confusion regarding gender and marital roles.  The confusion has only gotten worse since we married.  We were forced to delve into our Bibles to ascertain who we were to be as male and female, husband and wife.  We’ve had to make sober assessments of our own upbringing and come to terms with our own sins which have obstructed our growth in intimacy.  Gaining the skills necessary to be honest and to communicate is invaluable.  We have come to know each other more intimately over the years, and we’re still learning how to apply the gospel to our relationship.  Each stage in life presents its own challenges and set of temptations.  But as we learn to live by gospel principles, we are hopeful that, by God’s grace, we can face what is in store for us and find Christ to be ever faithful.

In your experience, are women more likely to read books on marriage?  Given that this book is primarily addressed to husbands, why would you particularly encourage a man to read this book, and what counsel would you give him as he does so?

I think it is true that women are more likely to read books on marriage.  Certainly they are welcome to read this one as well.  I mention in the preface that I write from the vantage point of a man and, in many ways, address male readers.  My approach is “masculine,” if I can be so bold as to assume that there is such a thing as masculinity and femininity.  A godly man is responsible to know and apply biblical definitions to his life and relationships.  As I said, this is a “thinking book,” which considers biblical definitions and seeks to apply them in a number of areas.  I think this approach has biblical warrant since the husband is given the responsibility to lead by loving and by communicating truth.  If the marriage is going to be a demonstration of the gospel, the husband must lead the relationship to that end.  It will not happen by accident.  It will not just happen.  Godly marriages are shaped by couples who are intentionally determined to work together to make their marriage serve Kingdom priorities.  The leadership of the man, his prayers, his example, especially his communication of the truth in love, is indispensible.   It is not surprising to discover that our distinctive masculine sins are those which render us either negligent or abusive as domestic leaders.  It is not surprising to discover that the enticements of our culture align with our vulnerabilities as men and debilitate us as godly leaders.  The only solution is for us to rise up and be men of God and lead our families biblically.  I hope my book will stimulate men to be godly leaders in their homes.

Why gospel intimacy?  Does it have to be a godly marriage?  Could you remove either or both of those adjectives and still have a book to write?

The enemy of relational intimacy is sin.  Only the gospel can rectify the damage sin does to our relationships.  Hence, my advocacy of gospel intimacy: the intimacy obtained by the benefits of the gospel believed and holding-handsapplied to the marriage.  In advocating gospel intimacy I of necessity advocate godly marriages because the gospel is God’s gospel.  The gospel not only brings intimacy with our spouse, but primarily with God, so that in fellowship with Him we and our marriages become godly.  It is only as we learn to love each other with God’s gospel that we protect our relationships from the offensive, deadening, and severing effects of sin.  Sadly, we all know couples and families who live at an emotional distance from each other, who do not respect each other’s integrity, who have little if any spiritual commonality and little if any affectionate delight in each other, in spite of being married and living in the same house.  Were it not for the gospel and the blessings God gives to the godly, I really wouldn’t have a book to write.

You root a right understanding of true marital intimacy in the doctrines of God, creation, the fall and redemption.  How important is this doctrinal foundation to practical godliness in marriage?

These crucial doctrines give us our essential definitions.  God is the foundational essence of reality.  In the beginning, God . . . This is God’s creation.  We are made in His image.  We are fallen sinners.  We have fallen through sin, into death.  Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  If we fail to define ourselves in relation to all of these biblical truths, we will deceive ourselves and discover that our myths are not sufficient to endure the realities of life and the inevitability of death.  These doctrines form the structure of a biblical worldview.  They answer the big questions of who we are, why we’re here, what is wrong with us, and how things can be made right.  All men have a worldview, a set of values which issue forth from what is supreme in their life: their god.  Their god determines their values, and their values determine their choices, and their choices determine how their lives are lived in practical ways.  If a man serves mammon, then he will lead his family according to the values of mammon and he will make choices designed to get as much money as he can.  He will find his identity in his possessions.  His solution to what he senses is wrong in life is to get more money.  He thinks that more wealth will fix his problems.  He will then lead his family into the service of money.  They will learn to make commitments and sacrifices, to form habits and find enjoyment in terms of Dad’s value system of amassing wealth.  His wife and children will follow him as he does what is practically necessary to make as much money as he can.  So too, if Dad’s God is Jesus Christ, then the family will learn the values of the Kingdom and take the practical steps required to uphold the worship of Jesus, to learn the truth as it is in Jesus, to serve others in Jesus’ strength, and to give gospel love to all in Jesus’ name.  Such a life will require the practice of godliness, the devotion of time and money, and the sacrifice of self – for Jesus’ sake.

What do you think are the particular pressures that the Western culture (or, indeed, other cultures) is placing upon gospel intimacy in a godly marriage?  Does your book address these?

When men fail to assume their place as husbands giving loving leadership, two perverse results ensue, and one appears dominant in the West while the other is more evident in the East, although these are only generalizations and both perversions are rampant in both hemispheres.  The first is what I call “the wedding handsperversion of inversion.”  This twisting of the God-ordained order inverts the roles of the husband and the wife and puts her into the role of leader and puts him into the role of helper.  The result is a marriage that resembles the mother-son relationship.  She inevitably leads as a mother and discovers that she has married her son.  Both soon come to resent the unnatural dynamics of this perversion.  Bitterness and estrangement choke intimacy.  This perversion pervades Western culture.  The other marital deformity, often found in Eastern cultures, is what I call “the perversion of extremes.”  Here the man takes his role as leader to an extreme and becomes a tyrant while the wife takes her duty to submit to an extreme and virtually effaces herself and assumes a diminished role in the home, in some cases even lower than the children.  Against both deformities stands the morally beautiful marriage of two believers who, in the integrity of their respective masculinity and femininity, display and adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour.  A godly marriage is a powerful witness to the gospel in the midst of the perversions evident in both the East and the West.

What particular individual sins and shortcomings does your book expose and address?

The central concern addressed by the book is our unbelieving reluctance to put the gospel into practice in our marriages.  If we would triumph over the sin that so easily besets us, we have to exercise a courageous faith that believes that the Spirit can and will actually change us and conform us more and more to Christ.  We must believe that the power of the God who raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us to enable us to break away from past sins, character flaws, deficient parental influences, cultural assumptions and whatever else would prevent us from learning how to replicate Jesus’ relationship to His church in our marriages.   As Christians, our expertise is the gospel.  We should be the best repenters, forgivers, believers, and lovers on the planet.  These are the rudiments of the gospel and our failure to practice these gospel essentials exposes our shameful sin of unbelief.

Does your book have anything to say to a couple in which one or the other party was unconverted, or both were unsaved?  In the light of what you have written, what would you say to them?

Certainly a believer who is married to an unbeliever can find help and encouragement in Gospel Intimacy if only by gaining a more cogent biblical perspective on who they are as married Christians.  The unbelieving spouse may be oblivious to the gospel that is being communicated by the believing spouse, but the Lord may also work through “gospel love” to bring the unbeliever into saving union with Christ.  If an unbelieving couple were to read the book, I would hope that the foundational perspectives on God, Creation and the Fall would draw them to the beauty of what is presented to us in Genesis 2:24-25 and that they would be enabled by the Spirit to see there a picture of Jesus and His Bride, the Church.  Were an unbelieving couple to read the book, I hope they would appreciate my attempts to be honest with the realities of married life and, recognizing that measure of honesty, they would then be receptive to my witness to Christ and the gospel as the only provision for us as sinners.

You make much of genuine forgiveness and repentance in an atmosphere of love as a means of maintaining and restoring a relationship.  Can you briefly spell out the issues for us?  Why is it so important to understand and apply these things in marriage?

If we are going to become intimate with our spouse, we will inevitably encounter our remaining sin.  The sins which we might otherwise conceal in our more superficial relationships will surface in the intimate realism of married life.  Who we truly are becomes evident, and although we truly are believers, we are yet sinners as well.  The more intimate we become with our spouse, the more opportunities there are for sin to erupt and threaten our love.  As married couples, we are always together.  We see each other in ways others don’t.  The true moral quality of our core character becomes obvious.  Both our capacity to love and our capacity to sin are discovered in the crucible of marital intimacy.  We are confronted with our own personal defects and relational weaknesses as the pressure of intimacy brings our remaining sin to the surface.  If we are committed to love our spouse deeply from the heart, we will be compelled to address our own deep-seated heart sins which inevitably emerge from the pressure of intimacy.  A Christian couple must be equipped to address the eruption of sin and not be naive to it.  They must be committed beforehand to love each other with the gospel and to stand together against each other’s sin.  They must be resolved that they will remove the intrusion of sin with gospel tools: repentance, confession, faith in Christ, forgiveness, restoration and maturation in grace.  With a commitment to Christ, our marriages can be used by the Spirit to sanctify us and to display the gospel.

What changes would you hope to see in the marriage of two Christians who began to understand and apply the truths of your book?  What might that look like within the marriage, or to those outside it?

I think we all can sense when we are with a couple whose marriage is vital and loving.  Their love is comforting, pleasant, refreshing.  They generate a climate of peace and joy.  We also know the discomfort of being with a couple who are sniping at each other, being critical and circling around each other at an intimacyemotional distance.  You feel as though you’ve entered a place where you do not belong, certainly where you do not want to stay.  The couple are not comfortable with each other and their diseased intimacy makes you uncomfortable as well.  Such a deformed display of love is unattractive, discomforting, and even repulsive.  You’d just rather not be with such couples.  It is unpleasant to be with a couple who are not pleasant with each other.  But when you’re with a couple who love each other, their love emanates and envelops you and your soul is refreshed and renewed by their love.  Back in the eighties, I remember reading about a serial killer, Charles Sobhraj (Serpentine, by Thomas Thompson).  Sobhraj murdered and robbed wealthy travellers in Europe and Asia in the seventies.  At one point, he met an American couple and was seducing them with his charismatic charm, having a meal with them and planning to get himself invited to their hotel room where he would then, as usual, murder and rob them.  But this particular couple in their sixties (I wonder if they were Christians) were so obviously in love, that during the meal, they won the respect of this most hardened killer.  They didn’t have a clue that the “The Serpent” was coiling about them, but in the innocence and beauty of their love, they fended off incarnate evil as Sobhraj uncharacteristically saw them to their room and bade them goodnight.  There is spiritual power in gospel love that does more good than we can ever know this side of Final Judgment.

The last chapter of your book is about death.  Why?

We’re dying.  As a couple moves through the stages of life, encroaching death becomes more evident.  The outer man decays.  My doctor tells me that I’m deteriorating right on schedule.  You confront weakness, sickness and the inevitable separation of death.  One of you will stand next to the graveside of the other.  There is only one thing more powerful than death: our risen Lord Jesus and His conquering love for us.  If we live together, giving His love to each other, sanctifying each other with gospel grace, we are already overcoming death which threatens to sever us because of our sin.  As we experience the victory of the gospel over sin in this life, we taste of the good things to come and fortify our faith to face the inevitable onslaught of death when one of us will be taken to be with Christ and the other will remain in this life for a time.  The life of love and faith will enable us to continue to believe in the victory of the gospel and have an undying hope that, although separated for a time, we will forever be together with the Lord.  We will discover in the resurrection that our godly marriage was used by the Lord to prepare us to take our place in the glorified society of eternal love.  We will discover that our marriage was a preliminary practice for life as the Bride of Christ in a glorified society in which our relationships to all the redeemed will exceed anything we can merely approximate in this age even in the best of marriages.  A godly marriage given to gospel love is an eschatological phenomenon, already tasting of the good things to come and pointing men to eternal glory.  The more we enjoy such love, the more we triumph over death.

Are there any other resources that you would particularly recommend to a couple trying to develop gospel intimacy in a godly marriage?

Over the years I’ve read some very helpful things from Wayne Mack, R. C. Sproul, Jay Adams, Tremper Longman, Martha Peace, and others.  Many people have much to say about marriage and many voices are seeking to fend off the numerous attacks being made on marriage in our culture.  We can certainly benefit from exposing ourselves to the counsel of the wise.  I would urge, however, that we verify that they are, in fact, wise.  I am more receptive to those writers who are determined to instil biblical truth and anchor my mind and practice to Scriptural counsel than those who present arguments based on psychology, sociology, and pragmatism.  I’m confident that biblical doctrine is profoundly practical when it is embraced and pursued in faith and obedience.

How can we get your book?  I looked on Amazon, and – unless you have a lucrative sideline in making sugarcraft flowers – the fruit of your labours is not there.

I just looked on Amazon to verify that I am, in fact, in the sugarcraft flower business.  I was unaware of that and I have no idea what “sugarcraft” might be.  I imagine that that Alan Dunn would be surprised to discover that he has written a book about the gospel and marriage.  It might be just as well for his peace of mind that the book is not listed on Amazon – yet.   Meanwhile the book can be obtained through the publisher: Pillar and Ground Publications, 5510 Tonnelle Ave., North Bergen, NJ, USA 07047-3029 (cris.hist@verizon.net).  The book is also available here from the Trinity Book Service.

Thank you, my friend, for taking the time to write these careful and insightful answers.  I hope that your labours will be a means of investing in multiple marriages for the blessing of godly men and women and all those in connection with them, and the advance of the gospel in every sense.

COMPETITION

I have five signed copies of Alan Dunn’s Gospel Intimacy in a Godly Marriage to give away.  The competition is open to all readers from Europe only.  (Sorry, others – the book is currently more easily available in the US, and the books were given for a competition on this side o‘ the pond.)

I did think of asking why you need this book, with the most persuasive answers obtaining a copy, but then I thought that – under those circumstances – ‘desperate’ would easily become a synonym of ‘persuasive’, and things could get messy, so I canned that idea.

The actual competition is as follows:

Please identify a particular marriage – either in your own experience or one from church history – which you believe demonstrates true gospel intimacy.  Please briefly explain how this is manifested in the marriage, and what you have learned (e.g. of Christ and his church, the nature of gospel love, how to demonstrate a genuinely Christlike love, etc.) as a result of learning about or observing this marriage.

Please leave your suggestions in the comments section of the blog (as they might be a means of encouragement, edification and stimulation to other readers, even if you are geographically ineligible for the competition itself [just put in a line to that effect]).  Although the comment thread will be left open, competition entries must be posted within two calendar weeks of the date of this post (i.e. no later than Monday 30th November 2009).  Please make sure you enter a valid and current email address with your comment, as I will need this to track you down and obtain your address for posting if you win.

I will then ask Pastor Dunn to read through the comments/entries, and to select five enlightening and encouraging entries that he believes chime with the spirit and intent of his book.  I will send the books out as soon as the selection has been made, and hopefully get them to you in time for Christmas (this would be an excellent book, for example, for couples to read together as the new year begins).

Thank you in advance for your contributions.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 16 November 2009 at 12:27

Piper: questions before marriage

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John Piper suggests some questions that any couple contemplating marriage should ask one another with a view to righteous preparation for that momentous step.  He says:

In each of these sections one item could be added that I have not listed, namely, How do you handle and live with differences? How do you decide what can remain differences without jeopardizing the relationship? So as you deal with each subheading, include that in the discussion.

Theology

  • What do you believe about…everything?
  • Perhaps read through the Desiring God Affirmation of Faith to see where each other is on various biblical doctrines.
  • Discover how you form your views. What is the reasoning-believing process? How do you handle the Bible?

Worship and Devotion

  • How important is corporate worship? Other participation in church life?
  • How important is it to be part of a small accountability/support group?
  • What is the importance of music in life and worship?
  • What are your daily personal devotional practices? Prayer, reading, meditation, memorization.
  • What would our family devotions look like? Who leads out in this?
  • Are we doing this now in an appropriate way: praying together about our lives and future, reading the Bible together?

Husband and Wife

  • What is the meaning of headship and submission in the Bible and in our marriage?
  • What are expectations about situations where one of you might be alone with someone of the opposite sex?
  • How are tasks shared in the home: cleaning, cooking, washing dishes, yard work, car upkeep, repairs, shopping for food, and household stuff?
  • What are the expectations for togetherness?
  • What is an ideal non-special evening?
  • How do you understand who and how often sex is initiated?
  • Who does the checkbook—or are there two?

Children

  • If and when, should we have children? Why?
  • How many?
  • How far apart?
  • Would we consider adoption?
  • What are the standards of behavior?
  • What are the appropriate ways to discipline them? How many strikes before they’re…whatever?
  • What are the expectations of time spent with them and when they go to bed?
  • What signs of affection will you show them?
  • What about school? Home school? Christian school? Public school?

Lifestyle

  • Own a home or not? Why?
  • What kind of neighborhood? Why?
  • How many cars? New? Used?
  • View of money in general. How much to the church?
  • How do you make money decisions?
  • Where will you buy clothes: Department store? Thrift store? In between? Why?

Entertainment

  • How much money should we spend on entertainment?
  • How often should we eat out? Where?
  • What kind of vacations are appropriate and helpful for us?
  • How many toys? Snowmobile, boat, cabin?
  • Should we have a television? Where? What is fitting to watch? How much?
  • What are the criteria for movies and theater? What will our guidelines be for the kids?

Conflict

  • What makes you angry?
  • How do you handle your frustration or anger?
  • Who should bring up an issue that is bothersome?
  • What if we disagree both about what should be done, and whether it is serious?
  • Will we go to bed angry at each other?
  • What is our view of getting help from friends or counselors?

Work

  • Who is the main breadwinner?
  • Should the wife work outside the home? Before kids? With kids at home? After kids?
  • What are your views of daycare for children?
  • What determines where you will locate? Job? Whose job? Church? Family?

Friends

  • Is it good to do things with friends but without spouse?
  • What will you do if one of you really likes to hang out with so and so and the other doesn’t?

Health and Sickness

  • Do you have, or have you had any, sicknesses or physical problems that could affect our relationship? (Allergies, cancer, eating disorders, venereal disease, etc.)
  • Do you believe in divine healing and how would prayer relate to medical attention?
  • How do you think about exercise and healthy eating?
  • Do you have any habits that adversely affect health?

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 10 August 2009 at 11:00

Posted in family

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“Tying the Knot Tighter: Because Marriage Lasts a Lifetime”

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Tying the Knot Tighter (Peace & Crotts)Tying the Knot Tighter: Because Marriage Lasts a Lifetime by Martha Peace & John Crotts

P&R, 2007 (118pp, pbk)

A few months ago a friend recommended this to my wife.  We thought we would read it together from time to time in the evenings as a way of profitably spending some time together (as opposed to my native notion of quality time as being in the same room at the same time).

The book is split into three parts: Basics (five chapters), Roles (eight chapters) and Responsibilities (six chapters).  The topics covered are very much those that you would expect from such a volume.  Each chapter is very brief, only a couple of pages at most.  This substance is followed by a list of questions for discussion, some recommended reading, and then a written prayer.  OK, so I do not like written prayers as a matter of course.  So, we didn’t use them.

As to the rest, I must admit to being fairly underwhelmed to begin with: the chapters were not particularly demanding, and the questions – while better than some alleged study guides – did not appear to probe too far.  However, as with many such things, you will get out what you put in.  Once I had stopped making sarcastic comments while reading the chapters and making fun of the questions, the chapters did prompt some useful lines of thought and the questions did prove a helpful way of prompting discussions that did us good as a couple.  The chapters make up in accessibility for what they lack in depth: their brevity allows you to at least cover the territory, and the questions enable you to address the particulars of your own relationship.  Couples who have had little Biblical teaching on marriage will find this a very helpful starter; those with more understanding will still find this a useful reminder and prompt.  Sure, sometimes it is a little cheesy, and you might hope for a little more distinctness and clarity at certain points.  Nevertheless, couples – perhaps especially those with young children, and therefore lacking in time and energy – looking for a way to make the most of those scant hours when they can hang out without simply flaking out would do well to consider this.

Equally helpful as an introduction or refresher course, this would be useful to many.  Be prepared where you can to think beyond what is immediately required, and when you are able to dig deeper than the questions immediately demand, and you will profit.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 11 July 2009 at 14:02

Posted in Reviews

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Messy marriages under the Messiah

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Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 14 April 2009 at 13:31

Posted in While wandering . . .

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Don’t ignore polygamy

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Baroness Warsi calls on politicians to stop messing about and face the issue:

“There has to be a culture change and that has to brought about by policy makers taking a very clear stance on this issue, saying that in this country, one married man is allowed to marry one woman.”

I wonder how long it will be before the BBC rewrites that, or a clarification is issued, making plain that actually it is only polygamy we are dealing with, and that this archaic definition of marriage clearly was not taking into account the perfectly acceptable practice of two men or two women entering into a civil union.  Ahem.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 20 February 2009 at 09:27

And Adam called his wife’s name Eve

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I recommend an insightful post by Robert Bjerkaas on Adam’s naming of his wife in the light of God’s Word to him, and what that means in terms of true, Christian masculinity informed by the realities of creation, fall and redemption. Particularly helpful is the emphasis on language. In our studies on the Christian family in our adult Sunday School, we have sought to recognize the tongue as one of the husband and father’s primary tools in loving leadership of the home. In a society where manly men are believed to be eloquent when they can string multiple grunts together, it is vital that we see the need for intelligent, believing, loving use of words by men in caring for those entrusted to them.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 13 May 2008 at 10:16

A message for a marriage

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A friend is getting married today, and unfortunately I was not able to attend. However, I was asked if I could provide a message of sorts, a kind of glorified telegram, to be read out at the reception. Below is the anonymised version, drawing on some of the material we have been studying recently on The Christian family in our adult Sunday School.

“Dear ______ – Together with ______ (and those words now hang over your whole life, as one joined to her) you are embarking on the most significant and most responsible relationship that you will know with a fellow creature. Nothing can prepare you for it, nor keep and prosper you in it, but Christlikeness. You do not need to be a rich man, a clever man, a handsome man, or a popular man, in order to be a good husband. You need to be like Jesus Christ. Only in him, through his Spirit, will you find the grace and strength to be what God calls you to be. To that end, God in Christ must be first in all things to you both. Unless you hold him above all and anyone else – above even each other – you cannot properly love one another. The loving, sacrificial headship of a husband, and the loving, positive submission of a wife lie outside the capacity of all but those who are truly joined to Jesus Christ by faith, and who walk with him, and who make willing obedience to him their first concern. Put the crucified Christ at the centre of your life and of your home. Govern your life and home not in accordance with what you think, or imagine, or hope, or would like to be true, but by the truth God reveals in his Holy Word, the Bible. Attachment to Christ and obedience to his truth will keep you attached to each other: unless you are living as those crucified to yourself and to the world, you will never be willing nor able to serve one another with selfless love. A few months after I was married, a good friend asked me, “Have you discovered yet what a miserable, stinking, selfish worm you really are?” You will surely have to give the unpleasant answer to that question before long. Marriage will reveal more potential and actual sin in you than perhaps you ever thought you had in your heart. However, that also makes it the platform for God to reveal more grace in Christ than perhaps you ever thought you needed or might know. In this way, your marriage and your home can become a living sermon of God’s love in Christ. It is my earnest prayer that God will make you and ______ happy with the happiness that the world cannot know, full of a love that the world cannot feel, governed by a God whom the world does not want, and therefore made a true blessing to one another and to others around you through many delightful years to come.”

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 3 May 2008 at 09:09

Posted in General

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