This Momentary Marriage - Book Review

A detailed explanation of what the sections below are intended to accomplish can be found here.

Quick Info

Title: This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence
Author: John Piper Year
Published: 2009
Category: Marriage
Tags: Gender Roles, Covenant, Gospel
Priority: 4 - An immensely helpful and crucial read that would be a great book to glean from.

Brief Summary

This book is not about being a husband or a wife. Rather, it is about marriage, which transcends the roles of two individuals, and, properly understood, catapults us to gaze upon the glories of heaven. By God’s design, marriage is the best representation of the gospel.  In this book, Piper labors to have us see it.

His thesis best summarizes the book’s intent: “I pray that this book might be used by God to help set you free from small, worldly, culturally contaminated, self-centered, Christ-ignoring, God-neglecting, romance-intoxicated, unbiblical views of marriage.  The most foundational thing to see from the Bible about marriage is that it is God's doing. And the ultimate thing to see from the Bible about marriage is that it is for God's glory” (Pg. 21).

Priority

I have not read many marriage books, and I am not married. So, on the surface, my evaluation of this book is uneducated and uninformed at best. I don’t resent that judgment. However, I have seen how God loves marriage in His Word, and I have seen the devastating belittlement of it in the world – even in the church. In light of that contrast, Piper’s book is crucial, and on point throughout every chapter. His goal is to unveil the glory of marriage in light of the glory of the gospel, and he does a good job of it.

So then, why not a 5?  I haven’t read enough on the topic, or lived it, to know. Lord-willing, both will change before I die and go to glory, and then I’ll be able to more accurately prioritize this book.

Strengths

Across all times and cultures, marriage is the most universal institution. Have you stopped to ask, “Why?” Of all the people in the world, only Christians have the answer: marriage points to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is rudimentary to anyone who has ever read Ephesians 5:22-33. Yet, though we Christians may read this verse often during weddings, and say the truth of it often with our lips, few have plumbed the depths and exposited the treasure of this magnificent, glorious reality. By the grace of God, along with the furnace of forty years of marriage, Piper has. It is Scripture truth spoken through a man who has lived, and lives, it out. All of us who are married or seek to be married would do well to listen.

Prerequisites/Cautions

I would recommend this to any Christian. In fact, I recommend it to most (if not all) of those who are dating/engaged/seeking to be married. What can I say? It’s a good book.

The only thing to note is that Piper has a minority understanding of ‘divorce’ in Matthew 19:3-9, which he seeks to defend briefly in the last two chapters.  However, he does so quite graciously, with full awareness that most do not agree.  Even if you disagree, it’s profitable to read a different, evangelically-acceptable view.

Readability

This book is quite easy to read, with short chapters and helpful topic headings to aide the digestion of a common, yet weighty topic.

I speculate that Piper meant for this book to be read with much discussion between each chapter, as hammers his point (that marriage is inextricably tied to the gospel) in almost every chapter. If that is indeed the case, the repetition makes good sense, but for someone reading it straight through in a few days, it proves to be a little tiresome.

Chapter Titles & Quotes

I chose not to take quotes from every chapter simple because of the large number of chapters.

1. Introduction: Marriage and Martyrdom

Romance, sex, and childbearing are temporary gifts of God.  They are not part of the next life.  And they are not guaranteed even for this life. They are one possible path along the narrow road to Paradise. Marriage passes through breathtaking heights and through swamps of choking vapors. It makes many things sweeter, and with it come bitter providences. Pg. 16-17

2. Staying Married Is Not Mainly about Staying in Love

…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. Staying married, therefore, is not mainly about staying in love. It is about keeping covenant. "Till death do us part" or "As long as we both shall live" is a sacred covenant promise — the same kind that Jesus made with his bride when he died for her. …Christ will never leave his wife. Ever. …Christ keeps his covenant forever. Marriage is a display of that! That is the ultimate thing we can say about it. It puts the glory of Christ's covenant-keeping love on display. Pg. 25

3. Naked and Not Ashamed

Suddenly [in Genesis 3:7, Adam and Eve] are self-conscious about their bodies. Before their rebellion against God there was no shame. Now, evidently, there is shame. Why? There is no reason to think it's because they suddenly became ugly. That's not the focus of the text at all. Their beauty wasn't the focus in Genesis 2:25 and their ugliness is not the focus here in Genesis 3:7. Why then the shame? Because the foundation of covenant keeping love collapsed. And with it the sweet, all-trusting security of marriage disappeared forever. Pg. 34-35

4. God's Showcase of Covenant-Keeping Grace

...the main point in this chapter is that since Christ' new covenant with his church is created by and sustained by blood-bought grace, therefore, human marriages are meant to showcase that new-covenant grace. …in marriage you live hour by hour in glad dependence on God's forgiveness and justification and promised future grace, and you bend it out toward your spouse hour by hour — as an extension of God's forgiveness and justification and promised help. Pg. 43

5. Forgiving and Forbearing

6. Pursuing Conformity to Christ in the Covenant

7. Lionhearted and Lamblike — The Christian Husband as Head: Foundations for Headship

8. Lionhearted and Lamblike — The Christian Husband as Head: What Does It Mean to Lead?

*I wish I could quote this entire chapter. But I’ll chose only a small bit.

So, husbands, your headship means: Go ahead. Take the lead. It does not matter if it is her fault. That didn't stop Christ. Who will break the icy silence first? Who will choke out the words, "I'm sorry, I want to be better"? Or "Can we talk? I'd like things to be better." She might beat you to it. Sometimes that's okay. But woe to you if you think that since it's her fault, she's obliged to say the first reconciling word. Headship is not easy. It is the hardest, most humbling work in the world. Pg. 91

9. The Beautiful Faith of Fearless Submission

"Holy women who hoped in God …" A Christian woman does not put her hope in her husband, or in getting a husband. She does not put her hope in her looks or her intelligence or her creativity. She puts her hope in the promises of God. …

She looks away from the troubles and miseries and obstacles of life that seem to make the future bleak, and she focuses her attention on the sovereign power and love of God who rules in heaven and does on earth whatever he pleases (Ps. 115:3). She knows her Bible, and she knows that her theology of the sovereignty of God, and she knows his promise that he will be with her and will help her and strengthen her no matter what. This is the deep, unshakable root of Christian womanhood. Pg. 97

10. Single in Christ: A Name Better Than Sons and Daughters

Take heed here lest you minimize what I am saying and do not hear how radical it really is. I am not sentimentalizing singleness to make the unmarried feel better. I am declaring the temporary and secondary nature of marriage and family over against the eternal and primary nature of the church. …I am declaring the radical biblical truth that being in a human family is no sign of eternal blessing, but being in God's family means being eternally blessed. Relationships based on family are temporary. Relationships based on union with Christ are eternal. Marriage is a temporary institution, but what it stands for lasts forever. Pg. 111

11. Singleness, Marriage, and the Christian Virtue of Hospitality

12. Faith and Sex in Marriage

You don't have to be an ascetic, and you don't have to be afraid of the goodness of physical pleasure, to say that sexual intimacy and sexual climax get their final meaning from what they point to. They point to ecstasies that are unattainable and inconceivable in this life. Just as the heavens are telling of the glory of God’s power and beauty, so sexual climax is telling the glory of immeasurable delights that we will have with Christ in the age to come. There will be no marriage there (Matt. 22:30). But what marriage meant will be there. And the pleasures of marriage, ten-to-the-millionth power, will be there. Pg. 127-128

13. Marriage Is Meant for Making Children … Disciples of Jesus: How Absolute Is the Duty to Procreate?

The most fundamental task of a mother and father is to show God to the children. Children know their parents before they know God. This is a huge responsibility and should cause every parent to be desperate for God-like transformation. Pg. 143

14. Marriage Is Meant for Making Children … Disciples of Jesus: The Conquest of Anger in Father and Child

15. What God Has Join Together, Let Not Man Separate: The Gospel and the Radical New Obedience

Therefore, if Christ ever abandons and discards his church, then a man may divorce his wife. And if the blood-bought church, under the new covenant, ever ceases to be the bride of Christ, then a wife may legitimately divorce her husband. But as long as Christ keeps his covenant with the church, and as long as the church, by the omnipotent grace of God, remains the chosen people of Christ, then the very meaning of marriage will include: What God has joined, only God can separate. Pg. ???

16. What God Has Join Together, Let Not Man Separate: The Gospel and the Divorced

Let There Be Books

This book is part of the Let There Be Books idea that I started.  Let me know if you’re interested.