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Notable Books

Notable Books | Four books about marriage and the church reviewed by Susan Olasky

Quiverfull

Kathryn Joyce is a secular feminist alarmed about "patriarchalism" among evangelicals. She admits that most evangelicals are not homeschoolers who think all birth control is wrong, but that subset provides a colorful, anecdote-rich stand-in for her main ­target: all evangelicals who believe in complementary gender roles. Quiverfull is typical left-wing reporting: Journalistic propagandists used to love to make Randall Terry the representative of all pro-lifers, and Joyce does similar things here. She portrays some individual women in the movement sympathetically and points out dangers on the extremes, but the emphasis is on scaring readers by suggesting these ­families' lifestyle choices are the leading edge of a threatening political movement.

The Marriage- Go-Round

Sociologist Andrew Cherlin observes that Americans embrace two contradictory cultural ­values: respect for marriage and individualism. Marriage holds a much stronger place in American life than in Europe. Americans are quick to marry, but they are also quick to divorce because they embrace an expressive individualism in which man's chief end is to pursue emotional satisfaction. Cherlin traces the role religion and law have played in America's understanding of marriage, and he is most interested in what effect all this pairing up and splitting up has on children. Christians might also read to learn more about the influences that have made the church look so much like the world.

Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace?

James Montgomery Boice, pastor of Philadelphia's Tenth Presbyterian Church for 30 years, wrote this book shortly before his death nine years ago. Crossway recently reissued it in paperback, and it is as timely now as it was then. Boice argues that the evangelical church is sick, the cause is worldliness, and one result is sick marriages. He then offers the antidote to worldliness, a return to the great doctrines of the Reformation: scripture alone, Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone, and glory to God alone. Boice shows how these biblical doctrines need to be revived in our churches if Christians are to be salt and light.

This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence

We live in a time when even Christians struggle to stay married, perhaps because we don't understand how our marriages are meant to "put the covenant relationship of Christ and His church on display." John Piper's fine book aims to shift our eyes to this larger picture. He establishes biblically the foundations for marriage and shows-whether he's talking about headship, submission, or children-the importance of this larger context. He wonderfully describes how we receive grace, forgiveness, and justification vertically, and then "bend it out" ­horizontally to our spouses: "Let the measure of God's grace to you in the cross of Christ be the measure of your grace to your spouse."

Spotlight

With so much written about the troubles of marriage, it's refreshing to view it from the eyes of a 6-year-old. That's what Sally Lloyd-Jones, author of The Jesus Storybook Bible, gives us in How to Get Married by Me the Bride (Random House, 2009). Lloyd-Jones' cheeky prose and Sue Heap's lively illustrations combine in a delightful how-to book on marriage, chock full of good advice on choosing a mate. What advice, you ask? Here's a sample: "You can marry anyone you like! (Except they need to like you back.)" How about etiquette? "You have to be nice. For instance, no one will want to marry you if you ­gobble up all their candy and never offer them any." And advice on proper love talk: "From now on, you say, 'Sweetheart, where are you, My Sweetheart?' And after the ceremony: "You have to yell, 'Hooray!' and then do some cartwheels for joy." Something brides and grooms would do well to remember.

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