W.H. Auden, in A Certain World: A Commonplace Book, wrote this of marriage:
“Like everything which is not the involuntary result of fleeting emotions but the creation of time and will, any marriage, happy or unhappy, is infinitely more interesting than any romance, however passionate.”
Could this statement be true? The assertion that any relationship which requires time and will to cultivate is exceedingly more interesting than the most passionate of romances is completely bizarre in today’s take-what-you-can-get-while-you-can-get-it culture. Is a long and happy marriage worth the expenditure of time and will necessary to create it? A look at the marriage and divorce statistics over the last 40 years reveals that more people are answering that question negatively. The divorce rate is now twice what it was in 1960, and almost 25% fewer adults are married now than in 1960. It appears that more people than ever are simply content to exchange fleeting passionate romance for long-term covenantal love. In The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God, Tim Keller (pastor of Manhattan’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church) and Kathy Keller (Tim’s wife and co-laborer in the gospel for 37 years) demonstrate the overwhelming superiority of time and will over consumerism and convenience. The Kellers guide the reader through Ephesians 5:18-33 to show that marriage is God’s design, created to display His glory and to increase our joy. In Chapter 3 of The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller cites the Auden quote above and dares to argue from the Bible that Auden is right. (pp. 89-90) The Kellers make the audacious claim that what gives meaning to Auden’s “creation of time and will” is simply the gospel of Jesus Christ – “that through marriage, the mystery of the gospel is unveiled.”
This is the secret – that the gospel of Jesus and marriage explain one another. That when God invented marriage, he already had the saving work of Jesus in mind. (p. 47)
These twin themes – the essential nature of commitment in marriage and marriage as an illustration of the gospel – permeate the pages of this book. I commend The Meaning of Marriage to anyone, single or married, who wants to better understand God’s design for marriage. It will help those who are not married form healthier and more realistic expectations before becoming one flesh with someone else. It will help those who are married better navigate the struggles they are having or will have. It will help every reader better understand the God who created marriage and the gospel that He designed marriage to represent. I would also recommend this book as a gift for friends who are not believers, as Keller’s approach, while always saturated with the gospel, is also sensitive and warm towards those who have not trusted Christ. In better understanding marriage, all who read will better understand the gospel as well.
For more information, check out this video of Tim Keller speaking to Google employees about The Meaning of Marriage.