Review

PUBLICATION DATE: NOVEMBER 11, 2004

Let’s be honest, there is a lot of confusion about God, marriage, and family out there and lots of competing views. Premarital sex and cohabitation are quickly becoming the norm. With the rise of “starter marriages,” divorce now outpaces successful marriages by a small margin. Single-parents homes, while sometimes appropriate to applaud, are becoming the ideal for independent minds seeking to build a family without being part of a team. Some married couples choose not to have families at all. Homosexuality is no longer considered aberrant behavior, but rather a perfectly viable alternative lifestyle. This is the cultural norm and to question it is to invite accusations of misogyny, sexism, hate speech, and religious terrorism. I do not envy Mr. Köstenberger’s position. However, he boldly steps into the fray and posits Biblical truth without compromise.

The book opens with Köstenberger laying out the current cultural crisis that exists. He also notes that there is very little literature addressing this crisis. There are many titles peppering the shelves that deal with peripheral issues that might help in the short run, but nothing holistic and integrative in its approach to the crisis at hand.

Next, Köstenberger takes time showing people the shape and contour of marriage in both the Old and New Testaments. He deftly shows how the concept of marriage and the family was rooted in the Creation narrative and how and why that has become skewed in our vision, beginning then and travelling forward to the present day. He spends a considerable amount of time looking at the roles and responsibilities of husbands to their wives and vice versa. I think that this is an important section to include, as so many Christian “self-help” books place the onus on the woman to make sure she is taking care of her marital duties, so as to keep the husband satisfied and/or faithful to his marriage vows. While this is an important part of the equation, it has allowed men to act like boys for far too long. Men have a specific and engendered responsibility towards their wives that are often skirted around or morphed into some power mad degradation of what they were meant to be. He also spends some time briefly addressing some of the violations of God’s ideal, such as polygamy and adultery. His time spent in the New Testament is equally moving and impressive, as he makes the case that echoes of Christian marriage in the Old Testament are more fully realized in the New, just as the Old Testament points toward the advent of Christ and the establishment of “the kingdom of God.”

The rest of the title unfolds in much the same fashion, Köstenberger moving from a view of marriage in the Old and New Testaments to a view of families in the two halves of Scripture. Addressing such topics as child-bearing, child-rearing and discipline, singleness, homosexuality, divorce and remarriage, and faithful husbands as leaders of the home and Christ’s Church, God, Marriage, and Family is resolute in its commitment to “rebuilding the Biblical foundation,” yet sensitive in its common sense approach.

After reading this book, both men and women will take a good long look in the mirror and question whether they make the cut. If they answer this question negatively and are mature in their faith, they will make the tough but necessary changes to salvage their marriages and families, hopefully bringing them into a right relationship with God. The great thing about this book is, while it is not exhaustive, it covers a lot of bases. And while Köstenberger gives a lot of sound advice, he seems to know that no two marriage or families are alike, making his counsel amenable to various contexts. However, he pulls no punches when it comes to universal truths regarding Christian morality in relation to marriage and family.

This is the best book I have ever read on the topic of marriage and family. This is better than all the counseling I have ever gotten on the topic and better than all the classes I have taken on it, too. While it is a long read, not exactly coffeetable-friendly, Köstenberger has written a resource par excellence for believers seeking to better their marriages and families, whilst helping them field tough questions and counsel others from a truly Biblical outlook. Bravo!