N.T. Wright on Same-Sex Marriage

wedding-ringsBelow is a brief video clip in which New Testament scholar, N.T. Wright, engages a question from British evangelist, J. John. The question revolves around the major hot-button issue of western culture today: same-sex marriage.

I appreciate what Wright has to offer, for he looks to approach things from a big-picture perspective. It’s not just about engaging a handful of verses scattered throughout Scripture (though we can and should dive into particular passages). Rather, it begins with the larger, sweeping narrative of the story of God playing out amongst the people of God and the world. What is the grand narrative of Scripture telling us about this most holy thing we call marriage? Continue reading

Five Years Ago…

Five years ago today, my wife and I joined together in our covenant commitment of marriage. To my beautiful bride – I love you. Thank you for walking with me, standing with me, covering me, being both an amazing wife to me and compassionate mother to our two boys.

To many more years together!

Love & War – Book Review

Back in March, upon finishing the well-known marriage book, Love and Respect, I shared my thoughts in a book review. Well, a couple of months back, I also finished the newly released book of John Eldredge and his wife, Stasi (yes, this book review is a little late). It, too, is on marriage and, interestingly enough, it is entitled Love & War. Quite contrasting book titles, eh?

John Eldredge is head of Ransomed Heart Ministries located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I personally haven’t shied away from sharing my more favourable comments on John Eldredge’s books. Sure, there are things you could nit-pick at (though a few would make a big deal about some of the smaller issues). But, overall, I do appreciate the core of John’s message.

Again, I’ve heard the more negative comments – from Eldredge being labelled an open theist to the dismissive attitude towards his books because they continually focus on life in the rough outdoors. Yeah, he does emphasise the outdoors in a more ‘manly’ perspective. But, while I am more comfortable with a book and cup of coffee inside, I appreciate his focus on getting outside into creation (for Eldredge argues man was created outside the Garden and then placed inside the Garden; see Genesis 2:7-9).

And I think he would agree that not every man is going to be as enthralled about mountains and rivers and animals as he. Oh, and on the open theist accusation, I would say 1) it’s not that big a deal for me and 2) I crack up at the fact that some accuse him of such.

Anyways…

So Love & War is the Eldredge marriage book (they have more stuff to go along with the book here). In previous years, John has released two books sharing his thoughts on the heart of man (Wild at Heart and The Way of the Wild Heart, which is now retitled Fathered by God), while he and his wife together released one on women (Captivating). But now they have joined forces in releasing this newest work on marriage.

This book is quite a lot different in format from Love and Respect. Both books should be appreciated, as they both have their own strengths. But, whereas Love and Respect is more formulaic in its approach, Love & War seems to be more about the Eldredges sharing the journey of their own marriage and imparting wisdom that they have received along the way. And they have had plenty of up’s and down’s (considering divorce a two different points).

And that is one of the things I appreciate about this book, and all of their books. The personal stories, their own real-life journey of which they give glimpses into it. Of course, in Love and Respect, author Emerson Eggerichs shares personal stories of he and his wife’s marriage. But they do not seem as deep and as personal as that of the Eldredge’s.

Of course, in getting personal, John and Stasi also take up the challenge of writing a chapter devoted to sex, which is found in the next to last chapter. Though the two get personal, I don’t believe they overstep any boundaries (though it might leave a few blushing here and there).

I believe one of the greater parts of the book comes in chapter 9, entitled The Little Foxes. In this section, the Eldredges speak about what they identify as agreements. These are particular lies that we believe about ourselves. Actually, they are lies we have agreed to believe about ourselves, hence, agreements. The lies we believe come through the words of others, our own perceptions of ourselves, or flat-out lies from the enemy himself. And, after hearing these lies for some time, they easily become strongholds embedded deep within us. Thus, to be freed from them, we have to take up warfare through prayer, prayer together as covenant partners, recognising them as the lies they are, declaring the truth of God as we hear from Him, and breaking (or renouncing) these agreements.

To some, this will sound either too psycho-analytical or super-spiritual. I understand. But I think these are some things worth considering, especially noting how we, in the ‘western world’, can easily forget that all of life is spiritual, not just certain aspects. And I suppose Satan would love nothing better than to destroy marriages, since the family unit seems integral to everything that is kingdom-oriented. Hence the need to be alert and not unaware of the enemy’s schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11).

They also share their wisdom on how to address the agreements we recognise in one another as covenant partners. It isn’t about heading straight in to the battlefield saying, ‘Honey, you believe a lie and have made an agreement. Let’s address it.’ One can only imagine the offense that could so easily be taken up. There is wisdom, there is grace, there is a call to hear what God is saying and doing in the midst. And, at times, we don’t address such immediately because we need to become clear on what needs addressing. We might think one thing, but such is only on the surface. Hence the need to hear God.

The book was not life-transforming for me. I’ve read some of these thoughts before, which run like a thread through the many other books they have released. But, still, it was good to read. It was honest, it was real, it was personal, and it addressed things that might not show up in your average Christian book on marriage.

So, while I would recommend both Love and Respect and Love & War to those interested in books on marriage, I would begin with offering Love & War. Yet, having said that, recognising that the Eldredges speak more to an American audience, I just might offer Love and Respect first to those outside America. But, from a personal perspective, I’d recommend the Eldredge’s journeyed-perspective on marriage.

Love And Respect – Book Review

A few weeks back, I finished the renown Christian book on marriage, Love and Respect, by Emerson Eggerichs. Until I picked up this book, I had yet to read a book on marriage, and maybe some would consider that a bad thing. So this was my first.

To be honest, I had mixed feelings about the book. There is no doubt that, reading this book, one can learn a few things about themselves and their spouse. There is much attention given to the nature of both male and female, helping each grow in their understanding of how the opposite sex thinks and functions, especially in the marriage relationship.

So, let me start out by saying I think there are some good and helpful pointers throughout the book, maybe even very enlightening points to consider if one wants to build towards a healthy marriage that honours God.

And I agree with the overall, major premise of the book: women need to know love from their husbands and men need to know respect from their wives.

Eggerichs bases this out of Ephesians 5:33:

However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

He probably did not even need to quote this passage to make his point. I think that after years of studies, most would agree that, in general, women need to know they are cherished and loved above all else. And, with men, we feel most loved from our wives when there is a strong sense of respect for our decisions, our ideas, our plans, etc.

What is unique is that most of the times men hear, ‘Love your wives.’ And, of course, we must be challenged with what that means and living it out. But, most times, we don’t really hear the importance of respect for a man’s life. I think Eggerichs has done well to bring this focus.

But there are also some things that I feel need critiquing, if you will. I have two major critiques to bring up:

1) Forcing Scripture Into the Concepts

I think one problem that evangelicals fall into is that we feel we have to make sure everything we do, say and teach somehow has a Scripture verse to back it up. Or, maybe we realise that such is not always necessary, but we still look for a proof-text to back up our thought so that we might appease others who might challenge us.

I know I’ve done this myself.

Now, please know that I believe that the Scripture is our starting place for our beliefs and practice of our faith. Evangelicals agree that it is the foundational place and standard for our revelation of God.

So I’m not negating that we should look to found our understanding of life and its varied aspects in Scripture. But, I also don’t believe Scripture is some kind of ‘how to manual’ with regards to every single aspect of life. Again, I’m not trying to take a cut at the importance of the Bible in the life of the Christian. But I believe it is also ok if, at times, we cannot provide chapter and verse number out of a particular book in the Bible to support a particular action or teaching.

Thus, when reading Love and Respect, it always felt odd when reading some of the little Scripture passages quoted off on the side of the page. They seemed to relate to the concept being espoused by Eggerichs, but the important word is seemed.

At times, if one considered what the verse actually said within its Biblical context, the verse was really taken out of context. And, at times, he would only quote a handful of words from a verse and that’s it.

Now, to be honest, I don’t believe that quoting one particular verse (even out of its original context) is an evil practise. Of course, we have to be careful. No, I don’t have a list of ten guidelines to follow for doing this (though there are guidelines to consider). But I would say that one could quote, say, Paul’s words in Romans 1:5, ‘the obedience of faith’, to teach about the importance of 1) faith as our obedience to God (John 6:29) and 2) obedience will flow out of faith (James 2:14-26).

At times, it can be weird to simply quote four words to springboard into a particular theological teaching. But this is not an evil practise, per se. Our favourite verse to quote out of context is Psalm 46:10 in regards to quiet times. What we teach about a devotional relationship with God is right, but I’m not sure Psalm 46:10 is the place to start, if we consider what the whole psalm is really about.

But I’m not too bothered.

Still, my problem with Eggerichs was that he would quote passages from Song of Solomon or the Psalms or a New Testament letter as if they supported what he was teaching. But the words were never meant to support what he was teaching. His teaching was the horse (coming first) and the Scripture became the cart (coming second).

I’m not questioning what Eggerichs was teaching in his book. I’m just saying that we don’t have to find a verse to back up everything we teach. Scripture doesn’t deal with the issue of marriage in an overly detailed measure. And that’s ok. There are some good things in Scripture to help as launching points in understanding this thing called marriage (Genesis 2:24 and Ephesians 5:22-33 being two helpful places). And there are some great accounts in Scripture to learn what not to do. But the Bible is not a manual on marriage.

So, I would have been fine for Eggerichs to have taught what he sees and has learned (from God) in marriage and never have quoted so many Bible passages. I would not have been offended in the least for less quotations.

I don’t know if he felt a pressure to quote Bible verses to appease the listeners (as I’ve said, I’ve been there before) or to make sure his message sounded Christian enough. I’m not sure. Maybe that’s not why he did it. But it felt that way.

So, for me, I would have said that authenticity would have been more present if he would have been honest that these are things he has learned from following Jesus rather than feeling the necessity to quote a Bible passage in the side margin on every third or fourth page.

Still, his thoughts on Ephesians 5:33, as his main premise on love and respect, are good.

2) Not Dealing With the Not-So-Positive

At times, the book felt like another best-selling self-help book for the Christian market. Do these things and your marriage will be A-okay. We have enough of those, right?!

Before I got to the final chapters of the book, it seemed he was trying to say that if a wife respects her husband, he will love her in return and if the husband loves his wife, she will respect him in return. In general, I would agree that this principle is true in life. But it’s not always so, as we can all testify to, or those who are honest with life. What about the many times where you love and no respect is reciprocated, or the wife respects and love is no where to be found from the husband?

Many, many a stories were shared of how the love and respect cycle helped marriages, even saving some. Yet very little was shared about how couples have continued to struggle even after trying the love and respect cycle.

Of course, when you are sharing a message, one you are convinced is good and right, you don’t share how things have continued to be difficult or failed in some marriages. If you do, you will probably find that your book is suddenly no longer on the best-seller list.

For me, this causes concern when we don’t address the issues of how to honestly deal with life (or whatever specific issue) when things don’t go as planned.

Now, by the end of the book, Eggerichs did hit on this more. He shared that it’s not about having your spouse reciprocate what you need, but rather it’s about honouring God no matter how the other responds. And, for me, that is important. But I’m not sure that kind of thinking came through the whole of the book. I would have liked to have seen more about how to deal with things when change does not come about.

Is it a good book? It’s ok. If people read it, I wouldn’t have a problem. I might even suggest it to some people that need to grow in their understanding of the marriage relationship. But I won’t jump at doing that.

I will say I am looking forward to reading through another book on marriage soon. I have coming to me in the next couple of weeks, Love and War, by John Eldredge. A little different title than Love and Respect. I have enjoyed John Eldredge’s books and I think he and his wife have some interesting thoughts on the male and female. And I think they will be a lot more honest and real about certain issues. So I look forward to reading through their book in the very near future.

And, as always, I have a lot to learn about what it means to be a faithful and loving husband. Teach me, Father, and help me to be open to what You are teaching.