The Meaning of Marriage
by Tim Keller
Dutton Adult, November 2011
288 pp., $25.95
What does your book contribute to the conversation about marriage that other books have not?
It’s not simply a how-to manual. Many Christian marriage books are “here’s how to work on your problems.” On the other hand, the book is not just theological or “here’s the biblical view of marriage.” The most recent and the best-selling Christian books on marriage from the last few years were either theological, polemical, or absolutely practical. This is a combination of those. Most books I know on the subject recently have not been written by pastors; they’ve been written by counselors or theologians or people like that. This book was originally a series of sermons. When you preach, the sermon usually goes from the theological to the more polemical and into the practical.
You suggest that the Bible’s teachings come “not only in well-stated propositions, but also through brilliant stories and moving poetry.” Has the contemporary church been less effective in presenting good stories about marriage than in stating propositions?
I don’t know that I would say the church has been great at laying out rules, and I don’t think it’s actually been very practical. The theological tends to be propositions. The polemical tends to be arguments. The practical uses lots of stories to give you the gist of what a good marriage should be like. Somewhere in Mystery and Manners, Flannery O’Connor was asked to put the basic point of her short story in a nutshell. She said, ‘If I could put it in a nutshell, I wouldn’t have had to write the story.’
I believe she says a story can’t be paraphrased.
Yes, that’s right. I think what she means is a story gives you an excess of meaning that no proposition could possibly convey, or even a set of propositions. There’s meaning that comes with a narrative that is certainly somewhat propositional–you can put some of it into propositions–but the impact is greater.
On a practical level, the church doesn’t do a great job of giving people a vision for what God wants marriage to be. I actually think that’s a way that my book is somewhat different in that it’s almost as much for a non-married person as for a married person. I actually think, in the end, what is very practical for both singles and married people is they need to get a breathtaking vision for what marriage should be. I don’t know if the strictly theological, strictly polemical, and strictly practical books do that.
Source: Christianity Today | Interview by Karen Swallow Prior