Book Review: This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence (by John Piper)

In "This Momentary Marriage," John Piper presents a strong, Biblically-grounded stand that, "Most foundationally, marriage is the doing of God (and) ultimately, marriage is the display of God."

Not marital advice but a delving into the mystery that Paul alludes to in his lesson about marriage in Ephesians, "This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church." (Ephesians 5: 32, ESV)

I appreciated this book immensely but as I write this review about it, I must offer my belief that it will be appreciated most by a certain audience whereas others may not enjoy it as much. So before, you recommend it to someone, think about how it may resonate with them.

Here's the criteria I would use for potential readers: 1) Committed Christian; AND, 2) Holding the (Christian) Bible as an authoritative source of truth; AND, 3) Earnestly exploring God-inspired insight about marriage. Those holding doubts about their, or the, Christian faith but who are earnest truth seekers and open to accepting the Bible as a source of truth may also benefit from this book. Regarding others, I'm not so sure.

I offer these audience guidelines because some may see this book as presenting a dogmatic, "hard line" view about marriage, an institution commonly attributed as arising from societal tradition but which Piper presents as originally ordained by God. He starts with a bang in the first chapter to set up what he has to say about marriage:

"There never has been a generation whose general view of marriage is high enough," wrote Piper in the first chapter. "I pray that this book might be used by God to help set you free from the small, worldly, culturally contaminated, self-centered, Christ-ignoring, God-neglecting, romance-intoxicated, unbiblical views of marriage."

While these are strong words, I believe they represent how Piper unflinchingly draws a line in the sand that challenges readers to elevate their view of marriage above the common discourse underway in the world and even in the church today. Wading deeply into Scripture, texts from 32 of the Bible's 66 books are referenced with each chapter launching from a key Biblical passage.

A central theme is that, "The shadow of covenant-keeping between husband and wife (in their marriage) gives way (after death) to the reality of covenant-keeping between Christ and his glorified Church." While marriage is confined to the span of life, God uses it as a pointer to realities found in the next life which is to say that marriage is more than simply a license a couple secures to live out their love in a manner that is societally acceptable. Hence, the book is not so much about marriage as it's about God and Christ and how marriage factors into the plan of redemption for all people, whether or not they marry (and whether or not they are believers!).

In just 178 pages, Piper covers a lot of marital territory including all the "hot" topics - romance, sex, headship, submission, childbearing and divorce. His position on divorce will test the mettle of many readers, especially those who have experienced divorce. While he presents sound biblical reasoning for this position, he leave lots of room for mercy and even admits that his view is not commonly held among church or biblical scholars.

So to those who may say the book's tone is lacking in grace, I would disagree but also understand that charge. While I was challenged at many turns, I thought Piper offered sound biblical reasoning against which I could compare my own conclusions versus his, pro or con. That's all I can ask of any book. Overall, he succeeded in elevating my view of marriage in a manner I found quite inspiring.