Format: Trade Paperback
Religion - Christian Life - Relationships
In the past year, my marriage and relationship shelf has seen a number of significant additions. Some of the most notable include Keller’s Meaning of Marriage, Heistand and Thomas’s Sex, Dating, and Relationships, and Buzzard’s Date Your Wife, to name a few. The abundance of marriage titles this past year sets the stage for this book entitled, Altared, by “Claire and Eli” which speaks out against the plethora of marriage titles, sermons, and discussions by asking “what would happen if we sought to know Christ’s love before we pursued our relational goals?”
Claire and Eli’s approach to marriage is unique in that they use marriage as a stepping stone—pointing at “marriage-happy” evangelicals as the cause for a lack of emphasis on discipleship in the church—as opposed to the end purpose of the book. Their questions lead readers to understand that an unhealthy emphasis on marriage can quickly and easily lead to idolatry.
As they reveal glimpses into their own romantic story the authors look into Scripture and church history to back up their experiences and their claim. Their research lead them to a number of passages that were seemingly underrepresented in the marriage/relationship discussion (cf. 1 Cor 7, Matt 22), and ultimately they posed the following major question:
“Why are we all so marriage centric? Why aren’t we better at loving our neighbors?”
The questions the authors raise are important and provide helpful guidance as Christians seek to appreciate marriage in relation to other Christian priorities. The problem is, I’m not convinced that many in the church leaders are actually disagreeing with them.
It appears as though Claire and Eli have set up a straw man preacher who places marriage on par with our salvation. Once set up, the man of straw is attacked with stories of how they were led astray or “what if we actually obeyed” language. While their stories will ring true with many, and their encouragement towards discipleship is valid, I fear their logic will be lost amidst their disgruntled tone. At times it seems as though the authors were more interested in proving their point than understanding the redemptive historical context of the passage of Scripture.
The problem arises when their polemical and, at times un-careful, language is followed through to conclusion. The authors create a division between marriage and discipleship that isn’t necessary. While marriage has the potential to distract believers from sanctification, I’m not convinced that this couple’s story exemplifies the norm rather than the exception. While marriage may not be what the Lord has for Claire and Eli, it becomes dangerous to prescribe such a cynical view to someone else, who might be most sanctified by marriage. We are told in 1 Thess 4:3 that the will of God is our sanctification. For some, as Claire and Eli point out, that sanctification is most achieved through singleness, but for others marriage might be the most sanctifying thing. And if, as they suggest, we wait to understand God’s love fully before marriage, no one would ever get married and the church would miss out on one of God’s great blessings.
To conclude, the warning that Claire and Eli raise is an alarm worth sounding—we shouldn’t be seeking to fill our longing for union with Christ with the mere reflection of it (cf. Eph 5:32). Their encouragement towards discipleship in response to the abundance of “marriage-happy” evangelicals can serve to bring us back to a more balanced discussion and understanding of marriage. That said, Altared seems to achieve this goal at the cost of creating a division where there needn’t be one. Sanctification is God’s will for our lives, whether through the gift of singleness or the gift of marriage.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for the purposes of this review.
Juvenile Fiction - Religious - Christian - Fantasy
Fiction - Christian - General