Adj. Pertaining to complementarianism and egalitarianism.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Sacred Marriage and Love & Respect: A Conversation, by John Hobbins and Marilyn Johnson, Part 1

Part One

John to Marilyn:

I want to thank you for recommending Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. I picked it up today and have found it absolutely lovely. I will now look for Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs.

Marilyn to John:

Hi John,

Sacred Marriage is a beautiful book, isn't it?

I have such respect for Thomas because his writing reflects a level of surrender to God that most of us only talk about. I don't think that anyone but Gary Thomas could have written Sacred Marriage, in part because the book reflects Thomas' personal marital experiences. To support his family and allow himself time to write, Thomas conducts seminars based on his various books. He typically travels about 120 days a year, and his wife home schools their three children. So, the dynamic in his marriage is that approximately 40 weeks a year, he is gone for three days and his wife is alone with the children. He arrives home from a seminar exhausted by both the public speaking and the demands for one-on-one counseling. His wife, in turn, is exhausted because she has spent three intense days alone with the children. Upon his return, is he to serve his exhausted wife? Or is his wife to serve her exhausted husband? The answer, of course, is "Yes"! It is this dynamic in Thomas' marriage that produced this beautiful book. (However, I think the case can be made that the tone of the book is a bit too somber. For the average couple that doesn't face these stresses on an ongoing basis, shouldn't
there be seasons of pure joy?)

John to Marilyn:

I like the somber tone of the book! I can't stand the unrelenting sweetness and light of the upbeat self-help culture. Thomas won my heart immediately with his first quote, from Socrates:

"By all means marry. If you get a good wife, you'll become happy. If you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher."

Self-helpers will immediately reply that we can be happy and philosophers at the same time. But that's not particularly realistic.

You know, the Bible is famous for "texts of terror," not just stories with Hollywood endings. Thomas performs a real service in describing sympathetically the difficult marriages of Anne Morrow and Charles Lindbergh, and Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. Most marriages are difficult. I thought he could have done far better with Heloise and Abelard and John Wesley's marriage.

Thomas stays away from the terminology of the Great Tradition out of deference to evangelical sensibilities, but he quotes it with great skill. His Francis de Sales quote is priceless:

"The state of marriage is one that requires more virtue and constancy than any other. It is a perpetual exercise of mortification . . . From this thyme plant, in spite of the bitter nature of its juice, you may be able to draw and make the honey of a holy life."

De Sales develops a sacramental view of marriage: marriage as a means of grace. Thomas, who speaks of "Sacred Marriage," is doing the same.