Reforming Marriage by Douglas Wilson

Canon Press, Moscow, Idaho.

reviewed by Rev. Irfon Hughes

One of the reasons for the rise and success of feminism in our day is the abdication of manhood by men. The church is not an innocent party in this. Liberal churches have since succumbed to a deficient hermeneutic and placed women in all offices to replace indolent men and so discourage them to be committed; evangelical and reformed churches have told men to be as they ought to be, yet have not shepherded them to rule in their own homes, not merely in the church.

This book is both a critique of, and a corrective to, these tendencies. In essence, it is a book which calls men to be men, husbands to be husbands and fathers to be fathers; and, as a result, encourages women to be women, wives to be wives and children to be children.

Whilst many of the themes in this book are dealt with in other books - the theology of marriage, headship and authority, the duties of husbands and wives, etc - Wilson approaches them in a fresh and lively way, and presses certain points to really attract the reader's attention. For example, in speaking of headship he says:

"A husband must always remember that as a husband he is a living picture of the Lord Jesus. This remembrance is his first duty in marriage. Since, as a husband, a man is speaking constantly about the Lord's relationship to His people, he ought to seek to speak truthfully as well. The way the man treats his wife will determine whether he is speaking the truth about Christ or not. But he does not have the option of remaining silent; he is speaking all the time. This is because the Lord is a husband, and all husbands are therefore a representative of Him." (Reforming Marriage, p. 42).

I wonder how many husbands have seen their position in that light? So often we talk of witnessing through the way we live; has this area been one in which we take great care? The whole of this book has similar refreshing reminders and some seminal instruction on being a proper husband; and, consequently, helps the wife to delight in being her husband's friend, encourager and joy.

Wilson obviously has a humorous way of looking at life. This comes out from time to time. For example: speaking about mismatched marriages, he talks of Nabal (1 Sam. 25) as being "a blockhead who had a wife who was frankly out of his league." (p. 54) Or again, on modesty in women (1 Tim 2:9) he refers to Isaiah 3:16, speaking of "The daughters of Zion, thoroughly spoiled and cruising the mall." (p. 56).

There is an interesting passage in which Wilson addresses three grounds for Biblical divorce. The two most familiar to us, adultery and desertion, are familiar, but he also argues that when one spouse commits a crime for which the Old Testament decrees the death penalty, that too is a ground for divorce. Whilst this is interesting, there is no explicit New Testament proof, and since the Old Testament permits the death penalty for crimes such as intransigent disobedience to parents, it might give much cause for thought. However, this is just a minor issue in the book.

This book is essential reading for men and for women if they wish to have a proper view of marriage, and it is a healthy spur to seek to establish a proper Biblical view of married life. One doesn't need to agree with his views of divorce, contraception, etc, but one must come up with a Biblical response. This can only strengthen our homes, and our walk with Christ.

Wilson has written a book expounding the Biblical basis for marriage. His teaching flows from his firm doctrinal undergirding, and the result is a book which will truly edify the people of God and, hopefully, make husbands to be husbands and wives to be wives.

Copyright © Family Matters 1997