Love And Marriage

Love and Marriage: Some Recent Books reviewed by Dr. David G. Benner, chairman, Department of Psychological Studies, Wheaton College (Ill.) Graduate School.

Although critics of marriage have been predicting its imminent demise for some time now, Christian publications on the topic show nothing but robust life and growth. Unfortunately, the quality of these publications has not always kept up with the quantity. The following titles, drawn from almost 50 recent works dealing with both dating and marriage, have something significant to offer the interested reader.

Perhaps the best-written and most thoughtful discussion of the issues involved in a dating relationship is Sex, Love, or Infatuation (Augsburg, 1978). Sociologist Ray Short presents 14 clues to help the reader differentiate between sexual attraction or infatuation and genuine love. Although the discussion of secularity seems to be less conservative than many evangelicals would be comfortable with, the book offers the mature young person an excellent presentation of critical issues. Sammy Tippit’s, You Me HE (Victor Books, 1978) is a rather simple discussion of Christian principles of dating. Most suitable for a high schooler, Tippit challenges the reader not to dismiss the book by saying, “Man, you’ve got to be kidding. This is too straight!” (p. 8), but to consider carefully the biblical standards for love relationships. Love and Living Together by Dale Robb (Fortress Press, 1978) explores similar themes for the college-age young adult. Here the focus is more specifically on the place of sex in dating relationships, the test of true love, and evidences of marriage readiness.

Three books extend the discussion from dating to the issues involved in determining marriage readiness and mate selection. Of these, Charlie Shedd’s How to Know if You Are Really in Love (Sheed Andrews and McMeel, 1978) is the simplest; perhaps it is too simple. It does, however, present 10 biblical tests of love and will undoubtedly appeal to many. Somewhat more thoughtfully researched and prepared is How to Have a Good Marriage by Mark Lee (Christian Herald Books, 1978). Here we have a discussion of 50 questions the author suggests every couple contemplating marriage needs to discuss. Love and Sex Are Not Enough by Charles De Santo (Herald Press, 1978) is a more scholarly treatment of the mate selection and courtship process. Drawing skillfully from sociological and psychological insights, both subjects are examined from a firm biblical foundation. It will be particularly useful for the college student.

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In a category of its own is Dwight Hervey Small’s How Should I Love You? (Harper and Row, 1979), which provides an excellent discussion of love as it applies to both dating and marital relationships. Small begins by examining the popular myth of romantic love and then by showing how genuine Christian love differs from this. The book is a carefully written, well-balanced discussion that demonstrates what is involved in caring for another in a truly committed manner.

Several good treatments of sex roles in marriage have also appeared recently. Equality and Submission by John Howell (Broadman Press, 1979) presents a careful biblical consideration of not only the theme suggested in the title but also of a broader theology of marriage and the sexes. In his final chapter entitled “Developing Your Own Marriage Style,” he suggests principles for selecting a style from the continuum of biblically sanctioned marital possibilities, a continuum ranging from partnership styles to patriarchal or traditional styles of marriage. Even those disagreeing with the conclusion will benefit from a careful study of this work. Gary Demarest’s Christian Alternatives within Marriage (Word Books, 1977) addresses the same issues, suggesting that “there are alternatives to traditional marriage within the principles of marriage and family life pictured so graphically in the Bible” (p. 14). In a carefully presented manner he considers some of the most crucial scriptural passages and then draws together his conclusions in a fresh and rather creative statement about ways to maintain vitality in Christian marriage. Peter DeJong and Donald Wilson have also considered the question of sex roles both in and beyond marriage in their book Husband and Wife (Zondervan, 1979). Biological, psychological, sociological, and biblical data relevant to the question are examined with painstaking care; the result is a book of broad interest and usefulness.

The largest category of books in the area of love and marriage is of a self-help variety, written to help the reader improve an already relatively intact marriage. It is here one usually finds most of the low quality material. However, recent publications have included a number of good to excellent works. At a fairly practical level, Pillars of Marriage by H. Norman Wright (Regal Books, 1979) deals with such vital areas of marriage as handling conflict, meeting each other’s needs, and learning to forgive completely. John Drakeford’s book, Marriage: How to Keep a Good Thing Growing (Impact Books, 1979) presents 14 action strategies (such as “Put It Down in Black and White” and “Trade Behaviors with Your Partner”) designed to provide concrete steps for the couple interested in improving their marriage.

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The Spirit of Your Marriage by David Ludwig (Augsburg, 1979) is less of a how-to manual and more a discussion of what the author calls “the inner dynamics of the marriage relationship.” In this he deals most helpfully with such areas as competition as a block to communication, and emotional intimacy. Similar in emphasis is The Together Experience (Beta Books, 1978). Written by Len Sperry, this balanced presentation of a range of important psychological insights on marriage gives the reader a good understanding of some of the major stages of marital development along with the opportunities provided at each for deepening intimacy. Although not written from an explicitly biblical perspective, this book contains much that will benefit the Christian couple seeking to grow in their marriage. In the same category is Warren Molton’s Friends, Partners and Lovers (Judson Press, 1979). He writes that “friends fantasize the future … lovers embrace their dream … partners roll up their sleeves and go to work.” He goes on to suggest that it takes a combination of all three roles to make the marital union work and illustrates just how the three do merge in a growing successful marriage.

In The Art of Married Love (Harvest House, 1978), Pamela Heim shares richly from her own personal experience something of the process of “growing in love.” Directed primarily to women, the book discusses love clearly and practically. Two books, Making Decisions by David Leaman (Herald Press, 1979) and Love and Negotiate by John Scanzoni (Word Books, 1979), present a discussion of decision making in marriage. Leaman’s book provides a simple though useful discussion of problems in decision making, followed by a decision-making plan for use by couples. Included in this is a consideration of the use of scriptural resources. Scanzoni’s work is subtitled “Creative Conflict in Marriage” and is a somewhat more thorough treatment of the broader issues of conflict in marriage. Arguing for mutual submission as the biblical pattern of marriage, he suggests that “passion for justice” or the “concern that others be treated fairly and equitably” (p. 56) is the quality that must be cultivated in both husband and wife if the marriage is to find creative growth in the inevitable conflicts of the relationship.

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Saying Yes to Marriage by William Willimon (Judson Press, 1979) is a broad affirmation of the continuing legitimacy of Christian marriage in a society committed to “doing your own thing.” In it he provides an excellent presentation of a biblical perspective on sexuality. Perhaps his best chapter is “The Challenge of Commitment,” which goes beyond contrasting marriage to nonmarital unions by presenting to all Christian married couples the challenge of total commitment. Two other books also deal with sexuality. Rusty and Linda Wright’s Dynamic Sex (Here’s Life, 1979) is a simply written book, not about techniques, but rather biblical attitudes and principles that relate to sexuality both in and out of marriage. Sexual Problems in Marriage by F. Philip Rice (The Westminster Press, 1978) is a frank and well-presented discussion of human sexuality and specific sexual problems common in marriage. For the couple experiencing sexual problems or interested in understanding their sexuality more fully, this book by an experienced Christian marital counselor should be helpful.

Finally, two recent books address the growing area of marital enrichment programming. Keeping a Good Thing Going by Stephen Carter and Charles McKinney (Concordia, 1979) presents a model program for a group-run, 13-session, marital enrichment program. Consisting of only 48 pages, this book gives suggested goals, devotional thoughts, group exercises, and assignments for each session. Making Good Marriages Better by Robert and Carrie Dale (Broadman Press, 1978) presents a slightly longer and more detailed guidebook suitable either for use with groups or by individual couples. Together these two books should begin to meet a need felt by many for good program materials in the area of marriage enrichment.

In summary, these books clearly demonstrate that the institution of marriage is far from dead. But more important, they also present us with the challenge to make the establishment and maintenance of healthy, growing marriages one of our highest priorities.

Ways To Defend The Faith

Faith Founded on Fact: Essays in Evidential Apologetics, by John Warwick Montgomery (Nelson, 240 pp., $4.95 pb), is reviewed by Irving Hexham, assistant professor of philosophy of religion, Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia.

This is a stimulating book written in Montgomery’s usual abrasive style. It begins with a strong attack on the first two volumes of Carl Henry’s God, Revelation and Authority (Word), in which Montgomery makes clear his disdain for all attempts at a presuppositional apologetic. Such apologetics are portrayed as a “descent into the abyss of fideism.” In his view, Henry’s approach is “little more than circular.” In the process of attacking Henry, Montgomery takes swipes at professors Gordon Clark, Cornelius Van Til, Herman Dooyeweerd, Edward John Carnell, and Harold Kuhn. The heroes of this book appear to be Schubert Ogden, Harold Pinter, Paul Feinberg, and of course Montgomery himself, whose own works are frequently quoted. In concluding his introduction, which is intended to show how poor evangelical apologetics is, Montgomery chastises “Henry’s badly confused presentation of my philosophy of history” and suggests that Henry ought to have read his works more closely.

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The first essay, “The Place of Reason in Christian Witness,” is a sustained attack upon various other Christian positions. The hero appears to be Anthony Flew, who, we are told, has made “a damning judgment on all religious truth claims save that of the Christian faith.” In his introduction Montgomery asserts that non-Christians would not be impressed by apologetics such as those of Carl Henry. Here he seems to be implying that agnostics like Flew would be more impressed by the Montgomery approach. Unfortunately, the example he gives from Flew’s work is one which Flew uses against theologians who hold views like those of Montgomery.

In the second essay, “Science, Theology and the Miraculous,” Montgomery attempts to refute David Hume and to assert the importance of the miraculous in any defense of the Christian faith. Here he lashes out again at all around. He rebukes theologians influenced by Hume for not sufficiently considering that we now live in an “Einsteinian universe” in which there is no such thing as “absolute natural law.” While this argument has some validity, Montgomery seems to miss the main force of Hume’s argument. Hume does refer to natural law, but the thrust of his argument concerns evidence rather than a dogmatic assertion that miracles are impossible, as Montgomery implies. Nowhere in this chapter does Montgomery attempt to tackle the question of the criteria to be used in assessing the miraculous.

The third essay has the intriguing title “Are You Having a Fuddled Easter?” It is a very short attempt to defend the historicity of Christ’s resurrection. In this chapter Montgomery attacks Paul Tillich, Karl Barth, and “three fuddlers from a certain Calvinistic institution that shall remain nameless.” This essay left me the most befuddled of all the ones in the collection.

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Changing stride, the fourth essay discusses “How Muslims Do Apologetics: The Apologetic Approach of Muhammad Ali and Its Implications for Christian Apologetics.” This chapter shows Montgomery’s breadth of interest and prolific scholarship. Muhammad Ali, it turns out, is a presuppositionalist and as such very close to “not a few Christian theologians.” Like his misguided counterparts in Christianity, Muhammad Ali is wrong and Montgomery shows us why. The idea of comparing Islamic apologetics with those of Christianity is a good one, but it needs better implementation.

In the sixth essay Montgomery makes a frontal attack upon the apologetics of Cornelius Van Til. He also devotes a couple of paragraphs to attacking Bernard Zylstra and the Dooyeweerdian school. One wonders if he has adequately read Dooyeweerd or Van Til, so superficial is his rejection of them. This chapter was originally published in a work edited by E. R. Geehan, Jerusalem and Athens: Critical Discussions on the Philosophy and Apologetics of Cornelius Van Til. There it appeared with an able 12-page reply by Van Til. Unfortunately, that reply is not in this book.

Though bearing the title “Mass Communication and Scriptural Proclamation,” the eighth and ninth essays are tirades against various theologians who, according to Montgomery, are betraying the faith. He makes some very good points, but again and again the tone in which he makes them undermines his argument. Here Ludwig Wittgenstein emerges as one of Montgomery’s heroes. This is because, according to Montgomery, Wittgenstein “gave new light to the classic ‘correspondence theory’ of truth.” In the light of recent developments in Wittgensteinian studies, I wonder if Montgomery is correct in this assertion.

Harold Lindsell’s The Battle for the Bible is the subject of Montgomery’s final essay, “The Fuzzification of Biblical Inerrancy.” In it he agonizes over the departure from biblical inerrancy by various theologians and institutions. The process of “fuzzification” originated with the Roman Catholics, from whom the Lutherans caught it; now it is threatening the New Evangelicals. Although Montgomery tells us that others “fuzzify,” he does not here attempt to “unfuzzify” the issue.

To Montgomery, the verification principle is the basis of all Christian apologetics. Yet he tells us that this principle must not be taken “too narrowly.” He goes on to explain that the verification principle, in its simplest form, “states that if factual assertions are to be sensible, they must at least be subject to evidential testability.” This sounds good but nowhere in this book does Montgomery really discuss the problems of “testability.” He does not, for example, refer to the discussion of verifiability by philosophers like Alvin Plantinga.

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This is a provocative book with some interesting ideas, but it is marred by constant attacks upon other theologians. It makes bold claims and Montgomery is constantly asserting the intellectual viability of his position, yet nowhere does he really come to grips with the philosophical issues involved in the position he espouses. It is easy to lambast opponents and to say that they are confused. It is far more difficult to grapple with their arguments and to show in a sustained way where they go wrong. It is even more difficult systematically to defend the philosophical position that one advocates. This book may well impress the layman, but it will not impress those with philosophical training. Neither, unfortunately, is it going to impress the non-Christian philosopher, like Antony Flew, who is well aware of Montgomery’s arguments and yet rejects them on the basis of Montgomery’s own beloved principle of verification.

Getting Into The Old Testament

The Word Becoming Flesh; An Introduction to the Origin, Purpose, and Meaning of the Old Testament, by Horace D. Hummel (Concordia, 1979, 679 pp. $17.95), reviewed by Glenn A. Wyper, chairman, Department of BiblicalStudies, Ontario Bible College, Willowdale, Ontario, Canada.

Professor Hummel writes this introduction from the standpoint of confessional Lutheranism, which affirms the Bible’s verbal inspiration and inerrancy. His concern is to confront the major problems of the Old Testament generally and liberal higher criticism specifically. For him, liberalism is the “enemy,” and an “almost infinite gulf” is seen to separate the liberals’ camp from the conservatives’. As one might expect, he supports such traditional conclusions as the essentially Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, the unity of Isaiah, and the Danielic authorship of the Book of Daniel. The conclusions of liberal scholars, nevertheless, are not understood as being entirely mistaken. For example, frequent use is made of form critical classifications of biblical literature, apart from the subjective attempts to plot the history of individual units. While rejecting JEDP, he suggests that theories about Moses’ sources may be exegetically stimulating as long as the inspired, authoritative text is seen to be the final product and not an earlier draft. Another example is that he finds no theological reason why Isaiah’s disciples and others may not have been involved in the final production of that book, but not to the extent usually assumed by liberals. Conservatives do not escape criticism, but it is minor compared with the frontal assault on liberal scholarship.

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The distinctive feature of this introduction is the space it devotes to biblical theology. Believing that questions of background, date, authorship, and so on are the “means to theological ends,” Hummel finds that when Old Testament introductions are about to reach those ends, the matter is dropped. To correct this lack he has incorporated for the major sections of each Old Testament book a running commentary that falls somewhere between Bible survey and detailed exegesis.

An important aspect of this emphasis on biblical theology is typology. While acknowledging that typology can become mere allegory or a kind of matching game, he presses for a sacramental approach whereby the ultimate meaning lies in, with, and under the external history. “The work’s title, The Word Becoming Flesh, was chosen to give expression to that deep, organic unity between the testaments, and via Word and Sacrament, also in us. The logos incarnandus of the Old Testament, the preexistent Christ in His many manifestations, is the same as He who became flesh of our flesh at Bethlehem.”

The intended readers are not professional scholars, but seminary students, pastors, and teachers with some training in both Old Testament and theology. Consequently, the book is designed as a middle level presentation. Pertinent questions about history, text, canon, and so forth are dealt with in the discussions of the individual books. The exceptions to that rule are the chapters on the history of criticism, Pentateuchal criticism, and the introductions to the Latter Prophets and wisdom literature. Three indexes round out the work: one each for topics, authors, and Scripture passages.

Most noticeably absent are footnotes and bibliographies. (Only two brief bibliographies appear.) One can certainly sympathize with the author’s choice to eliminate footnotes altogether and to substitute a general acknowledgement of indebtedness, but that choice would seem to reduce the usefulness of the book.

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An addition that could be made in the future to assist the non-Lutheran reader is a brief appendix on the Lutheran concept of Law-Gospel. Since it is an important concept for the author, a reader should not be expected to trace it throughout the book by means of the index.

Generally, the tone is not acrimonious, but at times the author’s impatience with liberals and fellow conservatives is openly expressed. Hummel’s style, despite a penchant for foreign phrases, makes for easy reading. One wonders, however, if the focus on special introduction and the increased space allotted to biblical theology will, in conservative seminaries in which introduction and biblical theology are distinct courses, remove this volume from prospective textbook to the supplementary reading list.

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