Paul E. Brown
Star Rating: 5
I have now reviewed several good books for ET but this is the first one I felt merited the “outstanding” accolade. It may be just a short volume but it contains excellent biblical advice which is sane, nuanced and pastoral. It is what it says on the tin: “clear Christianity for our time”.
It is important to note that it deals with Christian marriage. Paul Brown’s burden is particularly for young Christians in or contemplating marriage. They are of course bombarded by all kinds of worldly advice from the media, humanistic education and non-Christian peers. Part 1 (26 pages): ‘Beginning with the Bible’ most helpfully sets the context for the rest of the book: Creation, Marriage and the Law of Moses and Marriage in the New Testament: the teaching of Jesus and instructions in the Letters.
Part 2: ‘Practical questions for today’ (39 pages) looks thoughtfully at singleness, marrying in the Lord, education, arranged marriage and courtship, a valid marriage (consent, commitment and consummation), polygamy, birth control and barrenness, divorce and remarriage, girls, women and widows, homosexuality and law, custom and wisdom. He writes from a wealth of pastoral experience in multi-cultural situations. He displays a profound understanding of human nature and the complexities that defy pat text book solutions that can otherwise be delivered with unthinking harshness, causing lasting hurt.
Part 3: ‘Christian marriage’ contains 10 short chapters covering less than 40 pages. They are: introduction, before marriage, towards marriage, engagement, the wedding, husbands and wives, a Christian home, bringing up children, stresses and strains, and growing older.
One example will suffice to demonstrate his biblical sure-footedness and pastoral sensitivity. When speaking of divorce and re-marriage (pages 68-73), he of course refers to the clear New Testament teaching regarding adultery and desertion. But he also builds on Old Testament teaching that mandates the husband to care properly for his wife (respect, food, clothing, shelter and protection). Where the opposite is found, no biblical marriage exists. This is no academic point for an abused Christian wife feeling trapped in a loveless marriage with seemingly no way out.
This should be compulsory reading for every pastor and elder in our churches. Some will criticise its lack of footnotes and bibliography but its brevity should encourage even the busiest and most bookshy to read it.