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This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence

By John Piper
January 2010 | Review by Nick Fuller


There has never been a generation whose view of marriage has been high enough. And this is all the more true today. Though selfishness and cultural bondage obstruct the wonder of God's purpose, his vision for marriage in the Bible frees us from small, romance-intoxicated views. As John Piper explains, 'Most foundationally, marriage is the doing of God. And ultimately, marriage is the display of God. It displays the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his people to the world in a way that no other event or institution does. Marriage, therefore, is not mainly about being in love. It is mainly about telling the truth with our lives. And staying married is not about staying in love. It is about keeping covenant and putting the glory of Christ's covenant-keeping love on display.' This Momentary Marriage unpacks the biblical vision for marriage, its unexpected contours, and its weighty implications for married, single, divorced and remarried alike. Reflecting on forty years of marriage to Noel, John Piper exalts the biblical meaning of marriage, exhorting couples to keep their covenant for all the best reasons.

  • Publisher: InterVarsity Press
  • ISBN: 978-1844743926
  • Pages: 192
  • Price: £10.99
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Book Review

This is a great little book for those who are married or wanting to be. Piper aims to show that ‘the main meaning of marriage is to display the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church’.

He addresses various practical aspects of marriage, such as forgiveness, headship, submission, sex and parenting, but all with this over-arching, exalted view of marriage. The book is easy to read, with short chapters, each begun with a helpful quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer and based on a portion of Scripture.

Piper includes a helpful and challenging chapter on what the husband’s headship looks like in concrete terms. Concerning his advice about daughters’ clothing, however, there may be some fathers who would rather delegate the task to wives!

His chapter on the wife’s submission is also good, but might prove disappointingly brief for some. His typically frank comments on sex will cause either wincing or laughter, but are helpful in our sex-saturated society. Both husbands and wives will certainly benefit from his advice on selflessness.

Generally, Piper seems solidly grounded in a faithful interpretation of Scripture. However, some of his comments on divorce and remarriage are questionable. His basis for these debatable assertions is the glorious and undeniable truth that Jesus never forsakes his bride: ‘He always loves her. He always takes her back when she wanders’.

Consequently, in spite of biblical evidence to the contrary, Piper appears to hold that there are no legitimate grounds for divorce, and that, if the other spouse is alive, remarriage is never permissible.

Piper’s comments will seem both unbiblical and unsettlingly harsh to many, especially those suffering an abusive marriage, or those who have been released from such by divorce and are looking forward to a fresh start with a godly partner.

Nonetheless, this is a vital message to us who live in an age where marriage is paradoxically both idolised and treated with triviality. Those inclined to jump ship during stormy waters need the reminder that marriage is not to be broken easily but is ‘a parable of permanence’ that displays the permanent relationship between Christ and the church.

Those who live for marriage need the reminder that it is only a momentary picture of something infinitely greater. We cannot have enough of that teaching.


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