A Unique Contribution
With the recent supply of solid, biblically-informed books on marriage (The Meaning of Marriage, What Did You Expect, When Sinners Say I Do, Marriage Matters) I was hesitant to pick up yet another book on marriage for consideration. That being said, I was greatly impressed with Tim Savage’s book, No Ordinary Marriage: Together for God’s Glory. After beginning the book, I could not put it down. Savage offers a unique contribution to these other worthy resources in that he combines solid, biblical teaching with practical insights into marriage all while elegantly illustrating his points from history and literature.
Like many books on marriage, Savage does an excellent job laying out a thoughtful and well-organized book. One of the distinguishing characteristics of this book which I appreciated was the fact that none of the material is necessarily new or revolutionary, but that the nuanced perspectives and beautiful prose lift even the most ordinary and familiar topics to new heights.
The book is divided into thirds: the first third lays the foundation for marriage as well as puts forward his main thesis for marriage, namely, that we marry for the glory of God. For the mature Christian, the familiarity of this might lead one to dismiss the book as having nothing new to offer which would indeed be a mistake. Savage does a marvelous job at unpacking redemptive history from creation to the cross.
The middle third of the book fleshes out the roles of husband and wife as well as an in-depth study of the mysterious phrase, “one-flesh.” Of all the chapters in the book, I found these to be most encouraging, convicting, and enlightening. Once again, nothing particularly “new” in the sense of departures from orthodoxy, but Savage does such a good job shining light on old themes and recasting them in a new way.
Of the woman’s role of submission he writes, “It represents a call to wives to give to their husbands what belongs to the wives by right…They are not subordinate, but with God’s help they willingly subordinate themselves.”
Of the husband’s role to love his wife with cruciform love, Savage writes, “Biblical loves transforms a wife. It is the most powerful shaping agent in the world. Love elevates a wife above everything common and defiled, cleanses her from the sullying influences of her past, and transforms her into a radiant person.”
In the final third of the book, Savage takes on several key topics including corporate ministry and contributions of the married couple to the church, physical intimacy, and a well-written chapter and exhortation to those who find themselves single (a word Savage notes a slight unease with). The chapter on singleness, which more marriage books and resources are including, communicates a holistic vision for all of God’s people. Savage does an excellent job at raising awareness of the unmarried’s role in raising spiritual children for the kingdom of God.
Historical Anecdotes & Quotes
Woven throughout each chapter, Savage does a remarkable job at pulling from every realm of literature and history. Peppering the book are letters and quotations between Jonathan and Sarah Edwards, Martin and Katherine Luther, and Charles and Susannah Spurgeon. Savage is as comfortable quoting the church fathers as he is the great Puritan writers like Baxter and Bunyan. All of these are used skillfully to validate the points he is making, never to make the point themselves.
If there was one point where I would have appreciated a more thorough explanation and insight it would be regarding his comments on spousal abuse and the subsequent steps to take. As a pastor and counselor, I resonated and related to his summary conclusion, but would have appreciated additional insights, references, and material on how he arrived at his conclusion.
Savage writes of the abused wife, “…biblical submission may require a wife—on certain occasions—to create space between herself and her husband, in others words, to bring his abuse to an end by separating herself from him.” Thoughts on separation, parameters to have in place, caring for the abused, and the abuser are all topics which will hopefully be addressed in a compassionate, biblically-informed manner in future books.