Alice Mathews and M. Gay Hubbard write an extraordinary book about Christian marriage and family. The book's purpose is to explore God's perspective on marriage, an ancient view, for a postmodern world. Marriage Made in Eden is bursting with rich historical, cultural, sociological and biblical background on marriage. But the authors' unique contribution in advocating for strong, enduring Christian marriage is their belief that God's purpose for marriage is both to transform us as the people of God and to use us to witness God's amazing love and power to an unbelieving world.
Alice Mathews, with a PhD in religion and social change, is the Lois W. Bennett Distinguished Associate Professor of Educational Ministries and Women's Ministries at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She has a wealth of experience, more than thirty years, in women's ministry in both the church and parachurch settings.
M. Gay Hubbard holds a PhD in psychology and special education and has over thirty years’ experience as a psychologist in counseling men and women who struggle to make sense out of the pain and conflict they face in everyday life.
In the first chapter, the authors lay the foundation for the readers, helping them to understand that Marriage Made in Eden presents the case for Christian marriage and explains God's purpose for marriage (chapter 1). The book is then divided into two parts. In part one, the authors focus on secular culture's case against marriage. They take as a test case North American culture (chapters 2 and 3). They then give a thorough historical analysis of changing marriage and family patterns beginning with the Puritans up through the present (chapters 4-6). At this point they begin part two of the book, God's case for marriage, and take the next three chapters to examine Scripture, laying the biblical foundation for their arguments (chapters 7 -10). They defend God's case for marriage by supporting it with a sound biblical theology on Christian marriage and also argue how this theology responds to postmodern culture (chapter 11). The authors put the finishing touches on their inspiring book with some practical warnings (chapter 12).
Marriage Made in Eden is replete with fresh insights into the true meaning and understanding of Christian marriage. The authors firmly believe that they have something new to tell us on the topic of Christian marriage and the family and this is the reason for their new publication.
What fresh insights do the authors contribute to the topic of marriage and family?
The authors define marriage not only as a civil contract, but also as a depiction of the relationship between God and God's people. They believe that marriage is not founded on the culture in which marriage is lived out, but rather on the relationship with God and with one another. And they believe that seeing marriage this way, as a relationship with God and with one another, shapes an identity as God's people in four ways: 1) God created people as male and female to bear the divine image equally. 2) Since the image-bearers ruptured their relationship with God through sin, the image in them is "bent and broken." 3) God promises one day to restore the distorted image. 4) Marriage is shaped both by personal brokenness and by the culture's hostility to God's purposes (pp. 23 24).
The authors give a thorough evaluation of the US culture's case against Christian marriage, exposing postmodernism with its excessive materialism, rampant consumerism and radical individualism, and explain how its pervasive thinking has swept across North American culture, including the church, and done enormous damage to the institution of Christian marriage. They explain how cohabitation is the preferred living arrangement among Post-moderns since live-in couples fear making a faithful life-long commitment within the confines of marriage. Those who have bought into postmodern thinking view Christian marriage as nothing more than an "antique oddity" rather than a mystery (p. 34).
Mathews and Hubbard present God's case for Christian marriage, stating that marriage for God's people is, first, transformational, "Couples are to become more like God through the process of being with each other the living embodiment of what they are with God and he is with them." "Second, they are to do so with such integrity and fidelity that those who are 'not my people' can see and come to know God" (p. 167).
Moreover, the authors give a thorough and sound biblical theology of marriage, concluding, as other egalitarians have done in the already-but-not-yet of God's people, marriage "is not about power. It is not about forming a hierarchy of privilege, or of authority, or of importance." And they continue, "Marriage is not about one broken image-bearer controlling another" (p. 200).
Marriage, they share, is about living out the intimate bonds of two broken image-bearers who are in the restoration process, who are faithfully committed to helping one another in process. "And it is about two broken image-bearers forming with one another a community of forgiveness that is an embodiment of the gospel and a living demonstration of God's transforming power." Marriage is about being the fragrance of Christ in the life of your spouse (p. 200).
Marriage Made in Eden is a wonderfully informative and resourceful book. What I found most refreshing is the authors' rich history of men and women in relationship with one another, their wealth of insight and knowledge on men's and women's issues, their non-technical but inspirational writing, and their genuine desire to see Christian marriages succeed and lived out as a missionary model in our postmodern world.