Tim Challies
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August 6, 2022

I am often asked how I read so many books. My pat answer is something like this: “The more you read, the easier it gets. When you’ve read 8 books on marriage, the 9th goes really quickly.” The point is that there is a kind of sameness to Christian publishing where books tend to focus on the same themes, exposit the same passages, quote the same authors, and in the end say roughly the same things. It’s awfully refreshing, then, when you encounter a book that is different and distinct. And that’s exactly the case with Chad and Emily Van Dixhoorn’s Gospel-Shaped Marriage: Grace for Sinners to Love Like Saints.

“This is a book for couples, but not just couples,” they say. “The institution of marriage is an integral part of the life of the Christian church. Time spent thinking about marriage will help some of us be more thoughtful about married life and all of us be more prayerful. For that reason, we appeal directly to married people throughout, but we also have in mind those who are only thinking about marriage or who want to support married people. There are no R-rated scenes. There are only helps for the married, prompts for those who want to pray, and encouragements for those who wish to defend and promote the institution of marriage, this gift from God that every church member ought to treasure, whether married or not.”

There are a few features of the book that the authors point out as distinguishing it from many others: its brevity (it’s just 160 pages), its focus on Christian spouses as being both sinners and saints (and therefore capable of great sin but also true holiness), and the way that, instead of drawing from contemporary books on marriage, it looks instead to the distant past.

Gospel-Shaped Marriage is as good a book on marriage as any I’ve read and one I plan to recommend often and read alongside others. Though it could be a good option for pre-marriage reading, it would definitely be a perfect option for a mid-marriage refresher.

Over the past few years we have seen a sudden outburst of gospel-driven, gospel-focused, gospel-shaped, and other gospel-hyphenated books. Gospel-Shaped Marriage is among the best of them and, I suspect, among the few that will have some longevity—and that’s because marriage truly is shaped by the gospel since it exists to display the gospel. It combines sound biblical teaching with helpful real-life application and does so in a way that can help change, improve, and perhaps even transform any marriage.

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Tim Challies

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