Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Getting Serious About Getting Married by Debbie Maken

Getting Serious About Getting Married: Rethinking the Gift of Singleness
By Debbie Maken

Crossway Books, 2006

This book comes at a crucial point in my life. Over the past few years, I have gradually become aware that many of my firmly entrenched beliefs and pet philosophies have absolutely no Biblical basis. This is quite a painful thing for my prideful self to admit, for agreeing with God has meant that I’ve had to restructure my life in almost every area.

One major area that I have had to rethink is life purpose. As God has opened my eyes to see more clearly His design, I find myself becoming distressed as I see how far the world has strayed. Speaking candidly as a twenty-four year old woman longing to follow God’s pattern of marriage and family, I am saddened to see the many other singles who wait…and wait…and wait for that special someone to drop on their doorstep. I’m horrified at the rampant immaturity of young people who put off responsibility in favor of self-indulgent autonomy. And I have a bone to pick with today’s stupendously protracted, ineffective educational system.

It’s been said before that the Christian’s theme song shouldn’t be "Que Sera, Sera" (What will be, will be). And yet many seem to embody this lackadaisical attitude in regards to marriage. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve encountered people who refuse to think or talk about it for fear of discontentment or disappointment. They would rather suddenly experience the Big Surprise: one day, poof, they’ll get married. Permit me a cynical laugh.

After reading this book, I don’t feel any better. If anything, the situation is worse than I’d imagined. Debbie Maken doesn’t hesitate to make some rather bold statements about current popular teachings on singleness. She’s not just being a reactionary. She’s careful to point out that what she has to say is nothing new, rather, it has strong Biblical, as well as historical, basis. On this point, of course, I must encourage my readers simply to read the book in its entirety, and to study their Bibles for themselves. I’m not foolish enough to miss the fact that there are plenty of books that say exactly the opposite of what Mrs. Maken sets forth.

The first surprising idea that Mrs. Maken suggests is that marriage and singleness are not two equally valid options for the Christian. In fact, she believes that marriage is God’s normative pattern for His children, with only a few clearly defined exceptions.

“Marriage remains God’s revealed will (revealed in his Word, the Bible, as what he wants), even if as a culture we have made its attainment an elusive, secret, perpetual guessing game. Scripture states that ‘God created man in his own image…male and female he created them’ (Genesis 1:27). This means that the male-female union is for God’s own glory; marriage reflects his image far better than either sex individually.” (p.22)

Second, she posits that intentionally prolonged singleness (as distinguished from celibacy—see chapter 10) is sin. “…The belief that remaining single is legitimate and godly is a work of the devil. Read that again: Satan dishonors marriage by fooling us into believing that singleness is okay.” (p.43) While discussing the meaning of Genesis 2:18, “It is not good that man should be alone”, she quotes Martin Luther:

“It is not good…[this means that] God knows what is better for you than you yourself…. If you deem it otherwise…you neither understand nor believe God’s word and work. See, with this statement of God one stops the mouths of all those who criticize and censure marriage.” (p.24)

Third, she states that a lack of male leadership in both families and churches is a major reason that there is such confusion about what God says about marriage and life purpose.

“ It is no longer considered cowardice not to take on responsibility. Many men wish for a return to their collegiate days, preferring to live in an environment requiring little responsibility, maximum autonomy, and few, if any, expectations of family or for family. They want all the pleasures of childhood and the pleasure of being treated like an adult without the pain of adulthood.” (p.72)

Many other equally explosive observations and conclusions are contained in this small volume. But most revolutionary of all, Debbie Maken actually suggests that the Christian’s life and thought should be based soundly on the Bible and not on what’s currently popular, socially acceptable, or traditionally taught. Biblical Christianity is not defined by what makes us feel the most comfortable.

It’s much easier to point out a problem than to present a solution. I would have liked more elaboration from Mrs. Maken on this point. But perhaps she is wise, for what she suggests is hard enough: a radical change in our thinking. As A. W. Tozer said, “The dearer the error, the more dangerous and the more difficult to correct, always.” (The Divine Conquest, p. 16)

It is humanly impossible to write a book free from error or omission. In this respect Debbie Maken is no different than any other author. I think she has more to learn regarding the differing, yet complimentary, design of men and women. She greatly underestimates the effect of radical feminism on the church and fails to fully delineate the paradoxical nature of Biblical contentment. But these are minor faults compared to the great service she has done in issuing the call for a return to a Biblical understanding of marriage and singleness. I am extremely grateful.

Go here for a Q&A session with Debbie Maken.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A (longish) book meme

I'm a sucker for surveys and questionaires. This one I found especially interesting, and decided to fill it out for myself.

If anyone cares to, I'd like to have your imput on the questions I've highlighted in purple.

Hardback or trade paperback or mass market paperback?

Hardback, unless it’s a book I read often and want to take everywhere with me.

Online purchase or brick and mortar?

Online if I know exactly what I want. Otherwise, browsing through old bookstores is the way to go.

Barnes & Noble or Borders?

Don’t care for either, really. Not much of a selection and ridiculous prices.

Bookmark or dog-ear?

Bookmark. I have one that I use often. Although it’s only a scrap of pink paper, I like it because it’s from my brother, Matt. He wrote some very nice sentiments and a verse in calligraphy on it.

Mark or not mark?

I’d love people’s input on this. I used to have a horror of marked books. It seemed almost sacrilegious--like drawing mustaches on paintings of famous people.
Then I discovered that it really helps to underline important points/quotes so I can find them later. Currently I do this in non-fiction books that I’m studying in depth or planning to write a review on.

Alphabetize by author or alphabetize by title or random?

By subject, actually.

Keep, throw away, or sell?

Keep. Unless it was rotten.

Keep dust jacket or toss it?


Read with dust jacket or remove it?


Crack the spine or leave it unbroken?

That sounds so cruel. However, I do habitually crack spines…on books of sheet music.

Collection (short stories by same author) or anthology (short stories by different authors)?

Collection, if I like the author. Anthology, if I want to find something new.

Short story or novel?

I like both.

Fiction or nonfiction?

Fiction. This because it is the genre in which authors have exhibited the most excellence. Who ever heard of a nonfiction book that could be appreciated for it’s literary quality alone? How many times have you read a nonfiction book remarkable for original metaphor? It is in nonfiction that I find the most glaring grammatical errors. It’s sad, really.

One book at a time or have several in process at the same time?

It is very rare to find me reading one book exclusively. This said, I must admit that I do not possess the mental gymnastic ability required to read more than one book at the same moment in time. ;)

Lord of the Rings or Narnia?

LotR, hands down, no question about it. That is one great book. I need to write something about it on here!

Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?

I hardly even notice chapters.

“It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time”?

Depends on the story, doesn’t it?

Buy or Borrow?

Borrow first. Then if I like it, I’ll try to buy it eventually.
I can’t imagine what my budget would look like if I had to buy all the books I read!

New or used?

Don’t really care. I just want books that aren’t falling apart.

Buying choice: book reviews, recommendation or browse?

Browse. I might pick up a book because I’ve heard about it somewhere, but I (usually) won’t buy ‘til I’ve had it in my hands first and glanced through it.

Tidy ending or cliffhanger?

Tidy. Unless there’s a sequel. Then it doesn’t matter so much.

Morning reading, afternoon reading or night time reading?

All of the above.

Stand-alone or series?

I don’t mind short series—three or four at the most. But most series can’t stop there. (gotta keep a “good thing” going!)

Favorite series?

Oh…the Little House books, I guess. Anne of Green Gables and the Happy Hollisters come pretty close, though.

Favorite book of which nobody else has heard?

Heiland, by Franklin Sanders. It’s a book about America in the late 21st century, as it would be if the country keeps going in the direction it’s headed morally. Scary.

Favorite books read last year?

Dorothy Sayers’ mysteries.

Favorite book of all time?

The Bible. It changes my life daily.

For uninspired literature, I must again mention The Lord of the Rings.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Chesterton for Novices

Who is G.K. Chesterton? I’ve been asked this question frequently over the last month when discussing my current reading with friends and family. Frankly, I’m a little surprised. I thought everyone knew about him…or at least the fact that he existed. Apparently not!

G.K. Chesterton was a British journalist and thinker who wrote voluminously during the early years of the 20th century. He is famous because of his witty attacks on the many erroneous philosophies of the day, such as atheism, socialism, feminism, and teetotalism. He was not one to hold back where falsehood was concerned, and had a very robust and forthright style. Any reader of his many essays cannot stay comfortable for long, no matter how much he is in general agreement with what is said. No one can leave his books without their toes being stepped on!

Chesterton did not confine his writing to the newspapers. He wrote many books, including the ever-popular Father Brown mysteries. (Which are personal favorites of mine.) Whatever the medium, whether literary criticism, biography, essay or mystery story, he strove to recommend a Christian way of thinking to the reader.

It has been my experience that it is always best to read a writer’s own thoughts, rather than first going to a “Reader’s Digest” type of biography/commentary. However, I did find one book at our local library which would be helpful if read alongside “the originals”: Battling For the Modern Mind: A Beginners’ Chesterton, by Thomas C. Peters.

This book is primarily an overview of G. K. Chesterton’s major ideas. The author discusses many of his major works and also gives a brief biographical sketch. It is unique in that it gives a Protestant perspective on the Catholic Chesterton. Peters addresses the question most likely to pop into Reformed minds: “Why should I read an author who embraced such obvious theological fallacies?”

For those ready to read Chesterton for the first time, I’d recommend reading a collection of sparkling literary gems, Tremendous Trifles, as well as a few Father Brown stories. I particularly like “The Blue Cross”. There are also several good compilations, one of which is The Man Who Was Chesterton, by Raymond T. Bond. Be prepared to be challenged in your thinking, and to come away from your reading seeing the world in a new, and happier, light.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

My First Agatha Christie

It's time for some book reviews. It has been far too long since I've posted one, and I'm excited to share all my latest finds!

We'll start with the mysteries:

The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories
By Agatha Christie

I shunned this author for many years, believing her books too popular to be good. My philosophy is that if a large portion of the population likes something, then there must be something wrong with it. This considering the state of rampant immorality we have fallen into.

This idea effectively narrows my reading list, however, I do sometimes branch out into the mainstream. In this case I was pleasantly surprised. Christie writes with an easy wit and moves her stories at a quick pace. They are simply, yet well, written. The murders are described in a restrained fashion, and not, I think, for thrill or sensation.

The Clocks by A. C.

I almost finished this in one evening; my eyes gave out before my interest!

It seems a very complicated mystery, and so, says Hercule Poirot, it must therefore be simple. And so it is, in the end. But not before many rabbit trails have been followed, and the readers’ suspicions placed on many different characters.

The Mirror Crack’d by A. C.

“Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack’d from side to side;
‘The curse is come upon me,’ cried
The Lady of Shalott.”

--Alfred Tennyson

I like Miss Marple. Who would’ve thought that an eighty-year-old spinster would be the one to solve a crime that puzzled even Scotland Yard? She looks frail, but she’s hardly the child her nurse so condescendingly treats her as. She knows human nature, and she’s observant. Those qualities serve her well as she finds her way through an endless maze of gossip, clues and misinformation to find out who poisoned that harmless soul, kind Mrs. Badcock. Not to mention who’s been sending threatening notes to the newest owner of Gossington Hall, film star Marina Gregg.

Ever since we watched the charming movies based on the Miss Marple books (starring Margaret Rutherford), I’ve wanted to see if the novels were just as good. I can’t speak for the rest (yet!), but this one was!

At this point, I think I will always prefer the more stylish mysteries of Dorothy Sayers and the philosophical turn of Chesterton's Father Brown. On the whole, they have much more substance. However, I did enjoy my foray into the unknown and highly popular works of Agatha Christie.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Thankfulness Thursday: Health (and trials!)

Do you find it hard sometimes to be thankful? I do. Many times I find myself focusing on needs, wants, and struggles more than on the immense bounty of blessings that God gives me daily.

I’ve been reading a lot by and about G.K. Chesterton recently. Standing above the many good qualities exemplified in his life and writing is his exuberant joy and grateful spirit. He believed that the Christian should be the happiest person in the world, because he had the most to be thankful for.

Looking at my life, I am shamed to find that often I am a poor example of the happy Christian.

So I asked God to help me see more clearly His goodness in everyday life…. and He sent me a weeklong illness! That unpleasant experience brought an unexpected result: a renewed appreciation for that often unnoticed blessing of good health.

Because of that sickness, I am still praising God for health three weeks after the fact. Trials are a good anchor for memory. And because of that, I thank Him.

Thanks to Lydia for coming up with "Thursdays of Thankfulness", as well as being part of the motivation to actually get this posted on my blog!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Colour White

"...the chief assertion of religious morality is that white is a colour. Virtue is not the absence of vices or the avoidance of moral dangers; virtue is a vivid and separate thing, like pain or a particular smell. Mercy does not mean not being cruel or sparing people revenge or punishment; it means a plain and positive thing like the sun.... God paints in many colours; but He never paints so gorgeously..., as when He paints in white."

--G.K. Chesterton, "A Piece of Chalk" in Tremendous Trifles