Reflecting on forty years of
matrimony, John Piper exalts the
biblical meaning of marriage over its
emotion, exhorting couples to keep
their covenant for all the best reasons.
Even in the days when people commonly
stayed married “’til death do us part,”
there has never been a generation whose
view of marriage was high enough, says
Pastor John Piper. That is all the more
true in our casual times.
Though personal selfishness and
cultural bondage obstruct the wonder of
God’s purpose, it is found in God’s
Word, where his design can awaken a
glorious vision capable of freeing
every person from small, Christ-
ignoring, romance-intoxicated views. As
Piper explains in reflecting on forty
years of matrimony: “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’s 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
This Momentary Marriage unpacks the
biblical vision, its unexpected
contours, and its weighty implications
for married, single, divorced, and
I think that on the surface, the permanency of marriage doctrine that John Piper promotes in This Momentary Marriage seems noble. As Christians we must honor our vows, and deal faithfully with our spouse. We need to uphold God's standards for marriage: a husband must love his wife and the wife must honor her husband. I have no disagreement with the book on these facts; this is what makes true Christian marriages lovely, and a Christian witness in a dark world.
However, I feel that this book is deeply flawed and dangerous. Seemingly, the vows to love or remain faithful to one's spouse are optional in this book's marriage doctrine, and the only marriage vow that has any weight is "Till death do us part." (page 25) Which makes me wonder, following this book's doctrine, practically, shouldn't that be the only vow at weddings? The other vows imply accountability, which in This Momentary Marriage, ramifications for breaking the other vows are not discussed, presumably because there are none.
This book asserts that Christ gave us a stricter law concerning biblically legitimate divorce than Moses did, (page 162-163), which leaves one married to a treacherous spouse in an unfair predicament. Should one's spouse be abusive or adulterous, as mine was, and if the church is influenced by the doctrine in this book, the victim will be expected to honor the "Til death do us part," vow or face church discipline. Witnessing emotional and verbal assaults/threats in the family home has proven detrimental effects on the spiritual and emotional growth of children, and even as an adult woman, it was difficult to be exposed to continuous cruelty. Eventually, my body started breaking down from the stress of living in years of abuse. As difficult as divorce is, it was the only choice that I had to protect my family from a truly frightening man, and I would like to add, no one ever saw the glory of Christ's covenant keeping in my marriage. They just saw horrendous abuse.
And if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. (Matthew 12:7)
"These are two purposes for marriage…marriage is a flesh and blood drama of how Christ (dramatized by the husband) loves his church, and how the church (dramatized by the wife) is devoted to Christ….the other purpose of marriage, (is) namely, bringing children into the world…." (page 147) In reality, an abusive husband does not show Christ's love, but is a shadow of the antichrist. To submit to such a man is to submit to sin. John Piper addresses this on page 102, but to confront a psychopathic person with, "It grieves me when you venture into sinful acts and want to take me with you…I can't follow you into sin…I flourish most when I can respond joyfully to your lead; but I can't follow you into sin, as much as I love to honor your leadership in our marriage." will realistically not elicit desired change, but likely cause an escalation of abuse.
"…the meaning of marriage is such that human beings cannot legitimately break it. The ultimate meaning of marriage is the representation of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church." (Page 159). The doctrine of This Momentary Marriage is a departure from the Westminster Confession of Faith, so much so, that I believe it to be a heretical teaching. Concerning the purpose of marriage, compare the above two stated purposes of marriage from this Momentary Marriage to Chapter XXIV of the Westminster Confession of Faith. Displaying the indissolubility of the New Covenant is not stated as a purpose of marriage in the confession. Note that the Westminster Confession of Faith does permit remarriage in certain cases, which This Momentary Marriage does not, as long as the treacherous spouse is still alive. (Page 126,173) To further show how insidious this doctrine is, a church that adheres to it will not discipline according to the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XXX. Contrary to Scripture, the leaven will not be purged out, even if that man is a 'notorious and obstinate' offender, if he is a married man. Practically, discipline will likely be ignored, with a focus on 'preserving the marriage.' At the PCA church I attended, I was told to "Submit like Sarah," while they ignored the fact that my husband was so violent that he assaulted a man at another church! Despite my family's fear I was told that I would be taking him back, although he was unrepentant and threatening my life. I can affirm that by faithfully following This Momentary Marriage doctrine, the church will not discipline, and we know that historically, discipline is one of the three marks of the true church.
The doctrine of This Momentary Marriage is but the author's theory, and it's influence is very damaging. I fear that it deliberately misrepresents the meaning of the marriage covenant and vows, it is usurping the authority of the Westminster Confession in definition of marriage, legality of divorce in specific cases, undermining church discipline, shows lack of empathy towards God's suffering people and enables abuse. Should you desire to know more about this subject from my perspective, I recommend David Instone-Brewer's book, Divorce and Remarriage in the Church, Barbara Robert's, Not Under Bondage, and Jeff Crippen's book, A Cry for Justice, How the Evil of Domestic Abuse Hides in Your Church.
In my opinion, this book needs to be critically evaluated by reformed scholars and repudiated.
- Lauram Shola