Book Review: Marriage at the Crossroads: Couples in Conversation about Discipleship, Gender Roles, Decision Making and Intimacy -- By: Alice Mathews

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 23:3 (Summer 2009)
Article: Book Review: Marriage at the Crossroads: Couples in Conversation about Discipleship, Gender Roles, Decision Making and Intimacy
Author: Alice Mathews


Book Review: Marriage at the Crossroads: Couples in Conversation about Discipleship, Gender Roles, Decision Making and Intimacy

William and Aída Spencer and Steve and Celestia Tracy

(IVP, 2009)

Reviewed by

Alice Mathews

ALICE MATHEWS, Ph.D., is Academic Dean and Lois W. Bennett Distinguished Professor Emerita of Educational Ministries and Women’s Ministries at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Her books include A Woman God Can Use (1990), A Woman Jesus Can Teach (1991), Preaching that Speaks to Women (2003), and Marriage Made in Eden (2004). She is widely known for her participation in the daily RBC Ministries radio program Discover the Word and speaks regularly at women’s retreats, conferences, and churches.

Many of us have longed for a sane, nuanced conversation around differing viewpoints on gender issues in marriage. The Spencers and Tracys have given us that conversation in this fine book. This is not a debate pitting egalitarian against complementarian and vice versa. This is a genuine conversation in which each couple has laid out their beliefs about the nature of Christian marriage, issues of headship and submission, marital roles and decision making, and, finally intimacy. After exchanging these extended essays, the two couples then looked to see the areas of agreement and the areas of difference. To their surprise, in several areas, there was far more agreement than disagreement. In the process, they came to understand in a deeper way the rationale used by the other couple. The conversation is honest and respectful.

Both couples have been in Christian ministry for many years; all four are seminary trained, and three of them have earned doctorates in biblical studies and theology. Thus, the conversation includes in-depth biblical exegesis and theological reflection. At the same time, the essays reflect a common-sense awareness of the pitfalls in marriage in a fallen world. The writers illustrate their understanding of biblical teaching out of their decades of personal experience in marriage. The Tracys, in particular, because of the nature of their counseling and teaching ministry, use social science findings amply to undergird their position on the meaning of headship for them.

An added benefit in this conversation is that the couples then invited three other couples to read the essays and comment on them as they applied to their own contexts. The Hispanic couple noted the potential positive and negative impact of the extended Latino family on marriages. The Asian couple brought in the family expectations from immigrant parents that their married children give priority to making a lot of money and living in a big impressive house—factors that can work against a godly marriage. The African American couple noted a possible neg...

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