I was recently looking for a short, simple Christian marriage book to give to a friend so I picked up Date Your Wife by Justin Buzzard. I started it with relatively high hopes, but was soon disappointed.
Let me start with the positives. First, Buzzard did root some of his discussion in Scripture. He essentially said marriage between a man and wife has its origins pre-fall, so it is a very good thing. He then briefly explained how sin ruined it, and now husbands should take the blame for being a big sinful weak spot in the marriage. Then Buzzard explained the gospel and how Jesus gives new life.
I also appreciated the list of creative ways that a husband can go on dates with his wife – whether the couple has no kids or a handful of them. As a husband myself, I sure need some help with creativity in marriage!
There are also some parts of this book I didn’t like. In my opinion, Buzzard sounded like a tamer version of Mark Driscoll. He told tons of stories about his wife/kids, used the word sex a lot, spoke against “religion,” and was very much aiming at the young-restless-and-‘Reformed’ crowd. This isn’t necessarily a critique, but the more young-restless-and-Reformed authors I read, the more I think they sound the same (trendy, lots of personal illustrations, and a bunch of Tim Keller quotes). But I suppose that also happens in other Christian circles and it isn’t the worst thing in the world.
One other weakness of this book was Buzzard’s treatment of Adam and Eve in Genesis 1-3. I believe he took too much liberty in interpreting Adam and Eve’s story from the perspective of a 21st century marriage. He said that Adam looked at Eve, spoke a poem, and soon they are “standing before each other naked and unashamed – they don’t have any clothes on and they don’t have any shame on …All it took was one look. The first time a man looked at a woman, marriage happened” (p. 31). At another point Buzzard said that Adam was supposed to cultivate and guard marriage (p. 42), whereas Genesis said Adam was to cultivate (work) and guard (keep) the Garden (Gen. 2:15). The jump between the two just isn’t in the Genesis text.
While I appreciate the fact that Buzzard (rightly) brought the gospel into the picture of marriage, I’m a little skeptical of how he did it. Buzzard did mention that Jesus redeems sinners from sin and God’s wrath, but he only mentioned it in passing. Most of his discussion was about how, in his terms, Jesus makes new husbands and makes them able to “dream big” in their marriages. “There is one right way to respond to God’s grace: with faith and a new dream” (p. 91). Buzzard suggests that Adam did this very thing after the fall and after God’s promise of grace. I’m not as sure as Buzzard is that Adam began to have a new dream for his life and marriage after God spoke Gen. 3:15 to him. Dreaming big is not a bad thing, but I don’t think it’s necessarily an outcome of God’s grace to sinners.
I suppose the book would have been more helpful if Buzzard had discussed the difference between justification and sanctification. It would have been helpful to hear how sanctification is a process, and the new life given to us by Christ doesn’t mean we’ll instantly be great husbands with big dreams. Christian husbands (like their Christian wives) are saints, but they are sinners too! He made it sound a little too simple, a little too much like “Jesus will make your marriage better.” What about marriages that are burdened by depression, medical illnesses, sins from the past, and so on? I don’t think it is too far off to say that Buzzard wants to make his excellent marriage experiences, emotions, and practices the norm for others when that is simply not possible.
In short, this book didn’t capture me because it was “thin” theologically speaking – it wasn’t deeply rooted in Scripture and it wasn’t deeply theological.
If I were going to recommend Date Your Wife I would recommend it to husbands who haven’t read a marriage book before – it’s an OK first book on marriage from a husband’s perspective. However, there are quite a few better marriage books out there that I recommend more than this one. For example, When Sinners Say I Do by Dave Harvey, Love that Lasts by the Ricuccis, and Each for the Other by Bryan Chappell. Date Your Wife is OK, but it’s not great.