Although marital problems may pose seemingly unprecedented challenges for husbands and wives, a new book offers timeless reflections on marriage from major figures in church history.
Professors Robert L. Plummer and Matthew D. Haste include biblical reflections and personal application with each of the 50 historical selections in In Held in Honor: Wisdom for Your Marriage from Voices of the Past.
Plummer is professor of New Testament interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.; Haste is associate professor of ministry studies at Columbia International University Seminary and School of Ministry in Columbia, S.C.
The idea for the book began with Plummer’s interest in collecting the main ideas from other marriage books he was reading.
“My thought was, I wish I could just take one paragraph out of that because that’s the main point, and just read that because I don’t really have a whole lot of time. I just really wanted the meat of something,” Plummer recounted.
“When I would read something like Luther’s famous essay on the estate of marriage, I would realize that it was written 500 years ago, but it was really good. … I really liked the feeling of being connected to the historic witness to the church.”
Held in Honor embodies the Ephesians 4 concept of God raising up leaders and teachers throughout history as personal witnesses of the challenge and beauty of a God-centered marriage.
“Most people in this life will be married,” Plummer said. “And I think that as people approach marriage, and as they are married, most people are woefully unprepared for that. … This is a way to provide accessible, interesting, real advice and quotes regarding marriage,” he said.
Marriage reflects the relationship between Christ and the church, Plummer added. Therefore, honoring the testimony of the church and the stance it has held throughout time is an important facet of the book.
Haste said he and Plummer “focused on what the church has said about marriage and, ideally, demonstrated the definition of marriage that has been consistent for two millennia. There has been an appreciation of and an honoring of marriage since the ascension of Christ, and before, of course, among the people of God.”
The relationship between the two authors began when Haste was an M.Div. distance learning student enrolled in Plummer’s online Greek class. Halfway through his Ph.D. studies, Haste and his family moved to Louisville and Southern became more like a family.
It was during this time Plummer and Haste’s relationship grew stronger.
“I had him in a doctoral seminar,” Plummer said, “and he was doing his dissertation on something related with marriage and history. So I asked if he was willing to be a coauthor [on the book]. … Most people do an online program and they don’t get to know their professors. So here is a student who did an online program, got to know me, pursued further study, we got to know each other quite well, and we did a project – we wrote a book together.”
Working on the book encouraged Haste to remember that his responsibility as a husband exceeds any other responsibility.
“Whether it is through reading a marriage devotional or just reflecting on Scripture or whatever means you might pursue, I would just encourage husbands and wives to keep the call of marriage before them,” Haste said. “It is a daily duty. You don’t have vacations. You don’t have breaks. I think we all need to be stirred up by way of reminder.”
Selected quotes from Held in Honor:
“When we see the face of God, we shall know that we have always known it. He has been a party to, has made, sustained and moved moment by moment within, all our earthly experiences of innocent love. All that was true love in them was, even on earth, far more His than ours, and ours only because His.” C.S. Lewis (1898–1963)
“The affection of Christian husbands and wives must be established upon a firmer basis. The husband must love his wife, not only for the charms of her person, the sweetness of her manners, or even the affection he knows she bears him but, above all, because their supreme Benefactor, the Lord of heaven and earth, has said, ‘Husband, love your wives.’” Henry Venn (1725–1797)
“The pure woman is adorned with the Son of God as with a bridegroom. She is clothed with holy light. Her beauty lies in a well-regulated soul; and she is fragrant with ointment, even with a good reputation. She is arrayed in beautiful clothing, even in modesty. She wears about her precious pearls, even pure words. And she is radiant, for her mind has been brilliantly lighted up.” The Clementine Homilies (c. 250)
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Annie Corser is a writer for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)