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Tim Keller

The Meaning of Marriage–Discussion Questions

The Meaning of Marriage–Discussion Questions

Tim Keller, The Meaning of Marriage
Tim Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

My wife, Stacey, and I enter into our third year of marriage tomorrow, February 5th. We'll be celebrating our 2nd Anniversary, as we celebrate many things, by going out to a nice dinner.

Eating—as well as ministry—are the two things that bonded us most closely together when we were dating. We like to do both of those things as often as we can to keep that bond as strong as possible. We often fail in keeping that bond strong, because we're deeply in need of the Grace that God provides most readily through his Son Jesus Christ. But as we have failed/fallen/been self-ish/you-name-it, we have found that getting through those failures together has increased our bond even more tightly.

So as we enter into our third year, we want to proactively push ourselves deeper in our relationship both with each other and with Christ—to whom we give credit for bringing us together. When we were engaged, we listened to Tim Keller's sermon series he did in the early 90s on marriage and now that he has published The Meaning of Marriage, we're going to read through it. Keep that bond strong.

Since there are no study questions provided in the book, I'm making up my own and will be posting them here if anyone else is interested in them. I've tried to gear them both for married couples and singles. If you have the opportunity to use them in a small group setting, try to get both married and singles in on the conversation. It would have blessed me to have been around more married couples talking about their marriage when I was single as well as it would behoove me to get around more singles now that I am married.

Introduction Questions:

  1. How did you and your spouse meet? What was your "secret thread?"
  2. What is the longest marriage you are intimately aware of? Why are they still together? The shortest? Why did it end?
  3. If you are married: what do you hope to learn about marriage through reading this book? If you are single: What do you hope to learn about marriage through reading this book?
  4. How has marriage compared to your single life?
  5. What has been your experience with marriage; parents, grandparents, friends? What is your general conception of marriage? How do you understand society's conception of marriage: positive, negative, neutral? (p. 11)
  6. Have you thought of the Bible as a "reliable guide" in your married or single life? Why would you look to Scripture rather than your own "fears or romanticism, particular experiences, or culture's narrow perspective?" (p. 17)
  7. Do you agree with Keller's statement that 3 human institutions stand apart from all others—family, church, and state?
  8. What have you understood the purpose of marriage to be? What new ideas, insights are being raised in the introduction?
  9. Keller states on p. 13 that the Bible begins and ends with a marriage. What, in your mind, is the significance of this?
  10. Keller states that marriage "has been instituted by God and that marriage was designed to be a reflection of the saving love of God for us in Jesus Christ. How have you seen/experienced this? How have you not?
  11. Keller states, "the main enemy of marriage [is] sinful self-centeredness. How has your marriage fought this enemy? How have you as a single fought sinful self-centeredness?
  12. Keller states that "marriage is…a way for two spiritual friends to help each other on their journey to become the persons God designed them to be." What do you think he means by this? Why is this important for marriage?

All The Meaning of Marriage Discussion Questions.

Context is King

Context is King


My hermeneutics professors in Seminary repeated this as mantra as we would study different passages in the Bible. "Context is King," they would say, meaning the immediate paragraph, chapter and book would first determine the meaning of a word or phrase, long before a completely separate passage would.

What does context have to do with church planting? It has everything to do with it. When missionaries go out to different countries they learn the culture, the mannerisms, and the language. All of these can be summed up in one word: context. When we go plant churches, we cannot ignore the context that we plant in. The context of the city will look very different from the context of a small town. A suburban context has different cultural factors than a rural context. Even different neighborhoods hold different contexts than other neighborhoods in a city because of the demographic diversity that resides in them. Logan Square, for instance, is roughly 44% Hispanic, while West Town is about 77% White. These demographics will help shape the church that is planted there.

Hard data, like demographics, is great and essential to getting to know the context, but how, as the church, do we learn the language, the values, the hopes and dreams of those we want to reach? Or is it safe to assume that as Americans we all hold the same values? I don't only believe that it is unsafe, but would be damaging to do so. We must go into our context, Logan Square, for us with the posture to learn from the people that are there. If we don't, not only will we be seen as arrogant, we will not reach people for Christ there. We must learn to contextualize. So how do we do this?

Tim Keller, in his Redeemer Church Planting Manual, says we must be doing ethnographic research as well as demographic research. To do this, we must talk to people–not just do research on the internet. While demographics answers the "Who lives there?" question, ethnographics answers the "What are they like?" question. Keller gives several questions to ask people in order to get to know the people in your context: 

  • What brought you to [this place] and how do you like living here?
  • What are the dreams for your family?
  • What kind of church does [this place] need? What would it look like?
  • If you could ask God one thing, what would it be?
  • What's the toughest thing for you when you consider faith and spiritual things?
  • What are people's hopes, aspirations and pleasures?
  • What are people's greatest fears and problems?
  • How could a new church serve your needs?
  • How do people spend their free time? What do they do for fun?*
  • How is this neighborhood unique from others near it?*
  • Who is Jesus and what is his significance to you?*

It's only through personal interactions with those who live, work and play in the neighborhood, do we get to know how to speak the heart-language of those who live, work and play there. We do this research because it gives us a vision for the neighborhood and people who live there; it reinforces the conviction that you and the gospel are needed by the city and its people; and it removes our blindness and gives us the conviction that we need this city and people to teach us much.

And finally, in praying through the answers to these questions, we seek to have God's eyes for community to which we are called. Our goal is to love the city as God loves it, to recognize its brokenness and sin, and see how the Gospel heals and brings hope to the people who live there.

Stacey and I are headed up for a quick visit to Logan Square this weekend. We want to continually get to know our context and pray for it and learn from it. Please pray with us. Pray that God would give us a vision and hope for the neighborhood. Pray that we would be humble and learn from those there. Pray that would we be bold in asking these questions and truly hearing their answers.

*These questions I got from Dan Breed's Fox Cities Church Plant Project.





I was reading Tim Keller's newest book King's Cross and came across this following passage that completely undid me:

Follow the thread. You say, "That sounds pretty hard," and you're right. How can we possibly follow the thread? It's simple but profound. Jesus himself does absolutely everything he's calling us to do. When he called James and John to leave their father in the boat, he had already left his Father's throne. "He left his Father's throne above, so free, so infinite his grace." And later he's going to be ripped from his Father's presence, on the cross. It's going to look as if your thread is taking you into dead ends, places where you'll get bloody, where the only way to follw the thread looks like it could crush you. But don't try to go backward. Don't turn to the left; don't turn to the right. Jesus Christ's kingship will not crush you. He was crushed for you. He followed the thread to the cross as you can follow yours into his arms. (p. 25)

Get this book and read it.

Introduction to Books & Resources by Timothy Keller from Redeemer City to City on Vimeo.

Keller in Chicago

I was finally able to convince someone to with me to hear Tim Keller at the University of Chicago Friday night. My roommate's non-girlfriend, Kelly, headed down with me and we made it right on time, but were put in the overflow room. They had a nice video projector up and it seemed like the sound was going to be great, but when Tim got up to talk, the problems started. It was very annoying and distracting throughout, but I know the sound guys were freaking out about it more than anyone else in the room. Parts of the audio were lost, or truncated, at times, but, Lord willing, the message overcame. Oh, and they were using Macs, unlike another popular pastor.

In typical Keller fashion, he was able to come across winsomely and intelligently. He clearly explained that everyone is believing in something. Whether it's Christianity or Atheism, both are based on empirical arguments that have exclusivity claims. When he went to frame the Gospel, he did so in a very unique way. Instead of coming out and saying "here's the Gospel" or now listen to this, he first joked that "Now, I'm going to solve all our problems. And you can say you were here when it happened." Then he told us Christians to listen up, because he was talking to us, but he wanted the skeptics to overhear.

The Q&A was very well done, having both written comments and personal questions being asked. Further he answered very well, first deconstructing their argument and then answering them in a non-offensive way. One example: some one asked about the Christian sexual ethic. First Christianity has a way of offending someone from every culture. Jesus says to forgive 70 times 7, and we say "Yes, of course. Forgiveness is good." But then we question when sex is brought up. "Sex only between a man and a woman in marriage? That's crazy." But if you go to India, they say, "Yes, sex is only between a man and a woman in marriage, but forgiveness is a horrible idea. Vengeance is the way." But as Christians we are called to love our neighbor. So, in Tim's words, my neighbor who is Indian, I love. I care for him in whatever way I can. But he's not an elder in my church. Every community, he continues, has its standards for who's in and who's out. That's what defines a community. Christians are just the same.

I don't know how many people who read "me" know who Keller is, but he's the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, NYC. He just put out a book called The Reason for God, which I did end up buying Friday night. If you haven't heard of him and don't want to drop the $14.95 at Amazon, he has some great audio out there. On the website for the book, there are some downloads, but the three that I would suggest one listen to are from a Resurgence conference (sessions 6, 7, 8) he did a couple years ago. Further, Steve McCoy has a bunch of Keller audio on his site. And I just found, Veritas has his talk that he did at Columbia University.

Below are my notes from the evening, which may or may not make sense. Please enjoy responsibly.

Tim Keller- Veritas Forum
7 March 2008 UChicago

  • Doubting
    • Jude "Be merciful to those who doubt."
    • Matt. 18 "Please help my unbelief."
  • Why are people so skeptical?
    • The exclusivity claims of Christianity
      • divisive, narrow.
      • Yes, they are one of the main reasons.
  • Five ordinary ways people deal with the exclusivity claims
    1. Hope it away
      1. The Still Born God, Mark Lilla
        1. The liberal mainline god
      2. science
    2. Outlaw it away
      1. China-- just makes it more indigenous
    3. Argue it away
      1. deconstructs evolutionary thought
    4. Condemn it away
      1. It's exclusive
    5. (I don't have this one)
  • Jesus: John 14
  • All religions are equally right?
    • Utterly impossible
    • Jesus says "I am God come to find you"
    • All other religious founders say "I am here to show you God."
    • Elephant analogy
    • It's not narrow to make an exclusive truth claim, everyone is trying to make an exclusivity claim.
    • Narrowness is your attitude toward people, not toward other beliefs.
    • Cultural claims are exclusive.
  • Tim's Suggestions
    • we need to realize our secular world-view as privileged
    • Christians need to recognize that we have been part of the problem, only then can we begin to be a part of the solution.
  • Moral performance narrative
    • Hard not to look down your nose.
  • Grace narrative
    • Christ went to the cross and died
    • A salvation that is accomplished in weakness can only be accepted in weakness.
  • "Have you ever seen an Amish fundamentalist?"
  • Depends on your fundamentals
    • A man dying for his enemies
  • Christianity absolutely atrophies when it gets into bed with power.
  • Cultural Biases
    • Sexual vs. Forgiveness ethics
  • Figure out which 2/3s of your beliefs g-kid's won't accept.