Last fall my wife and I completed our private celebration of a very brief 35 years of Christ-centered marriage, with some flowering shrubs for the front lawn, some new porch furniture, and a dinner out overlooking the river with the trees on the hillside turning spectacular colors reflected on the water.

Here are some of the reflections that this perspective has given me:

  • We constantly encounter a deep duality: the depth of our broken-heartedness, and the depth of His compassion, kindness and love.  Our broken hearts do not think our thoughts straight, feel our feelings straight, nor do they choose our choices straight.  So we are in regular conflict with each other.  Like two drunken sailors, sometimes we struggle to conduct the simplest conversation, or arm-in-arm we navigate our wobbly selves across the room, colliding with the furniture.  Falling down together, we struggle an inordinate amount of time to simply stand again, and bruise and slobber on each other in the process.  Our broken hearts twist feelings of disappointment into feelings of anger, and confuse our thoughts with faulty logic and bizarre assumptions.  We imagine choices to be wise and good, and only discover over time how foolish those choices are.  And yet in all this we see His hand at work, relentlessly binding up our broken hearts as a surgeon gently (but firmly) wraps shattered joint and bone.  His wrappings have both comforting softness and annoying rigidity.  But the rigidity is the very thing our brokenness cannot supply for itself, and what enables us to operate as well as we do.  And (to our amazement) this is apparently well enough to provoke a neighbor to say to my wife, “I’ve never seen a marriage like yours.”
  • The experience of Christ-centered marriage is an exotic alloy of our desires and His imperial calling; husband and wife are divinely appointed roles, energized by His love for us.  I constantly recall the deep impression that occurred on a spring morning nearly forty years ago, when our conversation over breakfast first revealed that her heart was fully oriented toward me.  As this pleasant shock began to sink in, I did not hear words, but the impression came clear and unmistakable, like feeling the ground heave in an earthquake: “She is Mine; I love her with My deep and everlasting love.  I have loved her from the foundation of the universe.  I appoint you to her care.”  (Me?  You trust me to care for Your Beloved?  This delicate and lovely creation in my clumsy and wicked hands?  Are…are You out of Your royal mind?)  The ensuing deep silence I understood: “I have spoken.  Stop babbling and get on with it.”
  • The experience of a Christ-centered marriage will never be like its pagan caricatures, in that woven in among the daily tasks of faithful life together we regularly discover profoundly supernatural surprises.  It is like paddling along in a tandem kayak, and suddenly becoming aware of a strange ripple at arm’s length; looking down you see swimming along just beneath you (and pushing the kayak) there is a whale.  Or hiking along, handing each other over the tricky footing, pulling each other out of thorny bushes, you break out of the trees with a grand vista of rolling hills, silver river bends and a blue horizon lit with crepuscular rays piercing the clouds.  I’m sure there are pleasant surprises in pagan marriages, but the surprises I’m talking about are the kind that stun you until you can only say “I’m sorry, God—I didn’t know You were this real.”  (This phrase has stuck with me over the years since I first heard Becky Pippert say it.  No other words capture so well the essence of these surprise experiences.)
  • There is a sense of being hobbits from the Shire like Merry and Pippin, both of us together caught up in some great story, the magnitude and significance of which we can only guess.  So we just do whatever good work presents itself, moment by moment, but all the time we are awed by the larger narrative unfolding around us and somehow building on our little deeds.
  • The experience of a Christ-centered marriage is not a form of patriarchy with some evangelical holy water sprinkled on it.  Patriarchy is a curse on women (we read in Genesis 3).  It will always be a curse on women, no matter how much we sprinkle it, and I have been a part of that curse.  Nor is Christ-centered marriage a 50-50 divvying up of decision authority, or alternating the decision power, with silent stalemates over the tough decisions.  Over the years, we have been learning a third way, which at this point I can only describe as mutually submissive joint authority.  This third way is the supernatural work, I am convinced, of the Holy Spirit doing His extraordinary thing in our otherwise thoroughly ordinary lives.  It is amazingly pleasant and satisfying.
  • There is a recurring sense of being new characters in an X-Men movie.  At odd intervals, we look at each other: “That was amazing!  I didn’t know you could do that!” and “I didn’t either!”

The adventure continues.

“Most boys would not have liked it, but to me it was red beef and strong beer.”

Red beef.  Strong beer.  Things of substance and weight.  Intoxicating.  Energizing.  Things consumed by men who know they are men, as an intrinsic part of living their vigorous lives.

This line–one of my favorites–comes from C. S. Lewis’ description of his early life, when he encountered a singular man to whom the two Lewis brothers privately awarded a distinctive moniker:
The Great Knock.

The Great Knock was a tutor paid by their father to “cram” the two boys for the Oxford University entrance exams.  Lewis describes him as “the most purely logical entity I ever met”.   As part of their training, he knocked the two boys’ thinking about until they learned to use proper logic.

Logic is falling out of fashion these days.  Most boys don’t like it.

Here’s why.

In the last century of secular thought, while logic brought about many scientific and technological breakthroughs, it did not bring about the much anticipated personal peace and well-being.  Worse, it seemed to hasten the apocalypse of nuclear war; at best it predicted the eventual heat death of the universe and the ultimate insignificance of man.  Logic only led to depression.  Hope began to die.  People began to turn to other less rational ways to think in their desperation to find some hope and personal peace.

In the first “The X-files”  movie and TV series, Agent Mulder is the post-modernist, the anti-logic, feeling-and-intuition character.  He is in constant debate with Agent Scully, the modernist, the logical character.  “Forget logic, Scully!  Use your feelings!” says Mulder.

But the modernist’s problem was not with logic; it’s just a thought engine, and if maintained properly, it runs well.  The problem is what the modernists fed the engine–the assumptions and presuppositions that serve as starting premises.  If you start the engine with invalid presuppositions, as Renaissance Man does, you get invalid, grim results like a depressing future of nuclear war and heat death.

It kills the significance of our daily thoughts, choices and feelings.

Not so for Reformation Man.

For him, logic is a core part of lifelong training, a daily exercise, for several reasons.  First, the God presented to us in the Bible, if He appears a bit eccentric, is clearly rational.  He says things like “Come and let us reason together.”  He points out ludicrously illogical human thinking, and mocks it.  He offers sound logical arguments for people to consider, demonstrating how a properly maintained logic engine works.

Second, we have a bitter enemy whose weaponry consists entirely of lies.  They work like bear traps and anti-personnel mines.  They are carefully camouflaged, and some are crafted to have a delayed effect: years later, they mangle our lives.  If your enemy is the Father of Lies, it behooves you to know a lie when you hear one–or think one.

Third, we all have a parasitic sin nature that loves to cuddle up with lies.  Mine has never found a lie it didn’t like.  It rejects truth as if it were yesterday’s bran muffin.  What it can’t reject outright it attempts to distort or suppress.  We experience this in two forms: bizarre assumptions we adopt without ever pausing to question them, and as a host of logical fallacies we use as readily as we do paper towels.

Fourth, we all have broken hearts.  In Western culture, that terminology usually means we have painful regrets.  In the Jewish jargon of the Bible, it means something far more profound: the core of our being, from which arise our thoughts, our choices and our feelings, simply does not work right.  We have difficulty thinking correctly.  We choose foolishly, selecting choices that are clearly not in our best interest, in what Barbara Tuchman called “the march of folly”.  We feel emotions that are misfires: loneliness may not feel like loneliness–it feels like anger or depression.  Worse yet, sometimes we feel nothing at all.

Logic is a kind of brace, like a cast put on a broken limb, providing stiffness where our thinking process is weak, broken and prone to fail.  God provides His word as the means by which the Son of God binds up the broken hearted.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord‘s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.  They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.

For example, in the Bible God prohibits His people from lying or even “dealing falsely” with each other. He directs them to work at making the logic engine run well, and demonstrates how to do it. That means Reformation Man avoids using logical fallacies, even in his private thoughts; relentlessly, he hunts them down as dangerous enemies that threaten his well-being, and that of his fellow men.

But the God of the Bible also provides the right fuel for the engine, the valid starting premises we can’t figure out by ourselves.  Some of these premises, when we first encounter them, seem completely outrageous.  After years of thinking about them, some seem more outrageous than ever.   But they are the essential fuel.

Agent Mulder needs to embrace logic, but Agent Scully needs to fuel her logic engine with His truth.

Forgetting logic, and ignoring His truth means that Western popular culture is headed back to the Middle Ages, when superstition reigned supreme.  Combining the true presuppositions from the Bible with the biblical imperative to think logically, Reformation Men like Bacon, Kepler and Newton led Western culture to develop and implement the scientific method.  It actually resides intellectually on presuppositions found in the Bible.  These men used it as a reliable way to know how the material world works.  They led the way out of the dark.

But today, Western popular culture applies the term “science” to just about anything, including wild speculations about the past, as the certification of what is popularly acceptable to believe.  Something called Chance has been awarded god-like powers, and made a fundamental part of “science”, in spite of the fact that the term is shorthand for “man’s ignorance of governing causes”.  Superstition is growing unchecked.  The flow of events has grown into a dense fog in which Renaissance Man finds himself careering from one near catastrophe to the next.

In contrast, Reformation Man experiences what Christ was talking about:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

As in the late Middle Ages, today Reformation Man collaborates with Christ, who is binding up his broken heart; he works at thinking logically, and deliberately feeds his logic engine with the valid truths found in the Bible.  As he does so, his mind sees clearly, perhaps for the first time, and he is able to build up the devastated ruins left by a flailing, superstitious culture, the handiwork of Renaissance Man.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

but his delight is in the law of the Lordand on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

Most boys don’t like it.

To Reformation Man, it’s red beef and strong beer.