Regular readers of this site may be interested to know that I have relaunched my own personal website, including a section devoted to theology and reflection. You can stop by Ardent Fidelity if you're interested.
Look for more new old book reviews over the next several weeks, and sometime in the next few months another new post by yours truly on preaching.
[The following is a republication (and re-edit!) of a review PJ wrote for his own (now-defunct) personal blog some time ago. There is enough search traffic for this article that we felt it deserved to be archived here. We hope you find PJ’s review informative.]
Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend coauthored Boundaries in Marriage. Both authors maintain private practices in clinical psychology in Newport Beach, California. Cloud earned a B.S. in Psychology from Southern Methodist University and a PhD in clinical psychology from Biola University. Townsend earned a B.A. in Psychology from North Carolina State University, a Master of Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, and a PhD in clinical psychology from Biola University.
Boundaries in Marriage is one book in a series which also includes:
Boundaries in Dating
Boundaries with Teens
Boundaries with Kids
This book is divided into 16 chapters. The middle section (specifically, chapters 5 - 13), provides advice to married couples on concepts such as love, honesty, faithfulness, compassion, forgiveness, holiness, and resolving conflict. These chapters contain good, straight-forward advice which is easy to apply. However, these chapters with the best material were supported by the least unique concepts. It would be simple to find better Christian marriage books which presented this same material.
While chapters 1-4 and 14-16 do offer something unique to the marriage discussion, most of the content is taken straight from the original Boundaries book and applied to marriage. Some of this material is acceptable, but a minority of the advice in these chapters is badly edited or unhelpful. Because the middle chapters are uncontroversial and easily replaced with other books, I will focus on these problematic sections instead.
The authors claim, “This book is not about changing, fixing, or making your spouse do anything.”1 While I whole-heartedly agree with the premise—it emphasizes that spouses should act lovingly towards each other, regardless of reciprocity—this concept was contradicted many times throughout the book, as when the authors wrote, "[Boundaries] are to protect and structure you, and only secondarily to change and motivate him."2
Given the authors’ credentials, I was hoping to find biblical teachings in this book, but I ultimately found it lacking. One false teaching involves the "Law of Responsibility." According to Cloud and Townsend, there are "Ten Laws of Boundaries". The second "Law" is of "Responsibility." This law states, "We are responsible to each other, but not for each other."3 This presents a problem in light of Ephesians 5:23, "For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body." Because Christ is the head and savior of the church, He is responsible for the church, and particularly, for her sins. To properly relate the headship of Christ over His church to the headship of a husband over his wife, the husband must be responsible for his wife.
While the "Law of Responsibility" might be valid in most relationships, it is completely invalid in the relationship of a husband to his wife