Scripture does not teach that some human course of “counseling” must be passed in order for a man and a woman who have the right to marry to enter into the marriage covenant. However, the Bible does teach the principal that older Christians are to teach younger Christians in various things. Paul told Titus: "But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things-- that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed" (Titus 2:1-6, NKJV). Here we see older men and women are taught to teach the younger about many things, including those things which relate to marriage. Should two young people considering marriage talk to Christians older than they are about what is involved in marriage (or other things about being in Christ)? Absolutely! Does this have to take the form of some formal, structured, man-made system of “counseling”? No.
As a preacher of the Gospel, I will only agree to do a wedding for a couple if they will agree to sit down with me and study what the Bible teaches about marriage. However, I make it clear when we begin to study with them that I am not a “counselor”—I am just a Christian who is teaching what the Bible says about marriage. Is this “counseling”? Yes and no. It follows the pattern of Titus 2:1-6, but it does not rely upon some man-made criteria of psychology, or secular education. Some states offer a discount on the cost of a marriage license if they go through “pre-marital counseling.” As most states define it, Bible study qualifies as “pre-marital counseling.” I would encourage couples to study the Bible with older Christians. Yet, some of the man-made courses that involve certain steps necessary to “pass” leave the impression that man has authority in matters which he does not.
Regarding any books on marriage, the main book that a couple needs to consider is (of course) the Bible. It offers us all that we need in all things (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Any other books are only of value to the extent that they may direct us to what Scripture says, or relate the efforts of Christians to obey God’s word regarding marriage. It would not be appropriate in this forum to advocate human books, given that all human books are subject to the weaknesses and biases of their authors. If you would care to contact me personally we could discuss the merits and weaknesses of some texts that are available. My e-mail is: email@example.com. The Bible must be the focus, because it alone will be the standard by which we are judged on the last day (cf. John 12:47-48).
Kyle Pope, August 2010