What Solomon Says about Love, Sex and Intimacy

The Book Of Romance—which was essentially an exposition on the Song of Songs—integrated biblical truth, practical experience, and wisdom in a concise, and comprehensive fashion.

The thesis of the book is centered around examining the Song of Songs, extracting practical wisdom, and applying it to one’s marital relationship. As Nelson promises to do, he works through Song 1-8 and addresses many other topics along the way. Overall, the author does an excellent job at remaining focused on his thesis. What is unique about Nelson’s book is his reliance upon the Song of Songs as the guidelines for a healthy relationship. Typically, authors cite particular verses to bolster their claims, but this book is written in a way which resembles a commentary at times. In his younger days, Solomon exemplifies godliness in the way he commits to one woman with an unwavering passion. He adheres to God’s command in Genesis to leave, cleave, and become one flesh with his spouse. Due to the nature of Song of Songs, several topics are covered including finding a mate, pursuing them, marrying them, resolving conflict, and keeping romance alive in the ensuing years of a marriage.  

Nelson also provides a push back with regards to the predominant understanding of marriage in North American society. In North America, individuals choose whom they marry mostly due to their romantic appeal or physical attraction. In arranged marriages, however, parents typically choose spouses for their children based on character, virtue, integrity, or other commonalities which would most likely lead to a flourishing marriage. Statistically, this approach has been proven to result in longer lasting marriages. While Nelson doesn’t advocate all should be married in this way, he believes their mentality supersedes many who profess to be relationship experts today—physical attraction is only skin deep. In addition, the author makes the distinction between courting and dating. From my experience, most Christians understand dating to be a relationship between a man and women, who desire their relationship to culminate in marriage. However, this is exactly what the author describes courting as; namely, the exclusive dating of two who have committed to each other and want to be betrothed eventually. Courting results in break up or marriage, but dating is casual and the author encourages readers to date regularly to test for compatibility.

This book does an excellent job of addressing what the Bible actually says about love, sex, and intimacy. There is much confusion on this topic within the body of Christ. Due to a lack of teaching in this area many fall into sin, or adopt an unbiblical understanding of these issues. The three categories most fall into regarding sex is understanding it to be one of the following: gift, God, or gross. Throughout this book, Nelson shows, with biblical examples how sexual union is a gift from God which ought to promote unity within the marriage. Nelson clearly has several years of experience counseling those in disgruntled marriages. He provides various stories which make certain arguments he proposes more persuasive. He also frequently adds stories from his marriage which has lasted over twenty years.

One point of weakness of the book was Nelson’s lack of citations. He quotes a recent survey that was conducted in which only 1 out of 1,050 married couples who read their bibles daily ended up having a divorce. Although I found this survey fascinating, and desired to further investigate the particularities of the survey, he provided no citation to check his sources. As someone who always wants to double check facts, this left me mildly frustrated. Nelson’s book would certainly be elevated and regarded as more scholarly if he had sources. His arguments would be bolstered if he integrated into his book opinions other than his own.

In addition to providing tips within a marriage, Nelson outlines what one should look for in a spouse. He offers warnings—pertaining to character flawsto beware of and character traits to look for. He puts it this way, “character is manifested in holiness, honesty, morality, temperance, and commitment to the Lord. Look for those traits.” For those who are familiar with the Bible much of this would be a review. Therefore, I wouldn’t suggest a seminary student read it, rather, I would recommend this book to laypersons who are trying to gain a biblical understanding of romance. First time readers, with regards to premarital studies, seem to be Nelson’s target audience, although, as previously stated, the insights he provides can refreshing and beneficial regardless. With The Book Of Romance, one can rethink their understanding of love, sex, and intimacy through the biblical concepts Nelson espouses.

A Model Of Marriage

A Model Of Marriage, by Jack and Judith Balswick, provided practical wisdom to those who are married, want to be married, or have a desire to speak into a married couple’s life. Throughout the book, the authors integrate a robust biblical framework which identifies several aspects of a marital relationship.

The primary assertion the Balswicks make repeatedly throughout the book is as follows: “our love for each other, therefore, ultimately reflects the very love of the Father and Son from all eternity before there even was a creation.” Simply put, the Balwicks contend that the Triune nature of God offers an example of how a couple ought to be one in all that they do, yet distinct in person. They referred to this concept as differentiated unity. This approach was helpful because they provided an ample amount of reasons to back up their claims. Throughout the totality of the book, there is a continual reconnection to the nature of God. Consequently, the book is relatively easy to follow along with.

Typically, even for those who have been committed Christians for years, the concept of the Trinity, with regards to marriage, is anything but helpful. Thousands of divisions have occurred due to God’s triune nature including the formation of various denominations, the burning of heretics (i.e. Michael Michael Servetus), and the like. Contrary to the confusion that many experience, for one who can grasp the basis of the nature of God, the Trinity does provide a useful analogy for marriage. In all aspects of life, a couple is called to be one. Additionally, God created man and women unique and beautiful with their own strengths, weaknesses, and roles. The love and relationship within God’s nature lasts forever, and will never fade away. Although marriage does not continue into eternity, a married couple’s life on earth was meant to reflect the same never ending love. The Trinity offers the best model for examining a relationship characterized by unity within diversity. In addition, the Balswicks connected covenant and grace in a profound way. They note that covenant and grace are inextricably linked throughout the Bible. Man doesn’t deserve anything from God other than judgment, condemnation, and wrath, however, parallel to the Father in the Prodigal Son story, God continually bestows undeserved favor upon His rebellious children. He also cites the story of Hosea, who waits in line to buy back his bride who has willingly gave herself up to prostitution. God is like Hosea, always faithful to His bride, the church. This faithfulness is never completely reciprocated. That is why grace is necessary for covenant to work. In relation to covenant and grace we find the clearest picture of God’s intention of marriage. Marriage is a smaller picture of the greatest picture—God’s covenant with man.

Within the Trinity, each person is equal but has a different role. In the same sense, men and women are equal but have different roles. The man is head of the home in the same way Christ is the head of the church. Moreover, within the Trinity there is a oneness which is referred to as perichoresis which is a beautiful picture of the union marriage ought to reflect. There is also mutual submission within the Godhead. The Father sends the Son (John 3:16), the Son and the Father send the Holy Spirit (John 15:26), and the Son sends the church through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is all to the glory of the Father (Phil 2:11). In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus accepts the Father’s will for Him to bear the weight of sin upon His shoulders (Luke 22:42). Therefore, submission, oneness, and differentiation can be implemented into one’s marriage based upon the very nature of God.

The primary strength of the book was how all-encompassing it was. It touched on nearly every topic I could imagine including Trinitarian theology, communication, conflict resolution, and romance.

One aspect of marriage, which the author failed to address, is the importance of solid friendships outside of one’s marriage. Certainly, time is limited, and once family becomes a reality, a couple must spend the majority of their time together. With that being said, some marital relationships experience an increased level conflict due to an unhealthy amount of time spent thereof. Having solid friendships to spend time with can help balance out a codependent relationship.  

In conclusion, Balwick’s book on marriage has been instrumental to my understanding regarding God’s overall intention for a marital relationship. Although a lengthy read, anyone seeking to understand marriage, in relation to God’s intention, will undoubtedly benefit from giving this a read.