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 flaws—to 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.