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Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God: What Every Christian Husband Needs to…

by C. J. Mahaney

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719524,668 (3.92)1
Sex is a gift God gave to His people to be enjoyed within thebounds of marriage. This book shows every husband how to experiencethe intimacy with his wife that God intends.

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Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God: Now, there's a book title that piqued my interest!

C.J. Mahaney writes from a man's perspective to husbands on how to improve their romantic life. His seminal thought is, "You must touch the heart and mind of your wife before you touch her body" (28). This thought is echoed in every chapter. Mahaney covers the Song of Solomon to make his case. A quick aside on Mahaney's use of Solomon: I appreciate that he doesn't twist this love letter into some mystical explanation. Too many pastors and theologians perform hermeneutical gymnastics with this book. As Mahaney notes, Song of Songs "is exactly what it appears to be: a celebration of marital intimacy" (11).

Included in the strengths of this book is the idea that language is sexual. In a world where email, text, and social media flirtations abound, the church needs to emphasize the necessity of protecting our hearts and our words.

I enjoyed this book. However, I felt like many things were left unsaid. While short books are the rage, I would have liked to see what Mahaney would have written in 250 pages. As it was, what he wrote was helpful. This book is definitely worth the read. ( )
  RobSumrall | Jun 6, 2016 |
Books on sex and romance, written by godly pastors are rare. C.J. Mahaney is no sexpert, and this is no sex manual. But this may be the best book on sex you’ll ever read.

Sex, Romance and the Glory of God presents a theology of marriage that serves as just the right backdrop to look at how Solomon, in his famous Song, deals with sex. The book sets sex in the proper context for which God intended it. And it calls men—Christian men—to love and romance their wife.

Mahaney explains that marriage then is intended to be a picture of how Christ relates to his Church. Let me quote Mahaney at this point, since his words are much more adequate than mine:

"Please don’t think of this as merely a helpful illustration or an interesting perspective. It’s much more than that. This is the essence of marriage. This is the divine purpose for your marriage….

"…there is a purpose in marriage that goes beyond personal fulfillment. Something of the selfless love, care, and sacrifice that Jesus shows toward the Church is supposed to be evident in you as you relate to your wife. Something of the respect, submission, and devotion that the Church shows toward Jesus is supposed to be evident in your wife as she relates to you. That’s the purpose for your marriage. That is why God has given her to you, and you to her. " (pg. 23-25)

Particularly helpful and challenging is Mahaney’s call for men to romance their wives. Mahaney encourages us to plan and work at delighting our wife in any number of small yet meaningful ways. He provides practical pointers and suggestions and strongly encourages a weekly date of some kind.

The truth he wants us to remember, if nothing else from this book is this: “In order for romance to deepen, you must touch the heart and mind of your wife before you touch her body.“ (emphasis his, page 28)

An example of Mahaney’s practical yet unsettling wisdom is his must-ask question: “Do you feel more like a mother or a wife?” (pg. 29)

Concerning this point he continues:

"There can be a selfish, sinful tendency among husbands to view their wives as a goal that, once achieved, is then taken for granted. That is how a wife with children comes to feel primarily like a mother. And that is why the very idea of asking a question like this can cause many husbands to swallow hard and consider going off to watch a little TV. But please don’t—I want this to be an encouragement to you.

"…A variety of legitimate activities may consume huge quantities of your wife’s time….But whatever your situation, if you make it a priority to love and care for your wife as Christ does the Church…God will touch her heart so that, even when surrounded by diapers, dishes, and diseases, she can answer that question with joy: “I feel more like a wife.”

"…Motherhood is exceptionally important. It calls for immense sacrifices and deserves great honor. But I can say with full conviction that according to Scripture, motherhood is never to be a wife’s primary role. In fact, I think the most effective mothers are wives who are being continually, biblically romanced by their husbands." (pg. 30)

The book is helped by several personal stories that Mahaney shares. The following story was a challenge and encouragement for me to remember that I am to love and serve my wife and family as Christ serves and loves the Church.

"When our first two children were still quite young, I realized that my commute home in the evening was functioning as little more than a review of my day. As far as I was concerned, by the time I got in that car, my responsibilities were pretty much over until the next morning. I saw my home as a refuge, a place where the emphasis, for me, was on being served rather than on leading and serving with Christlike love.

"In God’s mercy, he showed me the selfish motivation I was bringing home each evening. I saw that my commute could be best utilized as a time of transition, so that I might be prepared to finish the day by loving and serving my family well.

"So I made a practice of pulling the car over a few blocks from my home so I could take a couple of minutes to make an effective transition in my soul. There on the side of the road, I meditated on Ephesians 5 as well as on some other passages. I confessed to God my sinful tendency to be selfish and sought to prepare my heart to serve my wife and children when I arrived home. In this way I learned to see my home as the context where I have my greatest privilege and opportunity to serve…." (pp. 50-51)

I found Mahaney’s chapter on “The Language of Romance” to be very interesting. I was challenged to be more intentional in how I communicate with my wife, and to stop neglecting poetry as a means of arousing her love. Listen to Mahaney on this point:

"…[Song of Solomon shows us] a category of communication set apart from the stuff of daily life….It is highly intentional, creative, provocative, erotic language. It’s purpose is to arouse romantic passion—to inflame slowly and intentionally, all the while honoring and delighting one’s spouse….Long before they begin to enjoy one another’s bodies, they excite one another’s minds with tender, creative speech. They model for us what it means to feel sexual passion and to articulate that passion. The language is highly poetic, romantically expressed, and exceptionally creative and imaginative. It is also unmistakably sexual.

"The best sex begins with romance, and the best romance begins with the kind of speech we read in the Song of Solomon. It begins with carefully composed words….

"Far from scorning carefully composed words, I should accept the lesson of Solomon’s Song and learn how to use them. Poetic language is a gift from God that can help me promote godly romance with my wife!

"…How many times in the past week or month have you spoken to your wife in ways that she found to be romantically and perhaps erotically arousing?" (pg. 60, 69-70)

When Mahaney gets to the sex part in the book, he doesn’t disappoint. He stresses that the sexual aspect of marriage should not be considered “a fundamentally spiritual activity”. He even goes so far as to say:

"Is there a case to be made from Scripture that lovemaking is any less important to a marriage than praying together, studying the Bible together, or even attending church together? I don’t think so….

"…let’s not see sex as merely a permissible part of marriage or something to be tolerated. Sex in marriage is mandatory and something to be celebrated! (See 1 Corinthians 7:35; Ephesians 5:31) Sex was created for marriage, and marriage was created in part for the enjoyment of sex." (pg. 74-75)

Mahaney pointed out something about Song of Solomon that I had never considered. He stressed that Song of Solomon, while highly erotic, is a book about marital love. And he draws some important conclusions from that seemingly inconsequential point.

"It’s remarkable how Solomon’s language, while obvious in its intent, is never biologically specific in a way that could be considered vulgar or clinical….that fact is itself full of meaning. Although sexual intercourse is certainly an ultimate expression of a married couple’s erotic encounter, it is not the outstanding central feature of this book. What is dominant in the Song is not any particular physical act. The book is not about sexual intercourse. Rather, it is about the remarkable nature of the couple’s overall relationship—in all its romance, yearning, desire, sensuality, passion, and eroticism….they do not desire to be together simply so they can experience sexual gratification. They want to be together because they are in love, albeit a powerful one…." (pg. 88-89)

A valuable inclusion is the great “word to wives” section written by C.J’s wife Carolyn. It is for the most part a reproduction of chapter 7 in her book Feminine Appeal. I read that section, too, and was impressed by Carolyn Mahaney’s wisdom. Like the entire book, this section was not so much a manual on how to make love, as it is an encouragement to have a deep and lasting joyful relationship with your mate which includes a proper valueing and enjoyment of sex.

In Mahaney’s eagerness to use Song of Solomon as a Biblical description and instruction of marital intimacy, however, he falls prey to what I consider to be a wrong approach to interpreting that book. He pits an allegorical interpretation, which sees Christ and his Church as the key players in that song, against a “literal” interpretation, which sees Solomon talking about the joys of marital love. I am aware that there have been extreme allegorical interpretations that go so far as to negate any application of what the song teaches about marital love. But in Mahaney’s approach, which is very typical and widespread today, the error is made to the opposite extreme. He denies any typographical use of the book.

I see an alternative approach which can both affirm that the book clearly praises the joys of marital love yet also recognize that Solomon’s Song is written within the framework of a redemptive history that the Bible records for us. And just as other Biblical stories foreshadow and describe the redemption Christ accomplished for His people, thereby enhancing our understanding of and appreciation of the Gospel, so too the Song of Solomon may rightly be seen to describe the anti-type of which marriage is only a picture. Indeed all marriages are a picture of the abiding covenant love and joyful relationship between Christ and His Bride, the Church (Eph. 5:31-32); and hence it would be proper to see Christ and His Church as ultimately referred to in this beautiful love poem.

My quibble over interpreting Song of Solomon aside, you need to get this book. And if you’re a husband, you especially need to read it, and even more so if you have already been married for some time. I recommend it highly.

An expanded version of this review is available at CrossFocusedReviews.com, where you can find book excerpts, giveaways, promotional offers, audio reviews and more. ( )
  bobhayton | Aug 16, 2010 |
A worthwhile read, even for those husbands already being intentional about romancing their wives. Mahaney discusses practical ideas for romancing our wives within a biblical framework, primarily from the Song of Solomon. Mahaney interprets Song of Solomon as related to a romantic and sexual relationship and applies segments of the biblical book to modern marriage.

It's heavier on philosophical framework than the "just tell me what to do" crowd would probably like but manages to keep that to the minimum necessary to give proper context for the numerous practical helps. ( )
  dvalliere | Jun 3, 2010 |
Now if there are three things I really, really like the title speaks for me. Unfortunately this means…

Read more of this review at Arukiyomi ( )
  arukiyomi | Oct 18, 2007 |
A fair book that would have stood supremely in its own right without Mahaney's attempt to humanise the book of the Song of Solomon. ( )
  CharismaticDan | May 8, 2006 |
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Sex is a gift God gave to His people to be enjoyed within thebounds of marriage. This book shows every husband how to experiencethe intimacy with his wife that God intends.

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