Reviewed by: Larry Wilson
Date posted: 11/04/2007
What the Bible Teaches about Marriage, by Anthony Selvaggio. Published by Evangelical Press, 2007. Paperback, 240 pages, list price $14.99. Reviewed by OP pastor Larry Wilson.
We find it difficult to escape second-hand smoke, but it's even more difficult in our society to escape second-hand smut. The world around us idolizes sex, talks about it incessantly, and insists that we join in its immorality. In reaction, believers tend to emphasize God's warnings against sexual sin so much that they neglect his positive teachings about sex. Anthony Selvaggio, who is pastor of College Hill Reformed Presbyterian Church in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, became convicted that in this way he was giving a distorted message to the sheep under his care. He determined to preach a series of sermons from the Song of Songs. This book grew out of those sermons.
This book is not a commentary. It's more like a marriage manual with a difference. The difference is that, first, it is rooted in biblical exposition. Other books on Christian marriage are generally topical, without obvious rooting in Scripture exposition. But Pastor Selvaggio exposits and applies verses from the Song of Songs, as illuminated and illustrated by other Scriptures. Second, the book shows pastoral wisdom; it is pointed and practical. He addresses issues such as the threat posed by pornography to marriages and purity. The author repeatedly contrasts the approach and attitudes that God's Word commends with the approach and attitudes of the world in which we live. He gives exhortations on how to do in practice what God's Word teaches. Third, the book is Christ-centered and gospel-oriented. Each chapter not only exposes sin from the Scriptures, but also points the reader to God's grace in Christ. This theme comes to a climax in the final chapter. Fourth, the book reflects a confessional, Reformed framework. It is doctrinally sound and can be commended for use in our churches.
What the Bible Teaches about Mariage is not a complete marriage manual. For example, it says nothing about managing money. But it does cover the basic, foundational issues, and it does so very well. Two chapters address the prerequisites of true love (maturity and purity). Three chapters discuss the nature of true love (that it is exclusive, enduring, and priceless). Four chapters discuss the maintaining of true love (fostering friendship, marriage roles, communication that builds up, and the sexual relationship). A final chapter points to the overarching significance of the marriage between Christ and his church.
I would prefer that the book had footnotes rather than endnotes. Moreover, there is an occasional undocumented citation. The book could also be improved by the addition of Scripture and topical indexes. Nevertheless, it is a valuable resource. In a cover blurb, Dr. Dennis Johnson says that this book "grounds down-to-earth, contemporary, heart-searching advice to engaged and married couples not only in the human affection and passion celebrated in the Song of Songs, but also in the history-long courtship of Christ and his Bride, showing that through the reconciling, transforming grace of our heavenly Bridegroom our marriages can beautifully foreshadow now the final consummation of his love for his church at the great Wedding for which our hearts yearn." Amen!
Pastor Selvaggio envisions this book being used by pastors for premarital or marriage counseling. Indeed, it is an excellent resource for that purpose. It may also be profitably used in a class or Bible study for couples, or, better yet, in a one-on-one study between fathers and their teenaged sons or mothers and their teenaged daughters. Recommended.