4 out of 5 Stars
Author: Gary Thomas
Publisher: David C. Cook
Buy The Sacred Search
Reading Level: Leisure
If you don’t recall I reviewed Gary Thomas’s Every Body Matters and really enjoyed it so I jumped at the opportunity to read The Sacred Search. It also happens that as many of you know I’m writing a book about family discipleship and so I’m trying to read as many books about relationships from a Christian perspective as possible. All that aside: I enjoyed The Sacred Search.
Thomas argues that most people when searching for a spouse are doing it all wrong. They are placing the search above all else. Thomas uses Matthew 6:33 “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (see pp. 17-18). Says Thomas,
I want to make a promise to you: if you will see first God’s kingdom and His righteousness and let that agenda drive your decision regarding whom you choose to marry and refuse to compromise on that, you will set yourself up for a much more fulfilling , spiritually enriching, and overall more satisfying marriage. The degree to which you compromise on this verse is the degree to which you put your future satisfaction in jeopardy and open wide the door to great frustration and even regret. (p. 22)
and later he points out,
You know why so many relationships slowly wither into nothingness? They stop seeking first the kingdom of God. There’s no overarching mission in the couple’s lives beyond self-enjoyment. This entraps them in a life of petty battles and superficial cares. . . . Living by the gospel provides the security so necessary to build a foundation of mutual fellowship (pp. 173, 175)
That foundation provides a spring board for expansive conversations surrounding searching for a marriage partner, pre-marital counseling, healthy relationships, and other related topics. I especially found his discussion on infatuation helpful. He brings in some science and also explains how the body works during this time. It helps to demystify those strong feelings (see chapter 3).
In the spectrum from Biblical counseling (only using the Bible) and modern psychology, Thomas seems somewhere slightly towards the psychology side. What I mean: he grounds his principles in Scripture but he’s also strongly affirmative towards the impact of psychology. I’m somewhere slightly towards the Biblical counseling (CCEF) side of the spectrum, although I’m not suspicious of psychology and believe in using truth where ever it can be found. I say all that to say: my one concern with the book was Thomas’s chapter on sexual sin and its consequences (chapter 15 “A Neurochemical War Against Your Reasoning”). For all the talk of the kingdom of God and gospel prior I found very little gospel for those who have sinned sexually in this chapter. Instead he points primarily towards “a tremendous amount of spiritual and psychological clinical work” to find healing (p. 198). It’s not even that he didn’t say overcoming the issue was possible but the language used seemed flippant (like “if you’re really messed up” or “if either of you has a past that would make . . . Oprah blush” p. 198) and the emphasis seemed to shift more towards the psychology side. Some who are more affirming in psychology might not find a problem with the emphasis. I would recommend any one who has a history of sexual sin to first lay a good strong foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ in your life.
Because of the breadth of the topics it would be a good resources for pastors and counselors. He covers almost every important topic to cover before getting married. The book could be used as a guide for pre-marital counseling with some fleshing out by the counselor. Because of the level of practicality I would recommend using this book in conjunction with Tim & Kathy Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage. The two books would compliment each other well and would provide a comprehensive resources for newly married, soon-to-be married, and thinking-about-marriage couples.