Joel R. Beeke. Friends and Lovers: Cultivating Companionship and Intimacy in Marriage. Adelphi, MD: Cruciform Press, 2012. 108 pp. $8.45.
Do we really need another marriage book in our Christian subculture? Given what I see from day-to-day as a pastor and counselor, yes, we do. In Friends and Lovers, Dr. Joel R. Beeke takes a swing at a short, sweet, and simple treatment of introducing married couples to important truths (which is exactly what we need). And, in case you are wondering, Beeke mostly succeeds.
Dr. Beeke begins his work with a few chapters, not on sex, nor on the psychological differences between men and women, but simply with the topic of marital friendship. The point of the author is simply that couples who wish to grow deep in their marriage need to learn how, remember how, and practice how to be friends. We need to like each other, and we need to express that emotion. We need to treat each other like we treat good friends, and we will be surprised to see how far that will take us.
Another positive of this work is Beeke’s willingness to address sexual issues, but not to ever take his readers too far. It seems that a popular Christian trend in marriage teaching is to leap off a cliff into very graphic and sensual discussion of topics that might not be best read by others. Rather than giving a list of what to do and what not to do, or perhaps what is Ok and what is not OK, Beeke simply calls people to love each other, to think of others first, to not degrade each other, and to be decent.
In chapter 10, Dr. Beeke does an excellent job of helping his readers to think through the need for repentance and healing in the way that we sometimes think of our sexuality inside marriage. The author points out that many couples come to the marriage bed with guilt that lingers due to past sin. Beeke then reminds us of the promise in 1 John 1:9 of God’s forgiveness and cleansing. Such promises of mercy are very helpful to Christians who struggle with lingering guilt-feelings, and Beeke’s choice to include a chapter on this topic is very wise.
In general, the structure of this book, like all of those from Cruciform Press, is a positive. This publisher is committed to producing short, theologically-solid, and powerful books. The fact that this book is not a giant how-to manual, but is rather a little book that you can read in a couple of days is a solid mark in the plus column. The truth is, a marriage book that nobody will read is not very helpful. The size of this work makes it readable, and that is good.
While I am fond of Beeke’s work, I will mention a couple of points that I found to be less positive. First, I would have preferred that Beeke choose a more modern Bible translation. It felt very awkward to find this book full of King James English every time a Bible verse found its way into the text. While I understand that there is nothing wrong with using KJV or other old translations like the ASV, I fear that the old-sounding phraseology in the middle of a modern book will not help the young Christian who is attempting to use Beeke’s book to help his marriage. I will likely be less apt to recommend this book to certain readers, especially guys who do not like to read, because of the Bible translation choice alone.
Second, I found that Beeke takes a couple of pretty hard swings at establishing a case for large families and limiting birth control. The author does not have the space to make his argument for large families in this small work. At the same time, he does not either have the space to refute other, valid arguments against his position. I would have preferred this section simply not be in the book, as it will do more to hinder readers who disagree with Beeke than it will to help establish his point.
Finally, the book reads like a sermon or lecture. This is, of course, because the book is adapted from two lectures that Dr. Beeke gave. This is not a large problem, but I did find myself thinking about it as I read, so I mention it here.
I would, without hesitation, recommend Dr. Beeke’s book to married couples. I think that the positives far outweigh any problems that I found in the text. The brevity of the work combined with the valuable insights therein make this book a solid addition to any married Christian’s library.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Cruciform Press blogger review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”