The Sacred Search

sacred searchThe Sacred Search: What if it’s not about who you marry, but why? by Gary Thomas, 2/5

If only this book’s contents lived up to the promise of its subtitle.  Unfortunately, the author focuses less on the “why” and more on outlining a convoluted set of criteria with which to judge the “who.”  This criteria is self-defeatingly simplistic – a Christian couple could check all the right boxes and still end up miserable or alternatively, could meet almost none of the criteria and still have a good marriage.  By preaching to the low-hanging fruit – people who haven’t yet considered the possibility of applying Christian principles, common sense and thoughtfulness to their search for marital bliss – Thomas dilutes his message to an almost unbearably obvious and formulaic level.

The book’s main problem is illustrated by the chapter devoted to helping the reader rate, on a scale of 1-10, six specific character aspects of potential spouses (here’s a hint – you’d better hope for a cumulative score of 45 or higher) (143).  It is a mystery to me how Thomas expects people so clueless that they need to be told to look for a spouse who has high scores in areas like “knows how to communicate” and “resolves conflict in a healthy way” to be capable of making accurate assessments or gaining any value from this exercise.

Less importantly, but still notably, Thomas is one of the most awkward authors I have ever encountered.  Many of the things he writes are unintentionally (I assume) offensive and insulting.  He suggests that, since “most people never use the degree they get from college,” it is reasonable to make finding a spouse there “one of the top goals.”  He actually compares it to an unemployed person visiting a job fair (78).  In a later chapter, he encourages people to play private eye on their intended, using techniques to uncover their past such as asking sly questions, looking at old photo albums, subtly questioning the person’s family and friends, and observing how they pray, since “someone might succeed in lying to you, but it’s a little trickier to present a false front to God” (179-182).  The only strategy he suggests for girls who want to be noticed more is to cook, claiming that guys will “figure out who put the food on the table” (79).  According to Thomas, someone who only reads the Bible during church will have “negligible” spiritual growth and will “never be spiritually wiser than he or she already is” (127).  I’m not trying to nitpick unfairly – there were pages and pages of other equally embarrassing examples that I could have chosen from.

I respect Thomas’s effort to encourage people who are in love to approach marriage in a thoughtful way that is consistent with their religious beliefs and, as far as very general principles and study questions are concerned, his writing has some value.  However, I believe that a lot more value could be had from this book by tearing off the front cover, cutting out a rectangle around the subtitle, handwriting the text of Matthew 6:33 on the back of the rectangle and using it as a bookmark for Book III, Chapter 6 (Christian Marriage), in C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity.

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