The Redemption of Love by Carrie A. Miles (Brazos, 2006)
Like a cool breeze on a sticky day, Carrie Miles' book, The Redemption of Love: Rescuing Marriage and Sexuality from the Economics of a Fallen World, offers a refreshing perspective on such complicated and well-worn topics as patriarchy, the breakdown of the family, the biblical perspective on marriage, and the rising rates of divorce and cohabitation. Miles looks to the Bible for a clear understanding of problems and causes, using economic sociology as a tool/lens. Defining economics as "the study of how we 'allocate scarce resources among competing ends,'" she examines the forces in our culture and institutions that influence our everyday lives.
Starting with the establishment of sexuality and the family unit by God in the Creation story and the economic realities that the Fall brought to that relationship, Miles traces how changing economic realities through history—such as the shift from an agrarian society to an industrial society—had corresponding shifts in the marital and family relationships. She reveals how past family structures that appear to be more consistent with God's plan had more to do with economic (resource-allocating) realities than with a more virtuous culture. "Rather, they married, stayed married, and refrained from having sex or children outside of marriage partly because this is what the church taught, but even more so because these virtues were the material requirements of survival under the economic conditions that prevailed then."
Lest you suspect that this book is a dry treatise on historic and economic forces, I must mention the exquisite section on the Song of Songs that illustrates and elevates the biblical blessing of sex and marriage. "The biblically ideal marriage includes harmony and compatibility, passion and compassion, self-fulfillment as well as self-sacrifice, and equality as a necessary stepping-stone to unity."
While it is not always immediately clear how her connections hang together, Miles' impressive scholarship and broad, encompassing conclusions are well worth the effort. (Here's a tip for synthesizing and articulating the content: Reread the introduction after completing the book!)
We are challenged to be free enough from the economic realities of the fallen world to participate in the redemption of love and sexuality. We are invited to reveal God's ways to the world in an attainable marital unity. Both liberal and conservative explanations and solutions for the current climate are exposed as limited, and we are shown a fuller, higher way. Although a challenging read, I cherish this book for its clarity and truth, and for its clarion call for the redeemed to live in the reality of that redemption!
Marcie Macolino practices pediatrics in Philadelphia, Pa., where she encounters on a daily basis the effects of sexuality in a fallen world.