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Love Written in Stone: Finding God's Grace in the Boundaries He Sets Review by Kathy Gelzer

By Philip Carlson
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South
Bloomington, MN 5438

The premise of Love Written in Stone is that God's laws were established for our own good. This quote from the introduction sums it up well: "God's law and instructions demonstrate a Father's passionate concern for our well-being. His guidelines for living are not intended to cramp our style or make us miserable. They are shaped by a Father's love. They are there to point us toward the best possible life." This is a practical topic to which all of us can relate, and Philip Carlson writes in a direct, engaging tone.

As a medical doctor and pastor, the author holds a unique perspective on the issue of health and Christianity: "What we are trying to do throughout this book is discover some insight into the human dilemma at the intersection of theology and science." The book is divided into four parts: "Guidance for Our Relationship with God," "Instructions for Our Relationships with Others," "Directions for a Healthier Self," and "Insight for Our Relationship with Creation." The author is well read, and he makes use of applicable quotes as well as plenty of personal examples from his own life.

Part 1, "Guidance for Our Relationship with God," defines the source of the problem (separation from God), the need for forgiveness, and the positive effects of gratitude and happiness. This was my favorite part of the book. As a lifelong Christian, I was surprised to find so much gold in these three foundational chapters. In particular, there is a three-step spiritual technique the author developed to help him conquer depression.

In the second part, "Instructions for Our Relationships with Others," there are two chapters. One covers sex. The author holds a biblical view: "Sex was made for marriage--one man and woman in a relationship built on mutual love and respect, rooted in lifetime commitment expressing the character and sacrifice of Jesus. All other relational expressions of our sexuality outside of this context are described by the Bible as sin or sexual immorality and are to be avoided." The second chapter deals with marriage and family.

In Part 3, "Directions for a Healthier Self," Dr. Carlson discusses wholeness (the interconnectedness of body, spirit, and emotions) and the need for regular rest. Daily, weekly, and longer periods of rest are covered from a biblical viewpoint. Our cultural tendencies to hurry and be under continual stress are addressed, with the clear admonishment to live in the present moment.

Lastly, "Insight for Our Relationship with Creation" has a chapter on stewardship and a chapter entitled "Creation and the Goal of History." This last chapter puts creation and our existence in the greater perspective of God's purpose for everything that is and will be. An important epilogue speaks to the eternal human questions about the meaning of life, especially significant for those who are unsure of their purpose here on earth.

Two appendices wrap up the book: "Difficult Texts Regarding the Law in Scripture" (slavery and death penalty for disobedient children) and "Scriptures Regarding Joy," which is an organized list of Bible verses about joy.

In addition to being a great adult read, I think Love Written in Stone would be an excellent part of a high schooler's Bible or health curriculum. I think discussion questions at the end of each chapter would be helpful so that the book could to be used for a home fellowship group or an adult Sunday school class.

Product review by Kathy Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2011