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The Advocate

Altared by Claire & Eli

Reviewed by Dale Lewis

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"...not the consummate “know it all” guide to Christian dating/love/marriage but it is a solid foundation!"

Who, among us, hasn’t given credence to the prevailing rumor that romance/love/marriage isn’t the cure-all for all that ails us --- including loneliness? Sad to say, we as Christ-followers have been distracted by wedding bells as well as our exuberant, entitled dreams for a happily-ever-after union. In the process, we have neglected the greater vision of Christ’s call to love all, whether we are single or married.

Claire and Eli (not their real names) take turns sharing their transparent thoughts, unencumbered insights and biblical wisdom. Their blending of personal dating memoir and theology is effective. Supplementing their words, they use quotes from distinguished church people like Augustine, the Desert Fathers (new to me), Henri Nouwen and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

The forgotten concept of self-denial in regard to love is discussed, dissected and dispensed within the pages of Altared. Here are a few of their most poignant thoughts:

“Denial of comfort and luxury is a necessary feature of our love for others. To love one another with conviction is to be willing to give up what we have or what we want.”

“Self-denial and love, then, work together like this: The more we are willing to let go of the tight hold we have on things, the more we question and push back against the desires that control our lives, and the more we open our lives to Christ’s control.”

At times, reading Altared made me uneasy and frustratingly convicted. I wanted to put the book down and not pick it up again. It reminded me how short-sighted I was in my “dating” days. While at other times, it was a much needed exhortation to rediscover my love for Christ and a felt call to express it to others in my life in more concrete, unconventional ways.

“Sex Talks and Beach Balls” (chapter 11) was smack down good as Eli recounts days of his youth pastor’s attempts to keep them on the straight and narrow. The youth leader’s presentations were based on this limited premise: “Sexual behavior was possibly the most important part of being a Christian, or at least one of the most important things.” Eli and his friends evaluated their commitment to Christ mainly in terms of sexual behavior rather than love or the fruit of the Spirit. It was more about what not to do instead of what to do as young believers.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Altared for the person who dates, desires to date or knows someone who dates. For the parent or the youth leader who wants to instill a legacy of love; and for the person who is looking for something deeper than the cultural superficiality passed off as “true” love, I’d empathically affirm that this is a book to be read and discussed. It is not the consummate “know it all” guide to Christian dating/love/marriage but it is a solid foundation! You won’t agree with everything yet you’ll be encouraged to continue asking questions and seeking biblical truth.

Dale Lewis now mans the front desk at the EFCA (The Evangelical Free Church of America) National Office in Minneapolis, MN. He was the graphic designer/pre-press production artist for over twelve years before being asked to step into this new role. Prior to that, he was the publications manager at his alma mater, Northwestern College in St. Paul, MN in the public relations office as well as the adviser to the college’s yearbook. He's a director/actor/writer for the Hope Church (Oakdale, MN) adult drama worship team and was the senior editor of the church newsletter. He's also written two collections of poetry, “Whispers of Assurance” and “On Life: Constant Communion Without Ceasing” as well as a devotional entitled “Eternal Education.” He and his family live in Oakdale, Minnesota.