Book Review: The Passion Principles

The Passion Principles: Celebrating Sexual Freedom In Marriage, by Shannon Ethridge

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Thomas Nelson Publishers/BookLook in exchange for an honest review.]

I feel it necessary, as a single man who is not enjoying any sort of romantic intimacy with anyone, to explain at least a little why I would read and review a book like this that celebrates freedom of sexuality between a husband and a wife with a strong and unapologetic biblical stance. To be sure, this is a book that is most practical to those who are either married right now or preparing to be married. Yet there are aspects among its 40 questions [1], at least a few of them are of particular personal relevance to me presently, and as someone who would very much like to get married when the time and situation was right, the rest of the questions are at least matters that it is worth preparing for mentally as much as possible before that opportunity presents itself.

There are some similarities between the perspective of this book and others I am familiar with. In terms of the mechanics of its discussion of personal histories and the mechanics of sexuality (and this book is pretty up-front and at least somewhat technical, and very personal), it has some similarities with other works I am familiar with. In terms of the author’s definitions and boundaries of sexuality, the author’s work is similar to that of Pam Stenzel, who I had the chance to listen to and read about a decade or so ago [3]. In terms of the book’s focus on the sexual responsibility of women, and in its assumption of marriage among the readers of the book, as well as the commentary about the sexual dysfunction that results from too much premarital sexual experimentation, this book resembles another book I have read on the subject [4], only from the perspective of a biblically-minded counselor rather than a secular-minded therapist.

At its core, this is a book that is bounded by several different elements to its perspective, which make it of great interest to Christian readers. For one, it looks at the entire Bible as presenting the biblical boundaries for godly sexuality while simultaneously having a disdain for man-made rules by those who might be inclined to be modern Pharisees and showing a mercy and kindness for those who have fallen short of God’s standards and especially for those whose innocence was stolen by others. The authors speaks movingly and personally about her experience of being sexually abused by her uncles as a preteen and giving her virginity to a slightly older stranger in lieu of having it stolen by one of her uncles, along with her youthful promiscuity and its damages to her marriage when she finally found a gentle and tender man to marry and settle down with. As there are a lot of people with a history of sexual abuse [5], this part ought to resonate with many readers, both in its honesty and its graciousness.

In terms of organization, this book is very tightly organized, looking at questions of sexuality within the four realms of sexuality in its spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical aspects (in that order). Each of these larger sections is then divided into several shorter sections that deal with a more narrow theme, giving the book a clearly organized progression of questions about sex that start with its legitimacy within marriage according to God’s word, then deal with aspects of the mind, heart, and body. This book ends up neither compromising with biblical standards out of concerns for political correctness nor giving a negative viewpoint that makes people feel guilty for being sexual beings as God made us to be. Indeed, this book makes it clear that our longing for sexuality has valuable purposes both on earth (in terms of serving purposes of stress relief and binding us to others and providing for the continuing of humanity) as well as as with God (as a way of showing our need for God’s love and presence in our life, and showing God as a passionate being with a deep longing for intimacy that He created in human beings). Those who read this book ought to be encouraged by it as well.

[1] Here are the questions:

1. What was God thinking He created sex?
2. Why does God say we have to be married to have sex?
3. What if we went too far sexually before we married?
4. What does the Old Testament say about sex?
5. Why is the Song of Solomon even in the bible [2]?
6. Why did God tell Hosea to marry a prostitute?
7. What did Jesus say about sex? And how can He possibly relate to our struggles?
8. Why is the relationship between Jesus and His church described as a Bridegroom/bride relationship?
9. What is the connection between sexuality and spirituality?
10. Will there be sex in heaven?
11. How can we know that what we are doing in bed is okay with God?
12. How does the whole submission thing work in marriage?
13. What if we disagree on something sexual? Who wins that argument?
14. Why do humans think about sex so much?
15. Why do I so rarely/often think about sex in comparison to my spouse?
16. What is the difference between love and lust?
17. How did we get such different ideas about sex and love?
18. How can we get in the mood for sex more often?
19. Is it really possible to be “naked and feel no shame?”
20. Is it possible to stop thinking sexual thoughts?
21. What is the harm in using a little pornography to warm things up?
22. What if I want to turn a fantasy into reality?
23. How can I get past his or her sexual past?
24. How can I get past my own sexual past?
25. Is it possible to enjoy sex when I have been sexually abused?
26. Should I tell my spouse about the abuse or keep it to myself?
27. How can I help my spouse heal from the sexual abuse he or she suffered?
28. What if I find it difficult to trust my spouse?
29. Can marital trust be reestablished when broken? If not, is divorce an option?
30. What if my heart is telling me that I married the wrong person?
31. What is the secret to staying together forever?
32. How can I bring my A-game into the bedroom?
33. How can we enjoy the afterglow without the after-mess?
34. How can I (re)discover my spouse’s sexual hot spots?
35. How can we balance mismatched sex drives?
36. Will having children negatively affect our sex life?
37. Is the “missionary position” the only “holy” way to have sex?
38. What about oral or anal sex in marriage?
39. What about sex toys in marriage?
40. Where is your “finish line”?

[2] This is a question I have dealt with myself:

[3] There is a story here of at least some interest. I went to the 2003 Winter Family Weekend for the United Church of God in Lexington, Kentucky, and she was scheduled to speak. I was a bit skeptical of her perspective, thinking that she would have a particularly rigid and close-minded perspective, and I avoided being a personal witness of her presentation by taking care of the kids, although I did hear parts of her presentation. The parents of my girlfriend at the time bought one of her books after the presentation, I read it at the weekend and was greatly impressed by her candor and honesty and openness, and I had to watch the videotaped recording of her presentation a few weeks later as a student at the Ambassador Bible Center.


[5] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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9 Responses to Book Review: The Passion Principles

  1. I have embarked on a word-by-word Hebrew study of the Song of Solomon and am writing each verse in an amplified style. I’m now on Chapter 7, verse 2. If I get the notes written up on the computer and the printer set up by the time I get there, I’ll bring a copy with me. It’s a real eye-opener, and God makes it very clear why this particular book had to be written and positioned just before the Prophets.

    • As I’ve written a fair amount about this book, I’m curious about what you think. Of course, in the Hebrew, it is located in the Writings, between Job and Ruth, which is very intriguing in terms of its order as well.

      • That may be due to chronology. Job occurred prior to the covenantal law given at Mt. Sinai and Ruth occurred afterward; probably concurrent with the birth of Samuel. The “Solomon” in Song of Solomon is symbolic of the King.

      • Yes, indeed, that is certainly possible. In the Hebrew Bible the writings do not have nearly the same sort of clear order that the Law and Prophets do.

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