WORLD Magazine: “Notable Books” February 2012
The Song of Songs can seem strange. Does it even belong in the Bible? Pastor Stephen Clark confronts those misgivings directly in this excellent study. He begins as though we are at a performance of the Song. Its opening lines are startling, especially if we expect a religious production. He shows how the Song celebrates love and the delights of sexuality but also deals realistically with difficulties. Divided into 50 readings meant to be read over 50 days, the book takes a poem at a time—or sometimes over several days—and teases out the meaning of obscure words and metaphors. As Clark opens up its treasures, he also shows how its themes relate to the rest of Scripture.
—SUSAN OLASKY, World Magazine
In As Good as It Gets, Stephen Clark writes with the heart of a pastor, the mind of a theologian, and the spirit of a poet. His book on “The Song of Songs” is, on every page, exegetical, pastoral, and devotional. Clark’s commentary leads us into the beautiful story of the love of a man and a woman, up to the love of God for his people, and out to our relationship to others in community. The book is organized to provide fifty days of readings, but I found that I was always reading more than one day because I could not wait to see what was coming next. This book is a page-turner!
—DAVID B. CALHOUN, Emeritus Professor of Church History, Covenant Theological Seminary
Honestly, I had never delved into the Song of Songs prior to reading Stephen Clark’s book As Good as It Gets. Now I stand amazed at the depth and richness of how God reveals himself in the “lyrics” of this song . . . The reader is taken on a journey through, as Clark says, “…a garden steeped in passion, a place filled with this tantalizing thing called love—always nearly in grasp, forever slipping through our fingers, but never left forgotten once it is found” . . . As Good as It Gets is a commentary but uniquely done, capturing the essence of the meaning behind the words while drawing out the far-reaching implications of what God intends to teach us.
—ALLAN MCLEAN, EQUIP Magazine
In As Good as It Gets, Stephen Clark invites his reader to journey with him through the Song of Songs, a book which he considers best read as “a collage of pictures” of love, life and relationships (xiv). . . . Clark emphasizes the significance of the friends/community in the Song and draws implications not only for marriages but also for friendships, family and wider community life today, as well as the idividual’s relationship with God . . . The author’s tone is perfect and the level of depth ideal for the believer who wants a little more content than might usually be offered by a daily devotional. . . . It seems to me that it is Clark’s skill in combining the academic with praxis, causing his reader to wrestle not only with Scripture but also with its pastoral application, which makes As Good as It Gets stand out. . . . Definitely one to read for your own benefit, whether you are pastor, academic theologian or minister in the workplace or home!
—CHLOE LYNCH, London School of Theology, INSIGHT Magazine
As Good as It Gets doesn’t get any better. Stephen Clark’s new book based on the Bible’s ultimate love story, Song of Songs, is an opera without the tragedy. Who says love and passion are pleasures to feel guilty about, in Stephen Clark’s beautiful written and heart-felt rendering, they are pleasures that go to the very core of love: God’s love.
—DAVID DEWEY, Painter, Caldbeck Gallery
It is a rare achievement that can advance scholarship and yet connect with the person in the pew. It is a rarer achievement yet that a homiletical and devotional commentary should serve this purpose. Stephen Clark’s commentary on the Song of Songs is a unique and stunning accomplishment that will edify the scholar and challenge false conceptions of spirituality. This is simply a sparkling exposition of a mostly unstudied and unread part of the Bible.
—JOHN L. VANCE, Lecturer in Religion and Philosophy, State University of New York at New Paltz
Stephen Clark, in his book As Good as It Gets, communicates a clear, perceptive, and yet practical approach to interpreting the complex book of the Bible, the Song of Songs. Clark artfully takes the reader on a creative, sensitive, and God-centered voyage. He masterfully guides us through the many human emotions represented in the Song of Songs with his thoughtful, insightful, and instructive pen.
—DON HARWOOD, Member New York Philharmonic Orchestra, retired
The Song of Solomon through much of its history has had more written about it than any other biblical book, but Clark’s work is overdue. Rarely if ever does one encounter a book including scholarship, devotion, instruction, inspiration, actual footnotes and even appendices for “Day 49” and “Day 50”!
—JIM PAKALA, Library Director, SELECT ITEMS, Covenant Theological Seminary
As Good as It Gets is both a homiletical and a devotional commentary on the Song of Songs. Not only is Clark’s work grounded in the best traditions of theology and exegesis, it is brimming with brilliant insights that only an experienced pastor and a luminous scholar could provide.”
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—THE AQUILA REPORT
The more I get into the book and the more I am teaching it, the better it gets. I am also reading “The One Thing You Need to Know” by Marcus Buckingham. He has a section on happy marriages and what causes them, and it confirms 100% day 11 – really cool!”
—MATT DUBUCQ, River of Hope. Miami.
This inisghtful book functions on a number of levels; as a devotional, as a marital expose on our own relationships, or as a book to read and reflect on the joy and passion of life. The prayers and readings offer insight on how we may better learn to live. It is a devotional that ultimately leaves us with a refreshing and delightful reflection on how much God loves us.”
—RICHARD CARRINGTON, Miami Dade College.
I can appreciate what Dr. Stephen M. Clark said in his book, As Good as It Gets, when he says, “When I first began to read this book called the Song of Songs, I was keenly aware that there was something extraordinarily important going on in the book that was eluding me,” as I often felt the same way reading the Song of Songs in the Bible. I think Dr. Clark really nails it, though; you’ll have to read the book and see. Although I think this book could be a great tool for enlivening a marriage, I found this book to be an eye-opener for so much that I was missing in so many relationships in marriage, family, and friends.
—NOELLE, Amazon review
It takes the eyes and mind and heart of a theological poet such as Stephen M. Clark to pull back the film from our eyes, and the husk that has grown around our hearts and minds, so that the brilliant light within the text of the Songs can shine for us and move us not only toward each other, but toward God. Clark’s book As Good as It Gets accomplishes that task. He ‘rips open the inconsolable secret’ in each of us. We pine for love, from God, from others. . . . Stephen reveals through the text of the Songs, the way a relationship established and given to God can allow two people to passionately affect each other in ways which are incalculable to the unloved heart. Drawn out of Clark’s book is the promise that the passion of the two lovers can only exist because God loves us first and that the greatness of our love and tenderness and joy with each other here is only a hint of what is to come, but he also reminds us how great it is to praise God by loving our other.”