Book Review: Marriage
April 28, 2015
Filed In: Church and Culture
Last December, during one of our regular visits to my parent's house, my dad handed me a book of his to read. This happens from time to time; a book that he got a great deal out of will end up in my temporary library to enjoy. Since I've committed to a habit of regular reading this year, my book queue is able to take on these random offerings. The latest book he recommended to me was What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense by Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson, and Robert George. Published in 2012, Drs. Anderson, George, and doctoral candidate Girgis lay out a reasoned, logical, and thoughtful argument for what has been termed "traditional marriage," for the sake of this article and blog, we’ll just call it marriage.
Reading this book, I was profoundly struck by many aspects of the work, from the approach to the solid logic. In 97 pages, these authors succinctly laid out a defense of marriage without any dependance on any particular religion, rather, by relying on philosophy, logic, and social science. Unlike most of the "arguments" on marriage today and the op-eds with pseudo-logical arguments that devolve into nothing more than attacks ad hominum, against the man, What is Marriage? refuses to lower itself to this new low of public discourse. Instead, the work argues for marriage against all attempts to revise its definition, not merely against any one person or revisionist viewpoint.
The authors point out one of the reasons why it seems that arguments for marriage are much weaker to the public than those arguing for a revisionist view of marriage. Astoundingly, marriage can be found in every culture in an almost identical framework, regardless of religion or political structure of a society and culture. As such, there hasn't been a need, even until the past three decades of the human experience, to develop a cogent argument for it's benefits since they were completely self-evident. Marriage provided stability for children, growth for society, and pressure for men to help with the raising of children they have begotten. However, as challenges to marriage have recently arisen, the need to articulate the unique properties of marriage has become urgent.
This book isn't about same-sex "marriage.” In fact, it spends almost no time at all discussing the issue. Instead, as the title suggests, it reviews the basic question of "What is Marriage?" It goes over the fundamental aspects of what makes a marriage, including the organic bodily union (sex), its permanence as a stabilizing factor, and a complete rejection of the notion that marriage is based solely on intensity of emotion. It also views the consequences of a legal implementation of a revisionist view of marriage which eerily mirrors the warnings of Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae against contraception, all of which have come to pass.
While this book provides the most cogent and well researched argument for marriage, on either side of the issue, I found that it isn't simply a scholarly work designed to rebuff poor logic. Reading it, I found myself inspired in my vocation and further in awe of the Sacramental marriage that I entered into with Alison. I saw my role as husband and father to be more unique and more sublime. By examining the philosophical underpinnings of marriage, and relating them to the experiences of people in every culture throughout time, I found a deeper sense of satisfaction as being a part of the institution of marriage. I better understood my role in society and the value of the support that I lend to Alison in raising Benedict.
What Is Marriage? is about more than defending an argument, it's about affirming and educating married people. It helps us to more deeply understand what our marriage truly is, why the organic bodily union is so important, and how we're helping to build our society. It will also help you teach your kids why marriage is different and what it takes to have a great marriage.
I highly recommend you pick up a copy of What is Marriage? This book will affirm you, it will inform you, and it will help you grow in your marriage. Sadly, we've stopped putting a premium on logic in debate, but this book will show you how rich and powerful sound logic can truly be.