Book Review: What is Marriage? by Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert P. George

What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense, by Girgis et al, is a secular defense for traditional marriage.  It would seem difficult to leave the author of marriage, God, out of the picture on a defense for marriage, however, the authors have and provide many good points for their argument.  The authors argue that the homosexual debate is not directly about homosexuality, but about marriage.

The authors argue that two main views of marriage conflict to destroy what is commonly accepted as marriage between one man and one woman. The conjugal view of marriage has long been the accepted relationship that has influenced and been influenced by literature, art, philosophy, religion and social practice. The authors believe its renewal will provide hope for the world. The second view, the revisionist view is a loving bond distinguished by its intensity of one’s own desires for fidelity and partners seek emotional fulfillment and remain as long as they find it. This self-centered approach is not recognized as self-centered, because God is removed from the revisionist camp.

The authors use current arguments and literature to show that marriage does not depend on the preferences of individuals or cultures, but a comprehensive union of will and body, inherently ordered to procreation and the broad sharing of family life calling for a permanent and exclusive commitment regardless of the spouse’s preferences. Their argument is that should the revisionist view continue to gain momentum, then 1) real marital fulfillment, 2) child well-being, 3) friendship, 4) religious liberty will all be adversely influenced to erode stability in society and 5) limited government will reverse and more adversely intrude [the sanctity of] the family. The authors do not appeal to divine revelation or any religious tradition. Yet, they also reject the argument that marriage should be opposite-sex “because it always was.” The authors argue that redefining marriage will have an ill-effect upon society. Hence, their argument is rather complex and at times difficult to trace, however, the arguments are worthy of consideration, especially for a secular world.

The authors deal with many issues of deception from the revisionst camp. For example, the authors were judicious regarding the intent of same-sex proponents until the last half of the book. They quote Michelangelo Signorile, a prominent gay activist, who demanded,

…the right to marry not as a way of adhering to society’s moral codes but rather to debunk a myth and radically alter an archaic institution…[and] fight for the same-sex marriage and its benefits and then, once granted, redefine the institution of marriage completely, because the most subversive action lesbians and gay men can undertake…is to transform the notion of ‘family’ entirely.” (p. 70).

The Revisionist camp also equates traditional marriage laws with laws banning interracial marriage. (p. 78) Those are two separate issues, but argue the issues enough from a multitude of angles and they will wear down traditionalists and achieve their revisionist objective – destroy conjugal marriage as an institution, which is an assault against the holiness of God.

The authors report differences between heterosexual and same-sex relationships. Surveys of same-sex relationships of one to 37 years in length, record that no relationship lasted more than five years of exclusiveness.  One of the partners went outside of the relationship.  Going outside the relationship was not deemed so negatively as it is in heterosexual relationships (pp. 71-72) However, in heterosexual couples, there are almost limitless examples of exclusive relationships and going outside the marriage union is still given the term of “an affair” or “cheating.” (p. 71).

In the final analysis, the authors are not debating against same-sex relationships; they are defending marriage. At times the arguments can seem cold and elusive, but that is what happens when you argue without the basic premise – God created marriage. On the one hand, the book is excellent for approaching traditional marriage from non-biblical views to gain credibility with those who reject God.  On the other hand, no argument need ever be made without God as the premise for all things.  If people reject God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and His conviction, they will never come to the truth.  That is impossible. If God is removed from any discussion, argument or explanation, there is no truth.  Jesus Christ is truth (John 14:6).


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