David J. Ayers distills more than three decades of study and experience, thousands of years’ worth of theology and history and the latest social science research to illuminate one of the primary bonds of human existence in “Christian Marriage: A Comprehensive Introduction.”
The book is a theologically rich, biblically robust and sociologically-informed treatise on the nature and value of marriage. Ayers, a longtime professor of Sociology who serves as interim provost and vice president for academic affairs at Grove City College, demonstrates a mastery of the subject and an ability to present his position to a broad audience.
Drawing on recent social science research, empirical data and social history, Ayers paints a picture of marriage as an institution meant for human flourishing. Along the way, he discusses dating and selection of a spouse, the importance of premarital counseling, sex and procreation, mentoring and supporting unmarried believers, divorce and remarriage and current controversies surrounding premarital sex and same-sex marriage.
“Christian Marriage: A Comprehensive Introduction” is academically and theologically informed, but is written with a pastoral heart. It seeks to provide a rich resource for pastors and counselors on a topic of supreme importance to a vibrant church and society.
Ayers said he wrote the book to address cultural confusion about marriage and explain why the institution is so much more than just a social construct that humans can alter at will.
“Marriage is a creational ordinance. It exists independent of what we think or want. It was placed in creation at the very beginning. It was designed. Humans were designed for it and this goes back before the fall,” Ayers said. “It's a covenant that we enter into. We don't make it up whole hog. It places expectations and demands on us.”
“Marriage has a definite order and structure. Marriage has a definite teleology. There's certain functions and purposes that are built right into marriage that cannot be properly met outside of marriage,” Ayers said. “Once you're grounded in that understanding, then the question of how to do marriage well, how to look at things like divorce, sex outside of marriage, cohabitation and aging, all those things that make sense in that light. But if you’re starting from the wrong starting point you can't do it right.”
Ayers said his work addresses a void in the marketplace of ideas. Most marriage books don’t start with God and even those written for a Christian audience often rely on unsound or misinterpreted social science, the author said. Ayers takes social science, history and an understanding of doctrine and differing Christian viewpoints to the questions surrounding marriage and brings those elements together harmoniously and systematically.
The message is tailored for the times and the stakes, Ayers said, are particularly high.
“We’re living in a time in which we’re experiencing a sea change on the issue of marriage. I would say that marriage as it’s been understood historically is essentially being erased in the West. The church does not have any kind of an adequate response. They've broken down in their ability to do marriage well, to understand what marriages is,” Ayers said. “We’re essentially being defeated in the culture wars on these issues while we're also being defeated at home in our own churches in terms of the kind of lives that people are living in their families and in their own marriage lives.”
Ayers holds a Ph.D. in sociology from New York University and has written two books, “Experiencing Social Research” (2001) and “Investigating Social Problems” (2004), as well as numerous articles and book chapters. He has taught courses on marriage and family for more than 30 years.
“Christian Marriage: A Comprehensive Introduction” is available through publisher Lexham Press or other online booksellers.