Rick Shrader‘s Review:
I came across Christopher Ash in other books on marriage that mentioned him and this book. The title should not be misleading. Ash is concerned with fidelity to the marriage covenant, or I should say, with the lack of fidelity today. This is a 2003 book so it doesn’t see the further breakdown of marriage since then, but it speaks loudly to culture today. Ash is (was) British author, a graduate of Oxford, a former staff at St. Andrew the Great, Cambridge, and finally a pastor (Rector). Ash begins by establishing the family as a sacred unit designed by God in Genesis 1 & 2. He argues that the reason it was not good for Adam to be alone is that he could not fulfill his dominion mandate without a helper. The wife was given to him first for that reason and secondly for companionship. Therefore, he is saying that the family has a responsibility in the world of carrying on the dominion mandate (I would say in whatever dispensation it finds itself). The second half of the book is taken up with explaining Ash’s definition of marriage, line by line. That definition is, “Marriage is the voluntary sexual and public social union of one man and one woman from different families. This union is patterned upon the union of God with his people his bride, the Christ with his church. Intrinsic to this union is God’s calling to lifelong exclusive sexual faithfulness.”
Ash’s explanation of the validity of marriage depends, he says, on two things. A Public testimony (“consent”) and a private sexual intimacy (“consummation”). Just living together does not constitute biblical marriage. Marriage vows are a covenant made with God as the witness to which God holds both parties responsible for life.
“Because sex between a man a woman carries with it, inescapably, God’s calling to public lifelong faithfulness, it can only be moral within marriage, for marriage includes the public pledge of lifelong faithfulness. To love enough for sex is to love enough to have pledged that love publicly in marriage. Sex without that pledged public union may be accompanied by claims of love, but the claims are called into question by the failure to back them with public pledge,” p. 211-212.