Friday, November 19, 2004

Restoring the Family

Establishing a Christian culture will first require Christians to re-establish the centrality of the family. The family is the only institution of Paradise, and it is the preeminent institution in God’s economy. Indeed, we cannot understand God’s plan for us until we understand His plan for the family.

Consider, for example, the Ten Commandments. There is nothing pertaining directly to church or state therein, but several explicitly address family life. The imperative to honor our parents, and the prohibition of adultery and covetousness are intended to preserve the integrity of the family.

Moreover, the Bible often uses family terminology to describe the mysteries of the faith. For example, salvation is described as God’s adoption of His people. We see that Christ’s relationship to the Church is described as a marriage. Idolatry is frequently associated with adultery, and the idolater is synonymous with the harlot. Such examples could be multiplied indefinitely.

We live in a virulently anti-family culture. For example, in 1970, just 36% of women ages twenty to twenty-four were unmarried. By 1995, 68% were in the "never married" category. Women are not just waiting longer to have children, but are conceiving fewer of them as well.

Meanwhile, divorce is rampant. The National Center for Health Statistics released a report which found that 43 percent of first marriages end in separation or divorce within 15 years. To our shame, “born again” Christians are as likely to be divorced as any other group.

What is to be done?

Resurrecting the family as an institution entails reclaiming numerous powers arrogated to it that have been usurped by the state. Chesterton once wrote that, "The ideal for which the family stands is liberty. It is the only institution that is at once necessary and voluntary. It is the only check on the state that is bound to renew itself as eternally as the state, and more naturally than the state."

Revolutionaries from Jacobins to Nazis to Bolsheviks have sought to control the future by controlling children. American liberals, and their ideological cousins, the Neocons, are no different with their propagandizing on behalf of universal daycare, expanded Headstart, Goals 2000, No Child Left Behind, messianic education and the whole panoply of statist programs looking to supplant mom and dad and become the universal parent.

One good place for Christians to begin is by removing their children from the public schools. As Christian parents, we ought not hand our children over to the enemy, and can anyone argue persuasively that these ignorance centers are anything other than godless?

Some Christians resort to the ludicrous argument that we must send our precious children into these Temples of Atheism so that they can be salt and light to a dying world. We must, they say, sacrifice our children to Molech in order to fulfill the cultural mandate. The problem with this argument is that the evangelism process usually works in reverse. The Nehemiah Institute has proven conclusively through its surveys of student beliefs and attitudes that acceptance of a secular humanist worldview by Christian children attending government schools has increased dramatically over the last fifteen years. Moreover, according to the Southern Baptist Council on Family Life, 88% of the children of Evangelical parents leave church at 18 and never return. Are we to assume that this sad state of affairs has no connection to the fact that secular public education divorces God from creation and science, history, mathematics, and philosophy?

Secondly, family authority over property must be restored. In the December issue of Chronicles, Steven Greenhut cites a report by the Institute of Justice documenting that localities have used or threatened to use eminent domain to benefit other private parties 10,000 times over the past five years. Invariably such land grabs entail a local government stealing the property of families and destroying neighborhoods for the benefit of large retailers like Wal-Mart.

Scripture is clear that all the earth belongs to the Lord (Ex. 19:5) and that He allows families to be stewards of His creation. In the Bible, we see that property is owned by families, not by the state or atomized individuals (see for example Naboth’s vineyard in I Kings 20). Importantly, the eminent domain of the state is clearly and directly forbidden in Scripture. In Ezekiel 46:18, we read, “The prince must not take any of the inheritance of the people, driving them off their property. He is to give his sons their inheritance out of his own property, so that none of my people will be separated from his property.' Indeed, God warned Israel that the eminent domain of the state was a consequence of apostasy. In I Sam. 8:14, God says that the king “will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants.”

Like Naboth, Christians ought to realize that property is more than a product to be bought and sold. It is a place where homes are built, children are raised, memories are instilled, and the Word is taught. Christian families need to restore the ties that bind property, home, and kin.

Third, Christians must reclaim authority over inheritance and welfare. In the Old Testament, the eldest, godly son was entitled to a double portion. He then had primary responsibility to care for his parents. Scripture says that a wise and godly man will leave an inheritance for his grandchildren. Today, the state has usurped the role of the eldest son, demanding the double portion and promising to take care of mom and dad with Social Security and Medicare.

The apostle Paul says, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Today, the welfare state has supplanted the family as provider for our aged parents and the indigent. As Christians, we have allowed this state of affairs to prevail, and it is godless.

The family, has been given stewardship over children, authority over property and inheritance, and control over education. The family is also the institution preeminently responsible for social welfare. The early church did not depend on the Roman civil authorities to meet social needs. Likewise, we see Jesus on the cross with His dying words ensuring that His mother is taken care of by John (John 19:25-27). The modern State has encroached into all these areas that rightly fall under the purview of family government. Strong and stable families, jealously guarding their prerogatives, are the foundation of strong and stable communities, and only these mediating institutions can protect the naked individual from the maniacal, power-hungry State.

5 Comments:

Blogger Jonathan said...

I would like to add to Mr. Dow's article, that we not only live in an "anti-family culture", but that many Christians in America attend "anti-family local churches".

Christian families not only need to start "reclaiming numerous powers arrogated to it that have been usurped by the state", but Christian families must reclaim the leadership and unity of family that has been usurped by the local church. So many churches are focused on programs and entertainment, while families attend once or twice a week, Christ is not real at home during this week, this explains why, as Mr. Dow has pointed out, that 88% of the children of Evangelical parents leave church at 18 and never return.

Christian families need to reject the idea that families should be separated at church by age for worship, Bible study, prayer and all of the many activities during the week. Christian fathers need to reclaim their role as the spiritual leader of their family and not depend on the church to disciple their wife and kids. Christian families need to reclaim daily family worship and home discipleship, and let God bring them into fellowship with other Christian families who are doing the same.

If Christian families can take their eyes off the Christian entertainment industry that has become so much a part of the modern day the local church in America, and focus on God and their call to unite together as a family in Christ, then those Christian families will start making progress in "Reestablishing a Christian Culture in America".

1:30 PM  
Blogger Thivai Abhor said...

Darrell,

Can you clearly define what you believe the "family" consists of ... like characteristics, membership, and social behaviors.

What is to be done about people that build a family unit that is different from your designations?

What would you like to do to those that reject your Christian culture.

By mentioning enemies I am assuming you view yourself as engaged in a "holy war"... could you be a little more clearer about exactly whom are your enemies and what should be done to defeat them? (other than vague political terminology)

When you start paraphrasing and summarizing the bible to support your positions can you please give citations so that we can follow along ... my concordia and dictionaries do not always cite according to your classifications.

Can you explaing exactly what is "god's economy" and does god get a percentage? (like tithing?)

How do we go about picking and choosing in the old testament for rules to govern our life? Who gets to say what is right and what is wrong?

Just curious--Peace

1:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice article Darrell!

Chad Degenhart
www.degenhart.us

3:52 PM  
Blogger Darrell said...

Thanks, Chad.

Jonathan,

I agree that often times the church undermines the family. I once told a group in my Southern Baptist church that I thought children's sermons and even Sunday School undermined the authority of the the family. I was greeted with silence and a few derisive stares.

Thivai,

The only thing I will say about how to interpret OT law is that there are numerous ways to think about its application to contemporary social structures. Some (Theonomists or Christian Reconstructionists, for instance) argue that all OT laws are still binding unless explicitly abrogated in the NT (so, for example, all the priestly and sacrificial laws laid down in the Pentateuch are abrogated by Jesus' death and resurrection because they pointed ahead to that sacrifice.)

Others (Dispensationalists, for example) argue that all OT laws are done away with if not affirmed in the NT. This seems odd, to me. For example, incest is condemned in the OT but not the NT. So if we use the logic employed by these folks, we can't even call incest a sin.

Many evangelicals (I think this is the classical "Reformed" position) divide the law into three parts: the civil, moral, and ceremonial laws. Some then argue that the cermonial laws (sacrifices and so on) prefigured Christ's sufferings and grace and are thus fulfilled in Christ's death. The civil laws of the OT, in this view, expired along with the Old Covenant. So they would argue, for example, that while the death penalty was imposed on adulterers and homosexuals in theocratic Israel, those punishments are no longer appropriate in our context where God's people have been redefined, are geographically dispersed, etc.

In this scheme, the moral law is universally binding and is a reflection of God's character. The problem then is separating the moral, ceremonial, and civil laws. Since the laws were given together and the above structre is a man-made imposition, it is somewhat difficult to parse the OT law.

Personally, I am somewhere in between these various positions and I would say that my own view is probably pretty well summarized by the London Baptist Confession of 1689. I don't think we can assume either continuity or discontinuity. Rather, we have to carefully exegete all the texts and thoughtfully apply them to our circumstances. I do have friends and well-wishers among Theonomists, Dispensationalists, and traditional Reformers, and have been influenced by teachers in all three camps. So take my thinking for what it is worth--not much.

By "God’s economy," I simply meant God’s divine social order as revealed in Scripture.

Just winging it here, but characteristics of the family would include, but are not limited to:

Mutual love and submission. The husband must love his wife as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25) and a wife is called to honor her husband and the authority that has been granted to him by God. This in no way implies second-class standing for women. Indeed, the woman described in Proverbs 31 is a shrewd business woman who is something of a prime minister in the family.

There must also be mutual assistance, confidence, and respect.

Functionally, I would argue that the primary purpose of the family is to be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth (Genesis 1:28). This includes a prominent role in educating children (see Deuteronomy 6 in particular).

Also, I do believe that marriage is rightly between one man and one woman who leave their parents and cleave together (Gen. 2:24, Matt. 19:5-6).

What would I like to do with those who reject Christianity? I would like to persuade them of their need for Jesus Christ, plain and simple. Christians are called to go out and make disciples, teaching them the every word of God (Matt. 28:16-20).

I spoke of God’s "enemies." When I use that terminology, I am merely following Jesus who said in Matthew 12:30, "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters." Jesus also says (Matthew 10:34-39):

"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn
" 'a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law--
a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'
"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."


In other words, there is no neutrality. We are either at war with God, or we are reconciled to God through faith in the atoning sacrifice and sinless life of Jesus Christ.

My specific reference was to public schools. Scripture says that, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" and wisdom (Prov. 1:7,9). Again, there really is no neutrality. Education by the state will have statist ends, education by the church will ultimately promote the church. Schools should be subordinate to neither church nor state, but must be subordinate to God, if that makes any sense. I don't believe Christians can in good conscience send their children into a setting where Jesus' Lordship is denied.

As for those who disagree, or those "who build a family unit that is different," the first thing I would try to do is convince them. Though I am in a "holy war," as you put it, the war is primarily spiritual, as are the weapons used. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and when He is described as a warrior with a sword coming out of His mouth, that is indicative of the Word of God. The "war" is largely spiritual and consists of trying to fundamentally reshape the worldview and presuppositions of others.

For a Christian, "defeating" the enemies of God means saving and rescuing them. I hope that doesn't sound condescending, but I fear that it probably does.

Such persuasion should not, contra Ann Coulter, take the form of coercion. Evenagelicals generally believe that the transformation that takes place is the result of God's work, not our own. Moreover, we are all created in God's image, though that image is marred by sin. Thus Christianity is ultimately a religion that respects the dignity of individuals, and I don't think it is a coincidence that republican government, the rule of law, religious liberty, etc. are largely the products of Christendom.

4:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jonathan wrote, "Revolutionaries from Jacobins to Nazis to Bolsheviks have sought to control the future by controlling children. He went on to say that people that propagandize on behalf of universal daycare are no different...

More information on Bolshevik child control through daycare can be found in the History section of this anti-daycare website.

7:52 PM  

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