What’s a “Biblical” Family? Do You Want One?

There’s some interest in a post by Stephen Holmes, a fine theologian in Scotland with a fine book on theology and tradition (Listening to the Past: The Place of Tradition in Theology
), over a post of his about the so-called “biblical” family and whether the word “biblical” should be evoked in support of what many are supposing is a “biblical” family. The following post is from Holmes’ post, and what this post will illustrate is that at the bottom of this argument is hermeneutics, the art and method and science of reading and interpreting and listening to and living out the Bible as interpreted, and history, the art of discerning what a text meant then vs. what a text might be used to say now. (I take this issue on in The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible
.) 

What’s a “biblical” family to you?

The following words are from Stephen Holmes:
I read something today – it doesn’t matter what; it was a denominational statement from overseas, and so not very relevant – that made a fairly familiar gesture demanding support for ‘Biblical’ patterns of family life which, in this case, included support for the vocation of motherhood and a resistance to cultural pressures that encouraged mothers to go out to work, an encouragement not to limit numbers of children borne within the nuclear family, and a claim that, within the nuclear family, there was a proper leadership to be exercised by the husband and accepted by the wife.

Now, any or all of these points may be good ethical advice (although allow me to express some serious doubts…). Any or all of them may even be demanded by the gospel (although allow me to express some profound disagreements…). But to describe them as ‘Biblical’ is clearly ridiculous……..

Why ‘ridiculous’? Well, between them, they assume a normative situation of a nuclear family (i.e., a cohabiting unit of mother and father with their birth-children, and nobody else) which has easy access to safe and reliable contraception and which is economically productive only away from the home. A family living in this situation cannot possibly be living according to ‘Biblical’ patterns, simply because every facet of the situation highlighted in the previous sentence is a modern Western reality, unknown to the Bible (and indeed to much of history since, and to much of the world today).


Stephen Holmes, after sketching mistakes in a well-known book that seeks to argue for this sort of “biblical” theory for family and male-female relations, continues with this:

In my experience, the rhetoric of ‘Biblical’ family (in the West – perhaps it is of some use elsewhere?) normally works like this: what is being celebrated is a patriarchal vision of being a nuclear family that has its origins in the industrial revolution and is now – thankfully, in my humble opinion – rapidly being displaced. In industrialised societies, for a little while, Mummy looked after the kids while Daddy went out to work, and (amongst the white middle classes who defined reality in their own terms) grandparents were nowhere to be seen. This pattern of economic dependence and generational isolation disrupted earlier traditions of family living, and re-ordered gender relations in far-reaching and often very unhelpful ways. Of course, in pre-industrial society almost no-one ‘went out to work’: Mummy, Daddy and the kids all worked on the farm, along with other members of the extended family and various servants who lived with them. Even amongst the nobility, tradition holds that the man held the sword, the woman the distaff – he was engaged politically, she economically; his freedom to enter into public life was based on the fact that she earned the money for the household. This at least echoed some aspects of the Biblical witness (Prov. 31:23-4)…


And he goes on then to sketch what a more historically-accurate “biblical” family might have looked like:


If we choose to base our concepts of what is ‘Biblical’ on the Bible, not on a conservative grasping at an idealised version of our grandparents’ experience, then the basic thing we find is astonishing variety. Families are polygamous and multi-generational; re-marriage and fostering are common and sometimes required; slaves are a significant part of the family unit; marriage can be a political act, or the result of rape, and is rarely based on romantic attraction; etc. I think it is true to say that there is not one single nuclear family (a shared household of wife, husband, and birth-children only) in the entirety of the Scriptures – certainly, it can hardly be presented as a normative pattern.


So, what are we to do? Holmes continues:


So what is ‘biblical’ family life? It seems to me that we have two options: we could look for a centre of gravity within the variety that we can describe as normative, and push for this. I do not in fact think that this is possible, but if it were, it would as a minimum involve polygamy and slavery. Alternatively, we can find permission to explore a wide variety of patterns of living together, since a wide variety is witnessed to in Scripture. We can see things that are less than ideal (polygamy; slavery; patriarchy; …) and things that witness beautifully to the gospel if they can be lived out in the messy particularities of human life (revolutionary mutual submission – Eph. 5:20; …). But defined gender roles? I think of an old friend of mine, recently ordained in Australia; Heather and I had the privilege of sharing marriage preparation classes with him and Su. When asked what roles he thought should belong to his future wife in their marriage, he responded ‘pre-natal childcare. And breastfeeding.’ The rest was up for creative re-interpretation in the light of the gospel and the circumstances in which they were called to live.

That’s Biblical. Far more so than the strident attempts to impose cultural idolatries with which I began.
About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://faithinireland.wordpress.com/ Patrick

    I think Steve Holmes’ post is spot on.
    My wife and I are going to be 20 years married later this year. It seems to me that there are very clear frameworks for a good Christian marriage laid out in Scripture. Love, repentance, forgiveness, grace, patience, kindness, self-control, reconciliation, service, and so on.
    These characteristics are the agenda of God’s Spirit – it is by walking with him that Christian relationships flourish (and my wife is much the better half here!).
    But once you start importing ‘defined gender roles’ IMHO you are in danger of starting down the route of defining the relationship in terms of power and control and that can only damage the relationship itself. It can put the focus on US and our ‘rights’ and ‘roles’ – rather than walking by the Spirit and letting his fruit shape the relationship.
    My other problem with ‘defined gender roles’ is how they don’t translate to real life. There is a huge hermeneutical gulf between saying the man is the ‘head’ of the woman, and how this pans out in daily decisions. It can mean almost anything …

  • dan

    The “Biblical” family presented in every evangelical church I have ever been a part of consisted of some very clear and limited principles. “A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife and the two shall become one flesh”. It was always clear that one man to one woman was the norm.
    In addition, “submit to on another out of reverence for Christ” was usually the context for the rest of Ephesians 5, “wives submit to your husbands” was seen in the context of “submit to one another” and in the context of “husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her.” Add to that general statements about God hating divorce, and you have the essence of “Biblical” family. While there was much discussion of what it meant for the husband to be the “head”, my pastors universally rejected the old Bill Gothard idea of the strict “chain of command” and all taught that the wife is responsible to Christ first and the husband second. Never was I taught an authoritarian view.
    And we all recognized that many of the stories in the Bible represented a fallen reality and not the ideal. I never, ever, assumed that variety of situations described in the Old Testament represented an imperative, in fact we are clearly taught in the New Testament that divorce laws were a concession based on the hard hearts of men.

  • kerry

    Perhaps we would fall into less culturally induced hermeneutic errors if we also checked our interpretation against that of commentators from at least one other culture, for example the Africa Bible Commentary.

  • Tim Gombis

    Brilliant stuff from Holmes — thanks for this, Scot. And ‘AMEN’, Patrick (#1)!!!
    Overly-defined gender roles are enslaving, in my experience, rather than freedom-giving and life-giving. And, like has been said, the gender roles usually come from an idealized vision of Victorian family life.

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    Holmes seems to be confused about the difference between description and prescription. For example, though the Bible *describes* polygamy, it does not *prescribe* it. Scripture gives us a “warts and all” picture of the people of God, but that does not mean we should take our cues on how to behave from the “warts.” And, of course, that is not what people who talk about “biblical marriage” or “biblical family” mean by that term. Rather, they are speaking of what they take to be the biblical *prescription* for marriage and family.

  • Andy Holt

    Dan (#2) – This was also my experience. In fact, my mom was, for a time, a pastor at our church. (Gasp!)
    My understanding of Scripture leads me to believe that interfamily relationships are defined by principles instead of roles. The principles are universal, but the roles are as different as the personalities, skills, passions, and gifts of the members of the family. As long as agape wins the day, I think you’ll have a ‘biblical family’.

  • Travis Greene

    Jeff @ 5,
    I think you’re right about the distinction between prescription and description.
    But…
    Deciding where the text is prescribing or describing (or proscribing, or other things) something is an act of interpretation. It’s hard work, and nuanced, and not always clear, and tends to require a lot of thoughtful working out in communities. Folks who tend to argue for a “biblical” family pattern tend not to take the difficulty seriously.
    In any case, Holmes is absolutely right that the nuclear family in particular, and the concept that men work outside the home and women stay home and rear children is completely anachronistic to Scripture.

  • Randy

    Dan, exactly right. I think that is what is meant by “biblical family” in American evangelicalism, though what the author was reacting against isn’t far from the norm as well, at least in the minds of parishioners, if not from the pulpit.
    And certainly Jeff is right in the difference between description and prescription. But why do we only call things that are prescribed “Biblical?” I think perhaps this is the heart of the issue. The author’s problem is not so much with what people think family ought to be, but that it is labeled “Biblical.”
    I think when we attach the label “Biblical” to something, for many evangelicals it is synonymous to saying “The only truth.” Raise kids the biblical way or have a family the biblical way or whatever. How can you argue with that?!
    What that presupposes is that we have a true understanding of the scripture, and that our true understanding is the only one that is valid.
    I think it would be better for us to come up with a better, more honest label. Like “conservative evangelical” or “American evangelical” or something like that. Sure use the Bible, but don’t label one view as Biblical and thus the rest un-Biblical.

  • RJS

    Interesting comments – I agree that Holmes takes the wrong tack setting up the example of families in the Bible as describing “Biblical Families.” The Bible is full of examples of people falling from the ideal. We should aspire to have families defined by biblical principles of conduct… one man, one wife together, mutual submission, respect, purity, insofar as possible sufficiency, we could probably pull out others descriptors.
    But I also agree with the point that Holmes is making about much current rhetoric on “biblical families” – it is just as anchored in fallen human culture as the polygamy of the kings and use of servant (slave) girls to provide offspring in Genesis.

  • dopderbeck

    I like the post. The description / proscription distinction is a fair point, but somethimes I think people who throw around phrases like “Biblical family” have no idea what sorts of descriptions of “family life” the Bible contains and why they might present problems for us moderns. And even as to proscription, the Bible often assumes as “normal” things we would not accept today (e.g., household slaves). We should want to strengthen families — heaven knows it’s hard raising kids today — but at the same time we should want to foster Biblical literacy, including all the Bible’s weirdness about families.

  • http://www.jesustheradicalpastor.com John W Frye

    We don’t even have to go back to the Bible times to see that the modern construct of “the biblical evangelical family” is very novel. Just go back to pre-industrialized USAmerica.
    I am so glad that Holmes is stating precisely that the families of/in the Bible are NOTHING like the USAmerican nuclear family. We need to quite calling the modern construct the “biblical family” (see comment #8 by Randy)and call it “the family I like that let’s me keep my conservative, insulated lifestyle and serves to keep me from having to commit ruthlessly to the kingdom of God.”

  • http://erb.kingdomnow.org/an-essential-book-families-at-the-crossroads-by-rodney-clapp/ Chris Smith

    Scot —
    Thanks for sharing this!
    Reminds me of Rodney Clapp’s FAMILIES AT THE CROSSROADS, one of the most helpful books I’ve found on families in the church today…
    We recently excerpted it in the Englewood Review:
    http://erb.kingdomnow.org/an-essential-book-families-at-the-crossroads-by-rodney-clapp/
    Chris Smith

  • Nathan Creitz

    This is a disturbing post Scot. Just because the Bible describes a wide variety of family situations doesn’t mean they are all condoned by Scripture. I would think you are well aware of that!? I mean, he really thinks polygamy is an acceptable form of marriage?
    This post by Stephen Holmes ignores the Biblical requirements for marriage and parenting. God doesn’t allow polygamy. Slavery is not condoned. Men and women do have roles, though it may not be as “traditional” as some might think. God wants marriage to be one man and one woman for life. But ultimately, everything centers around loving your spouse and treating him or her with respect.
    I’m not sure how a person can say that just because the Bible describes a polygamous marriage that that’s okay. You said this guy is a “fine theologian in Scotland”? In what regard? The Bible also describes a lot of activities of Satan (manipulation, lying, deception, etc.) Should we believe that those activities are to be included in the acceptable behavior list just because they are mentioned in the Bible? Never mind that they might show up right next to a verse that says NOT to do these things?
    Please explain your approval of this guys thinking. I personally am not very traditional, but I do believe there are some principles that are clearly spelled out in Scripture about what a family is meant to be, from God’s perspective, not our own relativistic conjecture.
    Scot, I follow your blog but I feel that this is a departure from your usually perceptive thinking about Christianity and would appreciate your comments.

  • Joey

    Nathan, I think you may have misunderstood what Holmes was saying. He didn’t say that polygamy was condoned. He said that the western-nuclear family is not described or even “prescribed” in the Bible. Reread it, I think you’ll understand.

  • http://www.rachelheldevans.com Rachel H. Evans

    If my family were a “biblical” one, my husband would be justified in taking a second…or third…wife. So, no thanks!
    This is one of many reasons I’m not fond of the word “biblical” in general. It tends to be used in a selective manner – reducing the beautiful diversity of biblical narratives into a single point and glossing over the cultural influences surrounding a particular issue.
    The notion of “biblical womanhood” is perhaps the most bothersome to me: http://blog.beliefnet.com/jesuscreed/2009/06/friday-is-for-friends-rachel-e.html

  • Mike

    Sarah and Hagar, Leah and Zilpah, Rachel and Bilhah.
    Was common in the Bible for barren women to give their husbands their personal servant as a concubine so they could have children for them. Pretty sure that implies multiple times that concubines have extramarital relations with the man in question.
    It was considered very wrong to have relations with a concubine–she commanded the same inviolability as a wife–without the dowry. Consider Abner when he was confronted by Ish-bosheth for having relations with Saul’s concubine, Aiah, or how he was depicted as dishonoring his father by openly having relations with his father’s concubines.
    The children of the concubine had equal rights with those of the wife. Abraham dismissed his natural sons with gifts (Gen. 25:6), and Jacob’s sons by Bilhah and Zilpah were equal with his sons by Leah and Rachel. Abimelech, who subsequently became king over a part of Israel, was the son of Gideon-jerubbaal and his Shechemite concubine (Judges 8:31).
    In the time of the Kings the practice of taking concubines was no longer due to childlessness but to luxury. David had ten concubines (II Sam. 15:16), who, however, also did housework; Solomon had 300 (I Kings 11:30); and his son Rehoboam had sixty (II Chron. 11:21).
    Nothing said about the sins they were committing, leading me to conclude that the Biblical family is both vastly different from the modern example AND it was condoned from above. Borrowed this stuff from a few websites, but hey, little research never hurt anyone.

  • non-metaphysical stephen

    Thanks for reminding us how easily we have ignored the cultural and material changes in our lifestyles over the past few centuries — and how we have made the nuclear family into an idol.

  • AHH

    Yesterday one of our Associate Pastors gave a sermon on idolatry, and among other things named children and family (and idealizations of what family is supposed to be like) as things that could become idols. I thought that was quite brave in our very “family”-oriented church. But she can get away with it as a mother of two young children, whereas if my wife or I (no children) made such an observation we would get dirty looks.
    I agree with Rachel #15 about how “Biblical” is almost always an unhelpful adjective in these contexts of trying to dictate cultural norms in 2010.

  • DRT

    Nice article and comments. I think of this the same as when people somehow refer to a “normal” family today. The only thing normal about a normal family would be that it is abnormal.
    One of the 3 axioms for living from my Grandfather is “marriage is a life of forgiveness”. Nothing else.
    A bit more tangentially, I was in Bible study at a church on Sunday and we were discussing the Book of Ruth. The study teacher made the proclamation that the son’s deaths in Moab showed that God does not want us to leave where we are. We are to tough it out (even though the land was in famine). When I told him that God may want us to leave our land if there is famine he got very very upset with me. The point being that people who base their beliefs and values on there “biblical” interpretation are rarely biblical in my view. BTW, I would love if someone would correct me if I was wrong about that.
    Dave

  • Michel Ninacs

    To describe something as ‘Biblical’ one must quote the actual Bible, ie chapter and verse, for the frame of reference.
    In the Old Testament, the Creator instituted the ‘Biblical’ family and gave this family His purpose for their existence in Genesis 1:27 and 28: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. Genesis 1:28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
    A more detailed account for the process of the creation of the ‘biblical’ family and its purposes follow in chapter Genesis 2:18 to 25, where the first man Adam was given a help meet so that he would not be alone. Verse 24 describes for the first time in the Bible the process through which a ‘biblical’ family of ‘man and wife’ is formed: Gen 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. Both verses 24 and 25 call this union of the two ‘man and wife’.
    In Exodus 20, verses 3 to 17, God gave His people the Ten Commandments set out God’s clear rules for the ‘biblical’ family and monogamous marriage: specifically verse 12 describes the father and mother, 14 forbids multiple marriage, and 17 forbids the unlawful desire for a neighbor’s wife.
    In no uncertain terms, Jesus clearly gives His instructions on what He taught as the ‘biblical’ family when He quotes the Genesis passage of scripture twice, first in Matthew 19:5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? and again in Mark 10:7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; where He clearly condemns divorce.
    A ‘biblical’ family then consists of man and wife joined together as one flesh, and as they obey their Creator instructions to be fruitful and multiply, their children.

  • JHM

    I can see where Holmes is going but I think he’s maybe off-base on what people are trying to say when they talk about “Biblical family”. In the traditional, conservative churches/communities I’ve grown up in, it was about applying the *principles* of the Bible to modern society and doing so in specific opposition to the “world”. In other words, I don’t think these people are trying to say that a “Biblical family” is a 1st century family but rather that it is a 21st century family trying to live for God’s kingdom and a life different and distinct from the world’s system.
    I seems to me that Holmes is arguing against a straw man and doesn’t take the real position of a lot of conservative (American) evangelicals seriously at all.

  • Marian

    Back when the citizens of Kanawha County were protesting the schoolbooks wished on them by the state, one of the things they objected to was a reader that portrayed men and boys as cooking. They characterized this as “unbiblical.”
    Roughly the first ten depictions of cooking in the bible have men doing it. Of course, one can always argue that, as usual, the man gave the orders to the women and servants and then took the credit for the completion of the task, but this is not consistent with biblical literalism. In the scripture as a whole, there are maybe three or four depictions of women, specifically, cooking. The others are either unattributed, or attributed to men.

  • http://www.jesustheradicalpastor.com John W Frye

    It is apparent that many who comment here do not want to recognize what God not only “condoned,” but blessed! that was against the biblical ideal of one woman, one man for life into which union children are born. It is also apparent that many are reading a modern definition of “family” into Paul’s address to the members of the *familia* in the cities where churches were birthed. The “husband,” father,” and “master” were the SAME PERSON in the Roman *familia* and Paul’s exhortations were powerfully subversive to the “authority” that ONE PERSON had. Some commentors here just will not do the diligent “Bible study” that will take the original audience(s) seriously. The USAmerican evangelical nuclear family is one of the most blatant idols in the contemporary church. As I’ve written before: in the New Testament, the priority is GOD-CHURCH-FAMILY. In USAmerican evangelicalism, it is GOD-FAMILY-CHURCH, and sometimes sadly, FAMILY-CHURCH-GOD. I say this as a very observant pastor.

  • kerry

    Most of my pastoral care is to women, and maybe some of the blokes who visit here think that Holmes is creating a straw man, but the model of family that he describes is is the exact measure against which many women weigh their lives, and often find themselves failing.

  • http://theincarnate.blogspot.com Matt

    This is not as difficult as it seems. It simply requires contextualization—twice.
    To have a “biblical family” means to live out family life that is faithful to the principles and priorities of Scripture. The challenges and opportunities of every time and place will vary, and so must the shape of the family change accordingly. A myriad of economic realities present us with limited options.
    So does biology.
    It is immoral to pursue family life in a way that is destructive, or even neglectful, to children, and there is a preponderance of evidence for the types of environments in which children thrive and suffer. At the very least, they need personal nurture, not TV babysitting or (in most cases) daycare. They need lots of personal attention at very young ages, precisely when most parents are most strapped for time. Whether it’s parents, grandparents, or close friends, what matters is that they receive holistic, personal nurture (spiritual, physical, emotional, developmental). The community of faith needs to step up and embrace their calling to nurture children collectively, when the family cannot do it on their own—exchanging childcare responsibilities with one another.
    One of the biggest problems I see in contemporary, Western models of family life is the trading of economic, vocational, and even recreational priorities for the priority of the nurture of children. We have exchanged economic suffering for even greater forms of suffering, the majority of which are spiritual, psychological, and social.
    One of the values that makes the predominant contemporary, Western model of family possible is the value of the free and autonomous individual. But autonomy and family are at odds with one another. The ideal of the family where each person pursues his or her own interests and goals while still maintaining proper commitment to the family is a myth. There has to be sacrifice, an acceptance of less than total fulfillment of one’s vocational and economic potential.

  • Scot McKnight

    Stephen Holmes is not arguing “polygamy” is prescribed or even condoned. It happened, and it happened often, and there is not always condemnation of it — and sometimes one would think it would be.
    What Stephen is arguing is that, since polygamy is sometimes not condemned, and one wants to be “biblical” in the sense that “what happened then is to happen now,” which is a hermeneutical basis for some arguments, then one is on thin ice about arguing for a biblical marriage.
    What all would agree on, though, is that we have to “discern” what is permanent or principled for all times and, on the basis of that discernment, discern how to be “biblical” today.
    He is not arguing polygamy is “biblical” in that sense; he’s arguing that in biblical times polygamy happened. So, let’s avoid thinking “biblical times” always means “biblical for today.”

  • danderson

    Scot,
    I think this just another case of modern Western Christians wanting to pick and choose what to believe in the Bible. Why would God create man and woman in the first place? Why not just condone any type of commitment or non-commitment. This is very shaky ground. I recently left a Covenant church because many in the congregation condoned homosexuality and fornication. Why not just leave it to the individual? After all, we live in the post-modern age where there is no longer any place for Truth.

  • Randy G.

    I welcome this post because it allows comments on two points.
    1. Most evangelical churches define family in terms that did not exist in economic terms in most families before 1950.
    2. My wife and I are unable to have children, and for financial reasons have been unable to adopt up to this point. Something that I wonder about from this situation is how much our churches are mal-formed by the emphasis we place on children, and getting the best education, living in the best school districts, and struggling for admission to the best colleges; finally, what do children learn from such parental attention?
    I believe the distinction made in #5 between biblical description of existing children and prescription of how Christians ought to act behave in terms of having and raising children is relevant here.
    I understand many may disagree with me, but I welcome comments.
    Peace,
    Randy Gabrielse

  • http://www.rethinkingfaith.com Dave Leigh

    Great post! Next topic: Biblical Pointers for Christian Dating Practice! Ha!
    I think the point is well made in this post that it’s a mistake to take as normative the patterns and social arrangements of Bible times. Yet we are all looking for biblical principles that transcend time and culture. Often would-be Fundamentalists and Evangelicals are too quick to pounce on things that support their own cultural biases, selectively ignoring the implications for other elements of the text if they were being consistent.

  • rev.spike

    One must always be willing to make a differentiation between proscriptive and descriptive texts. The Bible is strangely silent on polygamy other than repeatedly demonstrating the moral failures associated with those who practiced it. HOWEVER, those failures are equally available to those who practice monogamy. I.e, a man could just as easily be swayed into sin by his Christian spouse (or vices-averse) as by any numbers of wives.
    My point is that we can’t take what the Benjamites do to get wives as an example of courtship. No more should we assume that polygamy is acceptable.

  • rev.spike

    * proscriptive should read “prescriptive”

  • Leslie

    There is quite a difference between a “biblical” family in the historic or documented sense, and a New Testament family as modeled, suggested, and implied by New Testament scriptures. Jesus’ personal family – Joseph, Mary, sisters and brothers was pretty typical of Jewish households. Every century, in every nation, has modeled the pattern of the father who works, mother who runs the household. Even ancient tribes have modeled this. In no instance did running the household NEVER include mother ALSO earning an income….sometimes mother contributed to the economy directly, other times it’s indirectly. This has been a common norm since the beginning of time and to say otherwise is to be ignorant of history. Depending on the culture, there has been polygamy (which God only put up with in particular O.T. situations but it was not the model He left us with via the first family in Genesis, nor the first commands given to the TWO of them (not the three or the five) to have children. God created one woman for Adam, not more than one. God has always made clear what was His ideal. Sin, as defined by Him not us, has always ruined that ideal. In Genesis, the curse for sin was that men would have to work with constant obstacles and women would have pain in child birth – that men would want to dominate women and women would want to subvert them. That was a curse, not a blessing. God created them to walk as partners and equals – remember it says that He created THEM male and female and called THEM Adam….(Adam named EVe a different name not God – it wasn’t wrong, it was just Adam’s idea). Sin ruined all that God planned for marriage and family, not God. Jesus Christ came to begin a restoration of that, which will not see it’s completion until He comes again and the enemy satan is put in chains forever. Until that, we will see “pictures” of the ideal, reflections of it in particular followers of Jesus who get it, who walk in that kind of freedom and expression. And it is fluid…because we still live in a fallen world, and because revelation of how that picture was intended to look from heaven’s standpoint, is still coming supernaturally to Jesus people.
    That’s my take.

  • http://youngadultsindayton.wordpress.com Talia

    Regarding Leslie’s comment on Adam, someone should probably point out right about now that the word used for the first example(s) of humanity is completely gender-neutral. God didn’t create a male, put him to sleep, and go on to create a female. What the story says is that God created a neutral person and then created a second person, and that’s when they were created male and female. This is hugely important when you’re dealing with evangelicals who take the creation story literally. Even Paul, later on, was wrong when he argued that woman comes from man. Wrong both biologically–because please, really?–and in a spiritual heritage sense.

  • http://www.preachwithpower.org walt – sermon guy

    A real Biblical family? Who is our model, Abraham. . . a wife and a concubine? David? Several wives and an adulterer to boot? Paul? I agree that the term Biblical family is a modern construct with no basis is Bible facts. In fact to continually advertise the “family” nature of Christianity blocks many from coming to the Lord. Tell me, what exactly is a “Family Church.” A church where only “families” are welcome. The Lord did not come to save “families” but the lost.


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