Saving the family
June 13 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Saving the family | Friday, June 13, 2003

Friday, June 13, 2003

Saving the family

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

Southern Baptists are out to save the family, and family life - at least, the 1950's version that we idealize - is certainly threatened. Studies and polls continue to show an alarmingly high rate of divorce in American families, with no appreciable difference between rates for professing Christians and non-Christians.

About a third of all children born in our country are conceived and birthed out of wedlock.

Cohabitation has become so widely practiced that many people wouldn't think of marrying someone if they hadn't taken a test drive by living with them first.

Some wonder if the "traditional family," consisting of a committed husband and wife, along with their children, is becoming an endangered species.

Most people still long for connection with a family, but many now rely on an evolving network of friendships for that familial connection.

Family troubles are nothing new, of course. Read the Bible and you'll find one dysfunctional family after another, often including multiple wives and twisted relationships.

Isaac and Rebekah came to grief from playing favorites with the children.

David was no model family man; nor Solomon, despite his vaunted wisdom.

Hosea's wife left him for a series of lovers.

Some biblical families were more successful. Adam and Eve are portrayed as being faithful, though I suppose they really had no other option.

Mr. and Mrs. Job seem to have been truly committed to one another, despite their theological disagreements when tragedy befell the family.

Mary and Joseph are described as model parents, although Joseph disappears from the story before Jesus is grown.

Peter apparently loved his wife enough to care for his mother-in-law.

Priscilla and Aquilla appear as a devoted couple.

The Bible also contains numerous characters who are single, widowed or living in "non-traditional" family settings (Ruth and Naomi, for example).

The scriptures are also replete with threats to the family, including immoral behaviors that span the spectrum of debauchery.

Endangerment of the family is certainly not a new development. Still, Southern Baptists should be commended for taking family issues seriously, and for attempting to inspire and strengthen families.

The SBC approach to "divorce-proofing" the family calls for present and future marriage partners to learn about and adopt a set of principles called the "seven pillars of a kingdom family" (BR, May 24, p. 12). Promotional materials include a handsome list of the "seven pillars," with signature lines for the couple and their pastor to sign. Some will affirm the statement; others will not.

In support of the project, Tom Elliff, whose personal ministry serves as a model for the plan, has published Unbreakable: the Seven Pillars of a Kingdom Family. The book seems to draw largely on sermons about the family, and is surprisingly non-specific in fleshing out the principles.

The June issue of LifeWay's Facts & Trends publication, however, includes a more detailed list of seven "scriptural prerequisites for marriage" that Elliff requires of all couples who want him to solemnize their vows.

These include expectations that both partners should live in a "vital and growing" relationship with Christ and agree to be members of the same church. The couple must acknowledge God as their ultimate authority, agreeing to follow God's will as expressed in the Bible.

Future partners are expected to see human life as sacred from conception until death, and commit to moral purity and marital fidelity. Furthermore, they should provide evidence of being devoted church members who are faithful in attendance, service, giving and participation.

Likewise, both parties should manage time well, bring out the best in each other, and commit to the practice of biblical stewardship.

Previously married persons must undergo a study on the "divine viewpoint regarding divorce" to ensure that their marriage "falls within the parameters established by the Lord."

While rather strict, these requirements are unlikely to raise many eyebrows.

Two other prerequisites could spark more conversation, however. Couples should not marry without the enthusiastic blessing of their parents, Elliff says, because "parents are earthly representatives of God's authority." If parents object, the couple should regard it "as a signal of God's timing, and should patiently seek to work through the issues raised and wait until the blessing is forthcoming."

Elliff also says the couple should commit to "specific roles established in the Scripture for the husband and wife in the areas of provision and management." This means, he says, that the husband should be vocationally focused and able to provide for the family so the wife "should not be burdened with the necessity of working outside the home."

In today's reality, many young couples will find that approach to be unrealistic or unpalatable (or both), and will likely be unconvinced that the Bible puts the full onus of provision on the husband.

If all Southern Baptist pastors should adopt these guidelines - as they are being encouraged to do - there will certainly be fewer divorces in SBC churches, if for no other reason than that there will also be considerably fewer marriages.

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6/13/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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