Ethics Articles

Articles: Family


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C&MA Statement

America’s Second Civil War? (Christian Post, 050401)

In Defense of the Natural Family (Christian Post, 050418)

Deliberate Childlessness Revisited (Christian Post, 050815)

Start a Revolution—Eat Dinner With Your Family (Christian Post, 050912)

Men of character, boys of fortune (, 051101)

Why Moms and Dads Matter—New Research (Christian Post, 051103)

America’s Parents Served Notice (Christian Post, 051104)

Spanking Linked to Anxiety, Aggression (Foxnews, 051114)

“He’s Just Not That Into You”—Postmodern Secular Romance (Christian Post, 051122)

God Gives Us the Power to Meet Our Mates’ Needs (Christian Post, 060209)

When Bigger is Better (Christian Post, 060207)

Are Stay at Home Moms “Letting Down the Team?” (Mohler, 060224)

SOCIETY: The Return of Patriarchy? Fatherhood and the Future of Civilization (Mohler, 060301)

A Christian Vision of Marriage and Family (Mohler, 060517)





C&MA Statement




God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. It is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood or adoption.


Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. [t is God’s unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His Church, and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel for sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race.


The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect and to lead his family. A wife is to place herself in support of the servant leadership of her husband even as the Church willingly places herself in support of the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve together in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.


In a marriage lived according to these truths, the love between husband and wife will show itself in listening to each other’s viewpoints, valuing each other’s gifts, wisdom and desires, serving in partnership to impact the culture redemptively, honouring one another in public and in private, and always seeking to bring benefit, not harm to one another.


Children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord. Parents are to demonstrate to their children God’s pattern for marriage. Parents are to teach their children spiritual and moral values and to lead them, through consistent lifestyle example and loving discipline, to make choices based on biblical truth. Children are to honour and obey their parents.


“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27


“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24


“The husband should fulfill his marital duly to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husbands body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” I Corinthians 7:3-5


“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour: Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her . .” Ephesians 5:22-25


“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother - which is the first commandment with a promise - that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth. Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord “ Ephesians 6: 1-4


“He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.” 1 Timothy 3:4


“So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander.” I Timothy 5:14




America’s Second Civil War? (Christian Post, 050401)


Our nation’s political rhetoric is filled with references to unity and national cohesiveness. Nevertheless, this unity is often more superficial than substantial, and talk of national unity wears thin when the culture appears to be ripping apart at the seams.


During last year’s presidential race, commentators and editorialists commonly lamented their assessment that the unity that had marked the nation in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 had dissipated into a resumption of political debate and partisanship. Bryce Christensen sees the unity that marked the post-9/11 attacks as temporary and artificial--operating like something of a defense mechanism for the culture at large. He argues that the deeper reality is a cultural conflict that he describes as “America’s second civil war.” Christensen is Professor of English at Southern Utah University and also serves as contributing editor to The Family in America, published by the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society. In an essay published in October 2003, “Divided We Fall: America’s Second Civil War,” he argues that the rhetoric of unity that followed the terrorists attacks obscured, temporarily at least, a far deeper cultural conflict.


In his words, “the recent rhetoric of unity has obscured the sad reality of a nation more deeply divided than it has ever been, a nation whose citizens are increasingly pulled apart--personally, socially, morally, economically, ideologically and politically--by the unprecedented disintegration of the nation’s marital and family life.” Christensen’s essay is clear and prophetic, offering important insights into the reality of America’s social health. He characterizes this social conflict as a battle fought over the most basic institutions of civilization and private life--marriage and the family. He describes recent trends as America’s “astounding national retreat from wedlock and family life” and asserts that this retreat is not “merely an innocuous shift in personal lifestyles,” but “has seriously harmed our national public life, creating grievous tears in our national social fabric, profoundly dis-unifying the nation.” He presses his point: “Until Americans face that grim reality, even the most inspired talk about national unity will amount to no more than whistling-in-the-dark self-delusion.”


In order to back up his assessment, Christensen begins with a series of statistics. “In the more than two centuries of their country’s existence, Americans have never before seen more fragmentation and disarray in marital and family life than we currently see. Though the divorce rate has declined slightly since the early 1980s, it still remains more than 30-percent higher than it was in 1970, when it was already high by historical standards. Meanwhile, the national marriage rate has plummeted to an all-time low, dropping almost 40 percent just since 1970, a drop that helps to account for an illegitimacy rate that has skyrocketed from just five percent in 1960 to 33 percent in 1998. Just as dramatic has been the multiplication of the number of couples repudiating wedlock in favor of non-marital cohabitation: the Census Bureau counted 4.5 million such couples in 1999, compared to just 1.6 million in 1980. Also on the rise, the number of female-headed households with children has risen from 3.0 million in 1970 to 7.8 million in 1999, and while the number of married-couple households with children has remained relatively stable, declining from 25.5 million in 1970 to 25.0 million in 1999, it must be remembered that the population as a whole grew by almost 30 percent (about 60 million) during this period.”


But that litany of statistics tells only part of the story. Christensen points out that many of the children living with married parents actually live with only one biological parent. Indeed, only slightly more than half live with both biological parents.

Did the national unity after September 11, 2001 mean a return to marriage and stable family patterns? Hardly. In retrospect, Christensen argues that any perceived shift in family attitudes constituted nothing more than a temporary aberration. “It appears that nothing Osama bin Laden and his followers have done has reversed the country’s repudiation of family life.”


Christensen does not use his civil war metaphor carelessly. To the contrary, he points to the period from 1861 to 1865 as “the most often-invoked example of national disunion.” He acknowledges the full horror of this conflict, often described as pitting “brother against brother,” but argues that even the terrible bloodletting of the Civil War was largely fought over regional alliances. In America’s current civil war, Christensen argues that we face a conflict in which brother is truly pitted against brother, husbands against wives, parents against children, and children against parents. He cites literary critic Alvin Kernan to the effect that “in America, the family is probably the most desperate battlefield.”


By any measure, over the last four decades America has set itself on a radical experiment in social innovation. Tragically, most of that innovation has taken form as assaults upon the integrity of marriage and the natural family. In the name of individual autonomy, personal liberation, feminism, and other liberationist causes, the family has been sacrificed on the altar of social revolution.


In a civil war fought with bullets and bayonets, the statistics come in terms of mortality and battle deaths. In America’s current civil war, the statistics come in the form of research reports and sociological studies. Christensen cites reports from the University of New Hampshire indicating that women cohabitating with men without benefit of marriage are almost five times as likely as married peers to experience “extreme violence” within the household. Other research documents an “association between physical abuse of children and deviance from normative family structure.” Christensen also cites Columbia University researchers who “have determined from available child-abuse data that children living in single-parent families are more than twice as likely to experience physical abuse.” Similarly, Ohio State University studies “have established that domestic violence harmful to women and children is especially likely to erupt in ‘disadvantaged neighborhoods’ in which more than 42 percent or more of the households are headed by single females.”


The battlefields of Shiloh, Gettysburg, Manassas, and other now-famous fields of battle marked America’s first civil war, but many of the most significant disastrous battles of the current conflict are fought in courtrooms. With the family disintegrating through divorce, Christensen argues that this “fragmentation of the family sets the stage for socially divisive custody fights that traumatize children and embitter and impoverish adults.”


Specifically, he points to the prevalence of “no-fault” divorce laws which “have made it easy to sever the ties to an unwanted spouse.” In an important observation, Christensen documents the fact that no-fault divorce laws have not simplified child custody battles. “Indeed, legal scholar Lynn D. Wardle identifies an increasing number of acrimonious custody disputes as a prime reason that the nationwide adoption of no-fault divorce statutes has not led to the reduction in adversarial litigation promised by no-fault advocates.”


Before the development of no-fault divorce laws, divorce proceedings were indeed often acrimonious. Christensen explains that the acrimony has not disappeared--it has merely been transferred to an even more dangerous context. Now, custody hearings and extended custody battles draw children into the vortex of divorce conflict. As Christensen notes, “the siblings split by America’s domestic civil war of the late 20th and early 21st centuries are bewildered children with no control over what happens to them.”

Poignantly, Christensen points to reports from psychologists who find that children split apart by divorce typically wish their parents to be reunited. “Even after the pronouncement of the divorce decree, children thus find themselves pinned down in the ugly house-to-house combat that continues between the former spouses,” he laments.


One by-product of no-fault divorce laws is an alarming rise in accusations of child sexual abuse made by one spouse against the other.


Some may object to Christensen’s use of the civil war metaphor. After all, they may argue, Americans are not currently involved in a killing war. Christensen would no doubt point to the vast swath of social devastation left in the wake of America’s ongoing social revolution.


Christensen cites historian David T. Courtwright, who argues that the breakdown of urban family life in America is “the same kind of social disorder in the modern city as America once saw on its Wild West fringe in Dodge City or Abilene--and for the same reason: the disappearance of the marital and family ties that restrain male aggression.” Courtwright argues that this is because “the total amount of violence and disorder in society is negatively related to the percentage of males in intact families of origin or procreation.” Christensen then argues that “the upsurge in illegitimacy and divorce in the inner-city” has created urban killing zones of lawlessness and moral anarchy.


Other signs of cultural breakdown abound. Sociologist Jennifer Glass documents a growing divergence in moral attitudes between full-time career women and women who are full-time homemakers or work only part-time. Christensen warns that “the retreat from family life is dis-unifying the nation along axes other than those defined by gender ideology.” He points to the family disintegration that is now “creating increasingly impassable chasms between America’s poor and America’s rich.”


This culture’s pattern of social dissolution is undeniably tied to the breakdown of the family unit. Why? Christensen answers the question clearly: “Compared to married peers, Americans with no intact family ties typically evince little of the civic virtue necessary to forge meaningful national union. For even if they have avoided criminal behavior, even if they have avoided bitter conflict with a former spouse, and even if they have opted out of the divisive ideological crusades polarizing political life, Americans without family ties typically lack the psychological and moral strength to make selfless sacrifices on behalf of national civic life. Millions of Americans who would sincerely like to contribute to a healthy nation simply lack the inner reserve to do so because family failure has plunged them into pathological self-absorption.”


The American landscape is now marked by a multitude of battlefields where husbands have fought wives, siblings have jockeyed for legal advantage, generations have been pitted against each other, and the family has been sacrificed to the idol of American individualism. Bryce Christensen has written an important essay that now, even more than a year after its publication, deserves our attention. The only way out of America’s second civil war is a national recovery that will start with the recovery of marriage and the integrity of family life.


Source: Bryce Christensen, “Divided We Fall: America’s Second Civil War,” The Journal of the Family in America (October 2003) Volume 17 Number 10




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




In Defense of the Natural Family (Christian Post, 050418)


The last two centuries have witnessed a massive transformation in the way human beings live, think, work, and arrange their lives. At the same time, the institution of the family has been under sustained attack, in turns dismembered and disabled by cultural trends, direct attacks, and subtle cultural shifts. Now, barely into the 21st century, we face the reality that the institution of the family is facing an even more fundamental challenge--the challenge to maintain a coherent definition of realities as basic as marriage, kinship, and the natural family.


Social revisionists habitually describe the family unit consisting of parents and their biological or adopted offspring as the “nuclear” family. This is not an inaccurate description, for this basic pattern of relationships, starting with the marriage of a man and a woman and extending to their offspring, does form the nucleus of the larger extended family.


Nevertheless, the social revolutionaries have now routinely dismissed the nuclear family as an artifact of a bygone era--represented by 1950s situation comedies and what liberals dismiss as the “artificiality” of the postwar baby boom.


In more recent years, some defenders of the family now refer to the basic family unit as the “natural” family. This term properly identifies the natural arrangement of husband and wife, plus their offspring, as the most identifiable and important family unit for protection, nurture, and social stability. This is a healthy development, for even as the concept of the nuclear family has become less useful, the focus on the natural family clarifies issues considerably.


Now, family advocates Allan C. Carlson and Paul T. Mero have released “The Natural Family: A Manifesto,” a document that offers a comprehensive defense of the family, buttressed by an honest and insightful analysis of the threats now directed at the family as an institution.


The manifesto begins with a narrative of family life, beginning with a young man and a young woman who are drawn to each other and solemnize this bonding in the covenant of marriage. As Carlson and Mero explain, “The conjugal bond built on fidelity, mutual duty, and respect allows both of them to emerge into their full potential; they become as their Creator intended, a being complete.”


Of course, this marriage now creates a new family, identified in the manifesto as “the first and fundamental unit of human society.” This unit establishes a new economy as husband and wife “share the work of provisioning, drawing on each one’s interests, strengths, and skills.” As Carlson and Mero explain, “They craft a home which becomes a special place on earth. In centuries past, the small farm or the artisan’s shop was the usual expression of this union between the sexual and the economic. Today, the urban townhouse, apartment, or suburban home are more common. Still, the small home economy remains the vital center of daily existence.”


From the natural union of marriage “flows new human life.” Children are not seen as accidental impositions on the self-actualizing potential of the parents as individuals, but are instead understood as the first and most important gifts given to the conjugal bond. As the authors put simply: “Children are the first end, or purpose, of marriage.”


In picturesque language, Carlson and Mero describe the joys, sorrows, and challenges the young family will face. Parents direct their energies toward the protection, education, and nurture of the children even as the children move through skinned knees, first chores, and initial steps into the broader world. The mother and father “are the child’s first teachers; their home, the child’s first, most vital school.” The parents pass on to their children “the skills of living and introduce the satisfactions of talking, reading, reasoning, and exploring the world.”


From the protected context of the natural family, an extended family also emerges. Kin beyond the parents and children are welcomed into the family’s life and generations are bonded together in a common commitment to parents and generations to come. “Each generation sees itself as a link in an unbroken chain,” the authors explain, “through which the family extends from and into the centuries.”


As Carlson and Mero make clear, the natural family “opens the portals to the good life, to true happiness, even to bliss.” In the face of the family’s enemies, who routinely criticize the family as a limiting institution that represses individuality, Carlson and Mero understand that the mutuality and generosity of family life, propelled and formalized by mutual obligation, cements the family together in shared experiences and common goals. “Kindness begets kindness, shaping an economy of love. Kindred share all that they have, without expecting any return, only to receive more than they could ever have imagined,” the manifesto promises.


As touching and true as these passages are, this manifesto is important for the fact that it identifies the larger social context of family life. Carlson and Mero understand that the natural family is civilization’s most fundamental economic unit. Beyond this, they also understand that “political life also flows out of natural family homes.” More specifically, a just political life emerges out of the context of the natural family. As they explain, “True sovereignty originates here. These homes are the source of ordered liberty, the fountain of real democracy, the seedbed of virtue.” The extension of social life into neighborhoods, villages, and larger units does not replace the family nor supersede its value and importance. As the authors of this manifesto are bold to declare: “States exist to protect families and to encourage family growth and integrity.”


That last assertion is not likely to be found in the civics textbooks taught in America’s public schools, even in those rare school districts where something like civics continues as a part of the curriculum. More troubling, this assertion would be directly countered by the prevailing elite now mobilized among college and university faculties as revolutionaries ready to strip the family of its essential functions.


Carlson and Mero understand that the natural family now faces a dramatic crisis. In their words, the natural family “stands reviled and threatened in the early 21st century.” How bad is it? “Foes have mounted attacks on all aspects of the natural family, from the bond of marriage to the birth of children to the true democracy of free homes. Ever more families show weaknesses and disorders. We see growing numbers of young adults rejecting the fullness and joy of marriage, choosing instead cheap substitutes or standing alone, where they are easy prey for the total state. Too many children are born outside of wedlock, ending as wards of that same state. Too few children are born inside married-couple homes, portending depopulation.”


The manifesto identifies ideological revolutionaries as enemies of the natural family. As the authors assert, “Some political thinkers held that the individual, standing alone, was the true cell society; that family bonds--including those between husband and wife and between mother and child--showed merely the power of one selfish person over another. Other theorists argue that the isolated self, the lone actor in ‘the state of nature,’ was actually oppressed by institutions such as family and church. In this view, the central state was twisted into a supposed agent of liberation.”


The ideological enemies of the family include all those who would, whatever their motivation, strip the family of its functions, reduce the authority of parents, remove the social honor attached to marriage and family, and reassign family functions to the state and its ever-expanding bureaucracy. These social revolutionaries would include feminists, advocates of the welfare state, secularists, and social revisionists represented by developments such as the “children’s rights movement” and movements of sexual “liberation,” especially the homosexual rights movement.


These ideological forces gained considerable ground in recent decades, pushing changes in the law, social habits, the workplace, and the economy. The rise and rapid embrace of “no-fault” divorce laws and the imposition of marriage penalties in the system of taxation were tangible evidence of the family’s plight.


Carlson and Mero identify some of the most pernicious developments as “conscious efforts to drive the Creator out of civic life; the rapid spread of pornography; new demands for easy divorce; attacks on the meaning of ‘wife’ and ‘husband’; a swelling of rhetoric of ‘gender’ and ‘sexual’ rights; conscious state campaigns aimed at population control; steps toward easy abortion; claims of sexual revolution; rejection of the concepts of duty and long-term commitment; and startling advances in the manipulation of human life.


Yet, as damaging as these developments have been, there is more to this story. Carlson and Mero deserve credit for identifying “the triumph of industrialism” as one of the major social factors behind family decline. They explain, “Husbands, wives, and even children were enticed out of homes and organized in factories according to the principle deficiency. Impersonal machines undermined the natural complementarity of the sexes in productive tasks. Children were left to fend for themselves, with the perception that their families no longer guided their future; rather, that children now looked to faceless employers.”


This last insight is particularly important, especially for today’s social conservatives. Carlson and Mero are true conservatives--they understand that the incredible economic transformations that have so reshaped human society over the past two centuries have effectively weakened the family unit. First, the father was taken out of the home or off of the farm in order to work in an industrialized setting. Before long, many wives followed, leaving children in the hands of state agents or unattended for much of the day. As a result, the role of the family as the first school and the first society was subverted by the very economic revolution that brought the promise of wealth and opportunity.


Conservatives must admit that today’s consumer culture poses direct threats to the stability and integrity of the family. In a quest for consumer goods, families are sacrificing time, attention, and energy. Once these are directed away from the family unit, other agents--the state in particular--enter the picture. Carlson and Mero go beyond mere description and analysis in their manifesto. They also issue a set of important principles and propose a platform for the recovery of the natural family.


Finally, they issue a call: “A new spirit spreads in the world, the essence of the natural family. We call on all people of goodwill, whose hearts are open to the promptings of this spirit, to join in a great campaign. The time is close in the persecution of the natural family, when the war against children, when the assault on human nature shall end.”


As Carlson and Mero see it, the enemies of the natural family are now on the defensive. They may be right. In truth, it may be too soon to tell. Nevertheless, the manifesto these authors have offered in defense of the natural family demands the attention of all those who would defend civilization’s most basic institution. This important document has emerged at just the right time.




“The Natural Family: A Manifesto” is available through the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society.


R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




Deliberate Childlessness Revisited (Christian Post, 050815)


Clearly, I hit a nerve. Almost two years ago, I published an article entitled "Deliberate Childlessness: Moral Rebellion With a New Face." In that article I addressed the growing phenomenon of married couples who simply choose not to have children. I argued that this development indicates an eclipse of the Christian worldview in terms of the gift of children and a redefinition of marriage itself.


The article has been republished in various venues and has just recently erupted as a major focus of debate. After reviewing various responses--some extreme in intensity--I have taken time to rethink the issue and to revisit the question. At this point, I am even more convinced that deliberate childlessness represents a serious moral issue and that many Christians are deeply confused about the topic. Others seem to believe that the invention of modern contraceptive technologies has simply redefined the institution of marriage and the goods it is intended to represent.


In my original article I argued that "Christians must recognize that this rebellion against parenthood represents nothing less than an absolute revolt against God's design." In response, many have suggested that a rejection of parenthood is simply a deeply personal and sensitive question that is beyond moral consideration on the part of the Christian community. I find this argument impossible to accept. The Scriptures speak specifically to God's intention in making us sexual beings and in creating marriage as the arena for the holy and healthy fulfillment of the sexual gifts. From a biblical perspective, the conjugal bond between husband and wife is never without reference to God as the Creator and to the entire human community as the beneficiaries of marriage. The capacity for procreation is, by God's design, a central part of the conjugal bond and the institution of marriage.


The shocking reality is that there are so many persons who seem to privilege our own technological age as representing a new moral reality that allows human beings to transcend the sexual bond of marriage in terms of procreation. This is true in the secular world, where the invention of modern contraceptives--especially "The Pill"--represents nothing less than the liberation of sexuality from both marriage and procreation. Without the "threat" of pregnancy, unmarried couples are now free to engage in adultery and other forms of sexual sin without fear of the imposition of new life in the womb. Even among married couples, something similar has happened: Thanks to the reliability of contraceptive technologies, husbands and wives are now able to see children merely as a lifestyle option, rather than as the gifts that come naturally with the enjoyment of the conjugal act.


The responses to my article have been interesting, if often perplexing. Some have criticized me for failing to address the issue of infertility. I can only wonder if these persons actually read the article. I clearly stated: "Morally speaking, the epidemic in this regard has nothing to do with those married couples who desire children but are for any reason unable to have them, but in those who are fully capable of having children but reject this intrusion in their lifestyle." Based in personal experience, my wife and I would never overlook the pain of those who even now are waiting for the gift of children, much less those who have come face to face with the reality that they are unable to conceive or bear children. My concern is with deliberate childlessness--a point made clear in both the title and the substance of the article.


 Others have suggested that Christian couples might choose childlessness in view of extenuating circumstances required for unusual Christian service. I fully acknowledge that there may be situations, rare in the extreme, in which this may emerge as a serious moral consideration. Nevertheless, it hardly seems reasonable to assume that the innovation of modern contraceptives represents a new reality of gospel significance. Some have pointed to Paul's concern for the gift of celibacy in 1 Corinthians chapter seven. I have dealt with this issue extensively elsewhere, but it simply has nothing to do with those who, not receiving the gift of celibacy, decide to marry.


Others have raised the specter of overpopulation. As one critic wrote, "Mohler seems to be unaware that the greatest moral issue facing planet Earth is overpopulation." That critic needs to come in to the 21st century, where the main population concern in Western nations is underpopulation rather than overpopulation. Though overpopulation may be a significant issue in some nations, the statistics indicate that underpopulation is likely to be a worldwide phenomenon with ominous repercussions. The tragic reality is that citizens of Europe and North America are now failing even to replace themselves in terms of children. We will soon face the phenomenon of an aging population with fewer young people to drive the economy and to support the entire social structure.


Nevertheless, demographics are the symptom rather than the cause of the phenomenon of deliberate childlessness. My larger concern is with the bare fact that an anti-natalist philosophy has now infected much of the Christian church. I fully expect non-Christians to think and to act as unbelievers. Nevertheless, I am perplexed by Christians who seem to believe that marriage and reproduction can be separated while glorifying God within the marital bond.


Throughout the centuries, the Christian moral tradition has focused on the unity of the goods that God gives us. Separating these goods leads to a weakening of the structure God intended for our good. This is never more clear than in the institution of marriage. Our current confusions over marriage--even the debate over same-sex marriage--betray the fact that we have allowed an artificial understanding of marriage to dominate our thinking. The very fact that same-sex marriage can be envisioned indicates that the institution of marriage has already been fundamentally weakened. The separation of sex from marriage and the separation of marriage and sex from reproduction must surely be a contributing cause of this confusion. If marriage were clearly understood as the marital bond between a man and a woman that represented the full reception of God's gifts--including the gift of procreation and children--we would have very little misunderstanding about what marriage is.


What about the number of children? I did not raise the issue of contraception within the life of a marriage that is open to the gift of children. Elsewhere, I have argued that Christians must make contraceptive decisions with great care and that, as Christian believers, we are pre-committed to see children as gifts, rather than as incidental byproducts of the sexual act--much less as intrusions into our cherished lifestyles. I have consistently argued that Christian couples can make responsible decisions about the timing and number of children, so long as the marriage is genuinely open to the gift of children and the responsibilities of parenthood.


 At this point, my position diverges somewhat from the Roman Catholic tradition. Participating in a symposium commemorating the 30th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, the papal encyclical that conclusively dealt with the issue of contraception, I argued that, "The effective separation of sex from procreation may be one of the most important defining marks of our age--and one of the most ominous." I agreed with the predominating theme of the encyclical--that Christians must reject the "contraceptive mentality" that marks the postmodern mind.


Nevertheless, I believe that the Roman Catholic tradition focuses too narrowly on "each and every act" of sexual intercourse within a faithful marriage rather than on the marriage itself as being open to the gift of children.


To be honest, I am most perplexed by those who seem to think that the position I articulated is something new in terms of Christian conviction. Actually, the affirmation that marriage and procreation are inextricably bound together has been the consensus of Christians throughout the centuries. Consider the witness of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who addressed this issue beautifully and sensitively in his Ethics, written between 1940 and 1943. Bonhoeffer puts the case clearly: "The right of nascent life is violated also in the case of a marriage in which the emergence of new life is consistently prevented, a marriage in which the desire for a child is consistently excluded. Such an attitude is in contradiction to the meaning of marriage itself and to the blessing which God has bestowed upon marriage through the birth of a child. Certainly a distinction is to be drawn between the consistent refusal to allow children to come of a marriage and the concrete responsible control of births."


Bonhoeffer wrote these words as he was leading a congregation through the agony of Nazi persecution. His thought was necessarily clear and his point was urgent. Even under the threat of Nazi tyranny, marriage was to include the hope of children and the desire to receive them as God's gifts. Surely, we can learn from his example.


Without doubt, this debate will continue. My hope is that the consideration of this great question will lead to a larger embrace of the goodness of marriage and a deeper obedience for all of us who know its delights.




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




Start a Revolution—Eat Dinner With Your Family (Christian Post, 050912)


“What if I told you that there was a magic bullet--something that would improve the quality of your daily life, your children’s chances of success in the world, your family’s health, our values as a society? Something that is inexpensive, simple to produce and within the reach of pretty much anyone?”


Miriam Weinstein begins her book The Surprising Power of Family Meals (Steer Forth Press, 2005) with those two questions and then suggests that the “magic bullet” missed by so many families is as simple as a shared meal.


Weinstein, a filmmaker and journalist, has collected an impressive body of data in order to make her case that the institution of the shared family meal represents something of vital importance for human life. Even as the family meal is fast disappearing, Weinstein has issued an eloquent call for its recovery.


As she explains, the research indicates that a shared family meal leads to the strengthening of family bonds, the deepening of relationships, and higher levels of satisfaction and effectiveness among family members. According to Weinstein, the research shows how eating ordinary, average, everyday supper with your family is strongly linked to lower incidents of bad outcomes such as teenage drug and alcohol use, and to good qualities like emotional stability. It correlates with kindergartners being better prepared to learn to read. (It even trumps getting read to.) Regular family supper helps keep kids out of hospitals. It discourages both obesity and eating disorders. It supports your staying more connected to your extended family, your ethnic heritage, your community of faith.


That’s not all. Weinstein also argues that the regular rhythm of family meals will “help children and families to be more resilient, reacting positively to those curves and arrows that life throws our way. It will certainly keep you better nourished. The things we are likely to discuss at the supper table will anchor our children more firmly in the world. Of course eating together teaches manners both trivial and momentous, putting you in touch with the deeper springs of human relations.”


Weinstein makes a compelling case, and her book is sure to prompt many parents to think about what has been lost as the family meal has been eclipsed by other activities and by the cult of individualism that has undermined our communal life.


At the same time, Weinstein understands the complexities of modern family life. She does point back to a golden age of shared family meals in the past, but she acknowledges that families now find themselves drawn in too many directions all at once. In once sense this is the larger problem, and the eclipse of the family meal is only a symptom of what has gone badly wrong.


In reality, families did not merely decide to stop eating together. The rhythms, complexities, and chaos of today’s lifestyles simply produced a reality that made shared family meals almost impossible.


Any number of factors play a role in marginalizing shared family meals, but Weinstein points to some of the most easily identifiable among these factors. For parents, the issue is often work schedules and fatigue. As millions of mothers have moved into the workforce, the elaborate ritual of the nightly family meal has often given way to the urgency of getting family members fed as a necessity of human need--rather than as the focus of a shared event. For adults, evening hours are often filled with extended work, social commitments, and the practicalities of keeping life together in the midst of frenzied lifestyles.


For kids, the enemies of shared family meals include burdensome homework and extracurricular activities--especially teen sports. A study conducted by the University of Michigan Survey Research Center indicates that between 1981 and 1997, the amount of time that children spent watching other people play sports rose five-fold. This study doesn’t even take into account all the time children now spend playing sports themselves.


“We are living in a time of intense individualism in a culture defined by competition and consumption,” Weinstein observes. “It has become an article of faith that a parent’s job is to provide every child with every opportunity to find his particular talent, interest, or bliss. But somehow, as we drive-thru our lives, we have given up something so modest, so humble, so available, that we never realized its worth. Family supper can be a bulwark against the pressures we all face everyday.”


The shared family meal fulfills more than the function of feeding the family. In the intimate sphere of the shared meal, children learned how to engage in conversation and how to enjoy the experience of hearing others talk. The family meal became the context for sharing the events of the day, for dealing with family crises, and for building the bonds that facilitate family intimacy. Parents taught children how to think about the issues of the day by making these a part of the conversation that was shared around the table. Gentle admonitions and direct correction taught children how to respect others while eating, instilling an understanding of the basic habits that encourage mutual respect and make civilization possible.


Weinstein may hold what some view to be a rather romantic understanding of the shared meal, but she defends her argument by asking readers to remember the family meal times of their own childhood. For most of today’s adults, there is still at least some memory of shared family meals and the experience of respecting meal times as a priority.


Something even more fundamental is at work here. Throughout human history, meals have been important opportunities for the establishment and maintenance of relationships--for the forging of bonds and the deepening of intimacies. The shared family meal--especially the shared supper--is one of the few opportunities when parents and children look each other in the face for a sustained amount of time and have the kind of contact, matched with conversation, that they desperately need.


On this point, Weinstein marshals a considerable body of empirical data. In 1996, the national Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University [CASA] ran a study intending to see what differentiated kids involved in substance abuse from those who were not. CASA has repeated the surveys every year since. “And every year, eating supper together regularly as a family tops the list of variables that are within our control,” Weinstein reports. “Kids who eat more family dinners do better than those who eat a few. Kids who share a few dinners weekly do better than the ones who have none at all.”


The 2003 survey indicated that children and teens who share dinner with their families five or more nights a week were 32% likelier never to have tried cigarettes, 45% likelier to have never tried alcohol, and 24% likelier never to have smoked marijuana. “Those who eat lots of family dinners are almost twice as likely to get A’s in school as their classmates who rarely eat as a family,” Weinstein adds.


These days, many families find themselves eating in the car, scattered throughout the house, or facing a television set. Weinstein interviewed Witold Rybcezynsky, author of some of the most influential recent books on architecture and community, and asked him about the most beneficial setting for a shared family meal. In a fascinating response, Rybcezynsky largely ignored the question of place, but pointed to a more urgent issue. “We eat facing each other,” he insisted. “It’s the facing each other that’s important.”


Writing from a Jewish perspective, Weinstein understands the importance of ritual and structure in the lives of families. She is undoubtedly correct that the shared family meal becomes a barometer of family life and priorities. Her encouragement to restructure family schedules and priorities in order to recover the shared family meal is eloquently and convincingly sustained by her argument.


Christians recognize an even deeper dimension of what Weinstein observes. Christian parents should understand that the shared family meal takes on an increased significance given our responsibility to teach our children faithfully, to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and to inculcate in them a respect for family life that focuses ultimately on the glory of God.


Parents in this generation now face the opportunity--and the responsibility--of recovering shared family meals as a way of recovering sanity and security in family life. Oddly enough, recovering the priority of a shared family meal represents something of a revolutionary stance against the individualism and immediacy of the larger culture. Now is the time to start a revolution--and determining to share family supper together is an important place to start.




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




Men of character, boys of fortune (, 051101)


by Rebecca Hagelin


Picture the scene: Boys and their parents gathered to discuss a “youthful indiscretion” and its consequences. I was once at such a meeting, and I was struck by the thought that what America needs perhaps more than anything else is fathers who will father.

I’m the mother of two teenage boys, and believe me, I am well acquainted with the behaviors that have led to the popular phrase “boys will be boys.” But I am also blessed to know what it means to my sons’ development and character for them to have a father who holds them accountable, is engaged in their lives, and is intimately familiar with their strengths, weaknesses, personalities and individual needs.


On that particular evening, several parents had heavy hearts. Their sons, with no ill intent, had landed in trouble by making some pretty sophomoric decisions (specifically, entering a nearby abandoned house). Sounds pretty innocuous -- except that there were “No trespassing” signs posted in clear view. But that incident (thank goodness, now but a memory) ended up being a lesson in life for the boys -- a lesson that will undoubtedly help them avoid making bigger mistakes later in life. Why? Because their fathers stepped in to make certain that the lessons were learned.


That’s the kind of father my sons have. This month, my husband and I celebrate 21 years of marriage, and I consider myself one of the luckiest wives on earth. My husband is my hero (for many reasons which shall remain private!) but one I am willing to discuss is the fact that he’s an amazing father to our three children.

I recently had the privilege of watching my eldest son become an Eagle Scout. I peeked my head around the corner just in time to hear the District Council representative of the Boy Scouts say to my son, “Congratulations. Your rank of Eagle Scout begins tonight.”


About 30 minutes earlier, Drew had emerged from his hour-long Eagle Scout Board of Review both relieved and nervous. Although the official ceremony will take place in the coming months, for Drew the night was the final requirement of nearly a decade of achieving goals, working hard, earning merit badges, volunteering and developing leadership skills. For me, it was a night to reflect both on the man that Drew has become, and on the man that helped him accomplish one of the greatest achievements possible for young men.


I am proud of my son, but I am absolutely enamored with my amazing husband.


Plainly put, Drew would never have made the rank without the support, encouragement, guidance and love of his father. Yes, Drew worked hard over many years, but it was his father that coached him, went on countless camping trips, studied with him, taught him about discipline, and most of all, showed him how to be a committed leader and a man of strong character.


Social science research, statistics and real life unequivocally tell us that the safest, healthiest, most nurturing place for children is in a home with a mother and father who are married to each other. Yet, according to the National Fatherhood Initiative, some 24 million children live in homes where fathers are absent, meaning one in three children “go to sleep in a home in which their father doesn’t live.” Fatherlessness is the great American tragedy of modern times.


Given that so many children lack the fathers they need and crave, why is it that the popular culture constantly devalues the role of fathers instead of building it up?


Flip on the television and watch for just one evening. You’ll find that virtually every commercial and sitcom portrays fathers as either wimpy or ignorant. The message to our kids is pretty clear: Dads are losers.


What does that say to our children about the value of their own fathers? To young boys about their own possible futures as fathers? To young girls about what to look for in a future husband? To the men who are already dads?


The media must be crazy. But I ain’t crazy -- either as a columnist or a wife. So as just one small voice in today’s mass media, I’m going to do my part to say to all the great dads out there, “Thank you. We need you.”


And to the wonderful fathers of the families we are so thankful to have as close friends and allies in the effort to raise boys of character, I say, “Thank you. It is a true blessing to have you in our lives.”


And to my wonderful husband -- the man of my dreams -- “Thank you. I love you. Happy Anniversary to the best dad in the world.”




Why Moms and Dads Matter—New Research (Christian Post, 051103)


“In the last four decades, a feminist revolution has swept the globe,” observes W. Bradford Wilcox. Indeed, a rising tide of feminist concerns has reached almost every part of the world, with ideological feminism exerting its greatest influence in Western Europe and North America. The feminist revolution Wilcox describes has brought, he acknowledges, “many beneficial changes to our world.” Nevertheless, the same movement has “brought less welcome developments to the global scene,” and one of the most unwelcome of these developments is what Wilcox describes as “the androgynous impulse.”


W. Bradford Wilcox serves as Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia, and is the author of Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands. In the November 2005 issue of Touchstone magazine, Wilcox confronts the “androgynous impulse” in his article, “Reconcilable Differences: What Social Sciences Show About the Complementarity of the Sexes and Parenting.”


In one sense, androgyny--the blending of the sexes and the denial of gender differences--has been part of ideological feminism from the beginning. The androgynous have denied basic gender differences by suggesting that distinct roles for men and women, along with distinctive gifts and abilities, are a product of oppressive social conditioning. The suggestion that men and women differ in any basic respect--other than the biological--has been roundly denied and denounced.


Wilcox traces this “androgynous impulse” to international bodies associated with the United Nations. He documents the role played by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women [CEDAW]. “This committee has called on countries like Armenia and Belarus to end public policies and practices that support distinctive maternal roles for women, such as Mother’s Day and maternal leave policies,” Wilcox reports. “Instead, it and other proponents of this type of feminist agenda would like to see public policies that promote an androgynous parenting ethic where fathers and mothers devote equal amounts of time to parenting, and parent with essentially the same style of parent-child interaction.”


In Great Britain, this is currently a matter of hot controversy. The British government is considering legislation that would equalize parental leave policies for men and women--and would encourage men to stay at home with their young children so that their wives can re-enter the workplace. Similarly, the current government in Spain has argued for making paternal leave mandatory in order to equalize male and female roles.


Wilcox sees a big problem with this approach. “The primary problem with this androgynous impulse is that it does not recognize the unique talents that men and women bring to the most fundamental unit of society: the family. A growing body of social scientific evidence confirms what common sense and many of the world’s religions tell us: Men and women do indeed bring different gifts to the parenting enterprise.”


Thus, Wilcox argues that governments should seek to protect rather than prohibit the distinctive and complementary parenting roles and styles that fathers and mothers represent.


For several years now, Bradford Wilcox has been producing some of the most interesting research in the social sciences. His path-breaking work Soft Patriarchs, New Men turned the conventional scholarly wisdom on its head. The prevailing orthodoxy in the social sciences assumed that conservative evangelical fathers would be less engaged with their children and more likely to be characterized by harsh and abusive parenting styles. Wilcox found the opposite to be the case--evangelical Christian fathers tended to be more engaged and less harsh than the population at large.


Now, he turns his considerable talents and scholarship to the issue of the complementarity of the sexes in the task of parenting the young.


At the onset, Wilcox acknowledges that not every mother or every father will possess all of the sex-specific gifts he will describe. “Nevertheless, most fathers and mothers possess sex-specific talents related to parenting,” he insists, “and society should organize parenting and work roles to take advantage of the way in which these talents tend to be distributed in sex-specific ways.”


Beyond this, he argues that the task of raising children requires many different parenting talents, and one sex “tends to excel in each of them.” For this reason, “society should build on these comparative sex-specific advantages by letting each sex take the lead in the domains where it excels.” Of course, this means confronting the androgynous impulse head-on.


Wilcox first takes a look at the distinctive talents of mothers. Essentially, he explains that mothers bring three particular talents to the task of parenting: “their capacity to breastfeed, their ability to understand infants and children, and their ability to offer nurture and comfort to their children.”


Ideological feminism doesn’t know what to do with breastfeeding. On the one hand, the discipline of breastfeeding requires a considerable investment of time on the part of the mother, making her rapid re-entry into the workplace unlikely. On the other hand, breastfeeding is understood to be tied to infant health and is a natural means for feeding and nurturing babies. As Wilcox explains, “The medical literature on the advantages of breastfeeding could not be clearer. Breast milk offers infants a range of sugars, nutrients, and antibodies unavailable in infant formula. It protects infants against at least eleven serious maladies, from ear infections to sudden infant death syndrome.” At this point, Wilcox acknowledges, “Mothers clearly have a very sex-specific advantage in parenting.” This is an advantage recognized, honored, and respected by most husbands.


Nevertheless, Wilcox insists that maternal advantages do not end with breastfeeding. He suggests that mothers excel in interpreting the physical and linguistic cues sent by their children. From the beginning, mothers are more sensitive to the distinctive cries of infants--able to distinguish between a cry of pain and a cry for attention. Beyond this, mothers are better than fathers at interpreting the emotional state of their children. This maternal talent is extended throughout the child’s school years and adolescence. As Wilcox recounts, “Adolescents report that their mothers know them better than their fathers do.”


Does biology play a part? Wilcox points to research that indicates that mothers “are primed by their hormones to engage in nurturing behavior such as hugging, praising, or cuddling.” Specifically, the hormone peptide oxytocin, released in a woman’s body during pregnancy and breastfeeding, may make mothers more interested in bonding with children. Whatever the cause, mothers tend to be better at nurturing and seem to find greater enjoyment in the nurturing task. “Children know this,” Wilcox observes.


Fathers, on the other hand, “excel when it comes to discipline, play, and challenging their children to embrace life’s challenges.” This “array of distinctive talents” indicates the importance of fathers to the parenting task.


Wilcox observes that mothers discipline their children more often than do fathers due to the larger amount of time they spend with the children. Nevertheless, “fathers do have a comparative advantage in this area,” Wilcox insists. He explains: “Typically, fathers engender more fear than mothers in their children because their comparatively greater physical strength and size, along with the pitch and inflection of their voice, telegraph toughness to their children. Fathers also are more assertive than mothers in their dealings with their children, and are less likely to bend family rules or principles for their children. In a word, fathers tend to be firmer and more compelling disciplinarians than mothers.”


This appears to be especially important in the raising of sons. Fathers “are more likely than mothers to get their boys to respond appropriately to their disciplinary strategy,” Wilcox argues, “both because of their uniquely firm approach to discipline and because boys seem more likely to respond to discipline from someone of the same sex.”


In addition, fathers play with their children in a distinctive way. Fathers are more likely to be physically engaged with their children--including infants and toddlers--and to be involved in play just for the sake of play. This paternal play plays a role in building social skills and a sense of self-control. “The playful side to fathers teaches their children how to regulate their feelings and behavior as they interact with others,” Wilcox explains.


Fathers also play an important role in challenging children to face the outside world. “Compared to mothers, fathers are more likely to encourage their children to take up difficult tasks, to seek out novel experiences, and to endure pain and hardship without yielding,” Wilcox notes.


Interestingly, Wilcox argues that fathers’ strengths in the arenas of discipline, play, and challenging behavior are tied to the distinctive position fathers fill in the family structure. “Because of the smaller role they play in procreation and because they do not have the same hormonal priming to engage in nurturing behavior as mothers do, fathers are--to some degree--more distant from their children and, more generally, from the daily emotional dynamics of family life than are mothers,” he asserts.


Some fathers may translate this distance into neglect. Nevertheless, the attentive father takes advantage of this distance “to engage their children in a distinctively fatherly way.” By this, Wilcox means that fathers often feel freer to challenge their children and to be firm in discipline. Accordingly, fathers are more likely to push their children toward an adventurous future.


Wilcox understands that the most controversial dimension of his research has to do with the distinctive role of fathers. He argues that boys “learn self-control . . . from playing with and being disciplined by a loving father.” Thus, boys who live with engaged fathers are much less likely to demonstrate the overly-aggressive behavior of what is described as “compensatory masculinity.” Without the controlling influence of a father, boys are much more prone to translate masculinity into violent behavior.


But fathers also play an important role in the raising of girls. The research indicates that fathers fulfill a very important function in minimizing the likelihood that their daughters will be sexually active prior to marriage. As Wilcox explains, “Fathers also protect their daughters from premarital sexual activity by setting clear disciplinary lines for their daughters, monitoring their whereabouts, and by signaling to young men that sexual activity will not be tolerated.”


The androgynous impulse represents a pernicious influence in society at large. By denying that men and women bring distinctive gifts to the parenting tasks as fathers and mothers, those who push this agenda weaken the family and, if successful, would rob children of the complementary parenting styles they need.


Wilcox’s point is clear--the culture at large (and governmental authorities in particular) should respect rather than denigrate the distinctive parenting talents brought by mothers and fathers. His research should also serve to remind moms and dads of our shared responsibilities in the raising of our children. We should respect each other’s distinctive talents and responsibilities.


Beyond this, Christians should understand that the Creator has created the family and the roles of mothers and fathers so that children would receive all that is necessary for them to be raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Above all, Christian parents should understand the gravity of this responsibility and should see the complementarity of the sexes as a testimony to the glory of God.


We are indebted to Bradford Wilcox for reminding us that moms and dads are important. Just how confused must one be in order to miss this?




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




America’s Parents Served Notice (Christian Post, 051104)


Who decides what children will be taught about sex? The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals served notice on America’s parents this week, ruling that parents of elementary-aged school children have no right to be the “exclusive providers” of sex information to their children.


The Ninth Circuit is generally considered to be America’s most left-wing court. Nevertheless, the decision handed down on November 2 represents one of the most outrageous infringements upon parental rights ever made by an American court.


The case originated in California, where a group of parents filed suit against the Palmdale School District because their elementary-aged children had been asked questions about sexual topics without parental notification or control. In its decision, the court simply told the parents they had no right to complain.


The case was sparked by a survey the Palmdale School District had conducted in order, school officials said, to evaluate psychological barriers to learning. The schools had used volunteer mental health counselors to develop and administer a psychological assessment questionnaire for children in the first, third, and fifth grades. According to the district, the goal was to “establish a community baseline measure of children’s exposure to early trauma.” Parents had been sent a consent letter which did not explicitly mention that any question would involve sexual topics. The parents discovered the sexual content of the questionnaire when their young children came home troubled by the experience.


Most parents would be shocked to know that these first, third, and fifth graders had been asked to evaluate whether they have been traumatized by, for example, “touching my private parts too much.” The survey also asked the children their feelings about thoughts related to “touching other people’s private parts,” “thinking about sex when I don’t want to,” “having sex feelings in my body,” and “getting upset when people talk about sex.” We can be fairly confident that most parents would be upset when people talk about sex with their young children.


After all, how many first graders have any concept of sex? Most parents would see these young children as needing protection from the very knowledge of sex, much less the intrusion of questions related to their own sexual feelings and perceptions.


The parents sued the School District contending that the right to “determine when and how their children are exposed to sexually explicit subject matter” is a fundamental due process right. They argued that, as the children’s parents, they have a fundamental right “to control the upbringing of their children by introducing them to matters of and relating to sex in accordance with their personal and religious values and beliefs.”


When the case was appealed to the Ninth Circuit, the three-judge panel dealt the parents a serious blow. The court’s written decision, written by Judge Stephen Reinhardt, declared that “the right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children is not without limitations.”


Judge Reinhardt went on to argue that the federal courts “have upheld the constitutionality of school programs that educate children in sexuality and health.”


What about the rights of parents? Judge Reinhardt, citing a precedent from the First Circuit, simply declared that “once parents make the choice as to which school their children will attend, their fundamental right to control the education of their children is, at the least, substantially diminished.”


This is an incredible statement. America’s parents are now being told that, if they choose to educate their children in the public schools, they forfeit any fundamental right to control the education of their own children. The right of parents to control the education of their children “does not extend beyond the threshold of the school door,” the judge stated. Why were these children asked about sex in the first place? The School District claimed that the children were asked these questions in order to measure their exposure to early trauma. Most parents would undoubtedly see this as an unwarranted and harmful intrusion--an abuse of state power that robbed their children of innocence and security. Nevertheless, Judge Reinhardt declared that the survey was part of “a legitimate educational objective.”


Amazingly, Judge Reinhardt simply declared that the survey was legitimate because the School District said that it was. The opinion of the parents was judged to be irrelevant. Instead, the School District was judged to possess a recognized educational expertise that enabled its officials to decide what is and is not a legitimate educational objective. As the judge explained, “The School District’s administration of the survey was rationally related to its legitimate state interest in effective education and the mental welfare of its students.”


Note carefully the final paragraph of Judge Reinhardt’s decision: “In summary, we hold that there is no free-standing fundamental right of parents ‘to control the upbringing of their children by introducing them to matters of and relating to sex in accordance with their personal religious values and beliefs’ and that the inserted right is not encompassed by any other fundamental right. In doing so, we do not quarrel with the parents’ right to inform and advise their children about the subject of sex as they see fit. We conclude only that the parents are possessed of no constitutional right to prevent the public schools from providing information on that subject to their students in any forum or manner they select. We further hold that a psychological survey is a reasonable state action pursuant to legitimate educational as well as health and welfare interests of the state. Accordingly, the parent-appellants have failed to state a federal claim upon which relief may be granted.”


Embedded within those sentences are landmines of tremendous legal significance. The public schools are now declared to have a right to present matters of sexuality to students of any age “in any forum or manner they select.” This sweeping statement represents one of the most devastating assaults upon parental rights ever encountered in our nation’s history.


Citizens who still doubt the urgency and magnitude of our legal crisis need only consider Judge Reinhardt’s statement that “there is no fundamental right of parents to be the exclusive provider of information regarding sexual matters to their children.”


This claim takes on an additional layer of concern when it is realized that these were seven, nine, and eleven year olds. The subject matter had nothing to do with human reproduction, science, or any direct education of the children. Instead, the sexual information was forced upon the children through the administration of a psychological survey.


America’s public institutions--ranging from the courts to the public schools--have increasingly come under the sway of social revolutionaries who see their role as the liberation of children from the authority of their parents. Clearly, the public schools have become the focal arena for this process of liberation.


How can parents see Judge Reinhardt’s statement that “once parents make the choice as to which school their children will attend, their fundamental right to control the education of their children, is, at the least, substantially diminished,” as anything but an open threat? Send your children to the public schools, and you forfeit the right to protect them from assault by premature exposure to sexual content and information.


The “personal and religious values and beliefs” of parents are not protected by constitutional rights, and the schools are now free to ignore the complaints and concerns of parents. After all, once the children cross the threshold of the public schoolhouse, the parents lose their say.


Will America’s parents hear this wake-up call? Just consider this declaration by Judge Reinhardt: “Parents have a right to inform their children when and as they wish on the subject of sex; they have no constitutional right, however, to prevent a public school form providing its students with whatever information it wishes to provide, sexual or otherwise, when and as the school determines that it is appropriate to do so.”


That kind of statement might be expected from a court under the Soviet regime of the past, but it hardly seems possible that an American court could hand down such a decision in the present.


This case is almost certain to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. There is no assurance that the nation’s high court will take the case, but the Ninth Circuit has one of the worst records of any court in terms of decisions later reversed.


Nevertheless, the big lesson here is the fact that a federal appeals court dared to hand down such a decision and to cloak its assault on parental rights in language that gives government officials virtual carte blanche over the sexual education of children. If this doesn’t lead to outrage among America’s parents, what will?




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




Spanking Linked to Anxiety, Aggression (Foxnews, 051114)


Children who are spanked tend to be more anxious and aggressive than those who aren’t, but this is less true in cultures where physical punishment is common, a new study shows.


Researchers interviewed mothers and their children in six countries with varying cultural norms regarding physical discipline.


They found that spanking seemed to be associated with more aggressive behavior and increased anxiety in all of the countries.


The association was weakest in Kenya, where physical punishment is culturally accepted and common. It was strongest in Thailand, where the culture generally discourages spanking.


Researcher Jennifer Lansford, PhD, and colleagues conclude that the impact of spanking seems to depend, at least in part, on the child’s view of whether the practice represents good or bad parenting.


Lansford is a research scientist at Duke University’s Center for Child and Family Policy.


“If children see that their friends are also being spanked it becomes a less aberrant experience,” Lansford tells WebMD. “But when this isn’t happening to their friends they may think that they deserve it more because they are a really bad kid or they may have a more negative view of the parent.”


Five Countries, Five Cultures


The study included 336 mothers and their children, who ranged in age from 6 to 17, living in China, India, Italy, Kenya, the Philippines, and Thailand.


The moms were asked how often they physically disciplined the children; both groups were asked to speculate about how often other parents in their country used spanking or other forms of physical discipline (such as slap, grab or shake, beat up) as punishment.


The researchers also asked a series of questions designed to measure aggression and anxiety among the children.


They found that moms in Kenya were most likely to physically discipline their children. That wasn’t a surprise, Lansford says, because spanking in the home and at school is common among people living in sub-Saharan Africa.


Children were least likely to be spanked in Thailand. Again, no surprise, she says, because parenting practices tend to reflect Buddhist teachings, which stress nonviolence.


Mothers in China were the next least likely to use physical discipline, followed by moms in the Philippines, Italy, and India.


More frequent use of physical discipline was less strongly associated with child aggression and anxiety when it was perceived as being more culturally accepted. The findings are published in the November/December issue of the journal Child Development.


Spanking in the U.S.


Americans can best be described as culturally conflicted about spanking. Many parents report having a negative view of the practice, but in one study more than 90% of those surveyed admitted having spanked their children by the age of 3 or 4.


In a 2004 study, Johns Hopkins University researchers examined spanking practices and outcomes among different racial and ethnic groups within the U.S. While spanking was linked to later behavior problems in white children, this was not true of black or Hispanic children who were spanked.


Eric Slade, PhD -- one of the study’s researchers -- tells WebMD that spanking is more culturally accepted among blacks and Hispanics in the U.S. than among whites, and this might explain its lack of a link to future behavior.


Since the studies on spanking almost universally rely on self-reported surveys, the impact of spanking on future behavior is very difficult to measure, Slade says.


In a review of the research published in 2002, 27 studies linked spanking with more physically aggressive attitudes toward other children.


“The problem is that we can’t really say from the studies if it is spanking that is causing the behavior, or some other family characteristic that isn’t easily measured,” Slade says.




“He’s Just Not That Into You”—Postmodern Secular Romance (Christian Post, 051122)


Sex and romance remain big issues in popular culture--and for good reason. In a fallen world, issues of sexuality and romantic love are prime candidates for corruption and confusion. HBO’s Emmy-winning Sex and the City may serve as the most potent symbol of the secular distortion of romance and the postmodern confusion of sexuality that is now taken for granted in many sectors of American society.


The latest evidence of this tragic confusion is found in the book He’s Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys--the best-selling nonfiction book according to recent reports. Written by two authors connected with Sex and the City, the book is the perfect introduction to the sad, empty, highly-sexualized, and amoral world of modern romance.


Authors Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccilo pack quite a punch in this little book. As the authors explain, the book grew out of an accidental conversation in the writers’ room of Sex and the City. As Liz Tuccilo explains, the female writers were “talking, pitching ideas, our personal love lives weaving in and out of the fictional lives we were creating in the room. And just like on any other day, one of the women on staff asked for feedback on the behavior of a man whom she liked. He was giving her mixed messages--she was confused. We were happy to pitch in and pick apart all the signs and signals of his actions. And just like on any other day, after much analysis and debate, we concluded that she was fabulous, he must be scared, he’s never met a woman as great as her, he is intimidated, and she should just give him time.”


But, that female conversation was interrupted by a male consultant for the program who walked into the room, Greg Behrendt. “On this day,” Liz reports, “Greg listened intently to the story and our reactions, and then said to the woman in question, ‘Listen, it sounds like he’s just not that into you.’”


This simple observation dawned as a great metaphysical discovery on the part of the female writers. “We were shocked, appalled, amused, horrified, and above all, intrigued,” Tuccilo reports. “We sensed immediately that this man might be speaking the truth. A truth that we, in our combined hundred years of dating experience, had never considered, and definitely never considered saying out loud.”


Greg Behrendt also provides his side of the story, explaining that he had the “good fortune to be the only straight male on the predominantly female writing staff” of Sex and the City. He confirms Tuccilo’s version of the story. “When a guy is into you, he lets you know it,” Behrendt instructs. “He calls, he shows up, he wants to meet your friends, he can’t keep his eyes or hands off of you, and when it’s time to have sex, he’s more than overjoyed to oblige.” According to Behrendt, “Men are not complicated, although we’d like you to think we are.”


The strategic conversation in the Sex and the City writers’ room became the catalyst for He’s Just Not That Into You as Behrendt and Tuccilo combined their talents and insights to write the book from a combined male and female perspective. The end result is something like a primer for romance according to the worldview of Sex and the City--but this time corrected by a male influence. The fact that this male influence has to be identified as heterosexual tells you a great deal about how postmodern this worldview really is.


The book is divided into sixteen chapters, most offering what is intended to be a significant lesson for women as they try to understand the men in their lives. According to Behrendt and Tuccilo, a woman should understand that a man is “not that into you” if he is not calling her, is not dating her, is not having sex with her, is having sex with someone else, only wants to see her when he’s drunk, doesn’t want to marry her, is breaking up with her, has disappeared on her, is married, is a selfish jerk, a bully, or is “a really big freak.”


The authors offer a series of excuses women make in order to rationalize the fact that the relationship is not moving forward in a way they would desire. The issue here is really quite clear. According to Behrendt and Tuccilo, women are looking for men who will initiate the relationship, sustain its development, engage in sexual relations in order to establish compatibility, and then move into deeper maturity on the way to marriage. This is the fairy tale as presented in both Sex and the City and this illuminating little book.


In the background to all this is the fact that many women are experiencing great grief in relationships with disinterested, immature, and lecherous men. However, the most interesting insight from this book is the fact that there must be many women--this is The New York Times’ best-selling nonfiction book, after all--who are doing their best to rationalize why the men in their lives appear to be disinterested in romance and responsibility.


The authors dismiss excuses such as “he doesn’t want to ruin the friendship,” “maybe he’s intimidated by me,” “maybe he wants to take it slow,” and “maybe he forgot to remember me.”


At times, the authors write with a combined voice, while individual messages from Behrendt and Tuccilo are inserted into the text. Behrendt does the hard labor in this partnership, serving as the wise and experienced man who can offer his testosterone-filled insights into the decadence, disinterest, and depravity of his fellow men.


The book is a litany of female complaints against men, followed by hypothesized reasons why men fail to deliver on their commitments. “Annie” wrote the authors to explain that her date almost never calls when he says he will, even when it is supposed to be only a few minutes later. Greg responds on behalf of the writing team, suggesting, “Here’s the deal. Most guys will say what they think you want to hear at the end of a date or phone call, rather than nothing at all. Some guys are lying, some guys really mean it. Here’s how you can tell the difference: You know they mean it when they actually do what they say they were going to do. Here’s something else to think about: Calling when you say you’re going to is the very first brick in the house you are building of love and trust. If you can’t lay this one stupid brick down, you ain’t never gonna to have a house, baby. And it’s cold outside.”


That response pretty much sums up the style of the book and the depth of its advice. Actual functioning, mature, working marriages are a far-off vision for these women. In an odd note, Liz Tuccilo tells of working with Greg Behrendt on the book in New York City, noticing that Greg “would often call his wife just to tell her that he couldn’t really talk to her right then, but he was thinking of her and would call later.” This kind of loving gesture is obviously foreign to Tuccilo’s experience. “It didn’t look like the most difficult thing in the world,” she said, “but it sure seemed nice.”


Moving on to other issues in the romantic relationship, Behrendt and Tuccilo suggest that “hanging out” is not the same thing as dating. If a man does not take responsibility to invite a woman on a date, make appropriate arrangements, and invest in the experience, he’s just not that into you.


Inevitably, the issue of sex arises in just the way we would expect, coming from writers for Sex and the City. According to these authors, if a man is attracted to a woman, he will move directly to initiating sex. “If he were into you,” they explain, “he would be having a hard time keeping his paws off you. Oh the simplicity of it all! If a man is not trying to undress you, he’s not into you.”


They completely dismiss men who do not move immediately to demand sex or men who think that sex ought to wait for marriage.


In a chapter that would seem to be unnecessary, even for the lovelorn readers of this book, Behrendt and Tuccilo explain that if a man is having sex with another woman, he is probably not a good candidate for future romance. Get this line: “If he’s sleeping with someone else without your knowledge or encouragement, he is not only behaving like a man who’s just not that into you, he’s behaving like a man who doesn’t even like you all that much.”


How do you take that advice apart? According to the Sex and the City worldview, it would presumably be just fine if the man were having sex with another woman with her knowledge or encouragement. The sex itself is not bad, wrong, or problematic according to Behrendt and Tuccilo. The issue is cheating. Writing to “Fiona,” Greg Behrendt offers this advice: “Well, you can choose to believe he is sorry. You can choose to believe he will change. But in my book, lying, cheating, hiding is the exact opposite of the behavior of a man who’s really into you.” Got it?


The following chapters offer similar advice, instructing women on the wiles and basic immaturity of men. You don’t have to read between the lines to see that these writers assume that men will use women and that women are so desperate for romance and sex that they are willing to be used.


Interestingly, marriage remains very much on the horizon. The women whose unfulfilling relationships presumably form the market for this book are desperately seeking to be married. “Every man you have ever dated who has said he doesn’t want to get married or doesn’t believe in marriage, or has ‘issues’ with marriage, will, rest assured, someday be married,” Behrendt and Tuccilo explain. “It just will never be with you.”


In an interesting exchange, “Danielle” wrote a letter explaining that the main man in her life is “just not ready” to get married. After dating for five years, “I’m only twenty-eight and people get married much later these days. And sometimes it takes longer for guys to grow up than girls. So I want to be understanding, but I’m just not sure how long I’m supposed to wait. Does he need more time or is he just not that into marrying me?”


Greg responds, “I hate to tell you this, but here’s why he feels rushed: He’s still not sure you’re the one. Yep, my lovely, I know it’s hard to hear, but better to hear it now than ten years from now. So you can stay with him and continue to audition for the part of his lucky wife, or you can go find someone who doesn’t need a decade or two to realize you’re the best thing that ever happened to him.”


He’s Just Not That Into You is the perfect portrait of postmodern romance. With romantic love isolated from the Christian worldview that gave it birth, sex, romance, and whatever is considered love are combined in a tragic mix of confusion. Nevertheless, the book--and the fact that it now ranks as the top-selling nonfiction title--tells us something Christians need to know about the worldview, experience, and tragic emptiness of so many people in modern secular America.


Feminists promised American women a festival of liberated delights, describing marriage as a domestic prison and male leadership as oppressive patriarchy. What are feminists to make of this book, these women, and this advice? Clearly, these women desperately want men to grow up, initiate relationships, lead, and move toward marriage.


Tragically, these authors--and the millions they represent--see sex as a way of luring, securing, and enticing men into romantic relationships. When these relationships fail--as this book proves they so often do--women are left feeling used, abused, empty, and hopeless. He’s Just Not That Into You represents one of the most tragic and depressing books published in recent years. Nevertheless, those of us who know the Bible’s understanding of sex, romance, and marriage should pay attention to this book and realize why the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is good news in more ways than one--rescuing us not only from sin, but from this tragic pattern of emptiness, disappointment, and confusion.


The hundreds of thousands of women reading this book desperately need the right advice--but that’s the last thing they’re going to get from a Sex and the City writing team.


[Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on November 22, 2004.]



R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




God Gives Us the Power to Meet Our Mates’ Needs (Christian Post, 060209)


God designed marriage, love, and sex. The purpose of all three is to mutually benefit each other. You have some basic needs, and your spouse has some basic needs. God intends for you to meet each other’s needs within marriage.


Paul tells us, “The man should fulfill his duty as a husband and the woman should fulfill her duty as a wife, and each should satisfy the other’s needs.” (I Cor. 7:3)


I read a story recently about a couple who were seeing a counselor for marriage problems. The wife refused to talk to her husband. Week after week, the counselor tried to get the wife to open up, but nothing worked. Finally, on the seventh visit, the counselor walked over to the woman and gave her a kiss on the cheek. She lit up, reached over, and hugged her husband and began to tell him all of the stress she’d been going through the last three months. The counselor said, “Mr. Jones, that kiss represents the kind of treatment your wife needs every day.” The husband said, “Doc, I can bring her in on Mondays and Wednesdays, but I’m not sure about the rest of the week.”


Men just don’t get it sometimes. We’re on different wavelengths. Pastor, meeting your mate’s needs is a skill that must be learned. It’s not automatic. You don’t learn it in seminary. Just because you got married does not mean you know how to meet the needs of your wife. You don’t, most likely. Meeting the needs of your mate takes skills that must be learned.


“Look out for each other’s interests, not just for your own.” (Phil. 2:4) I think about 80 percent of problems in marriage would be solved if we would internalize that verse. Beneath it all, it’s selfishness. Serve my needs and forget about yours. People don’t like to come to me for counseling because I say, “You just need to be unselfish. Grow up.”


We play a game at our house called, “Did you lock the door?” My wife has a high need for security. She was raised in the city, and she likes to have all the doors locked when we go to bed. I was raised in the country, and we never locked any door, at any point. So I have no need for that. She only remembers to ask me. “Did you lock the door?” after my head hits the pillow. A real conflict goes on in my life at that time: Am I going to meet a legitimate need of my wife for security or am I going to meet my need for comfort? It’s a battle.


There are some times I don’t love my wife. There are some times when I’m so fatigued I want to be alone, I don’t want to be around anybody. I have nothing to give. But it’s at that point in my life I say, ‘God, your power never runs dry. Your love never runs dry. Love Kay through me.’


Have you noticed how your focus shifts after we get married? Before marriage your focus is “What can I do to please you?” That’s called dating. After you get married it’s “Get it yourself!” What happened? There was a shift in focus.


Maybe you are saying, “Where am I supposed to find the energy and power to meet the needs of my mate when I’m worn out?” Paul tells us in Philippians 2:13, “God, who is at work within you, will give you the will and the power to achieve his purpose.” Whatever God asks you to do (expects you to do), he always empowers you to do.


God says he wants to help you, empower you, to meet the needs of your mate. Human love wears out. There are some times I run dry. There are some times I don’t love my wife. There are some times when I’m fatigued, and I want to be alone, I don’t want to be around anybody. I have nothing to give. But it’s at that point in my life I say, “God, your power never runs dry. Your love never runs dry. Love Kay through me.” And if I trust him, he gives me the power to meet the needs of my wife when I don’t have the energy.




Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America’s largest and best-known churches.




When Bigger is Better (Christian Post, 060207)


I first learned of America’s largest family last December, from an article in USA Today. According to the story, Vladimir and Zynaida Chernenko were celebrating the birth of their seventeenth child, David, who was born December 7, 2005.


Yes, that’s right. The Chernenko’s have 17 biological children and are a very happy family!


Immigrants fleeing religious persecution in the Ukraine, Vladimir and Zynaida moved their family to America six years ago. Their 24-year marriage has produced Sergey (22), Lilia (21), Andrey (19), Dmitry (18), Anatoly (17), Lyudmila (16), Anna (15), Vitaly (13), Oksana (12), Svetiana (10), Inna (9), Vyacheslav (8), Paul (6), Diana (5), Alina (4), Timothy (2), and David (8 weeks).


Interestingly, about the same time I read about the Chernenko family, I also discovered an old book on a bookshelf in an antique store, written by the late Dr. John R. Rice, an influential Christian evangelist as well as founder, former editor, and publisher of the Sword of the Lord newspaper. The book’s copyright was 1946 and titled, The Home: Courtship, Marriage, and Children. I quickly purchased the volume from the antique dealer because inside its pages was a chapter about birth control that was nothing less than powerful and most pertinent to our time.


Keep in mind, however, Rice’s remarks in the book were made long before birth-control devices or information were widely disseminated. Rice noted at the first of the chapter:


“The Roman Catholic Church has steadfastly insisted that the use of contraceptives and the limiting of families, or preventing conception, is a sin. Conservative Protestant leaders who believe the Bible and stand for historic Christianity have usually taken the same position. And common people everywhere have felt ... there was a great danger in the spread of information about birth control, or in the general practice of birth control.”


Rice went on to say that at the writing of his book every State in the Union, except two, prohibited the general dissemination of information about birth control.


Only a nation that has now completely embraced contraception would baulk at a couple having more than two or three children, and be absolutely horrified at the thought of having 17 like the Chernenkos. Yet this is the current situation in America.


In his book, Rice rightly contended the argument for contraception largely came from anti-Christian sources. He writes:


“A radical minority, usually anti-Christian or modernists who deny the authority of the Bible, carry on an insistent propaganda for birth control. Some of them, no doubt, are sincere and hope to do away with some of the handicaps and poverty, which some large families undergo. But usually those who are outspoken advocates of birth control are either feminists, or the radical groups trying to make women more or less independent of men, or are social radicals who advocate companionate marriage, easy divorce, or free love, and the radicals who try to break down the Bible standard of permanent marriage between one man and one woman ....”


Rice then argues contraception is generally wrong because all life comes from God. He cites a pamphlet, once written by Dr. B.H. Shadduck, titled, Stopping the Stork, where Shadduck suggests facetiously that if people want to limit the size of their families, they should wait until their child is two years old and then decide whether to kill the child. “There would be very little limiting of families, you may be sure, on that basis,” said Rice. “Nearly every child is its own proof that it had a right to be born. The love and joy and pride that come from a child proves that God was giving an infinite blessing when the child was given, and that it would have been a foolish sin committed against their own happiness for the father and mother to have prevented the conception of that little one which later turns out to be so precious,” he notes.


The Chernenkos would certainly agree with that statement. The USA Today story reports Vladimir saying, “I sincerely believe in God, and I believe my children are a gift from God.”


In fact, Rice argued that bigger families are better than smaller ones. “Every reason for one child is a reason for other children,” he said. “If one child brings happiness, more children bring more happiness. All parents of large families bear testimony to this. Nearly every argument against large families is a theoretical argument. When applied to a particular case, it does not stand up. There may be some theoretical argument for not having another baby, but when the baby comes, actually God provides for the tenth one as well as the first one, and the tenth one is loved as much as the first one, and adds as much to the happiness of the home. Within the limits God has set in nature, more children, mean more provision from God, more happiness.”


Furthermore, contended Rice, generally speaking “children reared one or two to a family are selfish and undisciplined.” “Children out of big families have more sense of responsibility,” he said. “The mother who has a half dozen children is almost compelled to have some of them dry the dishes, some of them sweep the floor, some of them look after the baby,” wrote Rice.


Zynaida Chernenko says that’s the way it is in her family. USA Today reports her to have said that her older children help with the cooking and cleaning, as well as child-care duties. It has to be that way. “The children share duties and responsibilities, with the older ones filling in,” she said. According to 17-year-old Anatoly, “The siblings do not squabble about portion sizes, TV channels or other matters because their Dad has driven home the importance of putting aside selfishness in order to survive as a family.”


Such children are obviously getting a form of character education the schools could never provide. Rice noted:


“It is not often that an only child becomes great and famous. But very frequently the men of genius and of outstanding character and usefulness come from large families. John and Charles Wesley came from a family of nineteen, born to Samuel and Susannah Wesley. Note the example of Benjamin Franklin who was fifteenth in a family of seventeen .... Children who have their own way, who never have to give up to others, do not make as good citizens, do not make as good husbands or wives, do not make as good Christians, as those who grew up in large families. Lord Byron was a genius, but a very unhappy man and certainly not a great blessing to mankind. His rearing without the blessing of a large family could not keep Lord Byron from being a genius, but certainly it did not fit him for the humanitarian worth to bless society as John Wesley and Benjamin Franklin blessed it .... Overindulgence, the sin that ruins so many children in small families, becomes more or less impossible in large families.”


Lastly, Rice contended that socialistic influences in government were, in part, precipitated by a contraceptive mentality. When contraception is embraced by a culture, there is a shift from an emphasis on family to an emphasis on government. In other words, Social Security takes the place of children caring for their parents in old age, which is a biblical command (I Tim. 5:4). Government welfare programs and not the support of strong, caring family-units become the substitute for help during difficult times.


I do not mean to contend every family ought to have as many children as the Chernenkos. There are some exceptions, when non-abortifacient contraceptives or natural family planning might be warranted. It is my purpose, however, to convey how far we’ve fallen. The prevailing practice of contraception today, which has throughout history grown out of the most-wicked of sources, is in no way consistent with Christian history, teaching, or practice. It has resulted in a culture of death that treats children like a disease, undermined the family and our national character, and in part, helped produce the welfare state. It has caused us to consider families like the Chernenkos as something freakish, rather than something glorious!


Christians definitely need to revaluate many of their current beliefs and attitudes regarding contraception, especially in light of the need to reclaim our nation for Christ. In that spirit, I submit one final quote from Rice’s book:


“Why should not those who are real Christians set out to obey the command of God in multiplying and replenishing the earth with large families? Why not rear sons and daughters who can make a multiplied impact upon the world for God? A large family, when they are reared in a Christian home and according to Bible standards, is the most important contribution any home can make to society. If Susannah Wesley had had a billion dollars to spend for the uplifting of the poor and fallen, for the support of orphan children and widows, for the endowment of halls of learning, she could not have made a contribution to the welfare of society to be compared for an instant with what she did in furnishing John and Charles Wesley to the world! The other Wesley children seemed to have been fine men and women also. But if Susannah Wesley had had only two children, they would not have been John and Charles. Without the large family and the system of training inaugurated by that godly mother for her large family, John and Charles Wesley would not have been what they became, the leaders in a great evangelical revival.”


Indeed. When it comes to family, Dr. John R. Rice advocated the Christian position and the Chernenkos demonstrate it — bigger is better.


“Be fruitful, and multiply ...” (Gen. 1:28; 9:1). “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate” (Ps. 127:3-5).




Rev. Mark H. Creech ( is the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.




Are Stay at Home Moms “Letting Down the Team?” (Mohler, 060224)


Are stay at home moms a threat to civilization? Those of you who are shocked by this question should take note of the fact that ABC’s “Good Morning America” program devoted segments to this question on two successive days, featuring the arguments of Linda Hirshman, a prominent feminist thinker.


“I am saying an educated, competent adult’s place is in the office,” Hirshman told “Good Morning America.” In other words, moms who stay at home with their children have given themselves to a calling that no educated or competent adult should desire or accept


Hirshman threw herself into the debate over motherhood last year, when she responded to a spate of media reports that indicated an amazing trend—large numbers of highly educated young women on elite college and university campuses indicated that they did not intend to pursue a career outside the home, but to give themselves to being wives and mothers.


Hirshman’s response was vehement and verbose. Writing in the pages of The American Prospect, Hirshman argued that “feminism has largely failed in its goals.” As she explained, “There are few women in the corridors of power, and marriage is essentially unchanged. The number of women at universities exceeds the number of men. But, more than a generation after feminism, the number of women in elite jobs just doesn’t come close.”


According to Hirshman’s diagnosis, this problem is largely traceable to the fact that too many women are staying at home with their children. In particular, she attacked the notion that women should feel free to choose motherhood as a life calling. In attacking “choice feminism,” Hirshman asserts that women who give themselves to mothering undermine the status of all women and threaten the emergence of an egalitarian civilization.


In her article in The American Prospect, Hirshman reviewed a wealth of data. Interestingly, the statistics she expects her readers to find so disappointing will be the cause of surprise and hope for those who value the family, parenthood, and the responsibility of child rearing. As she explains, the census numbers for all working mothers have fallen modestly since 1998, after having leveled off around 1990.


Concerned by these statistics, Hirshman decided to undertake some research of her own. She selected a sample of young women who had been identified as brides in the “Sunday Styles” section of The New York Times in 1996. Hirshman believed that “the brilliantly educated and accomplished brides” of her sample would be indicative of the way this generation of young women is approaching career, marriage, and motherhood.


As Hirshman relates: “At marriage, they included a vice president of client communication, a gastroenterologist, a lawyer, an editor, and a marketing executive. In 2003 and 2004, I tracked them down and called them. I interviewed about 80 percent of the 41 women who announced their weddings over three Sundays in 1996. Around 40 years old, college graduates with careers: Who was more likely than they to be reaping feminism’s promise of opportunity? Imagine my shock when I found almost all the brides from the first Sunday at home with their children. Statistical anomaly? Nope. Same result for the next Sunday. And the one after that.”


This section of her article is startling, to say the least. Like Hirshman, I must admit that I am surprised by her data. Nevertheless, the fact that so many talented, highly educated, and promising young women were giving themselves to motherhood is a source of genuine hope and encouragement.


Hirshman went on to describe additional findings in her research. “Ninety percent of the brides I found had had babies. Of the 30 with babies, five were still working full time. Twenty-five, or 85 percent, were not working full time. Of those not working full time, 10 were working part time but often a long way from their prior career paths. And half the married women with children were not working at all.”


Beyond Hirshman’s data, research indicates that far more women than men drop out of the workforce to take care of their children. In addition to this, recent research indicates that women with graduate or professional degrees are only slightly more likely to remain in the workforce after having children than women with only one year of college. “When their children are infants (under a year), 54 percent of females with graduate or professional degrees are not working full time (18 percent are working part time and 36 percent are not working at all). Even among those who have children who are not infants, 41 percent are not working full time (18 percent are working part time and 23 percent are not working at all).”


From Hirshman’s perspective, it only gets worse. “This isn’t only about daycare,” she admits. “Half my Times brides quit before the first baby came. In interviews, at least half of them expressed a hope never to work again. None had realistic plans to work. More importantly, when they quit, they were already alienated from their work or at least not committed to a life of work.”


The very fact that these women turned their back on promising careers seems virtually inconceivable to Linda Hirshman. When a female MBA expressed her lack of connection with the men at her previous workplace who got so excited about making deals, Hirshman observes all this with incredulity.


In Hirshman’s view, all this simply proves that the feminist revolution was not revolutionary enough. In other words, the revolution that opened the workplace to women did nothing, in her view, to fundamentally reshape marriage and the family power structure. “Why did this happen? The answer I discovered—an answer neither feminist leaders nor women themselves want to face—is that while the public world has changed, albeit imperfectly, to accommodate women among the elite, private lives have hardly budged. The real glass ceiling is at home.”


Thus, the problem of “the unreconstructed family” is the concern of Hirshman and many of her fellow feminists. Hirshman, retired as a distinguished visiting professor at Brandeis University, had previously taught academic courses on subjects such as “sexual bargaining.” Infused with the ideology of radical feminism, she now argues that the entire pattern of gender relations must be revolutionized.


“Great as liberal feminism was, once it retreated to choice the movement had no language to use on the gendered ideology of the family. Feminists could not say, ‘Housekeeping and child-rearing in the nuclear family is not interesting and not socially validated. Justice requires that it not be assigned to women on the basis of their gender and at the sacrifice of their access to money, power, and honor.”


Clearly, what she argues that liberal feminism was unable to propose, she now intends to take up as her central argument. She clearly believes that housekeeping and child-rearing are not interesting and should not be socially validated.


In her appearance on “Good Morning America,” Hirshman attacked the notion that women can feel fulfilled and validated in the calling of motherhood. As the ABC report indicates, “Hirshman says working is also a matter of feeling fulfilled. She doesn’t buy into the arguments of many homemakers who say taking care of the family is the most fulfilling thing they could imagine.” Hirshman’s response is a demonstration of breathtaking arrogance. “I would like to see a description of their daily lives that substantiates that position,” she said. “One of the things I’ve done working on my book is to read a lot of the diaries online, and their description of their lives does not sound particularly interesting or fulfilling for a complicated person, for a complicated, educated person.”


Get that? Hirshman is telling America’s moms that their work is fundamentally unimportant, uninteresting, and fundamentally unworthy of any “complicated” and “educated” person.


Women who stay at home with their children, turning their back on promising careers, “are letting down the team,” she asserts. They are rejecting the very feminist ideal that the radical ideologues have adopted and they are undermining the cause of all women, in Hirshman’s condescending view.


Make no mistake—Hirshman does not want women to have any real choice in the matter. “Choice feminism” is an abysmal failure, in her view, because it validates what should never be validated—motherhood.


Her answer? “Women who want to have sex and children with men as well as good work in interesting jobs where they may occasionally wield real social power need guidance, and they need it early. Step one is simply to begin talking about flourishing. In so doing, feminism will be returning to its early, judgmental roots. This may anger some, but it should sound the alarm before the next generation winds up in the same situation. Next, feminists will have to start offering young women not choices and not utopian dreams but solutions they can enact on their own. Prying women out of their traditional roles is not going to be easy.”


There is more. Hirshman argues that allowing motherhood as a choice is “bad for women individually.” Hirshman is ready to tell young women that they have no inherent right to choose a status lower, in Hirshman’s view, from what they should seek and demand in the public sphere.


“A good life for humans includes the classical standard of using one’s capacities for speech and reason in a prudent way, the liberal requirement of having enough autonomy to direct one’s own life, and the utilitarian test of doing more good than harm in the world. Measured against these time-tested standards, the expensively educated upper-class moms will be leading lesser lives.”


This is stunning stuff. In Hirshman’s view, a woman’s choice to deploy her “capacities for speech and reason” as a mother is not prudent or acceptable. Beyond this, she seems to demonstrate an inherent dislike for children in general, and infants in particular. She accuses stay at home moms of “bearing most of the burden of the work always associated with the lowest caste.” She identifies these tasks as “sweeping and cleaning bodily waste,” and condemned mothers who were described in a press account as “vigilantly watching their babies for signs of excretion 24-7” as “untouchables” by choice.


The very fact that “Good Morning America” devoted two segments to Linda Hirshman and her attack on motherhood is a significant cultural development. Of course, the ABC program included voices that opposed Hirshman’s arguments, but these arguments were considered newsworthy nonetheless.


Without doubt, Hirshman is speaking for a sizeable percentage of the cultural elite when she argues that “an educated, competent adult’s place is in the office.” In the view of so many, the office and the professional workplace are the arenas where real life is lived and important work is done. The thought that motherhood could be a higher calling than law, medicine, finance, or any number of other professions is completely beyond her comprehension. Indeed, she sees the very logic of motherhood as undermining the entire feminist project.


Thus, when she argues that stay at home moms are “letting down the team,” she means to shame young women out of motherhood and back into the workplace. At the very least, she argues that mothers should have only one baby so that they can return to the workplace in short order.


The Christian response to this article must be a combination of refutation, amazement, and affirmation of motherhood. Hirshman’s article and media appearances can serve to remind us all of the unspeakably high calling of motherhood and to the sacrifices that so many women make, day in and day out, to the raising of children, the nurture of the home, and the shaping of civilization itself.


I respond to Hirshman’s arguments from a highly privileged position—as the son, husband, and son-in-law of women who gave and give themselves to the calling of motherhood without reservation. They, like so many millions of other dedicated mothers, are the ones who demonstrate a wisdom and dedication that goes beyond anything a man can offer in terms of motherly intuition, loving devotion, and management challenges that would daunt the boldest Fortune 500 CEO.


Nevertheless, the best refutation of Hirshman’s awful argument is the happiness experienced by so many mothers and the evidence of motherly love and attention in the lives of their children.


These women are not “letting down the team.” To the contrary, they are holding civilization together where civilization begins—in the home.




SOCIETY: The Return of Patriarchy? Fatherhood and the Future of Civilization (Mohler, 060301)


Will the world soon experience a return of patriarchy? That is the question raised by Phillip Longman in the current issue of Foreign Policy.


The magazine’s cover features a rather stunning headline: “Why Men Rule—and Conservatives Will Inherit the Earth.” That headline would be surprising in almost any contemporary periodical, but it is especially significant that this article should appear in the pages of Foreign Policy, published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The publication of this article is likely to set a good many heads to spinning.


Phillip Longman is Bernard L Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation. He is a well-respected author and researcher, whose books have included The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity and What to Do about It (2004). In his previous works, Longman has projected how falling birthrates throughout advanced societies will lead to financial, political, social, and demographic decline.


In this new article, he presses his argument to the next stage—announcing the return of patriarchy—the concept of male leadership—as essential to a recovery of higher birthrates and reproduction.


“With the number of human beings having increased more than sixfold in the past 200 years, the modern mind simply assumes that men and women, no matter how estranged, will always breed enough children to grow the population—at least until plague or starvation sets in,” Longman explains.


“Yet, for more than a generation now, well-fed, healthy, peaceful populations around the world have been producing too few children to avoid population decline. That is true even though dramatic improvements in infant and child mortality mean that far fewer children are needed today (only about 2.1 per woman in modern societies) to avoid population loss. Birthrates are falling far below replacement levels in one country after the next—from China, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea, to Canada, the Caribbean, all of Europe, Russia, and even parts of the Middle East.”


Throughout human history, a persistent fall in birthrates has served as a harbinger of cultural decline and a warning of cultural collapse. The reasons for this are many, but center in the fact that the cause of falling birthrates is often a loss of social cohesion and confidence and the effect of falling reproduction rates is a decline in economic prosperity and erosion of the social structure.


Put simply, a significant fall in birthrates means that, in the next generation, there will be fewer workers, parents, consumers, and contributors to the common welfare. As societies age, a greater percentage of the population tends toward the older end of the age spectrum—representing greater dependency and less economic contribution.


As Longman explains, many countries have attempted to address falling birthrates with aggressive encouragement for couples to have multiple children. Singapore offers “speed dating” events to citizens, intended to encourage young people to marry and have children. In Europe, the government often seeks to incentivize children by offering tax incentives and state-financed daycare systems.


In the end, these efforts seldom work. “As governments going as far back as imperial Rome have discovered, when cultural and economic conditions discourage parenthood, not even a dictator can force people to go forth and multiply,” Longman observes. “Throughout the broad sweep of human history, there are many examples of people, or classes of people, who chose to avoid the costs of parenthood. Indeed, falling fertility is a recurring tendency of human civilization. Why then did humans not become extinct long ago? The short answer is patriarchy.”


Longman’s short answer is sure to attract attention and spark controversy. His very use of the word “patriarchy” will set many teeth on edge. After all, the elimination of patriarchy has been one of the central goals of the feminist movement. According to feminist ideology—shared by vast segments of the population—is that patriarchy represents the institutionalized form of male domination. Therefore, the liberation of humanity from the last vestiges of patriarchy has been a central feminist goal.


Nevertheless, Longman argues that the return of patriarchy is almost assured, given the social crisis that will be produced by a catastrophic fall in birthrates.


“Patriarchy does not simply mean that men rule,” Longman explains. “Indeed, it is a particular value system that not only requires men to marry but to marry a woman of proper station. It competes with many other male visions of the good life, and for that reason alone is prone to come in cycles.”


Longman understands the simple fact that a great deal of cultural capital is required in order to encourage young men to marry and men of all ages to fulfill responsibilities as husbands and fathers. The normative picture of the “good life” for men, at least as presented in the dominant media culture, does not include the comprehensive responsibilities of fatherhood. When men are not stigmatized for failure to be faithful as husbands and fathers, young men will take marriage and parenthood with little significance, as many will avoid marriage and fatherhood altogether.


To some extent, the statistics tell the story. Almost twenty percent of women born in the late 1950s are nearing the end of their reproductive lives without ever having had children. Longman’s assessment is blunt: “The greatly expanded childless segment of contemporary society, whose members are drawn disproportionately from the feminist and countercultural movements of the 1960s and 70s, will have no genetic legacy.”


Beyond this, the falling birthrate contributes to many other social ills. “Falling fertility is also responsible for many financial and economic problems that dominate today’s headlines,” Longman asserts. “The long-term financing of social security schemes, private pension plans, and health-care systems has little to do with people living longer. . . . Instead, the falling ratio of workers to retirees is overwhelmingly caused by workers who were never born.”


The effects within the society are psychological as well as demographic, political, and financial. As Longman understands, declining birthrates can also affect what he calls “national temperament.” He attributes the fact that the American voting population has become more conservative in recent years to anxiety over falling birthrates. Beyond this, we must now add the fact that millions of voters, who would have been raised by more liberal parents, were simply never born.


For some, the political dynamic will attract the greatest interest. “Among states that voted for President George W. Bush in 2004, fertility rates are 12 percent higher than in states that voted for Senator John Kerry,” Longman reports. That statistic is nothing less than shocking. A twelve percent differential in data like this is highly significant and troubling. Looking to the future, Longman projects a “demographically driven transformation” of many cultures. “As has happened many times before in history, it is a transformation that occurs as secular and libertarian elements in society fail to reproduce, and as people adhering to more traditional, patriarchal values inherit society by default,” Longman argues.


But, why is patriarchy so important? Longman answers that question with great care. “Patriarchal societies come in many varieties and evolve through different stages,” he explains. “What they have in common are customs and attitudes that collectively serve to maximize fertility and parental investment in the next generation.”


A culture of patriarchy directs men to their responsibilities as husbands and fathers. Men who fail in these responsibilities are seen as inferior to those who are both faithful and effective. Furthermore, a patriarchal structure holds men accountable for the care, protection, discipline, and nurture of children. In such a society, irresponsibility in the tasks of parenthood is seen as a fundamental threat to civilization itself.


Longman quotes feminist economist Nancy Folbre, who observed: “Patriarchal control over women tends to increase their specialization in reproductive labor, with important consequences for both the quantity and the quality of their investments in the next generation.” As Longman explains, “Those consequences arguably include: more children receiving more attention from their mothers, who, having few other ways of finding meaning in their lives, become more skilled at keeping their children safe and healthy.”


Clearly, decisions about reproduction are made in connection with many other decisions and priorities in life. Research conclusively indicates that a couple’s ideological commitments are correlated to reproduction. Longman summarizes the data this way: “The great difference in fertility rates between secular individualists and religious or culture conservatives augurs a vast, demographically driven change in Western societies.”


Longman understands that his proposal will be controversial. After all, many persons associate patriarchy with either male superiority or brutal misogyny. Longman understands that these are exceptions rather than the rule. Pointing to the patriarchal excesses of Taliban rebels or Muslim fanatics in Nigeria, Longman states: “Yet these are examples of insecure societies that have degenerated into male tyrannies, and they do not represent the form of patriarchy that has achieved evolutionary advantage in human history. Under a true patriarchal system, such as in early Rome or 17th century Protestant Europe, fathers have strong reason to take an active interest in the children their wives bear. That is because, when men come to see themselves, and are seen by others, as upholders of a patriarchal line, how those children turn out directly affects their own rank and honor.”


Longman’s logic comes down to this—men are far more likely to assume and fulfill these responsibilities if the society values the role of fathers as leaders in the home, as breadwinners, and as protectors of the larger family structure and of civilization itself.


A truly Christian response to this argument must go further than cultural concerns alone can sustain. In the biblical vision, patriarchs establish a trans-generational vision for their families, looking to generations beyond with the promise that the father will give himself to the task of fatherhood and leadership in order to perpetuate the promise and establish the line.


Beyond this, Christians should understand that the Bible reveals a form of patriarchy as the norm—with men called to lead within the marital union and the family, as well as the church.


The publication of this article within the pages of Foreign Policy should send a very clear cultural signal. Something serious is afoot when one of the nation’s most influential journals directed at questions of foreign policy takes up the return of patriarchy, especially among conservative Christians, as an issue of major consideration. Throughout his article, Longman is careful to argue for what he observes, rather than what he may or may not advocate. His verdict is clear—societies that follow a patriarchal pattern tend to reproduce at a higher rate and advance, while those who devalue the role and responsibilities of men as fathers find themselves in decline.


The very fact that this argument has now found its way into the pages of a journal like Foreign Policy represents a genuine cultural development. Where this leads is yet unclear, but signs point to Longman’s thesis being proved right.




A Christian Vision of Marriage and Family (Mohler, 060517)


“For the first time in its history, Western civilization is confronted with the need to define the meaning of the terms ‘marriage’ and ‘family.’” So states author Andreas J. Kostenberger who, with the assistance of David W. Jones has written God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation.


This sense of crisis and the need for definition sets the stage for this book and its central thesis—that the only way out of our present cultural confusion is a return to a biblical vision of marriage and family.


As Kostenberger observes, “What until now has been considered a ‘normal’ family, made up of a father, a mother, and a number of children, has in recent years increasingly begun to be viewed as one among several options, which can no longer claim to be the only or even superior form of ordering human relationships. The Judeo-Christian view of marriage and the family with its roots in the Hebrew Scriptures has to a certain extent been replaced with a set of values that prizes human rights, self-fulfillment, and pragmatic utility on an individual and societal level. It can rightly be said that marriage and the family are institutions under seize in our world today, and that with marriage and the family, our very civilization is in crisis.”


In one sense, the statistics tell the story. The great social transformation of the last two hundred years has led to an erosion of the family and the franchising of its responsibilities. The authority of the family, especially that of the parents, has been compromised through the intrusion of state authorities, cultural influences, and social pressure. Furthermore, the loss of a biblical understanding of marriage and family has led to a general weakening of the institution, even among those who would identify themselves as believing Christians.


At the cultural level, Kostenberger suggests that the rise of a libertarian ideology explains the elevation of human freedom and a right to self-determination above all other principles and values. The quest for autonomy becomes the central purpose of human life, and any imposition of structure, accountability, boundaries, or restriction is dismissed as repressive and backward.


Within the Christian church, Kostenberger discerns what he identifies as a “lack of commitment to seriously engage the Bible as a whole.” As he correctly observes, evangelical Christianity has no shortage of Bible studies, media production, parachurch ministries, and the like. Yet, most Christians are woefully unaware of the deep biblical, theological, and spiritual foundations for marriage and the family that are central to the Christian tradition.


“Anyone stepping into a Christian or general bookstore will soon discover that while there is a plethora of books available on individual topics, such as marriage, singleness, divorce and remarriage, and homosexuality, there is very little material that explores on a deeper, more thoroughgoing level the entire fabric of God’s purposes for human relationships,” he observes. To fill this void, Kostenberger and Jones, along with Mark Liederbach, who contributed sections on contraception and reproductive technologies, attempt to offer an integrative approach that would establish a biblical theology of marriage and family. The primary focus of Scripture, they assert, is “the provision of salvation by God in and through Jesus Christ.” Nevertheless, the Bible also addresses an entire spectrum of issues related to marriage and the family—extended to issues such as human sexuality, gender, reproduction, parenthood, and more.


Kostenberger and his co-authors begin their consideration of marriage and family in the book of Genesis, establishing the starting point for these considerations in the doctrine of creation. Throughout the volume, a complementarian understanding of the relationship between men and women is affirmed, and the man and the woman, both created in the image of God, are assigned different responsibilities and roles.


Early in the book, Kostenberger makes an audacious claim: “Our sex does not merely determine the form of our sex organs but is an integral part of our entire being.” This flies in the face of the postmodern claim that gender—indeed the very notions of male and female—are nothing more than the product of social construction and ideology. This complementarian arrangement is correctly grounded before the Fall and its consequences.


Yet, Kostenberger gives careful attention to the effect of the Fall and the consequences that follow. Thus, sin and its effects becomes the explanatory principle for all confusion over gender, sexuality, marriage, and the integrity of the family.


In successive chapters, the book moves through a series of special topics, surveying the biblical material and presenting a systematic exposition of the Bible’s teachings. The authors balance considerations from both testaments and deal honestly with the biblical narratives concerning biblical characters. Thus, the Patriarchs become examples of faithfulness, even as their own sin and misadventures in marriage and parenting are candidly observed. The authors use a very helpful outline format in setting out the various scriptural passages and their importance to each question. In this sense, they succeed in presenting an integrative model, pulling from a comprehensive reading of the biblical text.


For example, marriage and the roles of both husbands and wives is grounded in Genesis and then traced through the entire Old Testament. Husbands are to love and cherish their wives, to bear primary responsibility for the marriage union and to exercise authority over the family, and to provide the family with necessities for life. The wife, on the other hand, is to present her husband with children, manage her household with integrity, and provide her husband with companionship. Contemporary readers may be shocked by the candor of Kostenberger’s presentation, but he grounds his arguments directly in the biblical text. Thus, readers are offered the opportunity to read the critical passages for themselves, and then to understand how Kostenberger framed his argument.


In an interesting section, Kostenberger acknowledges that, within six generations of Adam, the biblical vision of monogamy was at least occasionally compromised by the practice of polygamy. As Kostenberger observes, “While it is evident, then, that some very important individuals (both reportedly godly and ungodly) in the history of Israel engaged in polygamy, the Old Testament clearly communicates that the practice of having multiple wives was a departure from God’s plan for marriage.” Further, the Bible is clear that individuals in the history of Israel who abandoned God’s design of monogamy and participated in polygamy did so contrary to the Creator’s plan and ultimately to their own detriment. The sin and disorder produced by polygamy, then, is further testimony to the goodness of God’s monogamous design of marriage as first revealed in the marriage of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.”


In light of contemporary confusions, this is a most helpful and accurate clarification. Similarly, Kostenberger deals honestly with the Bible’s teachings concerning deviant sexual practices, ranging from homosexuality and adultery to incest.


In another helpful section, Kostenberger differentiates between “traditional” and “biblical” visions of marriage. The traditional vision is deeply rooted in middle-class experience in America. The biblical vision is not dependent upon this traditional model.


Considering the nature of marriage, Kostenberger dismisses the notion of marriage as a sacrament or as a mere contract. Instead, he argues that marriage is rightly understood as a covenant, defined as “a sacred bond between a man and a woman instituted by and publicly entered into before God (whether or not this is acknowledged by the married couple), normally consummated by sexual intercourse.” Thus, marriage is not merely a bilateral contract, but is a sacred bond. Moving from marriage to the larger family context, Kostenberger suggests that a biblical definition of family points to the structure constituted by “primarily, one man and one woman united in matrimony (barring death of a spouse) plus (normally) natural or adopted children and, secondarily, any other persons related by blood.” Citing Old Testament scholar Daniel Block, Kostenberger identifies the family in ancient Israel as patrilineal, patrilocal, and patriarchal. As Block helpfully suggests, the Old Testament family might best be described as “patricentric.” In other words, the family is centered around the father.


In the New Testament, the structures of marriage and family are explicitly affirmed, even as the church is identified as the new family of faith. Nevertheless, the emergence of the church does not eliminate marriage, family, or the bonds and responsibilities established in Creation.


In a helpful section originally contributed by Mark Liederbach, the authors survey questions related to procreation, contraception, and the use of advanced reproductive technologies. The authors write with sensitivity, but also warn against a superficial embrace of contemporary technologies as without moral and theological complication. Readers are advised to look carefully at the nature of reproductive technologies, as well as contraceptive choices, in order to evaluate such options in light of biblical principles and mandates.


Kostenberger also presents a wealth of material related to the structure of the family, parenthood, and the care and discipline of children. He deals honestly with the need for parental correction and discipline, and affirms the role of corporal punishment in the raising of the young. “Of course children will disobey—they are sinners!,” Kostenberger observes. “Parents rather should be expecting their children to sin, even after they have come to faith in Christ. Such an expectation is realistic and enables the parent to deal with each infraction calmly and deliberately, administering discipline with fairness, justice, and consistency.”


The authors also provide a very helpful consideration of the biblical material concerning homosexuality. “The biblical verdict on homosexuality is consistent,” Kostenberger argues. “From the Pentateuch to the book of Revelation, from Jesus to Paul, from Romans to the Pastorals, Scripture with one voice affirms that homosexuality is sin and a moral offense to God. The contemporary church corporately, and biblical Christians individually, must bear witness to the unanimous testimony of Scripture unequivocally and fearlessly.” In later chapters, Kostenberger deals with questions related to divorce and remarriage and to the roles and responsibilities of men and women within the church. Even those who disagree with this understanding of divorce and remarriage will appreciate his careful consideration.


Against the backdrop of civilizational crisis, Kostenberger concludes by arguing that this crisis is “symptomatic of an underlying spiritual crisis that gnaws at the foundations of our once-shared societal values.” Further, “In this spiritual cosmic conflict, Satan and his minions actively opposed the Creator’s design for marriage and the family and seek to distort God’s image as it is reflected in God-honoring Christian marriages and families.”


Thus, recovery of a biblical understanding of marriage and family is itself a witness to the gospel and to the grace and mercy of God in giving humanity these good gifts for His good pleasure. Kostenberger and his coauthors are to be congratulated on a volume that takes the biblical text seriously and seeks to apply Scripture to contemporary questions in a way that is neither arbitrary nor piecemeal. Their integrative approach will assist Christians to think through the most important issues of our day and, more importantly, lead their families to show the glory of God in the midst of a fallen world. This book should be welcomed and widely read.