Theology of the Household

As a follow up to the topics discussed in the series on family, church, and priorities (find the series here), and for a more fully developed understanding of the household economy as discussed here—as an organic economy rather than a collective of fragmented individuals (more on that to come)—I definitely recommend listening to this video in which Alastair Roberts discusses the biblical teaching on family and household.

Composing a Doctrinal Statement [section 9 part 3 — on Gender, Family, and Divorce]

Composing a doctrinal statement (or any other essential documents) can be one of the most arduous (but crucial) projects undertaken by a church. In this series, I’m sharing my own doctrinal statement in an attempt to provide a helpful example of a detailed statement that is worded positively, but articulated precisely enough to exclude certain theological positions for the protection and unity of the church.


Gender Relationships: We believe that God has created both men and women in His image — equal in value and in standing before Christ — but that He has delegated differing and complementary functions/roles to men and women within the family and the church. God created the man to be head over the woman as Christ is head over the church, and this headship is to find expression in both the marriage relationship and in the church. We hold to and affirm, in full, the Danvers Statement on manhood and womanhood [1].

(Genesis 1:27–28; 2:20–23; Deuteronomy 22:5; Romans 1:26–29; 1 Corinthians 11:3–16; 14:34; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 5:18–33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Timothy 2:8–15; 1 Peter 3:1–7)

Family Relationships: We believe that God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. The husband is to lead his wife, and to love her as Christ loves the church. The wife is to respect her husband, and to submit herself to the Scriptural leadership of her husband, as the church submits to the headship of Christ. Children are a heritage from the Lord, and are to be viewed as a blessing in fulfillment of the creation mandate for the glory of God. Parents are to seek to cultivate wisdom and virtue in their children by developing within them rightly-ordered beliefs, morals, and affections, that they may better know, glorify, and enjoy God. Parents are responsible to oversee their children’s spiritual and moral instruction, which includes a consistent lifestyle example and appropriate discipline (including Scriptural corporal correction).

(Genesis 1:26–28; Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 6:5–9; Psalm 127:3–5; Proverbs 19:18; 22:6, 15; 23:13–14; Mark 10:6–9; 1 Corinthians 7:1–7; Ephesians 5:18–33; 6:1–4; Colossians 3:18–21; 1 Peter 3:1–7)

Divorce and Remarriage: We believe that God disapproves of and forbids divorce, and intends marriage to last until the death of a spouse. Divorce is regarded as adultery except on the grounds of sexual immorality or the abandonment of an unbelieving spouse [2]. However, marriage to an unbeliever is not solely a legitimate ground for a divorce [3]. Reconciliation should always be the first recourse [4], with divorce being only a last resort, since any breaking of the marriage covenant is a grievous violation of God’s intended design [5]. Divorce is also permissible when a believer is in an ungodly union, such as a homosexual “marriage” [6].

(Malachi 2:14–16; Matthew 5:31–32; 19:3–12; Luke 16:18; Romans 7:1–3; 1 Corinthians 7:10–16, 39; 1 Timothy 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6)


Notes:

1] Remember from the statement on the Scriptures that you can use a statement like this to reference an external document which then becomes as binding as your doctrinal statement.

2] There is a legitimate interpretation that views the abandonment of an unbelieving spouse (1 Cor 7:13–16) as the only ground for an allowable divorce (viewing Jesus’ statement regarding immorality as merely referring to when the adultery has happened, as opposed to giving a ground for acceptable divorce); however, I don’t hold this view, and instead interpret Jesus as allowing for divorce in the case of unrepentant sexual immorality on the part of one spouse.

3] I’ve heard of people using this as an excuse to get a divorce. However, Paul doesn’t seem to allow for the believer to initiate the divorce, but rather to merely agree to it if the unbeliever insists.

4] In fact, if a divorce happens and it was unbiblical, the two parties are to remain unmarried in order to allow for reconciliation. It is only after reconciliation is no longer possible (such as when one person wrongfully remarries) that the other person is biblically allowed to remarry.

5] If we took this to heart, there would be far less divorce in the church.

6] This statement explains how the church can respond to the situation of a homosexual couple that gets saved and wishes to conform their lives to God’s standards. The church can, and should, counsel that couple to legally end their union. This is allowable because we understand that, according to the biblical defintion, a homosexual union is not a true marriage in the first place, and the couple is living in a sinful, though legal, union that must be broken off in order to obey and glorify Christ and pursue a life of discipleship.

Composing a Doctrinal Statement [section 9 part 2 — Marriage and Sexuality]

Composing a doctrinal statement (or any other essential documents) can be one of the most arduous (but crucial) projects undertaken by a church. In this series, I’m sharing my own doctrinal statement in an attempt to provide a helpful example of a detailed statement that is worded positively, but articulated precisely enough to exclude certain theological positions for the protection and unity of the church.


Marriage: We believe that the only biblical marriage is the formal union of a man and a woman in a lifelong, exclusive, comprehensive covenant. [1]

(Genesis 2:24; Malachi 2:14–16; Matthew 19:4–6; Mark 10:6–9; Romans 7:2–3; 1 Corinthians 7:10–11, 39; Ephesians 5:22–33)

Human Sexuality: We believe that any other sexual activity, identity, or expression outside of this definition of a biblical marriage, including those that are becoming more accepted in the culture and the courts, are contrary to God’s natural design and purpose for sexual activity, and thus are sinful. Any form of sexual perversion such as (but not limited to [2]) fornication, adultery, incest, homosexuality, bisexuality, bestiality, pedophilia, pornography, any attempt to change one’s sex or gender, or disagreement with one’s biological sex, are sinful perversions of God’s gift of sex, gender, and marriage. God has created us male and female, and he desires that we find joy and contentment in His design.

We believe that gender is God-given, not socially constructed or self-determined. Gender distinctions are rooted in creation, and manifested in biological, emotional, and constitutional differences [3]. Being created as a man or woman is an essential [4] aspect of our identity, transcending social customs and cultural stereotypes.

(Genesis 2:18–25; Exodus 20:14; Leviticus 18:1–30; Matt 19:4–5; Mark 10:6–9; Romans 1:26–29; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:9–10; 1 Thessalonians 4:3–8; Hebrews 13:4; Jude 7)


Notes:

1] Having a clear, biblical definition of marriage will not make your church popular, but it will mean standing on the authority of the Word of God and not compromising truth for approval. Having clear statements on marriage and sexuality also serve to protect the church in matters such as hiring staff and hosting weddings, and are the first line of defense against related legal issues. If you have a simple policy that anyone the church hires must agree with and conform to the church’s doctrinal statement, you avoid alot of agony in court. If you have a facilities use policy that the church building is not to be used for anything that goes against the church’s doctrine, then you protect yourself from lawsuits for refusing to host homosexual weddings and the like. At least right now, this is still an effective means of legal protection for the church. The day is coming very soon when churches will lose tax-exempt status over these issues. But for now at least, why not use the simple provisions our legal system has in place (left over from a time when the government thought that freedom of religion was something worth protecting, and that churches were a good to society) to protect your church from unneeded attack and hardship in these moments before the unavoidable persecution arrives? Here is a great resource on the matter.

2] It’s helpful, but not necessary, to have a list of some specific things you’re referring to, though there is no way to mention every variety of sexual sin individually, but we acknowledge that we live in a Romans 1 society in which people are inventing new ways to distort God’s design every day. The best way to cover it all is to say that any sexual activity outside of a biblical marriage is sinful.

3] That is, the makeup of maleness and femaleness is fundamentally different at the foundational, essential (see next note) level.

4] I’m using “essential” here in the technical sense of the word — that is, not to mean “really important,” but rather having to do with one’s essence, one’s ontology. In other words, we are not just created as humans, we are created as male or female humans.

Resources for the Study of Gender Roles

In my recent introductory survey of gender roles and sundry, I promised a list of resources for further study of the issue of gender roles in the home and church, complementarianism vs. egalitarianism, feminism, etc. As promised (though far later than planned) I have begun to compile a list of resources I have found helpful in the past, and hope you may find them beneficial as well. I’m sure I will add to the list in the future, and would be delighted to hear about other great resources you may know of.


9Marks:

Gene Cunningham:

Bible.org:

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood:

John MacArthur:

Phil Johnson:

Michael Patton:

Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry:

Al Mohler:

  • Dr. Mohler has some good articles and discussions on his blog. Instead of linking the many excellent articles individually, I’ll allow you to find what you wish in his categories on Manhood, Womanhood, and Marriage.

Matt Walsh:

Greg Koukl:

Douglas Moo:

Tender Warrior

In light of my article on staying power, I thought it may be beneficial to share some excerpts from a book by Stu Weber (from whom I gained much of my ideas for that post, as I’m sure you’ll see). The title of the book is Tender Warrior, and I would highly recommend it to every man reading this, especially a husband or soon-to-be husband. In fact, I know of a couple women who have read the book and benefited greatly from it as well, so I guess I would recommend it to everyone! I think you’ll find it indispensable.


Now these are the heads of the mighty men whom David had, who gave him strong support in his kingdom…They took their stand in the midst of the plot and defended it” (1 Chronicles 11:10,14). “In ancient times Homer, Virgil, and even the inspired chronicles of Israel celebrated the deeds of mighty men of valor, who possessed the stamina to fight from sunup to sundown and slay their ten thousands” (World Magazine, 5-22-2004, p. 47). We still need these men.

Wake up Call

How many times can a man hear a wake-up call without waking up?  Some men, I suppose, never do. This man almost didn’t. I’ve had two major wake-up calls at two crossroads in my life. Neither was much like the gentle ring of an alarm clock. Both were more akin to the crack of a two-by-four across the back of my skull. But I guess you could say I hit the ‘snooze’ button twice before coming awake. Some fifteen years into my marriage I experienced my second life-changing wake up call, it flashed out of Linda’s eyes. For the first time in all our years together, I saw anger there. Deep anger. Hot anger. It was absolutely clear—there would be some changes in our relationship.

It is so easy to snooze through life, or, what the Bible calls, “drifting away” (Hebrews 2:1); “being dead even while she lives” (1 Timothy 5:6); “held captive by the devil” (2 Timothy 2:26); “living in darkness” (Acts 26:20); or simply being “lost” (Luke 19:10).  Even Christians are admonished to “awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11); “so let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:6).

Men Who Have Vision

Looking ahead.  Giving direction.  Anticipating needs.  Defining the destination.  What makes a man?  First, foremost, and above all else, it is vision.  A vision for something larger than himself.  As men we often misplace our vision.   We focus myopically on houses and cars and stock portfolios and bank accounts and piling up stuff.  We imagine status and security in these things, when in fact there is no status or security if you don’t have relationships.  Too many guys squander their vision—and then wonder why they lose their families.  It’s the all too common downside to superficial definitions of success, and don’t let anyone snow you, nothing makes up for the failure of a family.

The Pillars of Manhood

The Head:  Both men and women were given the command to “subdue” the earth, and “rule over” the entire physical creation (Genesis 1:28).   The male is the one who is given the primary responsibility to rule.  A man rules and leads his family (Genesis 18:19).  Husbands are the head of the wife (Ephesians 5:23).  It is the male Christian who preaches to both genders (1 Timothy 2:12), and is to preach with all authority (Titus 2:15).  It is the male who shepherds the flock, tending, feeding, guiding, and protecting it from the wolves (1 Timothy 3:1-2; 1 Peter 5:1-3).

Initiator: At his core a man is an initiator, one who moves forward, advances toward the horizon, leads.  At the core of masculinity is initiation, the provision of direction, security, stability, and connectionSadly, some men lack this initiative, especially in the realm of providing spiritual, moral, emotional, and financial leadership for their families. A man without initiative is like a compass without a needle or a boat without a rudder.

Warrior:  A warrior is a protector.  Whether he’s stepping on intruding bugs or checking out the sounds that go ‘bump’ in the night.  Whether he’s confronting a habitually abusive Little League coach or shining a flashlight into a spooky basement.  Whether he is shoveling snow or helping women and children into the last life boat on the Titanic.  Men stand tallest when they are protecting and defending.  A warrior is one who possesses high moral standards, and holds to high principles.  He is willing to live by them, stand for them, spend himself for them, and if necessary die for them.  Ever notice how aloof a man can appear at times?  Could it be that the warrior in him is a little out of sync?  (1 Timothy 1:3; 4:6-7; 5:19-21; 6:12 “Fight the good fight of the faith”; 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline”; 2 Timothy 2:3,9; Titus 1:9).

Teacher:  A man is supposed to know things.  Like how a car runs.  Or the inner workings of a hair dryer.  Or the capitol of Nepal.  Or how many legs are on a spider.  Or how many miles to the next rest stop.  Or when the weather will turn.  It’s up to him to maintain a working knowledge of why electricity flows, dogs bark, birds migrate, hamsters die, trees lose their leaves, dads lose their hair, and girls down the street “act weird.”

And far more importantly than these subjects, a man is supposed to know God’s will and be able to impart this teaching to his family and others (Psalm 78:3; Ephesians 6:4).  More men need to see themselves as “teachers”.  Men should be able to teach “life.”  Men need to be able to distinguish truth from error (Hebrews 5:12-14), and correct children when they get on the wrong path.  They need to have the answers to the common questions of life (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and they need to know how life works.  Here was what Phyllis Therous wrote, “Small boys learn to be large men in the presence of large men who care about small boys.”

Friend:  Manhood means keeping commitments. He also must have the courage to rebuke when necessary (Proverbs 27:6).

Staying Power: Many men in our culture lack one of the marks of a man, that is, patience, steadfastness, endurance, and forbearance.  Have you noticed how badly men run in our culture?  One-third of American children are not living with their natural fathers.  Over fifteen million kids are growing up in homes without any father.  Seventy percent of men in prison grew up without a father.  It used to be, “women and children first”, but now it has become “me first”.  In contrast, godly men stand by their promises.

When marriage isn’t fun—stay in it.
When parenting is over your head—stay at it.
When work is crushing your spirit—don’t let it beat you.
When the local church is overwhelmed with pettiness—stay by it.
When your children let you down—pick them up.
When you wife goes through a six-month mood swing—live with it.

Real men stay, stay, and stay.  The heart of such power is sacrifice (Philippians 2:3-4; Luke 14:26; 9:23; Hebrews 12:1-4; James 1:2-4; 5:8-11), and genuine love for God and the people who need you (1 Corinthians 13:4 “Love is patient… love bear all things, endures all things”). Thus God still needs men who will stop running and take their stand in the midst of the plot and defend it against the Philistines until the sundown.

Man Up.

“To be a man is not a one day job… It is my duty as a man to persevere. Not that I will never fail; not that I will never fall down; but that I will never stay down.”                                                                                                                                   — Gene Cunningham


In a culture where it is cool to be sheepish and in touch with your “feminine side,” we need to give a call to men to stand up and take responsibility.

We need men with steadfast courage, with ironclad conviction, undomesticated manliness, and a fierce love for God. We need rugged men who can hold fast – who bring stability to a world of ever-shifting unsurety, consistency to a culture of non-commitment, and staying power in a nation where men retreat. We need bravehearted men who are strong and alert, men with vision to lead the way in the family, church, and culture; unapologetically masculine men, gentle and protective men, untamable warriors with unbridled commitment to their King. We need men intent on recovering biblical manliness. We need perilous men. We need men of honor. We need men with the zeal of Phinehas, who fiercely defended the worship of Yahweh; men with the gentle strength of Boaz; men with the courage of the mighty men of David. Where are these men today? Who will stand up in their place? Who will be a man of God?

Who will play the man?


“May it be written that your woman loved you, your children admired you, and the enemy feared you.” — Cliff Graham

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