This review appeared in the Oct-Dec 2007 vol. 164 no. 4 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.Subscribe Today
God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical FoundationCrossway Books, Wheaton, IL November 11, 2004
The authors, both of whom teach at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, explain that this book is needed because the “current cultural crisis with regard to marriage and family is at the root a spiritual crisis” and the “only solution is a return to, and rebuilding of, the biblical foundations of these institutions” (p. 19). Chapters are devoted to what the Bible teaches about marriage in both the Old and New Testaments, including the broader cultural understandings of marriage in the ancient world.
The authors discuss marriage as sacrament and covenant, the matter of singleness in the Scriptures, and the ethical issues related to childlessness and modern medical advances. Tough issues like abortion and homosexuality are treated with grace and discretion, yet with firm affirmation of the biblical grounds for opposition to these practices. Where appropriate, as, for example, on the issue of divorce and remarriage, the authors give a survey of Christian views. A final chapter argues for the limitation of church leadership positions to men. An extended listing of helpful resources for further study, organized according to the chapter topics, and a study guide, including discussion questions, make this an excellent resource on these topics.
The perspective of the authors is made clear repeatedly in the early section of the book. The biblical foundation for marriage and family, according to Köstenberger and Jones, is found in the opening chapters of Genesis. “In exploring the biblical teaching on marriage, there is no more important paradigm than God’s intended pattern for marriage presented in Genesis 1-3. . . . [T]he early chapters of this book provide the parameters of the Creator’s design for marriage in every age” (p. 32, italics theirs). They develop three principles from these early chapters in Genesis: “(1) the man and the woman are created in God’s image to rule the earth for God; (2) the man is created first and is given ultimate responsibility for the marriage relationship, while the woman is placed alongside the man as his ‘suitable helper’; and (3) the fall of humanity entails negative consequences for both the man and the woman” (p. 33, italics theirs). Although both man and woman are created in the image of God, “the man carries ultimate responsibility before God as the head of the woman” (p. 34, italics theirs). God created the woman for Adam “in order to supply his need for companionship” and as “a suitable partner both in procreation . . . and in the earth’s domestication” (p. 35, italics theirs). “Serving as the man’s ‘helper’ sums up her very reason for existence in relation to the man. Being the man’s ‘helper’ is the purpose for which the woman was created, as far as her wifely status is concerned” (p. 36, italics theirs).
According to Köstenberger and Jones, this structure of roles is the Creator’s design, based on the order of creation, and “it is only when men and women embrace their God-ordained roles that they will be truly fulfilled and that God’s creational wisdom will be fully displayed and exalted” (p. 37). In marriage the God-ordained roles for the husband are to love and cherish his wife, to have “primary responsibility for the marriage union and ultimate authority over his family including his wife,” and “to provide his wife with food, clothing, and other necessities” (pp. 40–41, italics theirs).
Throughout this book issues related to marriage and family are treated within this paradigm and the biblical text is read within this interpretive grid. Readers who share this view of the God-ordained order in the relationship of men and women will find this work helpful. They will find biblical support for those role distinctions. Throughout the book the authors discuss the implications of this view of organizational structure of male-female relationships. Those who read the Bible to teach a more egalitarian perspective will also be helped by reading this book. The authors carefully and graciously present their views and provide biblical support for their conclusions. Thus this is a helpful book for understanding a hierarchical view of men and women, though the book does not discuss alternate views.
—Glenn R. Kreider