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God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation – Part I

April 12, 2007

I am making my way through Andreas Kostenberger’s God, Marriage, and Family. This has been a blessing to read and refreshing. I realize that I am attempting to review a book half-way through, however, it is split into two distinct parts, so I figured I could start on the first part of the review and then finish with a second one in the near future when finished.

Part I

Part I is divided among 6 chapters dealing with a Biblical treatment of Marriage and Family throughout the Old and New Testament.

Chapter 1 – The Cultural Crisis: Rebuilding the Foundation

Kostenberger spends the first chapter introducing the occasion for writing such a book. He admits that there is no need for just another book on marriage, but one with “strong biblical remedies” rather than superficial ones concerning communication skills, enriching sex life, meeting each other’s needs, etc. There is a need to communicate how a marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church and present the glory behind that. There is a need to understand what it means to be “one-flesh”. Kostenberger accuses many Christian books on marriage of owing more to secular culture rather than a Christian worldview, being grounded in a theological and hermeneutically accurate account of the biblical teaching on marriage.

Chapter 2 – Leaving and Cleaving: Marriage in the Old Testament

The content in chapter 2 is vast and heavy at times, but so helpful. Because of the large amount of content, I will mention what I felt like were the highlights of the chapter. The majority of the content in this chapter is based on Genesis 1-3. There were three sections that really struck me as profound. (1) Kostenberger’s argument for man having ultimate responsibility for the marriage and the wife’s role as his “suitable helper” is a strong one, while certainly not new. He does a wonderful job portraying God’s initiative, not man’s, in marriage and meeting man’s need of aloneness. He helps explain the functioning subordination in role of a wife rather than an essential, since both are made in God’s image and are for his glory. (2) Kostenberger shows the cataclysmic effects of the fall on marriage – gender role confusion, pain, selfishness, and ultimately leading to death. The obvious need is for a Savior to restore and reconcile marriage and overcome the power of the devil over marriage. (3) Glimpses of the ideal in Proverbs 31 and the Song of Solomon reveal hope, liberation from self-centeredness, and the ultimate need for repentance, the Holy Spirit, and a Messiah.

Chapter 3 – No Longer Two But One: Marriage in the New Testament

Kostenberger put much energy into communicating that while Jesus taught little on marriage that does not obscure his high view of it. It is not just a human agreement but a divine yoke that has heavy significance, especially to the larger context of God’s salvation purpose – which is the groundwork for Paul discussion on marriage in Ephesians 5. Kostenberger spends a good deal of energy dealing with Paul’s teachings on marriage, displaying a fuller and higher expectations for the man and wife that our culture calls for.

Chapter 4 – The Nature of Marriage: Sacrament, Contract, or Covenant

The highlight, so far, in the book for me is this chapter. Kostenberger explains the historical Roman Catholic view of marriage as a sacrament, the western view of marriage as a human – civic contract, and the view of marriage as a covenant. Of course, the argument is in favor of a covenant marriage, displaying that the Bible speaks of marriage in covenant language. Kostenberger acknowledges the lack of covenant language concerning marriage in the New Covenant, yet marriage displays the glory of Christ and the Church – the New Covenant.

Chapter 5 – Ties that Bind: Family in the Old Testament

The Old Testament is exhaustive in its teaching on family and family relations. One important section in this chapter was on the father’s responsibility for the family. Kostenberger spends a good deal on the mother’s responsibility, doing a wonderful job explaining and applying Proverbs 31, but acknowledges the over-whelming evidence that God holds the father ultimately responsible for the physical and spiritual well-being of his family. An excellent section is on the importance of teaching your children about God. I wanted to include this quote:

“While there may be Christian Sunday school teachers and other significant teachers in a child’s life, parents must never go back on their God-given responsibility to be the primary source of religious instruction for their children “(p 103).

Chapter 6 – The Christian Family: Family in the New Testament

What is significant about this chapter is that, again, we see that God holds the fathers responsible in spiritual formation and discipline in children, especially in Paul’s writings. Kostenberger explores Jesus’ teaching on discipleship and forsaking family and his teaching on children – the kingdom’s perspective on children. Paul’s teaching includes the importance of childhood obedience and the importance of fatherhood and motherhood. One of the most important sections of this chapter was the section on the mentoring of younger women by older women teaching of Paul in his epistle to Titus.

So far, I think the significance of the book cannot be overstated. There has not been a book of this nature since Geoffrey Bromiley’s God and Marraige, which God, Marriage, and Family by Kostenberger supersedes it in content and relevance. I would think this book should be the primary text for Seminary classes on Marriage and Family. The clarity and analysis of this subject is unmatched.

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