Recently someone pointed me to this article from 2010 from an OPC Minister. I think it particularly bad and will spend some time pointing out its problems and hopefully correcting them.
OPC Minister (Hereinafter OPC)
Families Are of this World, but the Church Is of the Next
We begin by observing that marriage is a temporary, for-this-life-only institution. Although marriage is given us by God for several reasons, its main purpose is to symbolize the relationship between Christ and his church, as the Apostle Paul teaches in Ephesians 5:25-32. This primary and exemplary purpose is more central to the institution of marriage than childbearing, which is the means by which a marriage becomes a family.
We would note in our hymnody we sing of families being reunited in the next life,
Thus to the parents and their seed
shall thy salvation come
and numerous households will meet at last
in one eternal home
But beyond hymnody the speaks of the coming day when the circle of family will be unbroken Scripture gives us reason to think that families exist beyond this life. In the book of Revelation there is the repeated mention of Nations present in the new Jerusalem. Now, as Nations are constituted in the Scriptures as a people with a shared lineage (Genesis), a shared history (Exodus), having a common law (Deuteronomy) sharing a common land (Joshua) and having kin leadership (Judges) it seems obvious that when the book of Revelation speaks of Nations in the New Jerusalem that families, like the Church, are of the next world.
Revelation 22:1 Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Revelation 21:23And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it…. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.
Rev. Kingsbury seems to think that the new Heaven and Earth is an existence that is largely discontinuous with this life. It is better to think that what is to be expected of the new Heaven and Earth is a transfiguration of this life with all the expected continuities and discontinuities. The result of the consummation then is not abolition of this world but rather redemption of it including the redemption of a family structure that exists in the next world.
Second, on this point, though the Ephesians 5 passage does teach that Christian Marriage is analogous of Christ and the Church, Ephesians 5 nowhere explicitly teaches that this analogy is the main purpose of Marriage. Now certainly, the primary purpose of Marriage, like the primary purpose of all things that we as Christians do is to glorify God but to say that the main purpose of Marriage is to symbolize the relationship between Christ and his church goes beyond what Ephesians 5 teaches.
What do the Scriptures say?
Interestingly, no text in Scripture teaches that bearing children is a universal purpose of marriage, that is, something which should characterize every marriage. While Psalms 127 and 128, among other passages, say children are a blessing, they do not say every marriage ought to produce children.
So, what is being advanced here is that Scripture does teach that children are a blessing from God but that some marriages do not need or want to be blessed by God?
Genesis 1:28 records the “dominion mandate” given to the first married couple: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Some assume, therefore, that married couples ought be about the business of filling the earth with more people. However, God gave Adam and Eve this commandment not because they were a married couple, but because they were the married couple—that is, all mankind. Hence, the dominion mandate is given to all humanity and is to be carried out by humanity as a whole, but not necessarily by every human being. To put it another way, if Genesis 1:28 means every marriage ought to produce children, then every marriage ought also to be dedicated to agricultural productivity.
1.) Where in the text of Genesis does Rev. Kingsbury find that the reason for God’s command to be fruitful and multiply was “because they were the married couple—that is, all mankind”? Of course, that is eisegetical work on th part of Rev. Kingsbury.
2.) How is the dominion mandate given to all humanity, and to be carried out by all humanity as a whole without individual humans carrying out the dominion mandate?
3.) Genesis 1:28 does not say to Adam and Eve to be farmers, though Adam likely was a tiller of the ground. Genesis 1:28 teaches a cultural mandate that requires that all men, as God’s sub-regent, to have dominion over creation. That command to be God’s sub-regent unto godly dominion remains, just as the command remains that all men be fruitful and multiply.
Marriage’s symbolic function will be moot in glory when we have perfect union with Christ, and so it will pass away: “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage” (Matt. 22:30). If marriages pass away, then so do families. The family, in its nuclear form, grows out of and depends on a marriage for its existence; therefore, whatever is true of the greater (marriage) is true of the lesser (family).
Even in this life, families are temporary. They are regularly broken up and reorganized as children marry and form their own families. In fact, whenever children grow up and go out into the world, their parent’s authority ends. For practical purposes, this also effectively dissolves the family. Of course, I do not deny the enduring nature of kinship ties which persist as family members go their own ways, or even when a divorce occurs. When I speak of family dissolution here, I am using the word “family” in its most narrow, technical sense, i.e., the nuclear family.
1.) The fact that in the resurrection that “they neither marry, nor are given in marriage,” does not mean or prove that family disappears in the eschaton. If indeed future marriage passes away that does not mean that past family realities disappear. Given Kingsbury’s reasoning we might also say that since they neither marry nor are given in marriage therefore gender passes away in the eschaton. If marriage passes away, then so does gender. Gender is necessary for marriage and marriage depends on gender therefore since there will no marriage in the eschaton therefore there is to be no gender. Whatever is true of the greater (marriage) is true of the lesser (gender).
Rev. Kingsbury’s reasoning is curious.
2.) A family that extends into new family units does not mean the end of families, per Rev. Kingsbury, but rather their continuance. One problem is that Rev. Kingsbury thinks in terms of “nuclear family,” while the Scripture speaks of families in their Trustee capacity. Family is not defined, per Scripture, as the Nuclear unit, but rather more in terms of what we might refer to as clans. So, Christian families are not broken up with the advent of the marriage of children and the arrival of grandchildren but instead are strengthened and extended.
Families are like the rest of this world: impermanent and continually passing away. Therefore, families have a diminished importance within a Christian taxonomy of values, especially when compared to the church. While the church is eternal and will not find her perfect expression until glory, she has begun and lives out that life already, in the here and now. The church manifests the eternal and heavenly in the middle of a temporary and earthly world. Because she is eternal, the church is more important than the temporary family.
We established earlier that Christian families are not impermanent but pass into the eschaton therefore the fallacy of this argument is obvious.
The argument that the Church is more important than the family is like arguing that the left leg is more important than the right leg when it comes to walking. It is a non sequitur argument. The fact that the Church and the family are bound up together in importance is seen in the Baptismal font. God claims our familial generations as His own and in Baptism ratifies His claim upon His and our seed. Baptism speaks of God’s faithfulness to His promise to the generations.
To argue that the Church is more important than family is like arguing that pregnancy is more important than sex. Pregnancy may well be more important than sex but without sex no ones getting pregnant.
Secondly, while I understand that “Word and Sacrament” belong uniquely to the Church I’m not sure why the Church alone is able to manifest the eternal and heavenly in the middle of a temporary and earthly world. The permanence of matters eternal can incarnate themselves in family worship and in Christian families.
Because the eternal church has precedence over the earthly and temporary family, Jesus demands loyalty to himself first and last. In a decision between Jesus and his church versus the family, Jesus wins. This is simple when parents are unbelievers and guilty of obvious sin, but less obvious when one has Christian parents who attempt to usurp the church’s authority.
Of course the Lord Christ is the priority above all priorities. Who could ever disagree with that? However, lest we fall into some kind of ecclesiocentrism I would be careful about perfectly equating the Lord Christ and the Church as if the voice of the Church is always the voice of the Lord Christ. While it is true “that in a decision between Jesus and his church versus the (errant) family, Jesus wins,” it is also true that in a decision between the Lord Christ and an errant Church demanding departure from a faithful family, the family standing with the Lord Christ wins.
Rev. Kingsbury misses the close interdependence of Church and Family. For examples Elders are not qualified to serve in the Church without managing his family well. This provides insight into the interdependence of Institutional Church and family. Elders are to be husbands of one wife thus again drawing linkage between leadership in home and church.
In a time when the family is being viciously attacked from all sides it really does us little good for representatives of the Church to be “reasoning” like this. Now, certainly, it is possible to lift the family above the Church so that it is wrongly prioritized but the answer to that is not to tear down the family but to show that the Church has its proper place in God’s economy.