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Is the Family Finished?

Has the family lost its primary importance? Is it now, like tribal life, a thing of the past, unless we subject it to the “radical reconsideration” of the “new morality”?

R. J. Rushdoony
  • R. J. Rushdoony,
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In a study book published by the National Council of Churches in 1965, Colin W. Williams declared that, while warnings against the “new morality” were important, all the same “it seems equally clear that the ‘new morality’ does point to new conditions which are forcing upon us a radical reconsideration of time-honored attitudes.” One of the things up for “radical reconsideration” is the family. “The family is no longer as it is pictured in the New Testament … [T]he New Testament family is the primary institution of society, and to it the church has its primary relation.” But this kind of family, and its importance, is gone in our modern world, forever gone.

Is this true? Has the family lost its primary importance? Is it now, like tribal life, a thing of the past, unless we subject it to the “radical reconsideration” of the “new morality”?

There are many who say that the family has lost most of its functions in the past century. The world has changed, and the family is less important to it, we are told. Once women were very important to the family’s economy, and children also, but this is less and less true, it is claimed.

A Harvard sociologist, Carle C. Zimmerman claims otherwise: “The family still has its same functions, only in a different world … Family life means more now than it ever did and we need it more.” Farming is still farming, Zimmerman says, even though the farmer now uses a tractor and a truck instead of a team of mules; similarly, the family is still the family, and more important than ever, even though some of its ways have changed. In the basic things, the family is unchanged: the duties of parents, of husband and wife, and the obligations of children remain the same. “[T]hose who wish the fundamental family can get it, protect it and have it,” and most do. Moreover, the family is the primary institution of society. The fact that the intellectuals neglect it does not make it any less important. The sun will not lose its importance in our lives if university professors neglect it, and neither will the family perish because of their neglect.

The family, Zimmerman points out, not only fulfills its basic functions, but it has functions we seldom consider. It is, for example, any country’s best police force: it protects its children by training and supervision from criminals and perverts, and it polices and disciplines millions of youngsters daily. Also, Zimmerman points out, “The family is still the best educator.” Moreover, “the family is still and will remain our great protective institution, from the cradle to the grave.” The more difficult the world gets, the more responsibilities the family assumes to protect itself in a trying world; “the family has not lost functions but, rather, has gained them.”

The family system is God-ordained and cannot perish. It has survived the fall of Rome, the passing of empires, world wars and civil wars, depressions and inflations, and it is still here. It is the primary institution of society. The family and marriage are more basic than church or state. God ordained marriage in Eden, and it is the only institution whose origin is in paradise, and when entered into and kept in terms of God’s law, it is still man’s happiest estate.

It is not the family that is finished, but its critics. The family is the basic reality of man’s life. When men lose touch with reality, they lose touch with life, and they are finished. Their course of action is then insane and suicidal. St. Paul declared that the commandment to honor one’s parents, the family commandment, “is the first commandment with promise,” and its promise is the good life, and a long one (Eph. 6:1–3).

Taken from A Word in Season: Daily Messages on the Faith for All of Life, Volume 5, p. 59.

R. J. Rushdoony
  • R. J. Rushdoony

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.” He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.

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