Chalcedon has long chronicled the sins against the family by the church and the state. Identifying the causes and consequences of these attacks helps God’s people see the effects of them in their families’ lives. However, there are Scriptures directly relating to the family that are ignored or disregarded as though they have passed away. These transgressions are categorized as abominations by God. Christian families must rectify this ignorance, so that God’s blessings may again flow into our families and culture. It is hard to conceive of God blessing any endeavor to restore “family values” when His values have been categorically dismissed.
In determining how the family is to live and serve the Kingdom of God, examine the personal relationships within the family to ascertain whether or not the family is adhering to the call to “the righteousness of the law” (Rom 8:4). Rushdoony explains,
No direct relationship is possible between persons except through the law of God. Attempts to by-pass the law for a person-to-person confrontation without God means the judgment of God, for the law is operative against its violators and against the destruction of the true relationship of man to man under God’s law.1
Here Rushdoony makes an important distinction to avoid the charge of salvation by law:
To speak of the mediatorial work of the law is to arouse immediately the hostility of Protestant evangelicals, with their deeply rooted antinomianism. To clarify the matter as quickly as possible, Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and Man. There is no salvation except through Jesus Christ, the God-given mediator and redeemer. The mediation of Jesus Christ is between God and man; the law is the God-given mediator between man and man.2
By understanding and living out the implications of God’s ordained relationships within the family, the ability to influence church, school, vocations, free associations, and the civil government will be established on a surer footing.
Husband and Wife
Rushdoony points out that although marriage is the most intimate of all earthly relationships, it remains a mediated one circumscribed by specific laws:
The law of the Lord concerning sexual relations during menstruation is a clear illustration of this principle. It is impossible for man to claim that within marriage a non-theological person-to-person confrontation is possible. The relationship is one which is entirely circumscribed by law. It is ordained by God and therefore governed by His law … The law extends to … forbidding relations with a menstruous wife or with a wife not fully recovered from childbirth.3
Those outside the faith often ridicule this law, dismissing relations during these times as areas of personal preference. Many Christian married couples would assert that although they have no wish to participate in sexual relations during menstruation, God doesn’t really care when they have sex. They have created a God-free zone. Yet, the Bible calls for deliberate violators of this law to be “cut off from among their people” (Lev. 20:18). These are strong words, and there is little justification to assume that God’s opinions have changed. Violations of these restrictions lead to “a sickened land” and a “revolted nature” and move the earth itself to spue out a people (Lev. 20:22).
Is it safe to assume that these are merely historical conventions, when Ezekiel includes those who follow them as among the righteous?
5. But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right,
6. And hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, neither hath defiled his neighbour’s wife, neither hath come near to a menstruous
9. Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord GOD. (Ezek. 18:5–6, 9; emphasis added)
The Scriptures also discuss in detail a period of abstinence from sexual intercourse between a husband and wife after the birth of a child. Leviticus 12:2–5 reads:
2. … If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean.
3. And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.
4. And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled.
5. But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.
Twice the time for purification is required for a woman after giving birth to a girl as to a boy. Here as in other laws there are physiological aspects as well as ecclesiastical ones. The fact that we are ignorant of these as yet should give us the humility to reserve judgment and to accept the fact, hard as it is for the human mind to accept, that God is wiser than we are. In Paul’s words, “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25).6
If we begin with the premise that God is wise and just, even when we cannot understand Him, we may do badly in the sight of men, but we will be blessed by God.
I doubt that much premarital counsel includes discussion of these prohibitions, though it should. Along with providing a health protection for women, these laws establish that domination is not to be a part of the marital relationship, as God has given limits and bounds to sexual activity even within heterosexual monogamy. While we may not know or ever fully understand the reasons behind some of these laws, they are indisputably significant to God.
It should be noted that within the context of godly submission of the wife to her husband, God has not placed her in a role of servitude but as partner. Ephesians 5:24 is commonly interpreted to mean a total subjection of women to their husbands as of the church to Christ. Rushdoony answers, “This would be a justifiable claim only if husbands were as perfect and sinless as Christ.”7
While God ordains a prescribed chain of command within the family, He never permits one human being to dominate another. Thus what is true regarding sexual access also pertains to other aspects of the marital relationship. Men who assert that their wives are to submit without comment or question are demanding a totalitarian obedience. This negates the fundamental premise that authority in all spheres of life and at all times is limited by the prior authority of God.8
Nowhere in the Bible do you see any directive for men to treat their wives as doormats. Sarah, even in her rebuke of her husband (Gen. 16), was backed up by God and subsequently commended as an example for her godliness and submission (1 Pet. 3:6).
The authority of God is absolute; the authority of man is always conditional.9
Parent and Child
Just as there can be no unmediated relationship between husband and wife, so too, the parent/child relationship is one that is circumscribed by God’s law-word. By failing to appreciate the extent to which Scripture defines this relationship, many embark on this aspect of family life without a map or compass.
The family is the first school, church, and social environment for children. God’s Word needs to be the foundation for training and discipline. The blessing of children is not in what they do for parents, but in the opportunity for parents to exercise godly stewardship in their children’s lives. Too many parents treat this “blessing” more like a trophy. Rather than making a thoroughly Biblical education a top priority, they spend lavish time and resources on sports and leisure activities at the expense of godly character training. Most leave their children’s education in the hands of the state school with its atheistic orientation, and think that a weekly vaccination of Sunday school is all that is needed to instill a Christian worldview. Subsequently, when their children act out the logical consequences of such evolutionary based education and become criminal (whether apprehended or not), parents whine and moan but often bail them out of trouble. The Scriptures strongly address this issue:
18. If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:
19. Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
20. And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.
21. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear. (Deut. 21:18–21)
The incorrigible person is an adult who refuses to obey authority and receive correction. In today’s world this penalty seems overly harsh, but in truth, when our country rooted its laws in Christian principles, this used to be the regular practice. This law, if followed, eliminates a criminal class from society. How many jails are full of repeat offenders because the evil not only remains unpurged, but is subsidized? Rushdoony notes,
This law, however, is not only about habitual criminals; it is also about the family. Not blood but faith must be the determining factor. The family, having the fullest knowledge, under normal circumstances, of a son’s criminality, has the moral obligation to report him to the authorities …
Those who hate this text insist on calling the son a child, or a baby, and of accusing Scripture of demanding that little children be executed. The text is clear that the son is an adult who is in total war against society in word, thought, and deed. He resists radically any attempt by the family to control him.
The parents have the duty to take the lead in the son’s arrest and prosecution. A choice is required of them. The son may be living elsewhere, but their status as parents requires them to choose God’s justice against the family’s solidarity. If the family, God’s basic institution, does not favor justice over blood, neither church nor state is likely to be strong.
This means that lesser steps must have preceded this radical step. The parents had the duty, where and when possible, earlier, to rebuke and chastise their child. In some instances, it could mean requiring the son to leave the family’s home if the rebelliousness continued. The law simply summarizes all this. In following these steps, the parents make it clear that their loyalty is to God’s future, not to a wayward family member.11
Rather than the socialistic perspective that it takes a village to raise a child, the Bible states that the family is to raise the children. As parents and extended family assume the responsibility of teaching, correcting, and disciplining their members, they bolster the institution of the family and qualify for generational blessings. Bringing a rebellious son to the city gate is the God-ordained prescription of putting the evil away from us.
What legacy do we leave to future generations when we have not modeled righteousness to them? In a very real sense, the blessing involved with being a parent is to represent God to one’s children and demonstrate that love, but placing loyalty to His royal law over and above biological ties.
Today’s mindset demands apologies when boys and girls are intentionally treated differently. But to treat male and female children differently is to honor the God who “created them male and female” with differing roles and jurisdictions. To obscure the distinctions is something that all humanistic and statist societies work relentlessly to achieve.
A significant law appears in Deuteronomy 22:5, which points out the strong repulsion God has for mixing gender roles,
The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.
This prohibition against transvestitism is not simply a law about fashion or style of clothing; it has a much broader meaning and implication. It applies to the standards and practices for gender roles within the family. How parents deal with their sons and expect their sons to deal with their sisters sets the standards for society in general.
The law, therefore, forbids imposing a man’s duties and tools on a woman, and a woman’s on a man. Its purpose is thus to maintain the fundamental order. A man who allows his wife to support him when he is able-bodied has violated this law.
This means that rather than promote a false “equality,” family life should consist of mothers modeling for their daughters what a Proverbs 31 woman does, while fathers guide their sons toward the dual roles of protector and provider. Brothers and sisters should relate to each other acknowledging the physical, emotional, and positional roles God ordains for each, in preparation for every other relationship they will encounter.
Instead of Biblical patterns of gender distinction, today we see the feminization of men and the masculinization of women. This breeds chaos and disorder and undermines the institution of the family. Rushdoony points out,
The purpose of the law is to increase the strength and authority of men and women in their respective domains. The strength of men is in being men under God, and the strength of women is in being women under God.
The definition of transvestite thus must be made broader than a mere reference to clothing.
It can be added that modern culture has a strongly transvestite character. Here as elsewhere, it prefers the character of perversion to the law of God.13
In our day we see women in law enforcement roles, theaters of war, and eldership in the church. The working mom is deemed to have chosen the nobler route in pursuing ecclesiastical or civil service, often leaving children in the care of paid caregivers. God’s Word describes such practices as abominations, and although He doesn’t outline the punishment for these transgressions, He does exact societal penalty. If men do not respect God’s order as laid out In the beginning, God will exact justice in ways that get our attention.
God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Practices that were identified as abominations in the books of Moses or by the prophets are not transformed into neutral areas or issues of no concern to God. The family as trustee is responsible before God to know His law, teach it, and oversee the obedience to it.
Before the family can reverse its course, and that of society, it must have a Biblical law-faith rather than a humanistic and atomistic one. The family must again become the trustee of God’s covenantal requirements, and a trustee under God of children and property.14
1. R. J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, Vol. 1 (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1973), 431.
3. Ibid., 431–432.
4. Quoted from John Peter Lange, Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Leviticus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 155, in Rushdoony, Institutes, Vol. 1, 427.
5. The reader is encouraged to read Rushdoony’s treatment of this and related subject matter in the section covering the Seventh Commandment in Institutes.
6. Rushdoony, Leviticus (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books), 130.
7. Rushdoony, Salvation and Godly Rule (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books), 494.
8. Ibid., 495.
10. Ibid., 494–496.
11. Rushdoony, Deuteronomy (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books), 317.
12. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, Vol. 1, 435–436.
13. Ibid., 437–438.
14. Ibid., 418.
- Andrea G. Schwartz
Andrea Schwartz is Chalcedon’s family and Christian education advocate, and the author of eight books including: A House for God: Building a Kingdom-Driven Family, The Biblical Trustee Family: Understanding God’s Purpose for Your Household, Empowered: Developing Strong Women for Kingdom Service, Woman of the House: A Mother’s Role in Building a Christian Culture, and The Homeschool Life: Discovering God’s Way to Family-Based Education. She’s also the co-host of the Out of the Question podcast, and Homeschooling Helps (weekly live Facebook event). She can be reached at [email protected].