What We Believe- Article XVIII, The Family, part 1

July 6, 2009

After leaving off for awhile (accidentally actually) we are finally coming to the end of our analysis of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.  The last article that we will be looking at is Article XVIII concerning the family:

XVIII. The Family

God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. It is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood, or adoption.

Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God’s unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race.

The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.

Children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord. Parents are to demonstrate to their children God’s pattern for marriage. Parents are to teach their children spiritual and moral values and to lead them, through consistent lifestyle example and loving discipline, to make choices based on biblical truth. Children are to honor and obey their parents.

Genesis 1:26-28; 2:15-25; 3:1-20; Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Joshua 24:15; 1 Samuel 1:26-28; Psalms 51:5; 78:1-8; 127; 128; 139:13-16; Proverbs 1:8; 5:15-20; 6:20-22; 12:4; 13:24; 14:1; 17:6; 18:22; 22:6,15; 23:13-14; 24:3; 29:15,17; 31:10-31; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; 9:9; Malachi 2:14-16; Matthew 5:31-32; 18:2-5; 19:3-9; Mark 10:6-12; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 7:1-16; Ephesians 5:21-33; 6:1-4; Colossians 3:18-21; 1 Timothy 5:8,14; 2 Timothy 1:3-5; Titus 2:3-5; Hebrews 13:4; 1 Peter 3:1-7.

This last article, which actually did not appear in the BF&M until 1998 (so, 35 years after the second version of the document was published).  It is basically ordered into four distinct parts corresponding to the four different paragraphs.  The parts are (1) the definition of family, (2) the definition marriage, (3) the practice of marriage, and (4) the practice of child-rearing.  In this post we will handle parts 1 and 2 and tomorrow we will cover parts 3 and 4.

  1. The Definition of Family:

“God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. It is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood, or adoption.”

From the outset this is a very logically flowing article.  Clearly this article was necessitated by specific societal changes, particularly in regards to the increasing acceptance of  pre- and extra-marital activity and the advance of the “alternative lifestyle” movement in America.  But nonetheless, for what has its impetus as a political response, this article comes across, at least in my eyes, as the most well-reasoned and biblically justified article in the practical living portion of the BF&M (starting from Article XI).

As for the definition itself, it seems airtight biblically.  God did certainly ordain the family within the first two chapters of Genesis, and the reference to “marriage, blood, or adoption” leaps straight from the text of Scripture, where entrance into a family by adoption has such great significance.  This definition, of course, now begs the question which is addressed in the next paragraph, namely, How does one define marriage?

2.   The Definition of Marriage

“Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God’s unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race.”

Wow!  That first sentence carries some serious weight!  We can all agree that marriage is the uniting of two individuals as one (cf. Genesis 2.24), and as long as we are being honest and not just pushing some agenda we can read fairly clearly that this uniting is to take place between one woman and one man.  Yet even after that we get a statement which is likely controversial to many Southern Baptists: ” . . . in covenant commitment for a lifetime.”  Now, I don’t know about you, but that seems to me to be saying that divorce for any reason is not God’s design for his creation, especially since this topic is not spoken to anywhere else in the article.  Many people believe loopholes and exceptions exist for divorce, but if my reading of the BF&M2000 is correct then our organizing document takes a much stricter stance than the norm.

In the next, extended sentence, we find the writers adding detail and explanation to the truth found in Ephesians 5.23-24 as well as addressing several practical concerns.  They take a stance that marriage is intended for biblically appropriate sexual expression (try getting clarification on that one beyond the obvious disallowal of homosexual activity) and that marriage is the appropriate context for producing children (instead of pre- or extra-marital relationships).  All of this I think we can be on-board with without much hesitation.

Now, in the next paragraph we jump into a pot of boiling water by trying to address gender roles in marriage, which we will struggle through in tomorrow’s post.