A Timely Book Review: God, Marriage, and Family by Kostenberger

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The moral and structural decline of the family in the United States stands undeniable. In recent days, certain states have legalized gay marriage. This has now resulted in the sanctioning for same-sex marriage by the highest court in the land. Nearly every unfavorable result of the breakdown of the family continues to increase despite numerous attempts to provide assistance through the writing of books, the lecturing in seminars, and the establishing of institutions. With an awareness of these unfortunate circumstances, Andreas J. Kostenberger writes a book that both identifies the root problems and attempts to deal with them Biblically.

Development and Structure

Kostenberger begins by identifying the problems within marriage and family as both foundationally important and acutely urgent. He begins by defining marriage and family due to the breakdown of the societal concepts of both. Then he speaks to the urgency of the issue by describing the institutions of marriage and family as “under siege in our world today… our very civilization is in crisis.”[1] In reality, time continues to corroborate both of Kostenbergers assertions.

Problem Identified

Kostenberger quickly moves from introducing the subject matter as both important and urgent to identifying what he views as the deeper problem, one of a spiritual rather than merely societal nature. Kostenberger explains his assertion by suggesting that family provides the battleground of the forces of God and Satan in what he calls a “cosmic spiritual conflict.”[2] While Kostenberger’s assertion carries at least some validity, Kostenberger fails to elaborate on this point, not even drawing from a Scriptural data for his assertion. Furthermore, Kostenberger makes no mention of other potential battlegrounds that make-up cosmic spiritual conflict. For example, he fails to mention that church issues contribute to the cosmic spiritual conflict. While his subject matter narrows to issues with regard to the family, his use of word, cosmic, requires a more exhaustive list of areas that cause spiritual conflict. By employing exclusive language regarding the family’s role, namely, that it stands as the “key arena.” He seems to overlook other areas that may cause the reader to wonder if he will address relationship between the church and the family in his rather lengthy treatment on the family.[3] This of course, does not negate the fact that family matters carry great significance.

Purpose Reiterated

The book continues by affirming the purpose of the book, also essentially articulated in the subtitle. Kostenburger and Jones purpose to reestablish the Biblical foundation of marriage and family. Their intent clearly includes construction of a Biblical theology of marriage and family. They also designate their intended audience range from the single and unmarried persons to those who are marred and have children. Finally, they identify homosexuality and divorce as the greatest societal threats to marriage and the family.

Commentary on Culture

The next major section of this chapter occupies itself primarily with a commentary on current culture including the listing of five negative consequences resulting from the breakdown of the family. These five negative consequences include an increasingly high divorce rate, pre-marital and extra marital sex, teenage pregnancy, homosexuality, and gender-role confusion.

While all of these items are negative aspects of family break down, the fifth, gender=role confusion is really a cause and result of the breakdown of the family unit, rather than merely a result from family breakdown. For example, a man’s failure to fulfill his proper role in the home contributes to the breakdown of the family rather than results from it. This resulted in part from the feminism ideology that was largely successful in destabilizing the gender roles of the family within society.

The Thesis and Explanation of It

Directly after Kostenberger and Jordan’s commentary on society, the thesis statement is stated: “An integrative, biblical treatment of marriage and the family is essential to clearing up moral confusion and to firm up convictions that, if acted upon, have the potential of returning the church and culture back to God’s intentions for marriage and families.”[4] Before proposing their approach to they book’s composition, they point out that the majority of what contributions made to marriage and family issues place the Bible as tangential rather than central. Additionally, they view many of the authors who specialize in marriage and family issues also exhibit deficiencies in theology and Biblical interpretation. Kostenberger and Jones team up to essentially write a Biblical theology of the family that also handles and emphasizes the cultural problems families face. It argues that one must first have an accurate conceptual foundation of marriage before moving on to more surface issues.

Analysis

While the over-all purpose, thesis, and approach to the book proves valuable and this chapter proves structurally sound, an analysis of three key areas will aid in proper assessment of this first chapter. First, the chapter’s organization, though essentially sound, could use some improvement. There appears a moving back and forth between the problem and the solution rather than developing the problem thoroughly and then revealing the solution succinctly. For example first chapter elucidates the thesis between a commentary of the problems of the culture, and a commentary on the problems of current proposed solutions. It would seem more coherent to develop the problem and need for the book before moving onto the solution.

Second, the content of the chapter, though also valuable, also places the entire cause on the breakdown of the family on a lack of Biblical understanding of the family conceptually. While this significantly contributes to the problem, the greatest contributor to the demise of many families is sin and failure to apply the gospel. A person or family may know exactly marriage and family’s function thoroughly and still fail due to sin and failure to apply the gospel as the remedy to the problem of sin.

Third, the writing style consists of high quality. Each paragraph is formed cohesively with clear a clear topic sentence, sufficient supporting material (accept where otherwise mentioned), and contains tight, concise prose. Among the most notable qualities of the writing style is the fact that the author wastes no words and every sentence proves clearly intentional.

Conclusion

Kostenberger and Jones write a convincing first chapter that will compel the reader to continue reading in the hope of finding real substantive answers to the problems that trouble current United States culture. For the individual who sincerely desires to place the Bible at the center of his thinking, and values depth rather than quick fixes, this book will prove greatly profitable. Kostenberger and Jones generally achieve success in accomplishing their objective. They do this by taking the themes of Scripture relating to marriage and the family and running them through the Old and New Testaments, observing the contributions each passage of Scripture makes to a given work. It carries more exact relevance to current US culture than an average theology would because it addresses specific issues that this culture is facing. Every believer who seriously desire substantive answers to the important and urgent societal and spiritual issues of the marriage and family should place God, Marriage, and Family on his reading list.

[1] Andreas J Köstenberger and Jones, God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2010), 15.

[2] Ibid.

[3] A cursory reading of the table of contents will quickly demonstrate that the author will indeed address the relationship between the family and the church in the thirteenth chapter, but since government was at least alluded to earlier, his failure to mention the church in this context may cause the reader to wonder.

[4] John Piper and Wayne Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (Crossway, 2006), 17.

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Why Everybody Wins When It’s Not “All About the Kids”: 3 Dangers of a Child-centered Home

IMG_1525So in honor of my wedding anniversary, I thought I’d offer some thoughts on marriage and family. Christian newlyweds hear much advice about the family, both Biblical and practical. As time goes on you realize that some pointers sound good conceptually, but they don’t work. Others sound good and do work. Here is one that has stood the test of time for us – don’t let your family become child-centered. Here are three reasons:

1. A child-centered home is harmful for your marriage.

Homes that place a higher priority on the kids than the marriage end up hurting the marriage over time. I recall a Christian counselor recently reporting that he does most of his marriage counseling prior to 3 years of marriage and after 15 years of marriage. While the children are young, spouses who love their kids would never think about leaving and may not even realize that they are unhappy in their marriage. Reality strikes when the kids become less dependent and they realize they don’t even know their spouse very well. Busy parents, then, must spend time alone with their spouses. Often this becomes very difficult if young couples don’t live in close proximity to their extended family, that’s why we’ve developed a ministry at our church entitled, “Dine without the Whine,” which is a date-night co-op (see Bethel’s ministry page). Sometimes I’ve observed that moms seem to have a hard time “lettijng go” of their young children. it seems as though they feel they are so indispensable that they can’t be away from their kids, even babies for a few hours. This may be the case when a baby is first born, but as parents of three, it has been our experience that your baby will do just fine without you for a couple of hours IF you start them young enough. Perhaps the only natural desire/instinct that is stronger than maternal instincts are survival instincts. Your baby/child will do just fine if they are in capable hands – and remember, they are in God’s hands, too!

2. A child-centered home is harmful for your child.IMG_1517

I’ll try to be brief here, but when a child learns he is the center of attention in the home, self-centeredness is a natural result. Combine this with our own natural tendency toward self-centeredness and catastrophe occurs. Our grandparents had a philosophy that the child should adjust to the parents schedule, not the other way around. This is wise advice, unless of course you are looking to raise self-centered, inflexible kids. They will already naturally those tendencies as we all do, they certainly don’t need help!

3. A child-centered home is harmful for God’s purposes.

When the “end game” is the well-being of the kids, it is not best for their well-being. However, when the “end game” is the furtherance of God’s kingdom through service to Christ, it results in the child’s well-being. The only win-win scenario for the Christian family is to view it a “ministry team” where we are serving the Lord together. This is why the family needs the local church as much as the local church needs the family!

So I’m looking forward to a nice date with my wife tonight–without the kids!

Want to know more about God’s plan for the family? You can follow this link to hear a message from God’s Word by clicking on the following link.

http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=412151258399

4 (more) Dangerous Temptations a Pastor Must Resist (part, 2): How to avoid becoming weird.

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Well, the last post I offered 4 dangerous temptations that pastors must resist. Here are 4 more.

1. A pastor must resist the temptation to be preoccupied with the ministry to the exclusion of fun and friends.

I’ve heard it said that good pastors make poor friends. Once my wife observed, “It seems like pastors ‘get weird’ over time.” (She’s qualified to say this since she used to be a “PK” and now she is a “PW”).  There is probably a lot of truth to that, but learning to have a little fun along the way will probably make me a better friend and help me avoid “getting weird.” Although the picture to the left might indicate that it is too late!

I could easily spend every waking moment working in the ministry. There is always something profitable to be done. But exercise and fun are necessary in their proper place.  A man in my church has reminded me of this repeatedly. He’s taken the time to teach me how to play tennis (he is a very patient teacher), get our two families together for various activities, etc.

Two helpful hints here: 1) Pastor Dan Trayer, who was my pastor growing up, gave me this advice: “Guard your day… Sunday is the King’s day (Jesus) and Monday is the queen’s day (your wife).”  Guard a day off as much as possible for family, friends and fun!. 2) I’m also learning to find a few other “pockets” of time in my schedule throughout the week. I might be the oldest guy out there playing a pick-up game of basketball, but if the young guys will have me, I’d like to try to avoid “getting weird”– if that is possible.

2. A pastor must resist the temptation to think that his ministry is the only viable one in the area.

Of course we think that our ministry most closely models the New Testament model, right? Well, if we know anything about the churches in the 1st century, we know that they faced most of the problems we face in the 21st century. A cursory glance at Revelation 2-3 will demonstrate this. But we do tend to think we’re right on our ministry philosophy — after all, if we had the wrong approach to ministry, we’d change! Of course, there are essentials that every ministry ought to have — gospel clarity, discipleship goals, and expository preaching, to name a few. But the Lord has used a variety of ministries over the years to accomplishHis kingdom purposes. It may be that a pastor just loves God, loves people, and wants to help them know Jesus. He may never have been taught “expository preaching” as a specific discipline, and he may not have detailed the same discipleship goals as I have, but if he loves God, His Word, HIs gospel, and HIs people — God can use him in a way that is unique to his personality and giftedness. My ministry and church is not the only viable one in my area and I must remember that I’m not building my own kingdom, but I’m cooperating with other local gospel preaching pastors and churches to build God’s kingdom.

3. A pastor must resist the temptation to isolate himself from other local pastors.

Well, my previous point already touches on this, but suffice it to say, I’m thankful for pastor friends that the Lord has provided in my life. I value their counsel and their perspective.  I appreciate that they understand, first hand, the unique challenges of pastoral ministry. While I don’t always agree with them, and I wouldn’t always do things they way they would, I’m thankful for them.

4. A pastor must resist the temptation to isolate himself from the accountability of godly men.

Pastors struggle with insecurity just like everyone else. This is why it is vital for a pastor to constantly remind himself that his value is found in Christ and not contingent upon the opinions of others (please see previous post). Also, no one wants to be “nitpicked” or lose the freedom to minister because he feels he is always under someone’s thumb. But there ought to be at least a couple of godly men in his church that he looks to for reasonable accountability.

There are two reasons a pastor may be tempted to resist reasonable accountability — one is unacceptable, the other is understandable. 1) He’s trying to hide or cover up his own failures. When a pastor makes a mistake, or does wrong, he needs to own up to it. If the accountability he has is reasonable, they will understand that he is going to make mistakes. 2) He’s afraid of accountability because he’s been burnt before. I would imagine anyone who has pastored for any length of time has been falsely accused, misunderstood, and/or misinterpreted — many of us, on more than one occasion. It’s enough to cause any man to become “gun shy” to accountability. What helps me with this concern is to understand that my own experience has hopefully prepared me to choose men who won’t abuse their roles as accountability partners. A seasoned pastor advised me years ago to weight the concerns of others based upon their level of spiritual maturity — this is wise counsel. But those who shun all accountability are putting themselves in a very dangerous position.

Well, there’s 4 more Dangerous Temptations a Pastor Must Resist. What do you think? Do they may sense? Or maybe I’m just weird. 🙂

Want to know more about the Biblical role of the pastor? Click on the following link:
http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=111714151013

Is your life complicated? Are there issues in your life that are confusing? Here’s some advice from the greatest of all counselors.

NKJ 2 Timothy 2:4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. (2Ti 2:4 NKJ)

When problems arise we must deal with them humbly and wisely. But we must also resist the temptation to be ensnared by them through entanglement. We must keep our eyes focused on pleasing God.

Blogging on Purpose: avoiding another cyber “stream of consciousness”

pic of laptopWell, I’ve stated what I’m not planning for my blog, i should probably explain what my intentions are. So here is what I hope to accomplish with my blog:

1. To provoke thinking – I hope I will be able to offer a perpective on various issues we face in life that will cause people to think deeply. How should Christians interface with our culture? What redeeming qualities are left to gleen? How can we ensure our thinking is rooted to Scriptural truth?

2. To provide resources – Through various book reviews, references to sermons, and Bibliography recommendations, I hope that this blog will provide helpful discipleship resources.

3. To answer questions – The more I work with people, the more I realize that people have questions… sometimes they are embarrased to ask them. I pray that God will use this blog to help people who are looking for answers.

4. To inform, influence, and help people for the sake of God’s kingdom – As a Christian, this is embedded in everything I do.

5. To have fun – As my kids get older, my family is able do more fun activities and explore more fun places. I’d like to have a place to record and share these experiences through photos and videos.

In the interest of full disclosure (because everyone who posts prose on the internet fully discloses everything), I’d like to mention a few personal goals.

1. To grow in my ability to write. I’ve primairly written on an academic level, but my hope is to keep up my writing skills, while broadening my style range.

2. To grow in my ability to communicate. As a pastor, a lot of what I do requries an ability to communicate. I think that communication is like a lot of other disciplines in life– “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.” Also, I don’t think you ever “arrive” when it comes to communication skills — there’s always room for further development.

3. To increase my website, photography, and videography skills. While I think I can generally hold my own in the world of “tech,” at least as an amatuer, I have always wanted to do more with photography and videography in addition to writing. I hope a blog will fill the creative void deep in my soul that has been longing to break free! Actually, nothing so dramatic– I just think it will be a good platform for developing these interests.

4. I like to read enriching, thought-provoking books. But I’d like to retain more of what I’m reading and have more of it benefit others — I hope this blog will accomplish that.

So I’m starting a new blog, but it’s not THAT kind of blog!

I don’t want this blog to be…

…a series of written sermons. I already get to preach frequently so I don’t feel the need to do that here. Actually, I want to say up front that I hope folks will make a distinction between what I preach and what I blog. I try very hard to make sure that what I preach is clear truth derived from Biblical statement. In fact, if i give my opinion from the pulpit I try to make sure that everyone knows it is just my opinion. But this blog will have a lot of my opinions, musings, and philosophy, and while I do hope my thinking is Biblically based, it must not be given the same weight as the preaching of God’s Word.

…dogmatic venting. All too often blogs are nothing more than expressions of thoughts that are overly dogmatic about subjects that do not require dogmatism. I’m dogmatic about the gospel according to Scripture, but whether seafood is as tastier than beef steak, well, there is no reason for dogmatism.

…narrow minded. Perhaps, the biggest problem with blogging, e-mail, and Facebook posting is that it doesn’t allow for a healthy exchange until after an article is posted. In reality someone can think they have something completely figured out, but without proper peer review/input it is little more than a narrow perspective derived from a tightly-wrapped yet under-developed thought process.

…a public diary. I don’t think there is anything wrong with journalling. Even public journalling is probably fine, as long as the information shared does not hurt anyone and is not overly personal. But suffice it to say, I’m not really desiring to journal. I think a simple Facebook or Twitter post works fine for that.

So what are the purposes of my blog? Coming soon.