No Biblical Family Model?

Honored to have today’s post written by Jasmine Baucham (read more about her at the end of the article)

There is no biblical family model.

In our day and age, a sentence like that comes off as something warm, fuzzy, and accepting –in a culture where diversity is next to godliness, a sentence like that takes the pressure off of blossoming Christian families –instead of encouraging them to delve into God’s Word for biblical principles, the phrase encourages them to go with the flow and to do what feels right… because there is no right answer –no one-size-fits all approach to family life. So heave a sigh of relief, ladies –the Bible doesn’t judge you, so your fellow Christians shouldn’t either.

Well, there ya go.

Except… rather than closing the door on a host of problems, this approach to family life opens a whole ‘nother can of worms. This past week, I’ve read that sentence from two extremely different points of view… from Christians advocating a non-judgmental approach to family decisions… to homosexual activists using the sordid family lives of the patriarchs to justify their monogamous lifestyles (http://www.newsweek.com/2008/12/05/our-mutual-joy.html).

See, that’s a problem for me, and not just because I have an axe to grind –I do not write this article from a position of perfection –not only do I not have a perfect marriage… I’m not even married! But, at twenty, someday, I’d certainly like to be married… and I think that the best time to hash out family issues is before I’ve walked the aisle… not afterwards. And so, armed with a legacy passed down from a dad who is passionate about the biblical family unit (and yes, I think there is one), and a mother who has worked with him to instill the desire for a biblically-structured family in their six children, this is a question that I want to dive into:

If there is a biblical family model, where can we find it?

The first thing we have to keep in mind is that narrative is not normative. So just because Hosea married a prostitute, Abraham had a concubine, or David and Solomon had a gaggle of wives does not mean that modern-day Christians should follow suit. Just because something is recorded in the Bible does not mean that it is commanded of us in the Bible. The only man we should strive to emulate in Scripture is Christ Jesus, and we ought only to emulate others insofar as they are walking in his ways.

But

what about the passages that are normative?

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

 

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” ~Eph. 5:22-6:4, ESV

I don’t know about you, but that looks like a lot of directives to me. In fact, if you add in the fact that Paul is hearkening back to Deuteronomy 6 in his passage about teaching and training children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9), and that, later on, he gives further instruction to wives in passages Titus 2:3-5 and 1 Peter 3:1-6, the argument that there is no biblical pattern for family life sounds… well… not of the spirit, but of the flesh (“I really don’t want to hear what you have to say about biblical family life… so there’s no such thing!”). Given that all Scripture is inspired by God, the words of Paul –a single man writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit –should hold a little more weight than, “Well… you should just do whatever works for you!” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Just as an aside here, I am not arguing that all families should look alike –there is incredible room for diversity and growth within the biblical pattern for family life (I know that phrase makes so many people cringe). But, as with so many other facets of our lives, the fact that we claim the love and serve the Lord with all that is within us should impact the way we do family (and the way we do church… and the way we do education… and the way we do government… but those are whole different cans of worms).

Marriage is carefully defined in Scripture –and families are given a pattern to follow in God’s Word. Now, where the Scripture does not speak, we ought to be silent –this is not about fettering families with extra-biblical rules or sending them on a guilt trip. What it is about, though, is understanding that, as believers we aren’t as free in our family choices as we’ve been led to believe we are –in fact, as slaves to Christ (Romans 6), the decisions we make as families (or, in my case, as young people who will someday be going in to families) are incredibly important. Too important to be cast aside with the very non-judgmental-sounding-but-very-dangerous in reality, “There is no biblical model for family life.”

As Christians modeling the Savior who died for us, and called to obey his commands (John 14:15), we ought not be so quick to silence His Word on the matter.

-Jasmine

Jasmine is the oldest of Voddie and Bridget Baucham’s six children. She is a homeschool graduate who enjoys studying and writing about areas as varied as theology, philosophy, political science, art, film and culture. She is also an aspiring author who currently lives at home where she continues to assist her father in his research, is completing a degree in English literature, writing a book based on her blog, Joyfully at Home, and is blessed to assist her mother with the care of her younger siblings.


Photo credit: A Family Bond

29 Coffee Talks on “No Biblical Family Model?”

  1. Sandy says:

    I think that we have to differentiate between the clear mandate of Scripture (forming our families according to Biblical principles) and our personal ideas of how those are to be carried out.

    Our family tries to live by Matthew 6:33- Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." We believe that as we seek Him, His values, His righteousness, then all these things fall into place.

    Our calling in life is to reach out to the international population in our communities. Therefore, my husband has worked as a pastor in various ethnic churches and I have worked as an ESL teacher. We have worked hard to have our daughter either with us or with a trusted friend. We had no family near by. As she got older, we arranged our work schedules so that one of us would always be home when she got home.

    Our biblical family model included inviting international people to our homes for holidays. It involved having a Japanese student live with us. It involved advocating for foreign families within our school district. Now it involves living and working in East Asia.

    Did it matter exactly who cooked and cleaned? Not really. Does it matter that I worked outside the home? Not really. Did it matter that we tried to live every day by Kingdom values and that we tried to pass those on to our now almost 17 year old daughter? Yes! That is what I believe a biblical model of family looks like.
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..One day- one city- four faiths =-.

  2. Anna B says:

    The post says it's by Sarah Mae at the top, then goes on to say "I'm not married" and "I'm 20"… I was SO CONFUSED!

    Then it turns out (at the bottom) to be by Jasmine. Aha!

    Sarah – might be good to change the attribution at the top. :-)

    Great post! Coming from a non-biblical family unit where I was told family is "a group of people who love each other", this was a breath of fresh air!!

    • Sarah Mae says:

      Anna, yep, making some changes! Thank you :)

  3. Jasmine says:

    Hi, Sandy!

    If you noticed, in this article, I didn't spell out how these mandates are going to apply in our lives -that's a whole different debate (and a whole different section of this series); all I'm arguing for now is that there are mandates; the fact that the principles are played out differently from family to family is not a conversation we can have until we acknowledge that there are principles.

    Am I making sense?
    .-= Jasmine´s last blog ..The Pressure of Performing- A Revelation =-.

  4. Well said Jasmine! You and your dad are such an encouragement to my family and I. I praise the Lord for your life and obedience! I love how you have such a passion for family and biblical femininity.

    ~Erin

  5. Lisa Grace says:

    I think that one of the most important things I can do as a wife and homeschooling mom is to provide my children with a clear Biblical model of marriage. I agree whole heartedly that it is essential to be prepared with an understanding of a godly marriage before entering into a covenant with someone pledging to be a godly wife. To that end, I love working with and mentoring young women, preparing them in their singleness to have godly hearts, homes in order, and a passion for God and His delights. I greatly enjoyed your article!
    .-= Lisa Grace´s last blog ..Who Are You =-.

  6. Just a thought to add to another wonderful post… Something that really spoke to me while we were first dealing with infertility was a passage from Micah 2. It is asserted here that we are made one flesh (married) to "bring Godly offpring" / "desire Godly seed" (depending which version you are reading).

    Now that we've adopted two children over the last few years, this is something that continually comes to mind and we prayerfully consider how God wants us to raise children in today's world… What is BEST should never be laid at the altar of what is good… so what is the BEST way to lead them to grow to be Godly young adults?

    It doesn't happen by accident, I am quite sure of that :o)

    Raising Godly offspring (the primary purpose of marriage) is most certainly Biblical, and requires intentional, daily discipling.

    Thanks again for a great post.
    .-= Jaime @ Like a Bubbling Brook´s last blog ..Meal Planning Ideas =-.

  7. Oops, Micah 2 is good, but I meant Malachi 2 :o)
    .-= Jaime @ Like a Bubbling Brook´s last blog ..Meal Planning Ideas =-.

  8. Michelle says:

    We DO have to differentiate between narrative and normative! The fact is, people do not have to look too far in the

    Bible to come up with a scripture that they can use and twist out of context and make it say what they want to say while ignoring the loud and clear commands and principles right in front of them.

    I am quite sure that there is only so many definitions for the word, "abomination" that you see throughout the scriptures that tell us what the Lord dtests.
    .-= Michelle´s last blog ..Im Only the King if the Queen Says So- =-.

  9. Michelle says:

    There's a heart over the word I used. It was abomination!I also tried to fix my typo for the word detests but was too late!
    .-= Michelle´s last blog ..Im Only the King if the Queen Says So- =-.

  10. S Club Mama says:

    With someone as young writing (because she's a whole 4 years younger than I LOL), what Biblical truths are spoken. I think that there are very Biblical family structures within the Bible – same with parenting structures. It's amazing how many of us Christians fall into the mindset that just because it's in the Bible (concubines and polygamy) that it's ok. It's not, that's just how it was recorded, like she says :) Thanks for this article.

  11. Nichole says:

    Ephesians 5 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible! It is beautiful. So many cringe at the thought of a wife being submissive to their husbands, but what does that mean? Submissive = sub mission = under the mission of. And when you read on, what is the mission of the husband: to love his wife like Christ loves his Church. Who wouldn't want to be living under the mission!? LOVE IT!

  12. Deb says:

    Everything we need for life and godliness is found in His word. Thank you for sharing some key verses on the family.

  13. Alyson says:

    We have to be very careful when interpreting Scripture to read it as a whole and not pick and choose. If we are going to hold up this model as the ONLY "Biblical" family we need to keep reading. Where Jasmine stopped, the chapter continues, "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear…" and it goes on to instruct masters on how to treat their slaves. This was part of the biblical household. Should it therefore be a part of ours? I get very uncomfortable with these blanket statements. There is a precious young girl in Africa who has moved there alone as a missionary and has adopted many African girls. There is no husband in the picture, but what a beautiful thing she is doing for God's daughters. They have become a family. We need to make sure we aren't reacting to the sin in our society, such as homosexuality, by making the circle of what IS acceptable smaller and smaller. Just some thoughts…

  14. Beckie says:

    Interesting perspective.

    I rew up in afmaily that was tradiotional working dad, sahm. And I was taugth that was idal. However, my family was abusive in a few ways, nad no way would I want that. It's only been very recently that I've seen exmaples of Godly familes, and submission. In my houe, my dad was supposedly the head of the house, but believe, my mom was, is ,an always will be, in charge.

    Me, well I've never married, and I'm almost 36 with a 5 yr old daughter. We are family, make no mistake. Is it ideal? No, but it is what it is, and God has blessed our little family. God can bring good out of anything.

    Now if anyone has any idea how to teach a daughter about God's plan for fmaily life, and marrage, with zero experience in the matter, I'm all ears.

  15. jennifer says:

    I was sitting in the walmart parking lot waiting on someone as I read the first part of this article…I was on the edge of my seat and couldn't wait to get home and finish it. Well said and what an encouragement…such Truth. I wish my boys were older for Miss Jasmine. I do pray for the girls growing up in our world today that their hearts will be that of Jesus.

  16. Barb says:

    I enjoyed your post. I really liked that you pointed out that narrative is not command – just because its recorded in the Bible doesn't mean that we're supposed to do it.

  17. Jasmine says:

    Alyson,

    Point of this post: using Turner's logic is a problem, wherever you fall on this issue. Dismissing the fact that the Bible does have directives for the family is not the same as disagreeing on how we apply those directives in our home.

    Also, re. slaves: indentured servitude was alive and well far into the nineteenth century here in America; in biblical times, a debtor could be enslaved to pay off his debts. In whatever situation, we submit to the authority God has placed in our lives. In Paul's culture, slaves were to submit to their masters -in our culture, that might play out a bit differently. But the principle remains the same. (and, half joking to make a point here, check our US Constitution for American "slaves:" convicts. I sure hope they're submitting to authority in their particular circumstances ;-)

    I don't think seeking God's Word on family issues ought to be considered reactionary. But writing posts that discount the authority the Word has on our life certainly is a reaction against biblical truth.

    That's where I stand, at least.

    Blessings to you, as well, as you seek Him.

  18. mpt says:

    Hello…

    I hope guys are allowed to post here. :)

    My name is Matthew, and I'm one of the bloggers who wrote the post that I believe this post is based.

    First of all, let me say this: Jasmine, you're a lovely writer, and even though we might disagree on some topics/issues, I value and appreciate your passion for writing, studying scripture, and seeking truth.

    If it would be all right, I'd like to clarify a couple things.

    I have a feeling that my use of "biblical family model" and your use of the "biblical family model" are a bit different. Here's what I was trying to say in my post: In today's Christian culture lots of pastors and teachers talk about the concept of a "biblical family." It's a nuclear. One man. One woman. Anywhere from 3-5 kids. They go to church together. The father brings home the bacon. The mother stays home and raises the children. (I could go on…)

    The point I was trying to make on my blog was this: An example of THAT (the one described above) family unit does not exist within the pages of scripture. The stories of the families we read about within scripture are very different than the "ideal family situation" that we hear about from pastors and teachers today.

    When I pointed out the examples of "biblical families," I was in NO WAY IMPLYING that we should embrace those various actions as lifestyle. I was simply point out how different they were than the ideal we present today.

    I'm not completely sure, but I have the feeling that Jasmine might have thought that I was advocating six wives, marrying prostitutes, etc, etc etc. Or implying that anything goes in families today because anything seemed to go back then. THAT IS NOT TRUE. I only mentioned those examples to suggest that they don't match the "ideal" family that we pursue in TODAY'S CHRISTIAN CULTURE.

    Also, my post specifically noted that the Bible DOES contain ideas and teachings that a family today can use to lead us in being a family-love, patience, grace, etc. (I certainly hope you realize that the "SIX WIVES!" comment was a joke. It was satirical.)

    The only point that I was attempting to make by saying that there was no "biblical family model" within scripture was point out that NO STORY found within the pages of scripture models the type of family that many churches boast to be the ideal. In other words, Abraham's family–one wife, 1 son, 1 concubine, 1 son from concubine–is not the "ideal family model" according to today's Christian norms.

    Our model of family–i.e., 1 hard-working husband, 1 stay-at-home mom, and X-number of kids– <-THAT model is not found with in scripture.

    Trust me, while we might be able to glean some principles or lessons from the stories within scripture, NONE of us would be able to survive the conditions that people–but especially women–endured during biblical times.

    And Jasmine, one thing to consider: that while Abraham and King David and King Solomon's lives are strange to us now, they were the "norm" of that time.

    And in Paul's time, slaves were slaves. That part of Paul's letter was cultural. It should not be applied to our way of life. Paul wrote scripture within the context of his time, and we have to use great wisdom, grace, and hope in how we apply those words and teachings to our lives now.

    Hopefully this comment sheds a little light on my post and what I was trying to express. As you know, engaging scripture isn't a one-way-or-the-highway process. Many interpretations of scripture exist and we can learn something good and holy about God from almost all of those interpretations.

    Again, Jasmine, thank you for this post. Looks like you could have a future career as a writer!

    Peace,

    Matthew

  19. way to go, jasmine!!! i love what she writes and have

    tried my darndest to be a good role model for young

    women like her and my own.

    keep shining that torch, little sister!

  20. Jasmine says:

    Mr. Turner,

    I am, frankly, floored that you took the time to respond to my article -I'm kind of caught between 1) beaming like the gushy teeny bopper I sometimes (very much) still am because MPT read something that I wrote and thinks I'm a good writer -SCORE! and 2) still thinking of a million counter-arguments to what Matthew Turner just said. ;)

    I think I understood your article (sarcasm included -the six wives comment made me smile), and am familiar with the trends of Hebraic culture (one thing my dad always drives home for us when we're studying the lives of the patriarchs is grace. If he can use Moses, he can use me -if he can forgive David, he surely can forgive me! These men were human, and, in a lot of ways, a product of their surroundings, even as they strived to walk with the Lord); however, I think we would fall on different sides of the fence when it came to interpreting, applying, and accepting biblical principles for family life (in light of and in spite of cultural nuances). When I read your article, although I did catch that it was written satirically, I couldn't help but think (being the apologist's daughter that I am) about how we Christians lose so much ground when we silence the Scriptures in certain areas of our lives, even in jest, even those hard or unpopular verses to tackle, even those verses that would make us feel guilty or uncomfortable, and even the ones that will confuse us.

    True enough, though, how we apply those verses to our individual lives may differ, even after all of the hashing out that takes place.

    Mr. Turner, we have very different interpretations of God's Word -I'm definitely what some would describe as a hardline fundamentalist girl, and I'm okay with that. I'll bet if you took a peek around my blog, you'd find plenty to disagree with; I'm sure I could do the same with yours. To top it off, you have much more life experience than I do (and as I told someone else today, you could write circles around me). I have so much learning and growing to do in grace… but I try to write according to a biblical standard. Yet you're right: unpacking biblical texts is rarely just as easy as "my way or the highway," and Christians from every end of the spectrum must guard against reactionary exegesis or prideful verse battles and keep God's glory as our main focus.

    Thank you for taking the time to explain your position more fully to me. Please forgive me for any mischaracterization or unfair assumptions that I have made. I pray the Lord's best for you and your family as He continues to lead us to a deeper and fuller understanding of His Word and His will. I pray that both of us are bathed in grace as we tackle topics like these.

    By His Grace,

    Jasmine

  21. erin says:

    Matthew,

    I am wondering how the conclusion is made that Ephesians 5 is cultural? Is the whole book of Ephesians? Are all of the Epistles?

    All of Scripture was written in within the context of another time. Does that mean it was only meant for those people, of that time? Are we left to just try to give general application to our lives from themes?

    I'm confused on your view of biblical authority.

  22. mpt says:

    Thank you, Jasmine, for your gracious response. You're wise beyond your years. And yes, I'm happy to know that you didn't think I was advocating a man to have six wives! :)

    And yes, grace for each other is so important. Thank you again.

    Matthew

  23. Debbie says:

    I think its interesting that ANYONE would consider the Old Testament family units as MODELS for the ideal family unit. God created the basis for the ideal family unit within the Garden of Eden, and then fallen humanity has taken it and twisted it to fit their own desires and wishes.

    Abraham's story illustrates this perfectly well – he went outside of God's plan trying to MAKE it happen, when God knew what He was doing all along. They hatched their own plan for producing God's promised child and it backfired terribly. Abraham's continuing generations reflect this even to this day with the conflict in the Middle East, descendants of Isaac and Ishmael.

    Concubines, prostitutes, homosexuality, incest, rape – all of those things are what WE as human beings have done with God's design for marriage and family. Our desires and feelings far too often guide us – when we have God's Word that tells us how we are to live.

    Just as Jesus himself drove out the profiteers and thieves from the Temple for defiling His Father's House, we have to check ourselves against the dictates of Scripture – and not just the ideals of man.

  24. Excellent article and points!

  25. I feel tired just reading through the coffee talks tonight. I want to say please, may we keep it as simple as the Bible presents it? Marriage is an earthly picture of Christ and His church. That union yields fruit, specifically, a Godly seed. It really is just that simple. Become one with Christ and reproduce a holy life and born again believers. A joyous union with an everlasting future!

  26. [...] While these have generally been typical quiverfull, I want to address a few things that in Jasmine’s article that I think will be helpful here. I will address on thing in Jasmine’s article, deal with the [...]

  27. Emily says:

    so basically you get to pick and choose what Scriptures to follow. It's OK to discriminate against gays, but it's outdated to only wear outfits of the same material. Doesn't matter the two things are right beside each other in the bible.

  28. Jasmine says:

    Hey Emily,

    Sarcasm aside, I wanted to answer your question; what I believe about the law of God is here:

    http://www.vor.org/truth/1689/1689bc19.html

    with Scripture references. I'd you truly want to learn more, there are some great books out there about the distinction between moral, ceremonial, and judicial law (like Sam Waldron's Exposition of the 1689 London Baptist Confession). And, I suppose it depends on how you define "discrimination." I believe the Binle talks about homosexuality in places other than Levitical law -it also talks about sins that I myself am guilty of. And then it talks about punishment and consequences for sin. And then it talks about the grace that covers all who believe in Christ Jesus, and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. If you're a Christian, the Good News is nestled in God's Word -we have to study diligently so that we can rightly proclaim it -it's not about "picking and choosing" -it's about understanding and applying.

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