109 - Systematic Theology - Family - Audio - RR4102a.mp3

109Biblical Doctrine of the Family

The Family and Religion


Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.

Subject:   Systematic Theology


Genre:  Speech

Track: 03

Dictation Name:  03 The Family and Religion

Year:    1960’s – 1970’s


Let us begin with prayer.

O Lord our God, bless us ever in thy service.  Make us ever strong by thy Spirit that in all things, we may be more than conquerors.  We give thanks unto thee that ours is the word of victory in Jesus Christ, and we thank thee that as we face the battles of our time, the hostility of the enemy, and the powers of darkness, we have the assurance that this is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith.  In his name we pray.  Amen.

We began last time with our study of the biblical doctrine of the family.  This evening in our first session, we shall deal with The Family and Religion.

The psalm I want to call to your attention at this time is Psalm 127.  The key Psalm in dealing with our concern this evening.  Psalm 127.  “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.  It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.  Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.  As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.  Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.”

The family is first and last a religious entity.  To view the family in non-religious, sociological terms is to miss its essential meaning.

Now, there is no question that the sociological importance of the family is very great.  In the second session, we will touch on some aspects of that.  The economic power of the family is very important, but all other aspects of the life of the family are subordinate to its religious meaning. [3:07]

The family, under God, is the central institution, but historically, the family has been productive of much evil.  Many people have a romantic vision of the family, especially the pre-Christian family.  Much of this goes back to Tacitus.  The Roman historian, Tacitus, in writing to the Romans and deeply concerned in the first century A.D., with their degeneracy, and the decay of their family life, wrote at great length to rebuke the Romans and he contrasted their family life to the supposed life of the Germanic tribes.  Now, Tacitus knew nothing about the Germanic tribes and their family life, but he wanted a model, something to hold up as an ideal.  So he portrayed an idealistic picture of these Germanic tribes and their family life, which has been with us ever since, but as Chadwick, an historian of about a century ago, has pointed out, all the evidence indicates, for example, in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and the Germanic tribes, family life in pagan times was quite murderous.  He comments, “The theory that the sanctity of the bonds of kindred had been dissolved by the influence of Christianity is scarcely an explanation.”  Chadwick, as a non-Christian, said we cannot blame Christianity for the decay of Germanic family life.  Indeed, he says, we have evidence of Scandinavian family life when the Scandinavians were still pagan, because it was not until about 1000 A.D. that the real conversion of the tribes in the far north began, and the point he made is that the Scandinavian kingdoms before Christianity were as prone as the Germanic tribes to shedding the blood of kindred, to betraying one another, to all kinds of immorality and evil.  Man’s sin is not something that diminishes as we go back in history.  It’s romantic to say that in the old days the families were better.  Man’s sin is co-extensive with all his being, and it concentrates most around the things that are most important. [6:37]

As a result, the family, over the centuries, has been a central area for sin.  All one has to do is to read the book of Genesis to confirm that, that the strong points of life, sin is most in evidence, most at war against God’s order.

In studying the religious order of family life and the religious importance of it, we must remember that the Bible makes it clear that that religious importance is in terms of biblical faith, not in terms of what maybe ancient Chinese, or ancient Germans, or ancient anybody was, but in terms of biblical faith.  Proverbs tell us, for example, that a godly wife is not only a good thing, but a means of favor with the Lord, in Proverbs 18:22.  In Proverbs 19:14, we are told that a prudent wife is from the Lord, but the contentions of a wife are a continual dropping or dripping, as of a leaky roof.  Proverbs 12:4 tells us a virtuous woman is a crown to her husband, but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones.  Proverbs tells us a great deal also about the evils of an ungodly man, of a slothful man, of an irresponsible man, an adulterous man, and so on and on.  Marriage and family are, in the Bible, the central, the basic institution, far more important that the church.  Certainly far more important than civil government, but this does not mean that the family is an automatic good. [9:22]

Children, we are told very plainly in scripture, are born into sin, they need correction, and rearing children is not easy.  We are told about children in Proverbs, as in Proverbs 22:15, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”  The fact of sin means that correction and disciplining is a necessity.  Then, we are secondly told in Proverbs that the character of a child grows more sturdily for some cutting back, some chastisement, and that a child left to him or herself will be shame to the parents.  In many pagan cultures, the family is a good in itself.  In old China, with ancestor worship, the family in itself was the basic good and it was a prolific breeding ground for sin.  In the Bible, the family is God’s basic institution, but it is good only under the Lord and his word.  This means that the scripture recognizes first, that the fact of sin is as destructive of the family outside of God as it is of the individual outside of the Lord, and second, it tells us, very clearly from beginning to end of scripture the importance of the family under God and in his kingdom.  The family, to be a good, to be a holy institution, must be in Christ, under the Lord.

Now, this brings us to Psalm 127, a psalm that is familiar to everyone and yet very commonly misunderstood.  Our problem as we read the Bible is that we go to it to find the word that we need.  Well, that’s good.  It’s helpful to go to the Bible because you’re in spiritual need and you want a word that will strengthen you, but when you do this, you can miss what God has to say.  So the first reason for going to the Bible is not what we need, but what does God have to say to us, and what is the Psalm about?  “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”  This Psalm, from beginning to end, is about national defense, national security, and the Psalmist begins by telling us that you can have a fine walled city.  You can have guards, military guards patrolling the walls, but it’s useless, it is in vain, or you can translate the word “vain” also as futile. [13:33]

Ecclesiastes tells us, “Vanity of vanity, all is vanity,” or in modern language, “Futility of futilities, all is futility,” and three times here in this Psalm we are told that things are futile, given certain circumstances.  Except the Lord build the house, it is all in vain.  You can have the best national defense program.  You can have the best armament, but it is all futile unless the Lord build the city, and it tells us something about our time.  Today we have said the state is the necessary agency, and everybody has to be in the state, but the church, Christianity, take it or leave it.  It’s a purely private concern.  We are building in vain, and we are piling up armament in vain.  Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it:  except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”  It is “vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.”  We are now told that, not only in national defense, but in personal defense, in personal security it’s all futility, and we can work hard, get up early and work late, and be in continual tension and concern.  We’re going to protect ourselves, we’re going to have security, we’re going to defend ourselves against the problems of life, but he gives to his beloved as they sleep, his gifts, not with all their working outside of him.  The gifts come to his beloved as they sleep.

Then he goes on.  Remember he’s still talking about national defense, and the Psalmist says, “children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.  As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.”  He has not shifted subjects.  The subject is still national defense.  Personal and national defense, security in the face of the evils of the world and the enemies who seek to subvert and overthrow the country, and what does he say?  Children are a satisfaction to you in your old age, and children are wonderful to have, because think of the delight of seeing them grow, and think of the delight of having grandchildren?  No.  Not that these things are not good, they are, but in the wars of the Lord, in the battles of God’s kingdom, our basic weaponry is our children. [17:29]

Now, people are want to pray for all kinds of supernatural miracles.  They want God to deliver us from the communists, or whatever enemy a country may have at the given time in history.  Whether it be the Philistines, the Babylonians, the Assyrians, or anyone else, “Lord, deliver us.”  Now, in Antiquity, the artillery, the heavy weaponry constituted the archers.  Bows and arrows, and as an enemy advanced to meet an army, the more archers they had with a barrage of arrows, the more they mowed down people.  We know that in the Middle Ages, one of the most feared things in all of Europe were the English longbows.  When those English archers got busy, they mowed down the enemy, and the Psalmist is here telling us, as arrows are in the hand of a mighty man, so are children of the youth.  In the wars of God’s kingdom, children reared in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, are the basic weaponry.  So, first we are told, “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.”  Now, what constitutes the building of the house, personal or national?  Children, reared in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, brought up to be soldiers of Christ, to be involved in the conquest of things for Christ.  These are arrows in the hands of a mighty man.

“Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them,” or blessed is the man that hath his quiver full of them:  “they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.”  Now, the gate was the place for business, that was where trade took place, and the place of the council meeting and the court.  The legal premise that all court hearings should be open and public goes back to the Bible, and in the Bible it had to be outside so that anyone could come and sit, and make sure the law of God was faithfully applied, and what does the Psalmist say?  Build the nation of the city with the word of God.  Let the Lord be the builder.  Let the Lord be the builder of your family life and your children, and they will be like heavy weaponry, artillery, and what will the result be?  That you shall sit and speak with the enemies in the gate.  You will lay down the law to the enemies.  You will be the one who, instead of being inside the city, huddled there, besieged by the enemy, the gates will be open, you’ll be sitting there, and the enemies will be coming to you. [21:47]

So, what does the Psalm tell us?  It tells us how important the family is under God, that the family is a natural thing which God says when it is governed by supernatural grace and the word of God, becomes the means of national defense, the means of extending the kingdom of God, the means of bringing dominion in one sphere after another.  This is the religious importance of the family.  This is the way God ordained it.  This is why so much of the Bible is addressed to families.  The whole book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ instruction to Israel, to the heads of families, in which he tells them, “Here is the entire law of God summarized by me.  All of this is to be taught to your children.”  The book of Proverbs is instruction to parents, and so much of scripture is addressed to the family.  The central rite of the Bible, the Passover, is a family service, and we know from all the records that in the New Testament, it was still family-oriented, and the parents were expected at home to instruct the children in the meaning of the Christian Passover.

In Antiquity, outside of the world of faith, men saw the family as very important, but not in biblical terms.  They saw it as all important humanistically.  They saw power as localized in the family, and law localized in the family.  The word of the tribal head as being the law for the people.  It was closely bound up with ancestor worship.  Now, law is always the expression of power.  In fact, law comes from the god of a religion.  Today, because law comes from Congress, not from scripture, it means that Congress and the courts have made themselves God.  The Supreme Court has affirmed that there is no law above and beyond the word of man.  They have made themselves into a god.  To affirm the family, in biblical terms, means to say that apart from God’s law and God’s grace, the family cannot be good.  It is, in fact, evil and demonic.  It becomes an exploitive power system, and the family, outside of Christ, has through the centuries been very important and very evil, nightmarish. [26:34]

A European scholar, a phenomenologist, Gerardus Van Der Loo, said, a few years ago concerning the pagan family, “There was no community without some center of power which might be either a sacrum{?}, a certain specific god or a person, while the power subsisting in the tribal community was guaranteed by the Lord, the king, or the nobility.  Thus, life is valid only when it is potent life, but it possesses power again, only within the community.  Mere separation from family and country suffice to bring life into peril, and he who was expelled from the Germanic community was good as dead.”  This was a common attitude in Antiquity.  If you were expelled from the family or tribe, you were as good as dead, but for us, death is separation from God, not the family.  Communion then, was with the family and the people, the folk, not with God.  The source of power was localized in the community.  We have not progressed much beyond the Germanic tribes or the ancient Chinese family system in this respect.  They localized the power in the tribal leaders or in the family heads.  We localize it in the modern state.  Our courts recognize no higher law, no law from God, and they are thus the modern champions of ancient tribalism.

Apart from the Lord, the family becomes an exploitive power system.  In Genesis 4:23-24, we read, “And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt.  If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.”  Lamech boasts the he kills a man who wounds him and a boy for a blow.  If God expects sevenfold vengeance towards anyone who transgresses his will, Lamech makes God’s vengeance trifling by comparison.  His vengeance is seventyfold.  Thus, first of all, Lamech boasts in relationship to God.  He says, My power and wrath are more to be feared, they are more consequential.  Secondly, Lamech boasts to his wives, to intimidate and impress them with his power, that he is not one to be trifled with.  Clearly, for Lamech, he is the power center of all things, not God, and as such, he is defiant toward God and man, and he imposes his power threat on his wives.  The family as a power center in this pagan sense, in this ungodly sense, is also a sin center.  Only under the triune God and his law-word can the family be a true power center on godly terms. [31:01]

The Pilgrims were the first community in this country and they sought to live in terms of the whole word of God.  It is interesting what the family was in Plymouth Plantation.  It was, as John Demas, an historian at one of the universities in the East has said, first of all, a business, a center for economic production exchange and work.  So that the family, whatever it was involved in, whether it was farming or trade, the whole family was involved in it, and boys and girls learned from their earliest years how to work.  Second, it was a school.  It was a training center.  It is interesting to know that the Pilgrims and Puritans alike loved their children so much they were afraid they would destroy their children, so they would exchange children, and their children would be swapped with some friend who was to have the child for a year as a servant and to work the child hard, and discipline the child, because the parents said, “We are too prone to be indulgent.”  I’m not saying it was the best system, but it was motivated by a very godly and holy purpose. 

On one occasion, I read about one child who was very much adored by his parents and could not take being disciplined, and he would run back home down the road to his parents’ farm and beg them to take him back, and they would send him back to the place where he was to be for a year, even though they wept as they did so.  They loved their children, but they did not spoil them.

Then third, the family, among the Pilgrims, was a vocational institution, a discipline of work was taught to every member.  Fourth, it was a church, a place of worship, a place where they were taught the word of God.  Fifth, it was a house of correction.  This in an interesting fact.  The courts then executed anyone who was a habitual criminal an incorrigible.  All others were sentenced to restitution, working for the person whom they had wronged in making restitution.  Idlers were put in a home.  It would be ready to take them, and they were there to be bondservants for a given amount of time, and to be taught how to work, and sixth, they made the family, the home, a welfare institution, an orphanage, a poorhouse, so that people were assigned to take in the elderly or the orphans, because they saw the family as the best training ground, in Christ, for anyone, children and adults, and they made it work that way. [35:19]

Well, today the family is undergoing a major revival, and things are happening all over the country within the context of the Christian family, and parents are ready to go to court in defiance of the state, because they want control of their children, because they want to educate their children at home or in a Christian school, or because they insist on chastising their child when, in some communities to lay a hand on your child is child abuse, but they are fighting, because the Spirit of God is at work among them, reestablishing the family in Christ, and in terms of God’s law-word. 

We shall take about a ten minute break now, and then resume with our second session at the end of that time. [36:33]

End of tape