Wednesday, October 14, 2009

God, Marriage and Family

God, Marriage and Family, Andreas J. Kostenburger

I have recently written a review of God, Marriage and Family for webSALT, the AFES online magazine for university students. The review is tailored for university students, but you can still see what I think are the real strengths of the book from the review following.

You may be wondering why, as a university student, you would possibly be interested in a book titled God, Marriage and Family. Marriage (and certainly children) probably seem like they are a long way off, and surely you can think about that later in life! Well, I agree with you! Save the 'how to' marriage and parenting books for when you are nearer that life stage. However, this book is so much better than any 'how to' book you will find. Köstenberger has written this excellent book to challenge and teach us how to think in a godly way about marriage, family and all related issues that spring from them.

Do you know how to think biblically about IVF? About divorce and remarriage? About various parenting styles? About different contraceptive methods? About how to be a godly husband or wife? About how to be a godly single person? About homosexuality?

Whether or not you are facing these issues right now, someone around you is and, as Christians, we want to be wise and biblical at all times and in all circumstances.

In the opening chapter, Köstenberger observes that “for the first time in its history, Western civilization is confronted with the need to define the meaning of the terms 'marriage' and 'family'" (p. 25). This cultural crisis, with the institutions of marriage and family under siege, however is "merely symptomatic of a deep-seated spiritual crisis" (p. 25). His conclusion is that we must be seeking a spiritual solution, not a cultural one.

This is exactly what Köstenberger has done – provided a resource so that we can think biblically about all of these issues. He grounds the entire book in Scripture, creating one readable, detailed, and evangelical book which addresses all issues related to marriage and the family. While he deals with a number of large topics in detail, he moves through them quickly and easily, presenting the biblical data and drawing conclusions from them. This book can be read straight through, to get a feel of the overall arguments, but its real value is probably as a resource. You can easily just read a relevant chapter when needed. Also, keep an eye out for the endnotes. Rarely do I read the endnotes in a book, but these were excellent – they were a wealth of further information, resources, and additional reading material. In the end I read this book with the Bible open next to me and one finger in the endnotes, and was able to easily flip between them all.

Köstenberger has also provided a bible study for each chapter, so this book could easily be read and talked about in a group context. And, he even gives the answers in a separate section! Very helpful for anyone running such a group.

While the entire book was good, here are a few areas of the book that I thought were particularly helpful:
  • The chapter on homosexuality is a good, detailed chapter which includes lots of information including the arguments used on both sides of the fence and where the errors in them lie.
  • The chapter on divorce and remarriage gives detailed attention to and discussion about the biblical passages. It is well presented, and his conclusions were helpful.
  • Chapter 7 included a detailed discussion about contraception, the various methods and the pros and cons of each. This is an issue rarely discussed in Christian circles, but it probably should be talked about more. Knowing where to find this information, even before you have the need for it, only enhances this book’s value as a resource.
Unless, one is very certain, therefore, that Scripture absolutely prohibits divorce and remarriage under any and all circumstances (only remarriage in the case of the death of one spouse excepted), it would seem wise to err on the side of mercy and to allow for divorce and remarriage in the cases of adultery and abandonment, lest people are held to a standard that may be higher even that the biblical one. (p. 257)
So, if you are want to think more about what marriage, family and all the issues surrounding them mean, and you want to establish a solid biblical foundation for your thinking - read this book!

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