Reinventing the Family

By Wayne Jackson

Rosemary Radford Ruether is a “theologian” who teaches at Garrett-Evangelical Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. Ms. Ruether is the author of a new book, titled, Christianity and the Making of the Modern Family.

In this ambitious volume, Ruether challenges the “traditional” family structure and argues for the acceptance of diverse family forms (e.g., a variety of post-marriage relationships following divorce, “temporary” vows by cohabiting couples, homosexual liaisons, etc.). She aims at “desacramentalizing” marriage, which is her jargon for removing this sacred relationship from biblical guidelines. She wants to “relativize perceptions of fixed family roles,” which means that there are to be no static rules governing the marriage relationship.

Ruether claims there never has been “only one form of family,” and she dips into a variety of historical sources in an attempt to argue her case. Her fundamental blunder is that she equates humanity’s degeneration from the divine mandate as the ideal.

But what mankind has done and taught over the centuries does not create the standard for defining the laws that govern human relationships. This truth is so fundamental that it is incredible that anyone should miss it!

In spite of her position as a theologian, Professor Ruether is void of any comprehension that the Bible is a revelation from God. That is why she argues that society can dare to “reimagine” family relationships. Reimagine indeed! That’s part of the lady’s problem—she imagines that her imagination is the source of spiritual authority.

An example of Ruether’s dubious exegetical skills is seen in her charge that Jesus Christ was “antifamily.” In support of this hideous accusation, she cites the Savior’s affirmation that one must be willing to forsake family to follow him. That admonition was never designed to depreciate the family unit; rather, it was intended to underscore the absolute necessity for loyalty to the Savior of the world! Obviously, that is a concept with which the professor is not even remotely acquainted.

God is the Author of the family. He created man from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7) and he fashioned woman from the side of man (2:21). It was God himself who “brought [the woman] unto the man” (v. 22). Henceforth man was to leave his parents for the establishment of a new family unit. He was to “cleave unto his wife,” and they would be “one” (v. 24). Marriage was Heaven’s orchestration—not man’s. From the Genesis record, several facts about the marriage relationship, as originally designed by the Maker, are apparent.

(1) Marriage is not a relationship that may be trifled with by foolish and hedonistic rebels. It is God’s arrangement, originating from his mind; we have no business attempting to “reimagine” his plan.

(2) Marriage was fashioned as a monogamous relationship—one man for one woman, as long as both are living. That there were subsequent departures from this original intention (cf. Genesis 4:19) does not alter the primitive standard.

Moreover, the fact that God tolerated breaches of the ideal during a time of incomplete revelation (cf. Matthew 19:8; Acts 14:16; 17:30) does not mean that such laxness is overlooked today under the better (cf. Hebrews 8:6, etc.) and more demanding regime of the Christian ethic.

(3) Marriage was designed as a heterosexual union. Sodomite relationships, though trendy with many today, were and are an abomination before God (cf. Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Jude 7).

(4) Marriage was intended to be a life-long union. The merry-go-round relationships of this fickle and immoral society are not consistent with the original plan (Matthew 19:8), and today Jehovah does not sanction capricious divorce.

Jesus, restoring marriage to its pristine condition under the new covenant arrangement, allows divorce and remarriage only on the basis of marital infidelity (Matthew 5:32; 19:9).

And so, the Rosemary Ruethers can rage on and imagine vain things, but the Word of God remains stable, and the divine law of marriage is inflexible.

Sources/Footnotes
  • Ruether, Rosemary Radford. 2000. Christianity and the Making of the Modern Family. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.