First, God is transcendent. He directly relates to each sphere of society. Family, Church, and State are not stacked on top of each other. The Family does not have to go through the State, nor the Church, to get to God. This gives the Family institution a sacred character. No longer is the Family viewed this way. The State has crippled its God-given powers. A civil judge once said, "Whilst marriage is often termed by text writers and in decisions of courts a civil contract... it is something more than a mere contract ...It is an institution." By this he meant that the Family is a covenant. But the State does not believe this way any more. The family is under attack from the State and society at large. Who can doubt the Family's loss of sacredness? Now other "gods" rule it.
Second, as for authority, most families are not sure "who's in charge." There was a time when the father was head of the house. Everyone knew it. Everyone acknowledged it. But the advent of the working mother has created a conflict. It's not the 1950's anymore. High inflation and debt have changed the economics of Western culture. A collapsing economy has forced the woman to go to the market place. When she does, she starts to bring in a sizable portion of the family income. Maybe as much or more than the husband. This threatens the relationship, and the wars begin. The rise of wife abuse statistics indicate the extent of conflicts. War has been declared in the home. It remains to be seen whose authority will take charge.
Third, the covenant laid out a clear sense of right and wrong, ethics. The first colonists believed in the morality of the Bible, an objective standard. And every family was raised on this morality. Today the family has lost this sense of right and wrong. Its children are indoctrinated with "values training" in public schools. The philosophical background for such training comes straight out of the Humanist Manifesto I & II. Students are taught, "We affirm that moral values derive their source from human experience. Ethics is autonomous and situational, needing no theological or ideological sanction. How frightening it is to think that the future leaders of our civilization will believe this way!
Fourth, it used to be that when a couple said their vows before God and man, their oath was taken seriously. Divorce was socially unacceptable. Our times tell us something about how people feel about their marriage oath. Thirty-eight percent of all first marriages in the United States fail. Seventy-nine percent of those people will remarry, and forty-four percent of these second marriages will fail.
The fifth area of the covenant is continuity. Most families cannot maintain the bond implied by this word. Indeed, studies indicate that "Christians" are not doing well at raising up Godly "seed." They are losing their children to the government school system. They are losing them to the humanists who write the screenplays for television shows. They are even losing them to the humanists who teach in Christian colleges.
Also, the rapid death of the "family business" points to the loss of continuity. Each year a growing number of family businesses is terminated, not because there are no living heirs, but because the heirs are not interested. Some students of the "small business" believe this is one of the largest causes for the collapse of the "small business."
At one time the family was understood as a covenantal unit. The loss of this idea has had staggering effects. The five foundational concepts of covenant have proven to be critical to the family's life or concepts of covenant have proven to be critical to the family's life or death, sickness or health. It seems that as the traditional marriage vows have been altered or destroyed -- "In sickness and in health, for righter for poorer... till death do us part" -- so has the entire institution. But the family is not the only institution that has lost it's covenantal moorings."
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