Christians and Family

Sondra Wheeler

in The Oxford Handbook of Theological Ethics

Published in print August 2007 | ISBN: 9780199227228
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

Christians and Family

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One would hardly want to present the Christian religion as an apologist for irresponsible or immoral conduct toward spouses and children, or as insensitive to the richness and challenge of family life as a context for personal spiritual formation. But it is important to recognize that this easy confluence of Christian ethics and familial duty is something of an anomaly historically. Moreover, it is an anomaly for good reasons: reasons rooted deep in our moral and theological traditions, in the texts that form us, and the practices that sustain our communities. This article makes this case, starting with a broad sketch of the biblical material dealing with family life, from the primeval histories down to the explicit moral teaching of the pastoral epistles. The article then considers some of the complicated strands of early Christian teaching about the relationship between faithfulness and family life, and the preaching, teaching, and pastoral advice of the classical Reformation theologians. Finally, it analyzes the roots of the modern sacralization of family life, and suggests something about the insights it costs us and the moral perils to which it exposes us. The article offers a constructive proposal for reclaiming the sphere of family life under the aegis of discipleship, and suggests that such a strategy depends upon the conversion of natural loves.

Keywords: Christian ethics; family life; pastoral epistles; faithfulness; Reformation; sacralization; discipleship

Article.  7988 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religious Studies ; Philosophy of Religion

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