Editorial -- By: Andreas J. Köstenberger
JETS 59:1 (March 2016) p. 1
Last November’s annual meeting of the ETS had a somewhat unusual topic, “Marriage and the Family.” I say “unusual,” because some would argue that marriage and family are primarily practical rather than academic topics. While some of the presentations at the conference were indeed more application-oriented in nature, even a quick perusal of the program will disabuse detractors of the notion that marriage and the family are unworthy of serious scholarly attention. The importance of exploring this topic academically and otherwise lies not only in the fact that marriage and the family are worthy of sustained theological reflection, but more importantly in the fact that human relationships are integrally related to the gospel and deeply affected by it. As I will seek to demonstrate further below, marriage and family are no mere second-order issues.
In recent years, North American evangelicalism has been paying increasing amounts of attention to the gospel and in particular to the centrality of the gospel. This, of course, is a good thing, and much needed. Organizations such as The Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel have risen to promote unity centered on the essentials of the gospel, living out the adage, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” By bringing serious-minded, mission-conscious individuals and churches together from various denominations that affirm the good news of forgiveness and salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ—as articulated, for example, by the apostle Paul in 1 Cor 15:3–4—we can make sure that when it comes to the mission of the church, the main thing remains the main thing. That “main thing,” of course, is the gospel.
With regard to this gospel, it is my conviction that marriage and the family are at the same time less and more important than is often supposed. On the one hand, people sometimes overvalue marriage and family, in that an undue preoccupation with them can detract from the primacy of Jesus’s call to discipleship. While thriving marriages and families are a vital part of human flourishing, they prove to be elusive when pursued as ends in and of themselves. Jesus taught that following him has ultimate priority, so when his call to discipleship comes into conflict with family relationships, they must be set aside, a radical point Jesus made repeatedly throughout his ministry. As he noted, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). Discipleship means subor...
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