CAP – Study 11 – Institutions – Family – Trustee and Communion
This study concludes the section on the institution of Family.
· The family is the primary trustee of a society’s capital.
· The promise to Abraham concerning the inheritance of his descendants was central to God's covenant.
· This future-orientation is central to the life of a biblical family.
· In essence, making disciples begins within the family.
· Christians have time on their side.
· Men will not sacrifice for the future of a bureaucratic State.
· The family is God's primary institution for dominion.
The following is from “Unconditional Surrender” by Gary North.
The family is the primary trustee of a society's capital. The family serves as a bridge between generations. The family name is an important aspect of biblical rule. To increase the capital of the family unit is a basic impulse in Christian societies.
A promise to Abraham concerning the inheritance of his descendants was central to God's covenant with Abram, whose name was changed to Abraham ("father of nations") by God. God promised to give his heirs the land of Canaan (Genesis 15:18). Abraham had been concerned about a lack of an heir for his capital, having only a steward to leave his wealth to (Genesis 15:2-3). He wanted a son to inherit his capital and presumably to inherit the family name.
The family was understood to be an institution ideal for the preservation of capital. Abraham recognized this, as did the people of his day. By extending one's family, one extended the dominion of the family, the most important institution a man could belong to in Abraham's day. This hope was part of God's promise to Abraham when He called him out of Haran. "Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee. And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed" (Genesis 12:1-3). A man with no children who had reached age 75 was promised heirs. A man with no heirs would have his name made great. This was a true incentive to pick up and leave one's home.
The future mattered to Abraham, even though he would never see the entry of his heirs into the land of Canaan. That promise from God could be trusted. It was as good as done, four centuries before they entered Canaan (Galatians 3:16-18). His family, though presently without blood heirs, would receive the land of Canaan as its inheritance from Abraham, by the grace of God.
This future-orientation is central to the life of a biblical family. The dominion assignment was given to Adam, reconfirmed with Noah, and is now part of the covenant between God and His church, meaning individuals who belong to His church. We are to extend the rule of God's law across the face of the earth. We are to subdue it and have dominion over it. One of the means of extending dominion is the family. No wonder one of the promises to Moses was that if the nation remained faithful to God's law, wives would not have miscarriages. Even the female domesticated animals would avoid miscarriages (Exodus 23:26). The promise of a growing stock of human capital is basic to God's covenant with His followers.
The family serves as a trustee of the most important capital asset, the faith delivered to the saints. This is why Deuteronomy 6 requires parents to teach their children the law of God. By bringing children under the dominion of God's law, parents rear up families of dominion-minded children. The subordination to God's law inaugurates the dominion aspect of God's covenant. Dominion-minded families then ex tend God's rule even further, as they bear more children, who in turn are brought under the rule of God's law.
Christians have time on their side. It may not always seem to be so, but it is. Time is under God's sovereign control. He allots time to everyone, but He blesses those who conform themselves to His law. Long life and large families are both aspects of God's blessings to the faithful. They are blessed because they use their capital in kingdom-oriented ways. Christians can look to their earthly futures in confidence, even as Abram did (before God renamed him Abraham). They know that they have the tool of dominion, God's law. They know that God promises blessings to the faithful. They can rest in Christ's work on the cross. The future belongs to them and their heirs. Their names will extend into the future.
Given this perspective, is it surprising that Christians should amass capital? Is it surprising that the Protestant Reformation of the 1500's led to the growth of capitalism in the next century? There is a Protestant ethic, and its view of time is fundamental to its success. Men who are confident concerning the future, in time and on earth, can plan for a very long run: centuries, if necessary. Their vision extends beyond their own graves. They see victory in terms of linear development over time. They can invest a bit of money today, even at a very low rate of return, and if God blesses its growth long enough, the law of compound interest takes over, leading to a long-run expansion of capital. It is revealing that charities established by Puritan businessmen in London in the late 1500's and early 1600's were still operating in 1900. The original capital base had been reinvested over the years, leading to an expansion of charitable activities. The growth in productivity - the basic rate of return - was sufficient to operate the charities and still expand their influence.
Men will not sacrifice for the future of a bureaucratic State with the same enthusiasm with which they will sacrifice present consumption for the sake of their families’ futures. The State is a pseudo-family, and men treat it as such. If the State confiscates family wealth at the time of death of the "founding father," then the sons, not to mention the father himself, will have an incentive to spend the family fortune today, if only to keep the tax collector from getting the bulk of the estate. This drastically shortens men's time perspective. The long run becomes no longer than the lifetime of the founder when the State confiscates the estate at his death. A bit of money invested today must make a high return if it is to grow to any considerable capital base in the lifetime of one man. Such a return is not that easy to achieve. Men turn to gambling to "make the big killing" when they recognize the improbability of building a capital base with today's few assets, given the tight boundaries of a single lifetime.
The Roman Catholics in the middle ages recruited their brightest young men for the ministry. They required celibacy to insure their full commitment to the institutional church. In contrast, medieval Jews recruited their brightest young men for the rabbinate. The families sacrificed to provide such training. Then the young men were encouraged to marry bright (or rich) young women and produce large families of (hopefully) equally bright children. The results of the two social policies were very different. The Jews expanded their genetic pool of bright people, and trained them to be industrious. The Roman Catholics got one lifetime of labor out of their best men, leaving no family heirs behind to inherit the amassed capital. The Jews have gained influence vastly out of proportion to their numbers. The difference lay, to a great extent, in the institutional trustee: church vs. family. The family name is symbolic of a lot more than just a name.
The family is a fellowship of faith. Concerning Christian fellowship in general, Paul remarked: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?" (II Corinthians 6:14). Marriage, as a true communion, involves separation from the enemies of God. A man needs a cooperative wife, who can uphold him, help him, and give him encouragement in their shared tasks. He has to be able to share his hopes and dreams with her, and she with him. If they don't share first principles, how can they share their hopes for the future? Their hopes would be shared only on the basis of the least-common denominator principle. But a successful marriage is based on higher principles than these.
A couple's home is a refuge against the battles of the day. If the man is battling the world, spiritually and economically, he needs a place to gain new strength. He needs "rest and recreation" to help him win the battles of the world. His family life should provide a zone of mutual support against the pressures of the outside world. But what if the same spiritual battles are in store for husband and wife, since they share different outlooks? Life becomes a constant battle, or at the very least, battles interrupted by temporary truces. Marriage should be more than a temporary cease fire. The warfare of the spirit cannot easily be fenced out at the front door. The Christian partner must subdue his mate's influence in the home, to the extent that his or her influence is at war with the unbelieving mate's anti-Christian first principles. Dominion is vastly more difficult for one who is exhausted from battles inside the home, as well as outside.
Marriage is compared with the relationship between Christ and His church. Godly marriage is therefore a true fellowship, the archetypal fellowship among human institutions. Men cannot normally operate successfully without wives, which is why God gave Adam a wife. If a man has no fellowship, he is normally less effective in his dominion labors. God provides a wife to provide a man with a fellow laborer, and also with a fellow dreamer, fellow learner, fellow restorer. Men work better when they are members of a tightly knit team. Marriage is just such a team.
God has established families. God's own being is a family: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It has worked well for God throughout eternity; it can work well for His servants on earth.
The family is a unit, yet it is made up of different individuals. It is both one and many. It provides a basic division of labor, and this leads to greater productivity. It provides a zone of safety against life's battles with a fallen, recalcitrant environment. It offers fellowship and communion to its participants. It provides men and women with a stake in the future, both through children and economic capital. It gears men to the future, and in so doing, makes possible habits of thrift that lead to vast capital growth. It gives men some idea of Christ's love for His church. It provides welfare and education for its members. It reduces the need for a huge State bureaucracy, so it acts as a weapon against the illegitimate expansion of State power. It will not survive into heaven (Matthew 22:30), but short of heaven, it offers mankind incomparable benefits.
This is not to say that in a fallen world, marriage doesn't sometimes create problems for its members. Paul even advised people in his day not to marry, if they could live comfortably single (I Corinthians 7). Some scholars have argued that he probably was referring only to his era, since he was concerned about impending judgment from the authorities (which came under Nero's reign in the 60's): "But this I say, brethren, the time is short" (I Corinthians 7:29a). His recommendation: "I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them to abide even as I" (I Corinthians 7:8). Paul was unmarried, probably a widower, although we can't be certain of his status as widower. Yet in his first letter to Timothy, he advised younger widows to remarry (I Timothy 5:14), which seems to indicate that his opinion in his letter to the Corinthian church was temporary. Paul admits that there are times when the concerns of marriage interfere with one's service to God: "He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife" (I Corinthians 7:32-33). It is important for men to choose wives who are fully committed to their husbands' work before the Lord. Without this, the marriage threatens to compromise the man's actions as a responsible agent of God.
When a man and a woman are working together to subdue the earth to the glory of God, self-consciously applying their labors, content to be servants of God, working to produce a family in conformity to God's law, marriage is a blessing. It is not the only blessing, Paul told the Corinthians, but it is still a good thing. For most people, he implied, the single state leads to sexual problems, so people need the marital bond (I Corinthians 7:2). For most people, marriage is the most effective institutional means of dominion. Without the family, the work of dominion could not continue effectively. Men could not multiply and fill the earth except outside the faith, if Christians were forbidden to marry - not without breaking God's law, anyway. The family is God's primary institution for dominion.