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Unread 09-15-2020, 04:06 PM   #1
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Was Early Christianity Pro-Family?

It's been a whole since we have had a good ol' discussion in here. So, I thought I would bring up a topic that periodically pops in my head.

Was early Christianity pro-family, in the sense that we normally mean it in our day and age (procreating couple with 2 kids, etc)?

Jesus certainly seem to be kinda anti-family in some places:
-Luke 14:26 Jesus says 'Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself cannot be my disciple.'
-Mark 10:28-31. 'Peter began to say to him, 'Look, we have left everything and followed you. Jesus said, Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age--houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions-- and in the age to come eternal life.'

Paul also has some things to say, most prominently in 1 Corinthians chapter 7:
-v.8 'to the unmarried and widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. (v.9)But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry.'
-vv. 32-35. 'I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin are anxious about the affairs of the Lord, so that they may be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to put any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord.'
-38, ' So then, he who marries his fiance does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better.'

What do these mean for Christians today? How does it complicate what we think of when we think of 'family'? What would a fuller theology of the family be that took these texts into account? What does the temporal and spatial context of these texts add to the discussion about them?

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Unread 09-15-2020, 09:22 PM   #2
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Interesting topic. I've sometimes wondered if the first generation expecting the Parousia in their lifetime may have influenced some of the vague language about marriage and family. It has echos of other groups' behavior in later end times predictions. Millerites and Shakers in the 1840s comes to mind.
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Unread 09-17-2020, 04:21 PM   #3
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Interesting topic. I've sometimes wondered if the first generation expecting the Parousia in their lifetime may have influenced some of the vague language about marriage and family. It has echos of other groups' behavior in later end times predictions. Millerites and Shakers in the 1840s comes to mind.
I think that this is probably true, especially in the case of early Paul.

I guess the question, then, is what we do with that knowledge! Some early Christians, for instance, used much of what Paul said about marriage, coupled it with other Pauline texts that seem to talk about renouncing desire, and considered celibacy (even in marriage) to be preferable. And others, like Clement, thought that while sex was permissible, it shouldnt be pleasurable. Christians should renounce being seduced or controlled by their desires.
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Unread 09-17-2020, 05:13 PM   #4
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Paul does seem to suggest that those who are able to remain celibate can better serve the kingdom. However, he also seems to suggest that if you can't then you should marry.

I do believe that pro-creation is the major reason for human sexual activity but I see absolutely no reason why it should be considered the only reason. Are we to expect couples who can't conceive to remain married and celibate? Are couples past the child-bearing years supposed to remian celibate for the rest of their lives? That makes absolutely no sense to me.

I know without a shadow of a doubt that I could not have made it this far living a celibate life. I also know that as long as Robin and I are both still breathing I won't attempt to.
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