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Topic: Eikon

For the Family

May 23, 2022

Editor’s note: The following essay appears in the Spring 2022 issue of Eikon.

The theme for this issue of Eikon is human society’s bedrock institution, the family. It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to notice that the family is in crisis in the modern West — in fact, statistics show that if you don’t have a Ph.D., you are more likely not only to feel the immediate effects of the family’s disintegration, but you are also more readily able to recognize the forces contributing to its breakdown.

A few years back, I wrote a review in these pages of Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck’s The Christian Family.[1] Bavinck wrote at the turn of last century out of concern for the rapid decline of the family in his day, a trend that has only accelerated since. One can only wonder what he would say today.

Bavinck recognized an important truth that had once been nearly universally acknowledged: the family is the foundation of all of civilized society. Nevertheless, the family has been consistently and (one cannot help but suspect) intentionally undermined by forces of modernity which have wreaked havoc on the unmitigated goods of fatherhood, motherhood, and child-rearing. With the rise of expressive individualism, identity and authenticity have unseated older virtues like duty, loyalty, and self-sacrifice that once knit kin together and promoted the common good. Opponents of the family, however, have refused to recognize — or perhaps their nihilistic impulses predispose them not to care — that they are hacking away at a branch they themselves are sitting on. Once they cut all the way through, there is nothing left but collapse.

The Bible teaches us that the family is a pre-political institution designed and ordained by God on which both the church and the state are predicated. To wit, we relate to one another in the church as brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, and we relate to one another in the state, our motherland, through a web of analogous relationships: patricians and matrons and founding fathers and brotherhoods. This is particularly evident when a nation is described in domestic terms, such as America: the “land of the free and home of the brave.” Even aside from these analogues, a church is a community that joins natural sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, across bloodlines under a common purpose — so also the state. Most obviously, both depend on the fecundity of the family for generational perpetuity.

In other words, as goes the family, so goes human society. That fundamental reality is why we, the editors, have organized this issue of Eikon around the family. Christians should care about the family not only because God designed it and the Bible instructs us to honor it, but also out of a deep love for our neighbor. Research shows that the disintegration of the family means more poverty, more crime, and more depression. In our time, the family is not just declining, it is in free fall. The marriage rate for adults in the United States is just fifty percent, including those who are divorced and no longer married.[2] This means that half of US adults are not investing in family formation. To put this in perspective, Bavinck was concerned when the marriage rate in his country was ninety-five percent. Perhaps even more alarming, almost forty percent of babies born in the US today are born to unmarried parents.[3] These are children who will grow up, most likely, without a father in the home, and some without a mother. What does this portend? Bavinck helps us see: “The authority of the father, the love of the mother, and the obedience of the child form in their unity the threefold cord that binds together and sustains all relationships within human society.”[4] What will come of a civilization that is bent on undermining such bonds?

This issue of Eikon is a flag in the ground that I hope will accomplish two purposes. First, let history show that Eikon and its contributors did not stand idly by when the family was under severe attack. We stand unapologetically behind the natural family — father, mother, and children in a nurturing home bound by covenant marriage — which is not an idol, but God’s very design for human flourishing. Secondly, we want Christians to rally to the flag. The family is good and true and beautiful, and these pages will, Lord willing, show you how and why you should make that case in your own home, in your own church, and in your own community.

We love the family because God loves the family. May God be glorified and the church edified through the upholding and strengthening of the family.

Colin J. Smother

Executive Editor

[1] Colin Smothers, “Recovering Bavinck’s The Christian Family,” Eikon 2.1 (Spring 2020), 8–15.

[2] Juliana Menasce Horowitz, Nikki Graf, and Gretchen Livingston, “Marriage and Cohabitation in the U.S.” Pew Research Center, November 6, 2019, accessed May 22, 2020,

[3] Joyce A. Martin, et al., “Births: Final Data for 2018,” National Vital Statistics Reports 68.13 (November 27, 2019),

[4] Herman Bavinck, The Christian Family, ed. Stephen J. Grabill, trans. Nelson D. Kloostermany (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian’s Press, 2012), 8.

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