Families described as 'ordained by God'
WARSAW, Poland (BP)--"There is no substitute for the family," Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, told the World Congress of Families IV in Warsaw, Poland. "May we guard it, defend it, nurture it and sustain it in a difficult day."
The World Congress of Families convened for the fourth time in 10 years May 11–13, attended by more than 3,300 delegates from 75-plus countries, including Poland, the United States, Great Britain, Mexico and North Korea.
The theme of the congress was "The Natural Family: Springtime for Europe and the World." According to its organizers, the goal was to draw attention to the "demographic winter" facing Europe and the rest of the world as declining birthrates lead toward negative population growth. Organizers hoped the congress would help thrust the natural family back to the forefront as a solution.
Patterson was invited to speak on "Faith and Family: The Vital Bond" as a pastor and theologian who has witnessed spiritual renewal in his own denomination.
Addressing what the family can contribute "to transform the social order that seems so illusive for governments, schools and even ecclesiastical organizations," Patterson first noted that "the family is ordained of God as the only context for the exercise of the most intimate physical expression of human affection."
The world trivializes the relationship between a man and a woman, Patterson said, but Scripture proclaims that the man and woman unite to become one flesh in God's plan for the family. "The global preoccupation with sex actually betrays not only the evil resident within the human heart and its need of redemption, but also desperation for something that brings satisfaction, adventure, fulfillment," he said.
The family is "the appropriate venue for the conception with and nurture of new life," Patterson continued, noting that the presence of a father and mother is indispensable for the beginning and sustenance of the family, despite such technologies as in vitro fertilization.
The exercise of forgiveness is essential for transforming the world, Patterson said, pointing out that, "No arena could be more important [than the family] for instruction in the basics of forgiveness."
Patterson related a story from his childhood, when as a boy he used a pejorative term to refer to another boy in his neighborhood who had just hit him in the head with a ball. Patterson's mother witnessed the confrontation, and his father sought to teach his son a lesson in forgiveness.
"My dad said, 'Son, do you forgive Bill?'" Patterson recounted. "'No,' I protested. 'He doesn't deserve forgiveness ...' My dad gently reminded me that no one deserves forgiveness. I will never forget the impact of his words as he said, 'Son, you will never have to forgive any human as much as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you.' Coming from my father, whom I watched model that concept daily, the impression was indelibly inscribed upon my heart."
Patterson then reminded the delegates that the Bible set up the family structure so that children would learn from their parents about God and how to respond to Him.
Even though the church plays a role in educating children, Patterson said, "The parents are God's chosen prophets to inculcate the knowledge of God's person, purposes and ways in the life of the child. Failure to do so, in most cases, shortchanges the child for life, and maybe for eternity."
The family is "the best school available for teaching values and morality," above government, schools or even churches, Patterson said in concluding his May 13 remarks.
At the close of the World Congress of Families IV, delegates issued a declaration aimed at promoting the importance of the family.
The delegates called for "Churches and other Religious Communities to proclaim the truth about life, marriage, and the family, affirming the latter as the first community of faith and the school of all vocations."
The delegates also called on "all governing and political bodies to mainstream the family in public policy as a fundamental and inalienable social good, in order to serve their own nations. We call on them to protect every human being from conception to natural death, to stress the upbringing of children as the fundamental right of parents, to protect young people against demoralization, and to promote economic solutions that provide dignified living conditions to all families."
To read the full text of Patterson's address, go to www.paigepatterson.info. More information regarding the World Congress of Families is available online at www.worldcongress.org.