By Evan Lenow on May 22, 2007
Paige Patterson gave an impassioned defense of biblical family ideals to delegates to the World Congress of Families IV, May 13. “There is no substitute for the family,” said Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. “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 ten years on May 11–13 in Warsaw, Poland. It attracted more than 3,300 delegates from more than 75 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. The organizers of the congress hoped to thrust the natural family back to the forefront as a solution to the problems facing the world.
Patterson was invited to speak at this year’s congress addressing the topic “Faith and Family: The Vital Bond.” His expertise as a pastor and theologian who has witnessed spiritual renewal in his own denomination served as the basis for his address.
During his address, Patterson offered insights regarding what “the family can contribute to transform the social order that seems so illusive for governments, schools, and even ecclesiastical organizations.”
He 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.” Patterson said the world trivializes the relationship between a man and a woman, 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.
Patterson stated that “the family is the appropriate venue for the conception with and nurture of new life.” The presence of a father and mother is indispensable for the beginning and sustenance of the family, despite in vitro fertilization technology, he noted.
Another insight Patterson offered focused on forgiveness, the exercise of which he said was essential for transforming the world. “No arena could be more important [than the family] for instruction in the basics of forgiveness,” he said. Patterson related a story from his childhood. When he was a boy, Patterson 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 required responses 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.”
Finally, Patterson noted, “The family is the best school available for teaching values and morality.” Rather than depending upon government, schools, or even churches, the family is the best setting for teaching values and morals.
At the close of the World Congress of Families IV, delegates issued a declaration aimed at promoting the importance of the family. Among other actions in the declaration, 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.” They 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 on-line at www.worldcongress.org.