The Knot

Equality and the Family
A Fundamental, Practical Theology of Children, Mothers, and Fathers in Modern Societies
Don S. Browning
Eerdmans, $34, 428 pp.

Whenever I try to incorporate Christian thought into the course on family law I teach at a Catholic law school, I meet two kinds of resistance from my students. First, many will dismiss religious tradition as irrelevant to our legal regime; they presume that the separation of church and state means that all lessons originating in such traditions are out of bounds. Second, my students increasingly view marriage and the family as a private affair to be governed by the personal moral visions of the participants. On this view, the state’s only job is to guard against the most egregious harms to family members.

My students’ skepticism is not altogether surprising. Much of our public discourse nourishes these attitudes by treating religious voices as if they were incapable of reasoned debate about individual liberty, the common good, and the evolving concept of the family. Regrettably, many of the loudest religious voices have conformed to this caricature. That it is, after all, only a caricature is demonstrated by the formidable body of work produced by Don Browning, a longtime professor of ethics at the University of Chicago Divinity School. Over the past several years, Browning has been exploring the postmodern understanding of family from an unabashedly Christian perspective. A new collection of his essays, Equality and the Family, provides reason for hope that Christians can still engage with the larger culture...

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About the Author

Robert K. Vischer, a frequent contributor, is professor of law at the University of St. Thomas and the author of Conscience and the Common Good: Reclaiming the Space Between Person and State (Cambridge University Press).