Church, State, and Family: Reconciling Traditional Teachings and Modern Liberties
Church, State, and Family: Reconciling Traditional Teachings and Modern Liberties (Cambridge University Press, 2019) (paperback format Cambridge University Press, 2021)
This book defends the fundamental place of the marital family in modern liberal societies. While applauding modern sexual freedoms, John Witte, Jr also defends the traditional Western teaching that the marital family is an essential cradle of conscience, chrysalis of care, and cornerstone of ordered liberty. He thus urges churches, states, and other social institutions to protect and promote the marital family. He encourages reticent churches to embrace the rights of women and children, as Christians have long taught, and encourages modern states to promote responsible sexual freedom and family relations, as liberals have long said. He counsels modern churches and states to share in family law governance, and to resist recent efforts to privatize, abolish, or radically expand the marital family sphere. Witte also invites fellow citizens to end their bitter battles over same-sex marriage and tend to the vast family field that urgently needs concerted attention and action.
Table of Contents
"It is hard to imagine a better researched, better balanced, more clearly argued - but also more charitable - defense of what John Witte, Jr calls the traditional ‘marital family'. Witte, a legal scholar of unique historical insight, here spells out clearly why a culture of ‘stable monogamous marriages' harmonizes contractual, spiritual, natural, social, communicative, and economic realities - while offering special protection for women, children, and the poor of whatever gender, race, or class. It is a compelling book of landmark dimensions."
-- Mark A. Noll, McAnaney Professor of History Emeritus, University of Notre Dame
"The context of this engrossing, learned and far-ranging text is the way much of traditional family law has been elbowed aside in favor of new cultural and constitutional norms of sexual freedom, privacy and autonomy. For his encyclopedic knowledge and incisiveness, John Witte, Jr has no equal, and this is a fair-minded and wise attempt at the re-integration of state and faith-based institutions. I commend it unreservedly."
-- Iain R. Torrance, President Emeritus of Princeton Theological Seminary
"Over many years, John Witte, Jr has made a profound contribution to global scholarship and debate on law and religion. He continues to do so, with great energy and insight, in this superb book. Written in the highest academic traditions of argument and counter-argument, this book justly deserves to become an enduring stimulus for debate on the importance of the marital family in human life."
-- Norman Doe, Cardiff University
"Vintage Witte! Drawing on his deep wells of scholarship, and writing with characteristic clarity and charity, he offers church, state, and society a reasoned account and constructive model of the marital family as a continuing private and public good, worthy of voluntary commitment and legal support."
-- William Storrar, Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton, New Jersey
“This is a book that needs to be read. Impressive and epic in scope yet providing an integrated and focused argument, it is a work of first-rate scholarship…. This is a fitting final word on the topic by him, though it is to be hoped there is far more to come on other topics. It is a definitive work, but nothing really ever ends. And so in time there will be another work on church, state, and the family, another journey through the historical development, and a further exploration in light of the controversies of that age. But when that book comes to be written, there are two certainties. The first is that Witte’s book will cast a long shadow and will set a high benchmark. The second certainty is that, in future discussions, the list of important jurists who have expounded on the topic will also include John Witte Jr himself.”
-- Russell Sandberg, Ecclesiastical Law Journal
Book Review Symposium
John Witte, Jr., Church, State, and Family: Reconciling Traditional Teachings and Modern Liberties (Cambridge University Press, 2019), Journal of Law and Religion 33 (2019): 486-528