08 February 2013

Book Review: Family Shepherds

I am a big fan of Voddie Baucham. I particularly appreciated two other books of his: Family Driven Faith and What He Must Be if He Wants to Marry My Daughter.  Some readers react strongly to Baucham because he is bold in his presentation, if not thoroughly biblical. 

The most recent offering was Family Shepherds: Calling and Equipping Men to Lead Their Homes (2011).  Although he often speaks to dads, this one is directly addressed to fathers as he calls them to shepherd their families well. 

He includes several major sections in the book including: the need to equip family shepherds, family discipleship and evangelism, marriage enrichment, the training and discipleship of children, and lifestyle evaluation. In the first section, he writes about the 3-legged stool of discipleship revealed in Titus, which includes the need for 1) godly, mature men and women in the church; 2) godly, manly pastors and elders; and 3) biblically functioning homes.  He writes, "if we are going to see a generation of young men rise to the occasion and begin to disciple their families, it will be due in large part to the reestablishment of the biblical paradigm of mature believers pouring their lives into younger Christians, and demonstrating godliness and maturity to them by their daily lives" (p. 30). We cannot underestimate the importance of strong biblical mentoring in the context of a local church. 

In the second section, he talks about putting the good news of the gospel in front of our children and helping them to get it right.  Baucham tells his reader what the gospel is and what the gospel requires.  He also calls for restoring the tradition of catechizing our children, which is an objective way of teaching our children biblical truths.  There are many wonderful catechisms available for families who want to pursue this way of training.  This process of catechism would seem to be linked with his call for family worship, daily times when the father instructs his wife and children in the truths of scripture. 

In the third section, Baucham rightly talks about the importance of marriage and honoring the marriage bed as a way to shepherd children.  Children need to see their parents functioning well in the marital relationship.  As a part of this section, he makes an unapologetic argument for the biblical mandate for male headship in the home which has been under attack not only from secular culture, but also from certain sectors within the church.  Baucham rightly asks not what does society say, but what does the Bible say. 

In the fourth section, he talks about the training and discipline of children. He makes a distinction between formative and corrective discipline, a distinction that is good to consider.  He argues that 90% of our discipline of our children should be formative which involves instructing, training, and rebuking our children, whereas corrective discipline deals with disobedience. 

One area in particular that I appreciated about section four was that Baucham spends some time writing a critique of Michael Pearl's To Train Up a Child, which is popular among certain homeschooling groups (as Baucham himself is). I have many friends who like this book and have used it successfully with their children, so I want to tread lightly.  Essentially, Baucham views Pearl's work as theologized behaviorism and warmed over semi-pelagianism.  Specifically, he cites example after example from Pearl's work that does not fit with scripture.  For example, Pearl refers to children as "incomplete creations" and "not morally viable souls", which is inconsistent with the teaching of scripture.  Baucham also points out a section in Pearl's work where he alludes to each child having to stand for themselves before the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and decide for themselves, which leans toward an outright denial of original sin.  Baucham comments, "the result is a child training approach that relies on behavioral modification as opposed to spiritual transformation. Instead of the child's greatest need being the gospel, his greatest need is a parent whose 'role is not like that of policemen, but more like that of the Holy Spirit," since the child is 'incapable of holding moral values.'" Baucham contrasts Pearl's approach with authors like Tedd Tripp (Shepherding a Child's Heart), who views children "not as morally neutral or incomplete beings, but sinners" which is grounded in Psalm 51 and other scriptures.

In the final section, he encourages a lifestyle evaluation.  He talks about the importance of church membership and having people who are able to speak into the lives of one another.  He also discusses a fairly careful analysis of how we spend our time as family shepherds.  He concludes with a brief, albeit important, section on how single mom's are to function in regard to this mindset and what is the role of family and church.

On the whole, this is a very good book.  I still prefer his earlier and longer book Family Driven Faith, though this is a short, worthwhile read.  If you are father, I would commend this work to you.   

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