While considering what to study in our men’s group this Fall, one of the books I read was Family Shepherds by Voddie Baucham. It covers some of the same ground as The Masculine Mandate. But this book has a very different feel to it, handles things in a different order and has a more distinct agenda(s) than Rick Phillips’ book did. Since I pretty much read them simultaneously, I have a hard time not comparing them.
Family Shepherds reflects Voddie’s personality and ministry, just like Rick’s book reflects his. I’ve read another book or two from Voddie, and this is similar in tone and agenda. He has a prophetic bent (Rick’s, perhaps from his time as a tank commander, is more kingly). Voddie is not afraid to get into the reader’s business. Rick also stands firm on his views, but is less “in your face” about it.
Voddie’s ministry is marked by a few drumbeats. One of them is vitally important, particular in the context in which he ministers. The other is one I have some sympathies, but aren’t as passionate and dogmatic about as he is.
He wants men to take up their place of leadership at home and in church. He is unabashed about this. No subtlety here (for more see What He Must Be … If He Wants to Marry My Daughter). I agree with him whole-heartedly. But I also recognize not all men will like how he presents it. Some can feel condemned instead of challenged. I’m not saying that he did it wrong, but that not everyone will appreciate his very blunt tone. But he doesn’t have time to waste beating around the bush on this issue.
“If religion dies out in the family, it cannot elsewhere by maintained.” Charles Hodge
The other agenda is family-driven ministry (see his book Family Driven Faith for more). He laments the ways in which churches segregate families based on age. I have plenty of sympathies for this view. I think he goes a bit farther than I would. For him there is more of a mandate. I think he limits how the church can assist families in the discipleship of their children unnecessarily. There is a tension there, and far too many families abdicate all their responsibility. He and I would agree this is just plain wrong.
Rick Phillips’ book seems more linear in how he lays out his argument. He starts in Genesis and follows the pattern there of work=> marriage => fatherhood => church. Since Voddie’s book focuses on discipling your family, not on masculinity itself. But it still seems to tackle subjects out of order at times. I thought that he’d address marriage before parenting since that should come first in our experience. Oh well.
In defending his use of the Old Testament as instructional for us in child-rearing in the faith, he almost sounds like a classical Reformed pastor with a full-fledged covenant theology instead of a Baptist with a Calvinistic soteriology. So close…
There are some unfortunate word choices. For instance, “dominion mandate” instead of creation mandate. That word, “dominion”, is loaded theologically and politically. I guess there is enough people will struggle with that he didn’t need to add unnecessary baggage since I don’t think he’s a theonomist or Christian reconstructionist.
He begins with the Bible and the Family’s Role in Discipleship. He draws on godly men from the past: Hodge, Spurgeon. He also draws on Deuteronomy 6. One of the odd things I noticed as a reference to Wayne Grudem as “the best known theologian of our day.” I could think of quite a few other better known theologians. Nothing against Dr. Grudem, just found it odd.
There are three parts to his approach. First, raising godly men and women. Second, a plurality of godly elders. Third, a biblically functioning home. Family ministry does not happen in a vacuum. It requires some things to be done well. The parents need to be mature and function biblically. They also need to be supported by a godly church and leadership. So, Voddie is establishing a wider context for churches to consider.
“Family shepherding thrusts parents into an environment where they’re forced to change.”
He spends a chapter talking about the gospel since the father is a herald of the gospel. There is the gospel itself, but he also addresses a gospel response and what the gospel produces. We respond with faith and repentance, and it produces obedience. These are important distinctions.
“Confusing what the gospel produces with what the gospel requires will lead either to a sterile-works-righteousness on the one hand or to lawlessness on the other.”
Some of the means of discipleship that Voddie encourages are the use of catechisms and family worship. Memorizing simple statements of theology provide a foundation for the future as children seek to make sense of the Scriptures. In family worship they learn to read, pray and sing. You slowly prepare them to worship on their own.
Then he moves into marriage. He notes that you should put your marriage before your children. I agree. That is why I found it’s placement in the midst of parenting odd. I ended up writing some thoughts prompted by the book in the margins. When anything is a greater priority than Christ, you are committing idolatry. If anything comes after Christ but before your marriage, you are committing adultery. In this section he briefly (too briefly) summarizes complementarianism.
He then returns to the training and disciplining of children. He starts with the theological reality that our children are sinners. They are not prone to good. From there he moves to formative discipline, raising them in the fear and instruction of the Lord. This is to build them up, and addresses the heart, not just behavior. He also mentions the centrality of the Word, not our preferences. We teach them biblical morality, not merely culturally bound or personal ethics. He then moves into corrective discipline. The more formative discipline you do, the less corrective discipline you will have to do. But you will have to do some because your kids are sinners!
The book ends with a section on lifestyle evaluation. He wants you to look at your life to see what needs to change. There he talks about work, church membership (too often neglected), time and even a special word about fatherless families.
There is much that is helpful in this book. Most men in the church could profit from the material. But some will stumble over the presentation. If you struggle with correction, seeing it as condemnation, then you may not want to read it. Otherwise, you probably should read it.