Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Book Review: The Godly Home

     This book has been on my radar for a while. Whether it's the puritanical style or the fact that its about family life and marriage, I knew I had to read it.
     Just released from Crossway in 2010, yet written over 300 years ago, The Godly Home by Richard Baxter is actually a small part of a larger directory (totaling 1,143 pages) written in 1673. This specific section was titled "Christian Economics for Family Duties," and is an in depth treatment of the way Christians ought to worship God through family life, including marriage and child raising. In the useful introduction by J.I Packer, he quenches any uneasiness one may have with dealing with such an old text. He says "it would be mere chronological snobbery, to borrow a C.S. Lewis phrase, to assume that only contemporary treatments of Christian family life are worth reading." Agreed.
      Let me explain a few things about the book. It is definitely written to men. Where it does not directly address men, I think it is implied that the men are reading to the children or to the wives. I got a good laugh anyways. The editor, Randall Pederson, did a really good of making it readable for the 21st century reader, taking out uncommon or old English phrases and still keeping with the authenticity of the text. It took me a minute to adjust, but that could also just be my ADD. There was no difficulty reading it, and it was never boring. In fact, I finished this in less than 3 days.
     The book is written in chapters, each first giving a theological examination of a certain family related topic, then providing listed out instructions, and ending with a question and answer section. This was very helpful, and quite intriguing to see certain cultural norms in place (the editor purposefully kept in the sections about marrying first cousins!). I found most of the advice to still be quite timely and important, despite the difference in centuries. Actually, I was very challenged and encouraged by reading this and think its a necessary read for anyone considering marriage and family.
    The first chapter has to be one of my favorites. Listen to the title: "Directions About Marriage." Baxter is very keen on making sure his reader has thought very thoroughly on choosing to get married and that "neither lust nor rashness thrust you into a married condition..." He explains very clearly that "every man is bound to choose that condition in which he may serve God with the best advantages and which tends most to his spiritual welfare and increase in holiness." It seems that at this period in time, many were just rushing into marriage (how curious!), so the advice given today might be slightly different. But yes, we must consider through marriage or singleness, which one increases our holiness!
    His second directive is to not rush into "a state of life where you have never thought of all the inconveniences!" Oh Richard Baxter. Twenty reasons why marriage is inconvenient later, he goes on to explain how one should go about choosing "the person on whom so much of the comfort and sorrow of your life will rest." Brilliant. It's gold advice. I want to rip out this chapter and give it to all my single or dating friends!
   Chapters 2-5 deal with "Family Government" and the "Careful Education of Children." There are many points that I had never fully considered before such as the sanctity of the christian family, discipline as worship, frequency and content of family worship, and authority structures in the family setting. Baxter takes care to explain how to lead the family in ways that will draw the children and family to Christ, instead of heavy handed or passive leadership which is the antithesis of a gospel centered family.
   "Mutual Duties of Husbands and Wives Toward Each Other," "Duties of Husbands to their Wives," and "Duties of Wives to Their Husbands" are the titles of chapters 6-8. It is obvious that these chapters reflect on solely the marital relationship. "Never say you love them if you will not labor for their salvation." The main goal is to encourage spouses to point each other in a respectful and loving way towards godly growth. I loved the part about preparing each other to "die well." Sounds morbid, but it's very helpful. Baxter also deals with godly submission of wives to their husbands. I even learned some things from the footnotes in these chapters.
    Chapters 9-12 deal with the relationship between parents to children, children to parents, and children to God. I think anyone can relate to these chapters, and even in the "Duties of Children and Youth to God" chapter, I was admonished and helped by some of the directives. He reminds children that "[you] have corrupted natures to be cured and that Christ is the Physician who must cure them." Amen sir.

 Throughout this book I caught some paedobaptistic references that I would definitely challenge. I also am now interested in learning more about the theologian William Ames. It also does a good job at subconsciously making the case for local church involvement, membership, and discipline. Some of the quotes from this book remind me of some helpful resources out today such as "Shepherding a Child's Heart," by Tripp and "When Sinners Say I Do" by Dave Harvey.

  Overall, "The Godly Home" is quite the robust guide for all things marriage and family. I give it a two thumbs up.

Have you read it? Thoughts?

1 comment:

Michael and Karen McDonald said...

I think that if God had intended for women to read books, they would have been born with the ability.