Thursday 12 June 2008

Father's Day and Fathers

Virtually everyone I meet in and out of the book trade is convinced that christians are reading less and less. I think so too, but also that the drop off is more true of men than women. Why is this I wonder? Answers on a Comment please. Ministers and theological students are still buying books, but how many books does the man in the pew get through in a year? Father's day could be your excuse for buying a man a good book and monitoring his progress with it.
I took a book newly in about fathers and sons on holiday to review. Perhaps I was actually spending too much time doing some of the very things the book advocates to get on and finish it! Anyhow, my initial overview resulted in me shooting it down in flames. I felt (and still do) that it was deeply flawed. However, dipping further and further has made me appreciative of some of the content, so that it has been given a reprieve. The book is called 'Stand Fast in the Way of Truth' by Douglas Bond. It's all very culturally American - the muscular title sets the tone, the many case studies are full of it, the points for discussion and resolves etc, at the end of chapters are typical of it. But you can get over that if you try hard. The problem is betrayed from the foreword onwards. There is a clear although unstated assumption that sons are also in a covenant relationship with God if their fathers are believers. This should not be a surprise as the author is a ruling elder at a Presbyterian Church as well as a teacher at a Christian School. Now, if you can sign up to this view, OK. Otherwise you will find yourself like me, constantly interpreting the book to fit your own view of those who constitute God's children. This is in fact not altogether without profit, but nevertheless tiring. Rather like me swimming against a cross current on my holiday in the sun. Sure, the book contains much good advice on 'Men's issues'. It encourages the (for me!) challenging notion that fathers should be good role models for their sons. It is at its best towards the back in the sections promoting intelligent reading of the Bible, and correct theological reflection as a 'manly' activity. But one always returns to the point: who is this book for? It simply won't work in the context of a christian father who has a son who is not born again.

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