TRAINED IN THE FEAR OF GOD
Family Ministry in Theological, Historical, and Practical Perspective
Randy Stinson and Timothy Paul Jones, Editors
Published by Kregel Academic and Professional, 2011
Due to the nature of this book, my review will be different than normal. I feel it is necessary to go into more detail regarding specific issues because of the relevance of the truth this book is able to communicate at this specific time to our culture. Thus, this is not a thorough review of every chapter, though I endorse it with confidence and certainty that every chapter is able to successfully speak to the topic of its focus. Instead, this review is an in-depth look at specific chapters that demand much attention in my ministry context.
I lead a college ministry in the Bible belt at a secular land grant university. These are issues facing my students and they are issues they need to be informed on. I have selected chapters from every section to fairly represent the book, but given the nature of the book, it would require more than a book review to fairly evaluate every issue it speaks to.
“The Compassion of Truth: Homosexuality in Biblical Perspective”
Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
Anyone who is vaguely familiar with Dr. Mohler will not be shocked by his statements. At the same time, his statements are only shocking for those with a secularized worldview, dominated by a lack of commitment to Scripture. Mohler’s point in his chapter on homosexuality is simply to setup the Christian’s framework to answer the question, “Is homosexuality permissible?”
I chose this chapter hesitantly, not because I am soft on the issue, but because I know the controversy that surrounds it. Mohler comments to this, saying, “Those who oppose homosexuality are depicted as narrow-minded bigots and described as ‘homophobic,’” (89). But, the answer is in high demand on secular college campuses; particularly Eastern Kentucky University where I lead a student ministry.
The point of this conversation is not to spark hatred or limit the rights of any group of people. Rather, the point is to speak to the question, “Is homosexuality biblically permissible?” “Is homosexuality sin?”
A biblical answer is simply no it is not permissible; it is sin against both the individual’s body and the Creator God who intended sexuality a certain way.
According to Mohler, “The affirmation of biblical authority is thus central to the church’s consideration of this issue—or any issue,” (90). And that authority is where we find our answer.
Mohler points to three kinds of attempts by liberal churches to make homosexuality permissible. Of them, he states, “To accomplish this requires feats of exotic biblical interpretation, worthy of the most agile circus contortionist,” (91). They are:
1. Outright rejection of biblical authority (92);
2. Appeals to the ignorance of the human authors of Scripture (93); and
3. Denial that biblical passages actually refer to homosexual behavior (93).
Mohler goes on to say, “Homosexual acts and homosexual desire are rebellion against God’s sovereign intention in his creation and gross perversions of God’s good and perfect plan for his created order,” (95). “The fundamental axiom upon which evangelical Christians must base every response to homosexuality is this: God alone is sovereign and he has created the universe and all within it by his own design and for his own good pleasure,” (96-97).
In the end, “homosexuality is a grievous sin against God and is a direct rejection of God’s intention and command in creation,” (98). As Christians, we should not treat those who practice or support it any differently than we do anyone else. “Our response to persons involved in homosexuality must be marked by genuine compassion,” (98).
“The Challenge of Matriarchy: Family Discipleship and the African American Experience”
Rev. Kevin L. Smith
Secondly, I want to tackle Kevin Smith’s chapter. Particularly because, as the church, our congregations should be ethnically proportional to the communities in which we exist. This is not the case in much of American churches or my student ministry. If we are going to reach people of different ethnicities, we must first understand who they are.
Black families and churches have developed a problem that they must address, but it is not completely their fault that the problem came about. Beginning with chattel slavery, African men were unable to “practically or fundamentally prioritize family roles, particularly fatherhood,” (132). These were considered secondary issues to their “owners.”
Because slaves were considered property and property was the currency of the day, “mother-child relationships were protected in many of these transactions while husband-wife relationships held no dependable status,” (133). Thus, began the matriarchal family model that is still in place in many African American families today.
Families were divided leading to fatherless children and widowed women. But after the abolition of slavery, men had no previous model for understanding the responsibility of fatherhood. Coming from non-Christian origins, there were no Christian roots that grounded their ideas of fatherhood biblically.
To add more fuel to the fire, during the post-civil rights era for minorities, the “sexual revolution” and “women’s rights movement” further emasculated black families and churches. Thus, the matriarchal model that “was already embedded, due to prevailing societal circumstances,” (137) continued to plague the African American family. Children in black families continued to grow in fatherless homes.
This naturally leads us to two points:
1. There is a natural bridge to the Gospel for the fatherless to find salvation in the Creator God who is their eternal Father; and
2. It points to the need for training men to be fathers and husbands, not just in the black church, but all churches.
I am one who grew up fatherless. Sure, I had my step-dad, but my biological father was nowhere to be found in my life. To this day I still have a deep love for my father, but I also envy those whose dads were there for them in their lives. I can relate.
“Why Your Child’s Brain Needs Family Ministry”
George Willard Cochran, Jr. and Brian C. Richardson
Cochran and Richardson seek to remove the myths behind human development as the sole source of blame for human actions. Rather, individuals are responsible for making very real decisions. In other words, they write, “Attributing irrational behavior of teens to hormones has long been our answer for conduct that we do not understand. Yet—viewed in light of the divine story of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation—hormones provide an inadequate answer to the teenager’s behavior,” (Cochran and Richardson 212).
That is not to say that there are no physiological or biological reasons for poor behavior. There certainly are hormones at work, psychological problems, and developmental disabilities. It would be absurd to deny that fact. However, from a biblical perspective, all of these problems are rooted in the fall and individuals are responsible for their actions.
First and foremost, “God commanded humanity’s first parents to ‘subdue’ and to ‘rule over’ the earth (Gen. 1:28 NIV),” (213). This includes parental dominion within the family. Parents are the primary party responsible for developing their children in proper biblical training.
“The fall is, however, not the endpoint of God’s story. In the death and resurrection of Jesus, God redeemed his creation and promised a glorious consummation,” (214). The endpoint of God’s story is found in Christ who is the reconciler and redeemer of humanity to the Father. Parents are responsible for communicating this message.
Studies have shown that, “Persons who are not held accountable for their actions during the teenage years will have difficulty controlling their impulses as adults,” (215). Thus, parents are to also institute punishment for wrong actions. How this plays out will vary family to family and even child to child. But what we must remember is this. “A young person’s experiences in the home and at church help to shape the neural circuitry that will determine how and what that brain learns for life,” (215).
Parents, being aware of this, have a responsibility for biblical childrearing. Cochran and Richardson continue, “Mentors, peers, and others may play supporting roles—but parents possess a primary influence in God’s design. Helping children know that they matter to God may impact their well-being more than any other variable. Parents are the persons best positioned to actualize this awareness in adolescents’ lives,” (218).
Parenting is more than a gift from God, it is essential for anyone who has children. My wife and I are currently leading our college ministry’s small group through biblical manhood and womanhood. Without touching on the issue of the importance of parenting and the role of parents in a child’s life, it would not be complete. One of our students is married, others are dating or are engaged, and the rest expect to marry one day. It is essential they know how to parent before becoming parents if they want to do it biblically.
Stinson, Randy and Timothy Paul Jones, eds. Trained in the Fear of God: Family Ministry in Theological, Historical and Practical Perspective. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic and Professional, 2011.
*Kregel Publications provided me with this book in order for me to review it. In no way was I required to give a positive review. These are my own opinions.