Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham Jr.: Crossway Books, 2007. 224 pp., Cloth $19.99
Baucham is well known in Christian circles as a strong advocate for the family, homeschooling and the family-integrated approach to church life. He is a Southern Baptist who by age 34 had served on numerous church staffs.
Baucham’s overall emphasis on family is welcomed and refreshing. In a world, including a Christian culture, gone mad over success, sports, money and endless activity, it is good to be encouraged to slow down and evaluate what is important in life. When we look into Scripture we discover that the Lord is not particularly interested in what drives most people. Translated into the family structure this means that God does not place a premium on Christian parents raising children to be sports-stars, achieving the American-dream, or embracing a worldview of the society around us. The Lord places a premium instead, on raising disciples that will ultimately make a godly impact on our world. In order to live out God’s priorities Christian parents need to rethink their frantic endeavors to raise “successful” children and instead focus on raising godly children. In order to do this parents, and especially fathers, need to take seriously their mandate from the Lord to disciple their own children. One of the ways to accomplish this is through family worship. Baucham recommends three key factors in family worship: the Bible, prayer and singing (p. 141). Concerning Scripture he believes the family should be reading through the Bible together, perhaps in the morning, and teaching biblical theology, possibly through the use of a catechism in the evening (pp. 119, 136-137). Such daily practice is seen as ideal, but even periodic times of family worship would pay dividends.
I fear commitment to family worship of this type has been lost in the shuffle of the busyness of modern living. In our desire to raise well-adjusted, happy and successful children we too often have neglected our most important priority, as far as family is concerned, and that is its spiritual well-being. Many Christian parents have delegated the discipleship of their children to the church but, according to latest statistics, 70-88% of “Christian” teens will abandon the church within two years of high school. More important is the clear command in Scripture that fathers are to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4).
While in total agreement with Baucham’s emphasis I do have some areas of concern, most of which involves his over emphasis on certain issues. We start with the title itself. While the family is of high priority for the Christian it cannot, it must not, be the driving force of our faith. Only Christ can occupy that position and, when we substitute anything for Christ, even the family, we head off in a tangent which may for a time appear on target but is not. Next is what some have called pattern/practice theology. That is, “If they did it that way in the Bible, we must do the same today”. This is simply not sustainable. We must ever distinguish that which is prescriptive in Scripture from that which is descriptive. Another way of saying this is that “narrative is not normative.” Baucham understands this but still bases much of what he teaches on narrative rather than direct biblical instruction. The family-integrated church is a case in point. In the New Testament families worshipped together (at least we assume) so must we do so today? While this is an acceptable form of modern public worship today, it does not stem from a direct mandate in Scripture. New Testament believers also met in homes, so is this mandated as well? And if the New Testament church followed the practices of the synagogue, which they surely did at first, then men and women sat separately and the children sat with the women. Where do we stop if we decide that first century, non-mandated practices must be followed today to be biblical?
As would be expected Baucham raises homeschooling to a level which almost becomes a test of fellowship. Large families are overemphasized as well (pp. 171, 204). Yes, children are a blessing from the Lord (Ps 127) but nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to have as many children as possible. As far as we can tell only a handful of godly people in Bible times had large families and the biblical texts used to support the imperative for large families are Genesis 1:28 and 9:1, 7. But these commands were given to particular people (Adam & Noah) at times when the earth was unpopulated. They are never repeated as commands for us today. Certainly large families are a good option for many and may honor the Lord but they should not be seen as a biblical command or a test of godliness. As a practical note, we live in different times. In the biblical era large families were often needed to work the farm and survive in a primitive society. Families were often self-sufficient as a unit. Personally, I commend those today who want many children, but I don’t want to have to be financially responsible for those children. My tax dollar should not go to supplement the health insurance or college education of those who choose to have numerous children but cannot support them. If such parents can support their own children then multiple children is a live option. If they cannot they should not presume on society to financially raise them.
Other issues that are troublesome include: no clear plan on discipling children who do not have Christian parents, quoting with favor emergent leader Mike Yaconelli (pp. 177-181), although with some disclaimer, and recommending emerging pastor Dan Kimball’s The Emerging Church (p. 222). Baucham also speaks much on the dangers of secular humanism, rather than postmodernism, as being the dominant worldview today (this seems about twenty years behind the time), and recommends the strongly Catholic-promoting movie “The Passion of the Christ.”
Because of Bauchman’s over-the-top pronouncements and elevating his convictions to biblical mandates the book comes across at times as arrogant and judgmental. However, even with the above mentioned caveats, I believe that Family Based Faith sounds a vital reminder of the importance of the family as a means of discipleship. Baucham goes beyond what I believe the Bible teaches about the role of the church in the life of children, but is absolutely correct in his emphasis that parents (especially fathers) should disciple their own children.