What He Must Be…if he wants to marry my daughter by Voddie Baucham

Voddie Baucham, well-known author dealing with family related issues, has an eighteen year old daughter—old enough to begin contemplating marriage.  While Baucham’s daughter has never dated, her father knows those days, and ultimately marriage, cannot be far off, especially with Baucham’s acceptance, even promotion, of early marriages.  With all this in mind What He Must Be is dealing with the qualifications necessary of a man who would marry his daughter and, of course by extension, the characteristics any Christian young woman should be looking for in a husband.

The stated premise of the book however goes deeper:  “I believe fathers have a God-given responsibility to see to it that their daughters marry well and that their sons become worthy husbands” (p. 27).  While most Christian fathers would pay lip-service to this premise, Baucham makes it a central focus of his life.  He does well in this book by encouraging other men to follow in his footsteps.

Baucham states on several occasions that he does not believe in arranged marriages (pp. 28, 162).  What he does believe is that the Christian father must guide, counsel and be involved in the whole process of choosing a mate (p. 108).  As we would not allow a teenage boy to take our Lamborghini out for an unsupervised spin (his illustration), so we must not allow them such access to a far more precious commodity—our daughters (pp. 159-160).  Good thinking.  Neither does the author advise that we hide our children from society and let them out only when it is time for marriage.  Instead, he believes parents need to observe their children in safe social settings to discover how they are developing (p. 190).  At the same time they must shelter them from ungodly influences, even if it involves their own family members (pp. 187-188).  This is wise counsel and would save some families a lifetime of grief if they applied it.

Throughout the book there is good counsel on several important matters.

1) Caution is given not to twist Old Testament narrative and Law into some form of “gospel patriarch” (pp. 51-59)
2) The importance of proper biblical masculinity (p. 87)
3) Husband leadership (pp. 103-122, 152-157)
4) Number of children (pp 123-138)
5) Husband and wife roles (chapter 7)

While Baucham tends to overstate his case and elevate personal conviction to the level of authority, this volume has a more humble feel than his Family-Integrated Worship and is better balanced.  Any parent would profit from reading What He Must Be.

There were a few areas in the book, however, in which I would take exception.

1) Baucham admits to using a covenantal hermeneutic when approaching Scripture.  This includes upholding the principles of God’s Law, seeing Christ in all of Scripture, and interpreting the Old Testament in light of the NT (pp. 59-63).  As an example of this approach to Scripture he quotes with favor Tim Keller’s interpretation of the story of David and Goliath.  According to Keller the story is not an example of David’s trust and courage that should encourage us to the same, but a story showing salvation through Jesus.  He writes, “Until I see that Jesus fought the real giants (sins, law, death) for me I will never have the courage to be able to fight ordinary giants in life.”  This sort of hermeneutic is a recipe for disaster as it takes the plain, normal meaning of Scripture and puts an imaginary spiritualizing spin on it.  It is by such interpretative methods that we can make Scripture mean anything we want it to mean.

2) Using the above mentioned hermeneutic Baucham can make as a centerpiece of his view of the father/husband that he is to be the prophet and priest of the home.  Biblical definition of a prophet is one who speaks for God either through foretelling the future or speaking direct revelation from God.  But Baucham defines a prophet as an instructor of Scripture.  While Ephesians 6:4 is clear the father is to be an instructor of his children, neither the word prophet nor its biblical definition is ever used in the Bible to describe the father/husband’s role.  Likewise, a priest in the Old Testament was one who stood between God and man, not in prayer as an intercessor but as one who, through the sacrifice system, atoned for the sins of the people.  Christ has done away with the need for sacrifice by providing the perfect offering in Himself.  All believers now have direct access to God through our Great High Priest; we need not go to God through any man.  One of the hallmarks of the Reformation was the priesthood of the believer.  No new priesthood has been established in the New Testament for fathers.  Baucham defines a priest as an intercessor but this is not the biblical description of a priest.  That a father should instruct and intercede (pray) for his family is without question.  That he is prophet and priest of his home is incorrect if we are using biblical definitions and we must use biblical definitions.  We do not have the privilege of defining words as we choose.  By giving these terms creative definitions rather than biblical ones, we risk heading in wrong directions.  Prophet and priest might mean instructor and intercessor to Baucham, but they mean more than that in Scripture and others reading his material might easily drift into unbiblical positions in the home.  Staying with what Scripture actually says is always the best route.

3) Calling the family a “little church” has the same problem.  The New Testament does not use this terminology and it is easily misleading.  As a resource for this position Baucham quotes George Whitefield several times.  But while I deeply respect Whitefield the facts are that he did not write inspired Scripture nor did he have an exemplary family.  He had one child who died in infancy and had a very disconnected relationship with his wife.  As was common in that era, he felt that sacrificing his family for the cause of Christ was a requirement for ministry.  We can appreciate his zeal but it was uninformed by Scripture and, thus, Whitefield seems an unlikely authority figure on the home.

4) Baucham grounds his theological understanding on the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689, which is basically a Baptist revision of the Westminster Confession.  As a result Baucham understands the Christian as being set free from the ceremonial and civil portions of the Law but still under the moral aspects of the Mosaic Law.  But there is considerable overlap between the moral code of the Law and the moral nature of God they are not equivalent.  For example, Sabbath keeping is part of the Ten Commandments but not required of the Christian.  How one views the Sabbath will have major implication on how one views his activities on Sunday. 

These are important concerns but overall What He Must Be contains thoughts well worth pondering.