I love books that impact me almost immediately. Books that keep me hooked, wanting to know more of what that author has written about a given subject. Father Hunger: Why God Calls Men to Love and Lead Their Families is definitely one of those books. Only three chapters in I had learned two things quickly: 1) Doug Wilson can just plain write, and 2) Wilson isn’t afraid of tackling tough issues directly, but is able to do so sensitively.
In a culture where half of American children go to bed at night without a father, Wilson’s book is incredibly timely and necessary. Fatherlessness is a problem, but it’s so much more than that. It’s an epidemic. One of the worst things I’ve heard concerning some men is “at least he’s there.” Giving credit to fathers who are physically present but emotionally unavailable for just being there is simply astonishing. The real fathers of generations past would have had to have tough conversations with these emotionally unavailable fathers of today, were it happening in their time, and called them to repentance and challenged them to love their families well. Coming home from work and checking out mentally and emotionally isn’t justifiable just because fathers have been at work all day. When this happens, it is indeed a different type of fatherlessness.
We live in fatherless times. We have the obvious problem of fatherlessness when the fathers are long gone, but we also have the problem of fatherlessness when the fathers are present but not accounted for. If fathers are on the premises but don’t know what’s expected of them, we have another kind of fatherlessness (p. 20)
What is the reason behind this? Because fathers “don’t know what’s expected of them.” It would be an incredibly cruel human being to know what he needs to do to father well and just not care enough to do it (and I do believe they exist), but Wilson is right – most of the time it’s because fathers aren’t being held accountable for their actions and aren’t being taught how to parent well.
If they don’t know, it’s because they aren’t taught. So, who is supposed to teach them? This is a two-fold answer: primarily, their fathers are supposed to teach them; secondarily, the Church should teach them what the Scriptures say about how to parent well both by applying the gospel to their own lives as well as to their children’s lives. This is why community within the local church is so important. If you don’t have a good role model as a father, the Godly men in the church can be that example and teacher for you, and you still have the support you need. If you do have a good role model, then you’re doubly blessed in having more teachers and examples to follow, all of which should strive to emulate our Father in Heaven.
Why is this so important? Again, Wilson writes:
The relationship between parents and children is directly connected to a blessing on the land. Moreover, the contrary is also true. When there is a fundamental estrangement between fathers and children, the result of that unhappy mess will be that God will come and strike that land with a curse (p. 21).
Our land, our nation, is in complete disarray. The concept of the family that was once held as a common view is hemorrhaging on the floor as it has become infected with egalitarianism, homosexuality, and “boys who can shave.” These two statements are inextricably linked. Why would God curse the land that contains an estrangement of fathers and sons? First, because before we can harden our hearts toward another, we must first harden our hearts toward God. Before we can walk in unforgiveness toward another, we must first suppress the command to forgive others. This is not a unique theme, for Paul says that the “wrath of God” will be revealed against those who “by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Rom. 1:18). Theologians call this the “passive wrath of God.” Basically saying “You want it that way, here you go” and letting His wrath toward them build up until the day of judgement. Thank God for Christ Jesus who atones for such sin when we turn and repent to Him.
As Wilson says, “The solution is to announce, preach, and declare that the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of God, and of His Christ” (p. 23). The only hope the we have, as individuals and as a nation, is the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can try to legislate morality all we want, but only the gospel has the power to save, redeem, restore, and reconcile. Only the gospel can turn the hearts of the fathers toward their children. Only the gospel has the power to turn “boys who can shave” into men of caliber.
Wilson expounds and explains this concept well:
Another way of saying this is that men must seek to be Christians first. If they love Jesus Christ more than mother or father, or wife, or sons or daughters, then they will be in fellowship with the source of all love. If they make an idol out of any one of their family members, then they are out of fellowship with the source of all love — meaning that the “idol” is shortchanged. A man’s wife receives far more love when she is number two after God than she would if she were number one. A man’s children will be fathered diligently when they are loved in the context of a much greater love (p. 23).
Men, especially fathers, it is impossible to overestimate the need for saturating ourselves with the gospel daily. Only the gospel has the power to help us see past ourselves and help us lay down our life for our wives as Christ did the Church (Eph. 5:22-33). Gospel-centered community helps with this, but it is the power of the gospel driving such community that does the real work. Men, if you’re not in community, find some other men who love God and get in that group. If you don’t take the time to read and study the Scriptures, repent right now and make that a priority. If you’ve been abusive or have neglected your family for the sake of selfish ambition or building up your own pride or self-esteem, repent right now and submit yourself to the authority of Godly men who can help you to get out of the mess you’re in, in a way that honors God and your family.
Repent and turn to Jesus that He may heal you, your family, and our nation.
Soli Deo Gloria
About the Author
Douglas Wilson is senior pastor at Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, and senior fellow of theology at New Saint Andrews College. He writes on theology, culture, education, and family life in such books as Reforming Marriage, Future Men, and Fidelity. Visit DougWils.com
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”