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Review by James Jeffery
Living in an increasingly secular culture, Christians are challenged by God to live counterculturally and to be lights in a dark age. While we often hear the importance of establishing a healthy individual relationship with God, we seldom hear of God’s purpose for the family. Indeed, healthy families are the building blocks of healthy governments, societies, and churches, and thus we as Christians must be duly concerned to fulfil God’s mandate and calling for how families ought to operate. This is why The Godly Family is such a critical book for our times!
The book itself is a collection of sixteen easily digestible essays written by Puritan pastors to their congregations, urging them to see the responsibilities, dangers, and privileges of the family, and addresses parents and children individually. Rather than offering mere personal wisdom and advice, each of the Puritan pastors draw from the deep well of Scriptural truths, as their ultimate authority is not their experience, but the unchanging Word of God. They reveal that God’s Word has much to say regarding the way in which parents and children ought to relate in the family, and the specific responsibilities and tasks which God has given to each in their position.
There are three ways in which The Godly Family challenges conventional notions of what the family is, and why families exist.
Contrary to popular belief, the primary purpose of families is not to rear academically and financially successful children, but rather that they would be God’s strategic training base for godly disciples. As Samuel Worcester wrote:
“Families were intended to be religious societies, in which the worship of God should be maintained, and in which means should be used for training up children from generation to generation in His fear and for His service” (p. 78)
In viewing families God’s way, we set aside our society’s idolatry of individualism, and begin to see just how important the family is in God’s redemptive plan.
Widespread is the notion that the solution to the world’s problems lies in reforming and improving its education systems, and this is manifest in the billions of dollars spent annually on educational programs, facilities, and institutions. However, the results are not yielding what was promised, and this comes down to two facts: 1) education starts in the home, and 2) the health of educational institutions depends on the health of society’s families.
“[The Puritans’] views of the family started with a hierarchy of authority. They accepted the headship of the husband and father and proceeded to define the nature of that headship in response to God and the needs of their loved ones…They knew that when families are under an ill discipline, all society will be ill disciplined.” (p. vi)
In typical Puritan fashion, the authors of The Godly Family pre-emptively address excuses we may raise in response to God’s instructions for our family duties. One of such excuses is the limited prevalence of family worship, to which Philip Doddridge writes:
“Were there not one praying family in the whole nation, in the whole world, I think it should instigate you to the practice rather than tempt you to neglect it, and you should press on, ambitious of the glory of leading the way” (p. 66)
Whatever stage of life you are at — whether you are a parent, a child, an expecting mother or father, or about to get married — The Godly Family is an indispensable book for our times. It is packed with Scriptural truths, Godly wisdom, and practical strategies and advice for how we can glorify God with our families each day.