Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Two books offer a better way forward than traditionally-held teachings of most churches

ALTERNATIVE TO REPEATING "THE CURSE." Of the numerous books I've read regarding family relationships, parenting, and family life, none compare to the two following. Families Where Grace Is In Place by Jeff VanVonderen (Bethany House, 1992) is a direct counter to traditional patriarchal and supposedly "Biblical" approaches to family relationships. VanVonderen points out that much of what passes for Christian household guidance is pre-christian and based on roles and rules defined by the fall instead of what God originally intended. This would include the Bill Gothard approach to family relationships and discipline. He calls this curse-full family living. It's counter is to fully recognize and embrace the impact of New Testament grace in the life, words, and Spirit of Jesus--and in believers--as a new power and pattern for household realationships.

GOD'S JOB AND OURS. VanVonderen builds a strong case against CURSE-full relationships: Controlling, Unforgiving, Reactive, Shaming, and Ego-driven. Here's a quote from VanVonderen: "We must learn the simple difference between God's job and ours. God's job is to fix and to change. Our job is to depend, serve, and equip. This is the work of grace. And it is more restful than you can imagine... When we depend on God to meet our needs, it sends ripples through every relationship we have."

CROSSROADS FOR FAMILIES. The second book is Families at the Crossroads by Rodney Clapp (Inter-Varsity Press, 1993). Clapp also challenges long-held, foregone conclusions about what a Christian family or household is supposed to look like, act like, accomplish, represent, etc. For the sake of living out an authentic faith in the present generation, Clapp challenges evangelical Christians to get to heart of Biblical faith and stop mimicking or echoing return-to-the-past patterns that reflect more of culture than of faith. This work is full of challenging insights and applications. Clapp's book has received very little discussion, but is, to me, one of the most important for evangelicals today.

HOME AS MISSION BASE. Clapp posits: "We need a world bigger, richer, and tougher than that which can be created by a little family fixated on itself and its emotional coddling. We need a cause large and exciting enough that many people, not just a spouse and two or three children, can devote their lives to it. The kingdom of God moves us beyond home as a haven to home as mission base."

EXPLORING FAMILY GRACE. I intend to post more about these two books in days and weeks ahead, as I am re-reading them as part of a preaching/teaching series in August and September I'm calling "Family Grace." I've written about and posted excerpts of these books on bikehiker before, so you could do a search on the site to find a few morsels. You're also welcome to listen in/engage the series on Sundays at 10:30 at WEMO as you're able.

LOVING, DESPITE GRAVE RESERVATIONS. Parenthetically, I have observed that many women who bought into the Bill Gothard, "men rule," top-down approach to Christian household relationships have done so with grave reservations in mind and emotions but with a heart that truly wants only God's will. They have yielded and laid down their lives against legitimate reservations. They have done so because they loved, not because it was right. They have never really considered any other option than what their church has presented. Therein lies the problem: the church has done a disservice to men, women and children by assuming that its "experts"--past and present--know best. I wonder how many people have suffered unnecessarily under curse-based patterns and relationships? There is a better way...and it is drawn from the heart of New Testament faith.

I welcome your comments and/or questions in the spirit of dialog. Share yours by clicking on "comments" just below. They're moderated only to reduce incivility. Shalom!

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