Book Review: The Christian Family by Herman Bavinck

The Christian FamilyThe Christian Family by Herman Bavinck

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book for several reasons.

First, Bavinck wrote (1908) as some of the great transitions in family life and society were taking place. This included the movement away from an agrarian culture, the advancement of women’s rights, increase in divorce, the allure of Marxism/socialism, the industrial revolution, and the push of evolutionary theory. This book gives you a window into the mind of a great Christian theologian during a period of drastic change.

Second, Bavinck sticks to principles while acknowledging that application can change. For example, he notes that women are working in various fields. He says that may be inevitable. But then he goes on to say that women should obtain jobs that line up with their central vocation, being wives and mothers. He also encourages women to be trained as housekeepers first and then in a vocation second. In keeping with this idea, he says that once puberty hits women should be educated differently than men. He keeps motherhood and being a wife at the center while acknowledging certain realities of modern life. He also does a good job of acknowledging that sin exists in all ages and yet each age does bring unique challenges.

Third, there was a lot more discussion of the state and society than one might think in a book like this. He discusses how dangerous the state takeover of a child’s education is. He also says that the state educating children allows a woman to leave the home more easily. He also discusses private property, communal property, and the movement into the cities.

Fourth, he is unashamedly patriarchal. He calls women to obey and submit to their husbands. He says husbands are the masters of their homes.

Finally, he is a great writer. Part of this is due to the translator, Nelson Kloosterman,  since Bavinck originally wrote in Dutch. Many sentences and paragraphs are a joy to read not just because of the content, but because of the way he says it.

My Rating System
1 Star-Terrible book and dangerous. Burn it in the streets.

2 Stars-Really bad book, would not recommend, probably has some dangerous ideas in it. Few books I read are 1 or 2 stars because I am careful about what I read.

3 Stars-Either I disagree with it at too many points to recommend it or it is just not a good book on the subject or for the genre. Would not read it again, reference it, or recommend it. But it is not necessarily dangerous except as a time waster.

4 Stars-Solid book on the subject or for the genre. I would recommend this book to others and would probably read it again or reference it. Most books fall in this category because I try not to read books I don’t think will be good. There is a quite a variety here. 3.6 is quite different from 4.5.

5 Stars-Excellent book. Classic in the genre or top of the line for the subject. I might also put a book in here that impacted me personally at the time I read it. I would highly recommend this book, even if I do not agree with all that it says. Few books fall in this category. Over time I have put less in this category.

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Can Pop Culture Transmit the Great Truths of Christianity?

Worship Band

Here are three consecutive paragraphs from T. David Gordon’s book, Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns. 

The Christian religion is old, like it or not. It is not a new thing: it is two thousand years old in its current form, and its roots in the religion of Abraham and Moses go back almost another two thousand years. And it will continue to be here until history concludes at the return of Christ. Christianity is not monogenerational, nor is it monocultural; it transcends generations and particular cultures as a global religion. Similarly, it is communal, not individual. We once confessed belief in “the holy catholic church, the communion of the saints,” but this would require acknowledging the existence of a many-generational communion of followers of Christ. As our athletes remind us: “There is no in team.”

Surely Christianity is transcendent, not immanent. It teaches us, if anything, that there is Something, indeed Someone, beyond us, and beyond your entire universe. It functions to draw us out of self-love to love for neighbor and for God. It is most certainly not “all about you.” And Christianity is not accessible, in the ordinary sense of the word. It does not exist for our amusement or entertainment; it challenges us to forsake a broad way and embrace a narrow one; it calls us to repent of and forsake our current values and habits; it demands that we take up a cross and bear it daily. it surely is not trivial; there is nothing trite or insignificant about part of the Godhead’s becoming incarnate to die for sinners. None of this stern, transcendent seriousness is consistent with the values of pop culture. The sensibilities of pop culture and those of Christianity are almost entirely opposed to each other, and when we attempt to force Christianity into the constraints of an individual affirming, consumerist, monogenerational, immanentistic genre, it simply won’t fit. Inevitably, the content is shaped by the form into which it is put, and the message becomes a casual, consumerist “Hey what do you think about this?” rather than a call to “repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18).

In fact, for those who promote contemporary worship music, there tends to be an impatience even with this present discussion, because for them, “Hey why fight about something like this–it’s only music, after all”…But such an attitude is precisely that of the dehumanized, trivial, ironic posture of our pop culture: nothing is really serious, nothing is really significant. Everything is just a consumerist choice: I like my choice, and you like yours.