10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
In Family Vocation, Gene Veith and his daughter Mary Moerbe apply Luther's views on vocation to family. (Shocking, I know.)
Sometime in the last two or three years, I stumbled on Gene Veith's blog, Cranach: The Blog of Veith. Though I didn't initially add his blog to my reading list, I kept finding myself back there. Links from a variety of other sources I read regularly kept drawing me back, and though in general I tend to skip over blogs with cultural or political emphases - it's just not my main focus - I found his thought and writing unusually compelling. His blog is now among my most regular reads.
One of Veith's major projects has been reintroducing evangelicals to Lutheran thought on vocation. I've heard nothing but good about his previous book on vocation, so when I saw that he'd released a book on relating vocation to family, it immediately went on my reading list.
This was a great read, and easy to get through. Veith and Moerbe write well. The same clear, interesting prose that makes me keep coming back to Veith's blog made the book great reading. It's a testament to the pair's skill as authors that in 250 pages repeating the same basic theme - that God is profoundly glorified in our apparently mundane tasks as husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, siblings, sons and daughters - the book never becomes repetitious or annoying.
That theme is one many of the believers I know need to hear. For many evangelicals, meaning in life is reduced to the extent to which we are engaged in "ministry" - tightly defined as explicit proclamation of the gospel. I certainly never wish to diminish the proclamation of the gospel; it is, in this age, the great task to which we have all been commissioned. However, evangelism is not the only means by which the glory of God in Christ is displayed. If, as the catechism says, the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, then our chief end subsumes evangelism - not the other way around. Our calling likewise encompasses the work we do day to day, the ways we interact with our neighbors (even apart from explicit discussions of the gospel), and yes, our roles in our families.
The idea of calling saturates this book. Unlike many evangelical approaches to the idea of calling, however, Veith and Moerbe have little time for mystical experiences of "feeling called" to a given task. We are called, they suggest, to the very places in this life that God has put us. Vocation, a calling to a given task, is not so mysterious as evangelicals tend to make it. We are called to be workers, parents, children, spouses, neighbors, church-members - called, in some sense, to be human, properly human, in all the ordinary paths of life in just such a way that Christ is most glorified by everything we do, not simply our gospel proclamation.
Veith and Moerbe rightly challenge both men and women to reevaluate their approach to family in light of this reality. If God has called us to our families, given us the task of glorifying him right where we are in all the messiness of ordinary relationships, then we must give that calling its due. And the authors do a masterful job tracing the calling of God out through every aspect of familial life. They puncture a few evangelical shibboleths along the way, and delightfully poke holes in a number of liberal Christianity's foibles at opportune moments.
If Family Vocation has a single weakness, it is the same weakness I have observed in many Lutheran contexts. Though Lutherans rightly value the congregation - so much so that I wish many of my Baptistic brothers and sisters would esteem it half so highly - they sometimes allow this to eclipse other, equally important truths. In this case, this tendency is most prominent in the section on partenting. Veith and Moerbe spend some time examining the evidence of a father's impact on his children's church-going, and they repeatedly emphasize the ways God works in a child's life through the church.
I agree, of course, with the value the authors place on the congregation, and find it difficult to overstate how much I wish evangelicals would recapture a sense of the centrality of the church in the life of the believer. But there seemed to be running through this section a quiet assumption that children growing up in the church will generally turn out all right. Unfortunately, in both evangelical and Lutheran circles, this assumption has proven spiritually deadly for generations. I'm sure, from the rest of the content of the book, that Veith and Moerbe affirm the need for parents to teach their children the gospel. In the way they write, however, they seem to give the impression that this is secondary to just getting the kids to church.
Having known quite a few kids who just made it to church and then ended up walking away entirely as they grew old, I'm simply not persuaded of the efficacy of this approach. Parents need to be quite intentional about proclaiming Christ to their children. Veith and Merbe say as much, too, but parental responsibility for catechizing their children always seems secondary to the role of the church. The potential for parental abdication of spiritual responsibility is significant and worrisome.
Family Vocation was nonetheless an excellent book. Married or single, this book has something to offer, because all of us are someone's child, and all of us have parents and grandaprents; most of us have siblings. For the father struggling to understand his role in his children's life, or the husband thinking about how his marriage glorifies God, or the young mother wondering what the value of her child-raising is in the big picture, or the two-career family wrestling with the balance of work and children, there is wisdom to be found here. Perhaps we evangelicals would do to listen to the Lutherans a bit more - though it seems they could learn a thing or two from us, as well.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Jennifer C. Mcilwain
- Published on Amazon.com
Our home has been consumed with sickness for the past several weeks. It started back in March, when our oldest went through two rounds of Strep Throat. We have since discovered that she is a Strep B carrier and will be more susceptible to this infection. Then our 6 year old went through about 4 days of running fever and not feeling well. Then my husband and I spent a week running fever and feeling like the grim reaper was hanging on our coat tails. Now the littlest one has Acute Bronchitis.
There is nothing like being racked with sickness, which inevitably breads extreme irritability among the members of a family to know that this is so very true:
"God is present and active in families, bringing His gifts and working His purposes. He and His works may be hidden in the mundane - seeming details of ordinary life, but it is useful - both in times of family difficulties and when everything is going right - to catch a glimpse of Him."
That's a quote from the introduction of Family Vocation: God's Calling in Marriage, Parenting, and Childhood by Gene Edward Veith Jr. and his daughter, Mary J. Moerbe published by Crossway.
From the preface:
"This book will seem quite a bit different from other Christian books on the family. It applies Martin Luther's doctrine of vocation to the different callings within the family. This cannot be done without pulling along other aspects of Luther's theology. Readers will note here that the 'gospel' does not simply have reference to conversion, what a person responds to in first becoming a Christian. Rather, the gospel - that is, the message of Christ crucified for sinners - relates to every moment of the believer's life."
Many of us may think of vocation as just another word for our jobs - those things we do for which we are paid a wage. However, Luther would have us understand vocation more as our calling. Using 1 Corinthians 7:17 ("Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him."), the authors explain vocation this way: "The idea is that the Lord 'assigns' us to different kinds of lives, and that He 'calls' us to them." Furthermore, the doctrine of vocation "has to do, above all, with the way God works through human beings...and emphasizes what God is doing through my life" rather that "what God is doing in my life". The purpose of every vocation is to love and serve one's neighbor.
Do you view your mother, father, sister, brother, wife, husband, son or daughter as you neighbor whom you are to love as you love yourself?
What does it mean to be called as a husband, a wife, a parent, a child?
How does the grace of the gospel impact how we carry out these particular callings?
How does God's presence address the struggles that our own family faces?
Do you realize that God not only established the institution of the family in general, but that He established your actual, personal family as well?
What would you define as "spiritual activities"?
"The good works we need to do as Christians - the arena of our sanctification - are not elaborate spiritual exercises or spectacular feats of accomplishment. Rather, they are to be found in our ordinary interactions with the actual human beings whom God brings into our lives every day...Though God doesn't need our good works, our neighbor does. Our neighbor is in need. God commands us to love and serve that neighbor...God is hidden in vocation, and Christ is hidden in our neighbors. Thus, we love and serve God precisely by loving and serving our neighbors. We live out our faith in concrete ways face to face with the people God has provided for us in our daily lives."
Family Vocation explores these thoughts by way of an in depth look at the following areas:
The Office of Husband
The Office of Wife
Sex and Vocation
The Crosses of Marriage
The Office of Mother
The Office of Father
The Crosses of Parenthood
The Crosses of Childhood
The Rest of the Family
Restoring the Family
If you are looking for a sound biblical parenting book or book on family life or marriage and you only have the resources to purchase one book, I highly recommend Family Vocation. When the sink is full of dishes, the laundry room is full of dirty clothes, the bills need to be paid, you and your husband are at odds, the children are driving you nuts and you've cleaned the 100th dirty little bottom of the day or you face needs much deeper than these in your family, you don't need pious platitudes or to "think positive thoughts". You need the gospel. Mr. Veith and his daughter have provided a wonderful resource to aid us in preaching the gospel to ourselves every day in all the callings God has placed on our lives.
Thank you Crossway for providing the complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of review.