Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Book Review: Father Hunger (Doug Wilson, 2012)

I've got two books to review just in time for Fathers' Day.  This first, Father Hunger, deals with the many facets of Biblical fatherhood, and the lack thereof.  The second, The Happiest Baby on the Block, is a book applicable pretty much only to new dads, but it would be really helpful for them!  Ok, here they are!

My daughter is very blessed to have a daddy who genuinely delights in her!
While Doug Wilson and I don't always see eye-to-eye, especially when he leaves his familiar theo-political realm and ventures into the realm of health (slightly more on that later...), but this book is, plainly, a must-read.  Let me put it this way:  I recommend it to everyone who either is a father, has a father, or didn't have a father...  It's that good.

Wilson's basic premise is that human fatherhood is rooted in Divine fatherhood, and that, as such, holds tremendous importance and has a huge impact-- and reveals what we do or do not understand about the Fatherhood of God.  He begins with the "First Words" we hear God the Father speak in the New Testament to His Son, Jesus (Matt 3:16-17) and infers:
"In human history, there will never be a more perfect father-son moment than this moment between Father and Son.  This is the keynote-- pleasure.  This is the pitch that a father/son relationship needs to match-- "well-pleased." When we don't match that pitch, a lot of things start going wrong.  In fact, so many things start going wrong that we sometimes miss the source of all the trouble.  In our generation we are confronted with many social dislocations that all go back to a foundational father hunger. [...] As we look around, we know that we are broken, but we somehow assume that our notions of fatherhood are intact.  But perhaps it goes the other way. Perhaps our world is as broken as it is because our understanding of fatherhood was shattered first."  (p. 2, emphasis original)

If that doesn't intrigue or resonate with you, I don't know how better to pitch the book myself.  Doug Wilson uses Scripture to define fatherhood as it should be, touching on the topic of Biblical Manhood.  He describes the lack of fatherhood which he sees all over our culture, and which he very convincingly lays out as a root of a great many of our social problems-- from crime to poverty to ineffective churches.    These are rooted in fatherlessness, which itself is rooted in a denial of or misunderstanding of God as Father.  He also delves fascinatingly into the economical and political ramifications of fatherlessness, pointing out how our State makes many efforts to step into the father-void, and fails miserably.  I found those chapters absolutely fascinating and very very enlightening.  Take this snippet:  "Delinquent fatherhood has a significant and negative impact on the U. S. economy. [...]  The total average annual loss in productivity represents a $34.8 billion loss to the national economy each year.  After accounting for associated ripple effects, the total economic loss to the United states as a whole is $60 billion per year."  Wow!!  If there's one way of helping our economy that I've never heard any politician mention, it's trying to equip fathers to be fathers!!

I was wondering what Doug Wilson's idea of "Biblical fatherhood" would look like-- possibly some very authoritarian, "I'm the head of the house so hop to" way of parenting?  Nope.  Not at all.  Instead, one gets the impression of paternal warmth, of great responsibility taken first before and under God, a concern for his children's souls, always laboring under the heavy reality that our children will by default relate to God as Father in the way they related to their earthly father.  In other words, fathers are a child's first picture of God, or to use Wilson's phrase, "a child's theology primer." (p. 53, in the chapter cunningly entitled "Atheism Starts at Home.")  Talk about a frightening responsibility!

While the practical, political and economic sections were my favorites, the chapters relating to the ecumenical implications of Biblical fatherhood were excellent, too.

This book will challenge every man to examine himself as a son & father (and husband, if he is married), to check his view of God as Father, to think through his political, ecumenical and economic positions in light of fatherhood, and to seek to relate to the fatherless around him.  It's a book I recommend to wives and mothers, to singles and marrieds.  This book will make you think, on several levels and in ways you probably never have before.  This is Doug Wilson at his finest-- theology and social commentary are undeniably his fortes!

Two critiques:  Doug Wilson's hyper-Presbyterianism does sneak through, though perhaps I only noticed it because I was watching for it.  Other books of his more clearly outline his belief that the Covenant of Grace extends to children through the family line in such a way that if a father does his job right, then his children WILL be saved... and if they aren't, well, he screwed up.  I don't think that's Scriptural.  There are mere hints of this belief tinging sections on rebellious children, but as I said, I noticed them mostly because I was watching for them.  The other fault I found was when Wilson strayed into implications in the health field, which he seems to bungle every time he enters (don't get me started about some of the ridiculous assertions he's made about gluten and being an enemy of the Holy Spirit...) -- this time, it was a brief mention of autism, which he seems to believe stems from unloving and neglectful parents who put their kids in day care to pursue careers.  Sorry, but that's just preposterous... not to mention that all of the kids who I know with autism have stay-at-home-moms who are more devoted to helping their children than anyone else!  So... skip right over that paragraph on page 112, and I whole-heartedly recommend this book. ;)

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this book through the Book Sneeze program in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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