Saturday, December 10, 2011

Book Review - What He Must Be...

This week I was able to "put my feet up" and "take it easy" while reading Voddie Baucham's book, What He Must Be... If He Wants to Marry My Daughter. This is not a new book, people have been recommending it to me for a few years. But, I was finally able to find it through inter-library loan and get a copy to read (for a nice bargain of 50 cents!).

I liked the book, but I would NOT recommend it to just anyone/everyone I know. The topic of the book, for those of you who don't know, is (in short) courtship. The main theme of the book is how to help fathers guide their daughters through the difficult decision of who to marry. The reason I began by saying that I will not recommend it to everyone is that the book contains some radical views, by "normal Christian" standards. In addition to that, he chases quite a few rabbits and unearths some other doctrines that not everyone would agree on. I LIKED the book, but I did not agree with all of it. And, I see some definite considerations (to be discussed later).

I will not tell you all the specific requirements that Baucham lays out for this future daughter's husband, you can read the book for that. I have NO trouble at all saying that Christian daughters ought to marry Christian young men. And, I completely agree that young women ought not be thrown to the dogs and allowed to date every young man that comes along - just because he is cute or they like the same kind of music. I also agree that fathers need to do more to protect their daughters from unworthy mates.

HOWEVER, how can I recommend this book, and its "radical" ideas of courtship to my SIL whose children all go to public school, and whose husband is a new believer? First of all, their children are away from the house all day long spending their time outside of their parents' supervision. Secondly, how can a newly saved father, who would not even know what to do with the idea of "patriarchy," lead his daughter into something completely foreign to himself? These are my first considerations. (Not that the book is bad. I am not saying that. I am just saying that the book will not reach everyone.)

I think most anyone in the Reformed Baptist, family-integrated, homeschooling circle would love this book. I would have not qualms recommending it to anyone in that camp. And, people - like Paul and myself - who are somewhat on the fringe of that group would likely find the book to be enlightening as well. But, I'm thinking 90 percent of Christians would not get through the first few chapters. Baucham is a great writer, and I love his perspective and his stories... they really hold my interest. But, even I have to admit to getting a little lost when he had long block quotes from the London Baptist Confession of Faith, Puritans, John Calvin, etc. Granted, I was very tired and sick when I read the book... but I am no dummy.
Also, I mentioned that the author chases rabbits. Maybe that is not the right way to put it exactly, but he delves into material that could have been worked into whole other books. For example, he writes about the role of women in church. I am not sure that the topic relates to courtship specifically, and it was one of the chapters that most normal Christians would find offensive. (I am not saying that I was offended. I was not. Though I did not agree with every sentence.)

There is a lot of good in the book. As I said, I like his requirements for the man who my daughter should marry... I hope there is such a man available when my girls come of age. I will certainly be praying for such a man. And, Paul and I are all for protecting our daughters as much as we can from "unworthy" men. But, the idea of courtship assumes that children will be homeschooled and that girls will not go to college. And, if one of my daughters wants a college education for what she feels is God's leading in her life, I do not think we will keep her from college so that we can protect her longer. (Though we currently have NO intention of ever sending ANY child to live on campus!!!) Courtship also assumes that ladies will live with their parents until they are married. And, at this point, I do not think Paul or I would want to hold our girls captive at home if they wish to leave. We want them to stay home, of course, until they are married. But, we are not going to put them in a position where they would feel like they had to run away to have their own individuality.

NOW, let me clarify... I DO NOT THINK THAT VODDIE BAUCHAM'S BOOK WOULD LEAD TO ABUSIVE PARENTS RULING THEIR DAUGHTER'S LIVES! In fact, I have some quotes in a minute to show that point. BUT, I do think that there are unfortunately some fathers who have a mindset to CHOOSE a husband for his daughter and not let her leave until she marries HIS choice. We know... we have seen this. We have seen what I call "hyperpatriarchy" in action. And, it scares us to pieces!!! We have been greatly tempered by seeing the misuse of power of fathers we know. It shows us what we do not want to be. But again, I am NOT saying that this particular book leads to such actions.

Here is one quote to be considered:

Secondly, any man who overvalues male headship is likely to abuse my daughter and/or my grandchildren. (page 96 - original emphasis)

I couldn't agree more! There are, unfortunately, Christian men who are looking for a woman to be a doormat in the name of "patriarchy." We have seen in real life and read in blogs, books and articles - of whole families who seem to exist merely to serve and bring pleasure to the fathers and sons of the family. Hopefully this is NOT the norm, I really don't know. But, we have seen it enough to cause us fear of the very word "patriarchy." But, I digress. Here is another quote:

Thus we see in this instance the complete equality of the man and the woman (made from the same substance) and the distinction between the two. My daughter is no man's inferior. Any man who thinks of her as such is certainly not worthy of her hand in marriage. She is no less valuable to God than any man. She is no less an image-bearer. She is no less a servant of the King. (page 99 - original emphasis)

Amen! I chose this quote to again show that I do NOT think that Baucham is at all a hyperpatriarchal kind of guy. I think he makes some very solid observations.

I chose this last quote because it seems to sum up a lot of the theme of Baucham's book. I think this quote should help you understand what he is all about, and whether or not you are interested in reading the book:
Speaking of instilling a healthy focus in our daughters he says,
We must help them establish kingdom-minded relationships. We must help them develop and employ the gifts God has given them. And we must help them use their time to prepare for the man whom God will bring them as a husband or - for those with the supernatural gift of singleness - for a life completely devoted to God. (page 172)
I like that. I agree with that purpose.

Overall, I really did like the book. And, it gave me a lot of positive ideas to ponder regarding my daughters' futures. I am not writing this post to dissuade you from reading the book, I am just trying to be honest in my "review," so that you know what to expect if you do decide to read it.

I realize that some of my personal, interjected thoughts about patriarchy were tangents a little bit off the topic of this one particular book, and I do not mean for that to reflect on Baucham's book. It is just hard to write a review on a book of this topic, without hedging myself in a little. I kind of wanted to offer some of those thoughts as disclaimers, knowing that some people are violently opposed to any form of patriarchy because of what they have seen or what they imagine could happen.

I am glad that I read the book. And, I will be praying that the Lord will help me keep in mind the positive applications that were made. And, I will pray too that Paul and I will be guarded from any over-exuberance towards this idea that might be more damaging to our family. We want to be a healthy family, and that usually means taking bits and piece of a lot of books and mixing it into a melting pot for future use. Rarely will any of us read a book that we agree with 100%. But, we want to be open-minded and discerning too.

It is my prayer that this post has been helpful to you to decide whether or not you should read this book. I hope that you do. And, I hope that it grows your family together in love.

If you found my review unfair, please leave a comment to let me know - others will read it and it might be beneficial to them.


Arthur Sido said...

That was my favorite of Voddie's books. Like all books it has strengths and weaknesses and the task of the reader is to take what is useful and reject what is not. Most of this book was good information and it fits in well with his other books.

I will say that most of the aversion to patriarchy is based on "worst case" scenario examples or hypotheticals.

Bethany in mid-MO said...

I am a little slow in replying - sorry.

You are right that most "aversion" to patriarchy (and courtship) IS based on worst case scenarios. But, once you have seen them it is really hard to shake it off. And, when you do not meet with a body of believers who demonstrates how to "do" patriarchy correctly... then all you have is books and blogs as a guide. And, they either come across as fantasy/fairy tale or tragedy.

Thanks for your thoughts,