Published by B&H Publishing on September 15, 2018
Genres: Non-Fiction, Theology, Parenting, Marriage, Christian Life
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Why do our families have so much power over us? In The Storm-Tossed Family, best-selling author Russell Moore (Onward, Christianity Today's 2016 "Beautiful Orthodoxy Book of the Year Award Winner") teaches readers whether you are married or single, whether you are childless or herding a quiverfull of offspring, you are part of a family. Family is difficult because family—every family—is an echo of the gospel.
Family can be the source of some of the most transcendent human joy, and family can leave us crumpled up on the side of the road. Family can make us who we are, and family can break our hearts. Why would this social arrangement have that much power, for good or for ill, over us?
It was a struggle to write this review because, in truth, Russell Moore is one of the few people within the SBC and evangelicalism in general that I still admire. Not always agree with, but whose tone and convictions I appreciate. His book, Onward, has been a common graduation gift to every high school senior I know. (And as a youth pastor, that’s a fair few!)
The Storm-Tossed Family is exactly what I expected in terms of theology. As he does with most issues, Moore walks the fine line between the traditional SBC position and challenging it. Sometimes that challenge is indirect—such as using metaphors for the Christus Victor theory of atonement instead of penal substitution. Sometimes that challenge is direct, particularly to the more conservative members of his group—such as when he talks on divorce and birth control. No matter the case, despite taking upon a series of challenging topics where there is sure to be disagreement, Moore writes with compassion and grace.
So my criticisms of this book aren’t in its theology, but in its expression. The Storm-Tossed Family often reads like a series of discrete essays. There’s somewhat of an underlying thread in the general banner of “family,” but Moore also writes on singleness and the global family of the church body. He writes of the family theologically, but also relationally. It’s a wide-ranging book that, with a better delineated structure and more threads tying things together, would have been a more compelling read.
That’s what I kept coming back to. It took me a few months to read this book. Me. I read two books cover-to-cover just last Saturday. But every time I came back to The Storm-Tossed Family, I just couldn’t get into it. Moore writes with a lot of generalities and cliché. It’s meant to be exhortative, but I found it exhausting. Except for where the book is tinged with Moore’s own life experiences—the best parts of the book—his writing is surface-level, using a lot of words to not really say a lot.
The part I appreciated the most in the book was Moore’s reminder that family is not first. I see so many Christian families continue to place themselves into toxic situations for the purpose of maintaining family ties. Or they decide to make children the focus of the family, leaving husband and wife with very little connection once the kids are raised and gone (and giving the children a conscious or subconscious sense of entitlement).
I also appreciated his chapter about parenting with the end in view. So often, Christian parents (and particularly conservative Christian parents) take a fairly authoritarian view of parenting. It’s something I’ve seen often in my years as a youth pastor and, before that, reflected in my and my friends’ upbringings. Moore teaches readers to approach parenting with the goal of independence and with the need to internalize values rather than keeping them as external structures.
I’m probably in the minority when it comes to The Storm-Tossed Family. A quick glance at Amazon shows me I’m right. Oh, and the book won Christianity Today’s “Beautiful Orthodoxy” award. So maybe it’s just me, but I very much prefer the bolder, briefer, more powerful writing style of some of his other writing.
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