The Storm-Tossed Family - A Review

Families are under attack and the only hope for them is to be reshaped by the cross of Christ.

That might sound like a reactionary statement, which could be accompanied by a decline narrative and commentary on how much worse things are today. However, as a central idea of Russell Moore’s recent book, The Storm-Tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home, he provides evidence that the family has always been critical and has always been a spiritual battle ground.

Moore writes, “Family can enliven us or crush us because family is about more than the just the life cycle of our genetic material. Family is spiritual warfare.”

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The spiritual importance of the family is made evident in the pages of Scripture. Even before one of the Ten Commandments anchors the family in the very character of God, we read of Satan’s attempt to disrupt the first family by tempting Eve to sin. Shortly after that we read of one brother killing another out of jealousy. The Bible is clear that the family is a focal point for satanic attack and that the disruption of the family is one of the clearest evidences of sin in the world.

Logically, we must ask why that is.

Again, Moore helps to explain, “The family is one of the pictures of the gospel that God has embedded in the world around us. Through a really dark glass, we can see flashes in the family of something at the core of the universe itself, of the Fatherhood of God, of the communion of a people with one another.”

The balance of the volume explores the nature of the family, the corrosive ideas that are negatively impacting our families, and offers a better vision for the good of the family.

The Storm-Tossed Family is reasonably comprehensive. After introducing the concept of family being spiritual warfare Moore begins by identifying points where contemporary culture conflicts with a cross shaped vision of the family, tearing down mistaken ideas and offering a better version of the family.

This process begins with Moore’s affirmation that the Kingdom of God is the primary concern of Christians, not the family. Here he is debunking the dangerous idea that the function of the church is somehow social or political—to preserve the nuclear family—rather than spiritual.

The most important distinction in that important, but secondary, concept of the family is that the family is a picture of the gospel, not the gospel itself. No one comes to Christ because they see a strong nuclear family. They come to Christ because they recognize their need for a savior and the hope that he offers.

Additionally, Moore deconstructs one of the ongoing myths of Christian sub-culture by reminding readers that the church is a family. Thus, the hyper-territorial parenting styles that are a fairly common occurrence in children’s church and the preference of “family time” over church activities in all or most cases represents a deviation from the pattern outlined in Scripture, particularly the New Testament.

Subsequently, the place of singles in the body of Christ becomes less questionable. No longer is the local church projected as a way to support the nuclear family in a hostile world. It does that, to be sure, but the primary purpose is to be a family to exemplify the gospel. Thus, singles are an integral part of the body, not a loosely attached appendage consigned to a class of misfits on a Sunday morning.

The themes that Moore tracks down are plentiful, and the above paragraphs provide just a few examples. He also delves into human sexuality, pointing out where the church has conceded a great dal of ground to the world around—we are, as Moore has argued frequently, often simply slow-moving sexual revolutionaries. As long as we are a few decades behind society, we feel like we are being sufficiently conservative. The point, however, is not to be conservative per se, but to be biblically faithful.

The Storm-Tossed Family is an important book for our age. Moore manages to highlight errors prevalent in even the most theologically orthodox churches while holding firm to the positive patterns of family that are indicated (though rarely exemplified) in Scripture. The connection between the gospel and proper function of the family is, without question, the central theme of this book.

The good news in this book is the good news: Christ came to redeem us from our sin. One of the most affirming and reassuring anecdotes in this book is of a man, realizing he had failed often and significantly as a father, being told that Christ would redeem his failures. The message is not that it is ok to fail, as if all the wrong we do will be undone, but that in Christ all things will work together for good. Repentance is real, powerful, and effective. God doesn’t change the past, but he will redeem it through the blood of Christ. That is the sort of hope that all of us imperfect people need to hear about.

NOTE: I received a gratis copy of this volume from the publisher with no expectation of a positive review.

The Road to Serfdom - A Review

One sign of a classic book is that the critiques it offers remain valid for years after being penned. F. A. Hayek’s famous book, The Road to Serfdom, demonstrates that quality. As the battle continues to rage between advocates of free market systems and various forms of socialism, Hayek’s diagnosis of the likely end of directed economic systems—namely, tyranny—illustrates why advocates of markets have not simply rolled over and played dead, despite the economic and social realities of economic problems.

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Another sign of a classic book is that it has explanatory power and offers brief summaries that could have been expanded to book length treatises. The Road to Serfdom contains dozens of examples of succinct statement of a deep, complex economic and social problems that arise from attempts to plan the economy.

The book, overall, is a masterpiece that deserves to be read and that contemporary supporters of socialism should be forced to reckon with. A few points, however, arise from the wider tapestry of the work that deserve especial note.

First, contrary to popular representations that attempt to associate free markets to National Socialism, Hayek shows that the fascism promoted by the Nazi’s was an exacerbation of the socialist ideals that had been embedded in German society for several generations rather than a market response. This, of course, violates Godwin’s Law by invoking the Nazis. However, to be fair, the volume was written during World War II. However, the close connection between the totalitarianism of Nazism, much like Italian fascism and Stalinist communism, is a significant point of the entire volume. Attempts to plan the economy centrally lead to tyranny of various degrees.

Second, Hayek is careful to differentiate the welfare state from economic socialism. He actually lauds the work of the British safety net in helping to ensure the basic needs of people are met when they are out of work. At the same time, he cautions against welfare efforts that that undermine the market.

An element that is missing from Hayek is a discussion of why liberty is a worthy end. That is, after all, the great advantage he lauds in the market system. Despite its inequities, the market system enables a greater freedom of choice for people. He argues for individualism, which is not quite the bogeyman contemporary opponents of markets make it out to be, but an effort to value the individual and to assert the rights of the individual even amidst the collective. Because of this lack, this work by Hayek is open to criticism that it can result in atomistic selfishness, but there are answers that are implied by the context. Hayek represents there are limits to human freedom, which should be enshrined in law. He is, therefore, not arguing for a Randian version of anarcho-capitalism. Hayek also recognizes there are externalities (like pollution) that may need to be regulated apart from market influences.

In short, despite the lack of explicit reasoning about certain moral assumptions, the market economy that Hayek lauds in this text is a far cry from the strawman constructed by many of capitalism’s critics. It is also quite a distance from the dangerous individualistic vision of market participation that is offered by some of the free markets popular supporters. There is a moral thickness to Hayek that, while still falling short of biblical adequacy, represents a better foundation than many, both supporters and detractors, assume.

A strength of the text is that Hayek shows that good intentions in economic planning do not make up for the inability of humans to adequately plan. The range of social goods that are valued by different people make it impossible for central planners to prioritized the preferred goods of the population, since there will always be competition between those goods. The priority of goods must, therefore, be imposed rather than derived and will thus lead to the constraint of reasonable and warranted freedoms of many to meet the goods of the empowered few planners.

Here again, the lack of an ethical consensus that can drive the social action of the planners reveals that economic reasoning is second order. That is, moral virtue must precede the economic system. Any economic system is doomed to reveal the moral failings of its constituent members. Hayek’s argument and historical economic evidence reveals that markets have the best internal mechanism for mitigating vices apart from centralized planning. Still, a market driven by an immoral people will merely enlarge their immoralities. There is, perhaps, greater danger in enforcing evil as an intended “good” in collectivist economics that makes the ability in a market system of to refuse to participate in immorality preferable.

Hayek also reveals that today’s arguments that “socialism must be implemented because of impending doom” is nothing new. There is nothing new under the sun. Human nature is consistent in any economic system. Our task is to work toward the best possible system of economics that will encourage human flourishing. There are many who believe, as Hayek does, that free markets tend to do that better than various forms of collectivist economics.