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Family Vocation: God's Calling in Marriage, Parenting, and Childhood Paperback – February 29, 2012
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“Gene Veith is one of the most powerful thinkers and apologists in the Christian world today. In Family Vocation, Veith and Moerbe have really hit the mark—we must learn to think of marriage and families as vocations from God. Here is an ancient and sacred vision of marriage and family that we would do well to understand, promote, and most importantly live out.”
—Charles Colson, Founder, Prison Fellowship and the Colson Center for Christian Worldview
“A great president once referred to the family as the ‘unseen pillar of civilization.’ He was right, and so is Gene Veith in this luminous book, which underscores the centrality of family, marriage, and parenting. Timely and absorbing, this book arrives on the scene at exactly the right time.”
—Tim Goeglein, Vice President, Focus on the Family
“Family Vocation is a thorough and thoughtful look at family as a calling from God. Using Martin Luther’s teaching on family living as a starting point, Gene Veith and his daughter Mary Moerbe have produced a foundational book addressing all the callings of family life. In a marketplace in which so many family books only scratch the surface, Family Vocation digs down deep. The things I look for in a book on family are all here: a focus on nurture, the priority of internal change, and the power of grace and the gospel to enable. A worthy read!”
—Tedd Tripp, Pastor; international conference speaker; author, Shepherding a Child's Heart
“The phrase ‘gospel-centered’ has become almost a cliché when describing Christian writing. Every Christian author would desire such an epitaph for his or her work. However, in so many books, especially those dealing with family, gospel-centered deteriorates into ‘be like Jesus.’ Family Vocation is the epitome of what gospel-centered truly means. The authors introduce it plainly, ‘The gospel—that is, the message of Christ crucified for sinners—relates to every moment of the believer’s life.’ Every chapter has its foundation, built not upon what we do in our various vocations, but upon what God has done in Christ. This approach to vocation is the means through which Christian families can truly be strengthened and restored, and then bring their influence to bear on our culture.”
—James I. Lamb, Executive Director, Lutherans for Life
“The ageless questions we’ve pondered about marriage, divorce, sexuality, and parenting are asked candidly and answered faithfully by Veith and Moerbe in this timely application of Luther’s doctrine of vocation. The word family has been hijacked by our culture and Christians reel with each new and dysfunctional incarnation of the concept. What is family? What is marriage? What is God’s call to be a husband, wife, parent, or child? The authors offer rich, biblical responses to these questions and bring clarity to our understanding about cross-bearing love and sacrifice. Family Vocation is sure to find a home on the desks of pastors, teachers, and counselors who seek an engaging resource for Bible classes, spiritual care conversations, and godly counsel. This book leads the way to abiding grace and hope in God’s promises—a ‘need-to-read’ for Christian husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons!”
—Beverly K. Yahnke, Department Chair of Social Sciences, Concordia University Wisconsin
“Martin Luther identified marriage and family as one of three fundamental estates of human life instituted by God for the good of his creation. In this book, a father and daughter team up to bring Luther’s rich insights into the twenty-first century in a way that challenges and encourages Christians to see the family as the arena for God’s work. In an age when the fabric of the family is strained by cultural forces of self-interest and hedonism, this book suggests a way forward for Christian families to see life together as husband/wife, parent/child—encompassed in vocation lived out under the cross.”
—John T. Pless, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions, Concordia Theological Seminary
“In the church today, there is no more significant issue than the family. This divine institution is in the crosshairs of every evil plan and purpose of the Devil himself. Take down the family, and with it go education, order, decency, law, church, and even faith. How my years in a struggling inner-city parish taught me that the gospel does not thrive in a community of chaos, dilapidation, crime, and disorder! The root cause of it, as I came to be convinced, is institutional and spiritual forces attacking the stability of God’s best agent for good in both the kingdom of the civil realm and that of the church—the family. What was once more commonly an urban reality has become a rural and suburban way of life. As we all struggle in the families we have—often rag-tag rings of sinners, sometimes a patchwork quilt of multiple families and forces—we need Christ and the vocation to forgive.”
—Matthew Harrison, President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
About the Author
Gene Edward Veith (PhD, University of Kansas) serves as the provost and professor of literature at Patrick Henry College, where he also oversees both academic affairs and student affairs. He previously worked as the culture editor of World magazine. Veith and his wife, Jackquelyn, have three grown children and seven grandchildren.
Mary Jackquelyn Moerbe (MA, Concordia Theological Seminary) is a writer and homeschooling mom. She has written several books and she blogs regularly at MaryJMoerbe.com. Mary and her husband, Ned, live in Oklahoma with their six children.
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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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The book is full of great examples and goes into details about both the blessings and crosses of each vocation.
My one issue with the book was that I was very disheartened and discouraged to read about the apparent Lutheran acceptance of birth control & IVF. All forms of contraception were rejected by the Church for 2000 years. It is a very recent phenomenon for Christians to embrace it. And, of course, IVF removes sex completely from procreation, which is unnatural at best and goes against what God intends, with all kinds of other immoral implications. I think they would do well to read Christopher West's adaptation of The Theology of the Body in regards to both birth control & IVF.
But all in all, I loved this book. It greatly helped me, as a stay-at-home mom to know that what I am doing on a daily basis has much value in the kingdom of God.
Dr. Veith, along with his daughter, Mary Moerbe, approach this topic from the perspective of Christian vocation. God has called us to be His instruments in various ways and places in our lives. Husband, wife, son and daughter are some of the most fundamental callings that we as Christians have. But how do I understand this from the perspective of the Gospel, not just the Law and a "to do" list for me to feel guilty about? That is the question they seek to answer.
I look forward to more work from this father/daughter team, and hope that many will find comfort and life in this book's pages!
Pastor Todd Peperkorn
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
This book also benefits greatly from the collaboration between Dr. Veith and his daughter, Mary, a mother of three and wife of a Lutheran pastor. Mary's theological training shines, and her experience as daughter, wife, and mother adds to Dr. Veith's own experiences.