I have in my hand two books, both reread the last weekend, about raising boys. Rather than review them separately, I thought I would do a review by contrast. The two books are Raising a Modern-Day Knight by Robert Lewis and the other is Future Men by Douglas Wilson. Now you may be wondering why on earth I, a young married man with one three month old daughter and no sons, would feel the need to write such a review. What is more, why on earth should anyone listen to my opinion?
I give two reasons in my defense. The first, and most important, is that Scripture, being the guiding light for all knowledge and pursuits, is for all believers to study and understand. If a person claims Scripture as the basis for his view of parenting, then I, as a believer, have not only the right, but the responsibility to weigh his view against Scripture. Given that both of these books make that claim, it is my responsibility to discern right doctrine and praise that which is praiseworthy and rebuke that which is not.
The second reason is that I believe young men are in a unique position to think through how to grow boys into men. While many would say it is those who have raised boys who have the best perspective on how to do it, I think the young men who actually have to live off of what they have been taught can provide a truer testament of what works. I can tell that, though I had a wonderful childhood, there are things I wish I had been taught more clearly going into the world.
The thrust of the two book is the same–what is biblical manhood and how do we impart it? The approaches of the books are very different. Robert Lewis takes a very practical approach–make the important things about biblical manhood memorable and accessible. Doug Wilson takes a more argumentative approach–biblical manhood has great theological and social importance. You might say that Robert Lewis assumes what Doug Wilson sets out to prove.
Lewis’s main goal is to give fathers a practical way to pass on biblical manhood in very tangible ways. He takes the approach that biblical manhood can only be taught by relationship, particularly that of father and son, and that it is an inherently communal thing. Wilson seems to say that biblical manhood is taught by using every opportunity to explain to your son what it means to be a man. I think they are both correct, and while Lewis talks about how a father should teach his son, Wilson seems to lose the aspect of sons needing to spend copious amounts of time with their fathers. With Wilson it seems that the father is like a king or lord who explains to a child his role and sees that he does his duty…Wilson seems to lack the nurturing side of the father-son relationship and shirk this off on the mother. Sons desperately need to know not only that their father loves them, but that he cares for them, cherishes them, and desires their company. Encouraging a boy into manhood is done by showing a boy that he is welcome as a brother if he will take the responsibility. Wilson seems to lose the idea that Christian fathers and sons are brothers and will one day have to relate in the latter way more so than the first.
Wilson does bring out a point which I think is lost to some extent on our culture and that is that young boys need to learn to fight, they need to play at war, because this prepares them not only for the possibility that they will one day need to fight, but also trains them in the physical, mental, and spiritual tenacity necessary to be a man.
To summarize, Wilson’s book is excellent for explaining what the Bible says about raising your sons into men, but lacks the tangible and meaningful practices that will cause these truths to touch his heart. Lewis’s book does a wonderful job giving practical ways to teach your sons, but it short and so, necessarily, lacks the same depth of biblical support that Wilson’s book has. Both are valuable and neither is perfect. Obviously.