Book Review: The Family Project

The Family Project: How God’s Design Reveals His Best For You, by Glenn T. Stanton and Leon C Wirth

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Tyndale Press in exchange for an honest review.]

In many ways this book, which was written by two people associated with Focus On The Family, deals with an area of my life that has been a continual source of great suffering and anguished longing on my part, but neither it is a subject that can be safely ignored. At its heart, this book wrestles with three fundamental questions and four fundamental statements of the nature of man as described in scripture. The three questions are movingly told from a Gaugin series of paintings: who are we? where do we come from? where are we going? The four fundamental statements the Bible talks about are the fact that God created us in His image (both male and female), that it is not good that man should be alone, that we became like God to know good and evil, and that in the end those who believe will be part of the bride of Christ. Anyone who knows anything about my life is going to recognize that some of these are going to be painful subjects, and this book certainly delivers on that.

At its heart, this is a book about family. The book acknowledges that the experiences that people have with family may not be a good one, and it does a good job in showing how the issues of family are relevant to people who are old or young, single or married (or divorced), male or female. Although this book deals with matters a lot of people are going to find very uncomfortable (it is frank about the non-family friendly material that can be found about biblical families and acknowledges the complexities of life in a fallen and corrupt world), it does so with a great degree of graciousness. There is a lot to admire in a book like this, which seeks to make Christians more knowledgeable about the depth of importance of the Bible in the subject of family, as well as giving honor to women and to men, seeking to avoid the conflict and division that is so common between generations and genders, even as it makes very pointed statements against divorce and abortion and sexuality outside the bounds of monogamous heterosexual marriage. Make no mistake, this book is not politically correct and neither does it try to be.

The organization of this book is straightforward, and begins with part one: where we start (looking at the imago Dei, with mankind being created in God’s imagine), and then goes on to part two: mankind revealed, ravaged, and redeemed (looking at how it is not good to be alone, the reason for marriage and family, and how sin harmed our relationships. After this comes a shift in tone to look at our family project (which, I must admit, I have not been successful at), which looks at marriage, mothers, fathers, and children as “image-bearers,” and Satan as the enemy of the family. The book then closes with a look at the destiny of the family in terms of the marriage supper with Christ and the church, and a closing chapter on our imperfect families. The book then has a couple of appendices that look at why it is not good that man should be alone from a scientific perspective [1] as well as a look at whether Jesus and Paul were anti-family, as is often claimed.

There are at least a couple of objections that many people would have in looking at this book, though. For one, a large number of sidebars in the book are based on pictures, many of which contain images of God, which appears to violate the second commandment against graven images. Over and over again the book references these paintings, which contain nudity, a Catholic view of the Virgin Mary, and many portrayals of God or Jesus Christ in a fashion which is contrary to the laws of God. The second major issue is a tension and contradiction in this book between the authors’ relentless focus on the imaginary and anti-biblical doctrine of the Trinity (to the point of reading the Trinity into nearly every description of the Father or the Son) and the book’s similar focus in trying to show the family planning of God. By portraying the Holy Spirit as a being, the real role of believers in being created as sons and daughters of God to be adopted into the Godhead is obscured and displaced, diminishing the real importance of the Family plan of God. This tension is never resolved in the book, even though there are cases where the contrast between the supposed heavenly triad and the family triad of parents and children are placed directly next to each other in the text [2]. No book is perfect, I suppose, but it is a shame when defective theology undercuts a message I clearly support about the importance of family to God, even if it’s an area where my own life has been very unpleasant.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/it-is-not-good-that-man-should-be-alone-an-antidote-to-pre-celibacy-counseling/

[2] For another case of this sort of tension, see:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/book-review-the-lonely-god/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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12 Responses to Book Review: The Family Project

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  7. David McKay says:

    I am wondering what you mean by ” The second major issue is a tension and contradiction in this book between the authors’ relentless focus on the imaginary and anti-biblical doctrine of the Trinity (to the point of reading the Trinity into nearly every description of the Father or the Son) and the book’s similar focus in trying to show the family planning of God.” Do you believe that the Trinity is not biblical? Or am I misunderstanding what you are saying? Thanks

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