Monday, January 09, 2006

Raising a Modern-day Knight

Here is another book I reviewed a few years ago.

Raising a Modern-day Knight: A Father’s Role in Guiding His Son to Authentic Manhood
Robert Lewis (Tyndale House, 1997; now from Focus on the Family)

This is a super book in pointing out the importance of a vision of authentic manhood and of a father passing this down to his son(s). Lewis rightly challenges the fathers to first be men of honor and then to pass on to their sons by example and instruction this vision of manhood. He lays out a vision for authentic manhood, a code of conduct and a transcendent cause. He posits in clear and concise terms a vision for manhood in four principles:
A real man:
- Rejects passivity
- Accepts responsibility
- Leads courageously
- Expects the greater reward
I think this sums up well a vision that we men need. I especially see in the first 3 issues which I am so often tempted to shirk.

He then outlines in three statements a summary code of conduct, which in effect fills out the responsibility mentioned in principle two:
- A will to obey (God’s)
- A work to do (vocation)
- A woman to love
This is in essence nothing new, but I found it very encouraging to sum up my responsibilities concisely like this. It gave an extra sense of dignity to my vocation and to loving my wife.

Then Lewis argues that we need a transcendent clause to make this all worthwhile. He lists 3 necessary characteristics of a transcendent cause:
A transcendent cause must be:
- Truly heroic- ‘a noble endeavor calling forth bravery and sacrifice’
- Timeless- containing significance beyond the moment
- Supremely meaningful
In contrast Lewis suggests we often fail our sons at these three points in the following ways (87):
- ‘We invest our sons with marketplace competence, but not moral conviction.’
- ‘We help our sons to become socially successful, but not spiritually significant.’
- ‘We give our sons good things, but not the best things.’
As Lewis notes, the only truly worthwhile cause is following Jesus Christ. To faithfully follow Jesus will call for bravery and sacrifice and will have eternal significance and meaning.

This book grows out of the author’s desire to think through and pass these things on to his own sons and it shows. He and some fellow fathers used the metaphor of knighthood and its ideals as a model and it worked well giving tones of nobility and honor, characteristics sadly missing in our day. He also argues strongly for marking the son’s maturing with ceremonies which celebrate his maturing and reinforce the biblical view of manhood. He includes examples of what he and other fathers have done for such ceremonies. He clearly says these are only examples which others can adapt to their own situations. The examples will be great help to me one day as I hope to do something similar and they were very moving to read.

Probably the main fault with the book in my mind is that his use of Scripture is not always careful. It is always reverent, but the issue at hand sometimes overrides the primary meaning of the passage. This is not uncommon, and the major points still stand. The book does not say all there is to say about manhood, but it does sum up some key points very well. Folks like me who are forever worrying with the details and theory are well served by the likes of Lewis who can state succinctly a plan of action. We perfectionist detail guys may wonder if all details are included or about tweaks here or there, but I for one am glad for an action plan.

I recommend the book heartily to every father of sons. May we by God’s grace raise sons of dignity, courage, nobility, and honor who will fear God and keep His commands.


At 7:39 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I read this bok and I thought he made some good points. We do need to thin intentionally about how we raise young men. But I kept thinking while I was reading, this would be great for girls too. I hope I can be just as intentional with my daughters.

At 11:58 AM, Blogger Ray Van Neste said...

Good point Joel. Maybe you're the one to write the book for girls!
I have not given as much thought to that part since I have all boys so far!

At 12:31 PM, Blogger WES said...

Good review.

One I found helpful was, Future Men by Douglas Wilson.


At 1:18 PM, Blogger Ray Van Neste said...

Yes, I enjoyed Future Men as well. We actually used it for a class at church for men of all ages to discuss manhood in a setting which brought older men and younger men together. Wilson is much more theological than Lewis (even if Wilson does push his covenant idea too far at tiems), but the value of the Lewis book is specifics thougths on hwo to mark and celebrate the development of your son and to do so in teh community of men.

At 1:04 PM, Blogger Tim Ellsworth said...

I'm about finished reading this book. He's got some good things to say, but I think his emphasis on formal ceremonies is a little silly. It's not something I can see myself doing with my son.

What do you think about that, Ray?

At 7:17 AM, Blogger Ray Van Neste said...

I actually liked the idea of ceremonies. My boys like to build something up as big and important. I have done things on a smaller scale like this already. One could tailor it in various ways, but I like the idea of marking transitions in life for them. When I first gave them plastic swords at about age 2, I wanted to say something about how they used them so I made up a big deal about having to be knighted before they could have their sword. They kneeled as I touched their shoulders wiht the sword and they pledged allegiance to King Daddy and Queen Mommy. A bit silly? Sure, but fun and memorable while making a good point.


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