Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A review of Doug Wilson's Father Hunger: Why God Calls Men to Love and Lead Their Families

When I first decided to review Douglas Wilson's new book, Father Hunger, I was afraid it might turn out to be a book trying to get me to unearth some hidden feelings of emotional deprivation caused by failures of my father. 

It actually turned out be a delightful read, something that perhaps would have been better titled Father Satisfied.

Even the subtitle reveals only half of the story.  Wilson not only does a remarkable job explaining "Why God calls men to love and lead their family", he also tells how.  It's not just theoretical (although there is plenty of philosophical and Scriptural foundation), there is also practical advice.

It's not a quick read.  But not because it's hard to understand (Wilson writes lucidly, with excellent use of analogies to explain complex ideas), but because it's so thought provoking.  A few samples:

Simply put, masculinity is the glad assumption of sacrificial responsibility. (pg. 41)
... authority flows to those who take responsibility.  Taking responsibility is the foundation of all true authority.... Often a simple reassertion of authority is an attempt to avoid taking responsibility. (200)
Your actual pursuits are a running scoreboard.  They reveal what you actually prize.  You do what you want to do.  The glory you pursue is the glory that you think is actually glorious. (104) 
In addressing men who avoid marriage for selfish reasons:
Perhaps someone will appeal to the chimerical gift of "singleness".  The apostle Paul had the gift of celibacy, which is quite a different thing.  The gift of celibacy is not a gift possessed by twenty-nine year old living in his mother's basement, looking at porn.  A single man involved in frontier missions, who does not struggle with sexual temptation, has the gift of celibacy.  A man with two Xboxes and a trophy from the regional Halo tournament does not. (116)
A quote that caused me to appreciate my own father more:
Gracious fathers lead their sons through the minefield of sin.  Indulgent fathers watch their sons wander off into the minefield.  Legal fathers chase them there. (185)
 In explaining a reason why female pastors have become increasingly common:

...we have come to demand essentially feminine virtues of our ministers but are stuck with this arbitrary line from the Bible that disqualifies the most qualified members of the church--as far as being sweet goes.  This creates a demand among evangelicals for some exegetical ingenuity. (124)
Real ministers do need to be tough, and we need to remember that the reputation of ministerial milquetoastery--of ministers as the third sex--is not really all that unfair.  Generations of "the nicest young man in the church" have been urged by the church ladies to consider the ministry, and because it was a vocation that by common consent involved no bleeding knuckles and lots of being nice to people, over time the church has come to consider the best candidate for future ministry to be "that sweet boy". (131)
A few small disagreements.  Wilson rejects the idea that vaccines cause autism (and that cell phones cause brain cancer) but suggests that maybe putting children in daycare might cause autism.  Then there is a particularly puzzling section where he warns about increasing "food weirdness" in our culture, while taking a pot shot at people who don't drink wine:
Just as the grape juice in the Lord's Supper is an anemic but fitting picture of the grape-juice gospel American evangelicals tend to preach, so also the frantic search for bread substitutes says about as loudly as anything that we are really in the market for father substitutes--which are much harder to come by, as it turns out.  (151)
In some of his other writings, Douglas Wilson has demonstrated a tendency to ride his horse of logic even when she departs from the trail of Scripture.  (How else could he be a Presbyterian? :)) But this book is excellent, and will be a valuable help to any father, husband, or son looking to found their relationships on the Bible.
For more quotes from the book, click here.

Disclaimer: I received my copy of the book for free from in exchange for writing this review.  But I was not required to write a positive review.


  1. Daniel - Name of out person over 50 years of age outside the Catholic church who has the gift of singleness, like Apostle Paul, as you described.

  2. Hi John, thanks for writing. I'm not sure what you are trying to say. I have a personal friend who is over 50, and a celibate missionary in China. For security reasons I can't tell you his name. But I'm not sure that answers your question?