Book Review: The Storm-Tossed Family, by Russell Moore
Russell Moore, The Storm-Tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home. B&H Books, 2018. 320 pages, $22.99.
Even the title of Russell Moore’s latest book, The Storm-Tossed Family, suggests that this is not just another book on the family. The range of what Moore covers is bold: upbringing, marriage, children, perseverance in marriage, divorce, growing old, and caring for those who are aging. He explores these topics with an exegete’s skill and a pastor’s heart.
SPIRITUAL WARFARE & THE CROSS
This book sets family life in its proper context. First, Moore provocatively entitles one of his early chapters, “The Family as Spiritual Warfare.” This supernatural context explains why family life can be so wonderful but also so awful.
This should, Moore writes, remind us of the cross: “Family is awesome. Family is terrible. As Christians, we already have a category for that. The cross shows us how we can find beauty and brokenness, justice and mercy, peace and wrath, all in the same place. The pattern of the Christian life is crucified glory—this is as true for our lives in our families as in everything else” (13). Seeing family life as cruciform and as a spiritual battle is profoundly helpful. “The cross shaped life,” Moore writes, “frees us to neither idealize nor demonize the family” (295).
USE IT TO HELP PEOPLE
Moore’s clear cross-centredness is just one of several reasons I’d use this book to help people think biblically about family in the widest sense. The book’s biblical realism is refreshing in a world where so many books on family not far enough away from the prosperity gospel (for example, parenting techniques that assume that the good parenting “in” will result in good children “out”).
Another compelling reason to use this book is that it has a high view of Christ and the local church. Our identity and inheritance as Christians is bound up with our being in Christ. This redefines every other relationship we have or don’t have. In other words, Christ is first—not family. Thankfully, this also means that church is our family: “The church is not a collection of families. The church is a family. We are not ‘family friendly’; we are family” (p60). Or, as the poet Robert Frost put it, “A family is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”
THEOLOGY & PRACTICE
I love the way that Moore combines theology and practice. For example, in his chapter on marriage he calls us to hold together “covenant and connection.” That in turn leads to having the end in view. I can well see myself using this powerful thought as I disciple young men: “The wise path is to choose a mate that one can imagine not only lying in bed on a honeymoon, but kneeling by a bedside in a hospice” (112).
That long term perspective is one which runs throughout the whole book. I found Moore’s imagining his now 12-year-old son seeing him on his death bed profoundly moving. As always with the gospel, weakness is the way, however much we don’t like it.
This is an honest book. Moore is willing to open up his own struggles, and is therefore well-placed to help others in theirs. His anatomy of adultery in the chapter called “Reclaiming Sexuality” is worth the price of the book alone. This was fresh for me: “[In] adulterous affairs . . . he or she is seeking to recapture the feeling of adolescence or young adulthood. . . . The person cheating is looking for an alternative universe, to see what would happen if he or she made different choices” (144). That helps me as I seek to guard my own heart and pastor others who are doing the same.
This is the first book by Moore that I’ve read, and it took me a little while to connect with his style. I’m not sure the book needed to be so long—sadly, 300 pages will put off some potential readers. Another minor quibble is that he alludes to his own family—a lot. As necessary as that is in a book on the family, reading Barnabas Piper’s book The Pastor’s Kid a few years ago has made me somewhat allergic to pastors talking publicly about their own families.
Those few things aside, this is a really helpful book, one I can see myself returning to and recommending regularly.