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Book Review

What is a Family? - by Schaeffer, Edith

Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1997. 220pp.
Elizabeth Schuette wife of TMS student Aaron Schuette

As a little girl I often thought about what it would be like to have my own family. I always pictured my imaginary family as frozen in a specific time much like a child's plastic doll set. Nothing ever changed for the plastic family; however, in reality families are constantly changing, growing, and learning. In her book What Is A Family? Edith Schaeffer explores various aspects of the Christian family in a way that challenges readers to rethink and redefine their own family through the principles found in God's Word.

In each chapter Mrs. Schaeffer describes a different aspect of the family. The family is designed to be a changing life-mobile, an ecologically balanced environment, the birthplace of creativity, a formation center for human relationships, a shelter in the time of storm, a perpetual relay of truth, an economic unit, an educational control, a museum of memories, a door that has hinges and a lock, and blended balances. Through each chapter Mrs. Schaeffer unpacks one particular description of the family followed by practical applications and testimonies from her own life. For example in the chapter entitled "A Formation Center for Human Relationships" she writes, “The family is a place where the deep understanding that people are significant, important, worthwhile, with a purpose in life, should be learned at an early age.” She then gives examples illustrating how that is lived out.

In this world where families rarely spend time together and sin puts a strain on relationships, a look at God’s purpose for the family unit can benefit Christian parents' walk and, through them, the body of Christ as a whole. As with all reading outside of the Bible, I found it necessary to read discerningly, recognizing that everything must be evaluated against the teaching of God's Word. Although I may not agree with everything that Mrs. Schaeffer writes, she is a resource for Christian truth and how that applies to the Christian family.

Reading What Is A Family? is like spending time with an older Christian woman and soaking up the wisdom God has given her. This book is one to have on your shelf to refer to for encouragement and ideas for your own family. Additional resources about family and family traditions I have found helpful are Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noel Piper and Word Filled Families: Walk in the Truth by Dr. John Barnett.

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