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Helping Families Through the Church: A Symposium on Family Life Education. Second edition. Edited by Oscar E. Feucht. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1971, o.p.
First published when Ward and June Cleaver were icons on Leave It To Beaver, this compendium on helping families still speaks today. A recognized leader in Lutheran education, Oscar E. Feucht asked participants in several family life workshops for real-life feedback on a variety of issues. His systematic treatment is designed to help church leaders to prevent ordinary problems from becoming life-threatening crises. Topics include the Christian family, families in need, church and family guidance, and family counseling.
The book is not distinctively evangelical. The first chapter builds a plausible theological framework for understanding God’s plan for families in a fallen world. Less developed is a biblical worldview that recognizes God’s prescription for marriage, children, and family as central to his conciliatory meta-narrative of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. At times, religiosity is reduced to the means by which familial relationships are strengthened. In sharing the secrets of a successful marriage, one contributor falls back to sociological studies showing how “religion” creates a family bond, provides emotional stability, and develops responsible parents.
The shortcomings of some chapters do not, however, completely overshadow the redeeming qualities of other chapters. In particular, the primer on premarital education remains ahead of its time. The landscape painted by Edwin Fritze three decades ago still rings true:
The rapid and depersonalized pace of life, the unclear and consistently changing systems of values, the earlier maturation of young people, the high degree of mobility of families, the insecurities brought about by an almost constant warfare among nations and cultures and races, and the incomprehensibility of the rapid advances in scientific and industrial discovery and development have caused people, almost unconsciously, to move into directions, relationships, and associations with a much greater lack of concern about the consequences than the strength and stability of homes and a nation can afford.
Of all its themes, observations regarding the role of the church in equipping healthy families remain most relevant. In recent years, recognitions of the need for family training in the church as well as the importance of such practices as family worship have rallied researchers, church leaders, and parents alike. Feucht, writing from the 1950s through the 1970s, seems to have glimpsed the importance of some of these issues several decades ahead of others.
George Cochran, Esq.
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary