Book Review: Fatherhood – Tony Payne


This is a very good book that deserves a wide readership.  Payne rightly puts fatherhood within the context of discipleship, and calls us to consider that our families must not become idols.  Or in the words of Tim Keller we must not make good things into ultimate things.

Tony’s basis 3-fold thesis is that Fatherhood is:

1. Creation – it is giving life to your children.

because of that you have a

2. Responsibility – to be lovingly sustaining and nurturing them.

if we are to exercise responsibility we have to have

3. Authority in order to do 2.

What really adds value to the book is Tony’s practical advice and suggestions on how to be this kind of father – without resorting to the 3 steps to being the greatest dad type book.  And his insightful questioning of many western cultural idols and “givens” make this a book intent not on helping you have a “happy, smiling family”.  But a God-honouring, disciple-making family.

Now on the whole this makes a great read!

But I have an interesting question for Tony.  The basis of his theological argument is that the Father is viewed, in the Bible, as having the life-giving role (ch 2) and flowing from that comes the responsibility (ch 3)  and the authority (ch 4-5) needed to exercise this responsibility.

I read most of this book over the last few days with my 2 month old adopted son, Nathan, lying in my arms.  Now whilst I agree in principle with Tony’s arguments…  here is my question:  If I am not the “life-giver” to my son, can it still be said that these other aspects of fatherhood are true of me?  Theologically, if Tony is correct, can I still be said to have responsibility and authority in my family.

My question is not to excuse my responsibility or abdicate my authority rather it is to question whether Tony’s theological basis actually serves to undermine my role as father in the family?

I have some thoughts I am percolating at the moment but I would like to hear what you think?


~ by John on February 25, 2009.

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