Future Men – Douglas Wilson

Making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland

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Future Men – Douglas Wilson

Douglas Wilson, Pastor of Christ Church (Moscow, Idaho), apologist and prolific writer, is perhaps best known for the 2008 showdown with essayist and Atheist, Christopher Hitchens, with which Wilson and Hitchens toured the States debating the topic, ‘Is Christianity good for the world?’. The highlights of this tour were captured by Darren Doane and released in the superb 2009 documentary, Collision (trailer here).

Future Men is Wilson’s attempt to address the most timely of issues: how should Christian families set about raising boys and young men that they might be fit for godly marriage, service and life. Wilson wants us to feel the urgency of this great calling, and begins with the reminder that, ‘As much as it may distress us, our boys are future men’ (p. 9). Wilson begins by setting forth a theology of biblical manhood and, in so doing, exhorts churches and, more specifically, parents to recognise, nurture and direct the unique, God-give qualities that define boyhood in such a way as they might be used to glorify God and, in so doing, shape the future man of God.

And with this, Wilson is incredibly practical, addressing issues of accountability, laziness, stewardship, sex and relationships, friendship and fighting. Wilson’s treatment of this latter topic is particularly refreshing as he seeks to set forth, ‘a theology of fist fighting for the grey areas’ (p. 125) and argues that although the Scriptures exhort us to ‘turn the other cheek’, there are occasions where we must take a stand, and even fight, for righteousness sake. As such, Wilson advocates ‘courageous humility’.

There is much practical wisdom here. For instance, consider Wilson’s exhortation that parents instil a work-ethic in their sons,

In dealing with all these issues, a boy learns to distinguish between the ever popular notions of self-esteem, and the biblical concept of self-respect. Self-esteem is found in Galatians 6:3. “For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” A boy lounging on a soft couch can fancy himself quite the working man. But self-respect is found in the next verse. “But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden” (vv. 4–5). Work should not just be done, it should be proven, tested. And when it is, a boy learns the deep and godly satisfaction that comes from a job well done. (p. 60)

This is typical of Wilson’s approach. On the one hand, Future Men is eminently practical and yet this practicality is deeply rooted in Scripture, interpreted and applied with great wisdom. Consequently, Wilson not only points us (rightly) towards the Biblical exhortations which warn against laziness and instead command industry, but he also seeks to show us the Biblical principles which inform those same commands. In this case, for instance, the exhortation to work is for both the glory of God and the good of our boys, instilling self-respect, and the skills necessary for a full and God-enriched life and a deep appreciation of the Sabbath (p. 61).

Wilson’s treatment of such matter is sharp and insightful and provokes the reader to think deeply about the consequences for our sons and how all of this relates to the gospel and the glory of God. Wilson’s explanation of how the instruction of boys in respect of courtesy and social behaviour and the way in which this relates to sexual purity and godly marriage is brilliantly formulated and explained (Chapter Sixteen).

Wilson’s prose is also worthy of comment. Returning again to the topic of laziness, Wilson appeals to Proverbs 6:6-11, ‘Go to the ant, O sluggard…’ and comments,

God does not just promise poverty to this young man; He promises that it will come upon him like a thug with a gun. In the good providence of God, the lazy man is not going to be treated with tenderness. Parents who allow this pattern to develop while their son is under their oversight are asking the providential hand of God to work him over with a baseball bat. (p. 61)

Wilson’s writing is direct, witty and both sharp and tender as is fitting to the matter in hand. Wilson is an accomplished writer with a distinctive voice which reminds me of the rich and profound drollery of, say, G.K. Chesterton.

Although I do not agree with Wilson in every area – we would politely and respectfully disagree with regards to his appreciation of Covenant Theology (most evident in Chapter Four, A Covenant Home) and on the issue of infant baptism (Firwood Church instead advocates believer’s baptism) – this book is necessary because the topic is so vital.

We live in a culture which has a distorted and unbiblical appreciation of manhood and masculinity and we live in a time in which divorce rates are on the increase and the notion of the family unit is increasingly being eroded. We are the generation of the absent father. As such there is a great impetus upon the church and believers to think clearly and biblically about manhood and how we raise our young men to be men.  We are called to think and, moreover, we are called to live this out.

This is the purpose of Future Men: as Pastor Wilson calls us to instruct and discipline our young men biblically that the next generation might rise up and shine likes stars in a crooked and depraved universe.

Andy Evans

Future Men can be purchased here.

Pastor Douglas Wilson’s blog can be read here.