I seem to be making an annual habit of reading a book by a Benton at the start of the year! I was privileged to sit under the inistry of John Benton for many years at Chertsey Street Baptist church, and was also blessed by his wife Anne. This book is one that, knowing them and their family, was a joy to read, but also one that I would widely recommend.
This is a book about how to shape a home for a Christian family to live in. It isn’t a book about parenting, or marriage, or even relationships, per se. Indeed, Anne notes herself that it could have been titled ‘Homemakers’, would that not have perhaps sounded too twee and gendered. It is worth noting at the outset that this book is from the more conservative end of evangelicalism – though is aware of it’s location, not least when the author nods at readers for whom quoting a secular song (Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’, for example) may be a bit fo a stretch. With that as either a caveat or just a good thing to note, I would say that this is a valuable book that delves deep into the Bible.
This book would be a useful read for people like my wife and I about to start a family – and also for those considering how their home life generally can honour god. There were parts of it I wished I’d read and passed on to some friends who spent time living in community. There are other parts that are straight out of the hospitality playbook of the home of one of my oldest friends, a single man with a great heart of welcome. Even for students living away from home for the first time, there is practical wisdom and simple ways of making the place where you presently live a sign of the kingdom of God.
This book is rooted in the Bible and thus has a healthy vision of why it means to be human. Anne draws particularly on the work of James K. A. Smith to observe that whilst action and belief are important, humans are heart-ed too. This thread runs through the whole book – the concern is less on generating children/family members/householders who know and do the right thing, nd more to to do with the ways that the habits and rhythms of the home point beyond itself to the good and beautiful Creator God.
I would recommend this book warmly to anyone thinking through what it means to order their life wholly for Jesus. For those thinking for the first time or the hundredth time about family and home. For those of us just starting out. This is a practical book, with something applicable to anyone who lives anywhere, but gloriously Christ-focused and straightforward. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!
Three books came to mine that I would suggest a few other books that pick op on some of the themes:
David Bennett, A War of Loves – the author delves deeper into the power of desire and heart orientation for understanding faith and life.
Karen Swallow Prior, On Reading Well – Ann’s book has many literary references, Karen’s is a useful companion for taking some of this stuff further.
Matt Chandler, Take Heart – in a world where there seem to be more walls and fences than bridges and tables, Matt’s book is the accessible cultural theology to sit alongside Ann’s beautiful domestic practical theology.