Union University
Union University School of Education

Book Reviews

Book Reviews > Christian Living > Raising a Modern-day Knight: A Father's Role in Guiding His Son to Authentic Manhood

Ray VanNeste

Ray VanNeste
Director of the RC Ryan Center for Biblical Studies and Assistant Professor of Christian Studies

Raising a Modern-day Knight: A Father's Role in Guiding His Son to Authentic Manhood
Robert Lewis
Details: 1999, Focus on the Family Pub., Amazon.comISBN: 1561797162
Posted: July 3, 2002

This is a super book in pointing out the importance of a vision of authentic manhood and of a father passing this down to his son(s). Lewis rightly challenges the fathers to first be men of honor and then to pass on to their sons by example and instruction this vision of manhood. He lays out a vision for authentic manhood, a code of conduct and a transcendent cause. He posits in clear and concise terms a vision for manhood in four principles:

A real man:

  • Rejects passivity
  • Accepts responsibility
  • Leads courageously
  • Expects the greater reward

I think this sums up well a vision that we men need. I especially see in the first 3 issues which I am so often tempted to shirk.

He then outlines in three statements a summary code of conduct, which in effect fills out the responsibility mentioned in principle two:

  • A will to obey (God’s)
  • A work to do (vocation)
  • A woman to love

This is in essence nothing new, but I found it very encouraging to sum up my responsibilities concisely like this. It gave an extra sense of dignity to my vocation and to loving my wife.

Then Lewis argues that we need a transcendent cause to make this all worthwhile. He lists 3 necessary characteristics of a transcendent cause:

A transcendent cause must be:

  • Truly heroic- ‘a noble endeavor calling forth bravery and sacrifice’
  • Timeless- containing significance beyond the moment
  • Supremely meaningful

In contrast Lewis suggests we often fail our sons at these three points in the following ways (87):

  • ‘We invest our sons with marketplace competence, but not moral conviction.’
  • ‘We help our sons to become socially successful, but not spiritually significant.’
  • ‘We give our sons good things, but not the best things.’

As Lewis notes, the only truly worthwhile cause is following Jesus Christ. To faithfully follow Jesus will call for bravery and sacrifice and will have eternal significance and meaning.

This book grows out of the author’s desire to think through and pass these things on to his own sons and it shows. He and some fellow fathers used the metaphor of knighthood and its ideals as a model and it worked well giving tones of nobility and honor, characteristics sadly missing in our day. He also argues strongly for marking the son's maturing with ceremonies which celebrate his maturing and reinforce the biblical view of manhood. He includes examples of what he and other fathers have done for such ceremonies. He clearly says these are only examples which others can adapt to their own situations. The examples will be great help to me one day as I hope to do something similar and they were very moving to read.

Probably the main fault with the book in my mind is that his use of Scripture is not always careful. It is always reverent, but the issue at hand sometimes overrides the primary meaning of the passage. This is not uncommon, and the major points still stand. The book does not say all there is to say about manhood, but it does sum up some key points very well. Folks like me who are forever worrying with the details and theory are well served by the likes of Lewis who can state succinctly a plan of action. We perfectionist detail guys may wonder if all details are included or about tweaks here or there, but I for one am glad for an action plan.

I recommend the book heartily to every father of sons. May we by God’s grace raise sons of dignity, courage, nobility, and honor who will fear God and keep His commands.