Michael W. Austin

Ideas that Matter.

Month: November 2015

Wisdom for Advent from G.K. Chesterton

816284_7Just last night I came across a series of books devoted to helping followers of Christ prepare for and celebrate Christmas. The Advent and Christmas Wisdom series includes 15 different books. Each one offers selected writings from influential Christians past and present, including Henri Nouwen, St. Francis of Assissi, Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, and Pope Francis. Last night I purchased one for my Kindle that draws from the writings of G.K. Chesterton to help me focus on Christ through the season.

The events and tasks surrounding Christmas can prevent us from actually focusing on the significance of Christ’s incarnation. What I like about this series is that each entry includes a reading from the spiritual thinker that the particular book is devoted to, a short Scripture reading, a prayer, and “An Advent Action”. The Advent Action involves some sort of concrete application. It could be something to pray about, meditate on, or some other act to do related to that day’s content.

Each day’s readings are short. Unlike some much longer and more involved advent devotionals, this one is not overly burdensome. Chesterton’s even includes bits of his humor. For example, today’s reading discussed “the bulbous heads” of children. If you want to know what that has to do with Advent, pick up the book!

I recommend choosing a book up from this series to help you focus on and celebrate the Advent of Christ.

The Trinity, the Family, and Character

3192150330_2137e521b6_mHow are the Trinity and the family related? What does this have to do with Christian character? I want to suggest that God wishes to express elements of his trinitarian nature as well as certain divine attributes via the family, so that he is glorified in particular ways by the relationships and daily realities of family life.

First, the family puts into stark relief a particular way in which human beings bear God’s image, namely, through our interpersonality. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit essentially exist in relationship to one another. This interpersonality is an important way in which the family models the Trinity, thereby revealing something of God’s relational nature.

Second, consider that there are ways in which the family can be a sign of the love that the members of the Trinity have for one another. Both the Trinity and the family can be thought of as a communion of loving relationships. For such a communion to exist, the persons involved must be such that they are able to form and properly participate in it. Humans must be fit for such communion, in a context of grace, but nevertheless to be in such a relationship requires virtue. To be united in love requires certain character qualities or attributes, in part because the virtues are deeply interconnected with and in certain ways depend upon one another.

What is the significance of this, practically speaking? Parents should seek to exemplify the virtues in relationship with their children. Mothers and fathers ought to represent the goodness of God to their children. This can only be done as they exemplify Christian virtues, including patience, humility, forgiveness, and love. They do this by displaying patience in a consistent manner, offering and asking for forgiveness, humbly preferring the good of their children over their own, and doing all of this in love, promoting the good of their children while seeking to foster a close relationship with them. And hopefully as parents do this, their children will come to value and pursue these traits as well.

The mission of the Christian family as it expresses the reality of the Trinity, includes faith, evangelization, discipleship, communion with God, and service of others. To fulfill this mission requires Christlike character. The family should be a school, a training ground of such character that can only be produced in deep union with Jesus himself.


Picture by Holly Hays, CCL.

Other Posts of Interest

I have been writing a blog for the Psychology Today website since 2010, called “Ethics for Everyone“.

I have written on a variety of topics there, but several may be of interest to readers here:


Parenting, Prodigals, and the Way of Christ

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it(1)Many Christian parents believe that God has promised that if they do their job well enough, their children will ultimately follow Christ. As the basis for belief in such a promise, many point to Proverbs 22:6 which states “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (ESV). The idea is that if parents raise their children in a Christian manner, set a good example, pray with and for them, etc., then those children will, sooner or later, become followers of Jesus Christ. This, however, is not necessarily true.

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