by Michael Jinkins
Eerdmans, 2009. Pb., 150 pp. $15.
reviewed by John P. Leggett
When his children were baptized, Michael Jinkins promised he would live the Christian faith in his own life. He also promised to share that faith with his children. In a sense, this book is a powerful witness to the embodiment of those promises.
In the first of a series of letters to his children, Jinkins suggests that everyone — especially parents — “ought to be able to render an account of what we believe,” of what we are willing to live and die for. He then sets out to provide just such an account of his own faith in the letters that follow. Before doing so, however, he reminds them that “others, like neighbors gathered around the mailbox,” will be reading their letters over their shoulders. Those who gather will not be disappointed.
As he describes it, Jinkins wrote this book because his children — and other young adults — are asking Big Questions. They are, he writes, wondering about things like the purpose of life, and what to believe in, and how to understand their lives vocationally. As Jinkins suggests, the biggest questions are getting even bigger these days, which makes the search for answers all the more commendable.
If, however, you go to this book hoping to find simple, easily defined answers for those Big Questions, you will be sorely disappointed. While some may have chosen those Big Questions as an opportunity to proffer Big Answers, Jinkins resists that temptation. In fact, the humility that marks this book throughout can be seen even before it really begins. It may seem a small thing, but the author writes that the book addresses the Big Questions young adults are asking, which is a far cry from claiming to answer them.
While it may not give the answers some would seek, the book does something far more compelling. It allows us to see what the Christian faith looks like in the flesh of an ordinary father as he shares that faith with his children. Along the way, it also holds up the beauty and vulnerability of a father’s love — a love clearly seen in every letter.
Jinkins begins to lay the foundation of the letters to his children in his opening letter “to everybody else,” He does so by simply telling us that he is “a person of faith,” but it doesn’t take long to discover that his is not the “no-questions, everything’s-nailed-down” sort of faith that masquerades as the real thing far too often. Statements like “I trust more than I know” reveal a modesty that should not be mistaken for a lack of conviction. As Jinkins would put it, while his beliefs may have become more modest in their claims over the years, those same beliefs have become more extravagant in their hopes.
There is much here of benefit to those outside the young adult demographic. It would be extremely helpful for any parent seeking to commend the Christian faith for their child, as well as for all members in the congregation. After all, the promises that parents make at the font are linked to the congregation’s promise to teach them to know and follow Christ.
JOHN P. LEGGETT is pastor of Massanutten Church, Penn Laird, Va.