Although I finished this book earlier last week, I wanted to sit with my thoughts a while before writing this review. Learning from My Father: Lessons on Life and Faith is a reflection on a life formed from a relationship with a Christian father. Specifically, David Lawther Johnson's father served Presbyterian churches as a minister for most of his life.
The lessons learned in the book are nothing startling. However, it contains a number of almost proverbial quotes with which I resonated. Here's one from the chapter on being a good witness: "Just because many people fail to discuss faith in a credible or welcome way with others doesn't mean we get a pass from doing it (140)." This quote speaks to the point of witness in the Christian life, demands an answer, and sets up good discussion.
The problem arises from what follows the quote. The author makes it clear he does not really share his faith consistently. Thankfully, the author painted an honest picture and did not try to write too much about something he didn't know. On the other hand, I want an author to have had experience with what he is encouraging me to do. I came away from the chapter, and much of the book thinking, "So what?"
I really enjoyed reading this book. The style was winsome. The stories and comments were relevant and appealing. It just felt like a beginning writer work through his life and faith following his father's death. Johnson tells a story that opens so many more questions. It ends up being a little immature. I appreciate his honesty and willingness to engage questions of faith such as death, evil, and sin. I only wished for more substance
The real diamonds come from Johnson's father and his interaction with them. Here, he is insightful, thoughtful, and truly reflective. I expect this book to touch some people, but it won't connect with everyone.
For Christians, I would recommend the book for an adult study group working through issues similar to the author. It could be used to prompt discussion about things like care for aging parents, health and wellness, the place of wealth in our lives, and how we develop tools for witnessing to our faith. All of these topics could be explored with supplementary materials and biblical discussions. For this reason, and because it deals with issues many people currently face, I can recommend the book primarily as a discussion starter.
Learning from My Father: Lessons on Life and Faith is published by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, and is available from book retailers.
Thank you to the publisher for my review copy. Some small changes may have taken place between my review copy and the final edit.