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Hausvater: /HAUS-fah-ter/
noun (German)
1. Housefather.
2. Spiritually responsible head of household, including the housefather as assisted by the housemother.
>> Example: "As the Hausvater should teach it [Christian doctrine] to the entire family ..."
(Martin Luther, Small Catechism, 1529)

Robert Otto, Rise Up!: For Dads Who Want to Lead Boldly (Boca Raton: Eternal Matters LLC, 2011)

Rise Up! is a powerful challenge for fathers to take seriously their primary responsibility: to “bring up a child in the way that he should go” (Proverbs 22:6). It is a compelling call for us fathers to recognize the seriousness of God’s command to be the spiritual leader, teach God’s Word to our families, and address concerns that may arise along the way. Dr. Robert Otto’s thesis is clear, concise, and compelling: There is no better way for a husband and father to show his family the importance of God’s Word than by daily reading it to them.

Dr. Otto does a very good job of laying out all of the reasons we, as fathers, ought to become the spiritual leaders of our families. He accomplishes this through a combination of Scripture passages and personal experience, including vignettes from his time as an Army Ranger.


A Storehouse for the Famine

Dr. Otto begins with reasons that we should be reading the Bible with our families. He notes Scriptural examples of our Lord’s commands to seek him in His Word and teach it to our children (including Deuteronomy 6:4-7 and Ephesians 6:4). The author encourages his readers to deepen their own understanding of Scripture along the way, and he draws particular insight from the counter example in Amos 8:11: “I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.” In preparation for such a famine, fathers should fill their homes as “storehouses” of God’s Word.

Although Dr. Otto holds a Ph.D. in psychology, he relies on Scripture alone for both the goal and the method of Christian fatherhood. For this reason, his book can be highly recommended.

After charting the initial objectives, Otto takes us along on his journey through the Bible. He read it from cover to cover with his family over a period of four years, often with the neighborhood kids gathering around the supper table to hear the continuation of the narrative. In Rise Up! we also are given great examples of how to deal with some of the issues that may arise as we take our own journey through the Bible. From getting started, through dealing with some of the more “uncomfortable” sections of Scripture, the author uses stories and Bible verses to help the reader see that it may not always be what we expect, but it is important.

The book progresses in an orderly fashion and keeps the reader’s interest well. The frequent detours into Dr. Otto’s life—West Point cadet, Ranger School candidate, and so on—really support his points. This personal touch also adds a practical application that is helpful. Each chapter ends with a section of questions plus an index of the Scripture passages used in that chapter.


As a Man of God Should Lead His Family

Our Lord, in his great wisdom, has set the father as the spiritual leader of his family, and we will be called to task for this role. Rise Up! implores each of us to take up this challenge and make it our life’s work.

The “manly” approach that Dr. Otto, as a military officer, brings to the task of nurturing his children’s souls will appeal to men who have dismissed religion as being too girly. Not so, demonstrates Lt. Otto!

The book’s only weakness is a confused understanding of conversion, which shows up in hints throughout the book and especially in the appendix: “Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. ... I invite you to pray this prayer right now, and Christ will come into your life, as he promised” (215). But “being dead in trespasses and sins,” an unbeliever cannot pray to invite Christ into his or her heart (Ephesians 2:1). It is God who first makes us “alive with Christ” (v. 5), and this through the Word (Romans 10:14-17). Only after the Holy Spirit already has created faith in our hearts can we declare Christ to be our Lord in a prayer (1 Corinthians 12:3).

Meanwhile, the author’s core proposition, that men ought to be reading and teaching Holy Scripture to their families, holds true. Dr. Otto leads by example, and we may hope many other men will now “rise up” and follow.


John Merseth, Jr., a home school father who has served as a deacon at his congregation and also participated in synodical boards, is treasurer for The Hausvater Project.

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