The First Dysfunctional Family

by Karen Gleason – 

Where did our ancestors go wrong? … Where did we?

In his recent book, The First Dysfunctional Family: A Modern Guide to the Book of Genesis, Major A. Kenneth Wilson looks to the Bible’s first families to answer these questions. Therein he finds hope that we need not repeat their mistakes—we can break the cycle of dysfunction and enjoy a close relationship with God.

Our first challenge, states Wilson, is to view the characters in Genesis as real people—no different from ourselves in their human nature—“not as grandiose theological concepts or abstract sermon illustrations.” (p. 1) While times have changed, people have not, and their lives offer many lessons for us today.

By taking a fresh look at them—from Adam and Eve to Jacob and Joseph—Wilson illuminates not only their behaviors and intentions but also their motives and values. Wilson successfully balances an easy-to-read, often humorous style with a profoundly serious theme that implicates each of us and our relationships with our families and with God. A scan of the chapter titles reveals the humor: “Had It All…Lost It All: Adam and Eve,” “Murder and Madness: The Next Generation,” “One Who Found the Way: Among a Bunch of Geezers,” and so on.

Like us, our predecessors messed up constantly. “Never give up,” says Wilson, “—on each other, on God, or on His plan for us. The Lord never gave up on the first dysfunctional family in Genesis. Why? Because they were more than an association; they were family—and so are we.” (p. 173)

The first families left an inheritance we can claim today: God’s promise that despite our flawed human nature, we can enjoy a new relationship with him through Jesus Christ and his sacrifice, his perfect love. Through faith we claim this inheritance and halt the cycle of dysfunction, drawing close to God.

In The First Dysfunctional Family, Wilson leads us through all the mishaps of our ancestors to the promise of redemption through God’s covenant of grace.

©2004 by The Salvation Army; published by Crest Books; ISBN 0-9740940-2-1, paperback, $9.95
Available from Trade (Supplies and Purchasing); call 1-800-937-8896 or fax your order to 847-294-2298. Starting November 1, you may order online from Resource Connection at:

Major Kenneth Wilson serves as assistant editor in chief and national literary secretary at The Salvation Army’s National Headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia.

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