Parenting: The Gospel Matters

As David Powlison says in his Forward to Tedd Tripp’s Shepherding Your Child’s Heart, “most books on parenting give you advice either on how to shape and constrain your children’s behavior or on how to make them feel good about themselves.” Of course, neither of those objectives is completely wrongheaded… they just shouldn’t be a parent’s primary objective. Tripp puts well what should be our primary objective with these words…

God is concerned with the heart – the well-spring of life (Proverbs 4:23). Parents tend to focus on the externals of behavior rather than the internal overflow of the heart. We tend to worry more about the “what” of behavior than the “why”. Accordingly, most of us spend an enormous amount of energy in controlling and constraining behavior.

When we miss the heart, we miss the subtle idols of the heart.

When we miss the heart, we miss the gospel. If the goal of parenting is no more profound than securing appropriate behavior, we will never help our children understand the internal things, the heart issues, that push and pull behavior. Those internal issues: self-love, rebellion, anger, bitterness, envy, and pride of the heart show our children how profoundly they need grace. If the problem with children is deeper than inappropriate behavior, if the problem is the overflow of the heart, then the need for grace is established. Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life and died as an infinite sacrifice so that children (and their parents) can be forgiven, transformed, liberated and empowered to love God and love others.

from Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

Raising Kids

Far and away one of the best books I’ve ever read on child-rearing is Standing on the Promises, by Doug Wilson. If you were to ask to borrow my copy, I’m not sure it would do you any good because you probably wouldn’t be able to read the words from all my markings. It’s that good.

Yet, if you are looking for a “how to” book to help you raise your children, you will no doubt be very disappointed indeed. While the book is not without practical application, Wilson is far less concerned with giving you twelve easy steps to parenting godly kids as he is to giving you a firm foundation upon which to do so. But, I hasten to add, the book is anything but abstract and impractical. It is encouraging, instructive, and even inspiring. I heartily recommend it to any and all parents who are seeking to raise godly children in this ungodly age.

Here are a few choice quotes from the first chapter that I think are worth passing on…

The Fountainhead of Culture

The biblical family is an instituted government, established by God at the very beginning of human history. The constitution for this government was written by him, and revealed to us in his Word.

Parents bring up their children to be colonists at the proper time, planting families of their own.

Consequently, each family is designed to be a culture – with a language, customs, traditions, and countless unspoken assumptions. God has made the world in such a way that children who grow up in the culture of the family are to be shaped and molded by it. The duty of the husband and father is to ensure that the shaping is done according tot he standards of the Word of God.

[A common problem among modern Christians] is that of forgetting the family is a culture at all, and allowing, by default, outside cultural influences to take primacy in how the children are shaped. When the biblical cultural mandate for the home is abandoned in the home, the vacuum will not be there for long.

By nature, children are malleable. They will either be shaped lawfully, by those commanded by God to perform the task, or they will be shaped unlawfully, by outsiders. But as children, they will be shaped.

Stay tuned for more gems from Wilson’s book.