Home > Books > William P. Farley: Gospel-Powered Parenting

William P. Farley: Gospel-Powered Parenting

Speaking just for myself I guess there are two reasons I’d want to read a Christian parenting book, or more specifically, a how-to book on Christian parenting. I want live my life consistently with the things I believe, even or especially where my faith touches on parenting, and I want my child to grow up to be a Christian.

There seems to be a dialogue ongoing on the first topic between evangelical and Reformed camps, where on the one side Jesus is supposed to be my life coach, helping me be more successful in following through on the decisions I’ve already made, becoming rich, etc. And on the other side the response is to suggest that because every problem is fundamentally a theological problem, and theology was worked out once and for all five hundred years ago, mastering certain theological concepts is the right answer to every question. Both of these sound to me like things that started out at least partly right and have somewhere along the line gone wrong: Jesus does call me to follow Him and live a certain way, and theology should matter, but the way both of these are understood nowadays strikes me as weird and discordant.

I think it was Randall Balmer who pointed out that because evangelicals have a born-again soteriology we face a cultural crisis every generation: because our salvation story follows the general pattern of “I once was lost but now I’m found” it’s hard to raise Christian children who may have never felt “lost.” Other traditions within Christianity seem to have clearer (if not necessarily better) solutions for this problem: children become Christians at birth and are confirmed in their parents’ faith via a collection of sacraments, rituals, catechisms, etc. And so it can be a bit perilous to be someone from an evangelical background attending a more mainline church to raise a child: my old tradition emphasized an “age of accountability” that ignored Original Sin before that point; my current tradition admits that a child raised in church may never have a “moment of salvation.”

These are the sorts of questions that have me reading books like Farley’s. I don’t want to end up on the end of the discussion that suggests that modern parenting techniques can simply be baptized (a somewhat mysterious process that, like the production of Christian rock music seems to have more to do with the organization making money off the process than with the content of the product produced) and called Christian parenting. And by the same token I don’t want to end up on the end of the argument that has only a single sanction (and frames every discussion in terms of sin, death, and hell). And it would be nice if, as Farley tries to do, I came out the other side with some clue as to how to raise a Christian child, as opposed to just a child raised by Christian parents.

One problem, however, and one I can’t seem to solve, is this: the Bible isn’t (and certainly isn’t primarily) a child-rearing manual.

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  1. November 8, 2010 at 6:21 pm

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