Friday, June 15, 2012

Gospel Powered Parenting Book Club {Chapter 1}

Today we begin GCH's first ever book club!  We are reading William P. Farley's Gospel Powered Parenting together.  If you haven't got the book yet, you can join us at any point.  The posts for each chapter will remain open for comments until we finish the book - so you can join the discussion as you are able.  Today we are looking at the introduction and chapter one, which are available as a free sample from Amazon. 




In the introduction, Farley explains how three things have affected his approach to parenting, and have prompted him to add to the huge number of books written on the subject of parenting.  Those three things are:
  1. A steadily expanding understanding of the implications of the gospel for parenting
  2. A realization that success in parenting had less to do with school choice than with the spiritual depth and sincerity of the parents, especially the father and
  3. The centrality of the cross and the inner workings of the gospel. 
Also important in the introduction is his definition of the gospel.  He says, "The gospel is the incarnation of God's son, his sinless life, his substitutionary death, his bodily resurrection, and his ascension into heaven, from which he will someday return to earth in glory.  But the cross is the heart and soul of the gospel."

Chapter One:  Intellectual Submarines

Chapter one is also somewhat of an introduction to the book, as it lays the groundwork for the rest of the book by laying out some important assumptions.  He argues that to become a gospel-centered parent, we have to start with a gospel-centered worldview.  These assumptions comprise that worldview:
  1. Parenting is not easy. Both children and parents are sinful, so we both need a Savior.
  2. God is sovereign, but he uses "means".  In other words, God is the only one who can save our children, and yet he uses normal means of grace, (primarily parents) to reach them.
  3. A good offense is better than defense.  Rather than "fear based parenting" which solely seeks to protect children from negative outside influences, we should have an offensive mind set, which seeks to go after the heart of our children through the "overwhelming, all-conquering power of the new birth."
  4. Understand new birth.  Point three is further expanded in point four as he explains the importance of not "assuming" the new birth.  This is the section that was most compelling to me, so I will elaborate on that next.
  5. Effective parents are not child-centered, but God-centered.  "In a God-centered family, everyone serves God by submitting to the authority over them."

Understanding New Birth

I want to spend some more time on what was, for me, a pretty big paradigm shift.  The idea that the new birth is something miraculous that I can't do for myself or for my children is something I don't think I had ever really thought through the implications of, until just recently in my Christian life.  Here are a few provocative quotes that I underlined that will hopefully spark some good discussion....
"Most Christian parents assume that church attendance or youth-group involvement equates to new birth." (p. 28)
"Even a child's testimony that he 'accepted Jesus' or 'asked Jesus into his heart' means very little.  That is because God initiates new birth.  Of course, the child is responsible to respond to God with faith and repentance.  But a child can go through these steps and not have the saving faith and repentance that point to new birth.  That is why it is foolish for parents to presume upon new birth.   New birth is a radical change of heart that ushers in new desires, new loves, and a new life direction." (p.28)

"The bottom line is this:  New birth is known by its fruits, not by a decision.  The most important fruit is hunger for God himself.  Effective parents assume this, and patiently wait for sustained fruit before they render a verdict." (p.30)
 Does that shake up your Christian worldview a little, or does this ring true with your experience and knowledge of scripture?  When I first started teaching my young son about Jesus, I really began looking forward to the time when he would be ready to "ask Jesus into his heart".  The fact was, I discovered it wouldn't be that hard to get any of my children to the point at which they were ready to do this.  All I really had to ask them was, "Don't you want Jesus to live in your heart so that you can be with him forever in heaven with mom and dad?"  Of course they did!  But when it came to it, I just couldn't present it that way!  It didn't seem like getting them to repeat a prayer after me was very genuine for either them or for me- it seemed manipulative!  There has to be more to being born again than that, right?  Well, yes and no.  Yes it can be that simple.  And no, it's not that simple.  New birth is a miracle and miracles are not simple.  The cause of new birth is God, not a magic prayer.   The evidence of new birth is born out in fruit, which we may or may not see immediately.  So yes, a simple prayer can be evidence of new birth - but a simple prayer doesn't cause the new birth.  So how do we know the difference?  We look for fruit, we don't presume the new birth.  But this is not a problem because both saved people and unsaved people need the gospel every day.  We need to be reminded, and we need to remind our kids, of our need for Christ, of what he has done for us.

The first time I heard the new birth explained like this was in a sermon series by John Piper titled, "You Must Be Born Again", which became the basis for his book, Finally Alive. (I love that title!) It was huge for me in understanding not only my own conversion, but what to look for in the conversion of my children. (I will be posting more on that later next week.) 

Now I want to hear from you! 

Post your thoughts in the comments section, regarding what struck you most in the first chapter so far!  You are free to agree, disagree, or ask questions, or just let us know you are here and reading along with us! I will be moderating the comments, so I will try to get them posted soon after you send them.
A few conversation starters...
What assumptions about parenting have you grown up with?
Which assumption in this chapter is most important to you at your stage of parenting?
Can you think of any other assumptions that would be important to a Christian parent's worldview?

For next Friday, read chapter two of Gospel-Powered Parenting
where the author moves from initial assumptions to presenting the thesis of the book.


  1. As I was reading the first chapter, I was struck by my own "assumptions" about my children, especially my oldest (who is all of almost-2). I know in my head that he is a sinner in need of a Savior and Tim & myself will do our best to introduce him to that Savior and Ashton's need of Him, but until then, he is NOT saved based on the fact that Tim and I are. But in my heart I was just assuming that he knows the Savior just like I do. Not the case.

    This was really heavy and hard for me to think about. Tim prays every night that Ashton and Clara will come to know Jesus as their Savior, but it's just not a reality yet. Modeling the Gospel for these two precious young ones is a tall order . . . but I know that God will give us the tools with which to do so. It's hard to remind myself of that every day.

    It's hard to think about the fact that I am in need of my Savior too, just like my son, because I think I can do it "all by myself" and that I don't need His help, just like Ashton sometimes doesn't need "mommy's help" (but really does)

    I'm looking forward to reading Chapter 2 (I know we're on Chapter 3 :P) as soon as I can figure out a way to get BOTH babies down AT THE SAME TIME......*sigh*

    1. Thanks for commenting, Abigail! I know what you mean, it can be a weighty thought, and yet God is good! We have to remember that God uses the means of His Word to awaken little hearts (and big hearts) to life and salvation. Keep Christ before your kids (and before yourself) everyday, cling to the Cross. Also, check out the resource that I posted this week on Helping Children to Understand the Gospel. I think that you will find it encouraging and practically helpful. Even for 2 year olds!