Gospel Powered Parenting: How The Gospel Shapes And Transforms Parenting by William Farley

Parenting is hard. It is a mixture of joy, laughter, tears, sadness, disappointment (with self and with your children), struggles, rewards, satisfaction, fear, worry, contentment, thanksgiving and a hundred other adjectives.

Parenting books and especially Christian parenting books are plentiful – all with advice, plans, schedules and more advice on how to parent `successfully’.

This is an interesting addition to the `Parenting’ library.

Farley’s main point is that there is little direct biblical instruction on parenting. And the reason for this is that the Gospel is (or at least should be) the tutorial that informs our parenting.

Farley begins with five assumptions which parents must hold – and then he unpacks these five assumptions throughout the book. The five are:

1. effective Christian parents assume that parenting will not be easy but that rewards will ultimately make it worth while
2. effective Christian parents are willing to hold God’s sovereignty and their responsibility in tension
3. effective Christian parents assume an offensive mindset. They pursue their child’s heart – they do everything possible to make the gospel attractive. The gospel is the focus and goal for the parent NOT protecting their children from worldly influence
4. effective Christian parents are shrewd about new birth. They do not assume it. They understand the nature of new birth and they carefully look for its symptoms.
5. Effective Christian parents labor to focus their families on God not their children.

There is much in this book which is not politically correct in our society today. For example he advocates the use of corporal discipline (spanking). And, he says, a spanking SHOULD hurt the child. However, once the child is spanked, you should hold them. Much of modern society and many in the Christian church would disagree with that.

Also, I found the chapter on `Gospel Fathers’, which expresses his view of headship, unbalanced. I do not think he portrayed a biblical or balanced view on headship and that was frustrating. In fact, the way he wrote the chapter suggested to me he really does not understand biblical headship. Rather than coming across as someone who advocates Biblical headship (which I advocate) he simply came across as a male chauvinist. Biblical headship has two sides of the coin – a wife IS to submit to her husband – but the husband is to love his wife AS CHRIST LOVED THE CHURCH. Farley never mentions this side of headship in the book – the dying of the husband for his wife – he only mentions the wife submitting to the husband and when you present only ONE side of biblical headship it comes across as male domination.

Farley’s main premise; that the Gospel should shape and be at the center of our parenting is of course right. Not necessarily because it is THE right parenting model – but because as Christians the Gospel SHOULD shape EVERY aspect of our lives. So on one level this book should be redundant. Of course we should be parenting from a foundation of the gospel. The fact that there is a need for this book shows just how far the gospel can be from being the center of everything we do. The next book could be “Gospel Powered Employee”, then the “Gospel Powered Employer” or “Gospel Powered School Teacher” etc.

Another thing this book (and other parenting books) do not develop (although I guess its partially covered under #2 of his assumptions) is what happens when you follow ALL of this and still your child does not respond. The mantra is too often “My child was rebellious but now they are a perfect son / daughter.” Perhaps we need a book which is written by a godly parent who parented in a gospel powered fashion, and it did not work – that the child rebelled and continued to rebel. For the danger of these type of books is they can subconsciously suggest that if you follow this path your child WILL be fine. Sometimes children are not fine. And many a good parent loses their child to a life of rebellion through no fault of the parent, but because we are steeped in sin and sometimes people do not respond to the gospel. And that is hard.

Having said all that – I would still encourage parents to read this book. There is much to be gleaned from its pages.


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