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Gospel-Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting Paperback – September 1, 2009
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"Gospel-Powered Parenting is a wise, enduring prescription for parenting because it is joyously biblical and comes from a pastor-theologian who has done it as his family wonderfully attests." --R. Kent Hughes, Pastor, College Church, Wheaton, Illinois
"Rock solidprofoundly grounded upon the all-sufficiency of the Word of God and the Gospel of grace. Farley is not going to give you theoretical platitudes; he is honest about his own deficiencies and his great need of gospel wisdom in parenting. This is, ultimately, a parenting book full of hope, hope grounded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ." --Douglas Bond, Author of Fathers & Sons: Stand Fast in the Way of Truth and Hold Fast in a Broken World
"Family literature purporting to be Christian is almost universally distinguished by well-meaning but impotent moralizing that effectively neglects the gospel by virtue of assuming it. Bill Farley pushes us beyond this, setting forth a parenting approach that is decidedly Christian precisely because it is informed and motivated by the transforming power of the gospel." --Art Azurdia, Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology and Director of Pastoral Mentoring, Western Seminary, Portland
About the Author
Bill Farley is pastor of Grace Christian Fellowship in Spokane, Washington. He has published articles in Discipleship Journal, Enrichment Journal, Focus on the Family Magazine and The Journal of Biblical Counseling.
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As a parent with nearly 30 years of experience and one child, a kindergartner, remaining at home I still have questions about how to raise my children well. Answering those questions is at the heart Gospel-Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting, by William P. Farley (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2009).
Farley's approach is a bit different than most parenting books, as is clear from his title. Rather than presenting a particular developmental theory or a how-to manual to address specific behaviors, he grounds his approach in the bedrock of Christian belief, which is that through the death-and resurrection of Jesus the world is fundamentally a different place to live for those who call on Jesus in faith. Because of whom Jesus is and what Jesus did, everything the Christian does is affected, and perhaps nothing more so than parenting.
Farley believes that the parent's primary focus in raising their children should not be on behavior modification or developing productive members of society, but on developing the heart of each child to embrace the Good News of Jesus. That means that focusing on the heart of the child to know deeply and personally the love of Jesus for them, the work that Jesus did for them, is the goal of parenting throughout each stage of the child's life. We should parent in the present, but always with one eye on eternity, working to guide our children towards a heavenly destination.
Farley believes strongly that fathers are vital in shaping the lives of their children. As a pastor he knows full well that there are many families where fathers are absent, or where they just plain do a poor job. However, recognizing that the presentation of the Bible is families led by fathers, some of whom he admits are pretty poor role models, he holds up the model of a two-parent family, led by the father, as the best model to emulate whenever it is possible. He spends several chapters talking about the ways in which God is presented as a father figure in the Bible and how those images can shape the leadership given to families by modern fathers.
A corollary to a strong father in parenting is for the father and mother to jointly model the Gospel within their marriage. This does not mean that he advocates things like blind submission, as may be found in a caricature of a Christian marriage, but he encourages couples to look at their roles in marriage as being complementary to each other. He notes how clearly children can sniff out hypocrisy in marriages where God is followed on Sunday but ignored during the remainder of the week. A child's heart is drawn to God when the child sees God at work on a daily basis in the life of his or her parents.
Farley has written an organized and focused approach to parenting, one which I find much that I agree with. His writing is easy-to-read and it is evident that he has read widely. His recommendations are not just from his own experience or observations but are synthesized with the perspective of many other Christian pastors, counselors and theologians.
One area where I had persistent disagreement with his suggestions was in the area of discipline, where he seemed to suggest that in certain stages of a child's life that immediate corporal punishment was the proper, perhaps even the only, appropriate way to change behavior. My opposition to this approach is two-fold.
First, in my own experience, with my older children as well as the youngest, was that time-out can be used to very good effect. The root meaning of discipline is "to teach," which can be done in more ways than just punishment. Secondly, the notion that all infractions must be punished, as a part of teaching a child obedience, which embracing the Gospel calls all Christians towards, denies a fundamental truth of the Gospel, which is that every sin a Christian commits is not punished directly. The sin is indeed punished, but the punishment is not born by the Christian but by their Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.
I recommend Farley's book, particularly with its emphasis on shaping the heart as the primary goal of parenting. Read it, read your Bible alongside it, and perhaps read some of his references as well. Children are indeed a gift from the Lord and perhaps our greatest way of receiving that gift is to shape the child to pursue and embrace their Creator.
An example of this would be quoting an author saying “you should discipline your kids with consistency” then based on that saying “you should spank your kids with consistently and with a firm hand” as I did with my kids who turned out great”.
With this example he might be completely right, but I would have liked to see more support for his claims.
Another critique was building a long case for things that seem pretty well understood, and than making a strong claim without much elaboration to support this claim.
Example: “...children who’s self will is broken grow up to be better leaders, less likely to use drugs, drink alcohol, have sex before marriage...example my son”. While this might be true he used a personal example and I would have liked to know more about how he came to that conclusion.
I was also curious about using guys like John Wesley and Puritan authors as experts on parenting. My understanding is they were mostly absent from many of their children’s lives, so I do not automatically give them my excellent dads badge of honor and who I would want to model my parenting tactics from. While guys like John Wesley are unquestionably qualified to cite for theology and spiritual leadership, I would need the author to build the case these are guys to listen to about parenting.
Lastly, some of the information cited seemed to be a bit outdated, while it might still be true I would like to see more current studies about topics like “homosexuality”.
Overall I have the book 3 stars as I found some good nuggets and interesting takeaways, but I would have like to see more elaboration for claims pertaining to the actually “how-to’s” of parenting.