John MacArthur’s book What the Bible Says About Parenting (previously released as Successful Christian Parenting) may be the best Christian parenting book I’ve read, Ted Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart being the one I may consider its equal. MacArthur deals with parenting from a thoroughly “biblical common sense” perspective, urging the spiritual training of children, giving practical real-life examples as well as germane theological instruction, and avoiding the sort of eccentric ideas to which so many “parenting gurus” fall prey. Indeed, he has no time for supposed parenting experts who describe “God’s Way” for feeding children or the secret to “Christian Potty Training,” and he says so:
“Even some of the better Christian parenting programs focus far too much on relatively petty extrabiblical matters and not enough on the essential biblical principles. One book I consulted spent chapter after chapter on issues like how to make a chore list to hang on the refrigerator, how to organize your child’s schedule to limit television time, games to play in the car, and similar how-to advice. Such pragmatic concerns may have their place, but they don’t go to the heart of what Christian parents in a society like ours need to address.” (pp. 11-12)
Bingo. Christian books rarely stress the Gospel, the heart of Christianity. Honestly, doesn’t the “parenting guru” in your church or home school group usually talk much more about schedules and organizational structures and the danger of immunizations(!) than about solid biblical teaching? It’s an epidemic—one for which we need an immunization. Thankfully, MacArthur calls for the simplicity that Scripture itself communicates regarding the family and leaves all the tricks and gimmicks to others:
“Christian parents don’t need new, shrink-wrapped programs; they need to apply and obey consistently the few simple principles that are clearly set forth for parents in God’s Word, such as these: Constantly teach your kids the truth of God’s Word (Deuteronomy 6:7). Discipline them when they do wrong (Proverbs 23:13-14). And don’t provoke them to anger (Colossians 3:21). These few select principles alone, if consistently applied, would have a far greater positive impact for the typical struggling parent than hours of discussion about whether babies should be given pacifiers, or what age kids should be before they’re permitted to choose their own clothes, or dozens of similar issues that consume so much time in the typical parenting program.” (p. 12)
I’ll repeat here what I wrote in the column next to that statement: “Thank you!” Like I said, biblical common sense. MacArthur focuses on the big picture. Chapter 2 of the book is entitled “Understanding Your Child’s Greatest Need.” In it, he makes a biblical case that your children were born sinners, just like you. Their greatest need? Regeneration. Then chapter 3 describes in very simple terms the process of communicating the gospel to your children. That’s far superior to books that present “2001 Easy Steps to Children as Perfect as Mine—Guaranteed!” or that teach you to teach obedience to your babes just like the Amish teach it to their horses. Mercy.
This is a tremendous resource for pastors and parents. I’m recommending it to the TCBC Family as a supplement to our current series on parenting, and I gladly recommend it to MTC readers, too. If you’re looking for a book you can recommend to parents with the confidence that they’ll learn Scripture’s principles of parenting rather than someone’s quirky parenting strategy, this one is a great option.
Give it a read. And when you do (or if you already have), come back and let me know what you think. I’d love to discuss it or answer questions about it here. As I’ve said before, good discussion makes learning all the more enjoyable and profitable.
Note: This book was first recommended to me by Michelle Brock and Randy Scott on this thread. Thanks!