What I’m Reading: What the Bible Says About Parenting

What the Bible Says About ParentingJohn 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!


6 Responses

  1. Haven’t read the book, but am struck by some of the similarities between what it sounds like MacArthur (and the Bible) is saying and what I learned from my parents, who by the way were among the best parents I know of. Boiled down, here’s what I learned…let your children know you love them unconditionally; let them know there are consequences for their actions (both good and bad); apply those consequences fairly and consistently; teach by example; have high but attainable expectations; and most importantly, pray like crazy for them.

    By the way I believe these are also the same principles that make good leaders. I’ve read some John Maxwell stuff and it all seems to boil down to 2 or 3 biblical principles.

    Chris, do you have an easily printable list of books you recommend? I was in a bookstore today and couldn’t remember any of the titles or authors you mentioned at Camp.

  2. I don’t, Bryan, though it’s a great idea & would be an easy thing to put together. For starters…

    This one is great on parenting, obviously.

    Three I’ve recently enjoyed on the gospel (with links to the discussions here) are…

    * Complete in Him by Michael Barrett focuses on the various aspects of the doctrine of salvation at a pretty advanced level, though it’s still very engaging

    * Living the Cross Centered Life by CJ Mahaney is much simpler, but still very helpful on the relevance of the gospel to everyday life—just be sure to get the newer edition (Living the Cross Centered Life) not the older one (The Cross Centered Life)

    * The Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent is a series of meditations on the gospel that I’ve enjoyed. I’ve heard nothing but positive things from friends who have read it, as well—and it’s free!

    Standard disclaimer: I don’t agree with any of these men (or even myself) about everything. That said, the books have all been a big help to me.

    Other books I’ve enjoyed recently can be seen in the “What I’m Reading” page (link).

  3. BTW, most Christian bookstores are just useless—or worse. I get most stuff online at Amazon.com or Walmart.com.

    Oh: John Piper’s book called Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ has some good thoughts, as well. It’s quite short and simple. Desiring God is the classic Piper book. I’ve learned a great deal from him. Several of my friends think he’s a twerp. This article was written by a friend of mine and provides a fair overview of his ministry, IMO.

    That’s probably more than you asked for, eh?

  4. Exactly what I was looking for…Thanks!

  5. […] said before, if I were to recommend one resource for parents to read, it would be MacArthur’s What the Bible Says About Parenting. It’s intentionally un-clever, which is a refreshing change from most books on parenting. […]

  6. […] I am still reading a couple books on parenting and plan to review them in due time, but I am also reading a bunch of books on evangelism and church growth for the upcoming summer session at DBTS :-), so I am posting the links to a couple of book reviews by a good friend with whom I am very likeminded. The first on is on John MacArthur’s What the Bible Says about Parenting.  Click on the following link: What I’m Reading: What the Bible Says About Parenting « My Two Cents. […]

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