Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pulpit Review: Gospel-centered Parenting



Fitzpatrick, Elyse M. and Jessica Thompson. Foreword by Tullian Tchividjian. Give them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus. Wheaton: Crossway, 2011. 213 Pages. Paper. $14.99. www.crossway.org (P)
 
 
 
I read about a book a day. Memoirs take longer. On a recent vacation, I got through seven over two days. 
When it comes to writing book reviews, they have a similar pace, only they take a lot longer. With some books I know exactly what I'd like to say right away. Other reviews get delayed due to pastoral or school-related emergencies. And then there are books where I know what I need to say but often struggle with finding the words to express my frustration or delight.

Give them Grace was one of the latter kinds of books. I liked it, but have wrestled with the right language to express my joy in finding a book on parenting that recognizes the role of the law, yet allows the Gospel to predominate.

I've been reading Tullian Tchividjian's blog this summer and I like what I have read, especially his joy in seeing the proper distinction between law and Gospel thanks to the book The Hammer of God by Bo Giertz. Seeing these two major doctrines in Holy Scripture and properly distinguishing them is something that good pastors and theologians do and do well, but it is largely untaught outside of Biblical Lutheran groups like The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod. Tchividjian writes the foreword for Fitzpatrick and Thompson, decrying legalism and moralism (11-12) and showing he understands that sanctification is grounded in the Gospel as a response of Christians living out their vocations.

I will always critique the assumption of "decision theology" in a book (18, 196, et al).

The most initially confusing thing reading through the book the first time was missing a really clear explanation (101) that the parenting techniques/approaches/disciplines taught here are not all to be used at once (See also Appendix 2). Some examples seem overly wordy, but they would work well as examples until a parent found their own words. (There also seems to be a section missing. "Being Greedy, Not Sharing" appears at the top of page 176, but without charts. Pages 176-7 have a second heading, "Lying" and charts that cover disciplining that sin.)

The text and appendix charts give examples in five (89ff) different categories:
  • Management: "Don't run in the street!"
  • Nurturing: give hope, love, show how God provides
  • Training: apply God's Word to a circumstance
  • Correction: share the law to lead to repentance
  • and rehearsing Gospel Promises
These five parenting categories are very similar to giving pastoral care or exercising my office of school headmaster when a student is sent to "the principal's office." 

I could see how the the parenting questions of Chapter 7 (especially 118, 119, 121) could be very helpful in reaching out to neighbors and guiding a child to live as a Christian in a fallen, often secular, and challenging world.

Overall, I was very pleased. In fact, I shared ideas from Give Them Grace at one of our school's summer continuing education sessions with our teachers and substitute teachers. I ask Crossway to invite Fitzpatrick and Thompson to work on a companion volume for advice on school discipline. It could be called Give Them Grace at School: The Love of Jesus for the Classroom. Home educators (cf. 203, 159) have much in common with classical Christian schools like ours. We share a passion for Christian education as well as Classical Education.

I was especially pleased to see quotations from Martin Luther (27, 39, 157) as chapter introductions. I was further pleased to see that they weren't from his "Table Talk," but from some significant theology, Gerhard O. Forde's On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther's Heidelberg Disputation, 1518 (199, et al), Concerning Christian Liberty (200), and his commentary on Galatians (205).
"Christian" parenting books are not Christian if their primary message is law (161).

Amen. Authors Fitzpatrick and Thompson are evangelicals that are aware of how much Christians run back to living (or parenting) under the law. They emphasize the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (17, 29, 35, 45, 51, 59, 159, 160). And that's probably the best compliment I could give.
 
 
 
Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.