If you’ve been reading the blog since the birth of the mackerdoodle, you’ll know that one of my great frustrations in the church in general is that when we teach about parenting we end up teaching a lot of things that aren’t in the bible as biblical and ignore the things that God commands us directly in scripture to be about as parents. In September of 2007, I posted about my frustrations with the conflicting commands the world gives us as parents and included this quote by John MacArthur:
“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: Consistently 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). Those 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. . .”
Well, I am very happy to tell you about a book (actually two books) that helps parents to focus on the biblical commands of parenting and ignore all the other issues handled by the “shrink wrapped programs” as John MacArthur called them.
Intentional Parenting by Tad Thompson (Cruciform Press) is a plainly written, very personal book that helps the average western Christian parent approach the command of consistently teaching our children the truth of the Word. In the very first pages, Tad challenges us with the need for “. . . a beautiful partnership to exist between the home and the local church. As a matter of fact, God intends for the Christian home to be the body of Christ in microcosm.” In an accessible style, with humility and compassion, Tad lays out the need to train our children personally, within our home in addition to our intimate involvement within a church congregation and then lays out the basic steps of how a parent would set about doing just that.
Beginning with the Gospel (which is the only place to start), Thompson lists and then defines seven ingredients of intentional parenting. Rather than assuming that all Christian parents would know what the gospel or the key themes in scripture are, Tad lays these things out in broad terms that can be used in communication with our children. While teaching about these things, Thompson also emphasizes the importance of them. For instance,when dealing with theology, he says:
Many Christians shy away from theological learning and study. They think it’s too hard, or not important, or even unspiritual (the authors of Scripture would disagree!). This is a huge mistake. Your children are going to formulate their ideas about the Bible, God, man, and salvation from somewhere. If you do not teach your children biblical doctrine, they will be forced to synthesize key ideas (about who God is and who they are) from random bits of truth and falsehood they collect from church, peers, teachers, and the media.
Having defined why and what we are to teach our children in the first half of the book, Thompson dedicates the last half to suggestions of how and where to embark upon such a daunting challenge, using Deuteronomy 6 as his model, and to the end goal of fruit in our children’s lives. Rather than encouraging us to raise up well adjusted kids who love their parents and themselves and live pretty good lives, Tad asks the question that all Christian parents should ask: How can I help my children treasure Jesus above all things?
In my opinion, Intentional Parenting is a welcome addition to the “parenting genre” of Christian books. Broadly reformed in its theology and very relevant and approachable in its style, it bridges the gap between where the average western Christian parent feels they are, and where they know they need to be. Assuming no theological training at all, and being gracious in that assumption, Tad Thompson writes for the “every parent.” It is a small book, easily read in the short bits of time we parents have, and is a far better addition to your library than all the books about where and when and how long children are to eat and sleep.
Once you have read and internalized the concepts presented by Thompson in Intentional Parenting, I would highly recommend following up with Joel Beeke’s book Bringing the Gospel to Covenant Children. Beeke, who endorsed Thompson’s book, has written a more specifically reformed book which assumes a slightly more theological base of knowledge than Intentional Parenting. I have come to think of them as stepping stones, Thompson offering the introductory survey course, and Beeke delivering a sophomore, intermediate level book. Both books are brief, easily read and very practical as opposed to theoretical in their approaches.
Neither mention pacifiers. At all. Big round of applause. 🙂
Disclosure: I have a slight connection with Cruciform Press, the publishers of Intentional Parenting, and their editor Kevin Meath sent me a PDF copy of the book to read for the purpose of review. I received no compensation for my review and have no connection to Beeke’s book at all, other than loving it.