Man-Centered Methods in Parenting

As discussed in the previous article Beyond Behavior: Dealing with the Heart, parenting is no easy task because we are not just dealing with our children that sin.  We are also dealing with our own sinful hearts.  In order to discipline our children biblically, we must be aware of the ways in which our sinful pride manifests itself in our parenting.  At the end of the day, our sin is pride and can be rightly described as very much man-centered rather than Christ-centered.  Here are what seem to be the primary manifestations of prideful discipline in parenting.

1.  Anger: Unrighteous anger is probably the greatest obstacle to godly parenting.  I would also include the use of threats in this category because of their close relationship.  In just one outburst of sinful anger, we can destroy days or weeks of godly parenting.  Anger is a man-centered method of parenting because it puts the focus on fear of the parent rather than fear of God.  Using anger as a parenting method usually only leads to bitterness in the hearts of both child and parent.  Sinful anger is very critical, demanding, harsh, and the child will struggle to see any real love in dad or mom.  There is such a thing as righteous anger, but parents must be prudent.

2.  Humiliation: Humiliation in parenting is when the parent plays on the child’s emotions in order to induce “feelings” of repentance in the child.  The problem with the use of humiliation is that it produces only a worldly sorrow rather than a godly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:10).  Further, it only serves to debase the child and produce bitterness in them.  Remembering the Golden Rule is crucial for avoiding the humiliation of our children in the process of disciplining (Matt. 7:12).

2 Corinthians 7:10—For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret,  whereas worldly grief produces death.

Matthew 7:12—“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

3.  Delayed Obedience:  Another common mistake that Christian parents make is in substituting the requirement of biblical obedience for a lesser form of obedience that is delayed.  We would never want our children to be delayed in their obedience about crossing a street, touching a hot stove, or snorting cocaine because the damage will already have been done.  The same is true with all issues of obedience.  While grace should abound toward the child, parents must insist that their children do what they say, when they say it, with an attitude of respect.  Delayed obedience is really just a more subtle form of making threats.

4.  Bribery:  The use of bribery in parenting is the attempt of the parent to change a child’s behavior through the use of enticement.  The problem with this man-centered method is that the parent is appealing to the child’s sin-nature.  In effect, the child’s selfishness is being fertilized.  They are being taught to obey for the sake of getting something they want and not simply for the joy of knowing that they have done what is right.  Here we must make a difference between bribery and reward.  Bribery is always negative because of its aim to entice.  Rewards, however, can be a good way of showing grace and appreciation to a child.  Normally, rewards should not be pre-announced to the child but should be a kind of surprising-grace.

Undoubtedly, there are other man-centered methods of discipline in parenting, but these should help Christians recognize the more prominent ones.  By God’s grace, may we discipline our children in a Christ-like way.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Jeremy Vanatta

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Foundations for Gospel Parenting

Parenting is among the most challenging tasks in the world, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the weight of responsibility. In hopes of encouraging parents or parents-to-be, I want to write a series of articles on Gospel Parenting beginning with the Foundations for Gospel Parenting.

Mission Impossible
1.  Keeping eternity in mind: Christian parenting is a high calling, not of primarily preparing our children for this life but the life to come. Therefore, the goal of Christian parenting is to prepare our children for eternity. And the stakes are high because eternal judgment is a real danger of preparing our children only for this life.

2.  Grace-required: The only hope for our children is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, our children don’t need a better earthly life than dad and mom have had. They don’t need simple morality, which can be just as damning as outright sin. Our children need moral perfection, even as God says, “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev.11:44). The problem is that children cannot make themselves holy, and parents cannot make their children holy. Therefore, our children need new life that only the gospel can bring. So at this point, we all need a reality check—parenting is not easy, in fact it is humanly impossible because of sin.

Channels of Grace
1.  Gospel power: The first means of grace in parenting is the gospel itself. The word gospel means “good news,” and it is that. It is the best news on the planet. But to have good news means there must be an opposite. The opposite is the bad news that we have rebelled against our King who created us and who demands punishment for our sin. Sin is no laughing matter, whether done by an adult or by a child. Because we cannot atone for our own sin, God sent Jesus to live the life that we could not live and die the death that we deserve, and every person that turns from self-reliance to Christ-reliance receives the gift of eternal life.

2.  Godly marriages: A second means of grace in parenting is found in Ephesians 5:27-33, where God instructs wives to submit to their husbands as unto the Lord and for husbands to love their wives even as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. Our marriages will either be a living and walking example of the gospel, pointing our children to the cross, or our marriages will be a living and walking example of selfishness, leading our children away from the cross. The foundation of gospel-centered parenting is gospel-centered marriages.

3.  Father-focused homes: A third means of grace in parenting is the establishment of the father as the head of the household. Whether we like it or not, our God is a patriarchal God. God is Father to us. In the same way, God has determined that the family be led by the father. The trend in America, however, is just the opposite. We place excessive emphasis on the mother in our homes, or even worse the children. The statistics that reveal this as a problem are overwhelming.

When it comes to spiritual leadership in the home, men sin in one of two ways: domination or abdication. Most people scoff at the biblical teaching of the wife submitting to her husband as a license for the husband to dominate his wife, often in a mental and physical way, but this is the furthest thing from the truth. The Bible’s teaching is actually very liberating for women. Further, domination of women among genuine Christian men is very rare.

The greater temptation is that of abdication of male leadership in the home, characterized as a husband’s direct or indirect refusal of leadership. For the best parenting results, the husband must take responsibility for his God-ordained role as head of the home. This leaves no room for pride or feelings of superiority. Rather, husbands should approach this task with fear, trembling, humility and love.

4.  Loving discipline: A fourth means of grace is loving discipline. This is the most familiar tool of parenting for most of us. When we think of raising children in the ways of God, we think of discipline, especially spankings. Many Christians administer spankings, but many of those who do must confess that that they do not always administer them in a biblical way (something we’ll examine in a future article).

5.  Scripture and prayer: If the previous four means of grace are going to advance our parenting, then they must be saturated with two final gifts from God, Scripture and prayer. Without divine guidance as found in God’s Word through fervent prayer, parents can have no assurance that their children will grow up to love God as their Sovereign Lord. It is through Scripture and prayer that the Holy Spirit opens eyes and ears to the gospel.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Jeremy Vanatta

The Ephesians 4 Project: The Family

The Baptist Faith & Message 2000
Article XVIII:  The Family
God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. It is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood, or adoption.

Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God’s unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race.

The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.

Children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord. Parents are to demonstrate to their children God’s pattern for marriage. Parents are to teach their children spiritual and moral values and to lead them, through consistent lifestyle example and loving discipline, to make choices based on biblical truth. Children are to honor and obey their parents.

Unifying Principles of Article XVIII
It has been several weeks coming, but we have finally arrived at the last article of the Baptist Faith & Message.  After this article, I will post one final article that highlights some of the more notable points of unification and contention among Southern Baptists.

As for Article XVIII on The Family, Southern Baptists are in agreement on the importance of the family “as the foundational institution of human society,” as marriage between one man and one woman in a lifelong commitment, and the complimentarian view of the marriage relationship.  Further, Southern Baptists agree that “children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord.”  My one concern, as with many other statements of belief in the BF & M, is that too few Southern Baptists are actually living out this doctrine of the family.  The alarming fact that most evangelical Christians are statistically identical to non-Christians in America when it comes to the family (especially regarding divorce) demonstrates that this is a genuine problem.  Despite this, Southern Baptists are united by this article of the BF & M.

Let me end this article on the last statement of the BF & M with my recurring claim throughout this series: EVERY CHURCH AND INDIVIDUAL THAT IS CONSCIEOUNTIOUSLY ABLE TO SIGN THE BAPTIST FAITH & MESSAGE EASILY FITS WITHIN THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION.

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta