This guest post is from my friend, John Alan Turner. John is an Senior Fellow at The ScreamFree Institute, an author, pastor, and theologian. His most recent book is, “Crazy Stories, Sane God: Lessons from the Most Unexpected Places in the Bible.”
I have a fundamental problem with most Christian parenting books…and articles…and blog posts for that matter. I am a Christian, and I am a parent. And I try to parent in a Christian manner. Heck, I’d even go so far as to say I’m an evangelical Christian parent, which means some of you are now tempted to immediately dismiss anything I have to say on this whole matter. But I’m willing to run that risk, because I want you to know that I’m not the kind of person who will dismiss biblical authority.
I believe the Bible is (and should be) the supreme source of truth for Christian beliefs and practices. I believe it was written by human authors, under the supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit. I believe all the things about the Bible that you’re supposed to believe in order to be a card-carrying member of the Evangelical Theological Society. So, let’s just get that out of the way. Biblically speaking, I’m a conservative.
So, the reason I have a fundamental problem with most Christian parenting books is not because they insist on using Bible verses to form the basic framework of how we ought to engage in the grand exercise of childrearing. I’ve read a great many of these books, and some of them are excellent at unpacking the implications of ancient verses for our contemporary context. They are well-intentioned, well-reasoned, and biblically faithful.
And yet…the vast majority of these books make one glaring omission. Frankly, I hesitate to bring it up because once you see it you can’t unsee it. It may cause you to throw a few books out. It may change the way you think about parenting, and it may require you to recant some of the things you’ve posted on your Facebook timeline recently. Here’s my big problem with the way most Christians approach parenting:
They leave Jesus completely out of it.
We quote the Psalms and the Proverbs (even though the psalms and the proverbs we quote were written by men who appear to have been utterly disastrous fathers themselves). We may even quote some from the New Testament — perhaps Paul’s writings to the Colossians or the Ephesians (even though we’re pretty sure Paul didn’t have any children of his own). And I get it. I do. Wisdom is wisdom, and I believe the Holy Spirit inspired their words. It’s in the Bible, so it’s good and useful and all that.
But my goal in life isn’t simply to be more biblical; my goal in life is to become more like Jesus. That means that if the way I apply something I read in the Bible ends up making me behave less like Jesus, then I’m doing it wrong. I may be able to say I’m being biblical, but the Pharisees made their living like that — following the letter of the law while ignoring the spirit of it. It might just be possible to be biblical without being Christlike. And that’s never a good thing.
Which brings us to a topic ripped from today’s headlines: spanking.