I read the cover article of the latest issue of Christianity Today magazine, "The Myth of the Perfect Parent" by Leslie Fields (available on the CT website).
Fields points out how Christian books on parenting assure readers that if they follow their formula they'll produce godly kids...yet this behavioral approach doesn't always work, in spite of parents' prayerful best efforts. If the way "they're doing it" doesn't work, then it's obviously not biblical, so some authors of parenting books claim. If that's true, then prayer isn't biblical, because all Christians parents agonize in prayer over their kids, and are often stunned by the answers.
Then there's Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." This verse has caused some Christian parents to lose their faith in God's promises. It may be an observation, but the confident tone of the verse doesn't sound like a mere "principle". Fields point out that Solomon, who wrote this, was hardly a successful parent.
Like the author, I too sat down with a pastor I respected, and asked for parenting advice, only to be told that “Parenting is the area in which I feel the most amount of personal failure.” I think the only parents who feel good about their kids are those who happen to have compliant children (for which they take the credit).
Fields reminds the reader of the list of heroes of the faith from Hebrews 11, which highlights something I’ve been pondering for some time: you simply don’t find too many examples of successful parenting in the Bible, apart from Mary & Joseph. I’m the son (hardly product) of agnostic parents, and one of my kids is a prodigal, and guilt over this nearly made me quit the ministry. I intend to get the author’s book and I think every Christian parent should at least read her CT article.
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