I wanted to do a quick follow-up (ha, ha, ha; as if that’s possible) to my parenting book recommendations post on the subject of learning from other authors. I mentioned in the book reviews that I don’t agree with everything in the books but recommended them if I thought there was still a lot of helpful materials.
John Piper, whose theology Christopher and I greatly respect, has often mentioned how helpful C. S. Lewis has been to him in helping him understand the Christian life. However, those familiar with "The Last Battle" know that Lewis’s poor theology comes out where someone is found in heaven who did not follow Aslan but followed Tash the false God. This is a concept that Piper vehemently fights against, and yet he has still learned greatly from Lewis. I find that if I only read authors who I agreed with on every point, I would never read any books and I believe my faith would be all the less refined for it. Iron sharpens iron.
So let’s go down the line. First, I no sooner mention that we greatly respect Piper’s theology than I feel compelled to immediately insert: except his view on believer’s only baptism. What if we never read Piper because we didn’t agree with him on that one point? We would be robbing ourselves of a wealth of Biblical knowledge and exhortation—-in other words, Christian growth.
Next, Douglas Wilson, author of the first book I mentioned: accused of being by some (or perhaps admits to being, I don’t know because I’m not up on this) a sacramentalist. Furthermore, his church practices infant communion.
Tedd Tripp is a Baptist so doesn’t come to parenting with a paedo-baptist, covenantal perspective.
The Pearls do not have a biblical understanding of original sin. They believe we become sinners when we sin (and we all do sin).
And I don’t know anything about the Ezzo’s theology or much about Ginger Plowman, but I’m sure I wouldn’t have to dig far to find something I disagree with.
So let’s explore the idea that theology informs our parenting advice. And if all these authors have poor theology at some point, how can I recommend them? One person commented particularly about the Pearls and I think that comment was very astute. I feel like the proverbial teacher at this moment: “I’m glad you asked.” But I am glad that someone brought that up because it is a very good point. Since the theological contentions I have with the other authors are very minor compared with their error, let's look at them.
So how can I say that this couple, who is not just a little mistaken, but has one of the major tenants of the reformed faith wrong, can give good advice? Let me answer the question this way. Do you know any tidy, Reformed couples who can say TULIP in their sleep, know the Westminster Confession of faith better than scripture and yet have no biblical theology of family? I do. Do you know of any families who can recite the doctrine of total depravity along with the appropriate scripture references at the drop of the hat and yet their families are a mess?
The Pearls, despite their lack of understanding the historic, Reformed faith, somehow have a more thoroughly biblical, practical, God-honoring, God-glorifying theology of raising children who glorify and honor God than many families crowding the Reformed pews of America today. The Pearls got this profound wisdom from reading the book of Proverbs (and other scriptures), believing it, and putting it into practice. Now they are teaching others how to put it into practice. Now that is biblical theology! I wish that they did have a biblical view of total depravity and that they weren’t Arminian.
But why is it that so many Reformed couples are having one or two kids and getting their tubes tied so it's not too inconvenient to fly to the Carribean every spring break? Now that is poor theology for you. Is there a Bible verse here that I’m missing? Please someone, email it to me. You know, the one that “balances out” the verses about Children are a Blessing, (or does it say, one child is a Blessing? No. It’s plural). Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. Notice it doesn’t give a number and neither should we. But there is a definite biblical thrust of many, not few. But in our reformed circles (following the thrust of the culture at large), less is usually viewed as better. Many is often to be pitied. I know of many families who are exceptions to the line of thinking I am talking of, but not near enough! So in my mind, there is this great disconnect in our churches where the foundational theology is Biblical, and yet somehow our theology of the family and parenting is just plain lousy.
But I think there’s a lesson in all this: Shame on us!
Shame on us that we have to look outside of the Reformed faith to find some of the most biblical advice on parenting. Shame on us who do understand total depravity that we in Reformed circles somehow can’t control our kids. Shame on us that our parenting practices are more rooted in the ideas of Freud and Dr. Spock than the Bible—and we don’t even know it—until we run smack-dab, head-first, into some tiny, poorly-written, self-published paperback authored by uneducated, Arminian, Nashville-hicks (they wouldn’t mind me referring to them as such). All of a sudden we are knocked to our senses and look around blinking saying, “Why is no one in our churches giving good advice about parenting?” “Why are the Christian books in the books stores so pop-psychology.” Now I’ve really opened a can of worms and I better stop this post before my husband blocks me from posting on his blog because of my inability to stop writing, ever. But I would love to hear more comments from anyone on this subject.
But one more disclaimer. THEOLOGY MATTERS
I hope I am not sounding to some like I am hopping on the ever-so-popular, theology-doesn’t-matter train. I didn’t mean to imply at all that the doctrine of total depravity is not an immensely important doctrine that should be studied and has a direct bearing on our theology of parenting. I also didn’t mean to minimize the negative effects that bad doctrine can have or minimize the positive implications of correct doctrine. I think that TULIP is a very helpful acronym, and I think that the Westminster confession of faith is a very biblical document that should be studied. I am only saying that a biblical teaching of family has fallen on very hard times and we have to look far and wide to find good books and teaching. Sometimes we are even surprised that those with poor theology have a more biblical view of the family then we do. And that in reading them, we are learning a lot more about what the Bible teaches about family than we are getting anywhere else. Sometimes we are quick to believe in TULIP and slow to believe in Proverbs and we need a wake-up call, a splash of cold water in our face, before our families look exactly like the world.