As readers of Joel Beeke have come to expect, his book Parenting By God's Promises is deeply biblical and theological. Those same readers will also expect those biblical and theological insights to be presented clearly and without pretense, and they won't be let down there, either. This isn't a book about principles to apply to specific situations, or a guide to disciplinary measures, but a summary of the Bible's teaching concerning the office and responsibilities of parents from a Reformed perspective.
This Reformed perspective is more or less assumed throughout the book. While Beeke does offer a brief explanation and defense of infant baptism, he assumes most (if not all) readers will have had their babies baptized, and this assumption provides a rubric for everything from positive instruction to administering discipline. As we believe this Reformed perspective is the most faithful to the testimony of Scripture we have no problem with Beeke's bias, but those outside this tradition should be aware of it.
That's not by any means to suggest that only Reformed readers can benefit from this book. Beeke's approach is both theological and practical, and any parent who wants to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord should take the information presented here seriously. The book has four parts: a theology of parenting; an explanation of our parental roles as prophet, priest and king; a Puritan-influenced look at practical issues; and, a concluding section dealing with raising teenagers.
Beeke's main emphasis is the necessity of training our children in God's Word. They should be catechized, have doctrine explained to them, taught to listen in church, be led in prayer and family worship, etc. Parents should also strive to model the kind of behavior they expect their children to have, and lead by example in matters of character and Christian devotion. Beeke points out that while this won't ensure your children won't rebel at some point, it will go a long way toward raising children who want to please the Lord rather than simply children who know they must.
For Beeke, this is crucial. As parents, our duty is to lead our covenant children to Christ, praying for their salvation and showing them the path to heaven and away from hell and punishment. This point is made over and over in Parenting By God's Promises, which emphasizes the spiritual aspects of parenting far above temporal or transitory concerns. And yet he doesn't ignore such things—there are reminders throughout that it is important to train our kids to use good manners, to respect other people, and to be open in their communication with their siblings.
Often, there are suggestions that at first glance seem like "no duh" statements, but that contribute to the overall picture of parenting Beeke strives to present. These include everything from reminders that it is the parents' responsibility to look after the health of the mother as she carries the unborn child, to the importance of helping teens learn how to make good life choices. Sometimes the advice is less obvious, however, like the admonishment to keep kids from technological immersion and to teach them to appreciate good literature and art.
Ultimately, this is a very human book, but in the best possible way. It might sound like Beeke's checklist for achieving a perfect parenting record, and it is. Or rather, it is the biblical picture of perfection in parenting which none of us can achieve yet which all of us must strive for. And the checklist is a short one: have faith in God. This is the summary of Beeke's book (hinted at in the title)—that godly children are raised, not by what we do, but by what God does and has promised to do. If we rest in this, we have accomplished what God calls us to. Highly recommended.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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