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Posts Tagged ‘fathers’


In the Introduction, the author notes that 75,000 books on parenting have been written in the last decade.  We are apparently obsessed with parenting, and we apparently haven’t discovered how to parent well.

In Gospel-Powered Parenting, William Farley brings something different to the table.  He isn’t focused on technique, he’s focused on the hearts of the parents and their goals.

“The common denominator between success and failure seems to be the spiritual depth and sincerity of the parents, especially the spiritual depth and sincerity of the father.”

This is interesting in light of an Atlantic  Monthly article a young lady on the plane was reading recently, “Are Fathers Necessary?”  Every study (which the article thinks erroneous, without real data) I’ve read indicates they are (check out Life Without Father by David Popenoe.  This is why the wise church focuses on dads and tries to involve men in ministry to children (time to man up, guys: you are important to the kingdom!).

Success here is essentially defined as children who own the faith of their parents are are involved church members after leaving the home.  How they were educated is far less important than their witnessing “experiential religion”, as the Puritans would say, in the home.  And especially by dad (hmm, maybe those passages in the Bible aren’t shaped by ‘patriarchism’ but reflect how God often works in light of the covenant).

Initially, his claim that the Job 1 responsibility of Christian parents is to see their kids come to faith (he is a Calvinist, so he recognizes parents as a means, not the cause, of their faith).  It seems like all that matters is that if we get our kids to say the prayer, we’re done.  That would be reductionistic, and that is not what he means.  If we are powered by the gospel, and they believe it, many of those issues will be addressed but not in an idolatrous fashion.  Our children will learn how to manage money, persevere in difficulty, delay gratification, do their best in school (depending on their own intellectual capacity) and be good citizens and workers.  The gospel will produce the character necessary for those things if we recognize it isn’t just “fire insurance”

He begins with the assumptions each parent has in that process.  They are often unseen, but drive our parenting.  He lays out his assumptions.

  1. Parenting is not easy.  We are sinners, and so are they.  There will be plenty of failure to go around.
  2. God is sovereign, but He uses means.  We are not to be passive, but active, in light of His commands.  But we are also to be trusting in light of His promises and providence.
  3. A good offense (is better than a good defense).  Often we try to protect our kids, fearing the world will corrupt them.  As a result, we often raise legalists or rebels.  We recognize the battleground is their hearts and make the gospel the main issue to shape their hearts.  Love for Christ is the only real way to avoid the corruption of the world.
  4. Understand the New Birth.  Our kids don’t need the Moralistic Therapeutic Deism of our day.  They need to be born again- given spiritual life.  This is borne out by its fruit, not merely a decision.
  5. God-centered Families.  Most people have child-centered families, and sports or performing arts often crowd out manifestations of lively faith.  The kids learn they are more important than God, and worship is essentially optional.

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Braveheart is one of my favorite movies.  Mel Gibson was on a great run there for awhile.  It is a movie about the value and price for freedom, and it is a stirring film (historical inaccuracies aside).

But what is often missed is the important roles fathers (and father figures) play in the lives of the characters.  It may come across to some as simplistic but the men with the bravest hearts were raised by brave men.  The cowardly, self-serving men were raised by overbearing, abusive fathers.  Fathers play an important role in shaping the lives of sons into young men.  That role can’t be overstated.

So let’s take some peeks into this story and see the impact of fathers on sons.

Braveheart opens with a young William Wallace watching his father, Malcolm, preparing to go into battle.  His older brother is also joining his father.

  •  
    • William: I’m going with you?
    • Malcolm: A good help ye be too.
    • William: I can fight.
    • Malcolm: I know you can fight.  (pause) But it’s our wits that make us men.

His father does not mock him, but affirms him.  But in the process teaches him that there is more to being a man than fighting.  And more to fighting than mere strength and skill.  William must still learn to use his wits to be a man.  It appears as though he has the right father to teach him, but tragedy strikes.  I wonder if it was this broken heart that made him so pliable.

Into this void steps his Uncle Argylle.  He isn’t quite sure about Argylle at first, but soon learns that he is in good hands.

“You don’t speak Latin?  Well, that’s something we’ll have to remedy, isn’t it?”

His uncle does not belittle him, but sees this as an indication that young William can and will learn.  Together they will address this lack of knowledge.  William is not alone, but his uncle will stand with him and teach him what he lacks.

“It was the same for me and your father when our daddy died.  First learn to use this (points to his head), then I’ll teach you how to use this.”

Uncle Argylle is one who has trod the path that lies before William.  He and his brother lost their father.  He puts the priority on using his head so that he will not only use his weapons skillfully but wisely.

But Malcom does not disappear from the film.  He shows up in a dream to offer direction  to his son.

“Your heart is free; have the courage to follow it.”

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