William P. Farley
Reviewed by: S. Edd Cathey
Date posted: 12/05/2010
Gospel-Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting, by William P. Farley. Published by P&R Publishing, 2009. Paperback, 224 pages, list price $12.99. Reviewed by OP pastor S. Edd Cathey.
This book offers sound advice about Christ-centered motivation and parenting. The author's work is well-grounded in the Scriptures. It is illustrated with enjoyable anecdotes, godly wisdom, and vivid illustrations. Farley presents a useful summary at the end of each chapter and helpful questions for individuals and groups. The book is easy to read and could be used in the evangelism of new parents.
True to the title, the gospel is central to the book. It is explained in orthodox terms and set in the various contexts of parenting and family life. Farley makes important points about God-ordained authority in general and that of fathers in particular. This authority is grounded in the fatherhood of God and the communal life of the Trinity. These are important ideas that are often neglected in contemporary society.
Farley's practical descriptions of parental love and grace-filled discipline need to be heeded and practiced. He describes this particularly well in chapter 7, "Gospel Fathers," where he presents the results of studies on the need for masculine leadership.
This book is useful and recommended. However, a few weaknesses from a Reformed perspective should be noted. Although Farley is clearly Calvinistic regarding the sovereignty of God in salvation and lists many of the scriptural promises to parents regarding children, he seems to lack the covenantal view that baptized children are members of the church and should be expected to follow Christ. He emphasizes the need for "the miracle of the new birth" (p. 25), while saying that "the sincere testimony of a little child" means "very little" (p. 28). This emphasis shows the influence of the conversionist theology which has characterized evangelicalism since the Great Awakening in the eighteenth century and which became especially dominant following the second bout of Revivalism in the nineteenth century.
While it is true that only a sovereign God can save our children, this fact must lead us to dependence upon his covenant mercies and the means of grace. The book lacks clear teaching about the central importance of the church as the body of Christ and the outward and ordinary means of grace provided in the preaching of the word, the administration of the sacraments, discipline, and prayer (public worship). These are the objective ways by which God has promised to save us and our children, according to our Shorter Catechism, Q. 88.
Q. 88. What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption?
A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption, are his ordinances, especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.
Although I greatly appreciate and approve of the author's godly advice throughout the book, I wish that the means ordained by God would not have been neglected. Too many Christian parents see the church, if you can find one you like, and her sacraments as merely useful in the enterprise of raising God's children. Perhaps this lies behind some of the startling data supplied by the author from Barna about children forsaking the faith.