Successful Christian Parenting by John MacArthur

At last, a book on raising children that claims to be biblical and actually uses the Bible. This is far rarer than might be imagined since most Christian writers give passing notice to Scripture then thrust upon the unsuspecting reader a philosophy of parenting that is either based on pop-psychology or legalism. MacArthur manages to thread his way between these two land mines and give us solid principles based upon the Word of God. We must distinguish here between the unquestionable teachings of Scripture and the subjective applications, as I am sure MacArthur would agree. Elevating an application or technique to the level of biblical authority is a common error among Christian “family experts.” MacArthur attempts to avoid this, and I believe he does a good job.

Successful Christian Parenting deals well with all of the major passages on the subject. I was happy to find that in the first chapter the author correctly interprets Proverbs 22:6 as a wise saying (a proverb) and not a promise. This gave me confidence that the rest of the book would handle the other pertinent passages properly. That is not to say that all of MacArthur’s positions are indisputable. Three areas of disagreement were:

· P.127 — The application of the Old Testament promise quoted in Ephesians 6:2,3, “Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth” to the New Testament believer. The Christian is never promised long life or physical blessings for obedience as the Jews were. Paul, I believe, was just pointing to the importance of this commandment in the Old Testament, so important that God provided for a direct reward to those who complied.

· Pp.187,219 – The subject of mutual submission, including the husband’s submission to his wife, was mentioned several times. MacArthur teaches that the husband submits to his wife by loving her. While I agree that he is to love his wife, the husband is never directly told to submit to her, nor that loving her is an act of submission. The word submit means to place yourself under the authority of another. This is an impossibility in the case of the husband who is called to lead and love, not submit.

· P.201 – Once again confusing the Old Testament with the New, MacArthur states, “If you turn away from the principles of God’s Word, your family life will be fraught with pain, disappointment, unfulfillment, sorrow, anger and every other fruit of disobedience. But if you follow the pattern God has set forth for the family, He promises His blessing.” Oh, that this were true, but even in the Old Testament, as well as today, ungodly homes are often full of joy while the home of sincere believers are sometimes filled with sorrow. God makes no such promise as MacArthur implies.

Nevertheless, this book is among the best that I have ever read on the subject of raising children. I recommend it highly.

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