It’s May! That means we’ve just begun our 3 month discussion of the popular Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus (Crossway, 2011) by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson in the Family Discipleship Facebook group. It’s not too late to join us! Of course, I’d love to hear your thoughts here as well. Check out the schedule below, and then we’ll get down to discussing the foreword, introduction, and Chapter One!
Foreword ~ by Tullian Tchividjian
I love the quote Pastor Tchividjian begins the foreword with from Michael Horton in Christless Christianity:
What would things look like if Satan really took control of a city? Over half a century ago, Presbyterian minister Donald Grey Barnhouse offered his own scenario in his weekly sermon that was also broadcast nationwide on CBS radio. Barnhouse speculated that if Satan took over Philadelphia (the city where Barnhouse pastored), all of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say, “Yes, sir” and “no ma’am,” and the churches would be full every Sunday… where Christ is not preached.” (Give Them Grace, page 11)
Tchividjian goes on to make the point that our job as parents is not to train our children to be externally obedient, “nice” people, but to help them grasp the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The law is of no use if it does not point us toward God’s grace. Sanctification (the process of becoming holy) is not possible without justification (salvation) through faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ alone. It’s only because Jesus has saved us that we can change. It is Jesus who changes us.
I’ve been thinking about this issue often as I watch the changes in our culture. I, of course, prefer the illusion of clean tidy neighborhoods with neat little picket fences where everyone is friendly. However, the unmooring of our culture, the family, and our young people is reality. The things we see happening around us are occurring because we need Jesus. Our kids need Christ. They need the gospel. Without salvation, the law is of no use. It’s important to me that my kids obey, that they’re safe, that they are kind and caring people. But all of that means nothing if they do not know the Savior.
What struck you about the foreword? Do you think we can demand outward obedience without attention to our children’s understanding of the gospel?
Introduction ~ by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson
Fitzpatrick and Thompson start their intro with a zinger:
…should a Christian’s response differ significantly from what we might hear from a loving Mormon mom or a conscientious Jewish father?
What do you think? Should the gospel inform everything we do? Even parenting quarreling siblings? I think it should.
I remember the first time I read about Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. I was a little taken aback. I had no idea that some of the “truths” I had absorbed growing up in our culture (not the fault of my parents—MTD is certainly an American cultural religion) and that I had passed along to my older kids were nothing more than hollow law—law detached from the truth of the gospel. When I first encountered the articles, I had been through the Bible cover to cover a number of times and God was already reshaping my understanding of Who He is and what the plan for salvation is really. I’ve read quite a bit about Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, but a few of the articles are stuck in my memory. I’m going to link them so you can check them out if you’d like.
- Let’s Talk about Moralistic Therapeutic Deism by Adam Ford /Adam 4d (author/graphic illustrator of Implications Abound: A collection of curiously Christian comics <– This is a nuts and bolts graphic definition of MTD.
- Moralistic Therapeutic Deism: Not Just a Problem with Youth Ministry by Brian Cosby (author of Giving Up Gimmicks: Reclaiming Youth Ministry from an Entertainment Culture) <– How we see MTD showing up in youth groups and churches.
Fitzpatrick and Thompson take on moralistic parenting in the Intro. For me, moralistic parenting is easy. It’s what I relate to. I’m comfortable with it. Taking every opportunity to present the gospel–to point to God’s plan for salvation–well, it’s hard. I find that the longer I do it, the easier it comes. The gospel is a gift that I want to give my kids over and over again.
Is the concept of MTD new to you? Do you see moralism showing up in your parenting? How is your parenting as a committed follower of Christ different from the parenting of someone from another moralistic religion? Do you know the gospel well enough to present it to your children while parenting?
Chapter One ~ From Sinai to Calvary
One of the things I found really interesting in this chapter was the divisions of obedience. I like how the authors divided obedience into Initial Obedience, Social Obedience, Civic Obedience, and Religious Obedience. These forms of obedience are all necessary to learn to live in society, to be safe, and to participate in family. Yet, none of these forms of obedience will save a child (well, maybe save them from a speeding car, but not from eternal punishment).
I also appreciated the examples of speaking to children in a manner that communicates the gospel rather than obedience to the law. One of my favorite quotes was:
Yes, give them God’s law. Teach it to them and tell them that God commands obedience. but before you are done, give them grace and explain again the beautiful story of Christ’s perfect keeping of it for them.
What a majestic truth to explain to our kids over and over again—the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Training our children is important. I think one of the things really missing from modern-day parenting in many situations is consistent, careful, loving training. Yet what good is careful training if it does not incorporate the gospel at every turn? That’s what I got from this chapter.
What struck you as important in Chapter One? Will what you’ve read change anything you’re currently doing? How can you incorporate the story of the gospel into your daily parenting?
What do you think about the Forward, Introduction, and Chapter One? Comment below, or join the discussion at the Family Discipleship Community with admins from six blogs committed to family discipleship (in no particular order): Me (surprise!), Tauna from Proverbial Homemaker, Amanda – owner of Kids in the Word, Ticia from Adventures in Mommydom, Anne Marie of Future Flying Saucers, and Joyice from Raising Boys Homeschool.
I look forward to some great discussion, friends.
More Give Them Grace Posts
You can find Give Them Grace at:
Other parenting books reviewed on Thinking Kids
- You, Your Family, and the Internet by David Clark
- Raising Real Men by Hal and Melanie Young
- Organic Outreach for Families by Kevin G. and Sherry Harney
- Engaging Today’s Prodigal by Carol Barnier
- Intentional Parenting by Tad Thompson
- Your Child’s Profession of Faith by Dennis Gundersen
- Parenting Against the Tide: A Handbook for 21st Century Parenting by Ann Benton
Or just check out the Thinking Kids book review indexes for
Thinking Kids Pinterest Book Boards
- Christian Books for Preschoolers
- Christian Books for 4-7 Year Olds
- Christian Books for the Middle Grades
- Christian Books for Middle School
- Christian Books for High School
- Christian Books for Kids’ Devotions
- Christian Books about Parenting
~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is a children’s writer with a love for God’s Word, history, wisdom and small people. Her work has appeared in magazines including Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr.; Upper Room Ministries’ Pockets and Devozine; CBH Ministries’ Keys for Kids, and Cobblestone Group’s FACES and Odyssey. Her work also appears in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Magic of Mothers and Daughters.
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