Book Review: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Change Your Family

This post originally appeared on the blog of Christ Covenant Church in Raleigh, NC. My wife and I have been attending this great church for the past 5 years. Much thanks to Nicholas Lingle for posting it!

I often joke with others that while Paul David Tripp has only one note, it happens to be a very good note. Tripp relentlessly emphasizes the capacity of the gospel to produce genuine, God-honoring change in the lives of redeemed sinners. That is, if those sinners remember the tenets and implications of the gospel in the trials they have, they will grow in deeper dependence on the God who has redeemed them through Christ. Tripp’s other excellent books on counseling explain this this note in the process of sanctification (How People Change) and in the lives of pastors and elders (Dangerous Calling). In his new book, Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family, Tripp adds variations on this gospel theme by applying the model to the realm of parenting.

The main idea unifying these fourteen principles is that parents should, well, parent out of the realization that only God can change the hearts of their children. Maybe we idolize our kids too much or think we in some way own them, Tripp says, and this leads to disappointed hopes, frustrated parents, and wayward children. While many parents understand that only God’s grace can save them, they often do not parent this way thanks to the hectic schedule and unreasonable expectations parents can place on themselves and their kids.

So Tripp advocates looking at parenting as being more like an ambassador, sent on a mission of mercy by God to our own kids. Rather than holding kids accountable to unreachable standards or setting strict rules for their behavior, as if that alone can save them, Tripp urges parents to remember how much they personally need God’s grace and forgiveness for their sins, and strive to communicate that need daily for the gospel in the throes of parenting. Tripp does not suggest letting your kids run wild, but to try and keep everything in perspective, remember that God is in control, and speak to one’s kids out of your own personal need for the gospel.

The fourteen principles, ranging from authority issues, identity issues, and character issues, revolve in and around the need to parent from one’s dependence on Christ. Tripp offers a lot of good practical advice, weaves in examples from parents whom he has counseled, and details many of his own failures as a parent, often using himself as the example of what not to do as a dad. On the whole, Tripp’s Parenting is an enjoyable and worthwhile read, even as his premise is so relatively simple that you have to ask yourself, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Above all, Parenting is just a good book to remind the reader that, while parenting is an awesome, weighty task, God is ultimately in control, has called parents to this great work, and strengthens parents to do this otherwise impossible task.

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