JC Ryle’s The Duties of Parents

The good folks over at Monergism Books have made a classic on parenting available for free download.  Ryle’s classic The Duties of Parents is “a primer on raising children and the duties all Christian parents have toward those God has entrusted to them.”

You can access the book in pdf here, which is provided through a service at feedbooks.com.

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>Teaching Children Biblical Theology

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This past weekend, my family stayed with some of our closest friends and the topic of training our covenant children in scripture came up.  They, like us, were raised Baptist and were taught the Bible as a loosely held together collection of stories that provided moral lessons.  And unfortunately, this scenario still takes place today.  When the Bible is taught as a loose collection of stories, children don’t learn the big picture of what God is doing with history and in history to provide salvation for his people, of which covenant children are a part.  They are hindered in understanding their place in the covenant and understanding the rich promises they have inherited.

Secondly, it leads children to miss God and his redemptive acts and instead focus on the people in the accounts–their character (or lack thereof) and their behavior.  Most often in children’s books,Sunday-school lessons and other teaching materials, the Bible is taught from the perspective of “Be like David,” or “Don’t be like Saul,” or “Do things like Mary; don’t do things like Martha.”  This approach to the Bible inevitably leads to a moralistic and legalistic understanding of the Christian life.  It is important to remember that although the Bible does teach ethics and does give commands that are to be obeyed–these things are contingent upon the redemptive work of God in Christ.  The biblical order is Christ’s work on behalf of the church, and then the church’s response because of that work.

For Reformed parents, then, as we seek to train up our children in the scripture, we should keep the covenantal continuity of the Bible in mind in order to rightly utilize the biblical pattern of understanding God’s redemptive acts in Christ and then how to live by faith in response to those acts.  So we need to teach the Bible; we need to teach the stories of the Bible,; we need to teach about the people in the Bible; but we need to include in this how the stories teach God’s redemptive acts in Christ, how those stories fit together to show the over arching plan of God in Christ and then how to properly respond by faith in Christ.

To this end, I want to provide some helpful resources for teaching the Bible from this perspective to children.

For smaller children:

First,Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Story Book Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name.  To see the front and back covers and two sample stories, click here.  There is a deluxe edition that also includes the stories narrated in audio on CD.  You can listen to samples here.  There is also a sample video that can be seen here.

Next, there is Mighty Acts of God: A Family Bible Story Book by Starr Meade.  You can see the “Table of Contents,” “Note for Parents from the Author,” and two sample stories here.

A third option is The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm.  You can see the “Table of Contents” here, as well as several sample chapters.

For older children:

The gold standard for older children is Catherine Vos’s, The Child’s Story Bible.  Catherine Vos was the wife of the father of Reformed biblical theology, Geerhardus Vos.  This story Bible is rich and is even a great resource for the parents to read for themselves.

Another good one for older children is Starr Meade’s, Grandpa’s Box. This book takes the unique angle of communicating the history of redemption through devotional stories told by a grandfather to his grandchildren.

I hope these suggestions help you in teaching children the Bible the way God communicated it and meant for it to be understood!

>New Horizons: "Faith and Child Training"

>As a follow up to the previous post, this month’s edition of New Horizons also has some helpful articles on child training.

Of the different articles on child training, I would call your attention particularly to Mark Sumpter’s article on “A Lord’s Day Handbook for Practical Parenting.” In it he notes the tendency that many parents have in their approach to Christian nurture to focus on training during the week in order to get our children ready for worship. When we do this, we unwittingly separate our child training from worship–but Sumpter argues that we should reverse this. He notes that “maybe we’ve been overlooking a glorious gift from God that is right under our nose each Lord’s Day. Fathers and mothers are sitting on the proverbial gold mine with lessons for nurture and training from public worship.”

From worship, Sumpter argues that we can instruct our children in discipleship training in seven basic areas:

  1. Respect for authority
  2. Stewardship
  3. Marriage and Family
  4. Communication and Understanding
  5. Gifts, Callings and Occupations
  6. Peacemaking and Unity
  7. Beauty and Aesthetics

Sumpter does not claim that this list is exhaustive, but it is certainly foundational. The point here is to become more intentional in how we view our children in worship. In Reformed circles, the doctrine of the covenant is very important and there is often a very good focus on including children in worship–but sometimes what is lacking is the understanding that it is formative for them in nurturing that gospel seed implanted in them, just as it is formative in the faith of adults.

Sumpter concludes with a great encouragement to parents: “take our Lord’s Day work of worship home! Worship is God’s means for covenant nurture.” In it, “He provides us with a handbook for discipleship training.”

>Resources on Marriage and Family

>I was recently asked what my favorite books are on child training and marriage. My honest response to this question is that I haven’t found my “favorite” books yet, but, I have found several that have been very helpful. Below, you will find the top three books per category that I recommend.

For child training:

  1. A Christian Directory by Richard Baxter
  2. Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp (I am also interested in reading Instructing a Child’s Heart, but haven’t yet)
  3. Withhold Not Correction by Bruce Ray

For marriage:

  1. A Christian Directory by Richard Baxter.
  2. Reforming Marriage by Doug Wilson
  3. Strengthening Your Marriage by Wayne Mack

You will notice that A Christian Directory is listed under both categories. Back towards the end of the seventeenth century, the puritan pastor Richard Baxter wrote a large volume attempting to discuss all the different areas of living the Christian life. The volume is broken down into four main sections. First, private duties; second, family duties; third, church duties; and fourth, civil duties. Given that it was written several hundred years ago and is so large, it can be intimidating to pick up–but the section on family duties is worth it.

Well, I just saw today that the second section has been published as its own book with slight revisions as The Godly Home. If you are interested, you can read the Introduction and a sample chapter here.