What Should Christian Parenting Look Like?

What Should Christian Parenting Look Like? May 21, 2024

If the Bible is read as a flat, literal text, it is a truly terrible manual for parents. If relying solely on scripture, Christian parents might think their responsibilities are limited to disciplining their children and bringing them up in the faith. When looking for Biblical examples, they might find Abraham, willing to sacrifice his son, Jacob, who had clear favourites, or Jephthah, who killed his daughter as an offering to the Lord as an expression of gratitude for victory in battle. There are very few parent and child relationships modelled in the New Testament, and even in the case of Mary and Jesus, he was let down by a parent who considered him insane for a time.


In fact, the Bible is strangely quiet on what most of us would consider to be good parenting, saying nothing direct about affection, affirmation, unconditional acceptance, or the importance of physical touch in a child’s life. Modern parenting is all about seeking to give the child the best chance to discover who they are and what they want to do/be, but in Biblical times, children were often seen as commodities, including commodities for war (Psalm 127:3-5):


Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,

The fruit of the womb is a reward.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,

So are the children of one’s youth.

Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;

They shall not be ashamed,

But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.


We find more encouragement in the teachings of Jesus, such as the display of parental devotion in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, but despite a few helpful glimpses into the heart of God about how he values children, there is little explicit instruction about parenting in the New Testament. We might extrapolate general principles of love and apply them in the family (1 Corinthians 8a, 4-8a), or dwell on the loving fatherhood of God, but even then, the lack of maternal statements makes it hard to find balance. Truly, our best resource for loving parenting is the illumination that science provides. Christian parenting, at its heart, should be all about helping children develop into secure people who know they are loved just as they are. Nothing more, nothing less.


Once a month, Patheos publish and feature one of my pieces directly, which means it bypasses my usual blogspot. This short post is an introduction to the full article, which can be read here.

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