Review of The Life-Giving Parent by Clay & Sally Clarkson

The Life-Giving Parent, Giving Your Child a life worth living for Christ by Clay & Sally Clarkson, Tyndale Momentum, 2018, 232 pp.
In The Life-Giving Parent, Clay and Sally Clarkson present some beneficial and Biblical ideas for raising children in a Christian home. I liked their description of “family planning” as not “about if or when we have children, or how many we have” but “what kind of parents we would be, what the Bible said to us about parenting, and how we would help our children love God.” (p. 21) Positively they also note that nurturing of children by parents is to be hands on in discipline, instruction, training, and admonition; not merely having our children read books or watch videos alone or having them go to Sunday school or sent off to camp. (p. 45)
But while the book might be of some benefit I found the writing style to be quite jumbled and the content fluffy. The actual ideas in the book could be stated in a page or two. The rest is an abundance of cliches, kitschy stories, and platitudes. You have to put up with terms like “Momoirs” and “ParenTips.” And this is definitely the first time I’ve seen a book quote from the website GotQuestions.org.
There are also a number of questionable theological statements and Biblical interpretations. They describe what it means to be a life-giving parent as “to introduce our children to the living God of Scripture and to give them the life that we have found in him.” (p. xviii) While it is unclear in this statement just what “life” is to mean, it probably doesn’t means “daily living” or “Christian culture,” but rather, since they described the life as “that which we have found in him,” it must be that “new life” of being born again as Christians. But this re-birth can hardly be “given” from one person to another. While this statement was made by Clay in the preface, in the foreword by Sally has this same odd theological idea: “It’s not just about giving your children a Christian life but also about giving them the life of Christ.” (p. xiv) And in Chapter 1 in no uncertain terms they together declare, “We are the ones who give the life of God to our children.” (p. 12) But orthodox Christianity has it that this is the role of the Holy Spirit alone! Fortunately in other places they tone down this idea. It is far better when they write “life-giving parenting must first be about helping them find eternal life in Christ and getting them on God’s path so they can live in a way that’s pleasing to Him.” (p. 13-14)
Almost a whole chapter is based on their interpretation of the phrase “number our days” of Psalm 90:12 to mean “using time well and setting goals with pleasing God in mind.” But this doesn’t seem at all to be the right interpretation. Respected commentators Keil and Delitzsch say “to number our days” is equivalent with “to contemplate the fleeting character and brevity of our lifetime.” While the view of the authors might be an implication from this passage, it isn’t the passage’s actual meaning.
They hold to some sort of “age of accountability” where they believe in “childhood innocence” (p. 114, 153) contrary to the Biblical teachings that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) They write that whether a child’s “prayer of salvation” (p. 114) is genuine or just “to please you” it is no matter because “In either case, your child is safe in God’s grace and mercy.” (p. 115)
I’m sure there are better books on making your home a Christian one.

1 thought on “Review of The Life-Giving Parent by Clay & Sally Clarkson”

  1. My mom, born 1920, gave me a copy of Abraham Kuyper (died 1920), “When Thou Sittest in Thine House, Meditations on Home Life” trans. by John Hendrik DeVries DD, Eerdmans, 1929. I mention it as an early entry in the ‘better books.’

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