John Alan Turner

Speaker, Author, Mentor, Coach, Facilitator

Parenting: Biblical vs. Godly

I grew up in a religious environment that stressed the importance of the Bible. Our church was keenly interested in finding a biblical reason for why we did particular things in particular ways. We wanted to be a biblical church with biblical leaders holding biblical beliefs and doing biblical things. This is not necessarily bad, but it's not necessarily good, either. It's not bad; it's just insufficient.

Being biblical should never be the goal for an individual Christian or a church. Being biblical is only useful as a means to a greater end, and that greater end is godliness.

For example, a person may "go into all the world" in an attempt to "make disciples" (a very biblical thing to do), but if, as you are going, you are a jerk...well...you may be doing a biblical thing in an ungodly way. Being biblical people is of no use to us if it actually keeps us from becoming godly. And it often does just that when we think we've arrived by simply doing what the Bible says.

And here's why I bring this up now -- in the context of a series on parenting: There are a lot of biblical parents in churches. There is a lot of material out there designed to help you become more biblical in your parenting. Books and tapes and seminars abound where parents are given a lot of different Bible verses to apply in their homes.

But what is often missing is the idea that parents are supposed to be godly -- not just biblical. And if a biblical parent stops short of becoming godly, a lot of bad things can happen. Bible verses can be used to reinforce an authoritarian battle of wills with our children. Without taking on the mind-set, attitude and thoughtfulness of Jesus (aka "The mind of Christ") good Bible verses become a justification for taking a power-based approach to parenting -- an approach that dishonors God and fails to produce the long-term results we hope for.

In a biblical but ungodly model, "good" children are obedient -- never mind that it's usually passive obedience or merely external compliance. This shortsighted definition of success makes parents feel good, but the long-term consequences are disastrous. This kind of parenting often produces frightened, legalistic children rather than free and secure adults. As those children grow older, the tend to become less and less like Jesus and more and more like the judgmental religious folks for whom he reserved his harshest criticism.

So, the question good parents must ask themselves (and they must ask it often) moves from "Are we biblical parents?" to "Are we godly parents? Are we parenting our children the way God parents us? Would God ever 'bow up' on us and remind us that he could kill us and make another one that looks just like us? Would God ever yell at us for spilling milk at the dinner table? Would God call us names or threaten us?"

What are some of the differences you can think of between biblical parenting and godly parenting?