In Gospel-Centered Family ̧ authors Ed Moll and Tim Chester seek to find a middle ground between two competing philosophies of parenting : parenting that emphasizes the subjectivity of parenting styles in each family unit, and parenting that places supreme value on adhering to biblical absolutes (5-6). For them, the middle ground is grafting the family into the biblical narrative of the gospel—God’s story of redemption culminating in the restorative work of Jesus Christ. They note, “The Bible story can become the story of what God designed your family to be, what goes wrong in your family and how God can put your family right again through His Son, Jesus” (5). What arises from this gospel-centered focus is a set of principles and relevant applications which the authors set forth in a logical and practical way.
Gospel-Centered Family is comprised of four sections: a gospel-centered family, a grace-centered family, a word-centered family, and a mission-centered family. These sections are then divided into several short chapters that center on particular biblical principles, articulating numerous suggestions for parents to put into practice daily. The authors helpfully recognize that people live in diverse family contexts (e.g., single parent, divorced, remarried) and provide broad principles to accompany these family units in the journey towards gospel-centeredness.
Included in the chapters are biblical texts and interpretive questions for readers to deepen their under- standing of each teaching. Though this could have led to an array of subjective interpretations, the authors explain biblical texts from an unabashedly conservative, evangelical perspective.
Refreshingly, Moll and Chester hold both parents and children accountable in the journey towards a gospel-centered family. Regarding the parents’ example, they note, “We can’t convert our children…But we can ensure our children realize what matters to us. We can communicate the surpassing value of Christ. We can teach them the importance of serving others. We can model a life lived for the glory of God” (20). The
authors also emphasize the importance of parents’ devotion to Bible study, including children in this process (62-63), and repeatedly exhort parents to temper their discipline with love and acceptance based on God’s character. With regard to children, the authors believe sin is the root of childhood misbehaviors, and that remedying the sinful inclinations of a child’s heart must be the paramount concern for parents (37-43). Children are to engage Scripture from an early age, recognize they belong to both their biological family and Christian family, and should be active in prayer and service to family, the church, and to all people.
A few concerns do exist. Since the book is divided into short, practical chapters, the book is limited in its theological scope and tends to look at Scriptures in a simplistic manner. Readers might do well to pair this work with another that is more theologically-driven. Also, because the book is rich with applications, readers may be tempted to follow these suggestions verbatim, forgetting that these are principles that families may flesh out in different ways.
In the concluding chapter, the authors note, “A family that’s turned inwards is not a gospel-centered family. The gospel is good news. It’s the message we share with others, beginning with our neighbors and extending to the ends of the earth (Acts 1 v 8)” (89). Gospel-Centered Family is an easy-to-read book aimed at parents seeking to reorient their parenting styles around the good news of the gospel and to practice its implications in everyday life, inside and outside the family. In this, the book succeeds admirably.
[Editor's Note: This review originally appeared in The Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry 2.1.]