Book Review: Why Children Matter by Doug Wilson

by Jason Barker

As parents of four young children, my wife and I are constantly in need of counsel. We ask our parents, get book recommendations, read blogs, listen to sermons, and search the Scriptures for principles that will help us be more effective in the single most important job given to us: parenting.

Sometimes we need to know how to help an angry seven-year-old process his emotions. At other times we are looking for tips on how to potty train our youngest so we can finally be done with seven years of diapers. And – if I’m being honest – there are moments when we just need someone to remind us not to give up in times of sheer exhaustion.

Doug Wilson’s book, Why Children Matter, gives parents none of those tips and tricks. What the author does, however, is present the answer to a far more important question and then unpack the implications of that truth in a fashion that is engaging, accessible, and thoroughly challenging. Children matter, Wilson contends, because from the moment Adam first breathed, God, has been creating a lineage—a line of faithful followers who will have dominion over the earth and will one day reign as co-heirs with Christ (28). With God’s end goal in mind, Wilson challenges the reader to view his or her family through the lens of the Gospel and to seek to parent according to the Gospel so that “the godly seed” can flourish.

Why Children Matter

This is a book for any Christian parent looking to integrate Gospel thinking into their parenting. It’s short, powerful, and useful for parents of young children and toddlers.

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Overview

After establishing God’s goal for humanity as a whole, Wilson uses the concept of a holy lineage as the impetus for a type of parenting that infuses the gospel into all things. Discipline, nurturing and admonition, and encouraging Christlikeness are the focal points of the three sections that follow, and a powerful index containing a Q&A from the author and his wife concludes the book.

Key Points of the Book

  1. The Gospel provides the context in which we raise and discipline our children: By claiming the name “Christian,” we indicate that our faith is the central element of our lives. If the Gospel is the central element of our faith, it likewise must inform everything we do, including our parenting. In no area of parenting is that more important than in the manner in which we discipline our children. Yes, the grace and forgiveness of the Gospel are imperative, but so are the parameters and guidance that come with them.
  2. While both parents are charged with nurturing and admonition, Fathers specifically are encouraged to take the lead: Paul writes in Ephesians 6:4 that fathers must play a critical role in the upbringing of their children. While mothers tend to participate in this naturally, fathers need the encouragement offered in that verse. Equipping children with the necessary knowledge, wisdom, skills, and convictions is most effective when fathers do their part, rather than sit on the sidelines. Doug harps on this reality making it a motivating read for men.
  3. We either will imitate godliness or ungodliness and so will our children: This point really blew me away. Because we are born into sin, our natural tendency is to be ungodly and to find new ways to do so. We unwittingly imitate those who do evil, and that proclivity has to be countered with imitating Christ, or by imitating those who do so if our children are to have models to imitate themselves. For example, Doug teaches parents to be careful to yell back at the kids, “Stop yelling!” By example (of yelling), you exude the very thing you want them to stop. Children need to learn not just to stop yelling (by example from mom and dad) but also not to yell back when someone’s yelling at them. Ultimately, kids are learning not from what we say but how we respond.

Powerful Quotes From the Book

  • “Imitation is absolutely crucial for childrearing. You do not want your children imitating you unless you are imitating God. If you are not imitating and pursuing God, sincerely and openly beholding His face in worship weekly, being transformed from one degree of glory to another, then the last thing you should want is for your children to imitate you. However, the bad news is your children will copy you regardless of whether you want them to or not.” (11)
  • “Sanctification is the process of God communicating to us what He wants us to be as we grow up in His family. God does not spank the neighbor’s children; He spanks His own. The pains of sanctification bear witness to the fact that we are His children. There is no such thing as sanctification without direction, and direction means discipline.” (33)
  • “Once we have accepted the duty of administering parental discipline, we discover that discipline itself falls into two categories: corrective and formative. Corrective discipline is correction of manifested sins in the past, as well as correction with regard to the future. Formative discipline anticipates temptations that are common to man and seeks to instill certain character traits beforehand.” (54)
  • “Godly parenting is a function of becoming more like Jesus in the presence of little ones who are also becoming more like Jesus.” (80)
  • “When you think of the omniscient, omnipresent God, you need to think of a Father. Too many of us think of him as an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force or power like electricity, only with a mean streak that is going to get us. But He is not like that at all, and you failed because you were thinking that he was like that. He is going to forgive you. He is going to take you from where you are, not where you should have been.” (96)

Application in the Local Church

Every parent in your congregation is facing an uphill battle to raise their children. They may not be voicing their questions and insecurities when you gather, but they wrestle with them daily. They need real answers, and those real answers begin with right theology. Resist the urge to preach and teach lessons based on popular thought and focus on applying the Gospel to family life. Why Children Matter provides an excellent framework for doing so and will be a trustworthy guide along the way.

Book Information: Wilson, Douglas. Why Children Matter. Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2018. 137 pages

Interested in Planting a Biblical House Church?

If you’re interested in exploring, planting, or joining a biblical house church, this booklet will serve as a tool of clarity and confidence.

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(DMin, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary) Jason is an experienced pastor and theological educator seeking to encourage and equip the next generation of church planters. Jason serves at Colorado Christian University and consults with a variety of church leadership organizations. He and his wife live in Southern California with their four children.

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