Gospel Parenting, Part 1 (by Jeremy Vanatta)

Jeremy Vanatta is the pastor and an elder of Southside Baptist Church in Lebanon, TN.  He holds a PhD in New Testament from Mid-America BTS.  He blogs at The Threshing Floor, where this article originally appeared.


Foundations of Gospel Parenting

Parenting is among the most challenging tasks in the world, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the weight of responsibility. In hopes of encouraging parents or parents-to-be, I want to write a series of articles on Gospel Parenting beginning with the Foundations for Gospel Parenting.

Mission Impossible
1.  Keeping eternity in mind: Christian parenting is a high calling, not of primarily preparing our children for this life but the life to come. Therefore, the goal of Christian parenting is to prepare our children for eternity. And the stakes are high because eternal judgment is a real danger of preparing our children only for this life.

2.  Grace-required: The only hope for our children is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, our children don’t need a better earthly life than dad and mom have had. They don’t need simple morality, which can be just as damning as outright sin. Our children need moral perfection, even as God says, “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev.11:44). The problem is that children cannot make themselves holy, and parents cannot make their children holy. Therefore, our children need new life that only the gospel can bring. So at this point, we all need a reality check—parenting is not easy, in fact it is humanly impossible because of sin.

Channels of Grace
1.  Gospel power: The first means of grace in parenting is the gospel itself. The word gospel means “good news,” and it is that. It is the best news on the planet. But to have good news means there must be an opposite. The opposite is the bad news that we have rebelled against our King who created us and who demands punishment for our sin. Sin is no laughing matter, whether done by an adult or by a child. Because we cannot atone for our own sin, God sent Jesus to live the life that we could not live and die the death that we deserve, and every person that turns from self-reliance to Christ-reliance receives the gift of eternal life.

2.  Godly marriages: A second means of grace in parenting is found in Ephesians 5:27-33, where God instructs wives to submit to their husbands as unto the Lord and for husbands to love their wives even as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. Our marriages will either be a living and walking example of the gospel, pointing our children to the cross, or our marriages will be a living and walking example of selfishness, leading our children away from the cross. The foundation of gospel-centered parenting is gospel-centered marriages.

3.  Father-focused homes: A third means of grace in parenting is the establishment of the father as the head of the household. Whether we like it or not, our God is a patriarchal God. God is Father to us. In the same way, God has determined that the family be led by the father. The trend in America, however, is just the opposite. We place excessive emphasis on the mother in our homes, or even worse the children. The statistics that reveal this as a problem are overwhelming.

When it comes to spiritual leadership in the home, men sin in one of two ways: domination or abdication. Most people scoff at the biblical teaching of the wife submitting to her husband as a license for the husband to dominate his wife, often in a mental and physical way, but this is the furthest thing from the truth. The Bible’s teaching is actually very liberating for women. Further, domination of women among genuine Christian men is very rare.

The greater temptation is that of abdication of male leadership in the home, characterized as a husband’s direct or indirect refusal of leadership. For the best parenting results, the husband must take responsibility for his God-ordained role as head of the home. This leaves no room for pride or feelings of superiority. Rather, husbands should approach this task with fear, trembling, humility and love.

4.  Loving discipline: A fourth means of grace is loving discipline. This is the most familiar tool of parenting for most of us. When we think of raising children in the ways of God, we think of discipline, especially spankings. Many Christians administer spankings, but many of those who do must confess that that they do not always administer them in a biblical way (something we’ll examine in a future article).

5.  Scripture and prayer: If the previous four means of grace are going to advance our parenting, then they must be saturated with two final gifts from God, Scripture and prayer. Without divine guidance as found in God’s Word through fervent prayer, parents can have no assurance that their children will grow up to love God as their Sovereign Lord. It is through Scripture and prayer that the Holy Spirit opens eyes and ears to the gospel.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Jeremy Vanatta


  1. Deakon Cane says

    “means of grace”? seriously??? we just got all Presbyterian up in here

    the only means of grace is faith, lavished on us and our parenting in Christ alone…

    Solus Christus, Sola Fide

    • cb scott says

      Deakon Cane,

      An astute and reasonable observation. You are right as the rain. The only “means of grace” is the blood atonement of Christ.

      • says


        well…faith is a gift, …and is the most meaningful substance given to the man that will believe.

        Don’t spank brother Jeremy too hard for inciting PresBaptistic language :)

        btw…I’ll be in your neck of the woods next week. Maybe we can catch a burger.


          • says

            Heading your way next week. Here is my mobile number 615.885.3347. Hey,…and don’t hand this out to just anyone :)

            Text me your number or give me a ring….

        • cb scott says

          BTW Chris Johnson,

          “PresBaptistic” language is suitable only on the planet from which it is derived; The one that is primarily inhibited by Unicorns, the Fairy Tale Planet.

          • cb scott says

            That’s a fact, Jack! Oh no, I am sorry. I have misspoken. I should have stated:

            That’s A Fact, Polosi, Reed, and Emaneul!!

          • cb scott says

            That should be “Emanuel” as in Ezekiel Emanuel, the brother of Rahm Emanuel, members of the founding families the Fairy Tale Planet.

            Sorry for the misspelling. I must be more careful to give credit where credit is due.

    • says

      Deakon and CB,

      While faith is the only means of saving grace, there are many means of common grace that every human being can experience even if they never believe on Christ. That’s what Jeremy seems to be pointing to here. When parents utilize these means, their children get a taste of the grace of God in their lives, which prepares them to trust Christ and receive that saving grace.

    • says

      By grace through faith we carry out the good works ordained for us to carry out. In parenting, among those good works are the “channels of grace” I mentioned. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Our children can “hear” or “see” the Word of God in Christian marriage, faithful Dads, loving discipline, and parents that love the Scriptures and are devoted to prayer. These means of grace are not themselves salvific, but God uses them in the lives of our children. Otherwise, why would we employ such spiritual disciplines at all?

  2. William Thornton says

    From related article on JV’s site:

    “While it is not recommended that you spank an infant, simply placing a gentle but firm hand on their chest or legs accompanied by a firm but gentle voice can do wonders. Regular spankings of a child may be used as soon as the child is able to understand a simple command and demonstrate defiance to that command.”

    Not an infant…so at what age do you commence the spankings?

    I’m getting an uncomfortable jizz from the parenting counsel here. A blithe recommendation of “regular spankings” might need some scrutiny. There is considerable abuse in patriarchal authoritarian home and church life.

    • cb scott says

      William Thornton,

      It was my good pleasure to finally meet you in person at the GBC. Maybe we can get together for a longer visit in the near future.

      BTW, I think a lot of these guys who write so much here about parenting do a whole lot of “talking” and “parroting” others about “parenting,” but have really done very little “doing.”

      • says


        What would qualify somebody to have done enough parenting to be able to speak on it?

        It’s perfectly fine to disagree with the principles of the article although they seem to be derived from Scripture, but there’s really no reason to cast aspersions. Most likely Jeremy is sharing things with us that he himself has put into practice, albeit imperfectly no doubt.

        • cb scott says

          Ben Simpson,

          There is no such animal as “Gospel Parenting.” There is a biblical mandate to rear children in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

          Parenting is not a “means of grace.” Christian parents are to rear their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, prayerfully directing them toward the only biblical means of grace.

          The only “means of grace” is the blood atonement of Jesus Christ. The points that Jeremy Vanatta makes and calls “means of grace” are not means of grace at all and should not be called such. To do so is highly misleading and diminishes the truth that salvation is through the grace of Christ and Christ alone. The points he presents are simply mandates of obedience that Christian parents should obey in order to rear their children according to a biblical worldview.

          The ultimate goal of the Christian parent who actually lives by a biblical worldview (most do not) is to rear his/her children in such a manner that upon the child’s recognizing he or she is a sinner before a just and righteous God (This, BTW, can only occur through the convicting and convincing work of the Holy Spirit.), he or she knows their only hope is to repent and believe the biblical gospel.

          Frankly, this is not a good post and that is basically because its content is couched in a predisposition toward a specific theological dogma of soteriology which is revealed in the constant reference to various “means of grace” of which are not, by any means, “means of grace” at all. There is one means of grace and that one means of grace is the blood atonement of Jesus Christ alone.

        • says


          War Eagle this fine November morning. As to your comments on “means of grace,” I would quote the following from Theopedia (there are many other sources as well):

          “Means of grace are instruments that God uses to convert and bless people, like the reading and preaching of the word, prayer, singing (psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; Acts 16:25; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16), enjoying the beauty of God’s creation, baptism, and the Lord’s supper.

          “The “means of grace” that the Bible talks about are His Word (“the word of His grace,” Acts 20:32), His Spirit (“the Spirit of grace,” Hebrews 10:29), prayer made to the “throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16), and the grace that is given to the saints which enables them to build up another (Ephesians 4:7; 1 Peter 4:10).” – Bob Deffinbaugh [1]”

          I think objections to the “means of grace” usually center around a misguided notion that what evangelical protestants must mean is “means of grace” are salvific.

          That is not what evangelical protestants mean. For example, as Chris rightly said above, faith is a gift from God. We all agree with that. Further, it is by grace. We all still agree. But faith is not only a one time experience. Saving faith is for sure. But daily faith is present, is it not? And how do any of us exercise daily faith? By our own strength? No. By God’s continuous grace to us.

          The “means of grace” simply refers to “means” by which our faith is strengthened. Reading God’s word is a “means” by which God graces us with wisdom, knowledge. faith, etc.

          BTW, I’ll be on the Loveliest Village on the Plains November 30 as Auburn clears their final hurdle toward the SEC Championship game. See you there??


          • says

            Brother Les,

            Good clarification!

            “That is not what evangelical protestants mean. For example, as Chris rightly said above, faith is a gift from God. We all agree with that. Further, it is by grace. We all still agree. But faith is not only a one time experience. Saving faith is for sure. But daily faith is present, is it not? And how do any of us exercise daily faith? By our own strength? No. By God’s continuous grace to us.

            The “means of grace” simply refers to “means” by which our faith is strengthened. Reading God’s word is a “means” by which God graces us with wisdom, knowledge. faith, etc.”

            The quote “means of grace” conversation can get a bit weird and mysterious if not clarified as you have done.

            Of course, there are some Baptists that may believe that faith is not a gift, but only a temporal means enacted by man to reach the grace that is freely given. That’s always an interesting discussion! :)


      • says

        I’m a dad of 4 children ages 4-10. By God’s grace I’m growing in my parenting but I have so much to learn. My intention in writing articles on Christian parenting is to help other parents NOT make some of the mistakes I have made. Yes, I have learned much from reading and listening to other godly dads. What you call “parroting” I would call “discipleship” as I seek to learn from the most Jesus-honoring dads I can find because I know that I am not wise enough on my own.

      • William Thornton says

        CB, it was good to see you. If you are in my area, please let me know in advance.

        At your advanced age I suppose you forgot that you stopped me to chat several years ago at the convention in Louisville. My daughter was with me at the time.

    • says


      You used that “j” word in your comment above. To quote Inigo Montoya from “The Princess Bride,” “I do not think it means what you think it means.” At least not to younger generations. Just trying to save you some embarrassment, brother!

      • William Thornton says

        OK, I see it. Who am I to argue with the urban dictionary?

        Jizz is a longstanding term used by birders who sometimes ID a specific bird by its general appearance and characteristics rather than by any one detail.

        I’ll contextualize my future use to that specific group. Obviously there are more urban slang baptists here than birding baptists.


  3. says

    Excellent post, Jeremy! Thank you for detailing ways we parents can be gracious to our children and in the long run prepare them to experience the fullness of God’s grace through Jesus Christ. I look forward to part 2!

  4. Tarheel says

    Dr. Vanatta,

    Thank you, this is an excellent and very encouraging article.

    I also appreciated your explanation of the difference between discipleship and “parroting”.

    • says

      There is no age of commencement. Spankings must be age-appropriate but no child is at the same maturity level though their physical age may be the same. Putting an age on spankings is like putting an age for children on the commencement of using a knife or using the Internet, etc.

      • William Thornton says

        You’re dodging. Then give me an age range, please.

        There is plenty of research on when a young child “understands a simple command” and “demonstrates defiance” as you put it. If you are attempting to provide counsel for your congregation and a larger audience here, then it is disengenuous to speak of commencing “regular spankings” especially in light of your detailed description I quoted above, and not provide some chronological age guidance. Absent mental or physical impairment those two parameters are reached very early in life. Let’s have an answer please. You are the guy with a bible doctorate giving child rearing advice and labeling it “Gospel.”

        I will post a longer comment later that explains more of what makes me wary of what am seeing here.

        • says

          I’m not dodging. You asked “at what age.” I answered, “there is no age.” But I am more than willing to give a range. [see below]

          As to your use of “disengenous” [disingenuous] to describe me, I think that was inappropriate. Perhaps you might say, “negligent” or “derelict.” These words would describe the substance of my writing rather than the character of the writer. After all, I’m your brother in Christ. So let’s not personalize this when we don’t know each other personally.

          As to labeling my child rearing advice as “Gospel,” I did not say that, so you shouldn’t either. The Gospel is the Gospel. Gospel Parenting is parenting done by Christians parents who believe the Gospel and are applying it to every aspect of parenting.

          As to an age range, here is my advice but certainly not an authoritative viewpoint. Generally speaking, a defiant 9-12 month old is ready to be spanked, but for this age range a spanking should be a slight smack on the hand or a slight smack on the diaper. Generally, this is sufficient for getting the child’s attention.

          For children in the range of 1-8, they should be spanked on the bottom per the advice given in the other article you referenced at my blog.

          I believe that formative discipline (verbal instructions/teachings, etc.) are preferred and should dominate parenting. I believe corrective discipline should be fairly rare.

          I hope this helps clarify my viewpoint. Thanks.

          • William Thornton says

            This helps. You think it is appropriate to spank a 9 month old. You might consider changing your vocabulary. There is a considerable child abuse that is church sanctioned that involves spanking infants.

            You believe in inflicting pain, deliberately, on a 12 month old.

            This is borderline bizarre and dangerous.

            Well, you did self-label your parenting advice as “gospel parenting.”

            I appreciate the further explanation.

          • Les Prouty says


            I agree with your perspective on spanking. I’ve reared 5 who are now young adults and have lots of time with our 5 grandchildren who range from 5 yrs old to 4 months. I think your perspective is spot on.

            And the day that the authorities start arresting for spanking or “popping” a toddler is the day I’ll spend my first night in jail.

            Thanks brother.

          • William Thornton says

            Let me be clear here. I make the presumption that JV is a loving, caring parent who does not abuse his infant children nor who believes in the efficacy of such for others.

            That said, one notices we are moving from “spanking” to “popping” and JV himself spoke of “laying a hand” on a baby. The vocabulary and context shifts when pressed. It should be understood that this is a very sensitive area and what those who offer extensive teaching resources practice with restraint and moderation those who read and hear will do with harshness and excess.

            The recipe of strong authoritarian, patriarchical church and home leadership that delves deeply into parenting issues that have no specific biblical teaching (when, how, by what means, how frequently, at what age) from positions of authority is sometimes a lethal recipe. Just read around a bit on some such churches.

            I’m done here. Have a nice weekend.

          • Debbie Kaufman says

            William: I agree with all you have said here. I was disturbed by the same things you were in this article and for the same reasons.

            Les: I think you should listen to what William is saying here. As for jail, I am not opposed to those who spank a baby or a toddler going to jail.

  5. cb scott says

    To use a knife as a tool for feeding one’s self should begin around two when hand-eye coordination begins to avail itself for training.

    To use a knife as a tool for combat should begin around the age of ten. Training in the use of other weaponry such as: tanks, flame-throwers, hand grenades, and rocket launchers should begin around twelve when children have developed the full cognitive ability to read with comprehension the instructions for use as printed on the weapon of choice.

    • Doug Hibbard says

      I taught my children tanks as they began to speak.

      After all, gratitude is an important attitude to cultivate.

  6. cb scott says

    Les Prouty,

    A ROLL TIDE morning to you. And, again, as usual, when speaking from your true heritage which is Presbyterian, you are misguided. The only means of grace is the blood atonement of Jesus Christ.

    The manner in which Jeremy Vanatta used the word grace in the context in which he did in this post is an error. In addition there is no such animal as Gospel Parenting.

    BTW, you continue to be delusional about the AUBURN NATION winning a National Championship this year or in the next three. However, their day is coming as is the VOLUNTEER NATION day also coming. Both of those SEC NATIONS will win a National Championship within the next six years. The AUBURN NATION may win two. However, that does not make me feel threatened. No FOOTBALL NATION in all the FOOTBALL UNIVERSE shall ever win as many as the SABANATION. We will always be the dominate FOOTBALL NATION in all the FOOTBALL UNIVERSE.

    Why? Because we are ALABAMA! We are the CRIMSON TIDE!! We are FOOTBALL!!!

    Have a good day, Les Prouty, my beloved Presbyterian brother and remember, those of us who are of a true Baptist Identity are right, meaning you guys are wrong . . .

    . . . and ROLL TIDE ROLL!!!!

    Love you, brother. I have to take my daughters to the dentist, so I will check in with you later. BTW, do you have on the right cap today?

    • says

      CB said, “there is no such animal as Gospel Parenting.” That’s a very sad perspective. May we Christians always parent with our eyes firmly fixed on the purposes of the gospel in the power promised through the gospel!

      • Dave Miller says

        I am afraid that the term “gospel” has become such a buzz-word and even a ubiquitous code word, that it tends to lose meaning.

        I think what we are talking about is understanding that God must be the prime mover in parenting and that his power is essential.

        But the term gospel has become infused with so many connotations in certain circles that it is no longer simply a descriptor of the saving work of Christ, but is emblematic of all sorts of systems and presuppositions.

        • cb scott says

          “I am afraid that the term “gospel” has become such a buzz-word and even a ubiquitous code word, that it tends to lose meaning.”

          Amen. Point well made. Ten Ring at One Thousand Yards! An astute observation, Dave Miller. Yep!

          It won’t be long until some guy will put up a post about family dedicated to “Gospel Dish-Washing” or Gospel Lawn Care” and how it is a “means of grace” to teach your children to do their chores with “Gospel Efficiency.”

          We have entered into a saddening time in our Christian culture when so little is known of the whole counsel of God that guys use biblical words to describe that of which their understanding of Scripture lacks. Then, upon confrontation, their arrogantly defend the indefensible.

          • Tarheel says

            Goodness gracious….

            all the author is trying to say is that we should parent with grace in light of the regenerating work of the gospel….especially since the family structure (which includes parenting) is illustrative of gospel.

            (at least according to the apostle Paul)

            Or do you fella’s not believe that the gospel saves to the uttermost?

            CB, respectfully, it seems that you tend to let your knee jerk aversion to anything that even may be “tainted with the dregs of reformed theology” so distort your perspective to everything that is posted.

            It sure seemed like as soon as you sniffed the possibility..you went on the offensive.

            If I am reading you wrong I apologize.

          • Dave Miller says

            For my part, I understand and agree with what you said about parenting. My point is that the use of the term as a code word has created something of a backlash.

          • cb scott says


            There is nothing “knee jerk” about my reaction to the post. The reality is simple. The post reflects a distortion of the biblical the means of grace which is Christ alone and nothing more.

            If there is anything “knee jerk” here, it is illustrated by your defense of that which is indefensible from a biblical perspective.

            Far too many of you guys who post here will defend anything and everything that is of any similarity to reformed theology simply because it is couched in terms used by those who embrace reformed theology.

          • Tarheel says

            Oh goodness….

            Some of you guys are looking for fights.

            Miller is making a valid point about “coding” and overuse…

            Others I think though are just being combative.

            Calling the principles in the article “biblically indefensible” is absolutely ludicrous…

    • says


      You said, “The only means of grace is the blood atonement of Jesus Christ.

      I think the reason so many of my Baptist brothers recoil at the term “means of grace” may best be summed up by Bob Dewaay who wrote contrasting the Roman Catholic view with the Lutheran and Reformed views coming out of the reformation:

      The Roman Catholic view of “means of grace” is the concept of sacraments that work “ex opera operato” (by the work done). The idea is to do the work according to the prescriptions of the church as administered by the priesthood, and thereby receive grace. The Lutheran and Reformed understanding of “means of grace” developed from the rejection of this idea. The reformers emphasized the Word and sacrament (in that order), and the necessity of faith. They limited the sacraments to baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Louis Berkhof explains: “With the Reformation the emphasis was shifted from the sacraments to the Word of God. Luther gave great prominence to the Word of God as the primary means of grace. He pointed out that the sacraments have no significance apart from the Word and are in fact merely the visible Word.” Some Reformed theologians like Charles Hodge added prayer as a means of grace. Hodge makes an important statement about means of grace: “All means derive their efficacy from the ordinance of God; as He has ordained the Gospel to be the means of salvation, it must be efficacious to that end.

      I think he says it well. Now to top it off, everyone’s favorite Baptist said,

      Other means, however, are made use of to bless men’s souls. For instance, the two ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. They are both made a rich means of grace. But let me ask you, is there any thing in baptism that can possibly bless any body? Can immersion in water have the slightest tendency to be blessed to the soul? And then with regard to the eating of bread and the drinking of wine at the Lord’s Supper, can it by any means be conceived by any rational man that there is any thing in the mere piece of bread that we eat, or in the wine that we drink? And yet, doubtless, the grace of God does go with both ordinances for the confirming of the faith of those who receive them, and even for the conversion of those who look upon the ceremony. There must be something, then, beyond the outward ceremony; there must, in fact, be the Spirit of God, witnessing through the water, witnessing through the wine, witnessing through the bread, or otherwise none of these things could be means of grace to our souls. They could not edify; they could not help us to commune with Christ; they could not tend to the conviction of sinners, or to the establishment of saints. There must, then, from these facts, be a higher, unseen, mysterious influence — the influence of the divine Spirit of God.

      Charles H. Spurgeon, vol. 5, Spurgeon’s Sermons: Volume 5, electronic ed., Logos Library System; Spurgeon’s Sermons (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998).

      Just things to consider brother.

      • cb scott says

        Les Prouty,

        You are not sharing anything here we do not know. However, the reality stands. There is no means of grace other than the atoning work of Jesus Christ. Grace is provided for sinners only by the bloody cross and glorious resurrection of the Son of the Living God, Jesus Christ.

        On this we stand because this is what the Scripture declares. We do not need Spurgeon to understand this truth. More time with God’s Word and less time with Spurgeon’s word is a helpful thing in matters of understanding soteriology.

      • Les Prouty says


        I’ll assume you didn’t mean to imply that I spend more time reading Spurgeon than reading the bible.

        My point in citing him was simply to show that this idea of “means of grace” is not a Presby thing as maybe you and others think. And the DeWaay quote shows the right distinction between a wrong view of the means and a biblical one.

        God givs grace more than once. He gives grace as we seek Him in prayer. If we are strengthened in our faith in any way, by seeing a credo immersion or eating and drinking the supper, that is his grace and the means are the things we are participating in when accompanied by His Word.

        Now, War Eagle. And when are you going to publish that compromising photo of me? I need to alert my family.

  7. volfan007 says


    I Gospel bought a Sonic, Cherry coke, today. And, I Gospel drank it, while I Gospel enjoyed it. And, I Gospel drove my Gospel truck down to the Sonic, and I Gospel ordered that Cherry Coke in a Gospel way. It was Gospel good, too. Yum yum.

    Tomorrow, CB, Gospel turn on your Gospel TV, and watch a football game in a Gospel way.

    David 😉

    PS. And all this time I thought the Gospel was the virgin birth, perfect life, atoning death, gloriously resurrection, and ascension into Heaven….AND, salvation by grace thru faith in this glorious Savior. Why shucks, I never realized that EVERYTHING had to be the Gospel. So, I’ll bid yall a Gospel good bye, as I get back to Gospel watching my Gospel TV.

    • cb scott says

      “And all this time I thought the Gospel was the virgin birth, perfect life, atoning death, gloriously resurrection, and ascension into Heaven….AND, salvation by grace thru faith in this glorious Savior. Why shucks, I never realized that EVERYTHING had to be the Gospel.”

      And all this time you have been right as the rain, Vol. — Right as the rain.

      • says


        You’ve already been told this by the author of the article, but let me state it again since you either did not read the comment or in the euphoria of your rant are blinded to it: Jeremy at no place redefined the gospel. That accusation is unfounded.

        He did not add to the gospel or detract from the gospel. He’s simply advocating that we who have received the gospel should parent in light of of the gospel. Jesus through the gospel transforms every part of our life, especially the way we parent. That’s all that’s being said here. Nothing more, nothing less.

        So, please stop acting like the gospel has been been cheapened in this article. It hasn’t. In fact, it has been magnified by showing its ongoing relevance in every sphere of the Christians life.

        I as a father of 4 with #5 on the way am especially thankful for Jeremy’s article. I want to to parent in light of the gospel. It not only honors the author and perfecter of our faith, but also works to expand his Kingdom. May we all parent (or grandparent is some of y’all’s cases) in light of the light of the gospel!

        • volfan007 says

          Teach your children the Gospel. Amen. But, the Gospel is not parenting. We should be Biblical in our parenting….absolutely. But, the Gospel is not parenting. The Gospel is the Gospel, and our children definitely need to learn the Gospel; but, let’s not confuse things.

          I have 3 children. They’re all saved, and walking with the Lord. 2 of them are married to Christians, who love the Lord. My youngest is dating a Christian girl. My oldest son is a Youth Pastor. And, my wife and I definitely taught them THE Gospel, and we taught them about the Lord. We also taught them right and wrong, and morals and values. And, we spanked their butt when they needed it. We also gave them lots of hugs and loving. Children need both discipline and love.

          But anyway, our children grew up to know the Gospel, and they love the Lord. And, we kept the Gospel the Gospel, and Christian living as Christian living. We really don’t need to confuse the Gospel message.


        • cb scott says

          Ben Simpson,

          I am going to make a few statements to you here and at least one (probably more) of them is going to come off as highly and extremely arrogant. So I will give you that right up front. Here goes.

          1). I do not know you. I’ll give you that. You certainly do not know me. For if you did, you would never accuse me of not reading the comments in this thread or any other to which I add comments. I have read all of the comments in this thread. Some more than once. Now here is an arrogant statement for you in reference to my reading. Here it is. Read carefully. Ben Simpson, I am certain, even though I do not know much about you, that if I die today and you live for another 75 years, I will still have read far more print than you will have on the day you die.

          2). I did not state that Jeremy Vanatta added to or detracted from the gospel. Nor did I state he redefined the gospel. My argument has been and continues to be that he used the word “gospel” in a manner not conducive to its meaning in Scripture. I have stated that there is no such thing as “gospel parenting.” Why? Because there is not.

          3). I am not in any “euphoric state of rant.” Nor am I blinded to anything written here. Again, you do not know me. However, those who do, know I am a very cold and deliberate man in such situations as this. The good ole boy routine is mostly just for fun.

          4). Had Jeremy Vanatta’s post actually only conveyed this: “He’s simply advocating that we who have received the gospel should parent in light of of the gospel.” He would have not had the first comment from me. For I would have made no comment on his post. But that is not what he did. What he did was identify his post as, “Gospel Parenting.” He then identified concepts in his post as “means of grace.” Therein is my objection. There is no such animal as “Gospel Parenting.” There is only one “means of grace.” That one means of grace is the blood atonement of Jesus Christ and that alone.

          5). You stated, “May we all parent (or grandparent is some of y’all’s cases) in light of the light of the gospel!” I fully agree. So tell Jeremy Vanatta to write a post about that and leave the faddish and none existent “Gospel Parenting” out of it. Tell him to write a post about the need to parent according to a biblical worldview. There is certainly a need for such in our culture. Why? Because most Christians do not live according to a biblical worldview and they certainly do not rear their children in accord with such a worldview. . . . and that goes for both Calvinists and those who are not Calvinists.

    • Les Prouty says


      From where I’m seeing this, your mocking of Jeremy’s use of “gospel” is not helpful.

      And BTW brother, our Auburn Tigers really enjoyed ourselves last Saturday in Tennessee.

      • volfan007 says

        That was a terrible, Gospel game last Gospel Saturday. The Gospel Vols played horrible, and those War Eagles(Satan) won big over my Gospel Vols.

        Well, I’m about to go to a Gospel, high school, playoff, football game with my Gospel, youngest son. See yall later.

        Gospel David

          • volfan007 says

            Do you know how many times I have heard people talk about Gospel centered, Gospel driven, Gospel minded, Gospel Project, Gospel parenting, Gospel this, Gospel that, and Gospel the other. Good grief.

            I was being light hearted and a little silly mixed with a little sarcasm to make a point. People have taken off on using the word “Gospel” as a fad.

            I’m with CB. The Gospel is not all this other stuff. And, people are just getting ridiculous with their use of the word.

            Jeremy V., I’m sure you’re a great guy, who loves the Lord. I see that you’re a fellow Mid America Grad, like me. And, a TN Pastor. God bless you, Brother. I wish I could’ve met you at the TBC in Chattanooga, this year. Maybe next year in Brentwood.


          • Dave Miller says

            It is good that people want to be gospel focused and gospel-driven. The problem comes when we use the term gospel as a code word for other things.

            For the record, the Gospel Project uses the word correctly – to refer to seeing all scripture pointing to Christ’s death and resurrection, his true gospel work.

          • volfan007 says


            I’m moreso talking about the overuse and the misuse of the word. And, I have noticed that it has become a code word for a lot of Calvinist. It’s almost like Calvinists use that word to alert everyone else that they’re Calvinist. It’s almost like they’re saying that “Gospel means Calvinism,” and what I’m about to write on, is from a Calvinist perspective. It almost gets to the point of absurd; it’s used so much.

            Calvinists do NOT have a monopoly on the Gospel.


    • Dwight McKissic says


      I agree with you 100% in how you view the misuse of the word “gospel” in this post.


      LOL. Gospel Sweet Tea sounds great right through here.

  8. Dave Miller says

    Let me be as clear as I can be.

    1) I have no problem with Jeremy’s post, nor with his use of the term “Gospel Parenting.” He is articulating something there (if you read his post) that is important and biblical.

    2) I regret that the term “gospel” has been co-opted in such a way that when people see the term gospel, they tend to react in the negative, because of some of the baggage attached to that term.

    But the best thing would be to actually discuss that which Jeremy wrote.

  9. cb scott says

    “I have no problem with Jeremy’s post, nor with his use of the term “Gospel Parenting.”

    Well Dave, you should. The problem here is not that I, or anyone else, reacted negatively to the manner in which Jeremy Vanatta used the word gospel. The problem lies within the fact that he used the word in the manner in which he did, a manner which has no biblical support. There is also the problem that more people do not challenge such a poor use of the word “gospel.”

    You had the situation well described when you stated the following:

    “. . . the term gospel has become infused with so many connotations in certain circles that it is no longer simply a descriptor of the saving work of Christ, but is emblematic of all sorts of systems and presuppositions.”

    Therein you are correct. This faddish and constant use of the word “gospel” as an umbrella term to describe any and every thing has the inherent danger of diminishing the very truth that the word “gospel” as used for centuries declares.

    To use the word in such a manner is simply poor and has the potential to cheapen its true meaning. That would be sad indeed. It should also be unacceptable by those who know better and should be declared openly among the masses.

      • Les Prouty says


        Nothing wrong with the term Christian parenting. And, there is nothing wrong with gospel parenting or gospel centered parenting or grace centered parenting.

        At least, no on has made a compelling reason against gospel parenting. The objections are that it may be associated with Calvinists and that the term may be over used. Neither is compelling.

        • says

          Les said, “No one has made a compelling reason against gospel parenting. The objections are that it may be associated with Calvinists and that the term may be over used. Neither is compelling.”

          Very well said, my brother!

        • cb scott says

          “At least, no on has made a compelling reason against gospel parenting.”

          Les Prouty,

          There is no reason to make a case against “gospel parenting” because there is no such thing as “gospel parenting.”

          A case can be made for Christian parenting, biblical parenting, rearing children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, and rearing children according to a biblical worldview in opposition to parenting according to secular values and a secular worldview.

          Reasonable debate can occur as to what constitutes Christian parenting, biblical parenting, rearing children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, and rearing children according to a biblical worldview. Such a debate is reasonable.

          However, there no reason to make a case against “gospel parenting” for such a descriptor as “gospel” in relation to parenting does not exist.

          Therefore, the only argument needful in this debate is to state plainly and emphatically that to use the word “gospel” in the context in which Jeremy Vanatta has used it in this post is wrong, for such use will and does diminish the true meaning of the word “gospel” as it has been used in Scripture and the human experience for over 2000 years.

  10. Bill Mac says

    I may regret this, but I’m trying to avoid going out and cutting firewood, and this may spare me a few minutes.

    This criticism is not necessarily directed at this particular article but it reminds me of a trend I have long seen in evangelicalism about how we take and extrapolate the bible’s teaching on any given subject, and turn them into a book, or even a series of books (or articles).

    There are any number of books on biblical:
    Parenting, Sex, Marriage, Sex, Diet, Sex, and Finances, not to mention Sex.

    I’m not suggesting that we ignore what the bible says about any of these topics, when it speaks about them, as long as we are taking them in context. But let’s face it, there just isn’t a lot in the bible about them. Certainly not enough to fill a book.

    What does the bible say about marriage? Marry someone of the same faith and the opposite sex. Love them sacrificially. Be faithful to them. Is there much more than that? Really?

    OK. I just remembered that I need to go to the feed store. That should put off wood cutting a little longer.

  11. Chris Johnson says

    Brother Bill,

    Sure,… Now you bring sex into the conversation, and then run out to chop wood!

    Nice touch!


  12. says

    Seems the way people use gospel as an adjective is all in how they define their usage. We use the term “biblical” as if it’s in the Bible; yet, it’s not. The term Christian is used for “Christian ” though the term Christian is not used like that in the Scriptures.

    For many years the term “Gospel Music” or “Southern Gospel Music” or “Gospel Quartet” et al. have been used. It is not as if each and every one of the songs in those categories literally proclaims the gospel. Yet, not many – if any – complains are logged.

    The five solas of the Reformation are given in two word summaries, for example – Sola Scriptura and Sola Christus. Yet, the meaning of those terms must be explained. Even Rome spent years and pages of ink simply trying to refute them.

    So, when someone explains what they call “Gospel Parenting” it should not be a surprise nor immediately rejected. Christians have been using such Scriptural descriptors for years. I’ll admit that gospel as a modifier today seems over-used. But that does not mean it should not be used or that every time it is used it is abused.

    • Les Prouty says

      Mark great points. In fact, I had forgotten about Gospel Music. Gaither and such. I’m not remembering folks complaining of their use of the word gospel attached to music.

      • cb scott says

        Had there been a blog and were I a believer back in those day, I would have made the same argument as I am making now.

        Mark, your reference to what became known as “Gospel Music” illustrates why this new fad of hooking the word “gospel” to everything should die an early death.

        • says

          I agree with CB. (no one have a heart attack)

          I’m also growing weary of the attachment of the word “gospel” to everything under the sun. I don’t think it’s a part of a great Calvinist conspiracy, but I think it is damaging to the real meaning in Scripture of the word Gospel.

          Gospel- as used in scripture- means “good news.” So when we take the word gospel and begin to turn it into an adjective, we take something with a clear meaning in Scripture and muddle it- for whatever the purpose is doesn’t matter, it’s still muddled. We did the same thing with the word “Christian” in the last two decades and we are still reaping what we sowed there as the term “Christian”- “little Christ”- is now diluted to the point that we have “Christian” books, movies, mints, stores, plumbers, etc.

          Can we not just speak plainly about what we are and who we belong to? We parent- or try to- in accordance with the Bible, trying to bring up our kids to trust Jesus as their Savior and then to help them to work out the meaning of that salvation in ever area of their lives.

          Why does it need another label?

  13. Tarheel says

    Guys for real…Instead of arguing opinions and presuppositions … I humbly offer the following….

    Seems clear to me that the Apostle Paul links the gospel and family life…including parenting. 

    22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

    25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

    6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.