Parenting Like a Protestant
(Note: this article was originally published at The Domain for Truth on April 23, 2018, which can be found here).
The Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century left us with a vital repository of recovered truth, not the least of which are the Five Solas. From the Latin word sola, meaning “alone,” these foundational principles held by Protestants form a framework for sound doctrine and practice in the Christian life. In contrast to Roman Catholicism, Christianity teaches the following truths, as summarized by the Five Solas:
- Sola Gratia: Salvation is by grace alone (not by merit)
- Sola Fide: Salvation is through faith alone (not including works)
- Solus Christus: Salvation is in Christ alone (not in any other mediator)
- Soli Deo Gloria: Salvation is to the glory of God alone (not to the glory of man)
- Sola Scriptura: Salvation is according to Scripture alone (not according to tradition)
Although these solas were not systematized as such until the twentieth century, they were nonetheless the convictions held by the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformers as they recognized the gross spiritual abuses within the Roman Catholic Church. And the legacy of these commitments remains with us today as Protestant Christians. Those with a discerning eye recognize that these five solas continue to provide spiritual safety from the Roman Catholic Church (which persists in the same theological heresies), as well as new and evolving threats. At the same time, these five solas continue to provide spiritual guidance.
Sola Scriptura in particular, known as the “formal principle” of the Reformation since it was the sole source of truth used to determine the others, describes the reality that everything a person needs to know for salvation and living in godliness can be derived solely from the pages of Holy Scripture. There is no tradition needed to supplement it. There are no special, private revelations from the Holy Spirit that could enhance it. There are no other books that can replace it. As 2 Timothy 3:16-17 states, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (emphasis mine).
As Protestants we recognize that the Bible is all we need to answer the questions we face in life. But I wonder—as parents, do we also recognize this for our children? What I mean is this: how does the doctrine of Sola Scriptura influence the way you raise your children? Are you parenting like a Protestant?
Considering what passes as “Christian parenting advice” these days, it would seem that few of us truly are. When a mom asks a question about how to deal with her son’s anger problems, what are the common responses from fellow believers? I know of a great therapist in town! When a dad asks questions about instructing his family in everyday Christian principles, what is he likely to hear? Check out this great video series! When parents want to know how to reconcile their ever-arguing kids, what kind of advice is expected? Dr. So-And-So has a great technique for enforcing sibling cooperation!
All of those responses fall woefully short of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, and instead represent an approach to truth based on tradition, private insight, and the non-authoritative writings of men—which is a departure from Protestantism and a return to Roman Catholicism. After all, if we truly believe that the Bible gives us “everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3), then we wouldn’t give those kinds of recommendations even an ounce of serious consideration. The truth is that the Bible alone—Sola Scriptura—can solve even the messiest of family situations. After all, if it can equip you as a parent for every good work, then it can surely do the same in the lives of your children. As they say, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
Thus, in whatever you face in raising your children, the doctrine of Sola Scriptura means that if you teach your children the Bible, you can equip them for every good work. Of course, a commitment such as this demands much more than haphazardly bouncing around the Bible at various times through the year. It also means much more than opening up its pages only in reaction to your child’s failures. Instead, if all Scripture is profitable for your child’s life (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16), then they need all of it—which means teaching it to them verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book, day by day, month by month, and year by year. If you deliver the full counsel of God to your kids (cf. Acts 20:27) then you can not only solve the issues faced by your family, but equip your kids with all they will need for adulthood.
With that said, do you want to deal with your son’s anger problems? Preach the Word! And the holiness of God in the Law of Moses will quench his anger with the fear of the Lord.
Do you want to instruct your family in everyday Christian principles? Preach the Word! And the wisdom of Solomon in the book of Proverbs will enlighten the simple-minded.
Do you want to reconcile your ever-arguing kids? Preach the Word! And the incarnational humility of Christ in the book of Philippians will show them the basis of authentic unity.
Furthermore, do you want to calm your child’s anxiety? Preach the Word! And the sovereignty of God in 1 and 2 Kings will reveal to them their Creator who wisely orders all of world history.
Do you want to inspire your family to boldly reach the lost? Preach the Word! And the Spirit-empowered evangelism in the book of Acts will motivate their feet to bring the Good News.
Do you want to equip your daughter with principles of discernment? Preach the Word! And the characteristics of spiritual imposters in the book of Jude will sharpen her spirit.
Most importantly, do you want your children to be saved from the wrath of God that is rightfully due them, and live a life of thankful service for the glory of their Savior? Preach the Word! And tell them about the Lord Jesus Christ in every book of the Bible, explaining how God has provided His own Son to live a perfect life, die a substitutionary death, and be raised up again—thereby granting righteousness and reconciliation to all who repent of their sins and believe in Him.
Sola Scriptura means God’s Word has it all, and God’s Word does it all. Are you parenting like a Protestant?