Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus
Crossway, 216 pages, Paper, $14.99

Give Them Grace will resonate with all parents who have ever felt hopeless in the wake of their children’s disobedience. Elyse Fitzpatrick and her daughter Jessica Thompson call parents to live with a higher goal than simply producing obedient children. They desire to lead parents to the goal of parenting in a way that is essentially Christian—parenting that emphasizes heart change by grace, rather than behavioral change through law.

Forty years ago, few books existed that attempted to connect the Scriptures to parenting with a confidence in the Bible’s sufficiency. Thankfully, today there are a growing number of such volumes available. Give Them Grace will make its mark and take its place alongside these. Two of the book’s themes stand out to this reviewer as helpful and encouraging. First, Give Them Grace regularly reminds parents that we are recipients of and in need of the same grace we are to offer our children. Second, Fitzpatrick and Thompson emphasize the need to parent with conversations that connect our children to the truths of the gospel and God’s grace.

Fitzpatrick and Thompson write from the perspective of their conservative, evangelical, Reformed-covenant theology. Dispensational Baptists will, therefore, find areas of disagreement that must be considered when reading and recommending the book.

For example, Give Them Grace draws heavily on the belief that Christ’s obedience to the law during His earthly life is an aspect of His vicarious atoning work (a view often referred to as active obedience). This belief is central in the book, in both the development of its ideas and its application. For example, the sample conversations for parents to use as templates with their children almost always include reference to the vicarious, or substitutional, nature of Christ’s earthly life (in addition to his substitutional death).

By contrast, traditionally, most dispensationalists have viewed the sufferings and obedience of Christ during His earthly life (before the cross) as they view the Old Testament Passover lamb. The lamb was observed carefully before being offered as a sacrifice. This setting-aside was not an active part of the lamb’s sacrifice for sin, but demonstrated that the lamb was fully qualified to be the Passover sacrifice. In the same way, the sufferings and obedience of Christ’s life, while not a part of His vicarious atoning work on the cross, demonstrated His qualification/right to be the eternal sacrifice for sin (a view known as passive obedience). As a result, most dispensationalists would connect the believer’s ability to obey, not to their union with Christ in His obedient life, but rather to their union with Christ through the baptism and indwelling of the Spirit, which occur at salvation. Believers’ obedience comes supremely because He has placed His Spirit within us.

Many of us who are dispensational and Baptist in our theology are deeply grateful for the contributions of our brothers and sisters in Christ who write from a Reformed perspective. However, the differences among us are not insignificant. Those of us committed to a dispensational Baptist theology must continue to grow in our ability to connect our theology to people’s lives. We must do this in ways that display the beauty of God’s grace before those who need to come to faith in Christ and before our fellow believers who need to live with a faith that informs, or animates, every moment of life.

To learn more about Christ’s suffering and obedience and His death, consider consulting the Handbook of Evangelical Theology by Robert Lightner (Kregel, 1995). As a part of his chapter titled “God the Son,” Lightner provides a summary of the various evangelical views that could serve as a starting point for study. In addition, Renald Showers’ book There Really Is a Difference: A Comparison of Covenant and Dispensational Theology (Friends of Israel, 1990) provides a broader look at the comparisons and contrasts between these systems of theology.

Jeff Newman (DMin, Westminster Theological Seminary) is a professor at Faith Baptist Bible College, Ankeny, Iowa.