Covenant Theology: Covenant of Grace [Reformation Month 2020]

Covenant Theology: Covenant of Grace [Reformation Month 2020]

I do not think it’s humanly possible for me to distill how thoroughly the Covenant of Grace permeates through scripture in a post like this, so if this is something that you want to dive deeper on, I would encourage Ligon Duncan’s lectures because he has a section on each of the OT covenants and also talks about covenant theology in the NT, as well.

What is the Covenant of Grace?

The Covenant of Grace is the covenant that God made with Adam that the seed of the woman (Jesus) would come and fulfill the Covenant of Works. Through this covenant, all other covenants between God and man are tied together. Herman Bavinck articulates 3 characteristics of the Covenant of Grace in his book, Our Reasonable Faith:

  1. The covenant of grace is everywhere and at all times one in essence, but always manifests itself in new forms and goes through differing dispensations.  Essentially and materially it remains one, whether before, or under, or after the law.  It is always a covenant of grace.
  2. The second remarkable characteristic of the covenant of grace is that in all of its dispensations it has an organic character.  In history the covenant is never concluded with one discrete individual, but always with a man and his family or generation, with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Israel, and with the church and its seed.  The promise never comes to a single believer alone, but in him his house or family also.
  3. A third and final characteristic of the covenant of grace which goes along with the second point above, is that it realizes itself in a way which fully honors man’s rational and moral nature.  It is based on the counsel of God, yes, and nothing may be subtracted from that fact.  Behind the covenant of grace lies the sovereign and omnipotent will of God.  But God’s will is the will of the Creator of heaven and earth, who cannot repudiate his own work in creation or providence, and who cannot treat the human being he has created as though it were a stock or stone.  It is the will of a merciful and kind Father, who never forces things with brute violence, but successfully counters all our resistance by the spiritual might of love.

Links: https://amzn.to/34v0v0f, https://bit.ly/31g5M77 

I want to clarify that dispensations above is more synonymous with administrations than the way dispensationalists use that terminology. Each covenant with a patriarch is an administration of the Covenant of Grace. So it is its own thing, but also tied to the greater whole. While the Covenant of Grace was established with Adam after the fall, it is reestablished again and again throughout the OT in God’s covenants with the patriarchs. The most commonly used example is through God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17:

When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”

And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

This is definitely a gracious covenant that required very little from Abraham and his people and includes a sign of the covenant that we see translated differently into the New Testament, which I will be addressing in the Means of Grace post later today.

But what about the Mosaic Covenant?

While there isn’t really any disputes about the Covenant of Grace as a concept, there is some disagreement within reformed circles as to whether or not the Mosaic covenant falls into the Covenant of Grace. A well loved and big proponent of it not being part of the Covenant of Grace is Michael Horton, who argues that the “do this and live” nature of the Moral law handed down through the 10 Commandments is law and not gospel, and therefore falls into the Covenant of Works and not the Covenant of Grace. I will let him speak for himself here:

What then are we to say about Moses’ status in the church today? Reformed theology has traditionally insisted that the moral law (that is, the Ten Commandments) remains in force, while the ceremonial and civil laws of the old covenant are now obsolete along with that covenant itself. No other nation was brought into a covenant relation with God as a typological witness to His coming kingdom. While the Sinai covenant is itself a covenant of works, where Israel promises to do everything it says on pain of death, we inherit God’s promises in a covenant of grace. And precisely because Christ has fulfilled the covenant of works for us, we can inherit all of the everlasting promises in a covenant of grace. Only the heirs of that covenant, after all, are able to begin in this life to say with the Psalmist, “How I love your law, O Lord!”

Link: https://bit.ly/355ebvd

On the other hand, we have Ligon Duncan, who argues differently in an excellent sermon refuting theonomy, dispensationalism, and Lordship Salvation all in one shot, which I will link below.

Now Covenant Theologians have described the covenant with Moses differently over the years, and there has been some confusion over this issue even amongst Reformed Theologians.  But in general, while Reformed Theologians acknowledge that there are aspects of the Covenant of Moses or the Covenant of Law, which reflect some of the language and ideas of the Covenant of Works, nevertheless, the Covenant of Law, or the Covenant of Moses, or the Mosaic Economy, is squarely within the stream of the Covenant of Grace.  It is not an alternate option to the Covenant of Works given to us by God in the Old Testament   It is part of the Covenant of Grace.  It is not saying, “Well, okay, if you don’t get saved by faith as under Abraham, you can try law under Moses.”  That is not the point.

Link: https://bit.ly/37c4pKp

I can see both sides of the conversation and I think a lot of each side ends up getting strawmanned by each other because people generally lack nuance when they read it, but I think the important thing is to see the unity that we all agree that the moral law is still something we need to do, but because we cannot do it perfectly, the point of the Covenant of Grace is that Jesus fulfills the law on our behalf.

Importance

The Covenant of Grace is how the Covenant of Works is fulfilled. It establishes how Jesus’ sacrifice atones for our sin and gives us the Gospel throughout the Old Testament. The Covenant of Grace is also how Irenaeus was able to show that the God of the Old Testament is actually the God of the New Testament, in that it shows a continuity with how God interacts with his people. As it is written in Hebrews 13:8:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Resources on the Covenant of Grace:

Where the confessions and catechisms reference covenant theology:

  • Westminster Confession Ch 7
  • Westminster Larger Catechism Q & A 30-36
  • Savoy Declaration Ch 7
  • Second Helvetic Confession Ch 10
  • Canons of Dort Head 2, Paragraph 2 & Paragraph 4
  • 1689 London Baptist Confessions Ch 7

**I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.**

Covenant Theology: Covenant of Works [Reformation Month 2020]

Covenant Theology: Covenant of Works [Reformation Month 2020]

What is the Covenant of Works?

The Covenant of Works is the covenant between God and Adam “before the fall, in which God promised them blessedness contingent upon their obedience to His command. After the fall, the fact that God continued to promise redemption to creatures who had violated the covenant of works, that ongoing promise of redemption is defined as the covenant of grace.” (RC Sproul)

Link: https://bit.ly/2FrA9Qh 

A gracious covenant?

I grew up largely theologically illiterate, so any sense of understanding covenants I had was very twisted. I had often conflated the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace, but they are not the same, though the Covenant of Works is the foundation for the Covenant of Grace. The Covenant of Works says, “do this and live,” where in the Covenant of Grace, Jesus says, “I have done, so live in me.” RC Sproul also elaborates on this very well in the link above:

Technically, from one perspective, all covenants that God makes with creatures are gracious in the sense that He is not obligated to make any promises to His creatures. But the distinction between the covenant of works and grace is getting at something that is of vital importance, as it has to do with the Gospel. The covenant of grace indicates God’s promise to save us even when we fail to keep the obligations imposed in creation. This is seen most importantly in the work of Jesus as the new Adam. Again and again the New Testament makes the distinction and contrast between the failure and calamities wrought upon humanity through the disobedience of the original Adam and the benefits that flow through the work of the obedience of Jesus, who is the new Adam. Though there is a clear distinction between the new Adam and the old Adam, the point of continuity between them is that both were called to submit to perfect obedience to God.

Importance

The Covenant of Works is what governed man’s state before God. God promised righteousness for obedience and sin led to death and expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The Covenant of Works is necessary for covenant theology because it is the covenant that Christ fulfilled. It is the basis of the Covenant of Grace. The whole point is that righteousness is tied to life, so when Jesus fulfilled that covenant, he shares it with the elect in the Covenant of Grace. Dr. Sproul explains it well here:

Beyond the negative fulfillment of the covenant of works, in taking the punishment due those who disobey it, Jesus offers the positive dimension that is vital to our redemption. He wins the blessing of the covenant of works on all of the progeny of Adam who put their trust in Jesus. Where Adam was the covenant breaker, Jesus is the covenant keeper. Where Adam failed to gain the blessedness of the tree of life, Christ wins that blessedness by His obedience, which blessedness He provides for those who put their trust in Him. In this work of fulfilling the covenant for us in our stead, theology speaks of the “active obedience” of Christ. That is, Christ’s redeeming work includes not only His death, but His life. His life of perfect obedience becomes the sole ground of our justification. It is His perfect righteousness, gained via His perfect obedience, that is imputed to all who put their trust in Him. Therefore, Christ’s work of active obedience is absolutely essential to the justification of anyone. Without Christ’s active obedience to the covenant of works, there is no reason for imputation, there is no ground for justification. If we take away the covenant of works, we take away the active obedience of Jesus. If we take away the active obedience of Jesus, we take away the imputation of His righteousness to us. If we take away the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us, we take away justification by faith alone. If we take away justification by faith alone, we take away the Gospel, and we are left in our sins.

 

Resources on the Covenant of Redemption:

**I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.**

Covenant Theology: Covenant of Redemption [Reformation Month 2020]

Covenant Theology: Covenant of Redemption [Reformation Month 2020]

I chose to cover this part first because it was technically the first covenant, depending on how you see it. This is one covenant that O. Palmer Robertson doesn’t see as a covenant (which I will explain in a bit), so I am leaning more on Louis Berkhof’s systematic theology for more information on it. The excerpt I am utilizing can be found for free to read on Monergism’s website (linked below) and I’ll include a link for the whole thing. Berkhof’s systematic theology is my husband’s absolute favorite, so if you’re looking for one, this can be a great one. I have the kindle version, so I can’t give page numbers for where I’m reading It’s worth noting that Dr. Joel Beeke also came out with a systematic theology recently, but with it being so new, neither of us has read it. That said, it could make a great gift for the reformed theology nerds in your life (or yourself).

Links: https://amzn.to/3KPN8aL, https://amzn.to/34z8BFi, http://bit.ly/berkofCOR

What is the Covenant of Redemption?

Louis Berkhof defines the Covenant of Redemption as “the agreement that was made between the Father, giving the Son as Head and Redeemer of the elect, and the Son, voluntarily taking the place of those whom the Father had given Him.” It is also referred to as the pactum salutis, which is Latin for the agreement of salvation and is said to have taken place before the foundations of the world.

Disputation

There are many reformed theologians that do not acknowledge the Covenant of Redemption as its own covenant. Some believe it is part of the Covenant of Grace, some believe that the scriptural precedent for it taking place is shoddy at best, and still others believe it doesn’t fall into the category of a covenant because it’s just between the members of the trinity and they consider a covenant to be between God and man.

Berkof actually sees the Covenant of Redemption as part of the Covenant of Grace and he explains it this way:

The counsel of redemption is the eternal prototype of the historical covenant of grace. This accounts for the fact that many combine the two into a single covenant. The former is eternal, that is, from eternity, and the latter, temporal in the sense that it is realized in time. The former is a compact between the Father and the Son as the Surety and Head of the elect, while the latter is a compact between the triune God and the elect sinner in the Surety.

I could be sympathetic to this idea, but I, like Dr. Duncan, see the Covenant of Grace as a separate entity involving God and man and being established with Adam in the promise of the seed of the woman and having a common thread throughout scripture, which I will get into more in a few days.

Interestingly, Berkhof’s systematic has an excellent defense of the scriptural precedent of the Covenant of Redemption:

  1. Scripture clearly points to the fact that the plan of redemption was included in the eternal decree or counsel of God, Eph. 1:4 ff.; 3:11; II Thess. 2:13; II Tim. 1:9; Jas. 2:5; I Pet. 1:2, etc. Now we find that in the economy of redemption there is, in a sense, a division of labor: the Father is the originator, the Son the executor, and the Holy Spirit the applier. This can only be the result of a voluntary agreement among the persons of the Trinity, so that their internal relations assume the form of a covenant life. In fact, it is exactly in the trinitarian life that we find the archetype of the historical covenants, a covenant in the proper and fullest sense of the word, the parties meeting on a footing of equality, a true suntheke.

 

  1. There are passages of Scripture which not only point to the fact that the plan of God for the salvation of sinners was eternal, Eph. 1:4; 3:9,11, but also indicate that it was of the nature of a covenant. Christ speaks of promises made to Him before his advent, and repeatedly refers to a commission which He had received from the Father, John 5:30,43; 6:38-40; 17:4-12. And in Rom. 5:12-21 and I Cor. 15:22 He is clearly regarded as a representative head, that is, as the head of a covenant.

 

  1. Wherever we have the essential elements of a covenant, namely, contracting parties, a promise or promises, and a condition, there we have a covenant. In Ps. 2:7-9 the parties are mentioned and a promise is indicated. The Messianic character of this passage is guaranteed by Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5; 5:5. Again, in Ps. 40:7-9, also attested as Messianic by the New Testament (Heb. 10:5-7), the Messiah expresses His readiness to do the Father’s will in becoming a sacrifice for sin. Christ repeatedly speaks of a task which the Father has entrusted to Him, John 6:38,39; 10:18; 17:4. The statement in Luke 22:29 is particularly significant: “I appoint unto you a kingdom, even as my Father appointed unto me.” The verb used here is diatithemi, the word from which diatheke is derived, which means to appoint by will, testament or covenant. Moreover, in John 17:5 Christ claims a reward, and in John 17:6,9,24 (cf. also Phil. 2:9-11) He refers to His people and His future glory as a reward given Him by the Father.

 

  1. There are two Old Testament passages which connect up the idea of the covenant immediately with the Messiah, namely, Ps. 89:3, which is based on II Sam. 7:12-14, and is proved to be a Messianic passage by Heb. 1:5; and Isa. 42:6, where the person referred to is the Servant of the Lord. The connection clearly shows that this Servant is not merely Israel. Moreover, there are passages in which the Messiah speaks of God as His God, thus using covenant language, namely, Ps. 22:1, 2, and Ps. 40:8.

 

To address the third objection of the use of covenant, I think that is more of a semantical difference than a scriptural one, though interestingly, O. Palmer Robertson refers to the Covenant of Redemption as an “administration” of the Covenant of Grace and calls the Covenant of Grace the Covenant of Redemption, on the grounds that a covenant is between God and man.

That said, it is worth noting that the Westminster Standards only recognize two covenants: the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace. Keach’s catechism also only recognizes two covenants. The reason for that is likely due to not wanting to get too deep into minutiae and a desire to be moderately ecumenical so that more reformers would affirm it. To be truly reformed in covenant theology, you need at least 2 main overarching covenants. In the words of Dr. Duncan, “once you have a bicovenantal structure, you are committed to penal substitutionary atonement,” which I hope to discuss soonish through the lens of a theological errors week on atonement heresies.

Importance

Even if you don’t believe the covenant of redemption is a covenant, the concept of having a “counsel of redemption” or whatever terminology suits what you’re thinking of, there is still a scriptural precedent for God planning Jesus’ sacrifice ahead of time. Everything that has ever happened and everything that will ever happen is all part of God’s Plan A. Not only is Jesus’ sacrifice not a Plan B, but the church itself isn’t a Plan B. This was a huge game changer for me, as someone who grew up dispensational, I had always been taught that at the fall, God decided to send Jesus, but when Jews rejected him, the church became his backup plan. I know this is not something that all dispensationalists believe, but it is something that many do believe and teach. But to deny that God in eternity past planned Jesus’ sacrifice is already separating ourselves from the truth of the doctrines of grace.

Resources on the Covenant of Redemption:

**I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.**

Covenant Theology: What is Covenant Theology? [Reformation Month 2020]

Covenant Theology: What is Covenant Theology? [Reformation Month 2020]

Most of the content that I will be covering this week will be coming from Dr. J. Ligon Duncan’s Covenant Theology lectures from Reformed Theological Seminary. They are completely free on iTunesU and also on RTS’ website and I’ll link to that below. A lot of what Dr. Duncan covered in his lectures comes from O. Palmer Robertson’s Christ of the Covenants, which I will also link below. These works are very thorough and are excellent assets for if you want to learn more, you can just consider this a primer on covenant theology. I will warn that Robertson’s book is very intellectual and I am honestly not sure that I would recommend it to someone who is newer to reformed theology because it might be too much in the beginning while you’re trying to learn other stuff. That said, preparing for these posts has given me the opportunity to listen to Dr. Duncan’s lectures for the second time and I think that if you are newer to reformed theology, I would probably stick to the first section for the beginning and then move on to the more advanced content when you feel more comfortable.

Links: https://amzn.to/3hUQf4v, https://bit.ly/3hz5ON7, https://bit.ly/33HvAL8 

I will give full disclosure to the newbies who may not know me, I am going to be covering this from a paedobaptist perspective. This means that I (and my church, and most of historic reformed Christianity) affirm infant baptism. I am going to cover the differences between credobaptist covenant theology and paedobaptist covenant theology the best I can on Friday, but there is enough overlap between the two that the other days will be coming from a baseline paedo perspective. That said, I am not trying to “turn” credos to become paedobaptists, though I obviously wouldn’t be mad if that happened lol. While I am always open to you asking me questions, if you are in a reformed church and have questions, remember that you can and should also ask your pastor for their thoughts, as well. This group can be great for online fellowship and learning, but it’s no replacement for the church and you should always read things you see online alongside scripture so you can discern the truth.

What is it?

Dr. Ligon Duncan defined covenant theology as the gospel set in the context of God’s eternal plan of communion with his people and an outworking in the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. It is both a hermeneutic and a blending of biblical theology and systematic theology. It is also the Bible’s way of explaining several important themes:

  1. The atonement
  2. Assurance
  3. The sacraments
  4. The way of setting forth and explaining the continuity of redemptive history
  5. The dynamic of God’s sovereignty and our responsibility in living the Christian life (law and gospel)

Covenant theology is an important paradigm to use as we read scripture because it helps us see the Old Testament as a Christian book. Dr. JI Packer said in the intro to The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man (written by Herman Witsius in 1990), “the gospel of God is not properly understood until it is viewed within a covenantal frame.” 

Link: https://bit.ly/2SyR0na, https://amzn.to/3Cx8MNJ

Biblical Theology & Systematic Theology

So, I have defined biblical theology and systematic theology in the reformation month glossary, but I do want to unpack this part a little bit so that it makes better sense. Biblical theology reads forward through scripture and understands how God operates chronologically across time. Systematic theology looks at the entire Bible to see what it says about a given topic. Systematic theology also takes what the Bible says on one topic and relates it to other topics.

The way this works together is covenant theology involves:

  • Exegesis
  • Taking a biblical theological survey over how a topic is treated throughout the entire Bible
  • Taking a look at historical theology and how the church has historically treated the text
  • Summarizing a topic
  • Relating it to other scripture
  • And bringing it all together

History and Definition of Covenants:

Many people think that covenant theology developed as a response to dispensationalism, but it actually predates dispensationalism by almost 300 years. While it was codified by Ulrich Zwingli during the reformation, Irenaeus outlined covenant theology in a very similar way to the way Robertson does and used the concept of the covenant to argue against Gnosticism in book 4 of Against Heresies. O. Palmer Robertson’s definition of a covenant is almost identical to how Irenaeus describes it, “a bond in blood sovereignly administered.”

Link: https://bit.ly/3iMVt06

Monergism’s website explains covenant theology as:

“Covenant Theology organizes biblical revelation around three unified but distinct covenants: the Covenant of Redemption, between the persons of the Trinity in eternity past, in which the Father promises to give a people to the Son as his inheritance, and the Son undertakes to redeem them; the Covenant of Works, which God enjoined upon Adam in the Garden, solemnly promising him eternal life if he passed the probationary test in the Garden of Eden (also, many covenant theologians see the covenant given on Mount Sinai as being in some sense a republication of the Covenant of Works); and finally, the Covenant of Grace, which God first entered into with Adam immediately after the Fall, when he promised to send a Seed of the woman, who would defeat the tempting serpent (Gen. 3:15). In the Covenant of Grace, God promises a champion to fulfill the broken Covenant of Works as a federal representative of his people, and so to earn its blessings on their behalf. All the later covenants of the bible, such as those which God confirmed to Noah, Abraham, David, and the New Covenant which promises to fulfill these prior covenants in the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, are all organically connected, essentially being different administrations of the one eternal Covenant of Grace, which build upon each other and are all brought to completion in the New Covenant which Christ inaugurated with his shed blood.”

Link: https://bit.ly/34JKVdk

Over the rest of the week, we will be taking a look at the Covenant of Redemption, the Covenant of Works, the Covenant of Grace, and then this will all culminate in how covenant theology shapes the way we see the sacraments as the means of grace.

**I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.**

Book Review: Like Our Father by Christina Fox

Book Review: Like Our Father by Christina Fox

Why is someone who is not a parent reviewing a parenting book? Great question, I would love to tell you. First of all, I love Christina Fox’s writing. Her book, A Holy Fear, was the first book I had ever reviewed for Theology Gals (link to the fb group review below). Second of all, I would actually love the ability to become a mom one day, but even if I don’t, I do have a niece and two nephews that I help babysit, as well as many other children in my life. Third of all, I just like to read lol. 

Link: https://bit.ly/TGaholyfear 

If you are familiar with Elyse Myers on TikTok or Instagram, that intro might be amusingly familiar to you.  But all of those things I’ve said above are true. This is actually the first parenting book I’ve read in my life, though I don’t expect it to be the last. I am part of the launch team for the book and I waited until the absolute last possible second to join because I wanted parents to have the first opportunity to join. That said, I think I might have an interesting voice to bring to the table as a nonparent, so I hope that you enjoy this review!

Background on Christina:

Christina Fox is a licensed mental health counselor, public speaker, author, wife, and mom to two teenagers. She has been on the Theology Gals podcast 7 times to talk about the books she’s written (episodes linked below). In addition to Like Our Father and A Holy Fear ($2.99 on Kindle right now, first book link), she’s written A Heart Set Free, Closer Than a Sister, Sufficient Hope, Idols for a Mother’s Heart, and two children’s books (one releasing later this year). Christina lives in the Atlanta metro area and also coordinates the counseling ministry at her local church.

Podcast Episodes: https://bit.ly/3hGfXcS, https://bit.ly/3tyRQCJ, https://bit.ly/3722UwI, https://bit.ly/3ttydvM, https://bit.ly/3HUZcpj, https://bit.ly/3HIRC0T, https://bit.ly/3IKV3p4 

Book Links: https://amzn.to/3hAii9r, https://amzn.to/34ejKez, https://amzn.to/3KdAceg, https://amzn.to/3HCsYi9, https://amzn.to/35Sh72x, https://amzn.to/3KePHme, https://amzn.to/35Ren5d 

Book Overview:

This is very different from what I would expect from a parenting book; however, not particularly different from what I would expect from Christina. I say this because this book is what I would call a theology of parenting, it’s not a step by step how to guide. Like Our Father takes a look at what it means for God to be our Father and how that can inform and model parenting for us. Naturally, Christina starts off talking about the fall and what it means for us to be made in God’s image with a thorough gospel presentation. On page 25, she writes:

Just as God sent Moses to rescue His people from Pharaoh, He sent a Redeemer to rescue us from sin. Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, left the royal halls of heaven and came down to earth. He took on human flesh and fulfilled the promise God made to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15 to bruise the head of Satan. He came to defeat sin by living the life we could not live and dying the death we deserved. Through faith in who Jesus is and what He has done for us, we are set free from sin and are made new so that we can live our lives for the glory of God.

Christina repeats that later in the book on page 166 as a perfect chiasm (a chiasm is when a story or book starts the way it ends, a writing version of a palindrome, like the name Hannah) and reminder in the conclusion. She also elaborates on page 26:

Because we are image bearers, we image God to those around us. We reflect Him to others as we do what He does and as we display His character in our lives. And who do we see most often in our day to day life? Our children.

Like Our Father also goes beyond looking at who God is, but also looks at who we are as people and in Christ. We call God our Father because He is our Father, we are adopted into His family as His children. On page 34, Christina states it as, “Being a Christian means becoming sons and daughters of God.” This is a really important paradigm to keep in mind when we look at our own children.

One of the things I appreciate most about Like Our Father is how much Christina emphasizes a solid theological understanding of God. An example of this can be found on page 35, where she writes:

God the Father, through the life and death of the Son, and by the Spirit’s regenerating work in our hearts, adopted us as His children so that we would join in the love and fellowship the Trinity has experienced together for all eternity.

How beautiful is that statement! This is what I mean when I say this book is a theology of parenting. From this premise, we begin to look at how our children’s needs can even point us to God. One of my favorite chapters is chapter 3, God is Consistent. In this chapter, Christina talks about how important routines can be to children (something I definitely related to when I was a child and I still find comfort in routines today as an adult). But because God is consistent, this means that we can trust God and that really opened my eyes to a different way of thinking about giving children routines. A child’s desire and need for routines points to a God of order and consistency. On page 50, Christina phrases it as, “While we can never be perfectly consistent and while we will fail, intentionally or unintentionally, as God’s image bearers, we glorify Him when we create structure and order.” Yet, she doesn’t belabor this point in such a way to guilt parents for their imperfections, she constantly gives grace, later saying on page 55, “Think of consistent parenting not as a rule that is impossible to keep, but as an opportunity to show your children who God is.”

Another thing I appreciated about Like Our Father is that Christina really uses a law gospel approach to parenting. There’s definite moments of pointing to the first use of the law to remind us of God’s goodness and our sinfulness, but there’s also an aspect of the freedom we have in Christ to not take parenting standards as an additional justifying law. Additionally, Christina also gives encouragement to remember that it’s really God who changes our hearts and conforms us to Christ (which means He also does this in our children). On page 79, she states it as, “We are not only saved by His grace, we are trained by His grace.” As an outsider to the mommy wars, one thing I’ve noticed is that people tend to make their parenting preferences as the end all be all. And while yes, there’s definitely ways to do things poorly or wrong, I think that people need to have grace in some of the differences that aren’t so black and white. If you seek to glorify God with your parenting choices, you’ve already got the most important part of the battle underway.

One of the most helpful parts of the book for me to hopefully keep in mind for later is the explanation between discipline and punishment. Christina explains that discipline is training for righteousness and it’s not punitive. She also says, “This means our discipline is not about us and expressing our anger. It is not about getting even with our child” (page 106). A big takeaway is also pointing to the fact that we should show the fruit of the Spirit to our children.

Conclusions & Rating:

This book was by far my favorite book that I’ve reviewed this week. Like Our Father was accessible and approachable. It is not gender specific, so it’s something you can go through with your husband or as a small group Bible study of parents. The book is saturated with scripture and really good for new parents, seasoned parents, and even hopeful parents.

Christina’s wisdom and insightful questions would also make this helpful for those who are newer to the faith or didn’t have a solidly Christian or healthy family upbringing. On a personal note, my parents divorced when I was 5 and my husband and I have been married about 4.5 years. Over the last 4 years, I’ve been unpacking a lot of the things I unconsciously absorbed that were likely not healthy and affected my marriage. So coming to this book, I realized I probably had similar concerns with raising children. That’s part of the reason Like Our Father was highly beneficial for me. I know I don’t have perfect parents, but I do have a perfect Father in heaven and if we are blessed with children, I know that He would love them better than we do and that I can trust that He will take care of their needs as He takes care of mine. So of course, this book gets 5 stars out of 5, but also a really big thank you to Christina Fox for writing it.

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