This book review is unique in that I have a personal relationship with the author, and to some degree have been able to see the formation of his thoughts behind the scenes. Doug van Meter has had one of the biggest impacts on my ministry and thinking over the years, and all without me even realising it. So it was a joy to be able to read this book and the rather controversial thesis it presents. In addition I have had many laughs trying to get the words ‘coin toss’ right- all I can say is ‘toin coss’ for some reason; I trust you will have the same joy.
Parenting is not a coin toss is a presentation of a confident way of child-rearing. I don’t know how many times I have heard children of believing parents described as ‘children of privilege’. But what does that mean? That is what Van Meter explains in this book.
The book is divided into 5 chapters, and can be read virtually in one sitting. It is well worth the sitting! Even if you come out not agreeing with the main idea you will be challenged. Van Meter asserts, “…parenting is not a coin toss. In fact, it is just the opposite; it is a covenantal task with promised results.” Throughout the book Van Meter anticipates objections and handles them with biblical integrity and clear language.
Here is a rough breakdown of the 5 chapters:
In the first chapter Van Meter deals with one of the most common objections to his thesis. People often mishear what he has said (I am one of those people), and believe that he is teaching that there is a guarantee that if you raise a child right, said child will be saved. However he explains that it’s not a guarantee based on the work of parenting, but rather a confidence based on the promises of God, “No, there are no guarantees that, if you do X, Y and Z, your child will magically be a God-lover. Confident parenting is not a matter of mixing a right formula which (when applied to your child’s routine) guarantees their salvation (miraculously followed by their unbroken progress in sanctification!).”
He deals eloquently with the objection of election; by pointing out that God not only appoints the ends, but also the means. Thus the idea, that God has made certain promises to those who raise their children in a gospel-centred way doesn’t mitigate against the sovereignty of God, because God uses means to achieve His ends.
Van Meter also deals with the error which has dominated the Dutch Reformed tradition regarding the assumption of the salvation of their children. This is not a rehash of the second head of doctrine in the Canons of Dort. Rather the idea is that there is “biblical reason to embrace a sure confidence that [parents] can raise their children in such a way that God will save them. The Bible equips us to raise a godly seed.” Essentially, we are warned of being either pessimistic or presumptive with regards to our attitude in parenting.
In the second chapter Van Meter argues that, “there is a huge sense in which believing parents should assume that they will raise a godly seed.” And the force behind this assumption is biblical active faith that rests on the promises of God, and acts as if those promises are true. The theology gets slightly heavy here as he points out the relationship between the unconditional and conditional aspects of the covenant to again defend the idea of means and end, both of which are enabled by God, “His covenant to save is unconditional, but His means of fulfilling that covenant to save is conditional… Both the unconditional as well as the conditional aspects of salvation are dependent on the free and sovereign grace of God.”
Helpfully, we see the outworking of the complex doctrine of the covenant in the everyday work of parenting. Not only does this chapter propel the idea of the book, but it’s also a great primer to wrap your head around the doctrine of covenant.
In the third chapter Van Meter picks up again with the idea of biblical faith as a faith that is active. He shows how faith in the promises of God to save your children as a result of his covenant faithfulness will issue forth in the kind of works that will be the means to bring about that result. He writes, “Faith works by walking. And when it comes to parenting, it walks in step with God’s Scriptures.”
In the fourth chapter we are presented with the inevitable objections, ‘what about the exceptions?’. What about the cases where ungodly parents raise godly children, and visa versa? These and similar objections are handled with a compassionate and biblical approach. It concludes with a word of hope to those parents who feel they have failed, and that hope is found in a Sovereign God.
The final chapter begins its summation with this quote from Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (24: 15).” Van Meter points out that this affirmation is made in the context of covenantal commitment. Later in the chapter we read, “Since God is sovereign, I do not need to fret about His secret counsels (Deuteronomy 29: 29). Rather, because He is sovereign I can rest in His promises. I can actively respond to His commands to fulfil my responsibility, resting secure that His sovereignty assures me that His revealed will will be done. It was precisely this mindset that drove Joshua to make his bold and faith-filled commitment.”
The book finishes with some suggested resources and a copy of Brackenhurst Baptists statement regarding parenting.
As I said in the beginning, no matter your position, this booklet will challenge you to think through the issue of parenting. I differ with the author on some issues, but only in ways that actually may strengthen his case (for example, I believe the children of believing parents are in the covenant, though they may not be saved). I also am not convinced of the main thesis of the book and need to spend the time doing the exegesis he suggests, but it is a much needed wake-up call for Christians to be challenged about how they view their children. I am hoping this book will be the beginning of much discussion and thinking as we seek to be always reforming.
You can purchase the kindle edition by clicking here