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Gender: A Conversation Guide for Parents and Pastors

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Posted by Isaac Pain, 22 May 2020

Isaac Pain reviews this helpful book from Brian Seagraves and Hunter Levine.

Has there ever been a cultural moment when it was more challenging to bring up children faithfully in the truths of the bible? It’s difficult to say. But it is certainly true that there has never been a time of greater resources to aid in this task, and this short book by Seagraves and Leavine is a welcome addition.

The majority of the book’s text is divided into three sections that seek to equip parents for communicating the biblical understanding of gender to the different stages of development: up to 7 years, 7-11 years, and 12+ years. Theological foundations such as God as Creator, sin, and the truth of Scripture are introduced with suggested age appropriate tips and questions for exploring these doctrines with children at the end of each chapter.

The view articulated is biblical: after establishing that God has made humanity both male and female with equality in his sight, they rightly note that there are distinctions between male and female. And yet they are wise not to read certain cultural expressions of masculinity or femininity too strictly, noting that Jacob remained at home to cook, and Jael makes a pretty competent warrior.

Concepts have been carefully chosen for the age group being considered in that chapter. So, for example, in the chapter for age 12+ there is a helpful section on how our feelings can be deceptive. Since this is a time when peer pressure often intensifies it’s right to spend some time considering how to help our children at this particular stage. And so they take care to explain that though it may feel more loving to affirm someone in their beliefs it is never loving to encourage someone to act contrary to God’s revealed purposes, and so love will often look like telling people what they don’t want to hear out of concern for their wellbeing.

Some of the tips suggested will not be new for all readers, but nonetheless may serve as helpful reminders. For example: the idea to use films and books as opportunities to talk with children about the concept of gender.

A final section of the book gives a bit more space to explore common objections Christian will face when defending a biblical understanding of gender, and serves as a helpful apologetic resource when engaging with others about transgender issues.

Overall the book is a good resource for the average parent in the pew who perhaps hasn’t given the intentional discipleship of their children as much thought as they would like. Nevertheless, the authors do perhaps miss a few tricks along the way. For example, one tip that I would have liked to have seen included in the “up to 7 years” chapter is to seek always to answer children’s “why” questions and never to answer them with: “because it just is.” Answering “why” questions instils in children the idea that we live in a universe with God-given purpose and meaning. Using the God-given wonder of a child in this manner goes a very long way to combat our culture’s understanding of meaning as being either “brute fact,” or fluid. However, minor quibbles aside, I enthusiastically commend this book to the church.

Isaac Pain is curate at St. Andrew’s Church, Burgess Hill and a dad to two young children.

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