Dr. Andreas Köstenberger is founder of Biblical Foundations and has recently accepted a position as Research Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Director of the Center for Biblical Studies.
T4L: Thank you very much for agreeing to do this interview with Theology for Life Magazine, Dr. Köstenberger. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, including the current ministries you are involved in?
Dr. Andreas Köstenberger: I am a committed follower of Jesus Christ and love the Lord and His Word. I count it a great privilege to be married to my wife Margaret, and to partner with her in raising our four children. I am a teacher, scholar, and writer, and several years ago started an organization called Biblical Foundations to help lead a revival of the biblical teaching on marriage and family in the church and society, and ultimately toward the greater mission of God in this world.
I believe that only a genuine return to what the Bible teaches about marriage and the family can help our culture be reconciled to God and be restored to His plan for of our lives. Our new parenting book, Equipping for Life, is the culmination of 25 years of work in this area. I previously wrote God, Marriage & Family (with David Jones) and co-edited Women in the Church, and my wife and I have co-authored God’s Design for Man & Woman. These books lay the theological foundation on which we build in our book on parenting.
T4L: How did you come to care so deeply and personally about helping parents learn biblical truth relating to parenting?
Dr. Andreas Köstenberger: Both through the study of Scripture and our own experience, my wife and I have developed some deep convictions about the centrality of marriage and the family in the lives of Christians, and how living this out impacts our overall mission from God. The creation narrative in Genesis makes clear that God created humanity male and female and called us to be fruitful and multiply in the form of children. This is the primary arena in which we are called to make disciples and live out our Christian convictions, in which we can grow in Christlike character, and in which we can witness to the world.
T4L: Can you please tell us some of most significant issues you see for Christian parents today, so they can raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord?
Dr. Andreas Köstenberger: By and large, our culture no longer affirms biblical values. Feminism has strongly challenged the mother’s role as centered in the home and attacked the institutions of marriage and the family as instruments of patriarchal domination and oppression. The father’s leadership and masculinity have been significantly undermined as well. There is widespread confusion even regarding a basic understanding of gender identity. As those committed to the Bible’s authority in all of life, what we see on all these fronts is large-scale resistance and compromise, even rebellion against God’s created order. Confusion, disunity, and brokenness are the results, and ultimately the destruction of our witness to God in and through families and churches. What is more, no longer is the world “out there” threatening the biblical teaching and practice in the Church; the world has invaded the Church with unbiblical teaching, and often the Church and the world are virtually indistinguishable.
T4L: Too true, unfortunately. What advice would you give to parents who come to you and want to help their children learn to navigate social media, avoid the many temptations that are on the internet, and be good stewards of technology?
Dr. Andreas Köstenberger: Technology, of course, has many advantages, but can also be potentially harmful or even destructive. In order to guide our children in their use of computers, other technological devices, and social media, it is vital to stay informed and to learn to handle these gadgets well ourselves. Even if we put passwords and other protections on these devices, our children may still come across or figure out other ways of access.
Ultimately, what is at stake is the development of character and the genuine pursuit of God in the child’s own life, though there will be certain ages or stages of greater vulnerability, which has caused us to delay our children’s unmonitored access to social media, and even carrying their own cell phone, until they have sufficient self-control and accountability to use these tools to their disadvantage, rather than being pulled in a direction they shouldn’t go and hopefully wouldn’t even want to go themselves.
The average age for a young person to get a cell phone is 10 years old; in our opinion, that’s way too early. School shootings and other dangers in school settings may prompt parents of these children to get them involved in technology earlier than they should. Since we’ve primarily schooled our children at or from home, we’ve had a certain measure of control over when, where, and how to use technology; it may not be as easy for parents of children who go to school. Each family has to navigate their own terrain in this regard and handle their own unique circumstances under God’s guidance. We recommend that families seriously consider schooling their children at or from home, but are aware that this may not be feasible or the best option for everyone. We explain many advantages in the chapter on education in our book, primarily that it is one vital way in which you can have the greatest and most consistent impact on your child.
T4L: It certainly is a tough area of life to navigate through! You write in your book, Equipping for Life, about parenting and conflict. How should parents traverse these challenging situations with their children to help them learn how to not only take responsibility for the stuff in their lives, but also to learn how to deal biblically and maturely with conflict, stressful situations, and challenging people?
Dr. Andreas Köstenberger: We devote one entire chapter, “The Peacemaking Parent”, to dealing with adversity, conflict, and even spiritual warfare. In our experience, conflict is ubiquitous, and parents often don’t know how to resolve it, or at least aren’t very good at it. Our own struggles in this area inform this instruction. Specifically, we propose four ideas that we develop in more detail in the book, which might help in working through conflict: (1) analyzing the situation, (2) accepting responsibility for your actions, (3) apologizing as needed, and (4) affirming love and affection for one another. Helping our children deal with all kinds of adversity, and so developing character and self-control, is helpful for the complexities of life. We also discuss some of the common sources of conflict we’ve dealt with in our experience, such as dealing with social media, relational issues, sibling rivalry, disobedience, insensitivity toward others, and miscommunication and the lack of communication.
T4L: So, how do you think can pastors, ministry leaders, and those who seek to put out faithful, biblical, and practical content that aims to serve and equip God’s people, help parents in their task of training their children in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus?
Dr. Andreas Köstenberger: This is exactly why we wrote our book—to equip ministry leaders to guide young parents in the church in parenting. We recommend you read Equipping for Life with your congregation, perhaps in small groups, considering especially the new, aspiring, and struggling parents. Every chapter starts with a “What’s Up?” section to help readers prepare their hearts with relevant portions of Scripture. At the end of each chapter is a section called “What’s Next?”, which poses discussion questions for couples or small groups to consider after digesting the content. We strongly recommend using the material in premarital counseling as young couples look toward parenting in the future.
In addition to reading the book, there is a FREE TGC parenting course built around the book Equipping for Life, available at https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/course/parenting-equipping-life/#course-introduction. This accessible course could be gone through in a weekly or biweekly format in the church, or in mentor homes. Perhaps it would be helpful to actually prepare a core of mentors in the church, who are able to embrace these truths—hopefully, experienced parents—who can facilitate these discussions for younger parents. It’s so important!
There are few books on this topic that cover the overall framework, perspective, and purpose of parenting. This is preventative medicine for parents and families that has the potential to change the face of church family dynamics and the mission of God in the world. Where many books on the topic offer remedies for the “sicknesses” and dysfunctionalities that occur from misguided parenting, we suggest that young parents in your church be equipped in the three major ways that our book covers—realism, relationship, and responsibility (the 3 “Rs” of parenting).
First, help parent develop realistic expectations of what parenting entails. Second, guide them to grasp the relational component of parenting, especially acknowledging that parental presence in the life of the child is key. Finally, third, encourage parents to embrace a responsible approach to parenting that includes arranging or rearranging their lives in such a way that they can be there for their children when they need them, and not delegating vital parenting task to others—whether teachers, youth leaders, or even their peers.
T4L: Excellent! I know we at Theology for Life Magazine enjoyed your book immensely, and I’m sure our readers will as well. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this interview, Dr. Köstenberger.