As I read Tim Challies’ review of To Train up a Child, this paragraph jumped out at me:
What is this training? Before I answer that question, let me tell you what the training is not. Pearl’s training is not moral or spiritual, which means he believes that the mandate of Proverbs 22:6 is not fulfilled by instructing your children in Biblical truths. In the book’s opening pages he writes, “we are not talking about producing godly children, just happy and obedient children. The principles for training young children to instantly obey can be applied by non-Christians as well as Christians.” Training in godliness will come later in a child’s life and is outside the scope of the training he teaches here. This training is applied to children between birth and approximately twelve years of age and can be done by Christians and non-Christians alike.
A few years ago Timothy Paul Jones invited me to write an essay on what the OT has to say about Family Discipleship, so I wrote what I would describe as an Old Testament Theology of Child Training. This essay focuses on precisely what Pearl’s book doesn’t do, examining the OT’s instructions on how parents should train their children in the things of God, in the words of Scripture, that they might know the Lord.
You can read the whole essay, “That the Coming Generation Might Praise the Lord: Family Discipleship in the Old Testament online or in PDF: “That the Coming Generation Might Praise the Lord,” Journal of Family Ministry 1.1 (2010): 10-17.
[also published in Trained in the Fear of God: Family Ministry in Theological, Historical, and Practical Perspective, ed. Timothy Paul Jones and Randy Stinson. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2011, pages 33–43]
My colleague Rob Plummer wrote a companion essay on what the NT teaches about Family Discipleship, and it too is online: Bring Them Up in the Discipline and Instruction of the Lord, by Robert Plummer.
I appreciate and agree with Tim’s concerns in his review, but I’ll also add that my wife read Pearl’s book and found the practicality of it helpful. There were examples, like the one that Tim cites, that we had reservations about, and there were other even more egregious examples of training that we would never follow. Still, just as a Christian can learn practical tips from an unbeliever, we picked up helpful practical tips from the Pearls, with whose theology we would have significant disagreements.