FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Biblical Parenting in the Digital Age: Alistair Begg

with Alistair Begg | May 15, 2024
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Quality family time overshadowed by phones and social media? Alistair Begg grapples with cultural pressures in your family--and how to champion biblical values instead.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Are phones taking over your family time? Alistair Begg talks about modern family challenges and bonding with your kids.

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Biblical Parenting in the Digital Age: Alistair Begg

With Alistair Begg
May 15, 2024
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Alistair: My father’s line was always the same. I’d say, “Dad, can I go to this?” and in certain cases he would say, “Yeah, sure.” Other cases he would say, “Well you can go, but without my blessing.” Looking back on it, it was genius, really, but he could only play that card if I cared about his blessing.


Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at

Dave: This is FamilyLife Today!

Dave: Alright. We have Alistair Begg in the studio, and we’re going to make him do something that we didn’t even prepare him for. We’re going to have him coach us on how to deal with the culture pressures that we are raising our families in. We are facing the wind. Our face is being pushed against in the wind right now as—

Ann: —meaning our families.

Dave: —families—

Ann: —marriage.

Dave: —individual believers, as Christians in the world we’re living in, right here, right now. We’re fighting through the wind. What do you mean by that?

Alistair: The Christian is an alien and a stranger, we know that.

Dave: Yes.

Alistair: I used to read that in I Peter and say, “I wonder what it feels like to be an alien and a stranger?” because my growing up years were in a Scotland that still hadn’t gone crazy, and [in] my early years in America there was still sort of the residual impact of some of those great days. When is the last time you saw 100,000 people in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas singing, “There’s only one way, one God, one book, and it’s the holy Bible?”

Yes, there are a lot of good things going on, but life has changed. The fabric of the culture has just frayed dramatically, and so the children that we are raising are growing up in a world that you and I never experienced. They are part and parcel of a culture that we are largely observers of, rather than participants in.

I think we’ve lived in my lifetime from the 60’s—I was born in the 50’s—but from the 60’s we’ve lived through an immoral revolution, an immoral revolution that has literally turned western culture upside down. The church has, perhaps, in some measure, managed to identify it. In many cases I think it’s caught us broadsided. I would have to confess the fact that I felt that way because I had an educational system that was framed by a biblical worldview.

I was naïve to think that my children were actually in public education being framed by the same kind of worldview that I had. Why I would think that now I don’t know, but it wasn’t true. In my own thinking, I was very strong about the absolute necessity of making sure that our children are not sequestered away from the world in which they live, and so on. I’ve changed my mind entirely on that now, because the wind has blown just straight in our faces in relationship to everything, and not least of all, family life.

So much so, that if you have a mom and a dad and children, a mom and a dad that love each other, that live through the ups and the downs and support one another, that show their children that they are not perfect people, that they are sinners who depend on the grace of God, and so can then act in a spirit of wise compassion in relationship to their children as they try to figure things out.

And when you put that together with all the ups and downs and ins and outs and then you take that out into a restaurant, and you find that the family engages with one another in conversation, that they’re not alone while they’re together, they’re actually engaged. Parents have to really get ahold of this. I have it now with my grandchildren, and I’m watching to see. My oldest grandchild is 13. She’s tall, she’s cute, she wants a phone like crazy, [Laughter] and I’m saying to my daughter, “I wouldn’t touch, I wouldn’t do it.”

Dave: Yes.

Alistair: “I wouldn’t do it.” “Why not?” “Well, because I’m just observing, and it seems to me that children at the present time are more influenced, I think, by their peers and by social media than we actually realize.” It’s naïve of us to assume that they can imbibe all of that stuff, take it into their little psyches, their little forming brains, as they try and put together all the elements of their life.

It’s a wonderful opportunity for Christian families to show a decaying culture that God’s way is actually best. I can’t fix anything, and I’m very slow in putting anything together. It’s like I get something out of a box that has maker’s instructions. “No, no, don’t. Wait. Let’s just get the thing started,” and we get halfway through and then realize, “Well, that’s why we had instructions.” What we’ve really done is we’ve just taken the Maker’s instructions, which are given for us for life, and we set them on the side, and our culture is bearing testimony to that.

So we have a privileged responsibility to say, “No, we’re going to go with the Maker’s instructions.” We need to say to young people, “You want an adventure? We have an adventure for you. This is no story for wimps. This is a challenge. Jesus is presenting a challenge, and Jesus is also promising the resources to face up to the challenge.”

Ann: Alistair, as I look at families—and you probably see this, too—they are overwhelmed.

Alistair: Yes.

Ann: They’re overwhelmed with the culture, they’re overwhelmed with the pressure of the culture pushing in on their kids with, as you said, social media, all the things that are going on. Parents are tired. They’re stressed. So, if you’re talking to a young family, they want to walk with Jesus, but they feel overwhelmed, where do they even start?

Alistair: Part of it is at a very practical level. As I watch my own family, I don’t know how you do all this stuff. Where is—and I’m not using names that I have—but “Where is Joe?” “Oh, he’s at swim practice.” “Where is Mabel?” “Oh, Mabel is doing her violin lesson.” “Well, who’s picking up Sam from the school?” “Well, that’s the—” I think, “Guys, first of all, your kid is not going to play violin for the Cleveland Orchestra.” [Laughter] “Let’s just back off of there right now, okay?”

“And I’ve seen him try to hit a baseball, and he’s a good boy and everything, but there’s no point investing your life in this.” [Laughter] But you better invest your life in making sure that they understand Who Jesus is, why He came, why the Bible is important, and even foundational things like reading the Bible together. I don’t mean reading the whole of I Chronicles before they go to school; I mean even a verse to take out into the day, whatever that might be, and assuring them of the Father’s love for them, and His interest in them, and all these things.

But part of it is that our children have grown up in a culture that is demanding the most of everybody all the time, and church life doesn’t always help that either. People talk about, “If you’re going to be committed, it means this, and it means this, and it means this.” Goodness gracious, you know? How about just letting people relax a little bit here, and not adding further stress?

I don’t have the answers to it all, but I’m certainly alert to the challenges of it. We need to equip guys—men—to be men in their homes; first of all, that there is leadership, that there is a willingness to be the bad guy, to be dad, to be able to say to your kids, “Look, I love you, but you’re not my friend. You’re my son, and because I am your dad; this is how this has to be.” God’s way is right, and we just need to believe God. So, the challenge is a challenge; the opportunity is a great opportunity.

Dave: Yes, as people of the Book—we’re Christ-followers, so we’re people of the Book—that makes us bad guys.

Alistair: Yes.

Dave: How do we navigate that?

Alistair: Well, we have to be good bad guys. [Laughter] Here’s what—I’m playing golf in California, a long time ago now. I’m put with a group of guys that I don’t know. We set off on this thing and almost immediately the jokes were filthy, not even marginal. We get on the [putting tee], and we have to wait. Guy says, “Hey, Alistair, what do you do?” I said, “Well, I’m actually a pastor of a church.” There’s a stony silence.

One of the guys says, “So, how is business?” I said, “Business is really good, because there’s no shortage of sinners, as I think you can see.” Okay? [Laughter] So, there’s a little bit of laughter, but not a lot. We all tee off. I’m out on the course, a guy comes—the lead guy, who was the main joke guy, comes—flying across in his golf cart. He pulls up beside me and says, “I don’t like what you said out there.”

He said, “You’re calling me a sinner. You don’t understand. I’m only telling jokes that sinners tell. I’m just telling their jokes. You understand?” He says, “Because I’m not a sinner.” I said, “Well, I’m delighted to meet you, because there’s only one other person that I’ve heard of in the entire history of humanity that was prepared to make that claim.” Well, the guy is so crazy he said, [belligerently] “And who was that?” I said, “Well, that was Jesus of Nazareth.”

He said, “Well, if you have to bring that stuff up,” and then he got in his cart and drove off again. When we got in the clubhouse, I said, “You know, you got really fried out there, didn’t you?” He said, “Yes, I did. I didn’t like that.” I said, “Well, do you know how I know so much about sinners?” He said, “No.” I said, “Well, because every morning when I shave, I see one in the mirror.” He said, “Well, you’re not a sinner. You’re a pastor.” I said, “No, I’m a sinful pastor.”

People don’t understand that. To be able to hold the line and yet to do it in a way that is winsome, humor is a great vehicle; not telling jokes, but just not taking ourselves too seriously. Some husbands or fathers are just driving the thing, and just driving their kids under the table; it’s a hard line. My dad’s line with me—I was 15 or 16, and I’m living in Yorkshire.

You have to realize what a sheltered background I had in that I had never been to a movie, and the first movie that I managed to convince my people it was okay to go and see was The Ten Commandments, okay? [Laughter] They finally relented on that, followed up by The Sound of Music, or whatever it was.

But I went to the equivalent of Woodstock, which was the Isle of Wight Festival in Britain, and I went to see Yes, and I went to see Procol Harum, and I went to all those things. My father’s line was always the same. I said, “Dad, can I go to this?” and in certain cases he would say, “Yeah, sure.” Other cases he would say, “Well, you can go, but without my blessing.”

Looking back on it, it was genius really, but he could only play that card if I cared about his blessing. Now, why would I care about his blessing? Because I love my dad; because I know that what he’s saying, even when I push back against it, he’s saying it for my good. He’s not trying to screw my life up. So, fathers can’t play that card unless they build that relationship, and that can’t be done spending more time with an exercise bike at the gym to the expense of being with your kids when they go to bed at night.

Ann: Yes.

Alistair: Some of the best times [were] just lying on the bed beside my kids—

Ann: —we did, too.

Alistair: —saying nothing except allowing them to say what they were saying, and then responding to it. With my girls, when guys are coming around—I can remember these conversations like they happened yesterday. “This guy has long hair! He’s French; he rides bicycles; he’s this, he’s that; he’s all of those things, and I want to spend a lot of time with him.”

I’m saying, “Yeah, but you know he doesn’t know Jesus; he doesn’t love Jesus.” And she says, “Yeah, yeah, but I can win him over.” I say, “No, I don’t think you can, and besides, I don’t want you to do that.” Then we have the tears. Then I say to her, “Do you know anybody in the entire world apart from your mom that loves you as much as I love you?” She said, “No.” I said, “Then answer me: why would I do anything to hurt you or to harm you? Trust me. I’m your dad.”

Ann: That’s so sweet.

Alistair: Now, that doesn’t come out of a vacuum, because if we have been so heavy-handed with our children as to create resentment in them, then they’ll just tell you, “Get the heck out of my bedroom,” slam the door on you, and you’re going to have to find some other way to get back in there. So, it’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of effort, it’s a lot of prayer; and it’s not finished yet. It’s never finished.

I thought when they got out of the house and went to university: “This is done. We’re done!”

Dave and Ann: Yes.

Alistair: No! They’re our children forever; forever. So, we still pray, and then, we add to the list, the grandchildren. Driving in the car home from church the other day, I had four of my grandchildren in the car, and the boy, amongst girls, said to his older sister, “Leona, how old will you be when I’m 13?” He’s six. She says, “I’ll be 20.” He said, “20! How can you be 20?” She said, “Well, you’ll be 13,” and then they had this big conversation about the passage of time and what that would be like and everything.

You realize that their tiny little lives are going to be framed by something, and the wind is blowing full on in our faces. Do we have the courage as parents and grandparents to hold the line for the truth of the Word of God? Do we believe in our heart of hearts, in a way that transfers through the generations: “As for God, His way is perfect?” [Psalm 18:30]

My mantra now is Psalm 71: “Oh God, from my youth, You have taught me, and I still proclaim Your wondrous deeds. So, even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me until I proclaim Your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” That’s our role and our mindset. It has to be.

That’s what you’re doing here; that’s what you’re doing on this program. You’re passing it from one generation to the next, and it’s fantastic, and it’s necessary, so, stay focused.

Dave: It’s interesting you picked that passage, because that’s—

Alistair: —is that your favorite?

Dave: Well, it was one of Dennis Rainey’s.

Alistair: Oh, was it really?

Dave: Yes, it’s a legacy of FamilyLife.

Alistair: Yes? Well, there you go.

Dave: It makes sense: this generation to the next to the next.

Alistair: Yes, there you go. That’s good, yes.

Dave: And you’re sitting here bringing that up because that’s how powerful a Christian family can be in this culture. And Dennis would say this (and we agree and I’ve said it ever since): The family is one of the strongest evangelistic tools we have to our neighbors.

Alistair: There are two things: a well-conducted Sunday-by-Sunday service, and a family that is prepared to live by the Maker’s instructions. That’s great.

Dave: That’s powerful.

Ann: It makes me think of Matthew 10:16, when Jesus was sending the disciples out two-by-two, and He said to them: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” And that is a word for our day.

Alistair: It is.

Ann: As we go out, I’m thinking about our homes. I’m thinking about how many kids we had in our home as our kids were growing up; their friends.

Alistair: Sure.

Ann: I’m telling you, and it’s even more so now, these kids are looking for a place that they’re seen, that they’re loved. They want truth. They don’t want it shoved in their face in a judgmental kind of unappealing way. They just want the gospel, which is the Good News for everyone; and it comes with this grace and unconditional love, just listening to a story.

Talk about a platform. Our kids bring their friends in the door because we can love them and listen to them, because it’s a crazy culture, and who knows what’s going on in their homes? But to see a good marriage and a family that feels like, “Man, there’s joy here. There’s security here. There’s truth here.”

Alistair: Yes. We’ve just adopted a young lady as her aunt and uncle. She comes out of a background that her parents—I don’t know if they were ever married, but she’s an only child. She’s been in prison for the last year and a half, and she’s now out. It’s just the very thing you’re saying: that now, for the very first time, she sees the way, at least some small negative of what the full technicolor picture is supposed to look like, in terms of a husband and a wife and a family that functions.

Ann: What does she say?

Alistair: She’s thrilled to bits. It’s amazing. Well, every time we see somebody born again by the Spirit of God, we realize this is just fantastic. This is something that God has done, and it really is something that God has done. It always is, of course, because only God can open blind eyes.

Ann: Yes.

Alistair: Only God can soften hard hearts. Paul writes, “Do you not realize that God’s kindness would lead you to repentance?” [Romans 2:4] The kindness of God, a God Who, despite the fact that we are rebels, comes to seek us out and goes to such lengths in order to put us back together again. This is the story we have. Let the culture go where it’s going. There’s no point to sticking your finger in all the holes in the dam, right? Now we just have to go wisely [and] courageously, and tell the story that we’ve been given to tell, and trust.

Dave: The middle man on the cross is going viral. What’s that all about?

Alistair: That was in Dallas, at a seminary thing.

Dave: Oh, it was?

Alistair: And the man on the middle cross, you know. The angel interviews him—it’s all fiction of course: “Were you a member of a church?” “No.” “Were you baptized?” “No.” “You were in a home Bible study group?” “No, no.” “So, what are you doing here?” “Well, I don’t know.” “Well, I’m going to get my supervisor.” They get the supervising angel, and he comes.

“Yes, what’s going on? The other guy told me about it, so let’s just get straight to it. On what basis are you here?” “Well, the man on the middle cross told me I can come.” That’s all any of us are going to say. That’s it. “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’s blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’s Name.” That’s it. That’s what we want at the center of our lives, and at the heart of our families.


Dave: You know, as I think about what Alistair was talking about family, I wish we would have had FamilyLife Today when we first got married. Have you ever thought about that? It wasn’t available then. We had FamilyLife, the ministry; we had the Weekend to Remember®, but we didn’t have a daily program that gave us daily input in how to be a husband, a wife, a mom, a dad; a Christian home and a Christian family. And we were clueless.

Ann: I’m thinking if I had listened to Alistair when we were younger, that would have impacted me. What Alistair just did; that was like gold, wasn’t it?

Dave: Oh, yes.

Ann: Just somebody that’s been married 48 years—

Dave: 48 years.

Ann: Yes. He’s 71 years old, and he’s looking back and looking forward. It gives you a real foundation to build your life on, which is Jesus.

Dave: It’s building your life on wisdom, wisdom from the Word of God. I would just say: guess what? We now do have FamilyLife Today that’s in people’s homes and cars and phones every single day, giving them input from the Word of God, to say, “Here’s how God designed the family, and we want to give you wisdom to lead that way.”

I just want to say we believe this is critical in these days. The wind is in our face, and we need to be strong and courageous to go forward and know how to do that. So, I’m not inviting you; I’m challenging you: “Instead of just listening, be a partner with us. Be a financial partner,” which means you decide, “I’m going to give whatever amount monthly,” to be a monthly partner with FamilyLife and say, “I want this ministry to not just impact me but impact my neighbors.”

The only way that happens is people like you saying, “I’m in. I’m not just a spectator. I’m playing. I’m getting on the field, and I’m playing, and I’m giving. I’m giving to FamilyLife, and I want to make a difference.” And you will make a difference. We need you.

Shelby: I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Alistair Begg on FamilyLife Today. Yes, as Dave said, it’s easy to give. All you have to do is head over to and click on the “Donate Now” button at the top of the page to become a monthly partner. Or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329; again, that number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

We’ve had Alistair Begg on today and the last couple of days. It’s been so great to hear from him. His book is called The Christian Manifesto: Jesus’ Life-Changing Words from the Sermon on the Plain. You can get a copy of his book by going online to request your copy at, or you can give us a call at 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

So, how can a woman highlight healing, trauma counseling, and marriage as a sexual abuse survivor? Well, Mary DeMuth is here tomorrow to talk about her story. We hope you’ll join us.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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