Teaching Story Transitions 2: Your Children Aren’t Yet Saints

by Jared Moore on July 9, 2012 · 3 comments

This article was originally posted at Speculative FaithOnly some of my articles are posted on SBC Voices. If you would like access to all of my articles, you can follow my feed here. You can also connect with me on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.

Part 1 of this series can be found here: “Teaching Story Transitions 1: Mediating Extremes”

Feature link: http://www.speculativefaith.com/features/teaching-story-transitions-1-mediating-extremes/

 Series link: http://www.speculativefaith.com/series/teaching-story-transitions/

Jared Moore and E. Stephen Burnett

Last time we explored two extreme views of discerning stories: setting up fuzzy, arbitrary boundaries that are based on tradition, hearsay, and legalism/moralism, versus setting up few to no boundaries. In part 2 of this new series, we’ll delve deeper into the assumption behind those extremes — and notice I said assumption. Despite the fact that these views seem opposite, there is a common view underlying them both. And it’s not a Biblical one.

All Christians may agree that we live in an evil world. In the midst of this evil world, parents long to protect to their children from evil influences, and rightfully so. Yet how do they do this? Often by choosing between those two sincere, but unbiblical extremes:

  1. Always or usually shelter.
  2. Never or rarely shelter.

Here’s what I mean. Some Christian parents try to shelter their children. They believe they can protect their children from this evil world by enacting boundaries, extremely limiting their children’s interaction with the world around them. Other Christian parents believe children should be free to explore this world — free to fail, but free to choose good as well.

But although these two beliefs seem to be opposites, they are merely two fruits of the same presupposition: The Christian parent who always shelters and the Christian parent who never shelters both believe their children are innocent, good, or neutral.

The “over-shelterers” long to protect their children from outside evil because they believe the “garbage in, garbage out” maxim — that if they put evil into their children, they will see evil coming out. The “under-shelterers” long for their children’s freedom because they believe their children are wise or good enough to make the “right” choices if uninhibited.

The answer for both extremes is not to take a little from one and a little from another, or to overcorrect for one or the other. The answer is to correct an unbiblical presupposition.

Buying the serpent’s lie

These truths should be familiar to Christians, but it’s vital to review if we hope to clean out the “garbage” we have believed about our children’s — and our own! — real problem.

The Bible does not teach that children are born innocent, good, or neutral, but that they’re born sinners (Rom. 3:23), who need a Savior (John 14:6). God  always meant man to be dependent on His Word, even before his Fall into sin (Gen. 2). Though God created Adam and Eve perfect, He never meant them to be independent of Him and His guidance.

That’s how mankind fell into sin — not by hearing Satan, and not by eating a wicked fruit, but by desiring independence from God. The Serpent told Eve, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:5). But Eve, and later Adam, believed the Serpent’s words and wanted to be like God themselves. This was their desire. And if one is “like God,” then one no longer needs God.

Thus, parents who either believe they can shelter their children without the Word of God, or who believe their children can make godly choices apart from the Word of God, have both bought into the Serpent’s lie: “[Our children] will not surely die” (Gen. 3:4).

That’s the lie many of us have bought. Now for the truth that comes from God’s salvation.

Believing the Scripture’s truth

Instead of assuming our children can have life apart from God’s Word, whether through our supposedly perfect protection or their own supposedly perfect “innocence,” Christians should pursue a middle path. Here, we do “shelter” children, based on the Word and their levels of personal discernment, only until they are able to completely fend for themselves.

As children grow in discernment, parents must gradually provide them freedom, preparing them to be a discerning Christian adult.

Christian parents must also remember: parenting is the process of raising adults, not the process by which we coddle children. Christian parenting’s goal is to raise future citizens — husbands and wives, fathers and mothers — not prolong adolescence.

In Deuteronomy 6, God was clear about how Israel would continue in multi-generational faithfulness. He said parents must teach their children God’s Word from sun-up to sun-down. The same is true for His Church. Our answer to our children’s sin-problem is not completely sheltering them from outside influences, or giving them complete freedom to exercise “innocence.” Instead we must encourage their utter dependence on God, His Word, His Son’s finished work, and the Holy Spirit’s application of these truths in our daily lives.

To raise one’s children to be Christian adults, parents must gradually transition their children from child-like discernment to adult/Christ-like discernment. This is a transitional phase, a process that leads from more “sheltering” to less, based on the child’s maturity.

But let’s not wrongly conclude the growing child is therefore not sheltered at all! Instead, we trust God Himself to protect the maturing child — just as He protected you and me, teaching us His lessons in His sovereign plan and even through our failures, when we began to drive, or went to college, or started our families.

How might this work in practice? Scripture is not silent in answering, though often we must practice wisdom in applying God’s general guidelines — true Gospel fruits — to our specific children and situations. We may also find wisdom in classic education methods, which are based on Scriptures that encourage mind-renewal transformation (Rom. 12: 1-2), and eating solid food so we may possess “powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14). We’ll continue exploring that, next time.

(Editing and additional writing by E. Stephen Burnett.)

Only some of my articles are posted on SBC Voices. If you would like access to all of my articles, you can follow my feed here. You can also connect with me on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.

1 Jim Pemberton July 9, 2012 at 5:36 pm

“parenting is the process of raising adults, not the process by which we coddle children”

Amen to that, brother. My wife and I have limited our kids exposure to certain influences as they grow, but have observed some with them in a controlled way. Our purpose has been to teach them how to think about these things as they encounter them so they will be able to do the same when they are adults.

So recently I have been watching the Star Wars saga with them. I’ve seen it before with my oldest son (16), but my daughter (13) and youngest son (9) have only seen bits and pieces. So as I sit down and watch with them, it’s been genuinely pleasant to have the movetime conversation as they compare and contrast with the worldviews they have observed in such areas as the Star Trek franchise, Avatar: The Last Airbender, etc. And they are rather humorous about it too:

Luke Skywalker: “I see a city in the clouds.”
Yoda: “It is the future you see.”
From the chair next to me in the voice of Yoda: “Mmmm. Cloudy the future is.”

Or as Darth Vader cuts off Luke’s hand: “They have a really dysfunctional family. So dad tortures his daughter for information, but invites his son to meet the boss and join the family business.”

Darth Vader to Lando after altering their agreement; “Pray I don’t alter it further.”
My kids: “Who’s he gonna pray to? ‘O dear impersonal force, I beseech thee…’”

2 Christiane July 9, 2012 at 7:24 pm

hmmm . . .

‘extremely limiting’

OR

‘free to fail but free to choose good as well’

When I started reading this post, I wondered if it was going to be another commentary on Calvinism . . . ‘pro’ and ‘con’;
but I did note that the initial descriptions of extreme parenting did resonate with the concepts of total control over every facet of a life versus freedom of choice (including ‘freedom to fail’) . . .

does the Calvinist-non Calvinist dichotomy mimic our own perceptions of ‘extreme’ parenting? Have we tried to create an image of God according to the way we comprehend certain types of parenting?

I often think of God as being being much like my own good father of blessed memory . . . I do wonder if we give God certain attributes in the light of our own feelings about our parents ? We would do better to look to Christ for our understanding about God.

3 E. Stephen Burnett July 28, 2012 at 11:26 am

Hello (again), Christiane,

My response is belated, but I’m just catching up to replies to this series. Thanks for following along with it!

When I started reading this post, I wondered if it was going to be another commentary on Calvinism . . . ‘pro’ and ‘con’;

I love the doctrines that brought about the Reformation, and which God used to bring about a personal Reformation in my heart. Yet (so far) I haven’t read “Calvin,” and as long as someone tries to seek out the complete true Story of Scripture, including the contexts and harmonization of its separate true-life stories, poems, epistles and so on, I believe I have no need to debate predestination, free will, and so on. If God is sovereign over all things — and He is — then He has also sovereignly decreed that there be “free-willie” brothers and sisters. Who am I to question the Potter’s freedom in that regard? :-D (As an aside, I believe author Randy Alcorn gives one of the best treatments of predestination/meaningful choice both existing, in his nonfiction book If God Is Good, about God permitting evil.)

but I did note that the initial descriptions of extreme parenting did resonate with the concepts of total control over every facet of a life versus freedom of choice (including ‘freedom to fail’) . . .

does the Calvinist-non Calvinist dichotomy mimic our own perceptions of ‘extreme’ parenting? Have we tried to create an image of God according to the way we comprehend certain types of parenting?

As a non-parent (so far), I can nevertheless speak to this based on observation. Among the families I have known, I’ve seen “Calvinists” who raise their children according to inherited — and inconsistent! — beliefs that the little ones are “innocent” and that Things are the problem if they choose to use them to make sinful choices. This does not fit with the Reformation concept of “total depravity,” that is, inability to honor God in our actions’ motives without His redemption! I have also seen non-”Reformed” families who practice discernment and enjoyment of stories according to a more-Biblical worldview, understanding that sin comes from the heart and our decisions, not from Things. So someone “Calvinist” may act according to the false notion children are not sinful by nature, while non-Calvinists may “get it” better!

One example is from part 1 of this series, Mediating Extremes, in which Jared recounts Christian radio host (and otherwise solid doctrine-wrangler) Todd Friel’s response to a particular fantasy book and film series. Despite his skill in applying Biblical truth in other areas, Friel fell back on inconsistent, arbitrary, and discredited “standards” for discerning stories. In his view, Harry Potter was inevitably sinful, but Pride and Prejudice was fine. By contrast, the discerning Christian will note that not only can we enjoy Harry Potter to God’s glory without personally sinning, but Pride and Prejudice puts two sins front and center in the title! If someone is to follow shallow proof that one Thing is “bad” and another is not, why ignore that title? :-D Of course, I do not mean that Pride and Prejudice is evil, but that the standard is arbitrary. Usually Christians base this “discernment” on personal, subjective feelings and tradition, not Scripture.

I hope that helps aid the discussion. Thanks much for the joy of interacting about it!

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