Monday, September 27, 2010

Unprofitable Home Defense, 4

Continued from "Unprofitable Home Defense, 3"

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (Pro 22:6)

Parents can do everything right, and their kids still turn out wrong. (Host of a Christian talk radio show)

According to people like the above-quoted radio personality, the Christian parent's protection of a child's heart will have no ultimate effect on the child's adult faith, values and attitudes.

I have heard others say essentially the same as the talk show host. This position sometimes provides leverage to parents who enroll their children in the public school system. The clincher is that no one does everything right, so there is no way anyone can hold parents responsible for what the youngsters become when they grow up.

If the parent never bears a responsibility for the final product, then the question of Christian vs. humanist education becomes moot.

So, what do people who use this argument do with Proverbs 22:6. Well, there are two great dump-holes that "conservative" Christians have for Scripture passages that make them uncomfortable. One is the that's-just-a generalization-not-an-absolute-truth dump hole. This disposal method works especially well for verses in Proverbs, but in a pinch, can be pressed into service for passages from other books, as well.

(The other is the that's-just-cultural dump hole. The intent is that if something addresses the culture of the day in which it was written, it's not normative. This method ignores the fact that "Thou shalt not murder; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not steal" along with most of the rest of the Bible speak to culture in a historical context. Those pronouncements are nevertheless normative.)

There are two problems with dismissing Proverbs 22:6 as "just a generalization":
  1. Even if it's just a "general rule" rather than a hard and fast truth, it's still saying that how a child is trained makes a difference -- this should not be ignored:
  2. If this verse is not to be taken as an absolute rule of life, then Genesis 18:19 makes no sense -- why does God Himself declare that how Abraham's children turn out will result precisely from how he trains them? (In spite of the fact that Abraham was a sinful human being, who presumably did not "do everything right".)
My own Reformed theological circles have their own excuse for not assigning full faith and credit to Proverbs 22:6. They will say that how the child turns out is ultimately in God's hands. Your child may or may not be a beneficiary of God's sovereign election, so even if you do everything right, your child may turn out wrong.

I will consider that objection in another post.


The Warrior said...

Good, again. I like the direction you're taking, unexpected, detailed, and good to hear (and not heard enough).

Do you agree with the idea that "when he is old" can mean that the "child" may have a youthful rebellion period and return to the faith afterward?


Gravelbelly said...

No one, apart from the Lord Jesus Himself, ever lived in perfect obedience. Thus, even the best-trained Christian youth will have occasional lapses.

That said, however, I do not believe that the tenor and character of life of one so-reared will be like that of the ungodly. Proverbs 22:6 does not say, ". . . he will come back to it," but rather, ". . . he will not depart from it."

I like the Geneva Bible's comment on this verse:
Bring him up virtuously and he will continue so.

The Warrior said...

Gotcha. Thanks!