Theses on Raising Children in the Lord - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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August 14, 2016

Theses on Raising Children in the Lord

1. Neither the best child-rearing methods nor perfect parents can stop a child from rebelling against God. Adam, the son of God (Luke 3:38), spoke with his Father daily, lived in a protected Garden, and knew God’s Word, but chose to sin. If sinless Adam, cared for by his Holy Father, freely went astray, then all Christians must acknowledge that their own children may go astray no matter how carefully we teach them to know and love God.


2. Ever since Adam, no one has had to teach children how to be bad. An innate waywardness and selfishness inherited from Adam infects each child born into this world from a human father and mother. Every child is born in the image of his flawed parents (Genesis 5:3).


3. God expects parents whom He has chosen to be part of His Church to teach their children God’s ways, to do justice and show mercy (Genesis 18:19). They should tell them God’s words daily (Deuteronomy 6:7), and correct them when they go astray (Proverbs).


4. When parents fail to teach or correct their children, God holds them blameworthy for their failure (I Samuel 3:13, I Kings 1:6).


5. Although God does not remove from office parents who do not faithfully correct their children (see above for Eli and David), He does tell churches not to choose elders men whose children are rebellious (Titus 1:6, II Timothy 3:4).


6. Because God has made us living beings with bodies so central to our being that they will one day be resurrected for eternity, we teach our children through physical contact as well as by words and example. Spanking is a legitimate method of correction.


7. Spanking should only be used on a child who has broken a parental rule that he knows he is breaking when he breaks it. Otherwise spanking becomes simply an unpredictable expression of parental exasperation and anger.


8. Rules and expectations of our children should match their age and consequent readiness to learn them.


9. The responsibility for raising children belongs primarily to their parents, but also to their grandparents.


10. The church as a whole, however, also has a duty to teach children in the church. God addresses children directly in His Word read and preached in the church, not just through their fathers and mothers (Ephesians 6:1-3).


11. Civil authorities have a duty to correct children who go badly astray, and their parents should not try to stop authorities from doing so (Deuteronomy 21:18-20).


12. Fathers especially should beware of two faults besides neglect in raising their children: exasperating them (Colossians 3:21), and provoking them to anger (Ephesians 6:4).


13. It requires practical wisdom and knowledge of your own children to avoid exasperating them and provoking them to anger. Playing favorites, demanding more of children than they can do, constantly changing your household rules, or failing to keep your word, even when foolishly given, are some ways of exasperating and provoking children.


14. God commands children to obey father and mother. His family norm includes a father and a mother. Many families, however, do not have both a father and a mother, either through the sin of conceiving and bearing children outside of wedlock, or the sin of divorce, or by the providence of God in the death of a parent. Then the remaining parent, as well as he or she is able to, must fulfill the responsibilities of both father and mother. Those close to such families have a duty to help.


15. God commands children to obey father and mother. Such obedience in the home is the foundation for social order outside of the home, where obedience is owed to other legitimate authorities.


16. God commands children to obey father and mother equally. Children, therefore, should not be allowed to think that the word of either father or mother has more authority than the word of the other.


17. God commands children to obey father and mother. Therefore, father and mother should agree on household rules, which they communicate clearly to their children.


18. God commands children to obey father and mother, but because they have a prior duty to obey God, they must disobey father or mother when told to lie, steal, or commit some other sin.


19. Jesus took infants into His arms and blessed them, and God’s Word addresses children directly in many places and in many ways. Therefore, parents should view their children as morally responsible beings from the earliest age.


20. Because raising children requires practical wisdom in dealing with the endless variety of temperaments and situations, the best source of advice for raising your own children is older parents whose children you respect, not other parents who are failing in the same way that you are failing, and not a book from an “expert” (classic example, Emile, by Rousseau) who may well have failed badly with his own children.


21. Raising children is one of God’s principal means of teaching us how to be like Him, that is, to grow spiritually towards maturity.


22. Raising children includes letting them go when they choose to marry or simply to leave home.


23. In most families, raising children means just that: raising more than one child. As between their children, fathers and mothers should not only resist the temptation to have a favorite child, but also aim at fostering love and respect between their children and a mutual loyalty that will support each throughout life.


24. The frequent sinful attitude of brothers and sisters with each other is rivalry -- for the affections of one or both parents, for success in just about everything, or rivalry even for God’s favor. Because of their frequently intense competition, children may have more influence on the outlooks and ambitions of each other than do their father or mother. Your children are constantly raising each other.


25. Fathers and mothers, therefore, should not ignore, let alone encourage, “normal sibling rivalry.” The rivalry stems from sin, and wise fathers and mothers will oppose it.


26. Fathers and mothers ordinarily give an inheritance to their children, but when fathers and mothers get old and are in need, it is the duty of their children to care for them. That is part of the command to honor father and mother.


27. Fathers and mothers have been raising children for centuries, and in godly and stable families there is much accumulated practical wisdom. For these families, there is little need for “how to” books on childrearing. Books from “experts” who are often applying a particular grand psychological theory often give fathers and mothers bad advice: Benjamin Spock using Freud, many books using behavioral psychology, or recent books trumpeting the new gospel of self esteem. Books using faulty theology will also give bad advice, especially books hinting that if you follow their sage rules your children will reliably turn out the way you wish them to.


28. The accumulated practical “rule of thumb” lessons of the Book of Proverbs and centuries of Christian experience, often best embodied in older believers in your church, are generally a sounder source of advice than how-to-raise-your children books.


29. Arguments over how to school your children are overdone. All children are home schooled or they can’t be schooled anywhere. Raising children is the job of parents, so other parents and the church should let them do that without having to contend with assertive contrary opinions. We will each answer to Christ.


30. Do you wish to see your children and children’s children know and serve the Lord? Then pray for them daily, include them in daily family worship, take them to church each week, express happiness and contentment with your church, and fathers take the lead. Let God’s words of instructions to fathers and mothers and the practical advice of older successful parents guide your practical decisions. And remember your child’s true nature: body and soul made in God’s image now thoroughly marred by sin. If the Lord does not build your house, your labor will be in vain. Ask God for two things for each child: their salvation and marriage to a believer.


31. Make as few rules as possible for the smooth running of your household. Then enforce them predictably and fairly. God only needed Ten Commandments.


32. Give as few direct commands as possible to reduce occasions for confrontation. Beware the spur of the moment command that just pops into your head. Insist that your commands are obeyed.


33. Fathers and mothers tell their children what to do in three different ways: the indicative (We don’t eat peas with our knives), the interrogative (Do we eat peas with our knives?), and the imperative (Don’t eat your peas with your knife.) If you mean the imperative, use it.


34. Some mothers and fathers respond automatically to a child’s request or suggestion with “No,” which is odd for people who pray to our Father in heaven, eagerly hoping for “Yes,” all of the time.


35. Fathers and mothers should make a rule to keep their promises and threats and hence should make it a rule to think before they make a promise or a threat whether they intend to carry it out. However, the rule to keep your word can be overdone: sometimes it is better to say, “Dear child, I am sorry that I made a promise (or threat) so foolish, and it would be wrong to carry it out. Please forgive me for not keeping my word.”


36. When fathers and mothers have wronged one of their children, they should humble themselves and say, “I was wrong. Will you please forgive me?” And when their children make the same request, they should grant forgiveness, even though some correction for a rule broken may still be in order.


Bill Edgar

August 2013


If you want to continue to equip your child for faithful and fruitful service to God and neighbor, you may want to consider sending him or her to a college built upon the foundation of God’s word, such as Geneva College. For more information about Geneva College admissions, go to or call 800-847-8255.