Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it,” is the base verse for this study and one of the great commands of Scripture directed to parents. But is there anything more challenging or rewarding than this responsibility and privilege? Training children in the way they should go has always been a huge and vital task in every generation because of all that is involved in the process of nurturing children, but has there ever been a time when the challenge was greater than it is today? A child’s development and perspective about life is of course a product of the training process. It is here that children will develop their ideas about God, man, themselves (personal significance, source of security, purpose in life), and about society and its world viewpoint. But the more a society moves away from the truth of Scripture and its values, priorities, and beliefs, the more difficult the task of child training becomes. This is partly because of the negative influences and the centrifugal pulls on the child, but also because parents too often begin to think and act like their society. They take up its belief structures and live according to the values and priorities of society. The impact this has on the thinking and behavior of the children is tremendous and just a casual look at our world today tells the story. What a society believes will always determine how it lives. There is a flow to culture, and the river of this flow is always found in the head waters of the thoughts of people. As the late Francis Schaeffer pointed out:
People have presuppositions, and they will live more consistently on the basis of these presuppositions than even they themselves may realize. By presuppositions we mean the basic way an individual looks at life, his basic world view, the grid through which he sees the world. Presuppositions rest upon that which a person considers to be the truth of what exists. People’s presuppositions lay a grid for all they bring forth into the external world. Their presuppositions also provide the basis for their values and therefore the basis for their decisions.
“As a man thinketh, so is he,” is really most profound. An individual is not just the product of the forces around him. He has a mind, an inner world. Then, having thought, a person can bring forth actions into the external world and thus influence it.1
Our presuppositions, which determine our worldview, are usually picked up from the family. But there are many evil forces at work to influence the worldview of the family (parent and child alike) to turn it away from God’s truth as it is developed for us in the pages of the Word of God.
I recently saw a classic illustration of this. While preparing supper, we often watch the news or a well-known talk show, which, of course, provides daily illustrations of our society’s warped and very unbiblical viewpoint. The subject of the show this particular day was child discipline, so I was particularly interested in what would be said. The guest had a Ph.D. in child development (this is supposed to make the person an authority) and, of course, most of his views contradicted the Bible. The emphasis was that physical discipline of any kind was an act of violence and thus ineffective. And I would agree, as does the Bible, that physical discipline can be an act of violence and abusive to a child physically and emotionally. But this is not the kind of physical discipline taught in the Bible. On the program were a group of mothers who spanked their children, but what I thought was particularly telling was the comment of one of the mothers and the reaction of the host. In the face of the pressure of the so-called authority and the peer pressure of this very popular show host the mother boldly pointed out that she intended to use spanking as a form of discipline because the Bible taught her to do so. The host quickly retorted that the Bible was not always right, it taught slavery and slavery was clearly wrong too!
What was going on here? This was an illustration of the daily kinds of influences of this society that contradict the authority of the Bible. Man’s viewpoint is elevated above the Scripture, which, in this case was flatly denied and ridiculed. This popular talk show is viewed all over this country, but it is only one incident and by no means the exception. Rather, it is the rule in almost every realm (politically, educationally, in the media, in Hollywood, etc.). Sadly, even a large portion of the church has opted for the viewpoint of man rather than that of the Bible. The Apostle Paul warned us against the problem of being conformed by the world (by its views, belief structures and values), rather than being transformed by the renewing of our minds in God’s Holy Word (Rom. 12:2).
Where do Christian parents go when they want information on child training? In my experience, I have found that very often they run down to the Christian bookstore for a book on child training. Unfortunately, the chances are what they get is very little Scripture and a lot of pop-psychology—man’s viewpoint elevated above Scripture. It seems that parents no longer turn to the Bible first and study it carefully and prayerfully. Many parents are ignorant of how much God has to say on this subject, or they ignore it, or simply reject it as old fashion and outdated.
But think for a moment about the moral conditions of our society today—the crime, the drugs, the abuse and violence in families (abuse of wives, children, and yes, even of husbands), the pornography, the anti-authority mentality, the fraud and deception and lack of integrity and scandals even among the leaders of our nation, and on the list goes. But just thirty years ago, while there was crime, drugs, abuse, etc., conditions then and the years prior were tame and minor by comparison to the present.
What has created the differences and the decline that we see today? Well, obviously, there are many factors, but the primary factor is the way this nation has turned away from its biblical moorings. In the early sixties prayer was taken out of the schools. Then it was determined it was unlawful to have a copy of the Ten Commandments displayed in our schools. And abortion was made legal. But equally important—the family unit was more intact. Parents exercised common sense and lived by biblical principles of child training because that was what was modeled when they grew up. They believed in it even if they had not studied these things out from Scripture for themselves.
Today, however, our society calls that approach outmoded; we say the Bible is wrong and our way is better. This viewpoint that rejects the Bible has its source in secular humanism. Secular humanism is autonomous (its source is in man’s reason), idolatrous (man worshipping his own creations), and secular (man, who is nothing more than an evolved animal, doesn’t need God). However, Scripture teaches us that when man does this, God turns that society over to its own futile speculations (human viewpoint). This always results in a spiritual and moral breakdown (Rom. 1:18-32). An important question which our society needs to ask is simply has our elevation of man’s ways above God’s made life better? The evidence speaks for itself. Romans 1:21 describes man’s way through his reasoning or speculations as “futile.” This Greek word translated “futile” (mataiow) refers to what is ultimately useless or has no useful result; it is without the capacity to deliver what is promised.
Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (NIV). Daily we are seeing the end result of the humanistic way our nation has chosen that seems so right to our society—moral breakdown throughout society, especially in the family. Proverbs 29:18 reads, “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law” (NIV). Having rejected the Bible, God’s inspired revelation, as our true authority, we have cast off one biblical restraint after another. These are not restraints designed to harm and hinder, but to bless and allow man to be and do that for which he was created. A train provides a good illustration in that it is only able to fulfill its purpose as long as it stays on the tracks.
Child training is always a huge undertaking, but in view of the influences and powers at work in our world today, it has become a colossal task. It is not one that is impossible, however, because we have an all powerful and awesome God who has not only revealed Himself to us in Scripture and in the person of Christ, the Son of God, but He has given us special promises and directives for training and nurturing our children. The question is simply, “Will we follow them?”
In view of the climate of our society, some of the things discussed in this lesson will contradict current trends in child training and child psychology. With the condition of our society, that’s to be expected. Regardless, believing the Bible to God breathed, the material presented in this study is based on an exposition of key passages of Scripture that detail for us what God has said about raising and training our children. Those who have no faith in the Scripture will generally reject this for “the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Cor. 2:14). Though I have sought to base all that is said here on Scripture, believing it to be God’s inspired revelation to us, I am sure some Christians will disagree with the position presented here at least in some areas. Whether this is a result of the influence of our society on their thinking or because I have not handled the text properly, is up to the individual to judge based on the evidence presented (see Acts 17:11). Regardless, my goal is to help families by sharing what the Bible teaches. In view of this, may I suggest three qualities that are needed here as in any study of God’s Word:
(1) Teachableness. We all come to parenting, as in everything else in life, with preconceived ideas and we are often reluctant to give up our own notions. God desires to teach us His truth, “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, Who leads you in the way you should go’” (Isa. 48:17). Our need, then, is to be like the Psalmist who prayed, “Deal with Your servant according to Your lovingkindness, And teach me Your statutes” (Ps. 119:124).
(2) Studiousness. Another need is the need to studiously search the Scripture. Scripture has a lot to say about the home and parenting. The question is will we let Him build our house (our home) by searching His Word? May we be like the Bereans (Acts 17:11) and search the Scriptures for what it teaches and then to be open to its truth for “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
(3) Cautiousness. If the home is God’s laboratory for building character in our children’s lives, indeed, the place where life makes up its mind, and if the home is the foundation to society, and both of these things are true, then we can be sure that Satan is going to do all he can to undermine the home. We need, then, to be alert to his methods and schemes. A couple of passages come to mind. We need to know God’s truth and to be cautious that “. . . we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14). Then in Colossians Paul wrote, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”