James Davison Hunter appears to be setting the environment to destroy the argument made by culture-warriors like the late Chuck Colson. But in the process (beginning in chapter two) he is explaining the rationale of world-view thinkers and their desire to redeem the culture. Colson argues that there are four ways. The fourth is particularly striking:
Fourth, the church must act as the conscience of society, as a restraint against the misuse of governing authority.
This sums up the case for The Church-Friendly Family, where I argue in my editor’s introduction that unless the biological family joins the mission of the Church as the conscience of a society, the family itself will lose her own conscience and submit to another institution or to no institution at all.
My first dip into the book seems like a good dose of Dutch Calvinism, but from conversation I see a “but” coming in the next few pages.
Grace, Mercy, and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Bible tells us that fathers are providers. What Father would give His Son a stone if the son asked for bread? The answer is a false father. The world is replete with false fathers. The father hunger in our society grows with each passing day. There is a need for godly fathers who know their roles as providers in the home. The false fathers today are not so blunt as to give a stone; rather they give some form of bread; a substitute for the real thing. They provide entertainment without love; goods without grace. They will give their children and wife everything, but true bread. They will give them everything but nurture, love, care, encouragement. But as Paul says, “of you I expect better things.”
Father’s Day has a way of reminding us that bread is bread. We provide for our families, because it is our sacred duty. Children, your responsibility to honor the fifth commandment goes far beyond a mere acknowledgment of the fatherhood of your dad; it goes far beyond a “Yes, Sir or No, Sir” answer, honoring the fifth commandment means observing your father with the intention of becoming like him. Now, for fathers, this means that you will have to become quite familiar with the words “I am sorry and I repent,” so that your children will learn to imitate you, even in how you respond to your sins. Fathers, to give your children bread is to give them of yourselves. Nothing else will cure the father hunger in our culture.
Leithart writes a great piece on the joyful parenting. He concludes:
As we look in hope to the peaceable fruit of righteousness that God says He will bring, the whole of our parenting is suffused with coming joy. Joy is eschatological, but in Christ we have entered into the new creation. Joy comes at the end, but since we are post-Pentecostal parents, we have received the Spirit of the age to come; we see the fullness of joy at a distance, but also know it now. The age to come has dawned, and as we parent in hope and faith its light already beams through our windows and fills our homes.
Grace, Mercy, and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
This church has been blessed with little ones. Over the years, we have had families with many kids. Their little sounds and their joy throughout the service is exactly what we need in this day. The sounds of infants are the sounds of a living church. We need to be reminded that every time we hear the sounds of a little child, these were the ones that Jesus called unto Him. The kingdom is made for them.
We are reminded today of the great responsibilities placed on parents to nurture these little ones. In this day of fatherlessness– and by fatherlessness I do not simply mean homes without a father presence, but I mean homes where fathers are present, but do not act like fathers–fathers have essentially given over their roles as a fundamental part of the training of children to their wives. Their wives are then left with the overwhelming responsibilities of disciplining and nurturing by themselves. But God has called the men in our midst to be an active supporters of this role in the home.
Today, we are grateful for mothers who have taken their roles seriously and have filled in the gaps; single mothers who work hard to see that their children grow up as true worshipers. Mothers are New Eves following the Risen Lord, taking dominion in all areas they are called to attend.
To our children this morning, you are encouraged and compelled by love to kiss and hug your mothers and to call her blessed, not only today, but all your days.
Prayer: Teach us, O Lord to love mothers and may they be blessed in their endeavors and may they seek your face and your grace to live faithfully to their calling.
My uncle is a leader in the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARB) in Northeaster Brazil. Some years ago he published a book on the history of the GARB from 1950-2000. When I visited Brazil 3 years ago, he gave me a copy of that book.
This morning I spent about two hours looking through several boxes of books that are still in the garage, because of the lack of space in my office. During my search I came across my uncle’s book, only to find a picture of my late father I have never seen. My father was also a leader in the GARB movement in the 80’s. Perusing through some of the pictures of graduates, I came across this picture of my young father’s seminary graduation in 1976. My dad is the one on the bottom right; the late Rev. Severino Tenorio.
In chapter one of On Becoming Baby Wise, Gary Ezzo stresses that a baby needs a family. This does not mean that families ought to give up their lives and well-being so that the babies may be the controlling force in the home, but rather that the babies become part of the family, and are accepted as a new addition to a family that already exists.
The relationship between husband and wife must remain stable at all times, particularly in the early stages of the infant. The baby notices when their parents do not love one another or when there is conflict. This in turn leads to confusion and fear for the infant. Hence, a healthy marriage is the first step towards proper parenting.
The reality is that child-rearing begins at birth and as such, babies ought to be trained in their earliest age to follow a routine that is conducive to a joyful family life. When the child becomes the center of all family activity, then the child develops from her earliest age a sense of entitlement, which is so prevalent in our own culture. Some parents “instead of building their children into a self-assured adult… are fostering the emotionally crippling attitude of me-ism (23).”
Though every covenant child is created in the image of God, this does not mean that they will easily develop biblical character. The fruit of the Spirit is something that parents must work very hard at instilling to their little ones. In other words, “parents must train these attributes into the heart of their child (24).” A significant part of this process begins by clearly defining roles in the home. Children are to submit to their parents, entailing that there is an explicit authority structure that must not be broken. In the United States some parents work hard at breaking that structure thinking that they are actually accomplishing something positive in their relationship with their children. They work hard to establish a buddy status with their little ones. Loneliness often leads parents to “elevate children to the level of peers (25).” This automatically shakes the authority structure and instead of children honoring their parents, they will begin to treat them as they would a brother or sister.
The idea that the entrance of children into the family is to be the only focus of the family is a dangerous concept. Unfortunately, due to societal pressures, parents cave in and make idols of their children, not realizing that the marital relationship is fundamental to the success of any structure. The answer is that husbands are to protect their marriages. It is a “safeguard against child-centered parenting. (27).”
Their debate a few nights ago demonstrates what the Van Tillian tradition of apologetics has so long proved: ideas have consequences. Presuppositions and notions about hermeneutics affect the beginning statement and closing statements of a debate. Interestingly, the debate ended just as it began: the nature of the covenant. White argued persistently that the New Covenant provided only blessings–since it was only for the elect; while Strawbridge’s commitment to covenantal thinking and continuation led him to conclude that the New Covenant is not different from the Old with regards to recipients and structure, but only in regards to efficacy and eschatological intervention through Christ.
Though presuppositions determine all things, I would like to affirm that Strawbridge’s presuppositions is more consistent and faithful to the Biblical text. I do not make that statement simply because of my predisposition towards paedobaptism. I should note that when Sproul debated John McArthur many years ago, he (Sproul) suffered greatly to present a coherent covenantal model, and thus failing to persuade us why Credo-Baptism was erroneous. Nevertheless, however one may think of these types of ideas/exchanges, my conclusion is that White failed to give credence to a fundamental Biblical component of hermeneutics–that is, Biblical typology. In Biblical typology, the author connects ideas, which at first seem invisible. Indeed, this is the duty of the exegete: to bring together God’s revelation into one coherent message.
James White’s main point of contention in every discussion on baptism is that his Presbyterian brothers just did not separate themselves enough from Catholicism in the 16th century, and if Calvin would just have seen a little more light we would all be Credo-Baptists today. White threw out the “T” word to let everyone know that “Tradition” is the worst of all evils and he (White) has no heritage, no tradition influencing his interpretive scheme. White, however, appears unaware of just how much his tradition affects him. For instance, Strawbridge argues rightly that Hebrews establishes that the New Covenant includes believers and unbelievers. As an excellent reference he quotes Hebrews 10:29-30 which reads:
How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.”
According to verse 29, “one” and “he” are two different people. Here is where White’s tradition enters the game. White argues, following John Owen (a historical figure; a respected man in White’s tradition) that the “he” in verse 29 refers to Christ and not to an individual. Grammatically however, notice that in verse 30 it is God’s people that is in mind in verse 29, not Christ. The text says that the Lord will judge “his” people. White never mentioned verse 30, which in my estimation confirms Strawbridge’s assertion about verse 29. If White would only abandon his tradition, he would see the simplicity of the text. In the end, the New Covenant maintains the structure of the Old Covenant, that is, a covenant made with believers and unbelievers. The radical change that White argues is non-existent. Once again, let us place the “radical” where radical belongs: in the person of Christ; that is what is radical about the New Covenant.
Strawbridge’s greatest strength is his ability to tie together New Covenantal language with its intended Old Covenant background. Reformed exegetes understand that New Testament writers did not write unaware of their Jewish context. They were not robots, rather their personalities and backgrounds played a deep role in writing what would become our New Testament canon. Their knowledge of Old Covenant language was always influencing their writing. This is the conspicuous reason there are so many Old Testament quotations in the New; there was an unspoken reliance on the Old Covenant canon because the Old Covenant was part of their identity as New Covenant writers.
White, on the other hand, unaware– or better yet,– unwilling to ever engage in this form of argumentation, lost sight of Gregg’s main point: the Children of Christian parents belong to the Lord because this was God’s purpose from the beginning. Of such is the kingdom of heaven; to such belong the kingdom. This is Biblical pattern–not merely a temporary pattern,– but one that would continue to all generations before and after Messiah would come.
Many in the Southern Presbyterian tradition deny that infants born in covenant homes are to be welcomed in the full life of the church. In fact, some even assume that they are not to receive any covenant privileges until they have reached an age where articulation of one’s faith is possible. This position seems to be a prevalent reaction to the high sacramental theology of various traditions. Unfortunately, this has led to the denial of the God-granted role for covenant children in the church. Infants are heirs of the promise simply because God in His free grace displays His holy affections to the family. As Bullinger writes:
…we consider children of parents to be children and indeed heirs even though they, in their early years, do not know that they are either children or heirs of their parents.
Baptized infants are the proper recipients of grace and are commanded to live in light of his/her covenantal commitment. To live in light of his baptism entails a sacred commitment to piety and holy living. If one is enlightened (baptized) and deny the work of grace, he is then in the same condemnatory status as Judas. Bullinger captures this idea:
They are, however, disowned if, after they have reached the age of reason, they neglect the commands of their parents.
So then, it is not a trust in the sacrament, but a life lived in light of the sacrament that grants assurance. The Jews thought they were secure because of their birth into the covenant family, but they did not live in light of that status, and thus, suffered the curses. The covenant Lord has entered into covenant with all baptized children, and infants are to grow in that covenant; repenting and believing that God’s grace is sufficient.
 In the case of Baptist ecclesiology, infants are not even worth y recipients of the covenantal sign of baptism. Hence, there is a legitimate distinction between Southern Presbyterians and Baptists. Though both affirm that children do not receive any saving grace until they make a profession, Paedobaptists apply the sign of the covenant in faith that God will keep His promise.
According to ABC News, Senator and presidential hopeful Barack Obama told Planned Parenthood Tuesday that sex education for kindergarteners, as long as it is “age-appropriate,” is “the right thing to do.”
Plan Parenthood’s founder Margaret Sanger once wrote: “More children to the fit, less to the unfit: that is the chief issue of birth control.” Obama has supported Sanger’s dream for many years and his recent request for sex education is only a sure sign of greater support in the future. I realize he is not endorsing sex videos for toddlers, nevertheless, by affirming such, he is condoning, or at least, encouraging the idea that pre-marital sex is to be expected. Speaking of his own family he writes:
I honor and respect young people who choose to delay sexual activity,” Obama continued. “I’ve got two daughters, and I want them to understand that sex is not something casual.
Notice carefully that he does not condemn sexual interaction for young people, rather he states that he respects their opinion if they choose to wait until marriage.1 He further notes that his own daughters will be taught that sex is not something casual. By casual, I assume he means it is not to be taken lightly. But if sex is practiced outside its intended meaning, then it has become casual and it has turned its intended meaning upside down.
The travesty of such an approach is that for these candidates children will not be able to live healthy and robust lives before their Creator. They will wonder from their early days about sexual experimentation, which may consequently lead to early sex and possible pregnancy for many. It is true that curiosity leads to practice.
One reader commented that of all the things that could be taught to children, sex education is the most foolish. If Obama believes this will decrease pregnancy rates then he is blind. Children are to be taught by their parents, not by any public educators about the morality or immorality of sex.
What must be done?
a) What Obama misses entirely (this is expected in light of his pagan worldview) is that the indoctrination of children begins in the home, not at school. Hence, his reasoning, whatever it may be2 is bound to failure.
c) Parents aware of the immense immorality of public education are compelled to share with other parents (Christians or not) according to I Corinthians 16:14 in a spirit of love. Unbelieving parents may dismiss your concerns outright, nevertheless, it is a worthy cause to instruct them on the harm this will cause on their children.
d) Though unbelieving parents may reject your presuppositions as Christians, there are other ways of making your point clear than through Biblical data.4 John Stossel’s series: “Stupid in America” may serve as an excellent introduction to the uninformed parent.
Certainly, the Biblical data compels us to instruct others and frames our thinking as Biblical Christians, nevertheless, the methods used may vary. Gary North once said that if you would like to see liberals fear, remove your children from public education [↩ back]