John Calvin on the Benefits of Baptizing Infants

John Calvin 5
Here is the closing paragraph of Calvin’s defense of infant baptism. (I split it into two paragraphs for easier reading.)  I love these two paragraphs. They breathe pastoral warmth and gratitude to God. They bring us to the objective grace of God shown to us in adopting our children via baptism. They glorify God as our Heavenly Father. Here also we see a theme which runs through Calvin’s writings: Seeing our Father’s kindness and grace leads to thankfulness which then leads to practical holiness/obedience. Therefore to obscure God’s grace inevitably leads to ingratitude which will lead to either legalism (man’s laws obeyed in the flesh) or antinomianism (rejection of obedience all together). The fire which burns underneath all our obedience is gratitude to God for his grace.  The fuel which burns in us to teach our children about God and his ways is the kindness our Father has shown by bringing them into the church.

Now I think no sober person will be in doubt how rashly they stir up Christ’s church with their altercations and contentions over infant baptism. But it behooves us to note what Satan is attempting with this great subtlety of his. He is trying to take away from us the singular fruit of assurance and spiritual joy which is to be gathered from it, and also to diminish somewhat the glory of the divine goodness. For how sweet it is to godly minds to be assured, not only by word, but by sight, that they obtain so much favor with the Heavenly Father that their offspring are within his care? For here we can see how he takes on toward us the role of a most provident Father, who even after our death maintains his care for us, providing for and looking after our children. Should we not, following David’s example, rejoice with all our heart in thanksgiving, that his name may be hallowed by such an example of his goodness [Psalm 48:10]?

It is precisely this which Satan is attempting in assailing infant baptism with such an army: that, once this testimony of God’s grace is taken away from us, the promise which, through it, is put before our eyes may vanish little by little. From this would grow up not only impious ungratefulness toward God’s mercy but a certain negligence about instructing our children in piety.  For when we consider that immediately from birth God takes and acknowledges them as his children, we feel a strong stimulus to instruct them in an earnest fear of God and observance of the law. Accordingly, unless we wish spitefully to obscure God’s goodness, let us offer our infants to him for he gives them a place among those of his family and household, that is, the members of the church.

A Parent Centered Home

All About Me 1

A parent centered home is just as much an abomination to the Lord as a child centered home. The difference is that in a child-centered home the world sees tantrums at Wal-Mart and the little girl tell her mommy, “Get me that ice cream. Now!” But in a parent centered home the children are often well-behaved. They will not throw tantrums, at least publicly. They will work hard. They will obey. But for all the wrong reasons. The parents are what the home revolves around. Too many parents discipline and train their children from selfish motives. Why does the parent train the child? Because the parent wants an easier life. The goal is not spreading God’s Kingdom. The goal is not service to others. The goal is not the good of the child. The goal is making the parent look good, making sure the parents aren’t embarrassed, and making sure things are easy for the parents. There is a word for this: selfishness.

But you will say, “Isn’t the problem in our world out of control children?” Yes…in the world. However, in conservative churches the problem is usually not out of control children. The problem is parents who discipline from selfish motives. And the motives matter. The “why” is important. It is easy to assume that if our children are well-behaved we are fine parents. That is a deadly assumption and the mother of a plastic surgery Christianity, where we try to look one way, but the reality is something different. Many Christian parents cover their own selfish motives for parenting with Bible verses and pious sounding phrases. But the child knows.

A child should grow up knowing what the parent does, their discipline, their training, teaching them chores,  making them do their homework, making them sit still worship, and playing with them is done for the Lord and for the child and not for the parent’s ease and comfort. The child should know and see that the parent is sacrificing for them. The parents should be pouring themselves out for their children. By this I do not mean, spoiling them with things, though a parent should be a thoughtful and generous gift giver. But all the little acts that cost. The time spent talking and training them. The time to bath them and teach them manners. Letting them play in the mud despite the extra laundry.  Taking them to the store with you despite the extra time it takes. Reading that book again and again. Watching a movie the teenagers want to watch instead of what you want to. Taking the five year old fishing even though you will spend more time untangling lines than fishing. Teaching them chores not so you can be more productive, but so the child will grow and mature. In all these works, the parent should be sacrificing for the child. The parent should not be manipulating the child so the parent’s life will be easier.

Also the parent should not sacrifice not so the child will sacrifice for the parent. A parent who says or thinks, “I did this for you, now you do this for me” does not understand grace. No. The parent should sacrifice for the child because it is the right thing to do before the Lord in the hopes that the child will come to understand God’s kindness and go out and sacrifice for others. The goal cannot be the parent’s ease, comfort, reputation, or glory.

Does this sound harsh and offensive? Only to those who think much of themselves and little of their sin. Parents, we fail at this daily. Often what we do for our children is not driven by love but by selfishness. There is good news though and yes it is Jesus. Christ came because we are failures. He came to forgive. If you are a parent and not daily confessing your heart sins there is a problem. He is faithful. He can cleanse us. But he also came to give us victory over our sins, not just forgiveness. So confess that you are too selfish with your children. Thank Jesus for his shed blood. Get up off your knees forgiven by God. Then go out and start teaching and training your children, not for your sake, but for theirs. Not to protect your reputation, but to protect their souls. Learn to ask what is best for the child and not what is easiest  for you. Pour yourself out with little thought to what you might gain. “But that is so hard and painful,” you say. Yes dying is.

Dangers of First Time Obedience

Parent Discipline 1

I learned many years ago that parents should teach their children to obey the first time. When mom says, “Son, please close the door” he should close the door without question or back talk. Though it is hard to do and as parents we fail at it often, it is the right goal. Young children should learn to obey the voice of their parents without question. Teaching our children to do this is kindness. But it comes with its own set of dangers.

When I first tried to train my children this way my assumption was that the child was the problem. They need to obey immediately because they are sinners and need to be brought into submission to the parent. Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. But this left out an important part the equation: my sin. Too often when teaching on parenting the teacher will assume that the only sin the parent can commit is failing to discipline and train their child. That is a sin, no doubt. But it is not the only sin. And if we assume that it is we will run into serious trouble.  Continue reading

Charles Hodge on Education

Last week the local newspaper here in Morgantown, The Dominion Post, wrote an editorial disparaging a new homeschooling law, which gives homeschoolers more freedom in their educational choices. I plan on responding to the article as well as writing several blog posts explaining why Christians must give their children a Christian education. In the meantime, here is a blog post I wrote in December 2012 which should help prime the pump. The initial quote is from Charles Hodge’s commentary on Ephesians. Hodge was a professor at Princeton in 1800’s, when it was still Christian. He was of the great American reformed men in 1800’s. 

“This whole process of education is to be religious, and not only religious, but Christian. It is the nurture and admonition of the Lord which is the appointed and the only effectual means of attaining the end of education. Where this means is neglected or any other substituted in its place, the result must be disastrous failure. The moral and religious element of our nature is just as essential and as universal as the intellectual. Religion, therefore, is as necessary to the development of the mind as knowledge. And as Christianity is the only true religion, and God in Christ the only true God, the only possible means of profitable education is the nurture and admonition of the Lord. That is, the whole process of instruction and discipline must be that which he prescribes and which he administers, so that his authority should be brought in constant and immediate contact with mind, heart and conscience of the child.  It will not do for the parent to present himself as the ultimate end, the source of knowledge and possessor of authority to determine truth and duty. This would be to give his child a mere human development. Nor will it do for him to urge and communicate every thing on the abstract ground of reason; for that would be to merge his child in nature. It is only by making God, God in Christ, the teacher and ruler, on whose authority every thing it so be believed, and in obedience to whose will every thing is to be done, that the ends of education can possibly be attained. It is infinite folly in men to assume to be wiser than God, or to attempt to accomplish an end by other means than those which he has appointed.” (Charles Hodge on in his commentary on Ephesians 6:4)

Hodge makes some excellent points in this paragraph, a couple of which I would like to draw you attention to.
First, education must include the will and the moral character if it is to be called education at all.  I would add that education will be religious and moral in nature. The only question is will the religion be explicit or hidden. Public schools train our children to worship and form their moral character all the while claiming that they are morally neutral.
Second, God, since he is the only God, is the only right source of education. To try to gain a proper moral formation apart from God is like doing heart surgery with a butter knife. 
Third, notice how Hodge says that the child’s heart, mind, and conscience must be brought into constant and immediate contact with God’s authority. This is a paraphrase of Deuteronomy 6:7. And here is why an education that excludes the Lord is a lie and is no education at all. God really does rule the world through His Son Jesus Christ and we really are to trust in Him and obey him and his Word really is the foundation for everything. To eliminate God’s authority from education is to eliminate the primary lesson that is to be learned.
Fourth, God is to set the curriculum. That curriculum is to make our children like their Savior Jesus. That does not eliminate math or science or literature. But it does eliminate math or science or literature without Jesus.  This also means that returning some vague, amorphous “god” to public education is not sufficient.  It must be “God in Christ.” This also means the goal of an education is not to pass a test, get a job, get to college or make a lot of money. 
Fifth, any attempt to educate our children any other way is infinite folly and is a guaranteed disaster. We cannot eliminate the Creator and the Savior from our education and not also ultimately eliminate wisdom and joy and beauty and truth and righteousness. 

Similar Posts
C.S. Lewis on Education
A Plea to Flee Public Schools

No, It Really Isn’t That Hard

In a recent article in the Huffington Post, Wendy Davis, a Democratic politician from Texas who tried to become governor said this:

She is angry about the threat of Planned Parenthood being defunded. She thinks abortion is great. She thinks it is unfair for women to have carry children to term. 
Several thoughts went through my mind as I read this. First, the use of “literally” is like, totally, lame. 
Second, no one is forcing women into being child bearing vessels. They are born that way.  God made women to bear children. They do not enter this world with no reproductive organs and then some scientist inserts a womb. They enter this world with wombs and breasts, which are for carrying, giving birth to, and feeding children. 
Third, very few women are forced to bear children. The only exception would be a pregnant rape victim. All other women know that having sex can lead to children and they chose to do it anyway. If they don’t want children then they shouldn’t have sex. Typically we see in this statement by Ms. Davis the divorcing of sex from procreation. She wants to chant, “Make love, not children.” The world doesn’t work that way. 
Finally, is it really that hard to feed and educate a bunch of children? Raising children is hard work. But feeding them and educating them is not the most difficult part. In fact, I have never had a problem feeding or educating my children. One year I made less than thirteen thousand dollars and my children (at that time I had four) were still fed, clothed, and educated. Currently, I have nine children. My wife has not worked for money in many years. I am a pastor. In other words, I am not rich, have a lot of children, and my wife does not work. You might think I would struggle to make ends meet. But that is not the case. We feed our children just fine without using government money.  We home school our children and they regularly score above the national average on tests. In other words, I pay for my kids school and I pay for someone else’s kids school. My church is kind to me, but I know that even with nine children I could feed and educate them on a lot less than what I currently make. 
Everyone does not have to do it my way, though I think you should avoid the schools of Molech. And I know there are hard cases where it is difficult to pay the bills. But most people by hard work, careful use of resources, sacrifice, and a refusal to buy everything being sold by the advertisers can feed and educate their children, even when they have a lot of them. It is getting harder to make ends meet. But that is because of all the taxes being taken from the people to fund overseas wars, public school, welfare, and Planned Parenthood. We can feed and educate our children as long the Republicans and Democrats will let us keep our money.  So the answer is not more government programs or abortion. The answer is lower taxes, hard work, and lots of little feet. 

Parents as Idol Worshippers

This is a post from 2012 that I thought was worth reposting.

Paul Tripp in his excellent book  Age of Opportunity lists several idols that parents have.  He notes that these idols often keep them from effectively parenting their teens. Here is the list of idols with a brief explanation from Mr. Tripp.

Idol 1: Comfort
“Secretly in our hearts, many of us want life to be a resort. A resort is a place where you are the one who is served…I am afraid that many of us live for comfort and bring this entitlement mentality to our parenting…Scripture warns us that life is far from being a resort. Life is war.”

Idol 2: Respect
“Is respect a good thing? Of course! Is it something that parents should seek to instill in their children? Yes! But it must not be the thing that controls my heart or I will personalize what is not personal, I will lose sight of my role as God’s representative, and I will fight and demand what only God can produce.”

Idol 3: Appreciation
“Children should appreciate their parents. Yet being appreciated cannot be our goal.  When it becomes the thing we live for, we will unwittingly look with hyper-vigilant eyes for appreciation in every situation…If parents have forgotten their own vertical relationship with God as they’ve ministered to their teens, if they think of it all as an ‘I serve, you appreciate’ contract between parent and child, they will struggle with lots of discouragement and anger during the teen years.”

Idol 4: Success
“We tend to approach parenting with a sense of ownership, that these are our children and their obedience is our right…We begin to need them to be what they should be so that we can feel a sense of achievement and success.  We begin to look at our children as our trophies rather than God’s creatures…When they fail to live to our expectations, we find ourselves not grieving for them and fighting with them, but angry at them, fighting against them, and, in fact, grieving for ourselves and our loss.”

Idol 5: Control
“The goal of parenting is not to retain tight-fisted control over our children in an attempt to guarantee their safety and our sanity. Only God is able to exercise that kind of control.  The goal is to be used of him to instill in our children an ever-maturing self-control through the principles of the Word and to allow them to exercise ever-widening circles of choice, control, and independence.”