Tuesday, February 10, 2004

As I promised, here is part one of the letter that I wrote to an old associate pastor I knew who teaches that children remain under the authority of their parents until the altar. I will post responses as they come (leaving out the name and personal details of course).

1. If the will of God for the child is follow the will of parents, then it makes no sense for the child to labor in prayer and fasting to determine God's personal will for their life. I mean here that present-and-now will of God, not a life's goal. It is one thing to understand that God wants you to go to such-and-such a land, it is another thing to understand what changes God wants you to make in your present circumstance. It is this latter will of God that I speak of. Either the parent is always correct in their assessment of what God's will is for their child, or else they are sometimes wrong. (I do not imagine that it is always wrong except in the case where the parent is covering their own manipulation with spiritual language- but that is a another problem.) If the parent is always right, then for the child to seek God's will in a matter is a pointless duplication of effort; if the parent is sometimes wrong, then ascertaining God's will is futile since the child is obliged to yield to parent.
Beyond the immediate problem of turning a child away from seeking the Lord is the further problem of inhibiting the growth that would come from such a practice, including a better understanding of how to get hold of God and the natural consequence of faith-building.
It is naive to imagine that a parent would always seek to tandem with their young adult in determining God's will.

2. If the will of God for the child is to follow their parents, then there is no provision made in the case where the parent is using their authority along with spiritual language to get what they want. This is more of an issue than you might wish to believe. It is an epidemic among Christians to confuse their flesh or soul with their Spirit, substituting their own fleshly or emotional desires for the pure will of God. Add in the emotional bond a parent forms with a child and this becomes a very real danger.
Such cloaking of personal desires on the part of the parent is not always conscious and rarely malicious, but in most cases the parent is in denial. These issues can arise from the simple situation in which a mother can't let go, to a more complex situation where the parent(s) are experiencing co-dependency issues. This type of problem is exacerbated when dealing with a single parent who has no spouse to keep their emotional excess in check.
It is obviously a more serious problem when the intent is malicious, although I have not seen this type of situation up close.
The parent who is affected with a dependency disorder or undue emotional attachment of some type can use their veto power to effectively keep the child from ever marrying.

3. If the will of God for the child is to follow their parents, no provision is made for when, through the denial of the innocent parent, non-physical abuse is being experienced by the child. Perhaps the father does drugs and comes home high and, like a typical druggie, has trouble controlling his emotions. Or else perhaps the mother is bringing lewd materials into the house. In such a case, the alert spouse will separate the children from it; but the case which I speak of is when the spouse goes on in denial and stays with the other allowing the children to experience this abuse. And furthermore, in their God-given role, the parent in denial will not allow even the young adult children to leave the home.

4. If the will of God for the child is to follow their parents, no provision is made if the parents are not truly born again and are following false doctrine. Before you answer that your teaching would only apply to born again parents, realize that the definition of born again would be a "football" in such a situation with parent claiming their "God-given right" to teach their children "true" Christianity trumping whatever the child will claim to have learned. If your child decided that works were necessary for salvation, he/she could remove himself under the condition that you, in their eyes, were not truly born again. If you allow such a determination on the part of the child to not be valid in relation to Baptist parents, you may also not let it be valid with parents of other denominations- and vice versa. You have to realize that many a Catholic or Lutheran feel strongly about their faith just as much as you.
The parent in such a case can use their veto power concerning a marriage partner to prevent the child from leaving the home until the child lines up with them doctrinally.

A few questions:

1. Was the prodigal's father right in letting his son go?
2. What would be a situation in which a never-married child would show that his love for Christ would be greater than his love for his parents?
3. If a child is called to be a eunuch, how is that an exception to your teaching?
4. If the young unmarried adult is beholden to the parents then what did Paul mean when he said that the single person is free to serve the Lord?
5. Was Christ the only one qualified to temporarily take exception to his parent's obvious wishes to remain with them on account of attending to His Father's business? If so, why?
6. Does the statement of the Apostle Peter in Acts that it is better to obey God rather than man apply to the never-married child? How and why or why not?
7. Psa 127:3 and I Pet 5:3 tell us two groups of people that are God's heritage. Eph 6:1 and Heb 13:17 call both to obedience. Exo 20:12 and I Tim 5:17 call both to honor. I Jhn 2:19 and Eph 5:31 warn about leaving the relationships of each. I Cor 9:14 and I Tim 5:4 give the leaders of each power to be compensated. How then are the responsibilities of the followers to the leaders in these relationships different?

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