In an earlier article I introduced the church’s new Parental Statement of Faith, which is now being used in our parent dedications.
When the Lord blesses a family in our church with a child, there is the expectation that they will raise him or her in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). And the majority of our families make a public declaration to this effect. We call it a “Parent Dedication” rather than a “child dedication” because it is the parents who are committing themselves to raise the child for the Lord. In other words, the parents view their children following Christ as their responsibility.
In keeping with my promise to flesh out this Statement of Faith, I want here to explain something of the theology behind the opening paragraphs.
We hereby acknowledge our responsibility before God, and before this community of faith, to intentionally raise __________ in a culture of Christ-centred commitment, believing that he/she will accompany us to heaven. Motivated by faith in God we endeavour to do the following:
Sadly, this declaration is seen by many in the evangelical church as presumptuous rather than as biblical. But biblical it is. Yes, it is biblical for parents to assume the responsibility for their child to follow Christ. With Joshua, our believing parents want to say with faith-filled hearts, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). In other words, like Joshua, believing parents assume the responsibility to raise children who will serve the Lord which requires that they be saved by the Lord.
The responsibility at the same time recognises that only God can save a soul. Yet parents who submit to Scripture recognise that it is their duty to intentionally direct their children toward Christ. This requires that parents do all that they can to inculcate a culture in their homes with the aroma of Christ. This is precisely what the apostle calls for in Ephesians 6:4. Paul exhorts believing parents to “bring up” their children in the “nurture,” “training,” or “discipline” and the “instruction of the Lord.” Depending on your translation, the word “nurture,” “discipline” or “training” translates the Greek term paideia. In the ancient world, this term described a state of affairs, a worldview or a culture. It meant far more than merely a set of rules of behavioural expectations. Rather, the paideia envisioned a way of life. Therefore, when Paul gave this instruction he was exhorting parents to establish a way of life in the home which was godly—and a key element in the establishment of such a culture was the instruction (admonition) of the Lord. The word for “admonition” or “instruction” (noutheteo) is a term that means “to confront,” and it usually carries the idea of confronting in order to correct, shape or comfort. This is precisely what parenting involves.
To summarise, Paul instructs parents to establish a godly culture in the home through instruction that constantly points children to the Lord. And to do so requires that we be both intentional and believing.
Parents must be persuaded by God’s Word to take God at His Word, believing that He will honour our faith-fuelled labours (see Acts 2:37-39). There is absolutely nothing presumptuous about this.
The statement “believing that he/she will accompany us to heaven” does not come in a vacuum. Rather, it is a conviction held in the context of a commitment to God-centred labours toward this end. In fact, note the second and third paragraphs.
We commit ourselves to believing God’s promises and to behaving like we believe them. We will seek to do so with special focus on His promises to save __________. We will therefore endeavour to live by faith believing that God is pleased to reward those who diligently seek Him. We believe that God is pleased to save __________.
We therefore pledge our allegiance, once again, to fight the good fight of faith as we seek to consistently live under the Lordship of Christ thereby commending Him to __________ as his/her Saviour. We commit ourselves, in the light of the Lordship of Christ, to the sacrifices necessary to give __________ a thoroughly Christ-centred worldview.
These statements are made in faith and, as we well know, faith without works is dead (James 2:26). The parental statement of faith emphasises both the biblical teaching on God’s sovereignty as well as the biblical teaching on human responsibility. There is no place for presumptive laziness when it comes to parenting. In other words, parents labour as if it the outcome is dependent upon them while at the same time their motivation is fuelled by the truth that, in fact, salvation is completely of the Lord (Jonah 2:9).
Informed by such a biblical worldview parents therefore are willing to sacrifice whatever is required to create the paideia of God in their homes. That is, they are committed to whatever efforts and to whatever countercultural approaches to education, are required in order to give their children a thoroughly Christ-centred worldview. After all, the souls of children are so priceless, and the glory of God so matchless, that no cost for the salvation of the former and to honour the latter is too much.
Watch this space for further explanation of BBC’s (radically biblical) Parental Statement of Faith.