The Exegetical Systematician: Fragmentation

The topic of Christian education may be approached from the angle of an evil of which I fear too few are aware, but one that is the bane of education at all levels. It is the bane of fragmentation. By fragmentation I mean that the pupil is not provided with what imparts a sense of unity, of wholeness, of correlation. This may most properly be called the need for, and aim of, integration. There is ground for suspicion that this directing principle is frequently absent and, therefore, those responsible for education at all levels need to address themselves to this question for self-assessment.

Perhaps the most germane example of the thesis that integration is a paramount concern of education is the place that education occupies in the fostering and development of character. It is not to be questioned that culture, however highly cultivated, has failed of its chief end if it contributes to the promotion of evil rather than that of good. The more highly educated the boy or girl becomes, the more dangerous the education acquired becomes if it is brought into the service of wrongdoing. It is easy to take the position that the fostering and cultivating of good character is not the concern of the school, that this is the function of the home and of the church. Admittedly, the home and the church are basically responsible, and it is also obvious that when the home and the church neglect this culture or are even remiss in imparting it, then the school is faced with a well-nigh impossible task. But it is apparent how devastating to the best influences exerted by the home and church will be the influence of the school if it pretends to be neutral on moral issues, or if the teaching of the school is alien to the ethical principles inculcated by home or church or both. And as it concerns integration, how chaotic for the pupil if opposing ethical norms are fostered in the same school. We know only too well to what depraved human nature inclines.

Underlying the plea for integration and co-ordination in education is the need for a unified world-view, a common conception of reality. If there is basic divergence in reference to world-view there cannot possibly be integration in education. —John Murray, Christian Education

The Exegetical Systematician: The Boom of Splitting the Nuclear Family

The family is the primary social ordinance. When sin wreaks its havoc here, when the sanctities that guard and ennoble family life are desecrated, and when family honor is laid in the dust, then all social order is out of joint and degradation reigns supreme in every realm. —John Murray, The Christian World Order

A Boat that Won’t Float Downstream (Colossians 3:21)

When the New Testament addresses parenting, it is the father who is addressed. There are only two places in the New Testament where parenting is explicitly dealt with.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4 ESV)

“Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” (Colossians 3:21 ESV)

The father is the head. The father is responsible.

Adam’s first sin was that he failed to be responsible. Following on the heels of this, he sinned by failing to take responsibility for his irresponsibility. First, Adam does nothing. He received the charge to keep, to guard and protect the garden. When the snake came. He did nothing.

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:6 ESV)

When Adam did do something, it was just as bad as his doing nothing; he blamed his wife. “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate (Genesis 3:12 ESV).”

When there was sin in the garden, God came calling for Adam. Men, when the fruit of sin is eaten in your home, when the lies of Satan are tolerated in your garden, it’s you God will call for. When a general loses a war, he can’t whine about the soldiers. A good general will bark at the soldiers, but he may not blame them. This isn’t to give a father license to bark, but to show the sissiness of blame shifting.

Responsibility travels upstream. You can’t float the boat of responsibility downstream with a thousand oars. Responsibility always goes up, so you can’t pass the blame down. Fathers, beware of blame shifting in the home, for the only step up from you is the Father. This is what Adam did when he said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me.”

Sacrificial responsibility is something a man can bear only in the Second Adam—the Christ, who though innocent, bore responsibility for our sins.

“Family-friendly”? (Colossians 3:20–21)

20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” —Colossians 3:20–21 (ESV)

A saboteur has not only been largely welcomed into our midst, but afforded a cabinet position. We’ve promoted the spy.

While fleeing Absalom (2 Samuel 15–17), David strategically sent one of his loyal advisors, Hushai the Archite, back into Jerusalem under the guise of a defector, with the purpose to give bad counsel veiled as wisdom. It takes a great deal of cunning to disguise folly as wisdom. Hushai successfully offered what seemed to be superior counsel which proved Absalom’s undoing.

A Hushai is in our midst, but one that is not loyal to God’s King. He isn’t a servant of the Savior, but the serpent. He is just as sly, dressing up folly as wisdom, but to the saint’s destruction. His successful campaign flies under the banner “family-friendly.” A couple of examples should suffice.

We have “family-friendly” programming for TV, so that the children are occupied while dad and mom do their own thing. Rather than being educated in adulthood, adolescence is reinforced, and this is said to be friendly to the family? The commercials are “friendly” as well, catering to the children, developing an addictive appetite for more stuff. We keep the tube playing just so that we won’t be interrupted by pleas of “I want!”

We have the family-friendly church; a safe place to drop off the kids and escape them for a while. We segregate the family in the name of family-friendliness. The family is segregated so each individual can do church in a way attractive to them. And we wonder why once they’ve grown, we have a traditional church, a contemporary church, and others suited to personal taste.

Instead of such safe, sterile, “family-friendly” environments, what our children desperately need is some fresh air. They need some parental supervised and sponsored danger that prepares them for life outside the bubble. Instead, we coddled them into perpetual immaturity.

Like Theoden, a Grima Wormtongue has climbed the ranks, serving as our chief advisor. We are so poisoned by his lies that we cannot see the truth. We believe our sickness to be health. Our only hope is the liberating grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Before this section on parenting and children, Paul first addresses marriage. In both instances, Paul is dealing with life in Christ. Enveloping the family, is the Christ who is sovereign over all, in whom we died and rose to the heights.

It is because Christ is not honored as Lord that children do not honor their parents.

It is because Christ is not honored as Lord that parents are not honorable.

We must repent, destroy these idols of family-friendliness, slay Hushai as a spy, and bow the knee to Christ Jesus.

The Rod of God (Psalm 6)

This past June there was a small bit of heat over a blog post at The Gospel Coalition that argued that we should discipline, not punish our children. Some were quick to quote Hebrews 12:6; “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” What the ESV has as “chastises” the HCSB and NIV have as “punishes.” Chastise and punish are synonyms. Yes, but what does the Greek mean? Well the NASB, KJV, and NKJV get at it pretty well with “scourgeth.”

Am I advocating for scourging? Do the Scriptures? I don’t believe so. When we try to read a sentence’s meaning out of a word, rather than a word’s out of a sentence we’ve got things backwards. I believe there is something to the distinction the author was trying to make, but the problem, the reason I believe the post created more heat than light, was because the distinction was forced into words when it lies within metaphor. Both judges and fathers punish, but they punish differently. Ultimately, judges condemn whereas fathers correct.

In the sixth psalm, David appears fearful that the lines might be blurred between judge and father. David doesn’t plead against discipline, for this would be unwise and mark him as a bastard (Hebrews 12:8). David pleads not to be disciplined in wrath.

The psalm transitions from lament to faith in verse 8 as David warns his enemies that his prayer has been heard. We’re aware of no change of circumstances or prophetic revelation that came to David to assure him of this. What made the transition? The answer isn’t in something outside his prayer, but within it. David pleas with God on the basis of covenant, repeatedly using God’s covenant name, “Yahweh,” as indicated by all caps “LORD” in our English translations. God’s “steadfast love” (v. 4) is His covenant love (cf. Exodus 34:5–7, Deuteronomy 7:9). David knows that because of God’s covenant, wrath is not His lot. Earthly fathers may mix sinful and destructive wrath and anger with their punishment, but not God. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. But, for those who are sons in the Son, there is correction. David here how God as Father breaks to heal. The same God who shatters the nations with a rod of iron, breaks and heals his children with the rod of discipline.

Bad Future Stock because of Poor Present Investments (Exodus 20:12)

This commandment, as Paul says, is the first with promise (Ephesians 6:2). Why is this one, of God’s ten words singled out to receive a promise? First, let’s ask another question, who is this promise for? Those who honor the father and mother, of course, right? Yes, but perhaps like me you’ve always thought of this promise in a personal and individualistic way. Two passages now convince me otherwise.

Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for all time (Deuteronomy 4:40 ESV).

You shall be careful therefore to do as the LORD your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess (Deuteronomy 5:32–32 ESV).

Same promise, but here we clearly understand the promise to refer to the nation as a whole remaining in the promised land. So it is here with the fifth commandment. In Deuteronomy this promise is attached to the whole of God’s law, but first, the fifth command is singled out, and this promise is specifically attached to it, why? Because if children do not obey this command of Yahweh, they won’t obey any, and thus they will be thrust from the land. If children do not learn Yahweh’s commands in the home, they won’t learn them, and thus they, they nation, will be thrust from the land.

The family is foundational for covenant faithfulness. Failure here means covenant failure altogether. Charles Hodge, once president of Princeton Seminary when she was a bulwark of orthodoxy, wrote, “The character of the Church and of the state depends on the character of the family. If religion dies out in the family, it cannot be elsewhere maintained.” The Puritan with mad pastoral skills, Richard Baxter, asserted,

We must have a special eye upon families, to see that they are well ordered, and the duties of each relation performed. The life of religion, and the welfare and glory of both the Church and the State, depend much on family government and duty. If we suffer the neglect of this, we shall undo all. What are we like to do ourselves to the reforming of a congregation, if all the work be cast on us alone; and masters of families neglect that necessary duty of their own, by which they are bound to help us? If any good be begun by the ministry in any soul, a careless, prayerless, worldly family is like to stifle it, or very much hinder it; whereas, if you could but get the rulers of families to do their duty, to take up the work where you left it, and help it on, what abundance of good might be done! I beseech you, therefore, if you desire the reformation and welfare of your people, do all you can to promote family religion.

Many blame the church today for the absences of children and young adults, and there is fault, but indirectly. The church has put extraordinary resources, time, and effort into children and youth, but statistically something like ninety percent leave the church and the faith during college. Why is this? I believe there are a handful of reasons, but one of the leading ones is that the church is putting their time and resources into the wrong place. It wasn’t the failure of Israel’s temple program for tots that spelled disaster for the nation, but the failure of the family. The church should aim at parents, and in particular it should aim at fathers. The church’s failure to children is that she has failed to disciple men.

The flip-side of this command is spelled out in Colossians and Ephesians.

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged (Colossians 3:20–21 ESV).

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.’ Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.(Ephesians 6:1–4 ESV).

Children are to honor. Parents are to be honorable. Father’s are responsible. The discipline and instruction a child is should be under is God’s. Parent such that your child is relating directly with God. Labor to ensure that the honor rendered to you, is honor rendered to God.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise (Deuteronomy 6:4–7).