The following is an excerpt from the Introduction of my new book, Hearts and Minds: Raising Your Child with a Christian View of the World. The book, co-authored with Dr. Kenneth Boa, is published by Tyndale Publishing and has a foreword by Chuck Colson. John is now taking requests to visit churches to conduct parenting seminars based on this material.
You can now purchase an autographed copy of the book from our online store.
In part 1, we will talk about families as the basic building blocks of society. As families go, so goes society -- not the other way around. Therefore, if something has gone wrong with society, it is precisely because something has gone terribly wrong in our families. If we are ever going to stem the tide of moral decay in our world, we must begin at the family level.
Several factors make this difficult to do. In chapter 1, we'll consider the challenge of parenting in an age of specialization, and we'll make the case that parents must stop outsourcing their children's faith development. During the past couple of generations, the faith development of children has become church-based and home-supported. According to the biblical paradigm, however, it's supposed to be home-based and church-supported.
Parents are often afraid to take ownership of the faith-development process. It can be a daunting task; but with a simple understanding of the typical stages of faith development, parents can devise age-appropriate strategies. In chapter 2, we'll walk through four basic stages of faith development and give some practical examples of the things you can do at each stage to smooth the transitions your child will naturally go through.
One idea in this first section that isn't usually part of parenting discussions -- even of biblical parenting -- is using Jesus as our example. We tend to think that because Jesus did not have children, he doesn't have much to say about how we parent. In chapter 3, we'll look at Jesus' relationship with his disciples to glean some tips for teaching and training our children.
In part 2, we'll begin the heavy lifting. We'll unpack the basics of a Christian worldview in a way that busy dads and even-busier moms can understand. We hope it will help that we are both busy dads ourselves.
In chapter 4, we address the basic questions that a worldview seeks to answer, such as, Who am I? Where am I? How did I get here? Why am I here? What's wrong with me and my world? and, Is there a solution to the problems of this life? We can tell our children what we believe, but the way we live reveals more about our faith than our words ever will. If our lives were congruent with what we say we believe, the whole world would change.
Everything begins and ends with our concept of God. Either he exists or he does not. If he is who he says he is, then he defines reality. If our children are convinced that God exists and that he is not silent, more than half the battle is over. Chapter 5 deals with the importance of giving our children an accurate picture of God.
Once we grasp the fact that God exists and has revealed himself and his will to us, we can begin to piece together some answers to questions about meaning, purpose, and destiny. Chapter 6 presses the premise of God's character to its logical conclusions and shows how God's existence and his revealed will affect the other fundamental life questions.
Part 3 examines what we value as Christians. There is a wrongheaded notion in our society that all ideas are equally valid and that truth is relative. Values are often culturally determined, but some things are more valuable than others. Some values have been held by all (or most) societies throughout history.
The first such value is truth, the subject of chapter 7. Societies have generally attached high value to truth and honesty over error and dishonesty. Truth is the basis for social order. Without truth, there can be no trust, and trust is what cements human relationships. Trust must be given and received.
The second value is goodness. History often divides the good guys from the bad. In old Westerns, it's pretty easy to tell them apart: Good guys wear white hats; bad guys wear black. In real life, no one is completely good or absolutely bad, but societies nevertheless agree that there is a difference between good and bad, right and wrong. In chapter 8, we consider who gets to decide which is which. Without an objective source of truth, good and bad are easily confused.
The final value we examine is beauty. Our cultural biases make it tricky to deal with the concept of beauty, but people throughout time have considered nature to be beautiful. Likewise, people have always regarded destruction as ugly. We believe that nature is beautiful because it is a reflection of God's nature. God is creative. Satan is destructive, and thus destruction manifests our fallenness.
Part 4 deals with our actions. Our children may not care much about what we say, but they are watching what we do. Biblically speaking, certain behaviors and activities validate our faith in God. Without evidence of life change, however, our faith will be shallow and ineffective. It won't be the attractive force that our children need if they are going to grow deep in their relationship with God.
God calls us to make a difference for him in the world. In this section, we'll see how faith prompts us to engage the world, hope sustains us in our engagement, and love is the means by which we engage.
In chapter 10, we consider the life of William Wilberforce, who sparked the beginnings of the worldwide outlawing of human slavery. Wilberforce demonstrated that we can make a difference for social good if we allow God to change our hearts. We must tackle social issues as ambassadors for Christ. Real faith is never relegated to Sundays only. It permeates every part of our lives.
Chapter 11 is about the hope that is necessary for sustaining life. The question is not, do you have hope? but rather, in what are you placing your hope? Martin Luther King, Jr. had the certain hope that he would inherit everlasting life with God, that justice would one day prevail, and that all our questions would be answered. These beliefs sustained his tireless efforts to see God's will accomplished in his generation. Such hope can be ours as well, and we can transfer it to our children by reminding them of great men and women of God.
Chapter 12 is about love, the core of the Christian life. As Christians, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves; to care for marginalized people; to be Good Samaritans; and to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned. Nineteenth-century prison reformer Elizabeth Fry is a great example of someone who carried out these loving acts. Her compassion and compulsion to care for others came from her belief that every person has inherent value and dignity because they are created in God's image. Without that, we have no logical reason to care for others. When we treat people with love, we offer the best argument for the love and goodness of God, and we show our children what it looks like to be an ambassador for him.
Our conclusion suggests that you -- yes, you! -- will be able to pull this whole project off. As we've already said, parenting is difficult, but God has promised to give us the tools and resources we need to pass our faith along to the next generation. With God's help, by using the Bible and relying on the Holy Spirit, Christians can become better parents than they ever thought they could be.