Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Fathers Are Critical

Great Hope, Huge Responsibilities

The Covenant of Grace is the engine block of redemption: it is the spiritual structure which effects redemption and the salvation of the world.  God deals with us and relates to us within the terms and structures of the covenants He made with Noah, Abraham, Moses and Israel, David and so on--all of which were precursors of, or preludes to, the one Covenant--the Covenant made in the Blood and Body of Christ.

Central to that Covenant is the dynamic of children inheriting the promises and faith of their believing, covenant-keeping fathers.  The Covenant is thus a covenant with us and with our descendants.  This, in turn, is founded upon the promise of God: "I will be a God to you, and to your children after you."  (Genesis 17:7)  For our part, our duty is to respond in faith to these promises, and act in accordance with them.  Thus, we raise our children not to be "little deciders for Jesus" but we command them to believe, obey, and walk in the commandments of their God.  Thus, God says of Abraham, our father:  "For I have chosen him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice; in order that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him." (Genesis 17: 19)  Faithful, covenant keeping fathers no more allow their children a choice as to whether they would believe and follow the Lord than they would allow their children to choose whether they would cross a busy street with their eyes shut.  Both lead to death. 

Commanding one's children and household to keep the ways of the Lord is a duty placed upon every husband and father--the God appointed head of the household.  As that duty towards children is carried out, and as indeed, children are taught and trained to walk after the Lord and keep His Covenant, so the Lord brings about His promises.  And the promise is that Abraham (and his descendants) will become great and that all the nations of the earth will be blessed in him (Genesis 17:18).

Right at this point you have a distinction in the Church of our Lord.  There are many, many fellow believers who have not yet heard, nor reckoned with this reality.  For one reason or another they have not heard of the Covenant of Grace as the engine block of their salvation, nor reckoned with the fact that they have inherited the promises made to Abraham and are, in fact, children of Abraham (Galatians 3:29).  Sadly, they have not yet understood that God has made promises to them and their children; consequently they do not understand that they must command their children to walk in all the ways of the Lord.  To these brethren, the Great Commission begins afresh and again with each generation.  There can be no progress of redemption upon the earth. Everything goes back to "Go" with each new generation.  They sadly believe that each child born to Christian parents is not in any way differently related to God than an infant born in an unbelieving house of idolatry that has never heard the Gospel.  Both alike are children captive to the Devil. 

The Covenant of Grace, together with its intergenerational promise from God, to both fathers and their children, makes the task of discipling all the nations of the earth not only possible, but inevitable.  Thus, it is vitally important that every Christian household comes to understand the promises that God has made to us about our children, and the consequent required obedience that rests upon us, the parents, to command our children to walk in the ways of the Lord.

In this regard, fathers are critical. It is fathers, as heads of households, who must lead, not only by example, but by command.  When fathers fail to obey and fulfil their duties to their children, more often than not children grow up disbelieving and rebelling against the God of their father and their mother.

To illustrate, consider the following post by Justin Taylor:  

A Father’s Role in His Children Going to Church When They Are Adults

Robbie Low, writing in Touchstone (June 2003), points to an interesting 1994 study in Switzerland about the connection between the churchgoing habits of fathers and mothers and the effect on their children when they are grown.
Here’s a summary:
In short, if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). If a father goes but irregularly to church, regardless of his wife’s devotion, between a half and two-thirds of their offspring will find themselves coming to church regularly or occasionally.

A non-practicing mother with a regular father will see a minimum of two-thirds of her children ending up at church. In contrast, a non-practicing father with a regular mother will see two-thirds of his children never darken the church door. If his wife is similarly negligent that figure rises to 80 percent!

The results are shocking, but they should not be surprising. They are about as politically incorrect as it is possible to be; but they simply confirm what psychologists, criminologists, educationalists, and traditional Christians know. You cannot buck the biology of the created order. Father’s influence, from the determination of a child’s sex by the implantation of his seed to the funerary rites surrounding his passing, is out of all proportion to his allotted, and severely diminished role, in Western liberal society.

A mother’s role will always remain primary in terms of intimacy, care, and nurture. (The toughest man may well sport a tattoo dedicated to the love of his mother, without the slightest embarrassment or sentimentality). No father can replace that relationship. But it is equally true that when a child begins to move into that period of differentiation from home and engagement with the world “out there,” he (and she) looks increasingly to the father for his role model. Where the father is indifferent, inadequate, or just plain absent, that task of differentiation and engagement is much harder. When children see that church is a “women and children” thing, they will respond accordingly—by not going to church, or going much less.

Curiously, both adult women as well as men will conclude subconsciously that Dad’s absence indicates that going to church is not really a “grown-up” activity. In terms of commitment, a mother’s role may be to encourage and confirm, but it is not primary to her adult offspring’s decision. Mothers’ choices have dramatically less effect upon children than their fathers’, and without him she has little effect on the primary lifestyle choices her offspring make in their religious observances.
Her major influence is not on regular attendance at all but on keeping her irregular children from lapsing altogether. This is, needless to say, a vital work, but even then, without the input of the father (regular or irregular), the proportion of regulars to lapsed goes from 60/40 to 40/60.
You can read the whole essay here.

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