In the brave new world of the 21st century, being a parent brings with it a whole host of challenges. Modern society is becoming more and more secular. We are seeing post-modern culture give birth to a new sort of spirituality; people are more interested in the supernatural, and there is a continuous reaction against the positivism of yesteryear. However, none of these changes have made room for God, at least not the God of Scripture with his absoluteness and moral intolerance.
My children will grow up in a world that tells them that belief in God is irrelevant to the business of day to day life. The truth is that we are in a fight for the lives of our children. And belief in God does make a difference to living life in the world “out there.” Belief in God matters to soccer, school, or that math exam next week. Our children need to see why belief in God makes a difference in every single area and aspect of life.
Parenting in the Covenantal Context
To combat the godlessness of our culture, it’s important for us to see ourselves as God’s creatures existing within a covenantal context of life. In his famous Lectures on Calvinism, Abraham Kuyper writes these:
God is present in all of life, with the influence of his omnipresent and almighty power, and no sphere of human life is conceivable in which religion does not maintain its demands that God shall be praised, that God’s ordinances shall be observed, and that every labour shall be permeated with its ora in fervent and ceaseless prayer. Wherever man may stand, whatever he may do, to whatever he may apply his hand, in agriculture, in commerce, and in industry, or his mind, in the world or art, and science, he is, in whatsoever it may be, constantly standing before the face of his God, he is employed in the service of his God, he has strictly to obey his God, and above all, he has to aim at the glory of his God.
Kuyper is also famous for having said that there is not a “square inch of which Christ does not declare, ‘Mine!’” If I catch his drift, he seems to be saying that every fact of the material universe and of history is what it is by God’s creation and decree. God is the one to whom we must refer if we are to understand what it all means in any ultimate sense.
I use the word covenantal because there is a sense in which God is related to us and everything else that he has made. That has far-reaching implications for what it means to live life in the here and now and thus how we equip our children to do the same. I’ll mention three implications in a few broad strokes so you can hopefully catch my drift.
My Father’s World
First, understanding life as a covenantal context ought it inform how we view the whole world that he has made. We need to give our children a BIG God, a God in whom all the facts of the world and our experience find their ultimate meaning.
The twin doctrines of creation and providence bring meaning to an otherwise meaningless world. To the very degree to which we say God is irrelevant, we will also find that everything else fails to have any meaning or purpose at all beyond what is readily apparent on the surface.
Less glory given to God means greater temptation to chalk everything up to blind, meaningless chance. This is why it is important for Christian parents to take every possible opportunity that they are given to pull back the curtain, so to speak, and teach our children where it all comes from and why, as we seek to relate all of the facts of their experience to God.
It can be as simple as pointing to any number of things in the world that surrounds us and telling our children, “God made this!” This happens when we teach our children that God has a purpose in all things and desires to teach them incredible things if only they will patiently learn. “This is my Father’s world!” ought to be the resounding declaration of the parent who seeks light up their children’s world with God’s truth.
Older theologians used to speak of all of life as Coram Deo. Coram Deo is a Latin phrase which means to exist before the face of, or in the presence of God. We exist before the very eyes of God and are thus responsible to him. His authority (and our responsibility before him) is all-encompassing; it extends to every aspect and every moment.
We should not limit God’s authority to some private religious realm and certainly not to a particular day of the week. God rules over it all, and more importantly he is not blind to the internal thoughts and motivations of our hearts. Children need to see that their dads are just as concerned about what it means to be a Christian at work as they are at church. They need to see moms who have an authentic vibrant faith on Monday as well as on Sunday morning. We need to teach our children that God cares about every aspect of our lives and that in each of them we are either walking in covenant obedience or disobedience. They need to see that there is a distinctively Christian way to be a butcher, or baker, or candlestick maker, and that all of these things are ways in which we worship God.
An Atmosphere of Grace
Finally, we need to teach our children that existing within a covenantal context means that we exist in an atmosphere of grace. We don’t need to live very long before we begin to realize that we have fallen miserably short of bringing glory to God in all aspects of our lives and at every moment.
Not only that, but if we take a good long look at the world around us, we will readily see that this is not a problem that’s unique to us but something that plagues the whole of humanity. The just punishment for all of our failures is death and yet that’s not what we get. In fact, every day we are afforded life, breath, and a whole host of good things that we don’t deserve as rebels against God. This is what the Bible calls grace.
We live in a world that is permeated by grace, even as it is permeated by God. One of the saddest marks of secular society happens to be its failure to produce thankful hearts (Rom 1:21). Either we or luck is considered responsible for all good things; God has nothing to do with it.
The next generation is a generation that has largely lost the ability to give thanks. Instead, the sense of entitlement is on the rise. We need to teach our children that God is gracious and the giver of every perfect gift (James 1:17). However, God is not simply interested in sustaining a world full of sin. He does so because his is working towards something so much bigger. The most noteworthy display of God’s grace is not common but special.
God sent his Son to die in the place of sinners so that he might redeem a people and, beyond this, so that he might reconcile all things. You see, the facts of the universe aren’t necessarily static. No, they are headed toward a glorious consummation. Through the gospel, God is restoring all things and it starts with us, and this is the most important thing that we can teach our children.
1. Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism, (1898; reps., Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008), 42.
2. James D. Pratt, Abraham Kuyper, A Centennial Reader (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 488.