Chapter 4

Cultivating Kids

We will now examine some of the scriptural duties of a father. We have already established that a good father must first be a good Christian and, second, marry a woman who loves the Lord and respects him.

Central to the Bible's teachings on the duties of a father is Ephesians 6:1-4, which says, "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."

Scripture clearly teaches that the father is ultimately responsible for the cultivating of his children along with his wife. In addition, other institutions, such as the church and school, assist in instructing the children under the headship of the father. The honoring of one's father is so vital to rightly ordering the home, church, and society that in the Old Testament if children verbally cursed or physically attacked a parent, they could be put to death. Paul commands children to honor their parents so that their life will be long and good upon the earth.

But Paul is also aware that some fathers have a tendency to be harsh, mean, overbearing, or intimidating with their children. This sort of frightening and provoking fathering exasperates, frustrates, and angers children. The biblical goal of a father is not to crush his children but to cultivate them. A father's goal is not to punish his children, but instead to correct them. On the other hand, some fathers are so fearful of frustrating their children that they fail to discipline them at all, which is a cowardly overreaction to child abuse and is abusive in its own right. Instead of abusing children or abandoning them by failing to correct them, a godly father brings his children up with wise training and instruction in the Lord. The ancient Greeks who heard Paul's words would have understood his language as referring to the total shaping of a person that includes their education, spirituality, work ethic, vocation, social skills, and so on.

Therefore, the father's duty is to cultivate all aspects of his child to maturity in the Lord. Practically, this means that everything in the life of the child is ultimately the responsibility of the father. This is a particularly radical idea in our day, when more than one in three births are to unmarried women and more than one in three children do not live with their biological father. Because of the sins of failed fathers, the responsibility for raising children has increasingly fallen on government institutions.

One practical part of this cultivation is that a father needs to think through the education of his children and have a theology of childhood education. The first question a father must resolve is, what is the purpose of an education? Paul tells us that the goal is that the child would become mature "in the Lord," and Proverbs teaches that the goal of all instruction must be a redeemed heart that fears the Lord. The second question is, which educational option will help cultivate my child in the Lord? Since each child is different, there are multiple answers to this question, and the father, in conjunction with the mother, is best suited to make the decision between home schooling, public schooling, private schooling, and Christian schooling. As the father, you will also need to determine how you will make enough money to educate your children.

As a father, you must recognize that if your child will be sitting in a classroom for six or eight hours a day, for twelve years, you must know the teachers, their curriculum, and the goal of that education, because you are responsible before God for the cultivation of your child. Children need to learn math, English, history, and the like, but these subjects must be connected to the Lord and must help children see how they are connected to the Lord. Wise fathers know that just because a school has "Christian" in the name does not guarantee that Jesus rules in the curriculum. Fathers must do their homework before sending their children to school to do their own. Idealistic fathers tend to be legalistic fathers and the truth is there is no single decision that is right for every child every year. Therefore, the educational options need to be reconsidered every year for every child, depending upon the various circumstances that the parents are dealing with.

Many fathers in our day seemingly expect the public schools to raise their children for them, and the increase in before-school and after-school programming, and life issue training on sexuality and morality seems to bear this expectation out. However, public education in our country is only a few hundred years old. In fact, only with the spread of Christianity, particularly of a Calvinistic bent, has there been an increase in literacy and education, because Christians wanted their children to be literate so they could read the Bible. But as non-Christians grew wary of having their children attend Christian schools, public education was birthed by atheists such as John Dewey and Horace Mann. In conjunction with their erroneous beliefs in sinless human nature and the propensity of children to behave out of their intrinsic goodness, public schools give permission, freedom, encouragement, and esteem to small sinners who now have high self-esteem and low test scores. Even the focus has changed, as students are less inclined to write papers about people they admire than they are to write about themselves. If you are a father who was raised in this philosophy, it is imperative that you examine all of your presuppositions and beliefs through Scripture so that you can renew your mind as needed and be a godly father. And no matter which educational option you choose for your children, you and your wife must be their primary influence and instructors.