Mr. DeVries is a teacher in Covenant Christian High School and a member in Hope Protestant Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
In these ungodly times when many of us are facing the difficult task of rearing covenant children and young people, there arise in our minds many questions.
One question many ask is, “Must we teach our children what to think…or how to think?”
Is it right and proper to teach them to think like we do? Or would that be we infringing on their rights and freedoms? Are we restricting their pursuit of happiness by imposing our way of thinking on them?
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).
“My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding” (Prov. 2:1-3).
The Bible indicates that we must tell our children, starting at a very early age, how to evaluate the various ideas and choices bombarding them with more and more regularity. This instruction must be clear and repetitive. Young children must memorize and learn what to think, what to write, how to act. We as parents must show them what to think about various religious teachings and moral choices that they face. This must be done by guiding them to the correct biblical response and we must not be satisfied with answers merely rooted in our tradition or cultural biases.
We clearly are called to teach those in our charge what to think about the myriad of choices facing them and the numerous ideologies that are presented as scientific fact in our society today. Our young children must especially be taught what to think about God, their neighbor, and their responsibilities toward both. Children must memorize their catechism and learn the Bible in both home and school.
We who are parents have the right to teach our children what to think, what to write, and how to act. We are not invading their privacy or trampling their human rights by demanding that they think and act the way we tell them. Their privacy belongs to us; we are responsible to God for their upbringing.
However, the popular mindset of the day, which permeates the mass media and educational worlds, would demand otherwise. These groups state emphatically that we must be more permissive parents and allow more freedom of thought and action, without imposing any moral obligations or biblical mandates upon any individuals, including our children.
Authors like Rousseau, John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Nietzsche, Margaret Mead, and Sigmund Feud have had a profound impact on the moral climate of our time. They assert that humans are amoral and that morals erected by man in the name of religion are keeping our society in a state of unnatural angst. Always in the name of “science,” these sociologists, anthropologists, psychologists, and the like attempt to bring some credibility to their godless philosophy. You will find that this type of pseudo-science is the handmaid of all of the false ideologies of our times. Politics, the mass media, and public education are the devices that carry out the ideologies of these execrable authors.
Rousseau’s famous argument that man is best in his natural state has been reflected in the writings of all of these popular nineteenth and twentieth century authors. They insist that if our children or students are asked to follow our way of thinking when it comes to choices of music, entertainment, friendships, sexual purity, fiscal responsibility, etc., it will create a state of tension and unnatural anxiety within them. The worldly philosophers, psychologists, and the like, particularly stress sexual freedom in their writings. These books are written in ways to appeal to the prurient interests in our society. It is exactly that ideology that has permeated our culture and is the reason for the sexual bacchanalia that our society now faces
But alas, we would be trampling individual rights! To speak out against certain behavior could even be considered “hate speech” (a topic left for another article). If one were publicly to condemn certain types of sexual behavior, such as homosexuality, he could be charged for “hate crimes” in some parts of the world today.
The only perversion in modern society is to say that there is perversion.
The Bible on the other hand would disagree. “In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion” (Rom. 1:27—NIV).
These worldly writers, who have influence in much of our society today, would have us not teaching our children what to think, but merely how to think on their own and how to come to their own independent conclusions—not affected by our biblically centered biases, but based on their natural instincts and feelings. With this arrangement then, they would have ultimate freedom to express their deepest freedoms and be truly happy.
They would argue that we must be more permissive as churches, schools, and parents, merely facilitating learning, not imparting wisdom and truth to our students. Adults should not view their role as one of leading children to the truth and helping them come to a final decision on things, but rather one of facilitating their making of their own decisions on the basis of their natural feelings. Mead, for one, suggests that we mitigate the strong role of parents and teachers traditionally thought of in our culture and allow children to decide everything for themselves.
The general permissiveness and casualness of our society toward parenting and schooling reflects this way of thinking. It is manifested in the casual dress and attitude that prevails today, and in the causal way many go about addressing and viewing authority.
But telling them what to think is not the final answer to the question.
“To give subtlety to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels” (Prov. 1:4-5).
We must also teach our children how to think antithetically. They should not be taught how to think in the way these authors would suggest. Rather, they should be led in how to think about things from the viewpoint of a thankful Christian life. As they think about what the truth is, how they should act, etc., they should think about how they can express their thankfulness to God for salvation full and free through Christ. As they mature, we must begin explaining more and more why we think the way we do and let them think more and more on their own. If our thoughts are biblical, our children will make them their own. That is the reality of the covenant.
As our children get older, we must also prepare them more and more to think on their own. Covenant parents and teachers in the good Christian schools must guide the young maturing Christians in decision making. This instruction must demonstrate and model how to apply the Bible to their decisions, and the folly of depending on their natural feelings. We can still give direction, and help them pull their ideas together into a conclusion, but not immediately feed them the right way to think.
There should be a gradual change that comes naturally with maturity. Parents and teachers may find that some need more help coming to the correct biblical decisions later in life than do others. We should not assume that once a child reaches a certain age he or she will not need our guidance.
If our children are not weaned from our telling them what to think, and are not given the skill of how to think and apply the Bible, they will be left with cold formalism. By making all decisions for them on how they should act or think, we will eventually lead them to a religious setting of formalism. We run the risk of this if we don’t adequately explain our reasoning and guide them into biblical decision-making of their own as they mature. The way we think and act must be a matter of the heart.
To facilitate this, the young people must be well read on the different ideologies expressed by these authors, and know why the universal tolerances of all standards they posit are unacceptable for Christians. They must practice this decision-making by searching the Bible, thoughtful writing, active discussion, spirited debate, and prayer, often led by a competent adult who can guide young Christians on their path to good thinking.
By the time they reach college and/or when they leave the nest, they had better know how to think and not just what to think. Our young people must be able to discern between bad thinking and good thinking and be able to foresee the results of going along with false thinking. We obviously can trust them more and more as they show this maturity. Trust, but verify, as President Reagan stated about the Russians. We not only have the right, but also the responsibility, to check our children’s e-mails, log into their Facebook accounts, and demand that they stay home at night at least during the week, where we can spend time with them. This is a difficult task for all parents because of our own weak flesh, which makes us not want to fight these battles or makes us too busy really to guide our young people in what they should think and how to think about various things.
We as parents and teachers are not able to teach our children what to think and how to think on our own. We must, of course, depend on the work of the Holy Spirit in our renewed covenant children. We have faith that God will preserve them despite our feeble attempts at teaching them what to think and how to think in a time of moral relativity and overall casualness that has permeated even the church world in these end times. May God give us an understanding of the times in which we now live, so that we can better rear the covenant seed and future leaders of the church here below.