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January 25, 2005

The T in TULIP and Children

As for my children...this doctrine [of Total Inability] helps me realize what's really important. What amuses and dismays me is that a lot of people will shout, "All babies are totally depraved!" and then will rush in with feeding schedules, harsh training regimens, and all sorts of other draconian responses. As if these things will help! The all-too-common approach seems to be, "Our children are totally depraved and therefore we need to turn to this child rearing program that is guaranteed, if followed faithfully, to produce whitewashed tombs."

Uh, that's not my goal as a parent.


Read the rest of Rebecca Prewett's thoughts on The Total Depravity of Infants. You might want to follow that up with The Child as Sinner (which relates to children in the Covenant) and Our View of Children as Blessings. Good reading all--one part theology, one part mommy-inspiration, one part thought provoking.

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Hi,

I just recently started reading your blog and I wanted you to know I really enjoyed the link you posted for The Total Depravity of Infants. I forwarded to a friend and my husband. I really appreciated what she had to say about our relationship to God mirroring how our relationship should be to our children. It's something I've been thinking a lot about lately.

Thanks!

Posted by: Sarah at January 25, 2005 08:25 PM

Okay, I'm a little hesitant to say this, but I will, hoping it comes across with the quesioning and gentleness I intend.

In her first article, she says, "It's interesting that Jesus didn't mention the sinfulness of children." - Is she implying that children do not sin? Because I know that is not the case.

She also says this, "a lot of people will shout, 'All babies are totally depraved!' and then will rush in with feeding schedules, harsh training regimens, and all sorts of other draconian responses."

I may be stepping out on a limb here, but I *do* believe my children are totally depraved. I also encouraged my babies to follow a feeding and sleeping schedule. It was not rigid, I followed their needs and adjusted accordingly, but nevertheless, I helped them get on one. My encouragement of the schedule was in no way tied to my knowledge of their depravity or my desire to help lead them to a saving knowledge of the Lord.

Extreme statements like this turn me off as much as extremists to the other degree (Pearls, etc).

As I read her thoughts on this, I immediatly felt judged by her. If the only thing she knew about me was that I helped my babies establish a regular feeding pattern, she would assume I am a mean, controlling, sin-of-my-children consummed parent and that is certainly not the case.

Maybe I'm going against my own post of the other day to not stir up dissention among the brethern and I'm not trying to. I just felt like some middle ground needed to be presented.

For whatever that's worth...

Posted by: Megan at January 25, 2005 09:18 PM

good stuff.

Posted by: Rey at January 25, 2005 09:45 PM

Welcome, Sarah. Glad you're here!

Rey, thanks.

Megan, have you read the full article or just the quote? That may clear up some misunderstandings. Right now it's Hubby's computer time, so I'll be back later to respond more thoroughly to the things you mentioned.

Grace and peace,
TulipGirl

Posted by: TulipGirl at January 25, 2005 09:55 PM

Hello again - I read all three links you included above. Maybe I should reread them, but the general impression I got was the one I mentioned above.

Good night to you! (Weird saying that when it's only 3pm here...)

Posted by: Megan at January 25, 2005 10:00 PM

Hey TG!

Rebecca's essay on the subject is one of my favorites and I try to read it every few months or so. Why is it that we think we can do what only God can? It's funny and tragic all at the same time.

I think Megan may not realize how many authors actually do promote this stuff. Rebecca's statements are not quite as extreme as they may appear at first.

Posted by: sozo at January 26, 2005 05:18 AM

Hmmmm... I see my daughter as a member of the covenant, baptized into the church, but also depraved and sinful, just like I see myself. I found the links to be extreme oversimplifications, that didn't really get to the root of the problem in evangelicalism. We're sinners, but God still provides for us, and cares for us. Our babies are sinners, but we still provide for them, and care for them. The problem occurs when parent's project sin nature onto infant neediness. Babies don't cry because they are sinners, and they can't be treated that way, consciously or subconsciously. That's the problem that I've seen. RP gets herself in very shaky ground with her theological assertations...

Posted by: kristen at January 26, 2005 03:57 PM

Our babies are sinners, but we still provide for them, and care for them. The problem occurs when parent's project sin nature onto infant neediness. Babies don't cry because they are sinners, and they can't be treated that way, consciously or subconsciously.

I agree with you there, Kristen. I believe that's one of the points that Rebecca Prewett is making in her Infants/Total Depravity article. And the other point, which I don't consider to be theologically shaky, is that too often Christian parents focus so much on teaching kids "the rules" rather than making it clear that "the rules" don't bring salvation. Salvation is only found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and I believe that can be communicated to our children from a very young age. Perhaps the points in the above articles are over-simplifications. Yet I've found them helpful as I think through various issues of theology and practice related to raising Covenant children.


Megan,

I really am sad that you felt judged by what I posted. It was not intended as such towards you personally or any parent in general. I truly believe that we each are the best parents for the children He gave us, and we are responsible to Him for nurturing and instructing them. Whenever I meet Christian mamas I assume that their intentions are to raise their children to the glory of God, that they love their kids, and that they are doing the best they can with the resources they have.

That said, I do believe there are practices/attitudes that are more or less helpful practically and more or less in line with what the Bible teaches. I don't claim to have a full grasp on those things. That's one of the reasons I post about parenting-related issues and discuss how theology impacts our families. Pondering these *ideas* and interacting with other Christian parents helps me both clarify what I believe as well as put them into practice in my family.

That was how I was approaching the rather long discussion over at your place--it seems like it was starting to get uncomfortable for you. I was examinining *ideas* and I believe that continuing to do that is important.

Posted by: TulipGirl at January 26, 2005 08:19 PM

I will, hoping it comes across with the quesioning and gentleness I intend.

I assume the best of most people I meet. *grin* Especially Christian mamas.

In her first article, she says, "It's interesting that Jesus didn't mention the sinfulness of children." - Is she implying that children do not sin? Because I know that is not the case. . . .I may be stepping out on a limb here, but I *do* believe my children are totally depraved.

I feel comfortable saying that Rebecca Prewett does not believe that children are sinless. My understanding is she gives full credence to the doctrine of Total Depravity. I agree that our dear little ones are sinners in need of the Gospel.

I also encouraged my babies to follow a feeding and sleeping schedule. . . . My encouragement of the schedule was in no way tied to my knowledge of their depravity or my desire to help lead them to a saving knowledge of the Lord.

Your use or non-use of a schedule is not the issue. The infant parenting teaching by Gary Ezzo designed for the church market, do draw upon infants' sin nature as being a "Biblical" reason for instituting the eat/wake/sleep routine. Other parenting teachers also do what Mrs. Prewett is cautioning against--which is setting up outside forms for our children to bring godliness. (Or at least, get them "closer" to godliness. . .)

Extreme statements like this turn me off as much as extremists to the other degree (Pearls, etc).

What did you perceive to be extreme? That Rebecca points to some practices as being more concerned wtih externals than internals?

As I read her thoughts on this, I immediatly felt judged by her. If the only thing she knew about me was that I helped my babies establish a regular feeding pattern, she would assume I am a mean, controlling, sin-of-my-children consummed parent and that is certainly not the case.

Again, I hesitate to speak for a third party who is not in this conversation, but I don't think Mrs. Prewett would be quick to judge *any* mother. I certainly am not assuming you or any other parent is mean, controlling, sin-of-my-children consummed based upon online conversations.

Again, however, I do believe that it is important to question our assumptions about parenting and what impact our theology has on our parenting practices. I know my practice has not always been in line with what I believe. Personally, I bought into all the Ezzo crud until I saw that it was not in line with how God designed mamas and babies, not in line with what I believed theologically, and did not reflect sound hermeneutical principles.


Maybe I'm going against my own post of the other day to not stir up dissention among the brethern and I'm not trying to. I just felt like some middle ground needed to be presented.

Again, I value the discussion of ideas. You don't have to agree with me 100% to be liked or welcomed here or listed on my blogroll. *eg* I don't perceive this as dissension in any way--just a healthy exchange of ideas as we work out what we believe and how our beliefs can best be reflected in our families.

Grace and peace,
TulipGirl

Posted by: TulipGirl at January 26, 2005 08:37 PM

Hello again,

First off, let me say that if I have misread Rebecca Prewett’s tone and intent, I apologize. I like to think that I also assume the best of others, but there is a chance (okay, a good one) that I read this with a bias and thus my original post.

I’ll also say that it wasn’t the discussion that was going on at my site that bothered me as much as it was that one of my very dear friends-in-real-life was pretty hurt by that conversation. I think I know your online tone well enough now to know you weren’t attacking her in any way, indeed – I wasn’t trying to either, but that’s how it came across to her. I so treasure her friendship, I needed to wrap that conversation up.

I am okay with examining ideas. I am okay with changing mine when I am convinced by careful and biblical conclusions. I am uncomfortable when folks on either side of the parenting continuum lay down parenting laws and imply it is their way or the highway. This is the kind of feel I get from the Pearls, yes, the Ezzos, and yes again, even from those RP articles. Perhaps if I read the rest of her writings I would draw a different conclusion. But the same might be said about the Pearls – maybe if I read the rest of what they wrote I wouldn’t disagree so sharply with them. But as such, I’ve only read these snippets and it would seem that these snippets should suffice since they are writings both parties put out to represent their views.

Hmm – having said that, I guess I need to be careful about what I put out there to represent my own! Okay, for the record I will say this about my views: I believe the way we raise our children is biblical. I also believe there are areas of freedom in what we do and how we raise them. We don’t hold to the no birth control philosophy. Another couple might believe that and I’m okay with them believing that for them. I’m not okay with them believing that for them and for me. Maybe that’s what I’m trying to get at with all these parenting discussions.

I feel comfortable saying that Rebecca Prewett does not believe that children are sinless. My understanding is she gives full credence to the doctrine of Total Depravity. I agree that our dear little ones are sinners in need of the Gospel.

The last three paragraphs of the first article would seem she is saying otherwise. I don’t like it that everyone is born with a sin nature. I don’t necessarily see it in a tiny newborn either. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t present, it is. I’m not saying you don’t agree with this, TG, but I am saying that this is the way her article represents her on this.

In the second article, she says herself that she is oversimplifying the issue, but from reading that post I have some serious red flags if she is purporting the second point. I do not believe the Bible teaches that at all.

What did you perceive to be extreme? That Rebecca points to some practices as being more concerned with externals than internals?

The perception of extreme comes from the wording of RP’s opposing view. Everything she supports is worded in a gentle, kind, of-course-this-is-the-way-this-is-supposed-to-be kind of writing tone. It is obvious to tell which view she not only disagrees with, but despises by her word choices – the techniques of folks who differ with her are “draconian,” they use “harsh training regimens,” they are producing “whitewashed tombs.” If this article showed just a tad more grace toward parents who do things differently, it wouldn’t have come across as extreme as it did to me.

Now then, having said all that, I just clicked the third link again and realize there was a glitch when I clicked it yesterday. I missed out on 2/3 of the article the first time I read it. I just read the whole thing and it sounds right on. Nothing sounded extreme to me or finger pointing or any such.

Again, however, I do believe that it is important to question our assumptions about parenting and what impact our theology has on our parenting practices. I know my practice has not always been in line with what I believe.

Agreed.

Okay, I’ll leave it at that for now. Our nap time/rest time is just almost over so I should go put into practice some of my parenting beliefs. :)

Thanks for the discussion. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you through your posts this last month or so.

Megan

Posted by: Megan at January 26, 2005 10:17 PM

First I would like to thank you for your blog...page...on going letter, whatever it is. I have so thirsted for info on life in Ukraine, especially during the time of the elections. It was easy to determine what each candidate represented politically, but I was in search of there relationship with God. This was not so apparent in the media articles. The only true clue was the desire to see truth revealed...that kind of tipped the scales toward Yushchenko. So I thank you for all of your insight and I am envious of you being present in such a move of God. The presence of the Holy Spirit in the streets and throughout the country had to be so powerful. This is a land that has stood fast so many times in the face of spiritual battles throughout history only to once again Glorify God.
I delight in reading your blogs and wish I was in Ukraine. Hopefully I will be able to visit once again this spring...Please pray that God provides a way. I so desire to be there...It's funny when God puts a place in your heart...you understand because you are there. Anyhow, now that I have rambled on about my love for Ukraine I want to jump into the deep end of the pool.
I have been reading your latest blogs concerning the sinfulness of children, the depravity...whatever that means...and felt compelled to comment. First off, I want to state I have not read any of the articles that "RP" wrote that have incited much discussion. But, I have read the comments and found there are those who feel guilt, that they have made mistakes in parenting, that they feel the writings of "RP" to harsh. I do not know...I have not read the articles. But I do know this as a parent and a son of the Most High, that guilt is not from God...Our lives are journies(sp)in our relationship with God. As I said I did not read any of the articles by RF, but to worry about getting a newborn on a time clock that works for the family is ridicules. The important thing is to "train up a child in the way he should go". This means letting him (or her) know that no matter what you love them...as God does. You may not love everything they do...but you love them. The most important thing is to let them know that you also make mistakes...and the difference between you and them is that you have learned that when you make mistakes you go to God and ask for forgiveness, and that God would help you in not making the same mistake again. Also, if your mistake was against someone, you go to them and ask their forgiveness. And finally, when wrongs are done against you...you seek God and ask Him to help you forgive those who have wronged you. These are the truths of God. We are not children of bondage, we are children of hope and vision. Jesus said, "There are two commandments, love God and love your neighbor." Also, that we are free from the bondage of the OT Law. This does not mean to throw it out with the wash, but to use it as a guide, along with the freedom of the NT in leading lives that glorify God. So, the bottom line is...teach your children that you make mistakes just as they do, there are consequences, and that only God is always faithful. Enjoy life with your children and do the best you can and always pray for them....I guess I have rambled long enough...God Bless all of you...bof

Posted by: owen at January 27, 2005 09:28 AM

While I believe that babies are born with an inherently sinful nature (that's why we need a saviour) I do not believe they are depraved. My first child taught me quickly not to force her into a schedule. Rather, I learned to respond to her needs quickly so that she would learn she was loved and learn to be confident that as I took care of her, God would, too (but better.) I took her around on my schedule, but stopped to care for her as needed. However, I don't think everyone who tries to put a baby on a schedule does it because they think the baby is depraved; that's what they've been taught is correct. My doctor told me to put my baby on a schedule, and that's what other well meaning parents suggested. She managed to get on a schedule over time, but not because I forced her to go onto one.

Posted by: Karin at January 27, 2005 08:44 PM

Owen,

Thank you for sharing what you did. I’m finding that I’m coming back again and again to the basic point you made,
“You may not love everything they do...but you love them. The most important thing is to let them know that you also make mistakes...and the difference between you and them is that you have learned that when you make mistakes you go to God and ask for forgiveness, and that God would help you in not making the same mistake again.”

I’m glad Hubby and I have been able to help you follow what’s going on in Ukraine. When were you here?

Posted by: TulipGirl at February 8, 2005 01:48 PM

Hey, Megan! Sorry it took forever to get back with you. I've enjoyed discussing these ideas with you, and wasn't ignoring you--just procrastinating. *grin*

M wrote: The last three paragraphs of the first article would seem she is saying otherwise. I don’t like it that everyone is born with a sin nature. I don’t necessarily see it in a tiny newborn either. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t present, it is.

Okay, I looked at the last three paragraphs that you mentioned, and I can see how you could read it as RP not believing in Total Depravity.

Related to what Rebecca Prewett wrote earlier in the essay, “It's really tough to look at the cutest, sweetest babies ever born (my six, of course) and realize that, unless God powerfully intervenes in their lives, they are all headed straight for hellfire and damnation. . . . It should make us want to present the gospel to our children. . . we're all still image-bearers. Yeah, that image is distorted by sin, but it's not destroyed. . . .Also...those us us who are the adults in the family have had a lot more time practicing and getting "good" at sin. Many of us have been practicing being selfish and manipulative and egocentric for decades before our baby comes along. And that tiny little being is brand new at this sin business.”

What I get from the infants/total depravity article is that yes our children are sinners and not born with a “clean slate” or as little innocents. But, that we as parents and sinners ourselves, have a tendency to place such an emphasis on children's sin natures that it becomes a mote/plank issue. I like the reminder, “those us us who are the adults in the family have had a lot more time practicing and getting "good" at sin.”

Personally, I’m so “good” at sin, that I can deceive myself into thinking my selfishness is really coming from pure motives. In comparing notes with other mothers who have used the Ezzo materials for example, we’ve seen the pattern of being careful not to have a “child centered” home become in practice, an excuse for a “parent-centered” home and selfishness. Not intentially, but that our own sin tendencies use the philosophy of not being "child centered" as an excuse not serve and sacrifice for our kids.

Not that this is true in all Ezzo families. But it illustrates how, as adults, the tendency to sin is very strong and that needs to be guarded against more than the sin of infants.

Posted by: TulipGirl at February 8, 2005 02:16 PM

M wrote: In the second article, she says herself that she is oversimplifying the issue, but from reading that post I have some serious red flags if she is purporting the second point. I do not believe the Bible teaches that at all.

Referring to these points:
1. Our children are depraved, unsaved sinners until proven otherwise (i.e., if/when they make a profession of faith and their life begins to bear fruit). They are no different than the children of unbelievers, except that they are being raised in a Christian home.
2. We will consider our children to be members of God's elect, until proven otherwise (i.e., if/when they show evidence of having
completely rejected God)
It seems that this has a bearing on how we raise and train our children. Do we see them as "covenant children" to be trained for the Kingdom of God? or do we see them as sinners to be restrained as much as possible from
running completely amuck?


Megan, I believe that children born to Christian parents are considered to be in the Covenant Community. I’m still working on understanding this more theologically and what it looks like practically. I lean towards the second point, which I believe is similar to Abraham Kuyper’s “presumed regeneration.” I do believe the Holy Spirit is working in the hearts of those that God has called, even when they are infants and young children. I believe that this is both through parents and apart from parents.

Hubby has written some on the first point here:
De facto Baby Sprinklers


M wrote, "The perception of extreme comes from the wording of RP’s opposing view.

Ah, I understand. *grin* I guess I don’t mind reading them as polemical, persuasive pieces since they are in the context of online discussions. I would be a lot more troubled by that sort of rhetoric if I found it in a book or an informative essay. But I understand what you are saying.

M wrote, "Now then, having said all that, I just clicked the third link again . . . I just read the whole thing and it sounds right on."

*grin* I hope it was encouraging. I’ve found over the years that I come back to various articles on RP’s site for mommy-inspiration.

M wrote, "Thanks for the discussion. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you through your posts this last month or so."

Me, too.. I’m glad we’ve met each other online, and while I don’t know when we’ll be going through St. Louis, I bet we will eventually and I hope we can get your four girls and my four boys together to play!

Posted by: TulipGirl at February 8, 2005 02:24 PM

At first blush the concept of depraved infants seems so harsh and negative but the notion that, yes, we all have sin nature but also, yes, their sin nature has been covered (by the blood of Jesus) and lets get on with it, folks.

I don't see how some of these infant parenting programs could be considered anything else but draconian and harsh. Spanking babies?? That's abuse by almost any standard. I cannot imagine Jesus condoning that.

If Jesus took care of all of our sin nature don't we have such a freedom to just relax and enjoy our children??

I am the mother of eight children. My youngest is five. Because I have older children I tend to have a different perspective than many others. Because I have a child serving in Iraq I also have a sense of how precious, fragile, and unknown our future truely is. Every moment we have with our children is a gift. That Jesus has teken on the consequences of our sin; death and seperation from the Father, how much more should we live in the warm light of grace, mercy, and love. I don't want to relate to my children in an advarsarial manner, I am so thankful that, through Jesus, I don't have to!!

Posted by: Debra Baker at March 9, 2005 12:36 AM

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