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August 16, 2006

Charles Hodge and Parenting

This was originally posted in January 2004, my first month blogging. I was revisiting it today because of an online discussion about sin and family norms, children, and the place of the Gospel in our families. So, I'm reposting it today.

The other night I was skimming Charles Hodge's commentary on Romans and was just struck by how God relates to us as His children, and how I can follow that example with my children.

This is from the Crossway Books Classic Commentaries, page 189, commenting on Romans 6: 12-23:

"As no man is free from sin, as no man can perfectly keep the commandments of God, every man who rests on his personal conformity to the law as the basis of his acceptance with God must be condemned. We are not under the law in this sense, but under grace--that is, a system of free justification. We are justified by grace, without works.

We are not under a legal dispensation, requiring personal conformity to the law and entire freedom from sin, past and present, as the condition of our acceptance; but we are under a gracious dispensation, according to which God dispenses pardon freely and accepts the sinner as a sinner, for Christs's sake, without works or merit of his own. Whoever is under the law, in the sense just explained, is not only condemned, but he is bound by a legal or slavish spirit. What he does, he does as a slave, to escape punishment. But he who is under grace, who is freely accepted by God and restored to his favor, is a child of God living under his Spirit. The principle of obeying him is love and not fear.

Here, as everywhere else in the Bible, it is assumed that the favor of God is in our life. We must be reconciled to Him before we can be holy: we must feel that He loves us before we can love Him."

Reflections related to Parenting

"God. . .accepts the sinner as a sinner"
I know this to be true with God accepting me, and now I want to really just ACCEPT my children as who they are. I want to provide a "safe place to fall" for my kids, where they know they are accepted as they are, even when they sin. I know my parents have lived that out towards my siblings and me.

"What he does, he does as a slave, to escape punishment."
I don't want my children to be doing things out of fear, simply to escape punishment.

"But he who is under grace, who is freeely accepted by God and restored to his favor, is a child of God living under his Spirit."
This is the part of the passage that first drew my attention to asking how I can relate this to me and my children, copying God as my Father.

"The principle of obeying him is love and not fear."
Again, I don't want it to be fear of me or fear of punishment that compels my children to obedience. But of love. Just as, truly, my obedience (imperfect though it may be) to God is out of a desire to please Him and out of love.

"we must feel that He loves us before we can love Him."
I read a survey once that said something like 90% of kids knew their parents loved them, but only 30% FELT that their parents loved them. I want to really nurture my children, and have them FEEL loved by me and my husband.


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I still think there is a place for fear. It is appropriate to use fear to keep small children from running into the street, for example. The Bible says perfect love casts out fear, but neither we nor our children can claim to love each other or God perfectly. Maybe my perspective will be different when my kids are older, but for now, I feel it's important to teach Jay obedience, regardless of whether he wants to obey (so that he doesn't run off in a crowd, or again, in traffic, for example). I'm not entirely sure how to do that, though!

Posted by: Lenise at August 16, 2006 10:27 PM

That's a beautiful post, TG. I wonder if 'great theologians on parenting' could become a book in the future.

To the previous poster, fear of danger can be taught to children to help in the situations you mentioned. They don't need to fear the punishment. And indeed, if they are reckless of running into the street, they may be just as heedless of any punishment.

One way we taught our young'uns to fear the danger of the road and traffic was in taking walks around our neighborhood with them, we would see the occasional flattened squirrel in the middle of the road, and take it as a cautionary tale to teach the children about the dangers of the road and what can happen to creatures which dash out into the street. "What do you think happened to this squirrel? Yes, it's very sad. That's why we are very careful when we're near streets and cars. Cars go very fast, and they can't always stop in time."

Of course, parental watchfulness is our responsibility until the children get to the stage where you can trust they have good impulse control and understanding.

I taught my young children to obey me, but I didn't bring fear of punishment into the equation. If I told them to obey, then they did: either on their own or with my help. (Kinda like Jonah...he could obey on his own steam, or God would get him there another way. But he was going to obey.)

Posted by: Kathy at August 17, 2006 10:30 AM

What a beautiful devotional. Thank you for sharing your thoughts in this forum.

Posted by: Cal gal at August 17, 2006 11:12 AM

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