Part 1: The Importance of the Biblical Training of Children

In the modern age one of the greatest needs for professing Christians is a biblical understanding of family religion. By family religion we mean the primary religious obligations that God has placed upon Christian families as covenantal institutions. This involves the duties and responsibilities of the father (the covenantal head of the household), the parents, children, and in rare instances live-in servants of a household. Although our examination of family religion will involve a variety of topics, the focus of this study will be on the biblical training of children.

Why is the spiritual training of Christian children by parents so important? There are many reasons. First, the initial covenantal and governing institution in creation was the family. God created Adam out of the dust of the ground (Gen. 2:7). Then He made a covenant with Adam (Gen. 2:15-17) the covenant head of mankind and the first family. After this, God took one of Adam's ribs and made him a helper, Eve his wife. Adam and Eve as a family, as husband and wife were given the dominion mandate. They were to have children in order to fill the earth and subdue it. The dominion or cultural mandate which was given to the first parents before the fall clearly implies that the training of children in godly dominion was crucial to this task of developing a worldwide God-honoring and glorifying civilization. After the fall the dominion mandate continues through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ-the second Adam. Gentry writes:

It is important to realize that the Cultural Mandate was not withdrawn with the entry of sin into the world. The mandate appears in several places in Scripture after the Fall: Genesis 9:1ff; Psalm 8; Hebrews 2:6-8. But the new factor of sin did necessitate divine intervention and the supplementation of the original Mandate with the new factor of redemption.

Immediately upon the fall of Adam into sin, God established the covenant of grace, which secured man's redemption. Genesis 3:15 promised the coming of a Redeemer ("the seed of the woman"), who will destroy Satan ("the seed of the serpent"). This verse is often called the "protoevangelium," or the "first promise of the gospel." The gospel of God's saving grace began at this point in history.[i]

Before there was civil government or even an institutional church, God put a family in charge of all creation. Note also that for a great period of time after the fall before the establishment of church officers and distinct ecclesiastical assemblies the worship of Jehovah was apparently conducted only privately and in families. The head of the household acted as the priest of the family. Noah offered sacrifice for himself and his family (Gen. 8:20-22). After Noah offered sacrifice, God blessed him and his sons and then restated the dominion mandate (Gen. 9:1). Both Abraham and Jacob offered sacrifice as the heads of their households (Gen. 22:13; Gen. 31:54; 46:1, 5, 6). Job's role as the covenant head of the family in worship is also evident. "Job...would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, 'It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.' Thus Job did regularly" (Job 1:5). Not only were the heads of the households (the husband and father) responsible for family worship, Jehovah Himself dealt with families through the heads of households. "God's covenants are made with heads of households. The heads of households act as representatives of their entire household. In the case of the covenants with Adam, Noah and Abraham, one man represented his household." [ii]

Second, the family is the nursery of both the church and the state. Family government and instruction is foundational to thriving churches and peaceful communities. Parents (under normal circumstances) have the greatest role to play in the development of a child's world and life view. Rushdoony writes: "The family is man's first state, church, and school. It is the institution that provides the basic structure of his existence and most governs his activities. Man is reared in a family and then establishes a family, passing from the governed to the governing in a framework which extensively and profoundly shapes his concept of himself and of life in general.”[iii]  Therefore, it is of the greatest importance (for the church and state) that Christian parents take their covenantal responsibilities seriously. The heads of families are obligated to use their God-given authority to instill in their children a love of God and a thorough training in religion. They are to raise up a godly seed. If fathers neglect this responsibility, then pulpits by and large will be filled with false prophets and the offices of civil magistrates will be filled with liars and whoremongers.

Third, the two other primary covenantal institutions-the church and the state are not qualified, nor have they been given, the task by God of the day-to-day spiritual training of children. This is the responsibility of Christian fathers. If the spiritual training of children is given over to the state or even the church by parents the end result will be a disaster. The history regarding this point is clear. At the close of the twentieth century it is obvious that the attempts of secularized civil governments (communist, socialist, fascist, welfare statism, etc.) to instill solid ethical guidelines in children have been a colossal failure. Serious Christian parents do not expect the public school system to teach their children anything about Christianity. Many professing Christian parents, however, have wrongly assumed that the spiritual training of their children is something that the church exclusively or primarily should do. Therefore, it is not uncommon for evangelicals to neglect family worship altogether in favor of Sunday school programs and church youth groups. However, an hour of instruction on Sunday morning cannot replace or compare to daily family worship and daily biblical instruction that is integrated into all of life (cf. Dt. 6:7). Further, the spiritual instruction of children rests squarely upon the shoulders of the father (the covenant head) and therefore should not be passed on to others without biblical warrant. (Other reasons will be considered under the section "motivations for discipline.")

The Starting Point for Discipline

The starting point for the discipline or training of Christian children is the fear of the Lord or the faith and obedience of the parents. Deuteronomy 6:1-9 says,

Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the Lord God of your fathers has promised you - 'a land flowing with milk and honey.' Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

It is not uncommon today for parents who do not believe in Christ and who do not obey God's commandments to get sort of "religious" after having their first child. The parents will have their children baptized or "christened" and when the child reaches a certain age they will drop that child off at a vacation Bible school or at a Sunday school program. In stark contrast, the biblical approach to child-rearing starts with the parents. The parents are commanded by God to observe the law (Dt. 6:1), fear the Lord (6:2), keep all of God's statutes (6:2) and be careful to observe them (6:3). Parents are to love God with all their hearts, soul and strength (6:5) and must learn God's law and place it in their hearts (6:6). The parents are to love God with their whole being and they are to express that love by learning and obeying God's precepts. They in turn are to pass their total devotion to God to their children.

What this means is that biblical child-rearing starts with faithfulness on the part of the parents.  Unfaithful parents who habitually disregard God's law do not exhibit the outward signs or fruit of regeneration in their own lives. Such parents pass their unfaithfulness down to their children by their example and defective doctrine. God blesses the children of faithful parents because: a) He promises to do so; and b) faithful parents are the normal means by which children are taught the "sum of saving knowledge." The parents introduce their children to the doctrines of God, Christ, the law, gospel and so on. Faithful parents exhibit the truth of the gospel every day before the eyes of their children. Of course God can and does (by His sovereign grace) sometimes save the children of wicked atheists. This fact, however, does not at all mean that professing Christians can neglect biblical principles and expect a good outcome. We must heed God's commandments and not play Russian roulette with our children.

There are a number of important truths that should be noted in relation to the fact that biblical childrearing starts with the parents and their relationship with God. First, Christian parents need to recognize that they are under the direct authority of God and His infallible, all-sufficient word. Parental authority is not arbitrary, dictatorial or autonomous. It is rooted in divine revelation. Therefore, it is ministerial, loving and limited.  Paul says, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right" (Eph. 6:1). Parents do not have authority to command their children to do anything contrary to God's word. Consequently, they also must not use child-rearing blueprints and guidelines derived from an unbelieving, apostate or pagan worldview. Parents should never turn to modern psychology, psychiatry or heretical gimmicks for ethical advice or tips on childrearing. To do so reveals a lack of faith in the sufficiency of Scripture. Dependence on these so-called scientific, secular vocations is akin to Israelites seeking counsel from the priests of Baal. It is a dangerous and destructive form of syncretism. Parents are to derive their standards solely from the Bible. This however, does not preclude biblical materials on the family.

Second, parents must be diligent regarding their own personal sanctification. They are to be doers of the word and not hearers only. It is the husbands' and fathers' responsibility as the head of the household to make sure that they are members of a Bible-believing church and that they regularly attend. He is responsible for the spiritual training of himself and his wife. Therefore, he must make sure that there is regular family worship and that both he and his wife are engaging in daily Scripture reading, prayer, the study of good books and so on. Every Christian father has a responsibility to learn the Bible and theology in order to be a good spiritual leader of the household. While the church is a great help to families, God has not delegated a father's responsibility towards his family to the pastor or elders of the local church. Paul tells us that if a wife has a question (which in context obviously regards doctrine or spiritual matters) she must ask the question to her own husband at home (1 Cor. 14:35). The apostle speaking under divine inspiration assumes that the husband is the biblical expositor and theologian of the family. This makes sense from a biblical perspective for two reasons. First, it is obvious that adequate training in theology, self-government and sanctification cannot be achieved in only a few hours each week on Sunday. Second, Deuteronomy 6:7 teaches parents that the spiritual training of children is to occur both inside and outside the home, from the beginning of the day to the end of the day. In other words, God's law-word is to permeate every sphere of life. Therefore, it is crucial that parents (especially fathers) have their spiritual life in order. Biblical Christianity is to permeate every area of a child's existence. Asaph tells us that faithful fathers are indispensable in proper child training. "For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, that they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments; and may not be like their fathers [i.e., ancestors], a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not set its heart aright, and whose spirit was not faithful to God" (Ps. 78:5-9).

The Necessity of Discipline

A very popular concept of childrearing today says that children are basically good and that what they need to thrive as a child and later as an adult is autonomy and freedom. This philosophy tells parents not to interfere with the child for that would impede the child's growth and creativity. In line with this type of thinking many argue that spanking a child is barbaric; that one should praise the child when he does something good but ignore the child when he does something bad (i.e., behaviorism). One must be very careful (we are told) not to do anything that might erode the child's self-esteem. All such thinking is founded on an unbiblical pagan anthropology. Note, also that all such thinking blatantly contradicts the reality of everyday life. The only reason that secular psychologists ignore the obvious (i.e., the sinful nature of children) is their spiritual blindness.

The Bible teaches that children are born depraved, corrupt, with a bias toward evil, with rebellious hearts and sinful natures. This is the doctrine of original sin, that all men (except Jesus Christ) are born with the guilt and pollution of Adam's sin (cf. Rom 5:12). Because of the federal headship of Adam, we are all brought forth in iniquity and conceived in sin (Ps. 51:5). All are born "by nature the children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3) and all "go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies" (Ps. 58:3). "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it" (Jer. 17:9)? Babies are not born good or even neutral (i.e., blank slate) but are born bad. All children are "naturally" sinful, selfish, cruel, destructive, scornful, rebellious and foolish.

The reason God informs us of our own and our children's inherent depravity is not so that we would despair and give up hope. God tells us the reality of what we are so that we will believe upon Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and deal biblically and effectively with our children. The fact that parental instruction and discipline are the normal, God-ordained means used to regenerate children should give us great hope and spur us on to diligent action. Christian parents have the responsibility to restrain sinful behavior in their children so that they will trust in Jesus Christ and develop life-long habitual patterns of righteous behavior.

The Proverbs contain many passages that speak to the need and urgency of parental correction, training and discipline of children. Proverbs 23:13-14 says: "Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell." Most parents have a natural affection for their children. They do not like to see their cute little ones suffer pain and cry. Therefore, God warns us that the proper merciful and loving thing for a parent to do is inflict the pain of discipline at the proper time in the here and now, rather than raise up undisciplined rebels who will burn in hell for eternity. A lack of biblical discipline (which includes inflicting the pain of the rod) has negative eternal consequences. Children are born rebellious and sinful, therefore, if they are not taught biblical doctrine and ethics with the loving chastisement of the rod they will go right down the broad path that leads to destruction. "What parent then, that trembles for his child's eternal destiny, can withhold correction?"[iv]  Many of the so-called experts in the field of child psychology argue that spanking is cruel. They argue that it is a remnant of a barbaric pre-scientific past; that it is a form of child abuse. God, however, says the exact opposite, that withholding the rod is cruel, irresponsible, and an act of hatred (Pr. 13:24). To those who teach that spanking is uncompassionate, God says, "The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel" (Pr. 12:10).

The Bible contains some sobering examples of what happens to children when they are not disciplined or biblically restrained by their parents. There is the example of Eli and his wicked sons. From a reading of Scripture one gets the impression that Eli was a genuine believer in Jehovah who himself was upright in character. Yet Eli was deficient in one crucial area, the restraint of his own children. In 1 Samuel chapter 2, we are told "the sons of Eli were corrupt and did not know the Lord" (v 12). They were even guilty of committing sexual immorality with women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting (v. 22). When Eli heard about all the evil activities that his sons were engaged in, he warned his sons that God would not tolerate such evil (vs. 23-25), yet did not restrain their actions. As a result Eli was judged along with his sons. Indeed, his whole house was judged and cut off forever. "Then the Lord said to Samuel: 'Behold, I will do something in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them.'" (1 Sam. 3:11-13)  Poole writes: "He restrained them not; he contented himself with a cold and gentle reproof, and did not severely rebuke, and punish, and effectually restrain them from their abominable courses, nor use that authority which God had given him, as a father, as a high priest, and as a judge, or chief magistrate, against them, as by the law of God he was obligated to do."[v]

King David and his failure to deal with his wicked sons also serves as a concrete example of Proverbs 23:13-14. David's firstborn son Amnon deceived and forced himself sexually upon his half-sister Tamar (2 Sam. 13:6-14). Then he treated her with hatred and contempt. How did David deal with this serious transgression? He became very angry (2 Sam. 13:21), yet did not punish Amnon. If David had dealt with Amnon, then perhaps Absalom (David's third born son) would not have been filled with hatred toward Amnon and planned revenge against him. But tragically Absalom in a premeditated plan had Amnon murdered (2 Sam. 13:28-29). What was David's response to this death-penalty offense? David did virtually nothing. Absalom had to live in exile for a few years after which he returned (with David's permission) to Jerusalem. After returning to Jerusalem Absalom rebelled against David's kingship and was killed by Joab the command of David's forces. David's fourth son Adonijah also came to an ignoble end because of David's parental negligence. Note, David's refusal to rebuke his son when he set his heart on the throne that had already been promised to Solomon. "Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, 'I will be king'; and he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. (And his father had not rebuked him at any time by saying, 'Why have you done so?)'" (1 Kgs. 1:5-6) After David had died and Solomon was king, Solomon had Adonijah executed because he still desired his throne. David repeatedly refused to discipline his sons and the end result were sons who were out of control, who died by violence and went to hell.

A further reason for prompt biblical discipline is seen in Proverbs 19:18, "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying." The phrase "while there is hope" clearly implies that if diligent discipline is not applied to children by their parents there will come a time (from a human perspective) when the child or young adult is beyond hope. The God-given opportunity to shape the child's character in a biblical manner has forever been lost. Christian parents who have neglected discipline and thus have lost their children to heathenism carry a heavy burden. They know that they have missed a one-time opportunity. If they could, they would go back in time and do things differently. But sadly, they cannot. The Holy Spirit warns us that there are serious, deadly and eternal consequences to parental neglect of discipline. Withholding correction is no different than setting one's heart upon the destruction of one's own precious child.

In the same vein, Proverbs 13:24 equates a lack of discipline to hatred. It reads: "He that spareth his rod hateth his son:  but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." This passage does not mean that a neglectful parent actually has feelings of hatred toward his children. It rather refers to the fact that such a parent is turning his own child over to ethical chaos, destruction and misery. "Doesn't he at least act as if he hated him-by bypassing a duty so necessary for his welfare; overlooking his vicious habits and wayward will, which must surely issue in bitter sorrow. Isn't this delivering him up to his worst enemy? Better that the child had been trained in the house of strangers, than that he should be the unhappy victim of the cruelty of parental love.”[vi]  It is tragically ironic that our culture which is obsessed with the young and which is constantly passing laws to "protect the children," is by and large a society that by its permissiveness actually hates children.

Hebrews 12:6-8 states positively what Proverbs 13:24 states negatively. It says, "For whom the LORD loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons." The author of Hebrews says that God's chastening of believers is proof of His love for them. A father who refuses to discipline his children treats them as unwanted bastards. Many children who live in households with no discipline know intuitively that their parents really do not care. Often such children have a longing for discipline. True love and biblical discipline go hand in hand.

A passage that speaks to the necessity of biblical child rearing that is often misunderstood is Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." This verse is almost always regarded as a promise to parents that if they are diligent regarding the biblical training of their children, their children will not depart from that training when they are adults. Although the common understanding is (generally speaking) a legitimate application of this passage, it is based on the translation of the King James Version (that virtually all English translations have followed-NASB, NIV, RSV, etc.) and not a literal rendering of the Hebrew text. A literal translation reads, "Train up a child in the mouth of his way; even when he is old he will not depart from it." There are basically two different interpretations of the literal rendering of the Hebrew. The first interprets "in the mouth of his way" in the sense of "conformably to his way." That is, the biblical training of children needs be conformed to the age or intellectual ability of the child. Parents must carefully consider a child's level of development so that they are catechized at the proper level, according to their own mental capacity. A second interpretation regards this passage as a promise that is a solemn warning. Parents are warned that if they allow their child to determine his own path that child will never depart from his rebellious autonomy from God. Jay Adams writes:

The verse stands not as a promise but as a warning to parents that if they allow a child to train himself after his own wishes (permissively) they should not expect him to want to change these patterns when he matures. Children are born sinners and when allowed to follow their own wishes will naturally develop sinful habit responses. The basic thought is that such habit patterns become deep-seated when they have been ingrained in the child from the earliest days.[vii]

Proverbs 22:6 is a negative promise. If parents allow their children to call the shots, to determine for themselves what is right and what is wrong, then those children will never learn biblical discipline. The Bible once again reminds us that our cute little children are sinners. They are natural born rebels. A child in many ways is like a garden. One turns the soil and plants the seeds. However, that freshly turned earth is also full of weed seeds. If the garden is left to itself and is not watered and weeded early and often, then one will not have a lovely useful garden but an ugly, useless patch of weeds. If children are left to themselves and are not given the biblical nurture that they need, then they will absorb the surrounding pagan world-view. When professing Christians leave their children to themselves and these children go to state schools, watch anything they want on television, listen to popular music and hang out with the so-called cool crowd, is it any wonder that their adult years are wasted as unregenerate rebels?

Children need stern discipline in order to drive the innate ethical foolishness out of their hearts. Proverbs 22:15 says, "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him." The Hebrew word for foolishness does not simply refer to stupidity, stubbornness and a flippant attitude. It refers to a bad spiritual condition, to moral insolence. It does not refer to the fact that small children lack knowledge, but to a child's inborn sinful obstinacy. "Foolishness is the mighty tendency to evil-imbibing wrong principles, forming bad habits, entering into an ungodly course. It means the very root and essence of sin in a fallen nature-the folly of turning away from a God of love. It includes all the sins of which a child is capable-lying, deceit, willfulness, perverseness, want of submission to authority-a fearful tendency toward evil and revulsion against good. It is not a sheet of pure white paper; not the innocent, or even the easily controlled creature, easily guided by proper means, that we are looking at; but a little heart full of sin, containing all the seeds of future evil, multiplying to a fruitful harvest."[viii] What is needed to remove foolishness? The only answer is parental discipline biblically applied. Today in our post-Christian culture, sinful foolishness is not only tolerated in children, it is accepted as perfectly normal and even celebrated in sitcoms, movies, magazines and pop music. God does not tell Christian parents to accept foolishness, or to medicate it with Prozac or Ritalin®, or to coddle it with psychobabble, but to drive it out with the rod of correction. Children will not drive it out. Parents in the context of love must use the divinely appointed means to rid their children of this ethical poison.

The passages considered thus far regarding the necessity of discipline have been primarily negative. That is, they warn parents of the consequences of a neglect of their duties. There are also passages that speak to the necessity of biblical discipline from a positive perspective. One such passage is Proverbs 29:15, "The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame." Wisdom in the book of Proverbs is loaded with meaning and should not be confused with a mere moralistic theism. It involves not only learning God's precepts but also having a loving, reverential relationship to Jehovah Himself. Wisdom is founded in the fear of the Lord. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:  For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck" (Prov. 1:7-9). "The controlling principle of life, which crowns a man and enriches his days with wisdom, is the fear of the Lord, and this fear is inseparable from the law, instruction, or direction of God."[ix]  The goal of biblical discipline is not just to impart ethical guidelines or "family values." Also, discipline is not applied merely so that parents will have a well-ordered, peaceful household. The children of believers need wisdom (ethical and doctrinal knowledge, Christian character, biblical discernment, sanctified shrewdness and discretion) that is inseparably connected with and flows from a saving relationship to Jesus Christ. Anything less is just moralism. Heathen wisdom is foolishness for it is anthropocentric. Its focus is not upon the true God but the glorification and exaltation of man. That is why moralism degenerates into a self-righteous Pharisaical arrogance. Matthew Henry writes: "In order to the attainment of all useful knowledge this is most necessary, that we fear God; we are not qualified to profit by the instructions that are given us unless our minds be possessed with a holy reverence of God, and every thought within us be brought into obedience to him.”[x] 

Some object to the idea that parents can teach the fear of the Lord. They argue that only the Holy Spirit imparts a love and fear of God in regeneration. Although it is true that regeneration is an act of the Holy Spirit, one must not forget that regeneration (in the broad sense, e.g., 1 Pet.1:23, Jas. 1:18) always accompanies a knowledge of revelational truth. Once again one must be reminded that Christian parents are the normal God-ordained means of imparting the knowledge that is used by the Holy Spirit to cause conviction, conversion and devotion to God in their children. Believing parents are to impart knowledge of the divine character, the precepts of the law and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Children need to learn the nature of true religion, in its principles and in its practice. "For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life" (Pr. 6:23).


In this chapter we considered the importance, starting point, and necessity of biblical childrearing. The biblical training of children by their Christian parents is important because: 1). The family is the first covenantal and governing institution in creation. God has given the family a crucial role in the task of godly dominion over creation. 2). The family is the nursery of both the church and the state. Solid Christian families are needed for thriving churches and peaceful, well-ordered communities. 3). The normal God-ordained means of a child's salvation, sanctification and spiritual maturity comes by means of parental instruction and discipline. 4). The two other primary covenant institutions, the church and the state are not qualified and have not been given the task by God of the day to day spiritual training and discipline of covenant children. This is the responsibility of Christian fathers and parents.

The starting point of Christian child-rearing is parents who love the Lord with all their heart, soul and strength; who are faithful to God and keep His commandments. If Christian parents want to be good at biblical childrearing then they need to: (1) Recognize that they are under the direct authority of God and His infallible, sufficient word. The sole standard for biblical childrearing is Scripture. (2) Be diligent regarding their own personal sanctification. Fathers especially need to lead the whole family in godliness. The father must be spiritually mature and must have a solid knowledge of Scripture and theology.

The Bible also gives many reasons why children need to be diligently disciplined by their parents. (1) Biblical discipline is necessary because of the fall of Adam. All children are born depraved, corrupt, with a bias toward evil, with rebellious hearts and sinful natures. (2) Children need to be disciplined in order to save them from hell. A lack of biblical discipline has negative eternal consequences. (3) Discipline also delivers children from destruction or a life of violence, chaos and evil. (4) Discipline drives foolishness out of children. (5) Discipline imparts wisdom to children so that they are equipped for a life of service to Christ. (6) Discipline and instruction are the ordinary means used by the Holy Spirit to cause conviction, conversion and devotion to God in children. The Bible says that parents who do not discipline their children hate them. Biblical discipline is a true expression of biblical love.


Part 2: The Necessity of an Explicitly Christian Education

The Bible is very specific regarding the manner in which Christian parents are to bring up children. Paul tells Christian fathers, "And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath:  but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4). Deuteronomy 6:6-9 reads, "And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart. And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.  And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.  And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates."

In the Old Testament (especially in Proverbs) there are a whole series of words that are directly used in the sphere of the biblical training of children. These words are translated as teaching, instruction, reproof, chastisement, correction and discipline. The most common Hebrew word is musa,r  a comprehensive term that is translated as instruction, admonition, discipline and correction. The Septuagint usually translates this word as paideia which is the word used by Paul in Ephesians 6 translated as "nurture" (KJV). In Hebrews 12:5, 7 and 8, the same word is translated as "chastening." Although the word is often used in the narrow sense of chastening or discipline for bad behavior, the term also has a very broad sense, that is the overall general biblical education of a child and all that it entails (instruction, reproof, chastisement, etc.).

The general overall picture of godly childrearing that is presented in Scripture is as follows. God has given Christian parents (in particular fathers) His divine revelation (or covenant law-word) that they are responsible to learn, believe and obey (Dt. 6:1-6). They in turn have an obligation to "diligently teach" the Bible to their children (Dt. 6:7). This teaching, however, is not merely an intellectual affair but is enforced, reinforced and habituated through example, verbal reproof, correction and admonition coupled with physical chastisement at appropriate times. This training process is used by God to justify and sanctify the children of believers. Further, this training process imparts true biblical wisdom. The children learn discretion, discernment, insight, and practical wisdom or in modern slang terms "biblical street smarts." Children are prepared for a life of truly satisfying work under Christ. Under the biblical leadership of a Christian father children are to develop Christian character. They are to be "cultured" in a distinctly Christian sense. The goal of teaching is "to know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion" (Prov. 1:2-4).

Before turning to specifics regarding discipline, one must consider the important role of teaching in the home. God commands all Christian parents to "diligently teach" their children (Dt. 6:7). Parents have the responsibility to teach their children to love the Lord with their whole heart. They are to teach the fear of the Lord, a total loving devotion and submission unto Him. Consequently, parents must teach their children the whole counsel of God. If parents focus on biblical ethics without teaching their children the many other important doctrines (e.g., God's nature and character, creation, providence, regeneration, justification, sanctification, etc.) then those children will often have a very distorted understanding of the faith. Such lopsided teaching can lead to Pharisaical self-righteousness or a secular "do-gooder" type of pragmatism.

There are a number of things that parents should do to insure a theological balance in the home. First, fathers should read straight through the Bible on a daily basis during family worship. When parents haphazardly pick and choose Bible readings for the family devotions there is a tendency to focus on certain portions of Scripture at the expense of others. Parents also should require all children who are capable of reading, to read systematically through the whole Bible in their personal devotions. Parents should ask their children questions regarding each day's Scripture reading to encourage meditation and analysis of what was read. This will discourage a cursory reading where little scriptural knowledge is actually absorbed. Further, fathers should acquire Christian books and commentaries in order to answer questions from their wives and children regarding difficult portions of Scripture. (A good book on biblical interpretation is Louis Berkhof's, Principles of Biblical Interpretation, Baker, 1950. Some recommended commentaries on the Bible are Matthew Henry's, John Calvin's, Matthew Poole's, and John Gill's. A good New Testament commentary set to start off with is William Hendriksen's and Simon J. Kistemaker's.) A father should encourage his wife and children to ask questions regarding the Bible. If the father cannot answer a particular question adequately from his own personal library he should call a friend or elder who can.

Second, parents should take advantage of the theological works produced by the church for the purpose of balanced instruction. The greatest tool yet produced for the theological training of children (and new believers) is the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Not only is the Shorter Catechism theologically balanced, comprehensive and thoroughly biblical, it is specifically designed for children or those of "weaker capacity." The Shorter Catechism should be used in family devotions, home schooling and Christian schools. Children should not only be required to progressively memorize the questions and answers to the catechism, they also need to be taught the meaning of the answers so that they can explain the various theological points in their own words. Most young children are not very excited about the study of theology. It is important that parents emphasize the necessity and importance of theology, that such training is something that pleases God. Also, fathers need to maintain discipline and teach in a patient, loving manner so that the children are not turned off by formal instruction. One should fervently pray that his children will love the Bible and theology so that they will have a deeper love of God and will be better able to serve man. Causing one's children to hate devotions by acting like a mean tyrant is obviously counterproductive.

Parents should also incorporate Christian books into a child's home schooling and "leisure" reading. There are biographies written for different reading levels on various Protestant Reformers and notable missionaries. There are also some excellent historical novels that are written from a Christian perspective (e.g., G. A. Henty). When children are old enough they should learn church history and should read some of the standard works on theology (e.g., L. Berkhof, Hodge, Calvin, and others) and counseling (e.g., Jay Adams). Many children who have grown up and apostatized their faith did so because their fathers did not do their job adequately as teacher and theologian of the family.

Formal Bible and theological instruction during family devotions and home schooling is not enough. Deuteronomy 6:7-9 indicates that biblical instruction is to permeate the whole of each and every day at each and every location. It reads, "And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.  And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.  And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates." This passage contains a very comprehensive view of Christian childrearing. Its directions and implications for family religion are manifold.

American evangelicalism for the most part has a very compartmentalized view of a child's education and training. For the so-called "secular subjects" (math, history, reading, writing, science, etc.) most professing Christian parents send their children to the public or state school. For "religious subjects" (e.g., creation, Noah's ark, Daniel and lion's den, etc.) there is Sunday school and the youth group. When serious disciplinary problems arise there is the school guidance counselor, the local psychologist or the youth pastor. The Bible presents a very different picture of childrearing. It does not treat biblical religion as a little side compartment to life. It does not regard doctrine as a little sphere of spiritual material that is added on to the secular sphere. Deuteronomy 6:7ff says plainly that scriptural precepts and principles are to permeate every area of life. Christian parents have a responsibility to pass on to their children a comprehensive biblical world and life view. Therefore, God expects parents to integrate a study of God's word into every sphere of a child's life. Patrick D. Miller writes: "The picture is that of a family continually in lively conversation about the meaning of their experience with God and God's expectations of them. Parental teaching of the children by conversation about 'the words,' study of God's instruction, and reflection on it (cf. Ps. 1:2 and Josh. 1:8) is to go on in the family and community. Whether at or away from home, 'these words' are to be uppermost in mind and heart; parents should teach their children in such a way that their last thoughts before falling asleep and their first words upon getting up are about the Lord's command. The text is clear that 'these words' are not simply to be recited or repeated. They are to be talked about--that is discussed, studied, and learned. The practical implications for life are to be thought out and discussed with the children as much as they are in the Book of Deuteronomy itself.”[xi]

Parents need to integrate biblical teaching into a household's everyday activities. During meals the father should direct the conversation theologically. Current events, the news of the day or a current fad, can be discussed from a biblical perspective. Questions can be asked regarding school or personal Bible reading. Husbands and wives can discuss doctrine and analyze current theological debates in the Christian community. The children should see a passion for God and theology on a daily basis. When gardening or doing outdoor chores the wonders and beauty of God's creation should be a frequent topic. It is also important to discuss the importance of the Christian work ethic. When the family watches a TV program or a movie, the parents can discuss the theme, message and worldview presented in the particular program from a Christian perspective. If a parent is not used to integrating biblical teaching into everyday mundane activities (such as grocery shopping with the children) then one should think of discussions, comments and questions that can be used ahead of time. Parents need to work at this theological integration until it is both natural and habitual. If one is looking for ideas in this area the book of Proverbs is ideal. The Proverbs are full of applications and warnings from God's law—in short, memorable sayings taken from nature and everyday life.

If parents are to play the key role in integrating biblical teaching in their children's lives, then they have a responsibility to organize their lives in such a manner that they have adequate time to spend with their children. This means that one's children take priority over material things such as owning a new car, expensive vacations, fancy clothes and so on. There is nothing wrong with having nice things as long as one does not neglect one's own children to have them. A father who works two jobs and is never home in order to buy a fancy SUV is clearly violating Scripture. Also, under normal circumstances (in a two-parent household) mothers are to be home with the children. The modern feminist idea that mothers need to work outside the home in a shop, office or factory to have true fulfillment is satanic nonsense. Mothers who place their children in a day-care center for the sake of a career, or in order to maintain an upper class lifestyle are self-centered and materialistic. Further, when husbands are home from work they are not to spend all their spare time with their buddies or in front of the television. They must spend time with their own children, discipling them. After a hard day's work the couch and TV are very inviting. However, fathers have a higher calling: that is, a God-given duty to engage their children in godly conversation. Many Christian fathers will have to answer to God for wasting years of opportunity to obey Deuteronomy 6:7ff.

Churches should support parents in their desire to practice theological integration by providing solid teaching and materials on the family (e.g., Jay Adams, Doug Wilson, Bruce A. Ray, etc.) as well as not treating families as isolated individuals. Churches should encourage whole families to attend public worship together as was practiced in Scripture (cf. Ex. 10:9, Dt. 12:18; 29:10-13; 31:10-13; Josh. 8:35). Also, churches must avoid various programs that atomize the family. The trend of large Evangelical churches is to have a separate program for husbands, wives, girls, boys, teens and so on. Such a practice works at cross-purposes to Deuteronomy 6:7ff. Christian children need solid leadership from their own fathers. They do not need youth pastors and silly gimmicks. Children need to see the godly interaction of their parents with other Christians. There are many Bible passages (e.g., Ex. 12:26-27; Dt. 6:20-21; 32:7; Josh. 4:6-7) that assume that children learn the meaning of biblical religion directly from their parents. Remember, the imperatives of Deuteronomy 6:7ff are given to fathers and parents and not to youth pastors or youth group leaders.

Deuteronomy 6:7ff and the Public School Question

There are some important applications of Deuteronomy 6:7ff that need to be considered. The first application regards the question of public or state schools. Do the commands of God in this portion of Scripture give parents the option of placing their children in a public school? There are a number of biblical reasons why the answer to this question is an emphatic no. One reason why this portion of Scripture rules out the use of public schools is that it requires the true Christian faith to be integrated into every area of life. Every subject under the sun (e.g., math, geography, economics, art, literature, science, medicine, agriculture, political science, etc.) must be taught from a distinctly Christian perspective. Deuteronomy 6:7ff tells fathers that every part of every day and in every place there must be a discussion of Jehovah and His word. If God requires theological discussion at home, outside in the garden or park, in the supermarket, in the car or even at the ballpark then certainly He requires a discussion of God and His ways during the many hours of education at school. Deuteronomy 6:7ff simply assumes that there are no areas of life that are neutral or purely secular. Yet public schools as a distinct policy leave God, Christ and the Scriptures outside of the classroom. Schools that separate God and Christ from the classroom are schools that are founded upon anti-Christian, atheistic unbelief. Such schools are not designed to promote obedience to Christ and His law-word but are designed to produce allegiance to the state. The apostle Paul agrees with the teaching of Deuteronomy when he tells fathers to bring their children "up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4). The entire training process of a child is to be "of the Lord." Every bit of training, discipline, education and knowledge is to converge in total devotion and obedience to Jesus Christ as every beam of light leads to the sun.

According to Deuteronomy 6 the purpose and goal of education is love and obedience to God. The parents are not merely training children to make money but to be faithful to God. The central command of Scripture is to love God with the whole heart (Dt. 6:5). That is the chief reason why theology is to permeate all other subjects. Any educational system that does not have a love of God through Jesus Christ as its chief goal is anti-Christian and implicitly satanic. Jesus said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Mt. 23:37). How can public schools promote the greatest commandment when they purposely keep God away from children's minds?

Another reason why Christians should not send their children to public schools is that state schools violate the first commandment by adhering to the educational philosophy that no religion should be favored above another religion. In a nation of many diverse religions, the educational establishment believed the best policy was to establish religiously neutral schools. However, because religious neutrality is impossible, public schools opted for agnosticism, secular humanism, and naturalism all of which are religious beliefs that are antithetical to Christian theism.[xii]  Indeed, many within the educational establishment waved the flag of neutrality and fairness as a guise to de-Christianize the schools in America. Sadly, most Christians have succumbed to the neutrality ploy.

Public schools refuse to confess Christ before men (Mt. 10:22). They are teaching by precept and example that God, Jesus and the Bible have nothing to do with education. The word of God, however, says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Pr. 1:7), that human philosophies are not according to Christ (Col. 2:8). God has given Christ "all authority in heaven and on earth" (Mt.28:18). There is no area of life that is outside of His control and domain. Public schools are in open rebellion against Jesus Christ for they reject His authority over the classroom. Gordon Clark writes: "How does God judge the school system which says to him 'O God, we neither deny nor assert thy existence; and O God, we neither obey nor disobey thy commands; we are strictly neutral.' Let no one fail to the point: The school system that ignores God teaches its pupils to ignore God; and this is not neutrality. It is the worst form of antagonism, for it judges God to be unimportant and irrelevant in human affairs. This is atheism."[xiii]  Jesus said, "he that is not with Me is against Me" (Mt. 12:30). Are public schools with Christ? Are they faithfully serving Him? No, they are against Him. When Christian parents send their children to public schools they are in essence handing their children over to the enemy (anti-Christ statist idolaters) to be indoctrinated in the modern state religion-secular humanism. That many such children reject the faith of their fathers and embrace the world spirit and heartily give themselves over to the lust of the flesh (fornication, adultery, drunkenness, drugs, etc.) should come as no surprise. Would any one be surprised if a child that spent several hours each day for several years at a Hindu school eventually converted to Hinduism as a teenager? No, of course not! Yet countless Christian fathers have bought into the myth that public schools are neutral and send their children to hell in the process.

A third reason why Christian parents should not send their children to public schools is that the purpose of educating their children is to promote obedience to Jesus Christ and His law. Christian parents have a responsibility to pass on to their children a distinctly Christian world and life view. Their child's education must be permeated with Christian ethics or values. Every subject must be taught in accordance with the Christian worldview and must be "christocentric." Paul writes: "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." (2 Cor. 10:4-5)  In public schools every subject and discussion is an anti-Christian stronghold that needs to be pulled down.

Public schools teach that man evolved from pond scum. The Bible teaches that God created all things in six literal days. Is it proper for a Christian father to expose his seven or eight year old child to a dogmatic, organized attack against the foundational doctrine of creation? Public schools teach that ethics are evolving, that society or the majority determines what is acceptable behavior. The Bible says that the moral law is based on God's nature and is unchanging, absolute and non-negotiable. Public schools teach that man is basically good and that many bad behaviors are the result of bad genetics, or environment, or disease (e.g., alcoholism, drug addiction). The Bible teaches that man is born with the guilt and pollution of sin and that every transgression of God's law is evil. Public schools identify many evil activities as permissible and even virtuous (e.g., fornication, homosexuality, witchcraft, idolatry, rebellion against parents, etc.). They also strongly condemn many fundamental doctrines of Christianity such as Christ's exclusive claim to be the way to God, the biblical view of the family and so on. Public schools have no real foundational basis for teaching ethics. Only the Bible gives sound, logical reasons why cheating, theft, rape, sexual immorality and murder are wrong. Public schools espouse a secular humanistic, naturalistic, pluralistic, relativistic anti-Christian philosophy that contradicts Scripture at every fundamental point. Parents simply cannot be faithful to the biblical commands to instill in their children a Christian world and life view if they send their children into the satanic lion's den of public education. Every thought is to be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, not to the obedience of the heathen state.

A fourth reason why Christian parents should not send their children to public school is that "evil communications corrupt good manners" (1 Cor. 15:33). The word translated as communications "means a bringing together, companionship. It is contact, association with evil, that is declared to be corrupting."[xiv]  It is totally irresponsible to send children into a society of evil teachers and evil-doers. "Spiritual life is quenched in the atmosphere of carnal society, and a sort of intoxication quickly comes over him who frequents it.”[xv]  Children are often very gullible and susceptible to peer pressure and to the influence of people in positions of authority (i.e., teachers). A child in a public school is assaulted from every side by demonic doctrine, profane disputations, coarse jesting, satanic music, exaltation of fornication and rebellion, hatred of lawful authority and all sorts of deadly temptations. How many children have had their minds polluted and their morals corrupted at the public school? Sad to say-multitudes!

A fifth reason why a child should not attend public school is that a Christian child's education must always be accompanied by biblical discipline. Biblical education is never purely an intellectual affair. It is always to be accompanied with verbal reproof, correction and admonition and physical chastisement when necessary. The fact that children need admonition presupposes that children have violated some ethical standard and therefore need to be confronted verbally regarding "bad" behavior or speech. It also presupposes that the goal of such admonition or correction is an acknowledgment of wrongdoing and a change of behavior in a right direction. That is, there is to be repentance leading to a personality and behavioral change. This point raises a few questions regarding public schools. First, are public schools including discipline with a child's education? Second, if public schools are using discipline, what is their standard? It is common knowledge that discipline in public schools is very lax if not virtually non-existent. This fact should come as no surprise for four reasons. First, the spanking of children is now regarded as child abuse. Second, rebellious behavior (especially in teenagers) is considered a normal and even a beneficial aspect of growing up. Third, state schools are not really interested in instilling "old-fashioned values" but are primarily interested in producing young adults who are in love with statism. One must keep in mind that state schools are an establishment of religion (secular humanism) and their main job is not education but the promotion of that religion. Fourth, many modern public school teachers do not regard misbehavior as an ethical problem but as a problem of environment. Rambunctious children are medicated with Ritalin®, and when children and young adults commit murder we are often told that such persons were themselves victims of society.

However, the main reason why children should never attend a public school is that the discipline that occurs in a state school is not based on Scripture or biblical ethics but on secular humanism. Therefore, children who are in a public school will receive satanic admonition. For example, they will receive rebuke, correction and chastisement for godly behavior (e.g., starting prayer groups, speaking up for Christ in class, witnessing to others, telling the truth regarding premarital sex and homosexuality, warning others of false religions, etc.) and they will receive praise for ungodly speech (e.g., speech that accepts and promotes human autonomy, relativism, cross-dressing and homosexuality, evolution, polytheism, racism [e.g., affirmative action], multiculturalism, feminism, statism, etc.). The satanic admonition that children receive in public schools is designed to promote a personality and behavioral change in an explicitly anti-Christian direction. Furthermore, even if a public school teacher or administrator disciplines a child for something that is truly unethical (e.g., lying, stealing, name-calling, fighting, etc.) they (as a set policy) cannot give biblical reasons for discipline but must rely on pragmatism, or some concept of loyalty to humanity or the state. To say to a child "do not lie because you need to be a good citizen" or "do not steal because it violates the brotherhood of man" tells a child something far different than, "do not lie or steal because such behavior is a violation of God's moral law and displeases Him," or "John, do you know that the Bible says that liars will not enter the kingdom of heaven?" Public school discipline is given in terms of utility to the state rather than in biblical terms of service and glorification to God.

A sixth reason why children should not attend public school is that God has not given the civil government the authority or biblical right to establish a tax-financed public school system. The Bible gives the civil magistrate a limited authority under God. The civil government has been given the task of protecting society by bringing negative sanctions against public evil. The civil magistrate is a minister of God "to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil" (Rom. 13:4). The civil government has every right to collect taxes in order to fulfill its negative role of protection. It, however, does not have biblical warrant to intrude upon the God-ordained institutions of the church or the family unless a crime (biblically defined) has been committed. Few professing Christians would argue that the civil magistrate has the right to administer the sacraments or exercise church discipline. Most professing Christians, however, do not have a problem with the state collecting taxes by means of coercion in order to do something that Scripture explicitly says belongs to fathers (Dt. 6:4-9; Eph. 6:4). The state has no more biblical right to collect taxes for public education than it does to set up Buddhist temples or Hindu shrines. The only people that God has given authority to set up schools for children are parents. "The Christian school, properly seen, is an extension of the Christian home. The school exists for no other purpose than to supplement and not replace a parent's instruction at home. The school and home work closely together in educating the child.”[xvi]  When the civil government sets up public schools it sets itself up as the father of all children. Such a civil government views all the children as property of the state. "This view is basic to the philosophies of statist education. It is especially pronounced in all forms of Marxism, national and international socialism alike. The child is a state resource, to be developed and used for the welfare of the state."[xvii] When parents put their children in a state school they in essence are supporting the state's messianic claim of total jurisdiction over the family. Such parents are contributing to the Molech-state's power religion. They also are guilty of stealing from their neighbor, for taxation without divine authorization is theft. Their children are going to school at the taxpayer's expense. Many of these taxpayers are elderly people who do not have any children and are on fixed incomes. Benefiting from the civil government's unlawful collection of property taxes for state schools is sinful. If all professing Christians pulled their children out of the public schools the public school system would collapse. Then the greatest institution of statist control and the spread of irreligion, socialism, atheism and nihilism would be put out of business. Why don't professing Christians take the leading role in shutting down the public school system? The answer probably is a love of mammon. How many professing Christians have sent their children straight to hell to save money?

Common Arguments For Public School Use Refuted

Christian parents who send their children to public schools have a number of arguments that are used to justify their practice. One argument is that children can avoid evil peer groups and spend their time with other Christians. Parents should simply instruct their children regarding proper companionship at school. There are a number of problems with this type of thinking. First, even if a child was extremely careful regarding forming friendships with others at school he still cannot avoid the evil influence of the teacher. Second, a child may not seek out the pierced, tattooed, pot-smoking, fornicating crowd. However, there is nothing stopping the heathen from seeking out your child in order to attempt to influence, corrupt or tease that child. Why place a child in harm's way when it is not necessary? Are not Christians told by Christ to avoid temptation (cf. Mt. 6:13; 26:41)? Third, even if a child does attempt to form a bond with other professing Christians at school, it is almost certain that in modern America such children will be charismatic heretics who deny some of the essentials of the faith. Parents need to heed the words of the Proverbs. "The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour:  but the way of the wicked suduceth them" (Prov. 12:26). "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise:  but a companion of fools shall be destroyed" (Prov. 13:20). "Thorns and snares are in the way of the froward:  he that doth keep his soul shall be far from them" (Prov. 22:5). "Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go:  Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul" (Prov. 22:24-25). "Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them.  For their heart studieth destruction, and their lips talk of mischief" (Prov. 24:1-2).

Christian parents must never forget that public schools by law are required to teach every subject from an autonomous satanic perspective. Every school hour of every day, public school teachers spout forth lies. Furthermore, public schools are cesspools of immorality. Children in public schools have a virtual smorgasbord of wickedness available to them every day. Virtually any drug, any form of sexual perversion, every form of religious Satanism and so on is readily available. Christian parents have an obligation to protect their children from such an anti-Christian environment. Sending one's children to a propaganda center for atheism and nihilism is not the proper, wise or loving thing to do. Even when Christian adults (who are spiritually mature and ready to do battle) spend time with the wicked, they are to do so on their own terms, not on the terms set by the wicked. Hodge writes, "It is only when men associate with the wicked with the desire and purpose to do them good, that they can rely on the protection of God to preserve them from contamination."[xviii]

Another argument that is often used to justify public school use is as follows: "Well, Pastor Dave's children all went to public school and they turned out just fine." Although one can point to many examples of children who attended public school without going apostate, such an argument is fallacious for the following reasons. First, the fact some children who are placed in unbiblical, dangerous situations and escape without serious harm does not prove that public schools are virtuous or biblical. It merely proves that God is merciful when Christian parents do stupid, unbiblical things. If a soldier in Vietnam makes his way through a deadly mine field without serious injury, it does not prove that mine fields are safe. It does not mean that one should recommend walking through mine fields to others. Second, although many children make it through public school without rejecting the faith, it does not mean that such children did not miss the superior opportunity of an explicitly Christian school or home education. There are many professing Christians that have been partially corrupted and negatively influenced by the propaganda they received in state schools as a child. The influence of feminism, statism, evolution, ethical relativism, existentialism, anti-intellectualism and so on are strongly evidenced in churches where children have attended public schools. A non-Christian education is a bad education. When Christian parents put their children in public schools they are missing a one-time opportunity to give their own children a good Christian education. No one who takes the Bible seriously can argue that a Christ-less education, or an agnostic-atheistic education is a good education. From a biblical standpoint it can't be.

A third argument that is used to justify sending children to public schools is that the Christian schools are no better than public schools. While there are many mediocre Christian schools in America, there are some excellent Christian schools as well. People who are unwilling to home school their children need to be willing to either form a solid Christian school with other Christian parents or they should be willing to move to an area where a good Christian school exists. A good Christian school must: be biblical in doctrine; have high academic standards; be strict in the area of discipline; and, must integrate the Christian world and life views into every subject. Schools that call themselves Christian yet use secular public school textbooks, or teach false doctrines, or lack academic rigor and moral discipline, or regard the Christian faith as an add-on to the "secular" fields of study must be avoided. They are Christian in name only.

A fourth argument is that children need to be exposed to the ways of the world in order to be properly prepared for adulthood. In other words Christian fathers should not overly shelter their children, for a time will come when they will be sent out in the world. There are a number of problems with this argument. First, this argument assumes (without any biblical proof) that children need to spend a lot of time among the wicked in order to learn to function in society. The biblical method of preparation for adulthood is not to send children over to Canaanite villages to spend time with the heathen, but rather for parents to diligently instruct their children regarding life and the temptations of the world so that they can deal with all the contingencies of life, identify sinful foolish behavior and avoid it. The biblical method of preparing children for life is to train them in biblical wisdom. This is achieved by teaching them the Scriptures and praying to God for wisdom. Proverbs 2:1-15 says:

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;  If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;  Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.  For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.  He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly.  He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints.  Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path.  When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul;  Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:  To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things;  Who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness;  Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked;  Whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths.

There is nothing in Scripture regarding the necessity of having one's children hang out with pagans. The book of Proverbs is full of instructions that are specifically designed to prepare young people for life out in the world. There are instructions and warnings regarding drunkenness (20:1; 23:20, 21, 29, 31, 32, 35), adultery (2:16, 5:3, 20; 6:29; 22:14; 30:20), the immoral seductress (2:16ff.), anger and self-control (14:16, 17; 15:1, 18; 29:11), prostitutes (6:20-35; 7:6-27; 23:36-27; 29:3) and so on.

Second, the "children need to mingle with pagans" argument assumes that children have a spiritual maturity level that is capable of sustaining repeated attacks and temptations. Children, especially young children, are very susceptible to satanic assaults. There will come a time when the children move out of the house and live and work among pagans. However, this will occur when they are no longer young or naive. They will establish their own household after they are thoroughly trained, spiritually mature adults. This will occur after they have been taught knowledge, wisdom, discretion, understanding and Christian discernment. Third, it assumes that parents will be able to counteract all the false, unethical nonsense that children are taught in public schools. But how we ask can Christian parents counteract teaching of which they are for the most part unaware? The fact that many Christian parents recognize that their children need to be de-programmed or de-paganized everyday after school is a tacit admission that public schools are a serious danger to Christian children.

A fifth argument that is used to justify sending children to public schools is that Christian children need to be in the public schools in order to witness to young unbelievers. This argument is refuted by two points. First, there is no biblical warrant for the concept of child evangelism. There are no biblical commands or examples in Scripture regarding little children witnessing to unbelievers. Jesus did say "Let the little children come to Me" (Mt. 19:14). However, the context indicates that these children were brought to Christ by adults (Mt. 19:13), who were very likely their own parents. The normal pattern of evangelistic ministry that one encounters in the Bible is for churches to send out adequately trained mature adult male believers. If Christians want to reach children with the gospel, then they should witness to whole families instead of sending young children into spiritually dangerous situations. Fathers can train their children in apologetics and evangelism by personal instruction and having a child come along when tracts are passed out, or door-to-door discussion takes place. Children are young disciples of their own parents. They are not yet adequately trained or spiritually equipped to debate with the heathen or to disciple others. Second, a Christian child at a public school is not in a position where he can witness effectively anyway. Since public schools are officially agnostic, pluralistic and anti-Christian, these children are forbidden to discuss God, the law, sin and salvation in class. Public schools do not even allow Bible study or prayer groups at the facilities during school hours. Therefore, even if one accepts the premise that children should be little evangelists, the public school environment is not conducive to effective ministry. The “child as an evangelist" argument is a transparent excuse for an unbiblical decision.

A sixth argument for sending children to public schools is: "I am not able to home school my children and cannot afford a Christian school. I simply have no other choice." There are situations with single mothers and poor two-parent households where a Christian school is not an option (financially) and where home schooling would be very difficult if not impossible. In these types of situations the church should step in and assist the parent or parents. Families could volunteer to assist in home schooling or money could be raised by the church to help pay for a Christian education. This is an oversight and diaconal matter that churches need to work out. The church should make a concerted effort to keep all Christian children that are part of that particular community out of public schools. Churches need to make Christian education a priority.


The Bible teaches that the overall training of children that includes education and discipline is the responsibility of Christian parents (in particular Christian fathers). This includes both formal and informal instruction. A biblical world and life view is to permeate a child's existence. The biblical passages that speak to the issue of a child's education and training (e.g., Dt. 6:6-9; Eph. 6:4) teach that an explicitly Christian education is mandatory. It is not an optional issue or a matter of preference. This teaching requires Christian parents to keep their children out of public schools. Public schools must be avoided because: (1) They do not integrate the Christian faith into every area of life or every academic discipline. (2) They violate the first commandment by adhering to political polytheism, secular humanism and agnosticism or "polite" atheism. (3) They do not promote obedience to Jesus Christ and His laws but to the pagan state. (4) They corrupt the morals of children by false, dangerous teaching and contact with a wicked student body. (5) They do not have biblical discipline. Their discipline is lax and founded upon anti-Christian principles. (6) They violate the biblical principle that places a child's education in the hands of parents and not the state. (Further, they violate the eighth commandment because they are financed by state theft.)

Churches should help Christian parents be faithful to the child-rearing imperatives of Scripture. Parents need to be told the truth regarding their many responsibilities. They also need training and guidance. As churches implement biblical policies regarding Christian education they should keep in mind that new believers and most professing Christians have been influenced by years of statist propaganda and years of unbiblical instruction from the evangelical community on this issue. Therefore, when a church repents and sets in progress a transition from being a church where many or most church members have their children in public schools to a church where no children are in state schools, the transition should be achieved with careful instruction and patient, loving admonition. Once a faithful Christian parent has a solid grasp of all the biblical arguments and issues involved in the debate regarding Christian education he will gladly obey God's word in this area.


Part Three: Applying Biblical Discipline

The biblical training of children involves much more than a mere transmission of knowledge from a parent to a child. There must also be correction, which involves chastisement and admonition. Earlier we noted that biblical correction, which often involves the pain inflicted by spanking, is absolutely necessary for the proper spiritual development and well being of children. The rod, biblically applied, drives out foolishness (Pr. 22:15), delivers from hell (Pr. 23:13-14), saves from destruction (Pr. 19:18), gives wisdom (Pr. 29:15) and is an act of love (Pr. 13:24; Heb: 12:6-8).

In our modern permissive culture where the so-called experts on child-rearing are constantly condemning spanking as a form of child abuse, many Christian parents have abandoned this practice in favor of time outs, grounding, toy-bribery, yelling and other sanctions. Other Christian parents have greatly curtailed spanking by restricting its use to only the most severe infractions. The modern tendency is toward leniency and substitutions for the infliction of physical pain. This tendency is unfortunate for it reveals a negative cultural influence on the church and a lack of faith in the principles of discipline set forth in God's Word. Christians must trust the Bible in matters of discipline, for biblical discipline works and secular methods do not. One reason that the Bible contains so many warnings regarding the necessity of applying the rod to children is the fact that fathers and mothers often are lax in this area. Because parents are often reluctant to use the rod, the Bible encourages parents to inflict the pain of spanking. Proverbs 23:13-14 says: "Withhold not correction from the child:  for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.  Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell." God says that the child will not only survive discipline, he will survive because of it. What should a Christian parent prefer for his child, the pain of discipline now or the lake of fire in the future? Christian parents must inflict the pain of spanking upon their disobedient children if they want to please God, love their children and achieve results. They must not be fooled by modern, antinomian concepts of tenderness. "Don't let the rule-discipline-spare not-be a hard saying. Isn't there a false tenderness for the child which is a cover for our indulgence of weak and foolish affections? There is much more mercy in what seems to be harshness, then in false tenderness. Let the child see that we are firmly determined; that we are not to be diverted from our duty by the cry of weakness or passion. Isn't it far better that the child should cry under healthful correction, now, than that parents should afterward cry under the bitter fruit to themselves and their children of neglected discipline?"[xix]

Once parents understand the necessity of discipline, that God requires spanking for the proper training of children, they often start asking questions such as: "What do we do" or "How do we apply biblical discipline in our home?" This brings us to a discussion of the mechanics or procedures of biblical discipline. There are many principles of biblical discipline that need to be considered.[xx]

First, biblical discipline must occur in a context of love. It must occur in a consistently Christian home atmosphere. Thugs, drunks, and cruel and neglectful fathers sometimes spank their children. Such discipline, however, is not Christian discipline. When we speak of a context of love we do not merely mean a context of caring, compassion, tender emotions and so forth, but also an atmosphere where God's law-word is paramount. It is a home where Christ is Lord and God's word reigns, where the parents are providing for their children physically, emotionally and spiritually. It is a home where the principles of Deuteronomy 6:6-9 are practiced. Such a home is a Christian culture, a society of biblical love. When children are disciplined within a context of love, they will understand that discipline in not insincere, arbitrary or dictatorial but is an act of love and obedience toward God on the part of the parents. They will also understand that discipline is an act of love toward them, that it is a good thing, done for their own welfare and spiritual well being. Children who are raised in homes without biblical love who are neglected by their parents will often misbehave in order to receive attention. Such children are so starved for affection that they would rather receive angry attention than no attention at all. In order to avoid all such problems, parents must make the home a pleasant, loving, secure place for their children. Discipline will be much more effective in such an environment. When the home is an unpleasant place to live, with fighting, neglect, constant nagging, bitterness and so forth the pain and unpleasantness of discipline loses its edge. In a loving, pleasant atmosphere the pain of discipline is more of a contrast to the overall environment. Pain in such a situation is more memorable. There will also be a stronger desire on the part of the children to repent and restore fellowship.

Second, discipline must be done in a loving manner. As parents discipline their children for disobedience they must do so in a manner that is itself obedient to God. This means that parents must not discipline in anger. There are many reasons why parents must never discipline in anger. (1) Anger does not produce righteousness. "For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God" (Ja. 1:20). Why use a method of discipline that is ineffective, that does not lead to the desired result? (2) When one is teaching a child to control himself, he must not set a bad example by losing control himself. Angry discipline is hypocritical discipline. When a parent disciplines in an angry, uncontrolled manner he, by example, is saying to his child: "Do as I say, but not as I do." One does not want to teach his child to become a hypocrite. (3) When a parent does not discipline in anger the possibility of abuse or "over-doing it" is removed. Discipline must be done in a calm, rational manner. The pain that is inflicted must be appropriate to the offense committed. If a parent is extremely angry he needs to pull himself together, calm down and act rationally before he does something stupid. Correction must occur with a spirit of gentleness. "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Gal. 6:1). (4) Paul orders Christian fathers not to provoke their children to wrath (Eph. 6:4). When a parent loses control, he is tempting his children to become angry, or to harbor resentment, or to lose respect for parental authority. Although children never have any excuse to disobey their parents (except when they are told to violate Scripture), parents should never act in a manner that may cause their children to stumble.  {We would add that one can be angry, and yet not sin.  One should not discipline when anger is controlling the actions, but righteous anger may be a factor in the discipline itself.}

Loving discipline is never tyrannical. A child is under a Christian parent who is under God. The Christian parent is not a dictator who barks out orders as if his children were slaves. In discipline a parent's attitude should reflect God's love (Heb. 12:6-8; Rev. 3:19). A father who acts as an autocrat to his wife and children can cause anger and discouragement (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21). Parents "are not to excite the bad passions of their children by severity, injustice, partiality, or unreasonable exercise of authority. A parent had better sow tares in a field from which he expects to derive food for himself and family, than by his own ill conduct nurture evil in the heart of his child."[xxi]  There are many pagan fathers who after a hard days work of taking orders from an unreasonable boss like to come home and throw their weight around. They use their superior strength to terrorize their children with severe scoldings and physical beatings. Such should never be the behavior of a Christian father. Jesus instructed His disciples that Christian leadership involved humble, loving, service and thus was not to mirror the prideful, arrogant, cruel leadership of the heathen (Mt. 20:25-28).

Loving discipline is never cruel. When parents chasten a child they want that child to admit fault, repent, reconcile and learn from that experience how properly to act in the future. Parents who are cruel in discipline or publicly humiliate their child in front of others take the child's mind off the biblical admonitions they need and focus it on their embarrassment. Christian parents should never tease, mock, make fun of, denigrate or insult their children in the disciplinary process. How many children have heard comments such as "John, you are an idiot. You will never amount to anything" or "Mike, you're really stupid!" or "Billy, why did you do that? Are you a moron?" Christian parents should never act sarcastic, flippant or vengeful during discipline.

In the Bible there is a great difference between chastisement and wrath or vengeance. When God punishes the wicked He pours out His wrath upon them (2 Th. 1:6-9). When God metes out vengeance upon unbelievers He is not doing so out of love in order to make them more holy but is simply meting out justice. They receive the destructive blows of hatred (e.g., Ps. 37:2, 9, 13, 15, 17, 20, 38) and not the loving chastisement of correction that the elect receive. God as a loving father chastises His children for their own good, for their growth in sanctification. Christian parents should reflect God's method of loving chastisement when they discipline their own children. Biblical chastisement is medicine not poison.

Third, discipline must be for real infractions and not for accidents, normal rambunctiousness and immaturity. Little children are clumsy. They often do things such a spill their milk, knock over things, trip and fall and so forth. All such things, however, are not ethical violations but are merely a result of a lack of coordination from a young, underdeveloped brain. God does not discipline His people for accidents but for violations of His holy law. Earthly fathers can instruct their children to be more careful, but they should not spank a child for an accident. One also should not discipline a child for being a child. Young children (in particular boys) are full of energy and like to play aggressively. Parents do not need to allow their child to play wild games in the living room. However, they should allow their children to have fun as long as sin is not involved. It is not wise to expect a five-year-old boy to act like an adult and sit around reading books all day.

There are two types of rules that can be violated by children. Children can violate the express teaching of God's law by lying, stealing, hitting, disrespect to parents, coveting and so forth. They also can violate the various house rules that have been set up by their parents for a well-ordered household. House rules receive their authority from the fact that children are commanded to obey their parents. "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right" (Eph. 6:1). Since discipline occurs for these two types of infractions, children should be taught from the earliest possible age the Ten Commandments. It is a good idea for parents to have their children memorize the Ten Commandments and the questions dealing with the moral law in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Children need to know the difference between right and wrong and why there is a right and wrong. They need to understand that all violations of the law are against Jehovah and that God requires Christian parents to chastise their children for all such infractions. Children also need to be taught that all challenges to parental authority are serious offenses that will lead to swift, certain and stern chastisement. When parents determine house rules, they should use biblical wisdom and sanctified common sense. If a father makes unreasonable demands upon his children, he is tempting them to sin. For example, if a father asks his eight-year-old son to get up at 5:00 am and mow the lawn, rake the leaves, wash the car, etc. he is asking too much from an eight-year-old. The boy will easily become frustrated and discouraged. Although house rules should be designed in a manner that reflects the maturity and ability of children, God's moral law is absolute and non-negotiable. Children must never be allowed to violate God's law.

Fourth, discipline must be proportional to the offense committed. Just as there are different levels of bad behavior, there must be a proportional level of chastisement to fit each situation. There are relatively minor infractions that often result from ignorance. Such matters can be dealt with by means of a verbal reproof. In a home that has a pleasant loving atmosphere, the displeasure and seriousness of a parental rebuke is often sufficient to achieve a biblical change in a child. Many infractions merit a normal spanking and admonition while serious violations merit a more severe spanking. There are four reasons why discipline should be proportional to the offense. First, parental discipline is patterned after God's discipline of the church. Throughout Scripture God deals with His people according to the offense committed (e.g., not every crime is a capital offense in the Law). The Old and New Testaments, for example, make a clear distinction between sins of ignorance and high-handed sins (e.g., Nu. 15:30, 31). There is a major difference regarding the gravity of an offense between two boys who during a football game call each other names and a son who tells his father that he is a stupid idiot. There also is a difference between a child who forgets to do a chore and a child who says to his parent "I will not do that!" Obviously such a child needs a strong spanking. Second, if a child receives the identical chastisement every time then he will not learn to distinguish between serious and minor infractions. Every infraction is wrong and must be dealt with. However, the chastisement for throwing rocks off the overpass should be far more memorable than forgetting to take out the garbage. Third, if the chastisement is identical every time then discipline becomes robotic. Fourth, if a child receives a severe paddling for every single infraction then a strong spanking will lose its effectiveness. A child who is seriously paddled for everything will become desensitized to severe discipline. Strong discipline is much more effective if it is reserved for more serious offenses. Children should fear the rod and not their own fathers. When severe chastisement is meted out upon children for every offense, children can become angry, frustrated or discouraged.

It is also important that parents consider the different dispositions of their children when administering discipline. Some children are very sensitive and respond immediately to a simple verbal reproof. If a stern look coupled with an admonition causes a child to break out in tears, admit guilt, confess, repent and reconcile then a spanking may not even be necessary. (One of course is assuming the child is not putting on an act to get out of being spanked.) Other children (usually tough little boys) do not even flinch during a spanking. Therefore, the pain level of administering the rod should be increased or decreased according to the nature of a child. However, this point does not mean that one must inflict pain until a child bursts into tears. Some children are much better at controlling their emotions and do not like to cry or get emotional in front of others. This is often the case with boys as they get older. The goal of discipline is repentance and a change in behavior. If that goal is effectively achieved with a relatively small amount of physical pain then there is no need to inflict severe spankings. Every child is different. Parents usually have a good understanding of the different dispositions of their children.

Fifth, discipline or chastisement must be painful. When the author of Hebrews describes chastisement he writes: "Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous:  nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby" (Heb. 12:11). Chastisement is supposed to produce painful and not pleasurable emotions. "It is the nature of all discipline to seem painful rather than pleasant, otherwise it would fail of its purpose, which is to head one away from what is unprofitable for holiness. But it seems to be so only for the moment, that is, at the time when it is experienced; for he who benefits from discipline invariably finds that the pain of it is followed by joy, and to this consummation of bliss the man of faith looks forward with eager anticipation.”[xxii]  If discipline is going to be effective then it must cause pain. That is why verbal correction often needs to be accompanied by a good spanking. Solomon writes: "The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil:  so do stripes the inward parts of the belly" (Pr. 20:30). "The diseased body needs medicine no less than food, both for healing and enablement to receive nourishment from its food; the diseased soul needs chastening no less than consolation, and as the main preparation for consolation.... Miserable beyond measure is the untamed stubbornness of self-will. A gentle stroke is first tried. When this remedy fails, then the stripes are needful.”[xxiii]

How are parents to inflict the pain of discipline upon disobedient children? The Bible repeatedly refers to the use of a rod in discipline. "A rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding" (Pr. 10:13). "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes” (Pr. 13:24). "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him" (Pr. 22:15). "Withhold not correction from the child:  for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.  Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell" (Pr. 23:13-14). "The rod and reproof give wisdom:  but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame" (Pr. 29:15). The Hebrew word for rod (shebet) refers to a thin stick or branch. A spanking rod is not thick but thin like a switch. Most books on discipline emphasize that whatever one uses as a spanking tool, it should cause pain but not damage. It one uses a paddle is should be flat and fairly thin. One wants to sting the skin without causing injury or bruising. If one wants to use a switch-like instrument, one can purchase a thin dowel (1/6 to inches in diameter depending on the age of the child) or craft a switch from a thin, smooth, flexible branch from a tree. One's hand can be used to administer chastisement, however, a switch or paddle is generally better. Hands are not as effective in bringing a good sting without causing bruises. Further, with a strong spanking one may cause more pain to the hand than to the bottom. When the Bible says to discipline with a rod, there is no reason why these passages should not be taken literally.

Why is the infliction of pain necessary? The rod is indispensable for instilling in children a biblical worldview and the wisdom that comes with it. In Christian discipline the rod is always accompanied with biblical reproof or admonition. Spanking takes what is theoretical and makes it very concrete and practical. It teaches children that sin and disobedience always have negative consequences. Rebellion leads directly to pain and displeasure. In the universe that God has created there are ethical absolutes and there is a responsibility of obedience. A spanking reinforces ethical instruction. A child will remember the pain that was inflicted from a certain bad behavior and will remember the why that came with the pain. That child will think twice before committing the offense again because he does not want to receive the pain that was inflicted before. Therefore, it is very important that spankings really hurt. A spanking that does not cause memorable pain is useless. It will not achieve the desired result.

Today, many parents have bought into the idea that inflicting the pain of the rod upon children is barbaric and outmoded and thus have substituted other forms of correction such as standing in the corner, groundings, going to one's room and so forth. Are such forms of correction biblical or useful for discipline? No. They are contrary to Scripture and are not effective forms of discipline.

The biblical pattern of discipline is the pain of the rod coupled with admonition, confession, repentance, reconciliation and restitution if necessary. Grounding does not follow the biblical pattern because: (1) It does not involve physical pain. Sitting in one's room reading a good book, or talking on the phone, or sitting at the computer is not a memorable chastisement. (2) The Bible does not teach a prison system for corporal chastisement but pain, correction and restitution. If a child has stolen a toy he should be required to make restitution. If a child cannot make money then he should be required to do some yard work or house work to pay for the toy (or the broken window, etc.). Biblical discipline teaches responsibility. It teaches that sinful behavior has immediate consequences. Grounding teaches children to sit around and mope or feel sorry for themselves. Physical correction is quick and when completed the child immediately goes back to a productive Christian life. Grounding is very slow and leaves the child out of the day-to-day tasks of normal Christian living. (3) With grounding, the disciplinary process, which includes a complete reconciliation with the parents, is not finalized for a lengthy period of time. This lengthy process allows disharmony in the relationship between parents and children. It tempts children to form bitter thoughts regarding their parents. With biblical discipline everything is dealt with immediately. There are no emotional loose ends. After chastisement and repentance occurs there is a complete reconciliation. The devil is not given the opportunity to stimulate bitter thoughts.

Sixth, discipline must be swift and consistent. Slow discipline teaches children that obedience can be stalled or that parents can be manipulated. Slow obedience needs to be seen for what it is: disobedience. A parent says to his child, "Bobby, go up to your room and pick up your toys." Bobby ignores his father and continues playing with his toys. Then the father says, "I'm warning you, you better get upstairs and get to work right now or you're in big trouble." Bobby continues to play while slowly moving to a more distant part of the living room. Then Bobby's father raises his voice and says, "I'm going to count to three and if you're not on your way I'm going to spank you." Then as the father counts to three in a progressively slower manner, the child begins to move during the word three. Children must be trained to respond immediately to every command. There should not be a need to raise one's voice, or give warnings. Instant, cheerful obedience should be expected every time a command is given. When parents do not require immediate obedience, they are indirectly training their children to be manipulators of authority, to see what they can get away with before they obey. We certainly do not want our children to be slow and manipulative in their obedience toward God. Therefore, if children do not obey when asked the first time in a normal tone of voice, they need to be disciplined immediately.

Children also must be disciplined in a consistent manner. Parents need to adhere to and apply biblical standards of discipline every single day. Parents who are very strict on some days and then very permissive and lax on other days are sending a confused, schizophrenic, arbitrary message to their children. Children should not be taught that there are ethical holidays when biblical standards can be ignored. For the effective biblical training of children, parents need to show their children that they are reliable and trustworthy; that they are accurately and consistently applying God's authority in the home. Inconsistent discipline implicitly teaches a form of ethical relativism. It teaches children that sin does not always have negative consequences. Parents are biblically obligated to enforce God's righteous standard in the home. Discipline is not a matter of personal preference. Parents are often lax in discipline because they think that swift and consistent discipline is hard and time consuming. Although strict discipline is hard work, it is not nearly as hard as dealing with the chaos that results when biblical discipline is not applied.

Seventh, discipline must be strictly applied from a very young age. Many Christian parents unwittingly take a very Pelagian approach to childrearing. Children in such a situation are basically given free reign until they get old enough to shock their parents through blatant rebellion. Then, the parents decide its time to get real strict. After years of transgressing with impunity and developing habitual patterns of intentional evildoing, such a child will be very difficult to train and restrain. Proverbs instructs parents to get on the ball early before it is too late. "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying" (19:18). Charles Bridges writes:

But the great force of the rule is its timely application-while there is hope. For the case becomes truly hopeless, if the remedy is delayed. The cure of the evil must begin in infancy. Not a moment can be lost. Now is the time, when the good can be accomplished most easily and with the least physical discipline. The lesson of obedience should be learned at the earliest possible moment. One painful struggle and victory in very early life, may, under God, do much toward settling the point, then and there, and for all the years ahead. On the other hand, even harsh chastening later, may fail to accomplish, what an early slight rebuke might have accomplished.[xxiv]

Any gardener knows that the time to shape a tree is when it is young. A young tree is easily bent and pruned. The pruning of a young tree done properly has magnificent results. A professional gardener never waits until a tree is seventy years old and one hundred feet tall before he tries to shape that tree because such a tree cannot be bent or effectively shaped. Children need the strictest of discipline not when they turn 13 but when they are infants, toddlers, and little boys or girls. Because all babies go forth from the womb as depraved little liars (cf. Ps. 51:5; 58:3), who want to determine their own rules, who have a nature that loves human autonomy, it is foolish to put off stern discipline precisely at the time when children are forming habits.

If children are dealt with strictly from a tender age they will become accustomed to discipline and obedience. They will grow up expecting discipline when they do wrong. They will develop habitual patterns of obedience from the very start. When parents waste those early formative years the children become accustomed to laxness and disobedience. Then when the parents finally decide to crack down and get strict they've got a huge battle on their hands. The procedure of doing almost nothing until children get older and rebel is very common among non-Christian families. In such families the parents discover that their child is getting drunk, smoking pot, taking drugs, fornicating, etc. and are shocked and distressed by such behavior. As a result they crack down with groundings, take various privileges away and yell a lot. By this time, however, their child has already developed a self-centered, hedonistic, "youth culture," satanic worldview. The response of the teenager is to argue, yell, complain, lie a lot, sneak out, run away and lead a double life: one in front of their parents and one in front of their so-called friends. Such children disrespect and often hate their own parents. They can't wait to move out of the house so they can party and fornicate without sneaking around. This scenario is very common in America.

Christian families that adhere to the infallible word of God should function far differently and have radically different results. Parents must be strict with discipline and training from the earliest years. "It is easiest plucking up weeds as soon as they spring up, and the bullock that is designed for the yoke should be betimes accustomed to it.”[xxv]  Children under such circumstances will develop godly habits. They will learn to obey immediately and cheerfully. Then as such children grow older the parents will not need to attempt to hedge in their children with a bunch of rules. They will not need to engage in pitched battles with their children because their children have already learned to habitually obey God and submit to His rule. Such children are so permeated with Christian ethics and a biblical world and life view that they would never even consider partaking of the sins that are popular in today's "youth culture."

Eighth, discipline (i.e., physical chastisement) must always be accompanied by reproof, correction or admonition. Paul tells fathers to bring up their children "in the nuture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4). The word admonition (nouthesia) means literally a "putting in mind." Physical chastisement is never enough by itself. In fact it is useless if a parent does not also correct or counsel the errant child by applying God's word directly to the situation. Jay Adams tells us the purpose of the verbal admonition. He writes:

The word nouthesis focuses on both confronter and the one confronted. Nouthesis specifically presupposes the need for a change in the person confronted, who may or may not put up some resistance. In either case there is a problem in his life that needs to be solved. Nouthenic confrontation, then, necessarily suggests first of all that there is something wrong with the person who is to be confronted nouthetically. The idea of something wrong, some sin, some obstruction, some problem, some difficulty, some need that has to be acknowledged and dealt with, is central. In short, nouthetic confrontation arises out of a condition in the counselee that God wants changed. The fundamental purpose of nouthetic confrontation, then, is to effect personality and behavioral change.[xxvi]

The parent as God's representative must explain to the child what exactly was done that was wrong. He then must explain from Scripture why the behavior was wrong. Then he must teach the child how to replace the bad behavior with godly-wise behavior by applying God's word to the specific situation. When a child misbehaves he is just not spanked and told that his behavior was wrong. He is told why God says his behavior was wrong and given instruction in righteousness. "The rod and reproof give wisdom" (Pr. 29:15). "The rod without words fails to teach our children the difference between right and wrong. Words without the rod become shallow, empty air. We must be certain that our children always understand the exact reason they are being disciplined."[xxvii]  Bridges writes: "Some give the rod without reproof, without trying to get the conscience to respond. This is either tyrannical or whimsical and no matter which, nothing can be expected from it. But the two together not only drive 'foolishness' far away, but, as a positive blessing, give wisdom.”[xxviii]  The word reproof in the original language means to speak to the child in a manner that brings conviction. This can only be done in a biblical manner by applying Scriptures to their specific situation. Parents need to find and use passages of Scripture that condemn the bad behavior and that help the child replace sinful behavior with godly behavior. This process teaches the child biblical discernment.

In order to understand how this aspect of discipline is applied let us examine a Christian father in action. Bob observes his son lose his temper and call his sister a stupid idiot. The first thing Bob must do is help his son to understand what he did that was wrong. Bob asks, "John, do you know what you did wrong?" His son's answer may be anything from, "I don't know" to "I called my sister a name." Once it is clear that Bob's son understands what he did wrong, Bob then asks his son why it was wrong from a biblical perspective. "John, why does God condemn name calling?" At this point the father is to bring out passages that reveal God's attitude toward such behavior. "John, God says in Leviticus 19:17, 'Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart.' Jesus said that name-calling is a serious sin. 'But whoever says, "Thou fool!" shall be in danger of hell fire.' You see, John, God requires that we love our brother and our neighbor. Is name calling an expression of love or of hate, etc. Do you understand now why your behavior is wrong?" After John understands why God condemns his behavior, the next step is to bring out some passages that will help John replace the bad behavior with godly behavior. Bob points out the following passages. "A soft answer turneth away wrath" (Pr. 15:1). "Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man" (Col. 4:6). In this whole process John has learned what he has done wrong. He has learned why it is wrong according to Scripture. And he has received biblical counsel regarding the proper response in the future.

When the procedure is repeated over and over again for each offense a child will learn to recognize bad behavior on his own. He will learn to apply Scripture himself and will become wise and discerning. Then when he is tempted to sin he will know how to respond. For example, a boy who lives down the street wants to ride his bike to the local fast food hamburger stand. He asks a child to go with him. The child responds saying that he is not permitted to ride his bike that far away. The boy then responds by saying, "Why don't you just lie to your parents?" The child says "I can't do that. Lying is a sin. And God says that I must obey my parents. I would rather please God and my parents by telling the truth than sin for a hamburger and french fries."

Parents are not always in situations in which they have the time to quote and apply various passages of Scripture. However, they can still follow the biblical procedure by setting forth the teaching of Scripture from memory (e.g., "John, the Bible says that lying is wrong. That it is a sin. God says that we are to speak the truth to our neighbor, etc.").

As parents discipline their children it is important that the children understand that: a). Discipline is something they need. It is not simply punishment. It is done for their own good to change their behavior in a biblical direction. b). Parents discipline because it is their biblical duty. God requires it. Biblical discipline does not occur because parents are mean, unloving, and harsh or because they enjoy it, but because they are being obedient to God's Word. When children are old enough to understand they should be told that they belong to God and that they are being trained to serve God and expand His kingdom. Children should see discipline in its overall context as necessary training for a godly life.

Ninth, biblical discipline always leads to a restoration of fellowship. This means that fellowship must be restored with the parent who administered discipline and if the infraction involved a sin against another person such as a brother or sister, then a restoration of fellowship should also be required there. A child should never be permitted to run away from a spanking and wallow in anger or self-pity. The restoration of fellowship involves a confession of wrong doing on the part of the child, the asking of forgiveness of the offended party, the giving of forgiveness by the offended party and a reassurance of love and acceptance on the part of the parents. Parents should hug their children and give them loving words so that they will understand that the discipline was an act of love and that there is a full restoration of fellowship. There, of course, should also be prayer to God confessing sin (Ps. 32:5), requesting forgiveness (Ps. 51; 1 Jn. 1:9), and asking God for the grace to overcome this sin in the future. The whole process of restoration is very important not only because it restores peace and happiness in the family, and shows the child that biblical discipline is an act of love on the part of the parents, but also because it teaches the child how to resolve conflicts in the future. Many professing Christians sweep conflicts under the rug and hold unbiblical grudges toward each other. A child raised properly will develop a godly habit of seeking immediate biblical restoration when sinful conflicts arise.

Summary and Conclusion

In our brief consideration of principles that are necessary in the application of biblical discipline, we noted that discipline must: (1) occur in a context of love; (2) be done in a loving manner; (3) be for real infractions; (4) be proportional to the offense; (5) be painful; (6) be swift and consistent; (7) be applied strictly at a very young age; (8) be accompanied by admonition; (9) lead to a restoration of fellowship.

A father must make sure that the household is a loving, pleasant place. Parents must apply discipline from the earliest age and not wait until a child has developed ungodly habits and autonomous thinking. When a child does something that needs discipline, the parent should make sure that he does not discipline in anger. When a parent applies discipline, he needs to spank in a manner that causes real pain but does not damage. He also needs to instruct or counsel the child. The child must understand what he was disciplined for, why that behavior is unbiblical and how to take biblical steps to put off that behavior and replace it with godly behavior. Finally, there needs to be a full restoration of fellowship. The child needs to know that discipline is an act of love and that now that it is over and confession has been made, there is forgiveness from both God and the parents. All of these principles have been derived from Scripture and are required by God. They are not optional. Parents must put these principles in practice and must apply them over and over until they are habitual. Biblical discipline works. Children who are raised with these principles applied will be greatly blessed and will praise their parents for their diligence.


[i] Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., The Greatness of the Great Commission (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990), p. 10.

[ii] Kerry Ptacek, Family Worship: Biblical Basis, Historical Reality, Current Need (Greenville, SC: Southern Presbyterian Press, 1997 [1994]), p. 7.

[iii]  R. J. Rushdoony, Politics of Guilt and Pity (Fairfax, VA: Thoburn Press, 1978), p. 331.

[iv] Charles Bridges (revised by George F. Santa), A Modern Study in the Book of Proverbs (Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1978), p. 508.


[v] Matthew Poole, Commentary on the Holy Bible (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1962 [1685]), 1:522.

[vi] Bridges, p. 202.

[vii] Jay E. Adams, Competent to Counsel (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1970), p. 158, footnote no. 1.


[viii] Bridges, pp. 488-489.

[ix] Rousas John Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, p. 692.

[x] Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible (McLean, VA: MacDonald, n.d.), 3:793.

[xi] Patrick D. Miller, Deuteronomy (Louisville: John Knox, 1990), pp. 107-108.


[xii] R. J. Rushdoony, writes: "If education is in any sense a preparation for life, then its concern is religious. If education is at all concerned with truth, it is again religious. If education is vocational, then it deals with calling, a basically religious concept. It would be absurd to reduce preparation for life, truth and calling to an exclusively religious meaning in any parochial sense, but it is obvious that these and other aspects of education are inescapably religious. As Whitehead observed, 'The essence of education is that it be religious.' The public or state schools have thus been inescapably religious. Their 'common faith' has been described as 'made up of elements provided by Rousseau, Jefferson, August Comte, and John Dewey. "Civil religion" is an apt designation for this faith.' As one educator observed, 'America's faith in education has been called by a European visitor the "national religion of America..."'" (The Messianic Character of American Education [Nutley, NJ: The Craig Press, 1963], pp. 315-316).

[xiii] Gordon H. Clark, A Christian Philosophy of Education (Jefferson, MD: The Trinity Foundation, 1988 [1946]), p. 73.

[xiv] Charles Hodge, 1 and 2 Corinthians (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1974 [1857, 59]), p. 240.

[xv] Frederic Louise Godet, Commentary on First Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1977 [1889]), p. 824.


[xvi] John M. Otis, "The Necessity for the Christian School" in Journal of Christian Reconstruction: Symposium on the Education of the Core Group (Vallecito, CA: Chalcedon, 1987), Vol. II, no. 2, p. 29.

[xvii] Rousas John Rushdoony, The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum (Vallecito, CA: Ross House, 1985), pp. 141-142.

[xviii] Charles Hodge, I and II Corinthians, p. 340.

[xix] Charles Bridges, p. 383.

[xx] For a fuller discussion of the principles enumerated in this chapter, see Bruce A. Ray, Withhold Not Correction (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1978); and, Douglas Wilson, Standing on the Promises: A Handbook of Biblical Childrearing (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 1997).

[xxi] Charles Hodge, Ephesians (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1964 [1856]), p. 264.

[xxii] Philip Edgecumbe Hughes, A Commentary On the Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), p. 532.

[xxiii] Bridges, p. 431.

[xxiv] Ibid., pp. 383-384.

[xxv] Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, 3:901.

[xxvi] Jay E. Adams, Competent to Counsel (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1970), p. 45.

[xxvii] Bruce A. Ray, Withhold Not Correction, p. 88.

[xxviii] Bridges, p. 675.




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