The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don't always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don't always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.” -Dr Who
Recently, John Piper was asked to answer the following question at Desiring God.
“Pastor John, does God promise to save my children? Some teachers say that I need to have faith and that I should claim it and that God would save them. I have four children. All raised in the local church. All walked away from the faith. Two seem to be returning, but both struggle with sinful lifestyles. The other two are very far from God. I’m so depressed over my children’s spiritual condition and have asked the Lord to forgive me for being depressed. Do you have any advice for me?”
What he didn't say
I found what he didn't say as interesting as whet he did say. He is one of the most outspoken advocates for hard line, 5 point Calvinism on the celebrity pastor circuit today. He adamantly supports the idea of predestination/election. Here is another link to his views on the matter. He has written extensively on the subject so there is no doubt about what he believes.
Knowing this, I would have thought he would say something like "Maybe your kids are not amongst the elect. If so, there is nothing in the world that you can do about it." I have read a number of posts by hard core, 5 point celebrity leaders on the issue of raising children in the faith. Here is one by Tim Challies: Setting Up My Kids for Salvation in which he claims to believe his kids will be saved. Sadly, as a 5 point Calvinist, Tim Challies has no idea if his kids are/will be among the elect and that no matter how hard he prays, how much he believes, and how hard he tries to teach them about God, he cannot do a thing about a decision that he believes was made at the beginning of time.
And the same is true for my children. They can’t earn their salvation and I can’t earn it for them. I believe the Lord has saved or will save them and they will be saved not by their father but like their father—by trusting in Christ and Christ alone as he opens their eyes to see him and as he opens their hearts to receive him. Their souls are in the good hands of the good God.
These folks seem to avoid mentioning the ramifications of their doctrinal stance when it come to their own families. Their kids may not be elect and there is nothing they can do about it unless they have some sort of Biblical out for their kids. If so, I have yet to read one in their sermons and posts.
I would love to hear from our readers why you think that Piper and many others don't mention the possibility that their kids are not going to be in heaven?
Do not firget, the Deebs are not Calvinists.
Where I agree with John Piper
The Bible does not promise us that our children will become Christians.
Now, all in all (as I look at those and lots of other things), I don’t think the Bible gives any absolute promise to parents that faithful parenting will result in faithful children. It’s likely to produce faithful children — and we should pray and hope that it will. But I don’t think an absolute promise exists,
Where I disagree with John Piper
He launched into a discussions which he calls *hope for failed parenting.* Did you catch what he did there? The fact that your children did not become Christians is due to your failure as a parent. He has a particularly bad habit of throwing zingers to make others feel guilty. Let's go over them.
1. You may think you tried to do a good job but you may find out in eternity that you didn't.
The first thing I would say is that none of us can pass final judgment on our own parenting, and neither can our children. Their memories and our memories are fallible. Situations are very complex. We can know for sure that there will always be some sins against our children that should be confessed to God, confessed to them, and made right as far as they will allow us to make it right. But that is no final judgment about how we did. That will only come to light at the last day, and that’s true for our children in their assessment as well as our own assessment.
2. Ah ha! I bet you didn't even fast for your kids!
He starts off OK with the "we all sin" part but then he does the typical Piper put down. You can bet he fasted…
We all sinned. We all did less than we could. None of us prayed as much as we could. None of us fasted as much as we could. Did you fast at all?
He continues on with his list of our failures. He does appear to include himself in this list.
None of us was faithful to the word of God as we could have been. None of us in exhortation, kindness, meekness, or gentleness was as good as we could have been.
What John Piper didn't mention.
Sadly, Piper did not mention a number of things that can cause children to run away from the church. One of those things is fundamentalism. Now, Piper loves fundamentalists although he does not believe that he is one. (I think he is but that is for another discussion for another day.) Many young people leave because they don't see Jesus behind the "how to be a good Christians* rules.
Two scenarios based on two families.
The perfect church family:
Dad was a long time elder; Mom ran the Women's Ministry. They home schooled their kids. They attended and then followed and taught all of the latest Christians trends to insure that they raised Christian kids. Their kids were leaders in their youth groups. The parents were not abusive. The girls were dressed modestly (long jean skirts). They were not allowed to date. They couldn't go on sleepovers. They were told that all scientists were atheists. All three kids went to college and left the faith.
The non-church family:
Dee was raised in a home that showed little concern for anything to do with church. Her parents didn't pray for her nor did they pray for anything. Her dad went to the Russian Orthodox church only when there was a festival going on. Dee learned to dance the polka by the age of 3. Her mom sent her to the Methodist church up the street because it was a nice thing to do although her mom never darkened the door of the church. They were liberal in just about every aspect of their lives and allowed Dee to watch TV programs, go to movies and read books that would raise the hair on the head of James Dobson. She was loved by both parents and was not abused although her dad had quite a temper. Yelling was not an uncommon event around the house. Dee became a Christian when she was 17 and grew in her faith, even in college.
So, if raising a kid in a Christian home, especially one that fasts, is a prerequisite for faith, I should not be a deeply committed Christian.
The abuse of children, physically, sexually and emotionally, is not uncommon in so called *Christian* families. Such abuse affects a child throughout his life. I remember being told about child who was severely beaten by her so-called Christian father. Whenever she was beaten, she was told that this is what Jesus wanted. Throughout most of her adult life, she was unable to go to church because whenever she heard the word *Jesus,* she would have panic attacks.
There are far too many Christian groups that appear to have all the answers. Children are often raised with simplistic answers to very difficult questions. I have been guilty of this myself. When one of my daughters returned from a mission trip in which she saw lots of starving children, she went through a tough time with her faith. I blew off her questions with lots of simplistic answers like "We live in a fallen world. Be glad you have such a good home." (Dee still kicks herself.)
Thankfully, I had a friend who was a counselor who I asked to figure out whey she seemed depressed. My friend said I needed to be a little more thoughtful in dealing with her extremely difficult questions. I apologized to my daughter (along with giving her a Cookie Bouquet) and walked with her as she struggled with those questions. I learned about keeping my mouth shut and letting her talk things out. Thankfully, she grew up and still believes. She now takes care of traumatized foster children. It really is OK to say that you don't have perfect answers to your kids.
John Piper does not seem to mention the word *love* very much.
I remember hearing the old saying "God doesn't have grandchildren." That meant more to me as my children grew up. We presented the faith to our kids, emphasizing the great love that God has for all of us. We did not focus on the wrath of God but we helped them to understand sin-particularly since our kids could see it lived out in their Mom and Dad. Yes, we sinned. Yes, we didn't do all we could. Yes, we have regrets. But we dearly loved our kids and our kids know that to this day. We also told them that God loved them even more. Our dear son in law is now deeply loved by all of us as well.
However, we knew that we could not force the faith on our kids. We learned to let go and let them choose their own way as they became adults. We loved them even when they disagreed with us. God is still loving them, even as they go their own way. Never forget that I didn't have Christian parents and I became a Christian. I wasn't homeschooled, given a Bible, or told to read the Bible. I didn't have any Christian friends at all growing up. I didn't have catechism, confirmation or the Gospel Project Sunday school program.
Please do not beat yourself up over how you raised your kids. My parents sure didn't, yet here I am. Keep praying for them and, above all, love them deeply, even if they don't follow the faith. God loves them as well. Remember Romans 5:8 NIV Bible Hub
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Send them a surprise gift No-not The Case for Christ. Try a necklace. Text them funny jokes and share You Tube videos. (They love to text back "Oh, Mom!") Be open with them about your life like the stupid things that happen each day. My son in law and I text each other about books we are reading- we both love dystopian fiction. This weekend, he and my daughter attended Dragoncon. They sent me pictures of them standing with Star Trek and Dr Who actors and the TARDIS. My husband and I bought our son in law an official Dr Who scarf for Christmas. Get to know what they like.
Your life with your kids does not end when they move out. It is merely beginning. I would say this to the man woh wrote John Piper.
You are still a part of their lives. Don't push them on the faith. Just really, really love them. Remember, God gave them free will to live their lives. He still loves them. You can do the same thing. And, if they are mad about something that happened as they grew up, be quick to apologize. Remember God has forgiven you as well. Help them to see that you didn't have all the answers and that you made lots of mistakes just like they do. Then, no matter their reaction, double down on showering them love and stay in their for the log haul.