Home > Children, Culture, Mallinak, The Family > CHRISTIAN WHIRLEDVIEW Starts at Home


March 28, 2008

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

The Johnson family was not your typical Christian family. At least, not on the surface. Mr. Johnson was a dedicated teacher in his local church’s Christian school. Mrs. Johnson gave herself to the ministry in their local church. Joe, the oldest son, always wore his suit and tie to church, sat in the front row of all services, and in general, towed the line. In fact, all four of the Johnson kids were fine, well-behaved, and (seemingly, at least) godly children. So, when Joe strayed away from the church and went into the world, other church members began to scratch their heads.

What went wrong? I suppose every reader could provide a theory on this. Some (in fact, way too many nowadays) will declare that these things are all up to chance, that if you train up your child in the way he should go, you give him the best chance of making it, but there are no guarantees. Others will want to know about the church and the surrounding Christian community. Still others will blame it on the age in which we live, where there are (admittedly) way too many temptations.

If you say that something went wrong in the home, then you are on the right track. That should be obvious. At the very least, we are justified in saying so because Joe strayed from the church and went into the world. But beyond this assertion, pinpointing a problem can be a very delicate task. Since many of the readers of this blog are themselves Pastors, I will simply point out what every diligent pastor knows to be true… untangling these messes make for some of the most difficult work in the ministry. The Pastor must catch the tears of a heartbroken parent, while at the same time pointing out the problems in the home and urging them to change things before the same heartache repeats itself in the younger children.

Perhaps I’m taking this month’s discussion down the wrong trail, but I don’t think so. Much of the current compromise amongst fundamentalists who once maintained a distinction from the world could, I think, be traced to our children. The standards were imposed, and a Christian culture maintained both in the home and the church (school and all), but when the kids grew up, they threw it off like a man whose shirt is on fire. And the fallout from this rebellion is predictable. First their fathers, then their pastors compromise in order to get the kids back.

If you visit the typical fundamentalist church of average size, there will be a good-sized group of young people. And, if the church is like many of those churches you might find advertised in the Sword of the Lord, you will notice that a significant portion of those young people will sit together somewhere near the back. And, during the course of the service, these same young people will entertain themselves with all sorts of “disengaged” activities. Their general boredom and non-interest is as plain as the smirk on their faces.

The more licentious churches will immediately point to the standards as the culprit. The “hypocrisy” of it all, the “legalistic” requirements caused all this, no doubt. And this charge could, of course, have some truth to it. But in general, I think that this explanation is too simplistic. Certainly, the licentious want it to be so. Nor does this surprise us. But if that was the explanation, then how does the licentious evangelical explain their own young people who stray from the church and into the world? Because, of course, this does happen – the licentious lose their children to the world too.

The problem runs much deeper than surface hypocrisy. Certainly, a form of hypocrisy plays a role in the production. But hypocrisy afflicts the licentious as much if not more than the legalistic. Both sides of the ditch are filled with stagnant, stinking water. Pond scum is pond scum, regardless of which side of the road you find it.

At the root, the problem has much more to do with our worldview than it does anything else. Those who believe that God depends on nothing, that everything and everyone depends on God, certainly are headed the right direction. But those who apply this Biblical worldview inconsistently are in great danger. Therefore, we should consider how the misapplication or subsequent non-application of the Biblical worldview afflicts our children.

Ostrichism – If I don’t look, it isn’t there

Certainly, the lack of a Biblical worldview in many homes can be traced directly to the lack of Biblical teaching in the home. Christian worldviews are not passed on by means of a vaporizer. The atmosphere in the Christian home cannot bequeath a Christian worldview. Nor will your children acquire one the way they might acquire a cold the next time you sneeze. Fathers must diligently teach their children at home.

But teaching the children in some sort of Family Devotions setting is no guarantee that they will pick up the Biblical worldview either. This is because of the nature of a worldview. A worldview, any worldview, is a way of looking at the world. It is very possible, as has been demonstrated time and again, for a family to teach their children all the right stories and all the right verses, meanwhile leaving their children without a clue about how to interpret the world.

And why this general lack of discernment on the part of our children? One culprit is found in our general retreat from the world. We hide our children from the world, and the world from our children. We could call it the “don’t look” philosophy of child rearing. What they don’t see can’t hurt them. So, we bubble wrap our children and send them… home.

There is a difference between sheltering our children (which is a parental duty) and raising them in a bubble. I once knew some parents who literally sanitized everything their children would touch. The mother would not allow the children in the church nursery for the first three months of their life. When she finally did put them in the church nursery, she personally sanitized everything in the room on a weekly basis. She carried sanitary wipes with her everywhere she went, and meticulously wiped down everything from grocery store carts to the car seat, to the handrail on the stairs. Not surprisingly, her children were sick all the time.

This is not to say that we should carelessly expose our children to every diseased person we encounter. But hiding them from germs can prevent the building of necessary immunities. As I see it, this is the problem with families who, if they allow their children to ever see a TV at all, never allow them to see anything above a “G” rating. If they allow their children to read a book at all, they never allow anything that wasn’t written by Jennette Oake (or Disney). If they allow their children to play with anyone outside of their home, it is only with those children who are just as prissy or uptight as their own. In short, the family has decided on a “Neo-Amish” lifestyle, similar to what is recommended by men like Michael Pearl. “Hear no evil, see no evil” is their motto. Just as there is a difference between protecting our children from evil and attempting to put them in a world in which evil does not exist, so there is a difference between flaunting evil and hiding our children from evil. If we hide them from it like a doting mother, when they finally encounter some real germs they are in for a great sickness. Since we want them to build up immunities, and since these immunities take shape in the form of a worldview, what is needed is not a “hide your eyes” approach, but rather a pointing out the sin and error, teaching our children to understand, to discern, to judge the world with a righteous and Biblical standard. But when our children grow up in a bubble and one day leave the protective confines of their own home, they are sometimes surprised to find that there is a whole wide world out there that they never knew about. And when parents have not taken them on “the tour” beforehand, they are often caught and captivated in the glare of the neon lights. Godly fathers call their sons over to the window, point out the strange woman, and say, “watch how she operates, son.” Godly fathers drive their sons over to the local good-for-nothing’s house, point out his overgrown fields and broken down buildings, and say, “notice what happens when you’re lazy, son.” This is another way of repeating God’s command in Deuteronomy 6:6-7:

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.

Lone Ranger-ism – If I leave them alone, they’ll figure it out

Another all-to-common error among Christian parents moves in the opposite direction. Some parents allow their children to be exposed to every kind of sin and every kind of worldliness without any interpretation whatsoever. I’m not now addressing those parents who think that the world is cute or neat. Rather, I am speaking now about parents who are too lazy to teach anything to their kids. We have plenty of examples of this sort of thing. The family, when they have time together, watches a movie in silence. When the movie is done, everybody packs off to bed. There is no interpretation, no discussion of what was good and what was true and what was beautiful. Nor is there any discussion or of what was terrible and what was deceitful and what was ugly. There is no application of a Biblical standard to anything that was seen. The children are left to themselves.

In such a home as this, the kids are often alone with a book when they are not watching television. They read literature that their parents have never even looked at, and are getting a worldview independently of their parents. When friends come over to play, they spend all their time away from the adults. Events at school are rarely discussed, and the children are left to interpret the world for themselves. Consequently, the worldview they develop may or may not resemble yours. Either way, they’ll turn out autonomous.

Relativism – Your wrong is my right

Still another common error teaches a worldview, loud and clear. This problem shows up in two very different homes… first, in the home where anything goes, and secondly in the home where nothing does. On the one hand, we have “Mr. Nice Guy,” who never says, “turn that TV off right now,” who never says, “You will NOT wear that outside of this house,” who never says, “your friends want to do WHAT?” He may chafe at some of the things that are watched, or discussed, or done by his family, but he allows it anyway. This father, contrary to what you might think, teaches a worldview, and he teaches it faithfully. His children learn their lesson well… we are the authority. What we want is ultimate. We will do what we will do. They are not dependent on God for their moral standards; they are dependent on themselves, on whatever makes them happy, on whatever they want, for these kinds of moral determinations.

But in Fundamentalist homes, we often err in precisely the opposite way. Here is a father who sets himself up as the ultimate authority. He is exactly the opposite of “Mr. Nice Guy.” He is “Mr. Authoritarian.” If I allow it, then it is okay. If I don’t allow it, then it is sin. “Sin,” he proclaims, “is transgression of my law.” This is another, perhaps more subtle form of moral relativism. Subtle because the relativism is not so immediately apparent.

Moral relativism rests on the authority of the self. Whatever is right for me is right. Period. Doesn’t matter how you view it. Ethics rests on the individual. When a father views his home as his own private empire, of which he is the rightful dictator, then he has fallen into this error.

As I have already stressed, it is vital and urgent that parents be interpreting the world through the filter of a Christian worldview. This must be happening all the time, and especially during times when the rules are being expounded. Please don’t misinterpret this to be arguing for a less stringent rule in the home. I am not. God commands children to obey their parents. This is basic to the Christian worldview. But when a father demands that his children obey him because “he’s the boss,” then he undermines the Christian worldview. From their earliest years, we must teach our children to obey because God requires this.

One of the better writers on the family has urged parents to be regularly making a distinction between “house rules” and “God’s rules.” In other words, every well-ordered house needs to set standards. Some of these standards are clearly laid out in Scripture (for example, in Matthew 5). Some standards require some interpretation and application. A diligent father, who is conscientiously incorporating a Biblical worldview, wants his children to understand that we depend on God for our moral standards. In a practical way then, a father who faithfully incorporates the Christian Worldview in his home will strive to have a Scriptural reason for every rule. Do we require our children to take their shoes off when they come in the house? There certainly is no Scriptural requirement for this. But, a diligent father will still give a Scriptural warrant for the rule. “First, you are always to obey your parents, because God commands this. But God also requires us to keep a clean home, and to be good stewards of what we have. So, we have decided that we want you to take your shoes off when you come in the house.” This is but one example. In my house, we have three boys who love to play war. We struggled with the “never point a gun at a person rule.” The rule seemed too wooden to us. What is the point of having a gun if you never aim it at anybody? Someone suggested that a better rule would be to apply God’s rules regarding war, self-defense, and murder to the toyland world of “playing guns.” Again, the point is not to lay out a big thick rulebook for the home, but rather to lay down principles for determining rules, and for applying Scripture. When we fail to set a right ethic in our homes, we push our children towards their own interpretations and autonomous worldview. After all, if dad can be strict on his own authority, then I can be loose on mine. The point here is that a worldly worldview is bred, not in the institutions for learning, and certainly not at the neighbor’s house, but inside the four walls of the home where Christ is not Lord, where His Lordship does not extend to everything, where individual autonomy takes the day – either in a legalistic or licentious way. Why do young men like Joe Johnson stray from the church and into the world? Ultimately, the answer is that they never received a Biblical worldview, were never taught to interpret the world through Scriptural eyes. Somewhere along the line, either from a father who was too nice to say “no” or else from a father who ruled autonomously, these young men learned that they are the ultimate authority. And families like the Johnsons make up the local church.  Since Fundamentalism has reached its full maturity, we are now finding ourselves full of children.  And the children of Fundamentalism don’t like all the rules.  One need not look any further than Jason Janz’s now-famous Young Fundamentalist survey to see this.  These Young Fundamentalists are my own generation.  My generation doesn’t like all the rules.  We want a more “liberated” (read, licentious) lifestyle.  Why?  A big part of the blame has to go to the way the standards were adopted in the beginning, and the way they were taught in the home.  I know plenty of Young Fundamentalists who either chafe at the standard, or who have altogether shrugged it off.  And I know plenty of Young Fundies who have not, who love the standards, who delight in obeying God’s Word.  What is the difference?  I can’t say that I’ve given it exhaustively, but I think the answer lies somewhere close to home.

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  1. March 28, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    Excellent post. As a father of 4 between ages of 6 and 12, this is timely. I agree that we need to teach our children the reasons behind the rules. When we do this, we will help our children learn how to apply Biblical principles on their own.

  2. March 29, 2008 at 9:19 am

    Thanks, Gordy. Do you also think that in addition to teaching them how to apply, by applying ourselves we are teaching them to apply these Biblical principles? I think that in openly looking at the principles, we teach our children that there are principles, and that we do not decide things independently of those principles.

    This is what teachers mean when they say that most lessons are much bigger than the lesson material. When we teach, we pass on more than just the material facts themselves. We teach more intangible things than tangible things. From watching how we teach, our students learn how knowledge is gained…

  3. bobby
    March 29, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Thanks for this article. It is thought-provoking and edifying.

  4. March 29, 2008 at 4:37 pm


    Thank your for the informative and logical presentation of this truth. However, I think there is a large hole in this article given the number one motivation for obedience to teaching is largely left out of it. Where does love play into this? It seems to me, if you want to put a finger on the critical reason why fundamentalist kids go bad, it is partially due to lack of teaching, but more a lack of real love from parent to child and love of God from parent to God in front of the children.

    We find ourselves as parents (of six) constantly coming back to WHY we do WHAT we do (standards included). And we teach them over and over that we ask these things of them because we love them, and we love God more.

  5. March 31, 2008 at 10:59 am

    We’ve had people tell us that the children of a friend of theirs went bad and to the world. They insist that if anyone was raising their children right, then it must be that guy! So based upon their assumptions, they adjudicate God a liar. “If you train up a child in the way he should go, then when he is old he MAY NOT depart from it.”, they say. In conversations, I’ve asked these people, “how do you know that the parent of which you’re speaking did all that was required of him? How do you know he taught and lived according to the Bible?” It comes down to casual observations at church and occasionally in public, or sometimes on their personal relationship with said parent. But what’s done in private in the home is primarily what makes the difference, what molds the child. So when the Christian observer (not a news paper) sees super-Christian’s children go bad, and has a opportunity to judge righteous judgments, he instead observes Scripture to be disproved and this super-Parent to be justified. But the Bible says, “Let God be true and every man a liar.” Thus, if you know a hundred “wonderful” parents that lost their children to the world, don’t judge God a liar, “let God be true, and EVERY man a liar.”
    Sorry, that’s a little bloggy and not very commenty.

  6. March 31, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Sorry, Don… I wrote out a very nice (in my own opinion) reply to your comment, and it was lost somewhere between my keyboard and the “post it” button. So,

    You are absolutely right, and I shouldn’t have overlooked that important issue. However, since I did, let me only defend myself by saying that in writing of parents who diligently teach an exhaustively Christian worldview, I am assuming that they love their children and that they love the Lord God.

    In fact, I would assume that a parent who neglects this duty also falls short of a true love for God and a resultant love for their family.

    Thank you for pointing this out. It is certainly worthy of adding to the discussion.

    Oh yes, and Jason, thanks for the bloggy commenty.

  7. March 31, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    I enjoyed this post, agreed, like the addition of love, assumed it was there already, and appreciated the Hodge corollary.

    April 1, 2008 at 10:24 am


  9. April 1, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    Hey Jay,

    Dave Mallinak is from Terre Haute incidentally. He pastors in Ogden, Utah, but he is a genuine Indiana native. As a I think of it, all three of the Jackhammers are from Indiana somewhere. I believe you have a point with the kid’s graduation from programs in a programmed church (that doesn’t emphasize discipleship, which is what Scripture does) to actually living the Christian life on their own. Theologically, someone who is saved will continue. Discipleship does better in finding out who is and isn’t and makes that clear to a kid who stuck around just for the programs. We create a class of spiritual dependents that when the programs are pulled out, they can’t function.

  10. April 1, 2008 at 2:12 pm


    I figured you were busy with good things. No sweat. I have six kids, four of them teens, and with two in particular we are in a grueling battle for truth. Of course, on a daily basis there are little foxes trying to spoil our vineyard in general. But, as we educate them, I have been humbled to realize that at times I am straight as a gun barrel and twice as cold in comments I make and teaching I do. So, I just wanted to throw some love into the mix before we moved on to another topic. Your point is very well taken though. We must teach. We can’t leave it up to the pastor, not even when we is the pastor!!! 🙂

    April 2, 2008 at 11:15 am


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