My previous article generated a good bit of discussion regarding covenant children and the role of baptism. The article emphasized that the covenant status of our children, as well as our posture towards and message to them is a critical factor in shaping their faith and worldview. The most fertile soil in which to plant and grow a Christian worldview is in our children and as parents we must be proactive in this venture. As for the baptism issue, perhaps I should have included portions of the following two scriptures: Eph. 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith”, and John 3:3 “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God”. Salvation is by grace through faith. It is a necessity to be born again through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the work of God from before the foundation of the world. Understanding this we must also understand that covenant status in history does not equal elect status in eternity. If the two verses quoted above seem to be in conflict with the premise presented in my previous article then you may benefit from a more comprehensive explanation of covenant as found in my recent book Baptism is Not Enough: How Understanding God’s Covenant Explains Everything
In addition to the article I commented on last week I also ran across an article from a few years ago entitled, How to Raise Pagan Kids by Neal Jansons. Rather than detailing the ideals and the perspectives of a Christian working to protect their child from growing up with a pagan worldview, this article was written from the perspective of a pagan providing advice on how to ensure his children adopted his pagan worldview.
Aside from being an interesting glimpse into one father’s pagan parenting advice, Jansons’ perspective provides a concrete, in your face example of the spiritual warfare that is being waged around us. I think it can be instructive for the Christian on the outside looking in.
Jansons understands his responsibility as a parent, not only in the life of his family but also as a player in the bigger picture of extending the future of his faith through his children. He states,
We, as the people who help shape the next generation of modern Paganism through our children and apprentices, have a distinct responsibility to consider our approach to our faith and our gods critically when it comes to raising our children…We must approach this issue thoughtfully and with great attention, because in a very real way the future of our faith hangs in the balance.
How does he suggest approaching the task of indoctrinating his children? Much the same as we would. Jansons continues,
In any case, your child must understand not only what their family believes, but why they believe it. In order to know that, you have to help teach it to them, which means you have to understand what you believe and why. This might be a sore subject for you, as you may not have looked critically at your beliefs before. In Paganism there is a great tendency to “go with the flow”. However, your child deserves to have a clear idea of what it is they are being raised with, and a clear understanding of your own beliefs is the only way to get there.
Jansons urges other parents to reflect upon their beliefs, be able to articulate them and live them out consistently. It sounds very much like the common Christian refrain that comes from 1 Peter 3:15 in regards to “being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”. He then asks his readers to consider the following:
Does your spiritual path inform your ethics or politics? How? Do you believe there is an objective moral code…?
This call for an appeal to an objective standard is a common one in the Christian community. He says it is no different for his camp. He goes further by addressing the role and influence of education in raising pagan children.
It is your job to teach your children matters of fact, and trust me, if you don’t teach them the facts as you see them either secular materialist culture or monotheism will gladly take your place. Your kids are going to get their ideas about these issues from somewhere, and the first place should not be television or the kids at school. It should be their parents. These things are far too important to refuse to talk to our children about them in some misguided desire to respect their freedom of belief.
Some of his readers resonated with the idea of parents playing the primary role in educating their children. The following are comments from two parents that read his article.
I’m planning on homeschooling my son and since my husband and I are both Pagan I’ve been considering Pagan homeschooling. Thanks for sharing these points…
I just wish home-schooling was an option for more people. Not only is there an obvious Judeo-Christian-Islamic monotheistic bias throughout the public school system, their educational system is built primarily to create good little worker-consumers, not informed adults capable of engaging in critical thinking.
Jansons along with these two other parents understand that they are in a battle. Jansons also understands that he should not be passive on the front lines.
When we send them to school, to play over at a friend’s house, and when they read, watch television, and use the Internet, monotheism is going to be the assumption and the norm. They will be asked about their religion, they will be proselytized to by well-meaning schoolmates, and in some cases they will be ridiculed and bullied. This is a fact, and we have to accept it, but we don’t have to take it lying down!
He understands better than many Christians that there is no room for spectators on the sidelines. You are on one side or the other. In Christian circles we insist that there is “no neutrality”. This is no foreign concept to Jansons.
…it is not possible for Paganism to be true and Christianity to be true at the same time, and the same goes for several other religions. While there is no “right, true, and only way”, there are wrong ways, and there is nothing wrong with telling your child you believe Christianity to be wrong and why.
Whereas this statement lacks logic and consistency among other things, it is certainly telling when it comes to the self-conscious nature of many who would pit themselves against Christians. Jansons, along with those from many other rival faiths, understands that there is no neutral ground. And again, the author has a keen sense for the critical role of parents in extending the pagan worldview.
If we want to ever be more than a “phase” for rebellious teenagers to grow out of and an excuse for a good party, we must begin to actually take ourselves seriously. We need to ask certain questions, we need to come to conclusions, and then we need to pass those conclusions on to our children.
Our survival depends upon it.
He is right on. I would say that if we as Christians do not want to lose our teenagers in a rebellious phase, then we need to “ask certain questions, we need to come to conclusions, and then we need to pass those conclusions on to our children.” First and foremost among these questions would be understanding how God relates to his creation in general and his people in particular. This is the issue of covenant. “There has been an epic battle for the hearts of men and the kingdoms of the earth. There are only two sides on which to fight. “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons” (1 Cor. 10:21). Satan definitively lost the battle at the cross. “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col. 2:15). His struggles until the end of time will be in vain. Yet, in history men represent one of the two sides with every thought and action. Men take corporate responsibility and either govern according to the Word of God or according to their fallen nature. God has ordained a covenant structure in which men are bound to him judicially and carry out his will in all areas of life. This judicial bond is sealed by an oath… There is one primary covenant that serves as a peace treaty between God and fallen man.…There is in fact one King offering terms of peace with his vassals. There is one peace treaty offered by Christ through his church. There is one law. There are multiple institutions with separate jurisdictions and unique sanctions to carry out the rule of the Supreme ruler who is Christ sitting at the right hand of the Father.”1
In the midst of the battle for final victory, God has a redemptive plan that he is working out in history. He has chosen to carry out this plan through covenant. The covenant structure involves representatives of which I, you and Mr. Jansons are all one. And over time, self-conscious or not, rival faiths will become more and more explicitly in opposition to one another. I know of no better description of this process than in a quote from C.S. Lewis.
“If you dip into any college, or school, or parish, or family–anything you like–at a given point in its history, you always find that there was a time before that point when there was more elbow room and contrasts weren’t quite so sharp; and that there’s going to be a time after that point when there is even less room for indecision and choices are even more momentous. Good is always getting better and bad is always getting worse: the possibilities of even apparent neutrality are always diminishing. The whole thing is sorting itself out all the time, coming to a point, getting sharper and harder.”2
More pagans are talking to pagans online. This is causing some to become more firm and confident in their faith. For others, the discussions are having a different effect. More Mormons are exchanging more information with each other. The same is true for an endless number of groups whether they be different faiths or just general interest groups. More information is being exchanged at a faster rate than ever in the history of mankind. In addition to contrasts becoming sharper as C.S. Lewis says above, they are becoming sharper much faster this day and age. Regardless of the uniqueness of every person in history, the ultimate dividing line is between those that represent God and those who represent Satan. There is no third alternative. And as Christians, this is what our objective standard tells us: God’s representatives are victorious over time.
Mr. Jansons may be suppressing this truth in his heart but even he has insight into the power of the gospel as evidenced through growth in history when he writes:
Let’s face it, we live in a world built by monotheism. Christianity took over Europe and the United Kingdom, helped shape the United States, and has profoundly influenced the modern world…This is a huge issue for someone trying to raise children Pagan, because it is almost impossible, short of conditioning every aspect of that child’s experience, to not have their views about religion and spirituality affected by monotheism.
Instead, the Christian worldview “took over” in the areas described above. To the extent that any culture conforms to the Word of God is the extent to which they will experience growth in history. Don’t miss his other insight: as much as can reasonably be done, he sees the importance of “conditioning every aspect of that child’s experience”. He may not have a full understanding of which faith and worldview will be victorious in the end but he understands very well one very important idea. Victory begins in the home.