Friday, July 26, 2013

Yes, My Child is a Christian. A Reformed Response to "Is Your Child a Christian?"

An article on the gospel coalition asks whether a parent can tell if her child is a Christian, and poses "5 Evidences" for a child's status as "Christian."  They are:

1. Growing affection and need for Jesus and the gospel.
2. Heightened understanding of the truths of Scripture.
3. Increased kindness and selflessness toward siblings.
4. Greater awareness of and distaste for sin.
5. Noticeable desire to obey parents.

Of course, every Christian parent wants their child to express these things.  My response to this article is that it misses what Baptist theology needs to encounter, and that is the objective reality of the covenant God makes with believers and their children.  For the OT, readers can take a look at the promises to Abraham (Genesis 17:9, for example), and for David, Psalm 89:29-30ff, for all of Israel "baptized into Moses" see 1 Cor. 10.  This covenantal principle is found throughout the whole of Scripture. 

Re: the article and the "5 points of Parentism" there is everything in it about looking inward to the inner realms of a child's soul, which no one can do.  As far as the outward manifestations of "devotion" (Scripture reading, remorse for sin, etc.), how does the parent know the child isn't--due to her sinful nature--"acting it out" and not being genuine?  This seems like Puritanical naval gazing, except one is trying to look into someone else's soul. 

The parent has NO WAY of knowing the status of a child's relationship with the Lord based upon these five points. This is the failure of Baptist theology, and why the Reformed understanding of the covenant the Lord makes with children is the biblical answer: it is an objective covenant. Parents should never doubt the election and salvation of their children, unless they commit apostasy and deny the Lord that bought them.

On the Baptist view, a child is converted.  Oh?  This is why I am no longer a Baptist. The Internet Monk once asked some good questions about the curious theology of children in Baptist settings:

The child is "saved" from infancy and the child's election is not doubted i.e. if the child were to pass away, that child's salvation is never doubted.   But then, when the child gets older, she needs to "make a decision" to "get saved," and follow Christ or--be converted.

So, the child was saved, and then was converted? Or, the child was saved, and got to a point of neutrality where salvation was at the "tipping point" of being lost or gained based upon the contingency of converting? Or, the child is saved, lost that salvation, and then got saved again?

Rather, on the Reformed view, parents should treat their children as "saved" (1 Cor.7:14)-as sanctified, and in covenant with God, presuming neither regeneration or unregenerate status, but taking on faith, the good Father's will to make promises to believers and their children (Acts 2:38). This is why the Apostle Paul can instruct children in the Lord to obey their parents in Eph. 6:1ff.

The covenant is objective and real, and parents should be encouraged to embrace that covenant, and therefore nurture their children in the Lord, not fretting about a conversion experience, but entrusting children to the Lord teaching them that they belong to Jesus, and that the proper response on the child's part is to "trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy and free in Jesus.

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