Instilling Biblical Values in a Postmodern World
- Jeremy Lelek, Ph.D. Candidate President of the Association of Biblical Counselors
- 2008 12 Dec
Postmodernism is on the march, and while the Church has vigorously sought how to evangelize the postmodern culture, little has been discussed as to how to raise children in a culture where absolutes are dismissed, even ridiculed. While most parents and grandparents were raised in a time when moral tensions existed between objective good and evil, the children of today are being raised in a society where the lines of good and evil are being replaced by subjective interpretation of the two. Children are growing up in a world where there are no absolutes.
So what are parents to do in order to ensure their children are prepared to confront this ever-confusing trend?
First, parents must acknowledge the critical nature of the situation. The message of complete tolerance is a powerful one that resonates with children and teenagers. One of the primary desires possessed by children and teens is that of acceptance. Once they enter the school environment, they begin to develop an identity that is profoundly influenced by their social interactions with peers. Being accepted vies for position as being one of the primary agendas that rule their hearts. As a result, they may become sympathetic with individuals who are different from them (which is a good thing), but to the point that they will concede to the postmodern idea that their own values and beliefs are no more valid than those held by their peers. The underlying idea being that “If I disagree with another’s values and conclude that his or her beliefs are wrong, I reject him or her.”
Given their own fear of rejection (or desire for acceptance) such children will be challenged in holding firm to a particular belief system as absolute. Add to this the barrage of messages they receive from media and secular school curriculum that reinforce this tendency, and it becomes extremely evident that children being raised in a Christian home are extremely vulnerable to the postmodern message.
Secondly, parents must be willing to engage their children with the deeper truths of the Bible. Fifty years ago when modernism prevailed, children were being reared in a society that at least acknowledged the reality of objective truth. During this time, simple Bible stories served as a powerful tool to provide a biblical foundation for living. Conversely, in the postmodern era, beginning and ending with Bible stories is not enough. Children need to be engaged with Scripture at a much deeper level so that a firm foundation and worldview may be established as it relates to the tenets of the Christian faith.
For example, the idea that God saved Noah and all the animals on the ark is a beautiful narrative, but children need to be taught the whole reason Noah and the animals were on the ark in the first place: the men and women of the world were evil, depraved, and rebellious against a holy God. Many children’s Bibles as well as literature found in Christian bookstores today do a disservice to children by treating God’s Word as merely a handbook for character enhancement. They fail in offering children the resources to confront the voices of postmodern thought.
One popular children’s Bible posed three questions following a brief story about Creation. Those questions were: What is your favorite fruit? Do you like flowers? Can you name some animals? Not one word was mentioned about Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God.
Contrast this with another children’s book in which the following questions are cited, then answered: Who made you? Why did God make you and all things? Why are you to glorify God? Did Adam keep the covenant of life? What is sin? What does every sin deserve?
The difference between the two sets of questions, both developed for children, is glaringly evident.
On the one hand, the story of Creation is used to point children to God’s handiwork, while the other set of questions moves much deeper into the purposes of God’s creation, the rebellion of Adam, and the concept of sin. The latter questions serve to till the soil of a child’s mind as it relates to the larger questions of life and existence.
While some parents may think these questions would serve as overkill for a child, parents have a responsibility to learn how to communicate such abstract ideas to their children in such a way they will, to some extent, understand them from a very early age.
By the time a child enters kindergarten, he or she should have had significant exposure by parents (not simply Sunday school teachers) to biblical themes such as the Fall, sin, faith, the divinity of Jesus, salvation, sanctification, the Ten Commandments, worship, prayer, and baptism (to name a few). There is no doubt that the five-year-old mind will not conceptualize such constructs in-depth, but they should be quite familiar with them via consistent Bible study with parents. In actuality, parents may be quite surprised how well children grasp some of these ideas. Even more so, parents will learn to appreciate the high level of interest their children will exhibit in being given the opportunity to learn from them.
Certainly, Bible stories are a vibrant part of rearing a child in a Christian home, however, what children glean from such stories makes all the difference. The Bible, in the final analysis, is not about character enhancement, but about God, and his relationship to a rebellious people with only one hope. Every story from beginning to end points to Him, and the provision He has made in Jesus Christ for the purpose of redeeming for Himself a bride without spot or wrinkle.
The chief aim of Bible reading should be that children learn from a very young age to stand in complete adoration of and love for a God who will accept nothing less than perfection, and that such perfection has been provided through the finished work of Jesus Christ alone. Children who truly grasp this will, by His grace, live with their entire beings to celebrate the one true God who has given so much!
Finally, parents must train children to “love God and neighbor” as they embrace truth in a fallen world. Holding to eternal, unchanging, and universal truths does not warrant arrogance and pride when relating to the world. Children need to approach their place in life with great humility recognizing that it is God alone who has placed them in a home where God’s Word is honored.
The prevailing desire of a child’s heart within the social context must be changed (via study of God’s Word) from “being accepted” to “giving love”. This love is exhibited in kindness and compassion as relationships with people of different values is developed. Biblical values will not evolve in children by natural osmosis, but only as parents take time to consistently instill the deeper truths of God’s sacred Word into the lives of their little ones.
Postmodernism is the prevailing theme of the day. Although children need to learn the skills to function in relationship to the postmodern culture, they will only succeed in doing so as they develop a cohesive biblical worldview. The most effective way of fostering such a process is to begin tackling the larger questions of life when they are very young while of course depending on God’s precious grace to open their minds and hearts to Him.
The Association of Biblical Counselors exists to: Encourage, Equip and Empower all believers everywhere to live and counsel the Word.
The Association of Biblical Counselors offers resources designed to equip professional counselors, pastoral staff and everyday Christians to provide wise counsel that comes straight from Scripture—and only from Scripture. ABC believes that the Bible answers every single question that psychology tries to answer. Like a growing number of LPCs, ABC President Jeremy Lelek can testify to the true and lasting changes he witnessed in his clients when he decided to set aside the integrated approach used by most Christian counselors and began counseling from the Bible alone. ABC’s dedication to counsel that reflects a biblical worldview has generated enthusiastic response.
The Association of Biblical Counselors provides a variety of services, including continuing education opportunities, reproducible resources that can be used in counseling sessions, scholarly reviews of popular books and a weekly newsletter. Perhaps most exciting is the group’s emphasis on preparing pastoral staff and everyday believers to speak truthful, wise counsel into the lives of hurting people. For more information visit: http://www.christiancounseling.com/