A friend of mine sent me a recent article from Reb Bradley, author of Child Training Tips: What I Wish I Knew When My Children Were Young and its apparent sequel in sermon format on four CDs, What I REALLY Wish I Knew When My Children Were Young. It is a shame to see how low the mighty have fallen. Bradley is still an avid homeschooler but this recent article points out some serious flaws in his character of which I was previously unaware. He may have been successful at home educating, but as a parent he is a dismal failure. I would like to use this week's space to make some comments on his article.
He opened his article with an observation I have made repeatedly over the years. He says:
In the last couple of years, I have heardfrommultitudesoftroubledhomeschoolparents around the country, a good many of whom were leaders. These parents have graduated their first batch of kids, only to discover that their children didn't turn out the way they thought they would. Many of these children were model homeschoolers while growing up, but sometime after their 18th birthday they began to reveal that they didn’t hold to their parents’ values.I have seen this tragic scenario played out again and again in the families of my friends and acquaintances. Parents who provided a god-fearing Pharisee upbringing for their children, who sought to mold them into the rigid conformity of separated living were brought low by rebellious children who left the house and took a place in the world. Many of these children fell away from the faith and cast off their Pharisee heritage. They joined churches with godless, wicked, sinful contemporary music where people are allowed to come to services dressed any way they pleased. They started running with the crowd of carnal Christians, attending so-called "Christian" rock concerts and seminars where known compromisers of the faith were teaching - heretics like Rick Warren, Billy Graham and John MacArthur. These adult children of homeschooling parents have, in many cases, dropped totally off the spiritual radar and fallen into rank apostasy by attending non-Pharisee churches or going to non-Pharisee Bible colleges.
Bradley goes on to say:
I can honestly say that this has never been a problem for me, nor should it be for other dedicated Pharisee homeschooling parents. I am deeply saddened and disappointed that Bradley has fallen for this approach. The fact that he has lost both his adult children and his favor with God by setting his family first is proof that one should never sacrifice God on the family altar. At least his concluding sentence sums up the proper approach. There are many Christians so-called who have happy, harmonious homes and healthy relationships with their adult children, but what they don't have is scriptural obedience to God since they are not members of a strict Pharisee church. Many of these "happy people" are willfully disobedient individuals who are unwilling to discipline their families into following the strict conformity required of godly Pharisee children.
We know we have made our family an idol when we put our hope and trust in it more than in God – we look to it rather than God for our identity and significance. And we know we look to our family for our significance when it has the most power to lift us up or to demoralize us. It is most obvious in a public setting when we either glory in our children or become enraged when they embarrass us. Our children are either the source of our pride or our disappointment, depending on whether or not they help us achieve our image of a strong family.
A great problem with idolatry is that idols require sacrifice, and we end up sacrificing relationship with our children for the idol of the family. When we elevate the image of the family, we effectively trade our children’s hearts for our reputation.
Craving a reputation for success puts great pressure on us, and then on our children– we feel quite constrained to succeed with them. If they turn out okay, then we cancredit ourselves with success, but if they struggle or fail, then we may live with guilt, embarrassment, and bitterness towards them. Many homeschool parents look at the choices made by their teen and adult children and live under a cloud of failure or resentment.
In the Christian life it is important to understand that our highest success is not measured by the effect we have upon others, but strictly by our obedience to God.
Let me say for the record that God comes first in my life. My identity and significance are not derived from my family, as Bradley's was. No, my identity and significance are found in my adherence and obedience to God and his laws. In my household, family takes a back seat and God is in the front seat. If it ever came to a place where I had to choose between obeying God and loving my family, I would choose obedience to God every time. In fact, that is exactly what I had to do with my own children. One by one, each of my children left home when they were old enough and fell into wanton sin and godless apostasy by attending non-Pharisee churches and marrying non-Pharisee spouses. In every case, I refused to attend the wedding and have refused to have anything to do with my children until they repent of the error of their ways and come back pledging faithfulness to God and begging forgiveness from those they have offended. Like faithful Abraham, I was willing to offer up my own children as a sacrifice to my dedication to God. And if it ever came to a place where I would have to choose between loving my wife and remaining faithful to God, I would leave her as well. For me, obedience is everything.
Bradley also said:
I once believed and taught that a parent could follow the right biblical steps and be assured of raising children who remained faithful to God from childhood into their adult years. In fact, as a parent of young children I judged as a failure any parent whose young adult children were prodigal… It was a rude awakening for me when I saw that even the best parenting could not exempt a person from making the wrong choice when faced with temptation. I do believe that by our influence we can greatly increase the likelihood our children will love and follow Christ, but I see nothing in Scripture that guarantees well-trained children will never succumb to temptation.
And this is where I take exception to what he says. God does guarantee us parental success. However, our success is taking a stand for the truth, even when our children fail God and us. We have every right to judge others if their children are prodigal. We simply must be careful that we judge correctly. Bradley may have failed as a parent because he lacked the appropriate resolve and dedication to demand the kind of results he wanted from his children. I, on the other hand, am not a failure as a parent because I was faithful in my witness and parenting. Instead of being wishy-washy like some other parents, I maintianted a stern, unrelenting resolve to do the right thing no matter what the personal cost. The fact that my kids are off in the sin of being like the world is proof that I am successful because I remain faithful and steadfast in my devotion to God, holding them personally responsible for their own spiritual failures. A parent who goes soft and lets their heart rule the day, moved by the tears of their children to compromise their stand on the truth is the one who is standing in the greater condemnation.
Bradley warns us against judging others by our personal standards, but without those, what else do we have to judge and condemn bad parenting? He said that pride is working in us when "we sincerely believe our personal opinions reflect God's utmost priorities and standards," which is typical rhetoric for someone who is weak in their convictions and evidence of a heart that is false before God. My personal priorities and standards ARE God's priorities and standards because that is where I get them. Bradley further suggests some reasons our failed children (although he seems to think the failure is in parents) reject our standards.
a. They may learn from our example to judge others and grow up with our shallow values. If we don’t know that our values are shallow we will regard our children as virtuous and be proud of them. When our children point out to us the parenting mistakes, shortcomings, or spiritual blindness of others, do we correct them for their arrogance or do we affirm them for their “insights”? We mustn’t be pleased when our children seek our affirmation by noting the failings of other parents or children – we must direct them into an attitude of compassion and respect.
b. If they do not learn to judge others from our bad example, it may be because they fear our judgments of them. They feel they are just like the ones they hear us judge, so hide their real values from us. We mustn’t be surprised if they act like they embrace our values during their teen years, when in fact, they are simply seeking to avoid discipline and lectures. In reality they have closed off their hearts to us and will likely leave home as soon as they get the chance.
c. It is also possible that they see the shallowness of our “religion” and are not attracted to it in the least. Christianity is not a system of do’s and don’ts – it is following a wonderful Savior who gave his life for his people. A legalistic faith consisting primarily of “avoid this, wear that, and attend this” is not attractive to most children. Such children grow up full of knowledge and rules, but lack attraction for the Lord Jesus. They may identify themselves with Christ at an early age, but it is possible that the Christianity they learned from us was characterized chiefly by religious rules and doctrines. They will eventually forsake their identification with Christ because they grew up under the weight of religious standards, but lacked the grace and power to carry them out. Many such young people have forsaken “religion,” and still need to find Jesus and the grace of salvation.
What rank heresy! Since I don't have shallow values, my children cannot learn that they are shallow. He may be correct that our children fear our judgment because they are just as guilty as those we justly condemn, but to suggest that our practice of religion is shallow as a system of do's and don'ts is gross irresponsibility. If children are throwing off our list of acceptable behavior, that is a problem with their hearts, not with us. But he seems unrelenting in his attempt to lay the blame for bad children at the feet of parents. Just take a look at the monstrous heresy Bradley is trying to pass off:
For example, if we are self-validating, we may decide that since we have chosen to homeschool, anyone who won’t homeschool doesn’t love their children enough to sacrifice for them. If we are self-validating, it means that since we think we understand the true definition of modesty, anyone who doesn’t dress according to our standard is carnal, unenlightened, or has fallen away. A self-validating person is justified in their own eyes and in the eyes of those with whom they fellowship.
What is this "self-validating" nonsense? Everyone knows that parents who aren't committed enough to homeschool their children are bad parents who do not truly love their children, nor are they dedicated enough to God to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
What we believe to be our “enlightened” perspective becomes a filter by which we gauge others’ spirituality, and therefore limits our options for fellowship. We develop a very narrow definition of what we call “likeminded” people, based on the outworkings of our values and opinions. For example, if we think drums are carnal and have no place in worship, we might walk into a church and decide we cannot fellowship there if we spot drums and no organ – the drums completely discredit the church to us. Or a Bible teacher is entirely discredited in our eyes, because he does not use our preferred Bible translation, or prays with what we feel is insufficient sobriety. Or we meet someone and immediately trust their spirituality simply because they homeschool, dress to our standard, and require quick obedience of their children. It is easy for us “family-minded” people to elevate our opinions and personal convictions and make them grounds for fellowship. But are we on a path to exclusivity when we will no longer associate with those who will be with us in eternity? Is it possible we have lost sight of fellowship based on love and devotion to Jesus, and have substituted personal standards and a narrow view of Christian liberty?
And here Bradley has descended into heresy bordering on apostasy himself. Everyone knows that the way to heaven is narrow and that we SHOULD have few "likeminded" people in our fellowship. And he says if we "think" drums are carnal, as if it isn't the clear teaching scripture that drums are carnal and a sign of the Devil's music. The same is true for people who use one of Satan's books in worship other than the King James Bible. And then he closes with a double heresy. The first is to imply that exclusivity is a bad thing and the second is to suggest that there will be anyone in heaven that does not meet the high standards of godliness and holiness that we maintain.
At this point, I can only grieve at how far Bradley has fallen from the faith once delivered to the saints.