17. Fathers are sovereign over the training of their children and, with their wives, are the children’s chief teachers. Christian parents are bound to obey the command personally to walk beside and train their children. Any approach to Christian education ought to recognize and facilitate the role of fathers and mothers as the primary teachers of their children. (Deut. 4:9; 6:6ff.; Ps. 78:3-8; Prov. 1:8; Eph. 6:4; )
Deut. 4:9 – Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren,
This is a command to Israel to teach the things they saw. This is not a command to Christians to teach reading, writing, the civil war, or the resurrection of Christ, none of which we saw. And is this a general command to Israel to teach Israel’s children and grandchildren? Or is this command to each parent and set of grandparents to teach their own children and grandchildren? The former interpretation is, on face value, as easy as the latter. And Hebrew parents did give sons the opportunity to learn from a rabbi if they could. They did not feel that religious instruction belong at home.
Deut. 6:6-9 – And these words which I command you today shall be in your 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. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
Here, God commands Israel to teach the commands of Deuteronomy to their children, and to tie the commands of Deuteronomy between their eyes. It is not a command to teach your children to add, multiply and subtract, or to know the New Testament. I have never met a Christian parent who really follows this verse, tying Deuteronomy as frontlet between their eyes. Nor one teaching, by example, to do a genealogy search on anyone who wants to join the congregation, to ensure that his grandfather’s grandmother’s great-grandparents were not conceiving any of his forefathers (or foremothers) from illicit intercourse. (Deut. 23:2)
Ps. 78:3-8 – Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should make them known to their children; That the generation to come might know them, The children who would be born, That they may arise and declare them to their children, That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments; And may not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not set its heart aright, And whose spirit was not faithful to God.
Notice that this is not a command. It is a statement of resolve. The resolve is: “We will not hide them from their children.” Not: “We will not hide them from our children.” This is apparently a resolve to teach other people’s children!
Why do they want to teach these children? Several great reasons are mentioned why these people want to teach other people’s children. The most intriguing one is: That they may not be like their fathers. One of the reasons in the Bible for teaching children, is to ensure they do not become like their fathers!
Prov. 1:8 – My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother;
Eph. 6:4 – And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
17a)Fathers are sovereign over the training of their children
Deut. 4:9 is a command to teach children and grandchildren. As such, fathers are not sovereign there, but have to share it with grandparents (and probably his wife, depending on whether you think this was only written to men or to everyone.)
Deut. 6:6-9 seemingly gives a training mandate to Israelite parents - mothers and fathers. This is no reason to find fathers sovereign either.
Ps. 78:3-8 talks of others teaching children, so they don’t become like their fathers. This contradicts his sovereignty.
Prov. 1:8, whereby a son is told to listen to both parents, also contradicts it.
I already covered Eph 6:4, which could refer to both parents as the same Greek Bible word is elsewhere translated with “parents.”
b) and, with their wives, are the children’s chief teachers.
Nothing in the verses say who is “chief teachers.” The texts do mention parents and others teaching the Word, but not who should teach them to make a living, or other practical skills.
c) Christian parents are bound to obey the command personally to walk beside and train their children.
I believe parents should walk beside and train their children. But of all these verses, only Eph 6:4 command Christian parents to do so. (The Deuteronomy passages were commandments to a pre-Christian group to teach things we no longer teach, and neither the Psalms nor the Proverbs passages are commands.) Do you think that Eph. 6:4 refer only to fathers, as is implied in earlier tenets on authority? If that was so, then mothers are not commanded to train children at all, but only fathers are commanded to walk beside and train children.
d) Any approach to Christian education ought to recognize and facilitate the role of fathers and mothers as the primary teachers of their children.
“Primary teachers” was not defended from any real Bible teachings to Christians, and I’d say Ps 78 contradicts it. I recommend facilitating the role of parents for practical reasons, but no verse commands it.
Other ways Christians understand this:
(No extra notes this time)
Summing it up
How reliable is this tenet? I will use a color code:
The color code:
This is not Biblically defended
This is defended biblically, but another view could also be defended biblically
(Note: 17a) and 17c) are mutually exclusive, as they use two interpretations of the same verse. Accepting 17c is also mutually exclusive with some earlier tenets.)