How Parents Make Their Children Religious (or Not)
If transmitting the faith is part of the vocation of parents, this also means that God Himself is at work in and through what the parents do. It may not seem like the children are receptive and they may well rebel against what their parents have taught them, but, in the long run, what God does by means of parents will have its effect.
The most important factor in whether or not children hold on to their faith and go to church when they are older is their parents. That does not always hold true, of course, but in general, if the parents are religious, their children eventually will be also. And vice, versa. Again, with exceptions, if the parents are not religious and do not go to church much, neither will their children.
The researchers have written about their findings in Christianity Today in an article entitled Parents Set the Pace for Their Adult Children’s Religious Life with the deck “‘Handing Down the Faith’ shows a vast majority of Americans don’t choose their religious beliefs. They inherit them.” Here is an excerpt:
Parents define for their children the role that religious faith and practice ought to play in life, whether important or not, which most children roughly adopt. Parents set a “glass ceiling” of religious commitment above which their children rarely rise. Parental religious investment and involvement is in almost all cases the necessary and even sometimes sufficient condition for children’s religious investment and involvement.
This parental primacy in religious transmission is significant because, even though most parents do realize it when they think about it, their crucial role often runs in the background of their busy lives; it is not a conscious, daily, strategic matter. Furthermore, many children do not recognize the power that their parents have in shaping their religious lives but instead view themselves as autonomous information processors making independent, self-directing decisions. Widespread cultural scripts also consistently say that the influence of parents over their children recedes starting with the onset of puberty, while the influence of peers, music, and social media takes over.
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The Centrality of the GospelBy Kevin Hay — 8 months ago
Healthy churches don’t just use the gospel as a tool they have been given. They don’t think or talk about the gospel like it is merely an addition to their lives. But rather, they cling to it, with every ounce of their collective being, because they know that without it, they are both hopeless and helpless. But with it, they know that they have the very power of God, himself, working in them and through them, for their good and his glory.
In Paul’s first recorded epistle to the church of Corinth, the Apostle was writing to a church plagued by disorder, divisions, and a host of difficulties. To put it mildly, the Corinthian church had major issues. However, as complicated as some of those issues were, their root cause was all the same: they had taken their eyes off the gospel. So, Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to put the church in order. He was writing to refocus their attention and to unify them around the gospel. But, of course, to be unified in the gospel, you must begin by getting the gospel right.
This is the fundamental premise of 1 Corinthians 15:1–2. Paul writes,
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
The gospel is not just another message. It is not a fable or some mythological tale, but rather it is the power of God unto salvation (1 Cor 1:18). The gospel is the good news of who God is and what he has done for us through his Son Jesus Christ. And therefore, it is this good news that all healthy churches are anchored to and empowered by.
Healthy Churches Know the Gospel
Paul begins by calling the church to remember the gospel. “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel…” (v. 1a). So, what is the gospel? Paul proceeds to tell them in verses 3–4:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
Therefore, at its most fundamental level, this is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the saving message of Jesus’s substitutionary death, burial, and resurrection from the dead. And what does Paul say testifies to this reality? It is the sound doctrine which has been revealed to us by God in the Scriptures.
Too often, churches become distracted by secondary matters. Even with good intentions, their ecclesiastical eyes become preoccupied by peripheral issues. However, Paul makes it clear that the primary focus of every healthy church must be the gospel.
Healthy Churches Proclaim the Gospel
The pattern Paul puts forth, then, is one that both the Corinthian church and every other church should follow. Just as Paul proclaimed this gospel to them, they should be a people who proclaim this message to others. There are two specific verbs that are important to note from the text. Looking first at the beginning of verse three, Paul says, “For I delivered to you…”
So, notice that this is not a message Paul invented. This is a message that was authored by God. Paul is simply being faithful to convey it accurately. Therefore, delivering is a matter of stewardship. This, too, is the job of the church. The church has not been called to be innovative. We have simply been called to be faithful. So how do we do that?
Well, that leads us back to Paul’s reminder in verse 1: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you.” This is a word that means “to herald” specifically good news. It is also the origin of our English word, “evangelize.”
Thus, the role of preaching is like that of the medieval town crier. Before the days of newspapers or modern media, it was the job of the town crier to stand up among the citizens of the town square and proclaim the news given to him by the king. It was the town crier’s job to deliver the news of victorious military battles, royal decrees, and the like.
Illumination—I Do Not Think it Means What You Think it MeansBy Scott Aniol — 7 months ago
Praise be to God for his Spirit’s supernatural work of illumination in our hearts. Without it, we would not be able to accept the things of the Spirit of God, we would not recognize them as the truthful, authoritative revelation of God that they are, and we would not willingly submit ourselves to them.
I am convinced that a charismatic theology of the Holy Spirit has infected most of evangelicalism in ways we don’t often recognize. Carl F. H. Henry was right when he observed, “The modern openness to charismatic emphases is directly traceable to the neglect by mainstream Christian denominations of an adequate doctrine of the Holy Spirit.”1
This influence can be seen in a number of ways, but one that I’d like to focus on here is with our understanding and use of the term illumination. Often we hear prayers like, “Lord, please illumine your Word so that we can understand what it says,” or other similar language. Intentional or not, many believers seem to expect that the Spirit is going to help us understand what Scripture means or that he is going to “speak” to us specific ways that the Word applies to our personal situations.
Neither of these are what the biblical doctrine of illumination means.
Biblical Teaching on Illumination
The term illumination does not appear in Scripture; rather, it describes a collection of concepts involving the Spirit’s work in relation to his Word in the believer’s life.
1 Corinthians 1:18–2:16
One of the key texts is 1 Corinthians 1:18–2:16. In this passage, Paul describes the fact that “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18). Though the concept of illumination or enlightening don’t really appear in this passage, it does clearly teach that a key difference between believers and unbelievers is the fact that unbelievers simply do not recognize the truthfulness, beauty, and authority of God’s Word (specifically the gospel), while a believer is one who has come to recognize Scripture as such, not because of any human persuasion, but simply through “the Spirit and of power” (2:4).
2 Corinthians 4:1–6
Second Corinthians 4 makes a similar assertion, this time using explicit language of “enlightening.” The gospel is “veiled to those who are perishing” (2 Cor 4:3), Paul argues. Believers accept and submit to the gospel only because God has enlightened their hearts:
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
2 Cor 4:6
This is illumination—a work of God’s Spirit upon a believer whereby he recognizes the beauty and glory of the gospel and therefore willingly submits himself to it.
It is important here to recognize that this concept of enlightening happens at the moment of conversion and is always true of Christians. Once our hearts are enlightened, we will always recognize and accept the Word of God as true and authoritative for us. An enlightened believer does not doubt or reject God’s Word.
1 Corinthians 2:10–16
Another text frequently cited in discussions of Spirit illumination is 1 Corinthians 2:10–16.
10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
Two points are important to recognize in this text: First, the “us” and “we” in verses 10–13 are the apostles and other authors of Scripture. Charles Hodge notes, “The whole connection shows that the apostle is speaking of revelation and inspiration; and therefore we must mean we apostles, (or Paul himself), and not we Christians.”2 These men certainly received direct revelation from the Spirit of God to the degree that whatever they wrote can be considered “inspired” by God (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Peter 20–21). But we must remember that such inspiration was unique. The Spirit uniquely revealed the truths of Scripture to these men, and these truths are now inscripturated in the 66 canonical books of Scripture. The Spirit does not “reveal” truth to us in the same manner. These verses describe inspiration, not illumination.
This is important to remember in any discussion of illumination: the primary way the Spirit brings God’s Word to us is not illumination, rather, God’s Spirit has already brought God’s Word to us perfectly and sufficiently through inspiration.
However, second, verses 14–16 do touch on what we may describe as Spirit illumination.
14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
The key phrase is “does not accept the things of the Spirit of God.” When the natural man reads Scripture, he does not accept it as God’s authoritative revelation. Rather, he sees it as foolishness. He does not understand its spiritual significance.
On the other hand, the spiritual person recognizes the Word of God for what it is and therefore submits himself to it. These verses do not speak of intellectual understanding but spiritual understanding. If we want to use the term illumination to describe what’s going on in these verses, it refers to the Spirit’s work to cause believers to recognize the significance and authority of the written Word of God. Furthermore, this act of the Spirit is not something that necessarily happens in separate points of time as we read the Word; rather, it is something that comes as a result of the new birth—the Spirit gives us new life and enlightens our hearts to recognize the significance of his Word.
In other words, 1 Corinthians 2 refers to two acts of the Spirit: inspiration, whereby the authors of Scripture wrote the very words of God, and illumination, whereby believers are enabled to recognize the spiritual significance of the Word of God.
A text that more specifically refers to what we may call illumination is Ephesians 1:17–22. Here Paul specifically uses the phrase “having the eyes of your heart enlightened” (v. 18). And what is the result of such illumination? Like with 1 Corinthians 2, the result of this enlightening is that the believer recognizes the value and authority of the truth of God’s revelation. No new revelation is imparted; rather, illumination causes believers to accept God’s Word for what it is—the sufficient, authoritative revelation of God.
Philippians 3:15, Colossians 1:9
In Philippians 3:15, Paul tells believers, “if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” Here, too, “reveal” refers not to new knowledge but to a kind of spiritual maturity that rightly submits to and appropriates God’s written revelation. Likewise, in Colossians 1:9, Paul prays that believers “may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”
Your Money Will Trick YouBy Trevin Wax — 10 months ago
Our money lies to us, constantly. Whenever we see our accumulation of assets or the increasing dollars in our account, Mammon whispers: I am your security. I am your hope. I make the good life possible. Meanwhile, Jesus is shouting, “It’s a lie! One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).
In the church today, it’s common to interpret biblical teaching on sin in a way that shies away from specifics so we are able to walk away unscathed.
We walk through the sin lists of Scripture and quietly check off each one, thinking, Not guilty. In some cases, we grow accustomed to hearing the warnings of Scripture, falling prey to a familiarity with the words that keeps us from feeling their full force. Worst of all, we read about sin in Scripture and think about others who struggle, never letting those unflattering adjectives (“greedy,” “lustful,” “hot-tempered,” “foolish”) come too close to our self-perception. Too often, we think of sins as actions we perform and miss the subtle ways we sin in our attitudes or develop sinful patterns of the heart.
The New Testament on Money
The best example, I think, is the way many Christians in America interpret and apply the clear and consistent teaching of the New Testament on the desire for and acquisition of wealth. Here’s how we rationalize:
Making money is a good thing, right? Spending money is neutral, right, as long as it’s not on something immoral or unjust? Therefore, as long as I’m honest in how I make and spend money, and as long as I’m sincerely seeking to steward my wealth well, the warnings about wealth don’t really apply to me. Sure, there are “greedy” people out there—rubbing their hands together with gleeful anticipation of acquiring more wealth and surpassing others in stature—but that’s not me!
Having adopted this mindset, when we read the account of a man asking Jesus to intervene in an inheritance dispute with his brother and hear Jesus’s command to “watch out and be on guard against all greed” (Luke 12:15, CSB), we may hope greedy and covetous people take note, but we don’t see any imminent danger for our own spiritual lives.
But the inability to hear, truly hear, the seriousness of Jesus’s warning is a problem. And it’s dangerous. It reflects our obliviousness to the spiritual jeopardy the accumulation of riches brings to the human soul.
Mammon on the Move
Jesus says “Watch out!” and “Be on guard” as if there’s a silent, stealthy enemy creeping up on an unsuspecting person, ready to pounce. We like to think of wealth and possessions as inanimate objects, helpful to us if we use them correctly, but basically neutral. And so, in our churches, we warn against the abuse or misuse of wealth, and we teach on good stewardship so we can maximize and increase our wealth. But rarely do we sound the alarming note of Jesus and the apostles in this matter.
Preachers in the United States sometimes come under fire for tiptoeing around sensitive subjects, failing to boldly and courageously take on respectable sins in our society, most notably those related to sexual behavior.