Christian theism is true Truth. It’s not just true “for people who are into that sort of thing;” it’s true for everyone in every place at every time. Which means that what God says about child-raising is not merely a valid “perspective” on how to raise children. It’s how children are intended by their Creator to be raised. Because of common grace, those who don’t worship and love and serve the Creator can still access and apply Truth and reap the benefits. But those who ignore the Truth do so at their own peril, and their children’s. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).
When it comes to parenting, there are three particular Truths – realities about how things ARE – that postmodern psychology explicitly rejects. Because of this, those who look to the culture for instruction about parenting will find their children worse off, not better.
Truth #1: Innocence Is Already Lost. Human beings are created in the image of God – and are therefore to be honored, valued, and prized as the pinnacle of God’s good creation (Genesis 1:26-30). And at the same time, humans are deeply flawed, sinners by nature and choice (Psalm 51:5, Romans 3:10). This means that children MUST be raised with an awareness of both their dignity and their depravity. Your little baby is not an innocent little cherub. She is a natural-born sinner who temporarily lacks sufficient strength and opportunity (both of which will come soon enough). The culture, committed as it is to the Enlightenment narrative, WILL NOT honestly engage the reality of original sin – despite the clear evidence every 2-year-old provides. And so well-meaning parents continue to reason with 2-year-olds as if they were rational adults, and continue to reap the resultant chaos.
Truth #2: Children Must Be Under Authority. Authority is good, not bad. It is essential to human flourishing (1 Peter 2:13-17). When it comes to the family, parents are endowed by God with authority – and they must use it. To be sure, parents are sinful authorities, flawed authorities, authorities in need of grace and repentance (see #1). But their fallenness does not absolve them from their responsibility. Children are to be under authority (Ephesians 6:1-3). Parents are to be honored and obeyed (Exodus 20:12). The cultural elites cannot and will not affirm parental authority, because they have rejected the ultimate authority (God’s) and therefore have no framework for legitimate human authority. But common sense tells us that the answer to bad government is good government, not anarchy. The gospel and the Scriptures provide both the principles and the power for good government in the home.
Truth #3: Virtue Matters. Every parent’s goal should be to raise a virtuous child. A just society requires virtuous people; and society begins to unravel when people begin to “call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). Again, due to the reality of common grace, Christian theism is not the sole arbiter of virtue; most classical societies had a cohesive vision of morality that closely paralleled the teachings of Jesus. But as Alasdair MacIntyre showed in his seminal work After Virtue, the classical consensus has fragmented. We now live in a post-virtue society that has lost all capacity for ethical reasoning. And so modern parenting has no center – no agreed-upon “north star” of human personhood to orient the shaping and formation of children. “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Because the cultural elites who wax eloquent about parenting are confused about virtue, their advice breeds more confusion. “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (John 3:20).
Because Truth is true, it works. If you’ll reckon honestly with your child’s inner depravity, exercise firm but loving authority, and seek to shape virtuous character, you’ll raise a relatively healthy, well-adjusted adult who is a blessing to society. That doesn’t mean she’ll be converted – the Holy Spirit must see to that. But you must do your job, and let God do His.