Proactive Parenting: What Does This Generation Need?
I recently received the latest issue of a children’s magazine aimed at my two-year-old. The magazine is fun, simple, and generally benign. And yet, tucked between a simple song and a seek-and-find is a story casually normalizing unbiblical forms of sexuality.
Responding to Unbiblical Ideas
This was an important, but helpful, moment. I realized that, as Christian parents, we may no longer have the benefit of completely protecting our children from exposure to unbiblical ideas until we believe they are ready. Let me be clear: we certainly have the responsibility to protect our children. We should be thoughtful and careful in what we expose our children to, and we should be intimately involved in helping them navigate this complicated world.
And yet, perhaps our strategy has been too focused on response. Remember, this magazine was a gift; I didn’t buy it. It was not “out in the world;” it was delivered to my door. If I had not read it, I would never have known that the playful imagery was passively shaping my child.
How Do We Practice Proactive Parenting?
I have become convinced that to help our children navigate current cultural issues, we need to be proactive—not reactive. This does not mean we need to understand the nuances of gender theory. Instead, it is his all-sufficient Word that provides a foundation upon which we can handle any issue of the day. We can (and should) begin building this foundation into our children from the earliest ages.
At the core of many of the most controversial current issues is this simple question: what does it mean to be human? Ethical issues relating to abortion, race, gender/sexuality, artificial intelligence, marriage, and divorce all beg this same question. In theological terms, we call the answer to this question anthropology.
Therefore, Christians in our day need to make sure they have a biblical anthropology. For children growing up in this context, a biblical anthropology is needed even more so. This is why biblical, proactive parenting is so crucial.
To begin teaching your children a basic, biblical anthropology, I would start at the beginning: Genesis 1-3. Here are five key truths we find as we walk through these chapters:
Key Truth #1: God Is in Charge
“In the beginning, God” (Gen. 1:1). This is how the Bible begins. And this is not incidental. Before anything was, God was. Then, God created (1:3). He made everything and assigned everything its place. Therefore, all of creation is accountable to him. He is in charge. Countless other passages speak to this truth (Rom. 11:36; 13:1).
Application: If God is in charge, then we are not. This means we must submit everything anyone says or thinks to what God says. We know what God says because he has revealed his Word in Scripture.
Key Truth #2: God’s Creation Is Good
After God finished creating, he provided commentary. He said that everything he made was “very good” (1:31). He had already made the same assessment of his creation after every other day.
Application: Everything God made is good! This means nothing is worthless, nothing is a mistake. Therefore, we should care for creation. We should also embrace the way God made things. To rebel against the way God made things is to tell God his creation is not good.
Key Truth #3: God Made People in His Image
The days of creation build to God’s crowning creative achievement (1:26). Only people are said to be made in God’s image. This means that people reflect God in a way that no other part of his creation does. This also means that each person reflects God’s image and is therefore supremely valuable.
One of the ways people reflect that they are made in the image of God is by exercising stewardship over creation (1:28-29). People have authority over the rest of the earth. We are to rule it, cultivate it, care for it, and use it for human flourishing.
Application: We must treat all human life as valuable because each life is made in God’s image. In addition, we must see the difference between people and all other creation. Man is not the same as an animal or plant. Instead, man has a responsibility to lovingly govern animals, plants, and all of creation.
Key Truth #4: God Made Two Genders
Genesis 2 zooms in on the creation of people and teaches something very important. There is one humanity, but two genders. Every human is one of these genders. Gender is part of who you are, not just what you feel like. By the logic of Chapter 1, both genders are good and made in God’s image. But God created each differently and assigns them different roles (2:7-24). Together, they beautifully complement each other in their shared mandate to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (1:28).
Application: There are two and only two genders. Both are very good. Both are also different. We should celebrate the unique goodness of each gender. We should also seek to live according to God’s design and role for our gender, which is described even further in the rest of Scripture.
Key Truth #5: Sin Infected God’s Good Creation
Even though God made everything good, Adam and Eve chose to sin. Because they rebelled against God, everything is not what it was supposed to be. Now, the image of God in people is marred by sin. And each gender finds it harder to live out their roles (3:1-24).
Application: This point is the reason why our children need a biblical anthropology. Sin has twisted everything, and now people rebel at every other point. People deny that God is in charge, either actively or by their actions. They deny that his creation is good by destroying or demeaning it. They deny that people are made in the image of God by hating others and maiming themselves. And they deny that God made two genders and claim any number of other theories.
Conclusion: The Hope of Proactive Parenting
Even though we too are tainted by sin, we can teach our children to spot falsehood by standing firmly on the truths of Genesis 1-3. And even better than that, we can have hope. Genesis 3:15 tells us that someone will someday come to make things right. Jesus already has come, but we wait for him to come again. Until then, we can have hope that proactive parenting—with the Lord’s help—can help our children look forward to the day we see all God’s good creation—including humans —made right again (Rev. 21-22).