Category Christian School Comment
Title 48.4 Training "Acts 17" Children
Preview False ideas. How in the world could false ideas be on the same level of destruction as drugs or immorality? Maybe this comment by the late philosopher Dr. Richard Rorty of the University of Virginia can provide insight.

In today's climate of pluralism and false ideas, how do we raise children who know what they believe and have the confidence to stand up for their faith? I've invited Dr. Larry Taylor, head of Prestonwood Christian Academy (Plano, Texas), to share some insights on that seminal topic.

In the last issue of Christian School Comment I referenced Jeremiah 12:5: "If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses? If you fall down in a land of peace, how will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?" (Jer. 12:5, NASB). The end of the verse describes thickets surrounding the Jordan River. The prophet Jeremiah would have known that amidst the deep, dark, brambly trees and brush, lions and other predatory beasts lurked, awaiting the unsuspecting traveler.

Let's apply this analogy to the current culture of the United States. What do the thickets represent? What is amidst these thickets that awaits our children, unsuspecting or not? Indeed, the obvious vices of the world will forever pose a sincere threat of entanglement to our youth-drugs, alcohol, and a culture saturated with the sensual. These vices are real, and we should never underestimate their destructive impact.

However, the late Princeton theologian J. Gresham Machen pointed out what's perhaps a more potent influencer in the cultural thickets when he said, "False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel." False ideas. How in the world could false ideas be on the same level of destruction as drugs or immorality? Maybe this comment by the late philosopher Dr. Richard Rorty of the University of Virginia can provide insight. Rorty states:

Secular professors in the universities ought to arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own. Students are fortunate to find themselves under the benevolent Herrschaft of people like me, and to have escaped the grip of their frightening, vicious, dangerous parents. We are going to go right on trying to discredit you [parents] in the eyes of our children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable.1

Our goal as parents should be to produce Acts 17 disciples; children who thrive in the thickets. In the 17th chapter of Acts we see an excellent picture of what the outcome for our children should look like. In this passage, we see Paul leaving the synagogue, and immediately he is confronted by two opposing worldviews: those of the Epicureans and the Stoics (v. 18). Notice that Paul did not retreat. He did not remain silent. He did not allow the intimidating environment of Athens to send him back to the comfort of his fellow believers, family, or church. Paul knew what he believed, and he had confidence to represent his faith in the pluralistic marketplace of the Athenian culture. He also knew what the Epicureans and Stoics believed.

So Paul reasoned with and persuaded some of the brightest minds and thinkers of his day-the Dr. Rortys. The result was twofold. Paul did not fall prey to empty deceit or philosophy (Col. 2:6-8) but rather saw some profess Christ as Lord (Acts 17:32–34). Paul was a clear illustration of one thriving in the thickets.

Acts 17 disciples are those who think differently. What can we glean from this narrative in Scripture that could help us train our children, whether in the developmental years, the preteen years, or the adolescent years? •

  • Paul was not afraid of the world. •
  • He understood the importance of taking every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:5). •
  • He developed discernment by "practicing" (Heb. 5:14). •
  • He developed the attitude of Christ (Phil. 2:211), knowing that he was to love and serve Christ.

Parents, our children can thrive in today's thickets, and Christian schools play a vital role in this process. Our children need to be trained to think critically about the ideas prevalent in today's culture. And, like Paul, they need to take every thought captive by filtering ideas through God's Word. An Acts 17 child is an excellent portrait for parents to consider as we mentor, train, and prepare our children for this world.



1 Cited by Jason Boffetti, First Things Journal, May 2004

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