How should we parent as Christians in America?

March 18, 2019

Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart.

According to recent research studying the workload and rhythms of families, it would appear that even with a rise in moms working outside the home, the quantity of time spent tending to children has not decreased; rather, it’s increased. And not only has the quantity of time spent with children increased, but the type of time parents spend with their children has changed. According to a recent New York Times article, parents today spend more time doing hands-on childcare such as reading, crafts, taking children to lessons, and more than simply being with them or sending them outside to play.   

The Times labels this type of parenting as “intensive parenting” and defines it as an American phenomenon where parents are pouring a lot of time, resources, and effort to ensure that their children are given every opportunity to succeed in life. And although this phenomenon spans across varying socioeconomic and racial groups in America, the lower socioeconomic status parents are having a difficult time keeping up with the cost of extracurricular activities and limited social resources.

At the same time, there have been many studies that have shown that intensive parenting can be taken too far and have an adverse effect on a child. Andrea Peterson states in her article The Overprotected American Child, “Overzealous parenting can do real harm. Psychologists and educators see it as one factor fueling a surge in the number of children and young adults being diagnosed with anxiety disorders.” Their research is showing us that children in the U.S. have increasingly “high levels of stress and dependence on their parents.”

In contrast, the American Academy of Pediatrics is releasing new data and encouraging parents to better monitor, care for, and teach children—which is a good thing. However, many of their recommendations encourage intensive parenting practices that sometimes conflict with “free-range” parenting practices and what psychologists are recommending.

In an age of information overload, the balance between being an involved parent and being a helicopter parent is a difficult dance to master. What’s “best” for our kids seems like an idea that everyone is chasing, yet there isn’t a clear answer out there. So, in the 21st century, what is a Christian parent to do with all of this information? How do we parent our children with wisdom?

Here are three things to keep in mind when considering parenting strategies:

1. Success is not our goal.

We all want what’s best for our children, but it is important to remember that we shouldn’t let the things of this world motivate our parenting. Our goal isn’t for our children to grow up in a certain social circle or with particular socioeconomic privileges. Our goal is to raise children who see Jesus as greater than anything else on this earth. Our goal, as Christian parents, is to create healthy and loving homes where children are equipped with the knowledge that God loves them no matter what, and that he has a plan for their lives that is good and holy. And to be clear, good and holy might mean that our children forego the large house with the picket fence and trade it in for lives on mission serving and living amongst the poorest of the poor.

Sure, we train our children to be fiscally responsible and incredibly generous, but we do not allow financial and social success to be the driving force behind our parenting because it flies in the face of gospel teaching. Our goal as parents isn’t to help our kids build their own kingdoms; it’s to help them find their place serving an eternal one.

2. We parent the heart.

In the Old Testament, we see Yahweh giving the Israelites a lot of laws. One would think that God is really concerned about behavior, but when we look at the whole story, we see that God is actually after the Israelites’ hearts. The same can be said of parents. We concern ourselves with our children’s behavior because the choices they make and the words they say often display the condition of their heart. Sometimes, it is easy to get caught up in managing behavior because the work of the heart is more difficult to diagnose.

But as Christian parents, we discipline and disciple our children not simply because we want to manage behavior, but because we know that God is after their hearts. In Scripture, fathers are told to not exasperate their children, but to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21). What is the way of the Lord? It’s to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-39). This is what we’re parenting toward.

3. We trust in a sovereign God.

Out of all the points made in this article, this one is the hardest for me to practice. Scripture tells us that before we were knit in our mother’s womb, the God of the universe knew us intimately (Jer. 1:5). Our good and sovereign God knew our children before they were in our arms, and he loves them so much that he sent his one and only son to die for them. So we trust him with our greatest earthly treasures, because they’re not only our children, they’re his.

A few years ago I wrote this blogpost for my children, and I find it true today. I’ve stopped praying that my kids would be spared from heartache and the brokenness of this world. Rather than praying for God to keep my children from pain and suffering, I now pray that God would soften their hearts toward him. I pray that my kids are never too comfortable so that they don’t think themselves without the need of a great Savior. I pray that when the realities of living in a broken world ring true in their lives, they would run to a Savior who promises to be near to the brokenhearted and one day right every wrong (Psa. 34:18; Rev. 21). I pray that my children would draw near to their Creator God—the one who knew them before they were in their mother’s womb—in their  highest of highs and lowest of lows

And as a parent, I not only proclaim this truth over my children, but I also preach this truth to myself. I am not my children’s god. I am not in control of every aspect of their lives, but I serve a God who is.

So when this world tells us that free-range parenting or intensive parenting is “best” for our kids, we don’t ignore it or apply it blindly. Instead, we look at the strengths and weaknesses of each approach in light of the wisdom found in Scripture. And ultimately, we don’t parent like Americans; we parent as followers of Christ living in America.

Brittany Salmon

Brittany Salmon is a professor, writer, and Bible teacher. She is the author of the book It Takes More than Love: A Christian Guide to Cross-Cultural Adoption releasing in April, 2022. She has an MA in Intercultural Studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, an M.A. in Teaching from NC State … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24