Why good theology is necessary for good parenting

September 11, 2017

I was early into my teaching career, and I still found myself making rookie mistakes. A seasoned teacher always keeps a watchful eye on her students, particularly during a testing period. But it was 9:00 a.m., and I needed to step out of the room. So I did something I had been warned never to do; I handed out a quiz to my students, turned my back on them, and popped my head out the door to ask a colleague to watch my class.

After I returned, she handed me quizzes that she had confiscated from two of the boys. “I saw these two sharing answers when I walked into your room,” she said, “You should probably address it.”  It is usually best to divide and conquer in cases such as this, so I spoke to each boy separately. The first boy confessed to cheating, but the second boy insisted that he was innocent.

That evening I called both parents to deliver the news. These types of phone calls are never easy, even when teaching in a Christian school. The parents of the boy that acknowledged that he had cheated graciously accepted the news and assured me that they would address the matter with their son. The call to the parents of the second boy was entirely different. His mother listened patiently as I informed her of the day’s events. I even acknowledged to her my poor judgement in turning my back on the class. She agreed to speak with her son and follow up with me.  

I was surprised when she called first thing the next morning. She informed me that she had spoken to her son about the incident and just like he had with me, he insisted that he had not cheated despite what the other boy had said. I can’t say that I was entirely surprised to hear this, but it was what she said next that really dispirited me. “I know my son,” she said, “He would never lie to me, and he could never lie to me!”   

Good parenting begins with good theology

A dear friend of mine who has seven children always reminds me that we are not raising children; we are raising adults. So as Christ-followers, our parenting goal is not to raise well-behaved children, but to raise Christ-following adults. To disciple a Christ-follower, we must feed them a steady diet of good theology that is fortified with the Word of God, which tells us that  “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and that “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” In other words, we are all sinners, and the redemption of sinners is a work of God.

Often, we are most convicted of our sins when we experience its consequences. As parents, it can be tempting to want to spare our children from the consequences of their sin by whitewashing our children’s misdeeds. But if 2 Corinthians 7:10 is correct, and godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation, then sometimes the most loving thing that a parent can do is to get out of the way and allow the Holy Spirit to do his work, even if it means that our child might have to endure the fallout.

When our kids become our trophies

Our parenting goal is not to raise well-behaved children, but to raise Christ-following adults.

A common reason for downplaying or even denying our children’s sin is directly related to our tendency to view our children not as individual people, but as an extension of ourselves. Paul David Tripp, in his book Age of Opportunity, warns parents against allowing our own identities to become too wrapped up in the identities of our children. Tripp explains that, “we begin to need them to be what they should be so that we can feel a sense of achievement and success. We begin to look at our children as trophies rather than God’s creatures.”  

Dealing with the moral failings of our children, particularly when they are in public, can induce an array of emotional responses in parents. We can feel angry, disappointed, and embarrassed.   So if we are going to fight this parental tendency to cover up for our kids, a right understanding of salvation is essential. Psalm 51 declares that we are sinful at birth and that only God can restore the joy of our salvation. The parent who diminishes their child’s sin nature for the sake of their own reputation potentially robs their child  of the promised blessings found Acts 3:19—if we repent and turn to God, he will wipe away our sins and refresh us.   

The heart of the issue

Psalm 53:1–3 goes straight to the heart of the issue. It describes the human heart as foolish and  corrupt. This is bad news; but read down to verse 6, and we hear the good news of a Messiah that will rescue his people from their sin and restore their wayward hearts. I couldn’t fault the mother of the young boy that cheated for wanting to believe that her son was innocent. I knew firsthand that she was a godly woman with a strong Christian testimony, and her love for her children was unquestionable. But no human being, particularly a youth, is immune to succumbing to their foolish hearts.

In the end, did my student cheat on the quiz? Perhaps not. But could he have cheated? Good theology tells us yes, he could have. Good theology does one other thing—it encourages us to take heart, because God is in the business of rescuing fools and restoring hearts. This is good news for parents. It is good news for all of us!

Rachel Metzger

Rachel Metzger is has been an educator for 18 years. She is a graduate of the University of Delaware and Villanova University. A wife and mother of two, she resides in Wilmington, Del. Read More by this Author

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