So we have reached the point where many people who desperately want to do something about our situation simply do not know where to begin. We are like a man who walks out of his old farmhouse only to see that his crop is chock full of the rootworm and the beetle, and half of his fields are on fire. Now many salesmen come about in dire circumstances like ours. They sell defensive remedies that claim the ability to save your crops. “You can get along,” they say, “Just spread this pesticide and buy our new irrigation system.” But here is the truth: Your fields are gone. The soil is dead. You will not succeed if you simply change your farming technique or try some new products. You have to find the right soil. Here are two applications of the metaphor.
The Christian Family
The Christian family is the soil from which a Christian society and a Christian nation will grow. Without that soil, the fields will keep burning just as they are now. By Christian family, I do not simply mean a household in which every individual is saved. Consider what Abraham Kuyper says, “Christ is the Redeemer of the family as well. The life of the family is sick, just like the rest of human life, and Christ is the Physician who restores health also to the sickened family. This is not only true for the members of the family whose souls need the sanctification of Christ in every way, but it also holds for the family as such. Sin touches not only the people who together make up a family, but also the relationships in which parents live with their children, husbands with their wives, and masters with their servants.”
Several Christians think only of Christ as the Redeemer of individuals. And thus, they miss passages of Scripture that speak of Christ’s redemption at broader levels: “For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17). “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body” (Ephesians 5:23). Along these lines, some are uncomfortable with calling a family Christian. And thus, the statement of Joshua is lost on them, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). Many see such a statement as an intrusion upon the individuality of each member of the family. The Secularist views the statement as nigh an abuse of power, forcing children and others in the family to worship God without their consent. The American Evangelical finds it hard to argue with the Secularist on this point, viewing Joshua’s statement as at least bordering on presumption regarding God’s salvific plan for his household. They perhaps reconcile the tension by claiming that Joshua checked with every household member before making such a claim.
But in the text of Scripture, Joshua secures no such consent from every member of the family. Joshua was simply grasping what Kuyper detailed and what God had already promised back in Moses’ day, “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and they seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant” (Genesis 17:7). “And in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).
So the first application of the introductory metaphor is this: The knowledge of the LORD will cover the earth, the nation, the society as the waters cover the sea. And for it to do so, that knowledge must first cover the family. Christian parents must begin to live the way Joshua did. As they do, we can then start to grow a crop. And this leads to a second application.
Christian nurture is the soil in which Christian children grow. Abraham Kuyper explained that such Christian nurture begins with the parent’s view of their children. He pointed out that the Reformed “did not look at their children as neutral objects whom Christ would draw to himself for the first time later on, but as beings who, through the covenant, by virtue of being born of believing parents, enjoyed a relationship with Christ, belonged to him, and were to be viewed as his subjects” (Pro Rege, vol. 2, pg. 538).
Such a view makes sense of the command that children not only obey their parents but obey them in the Lord—”Children obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1). Likewise, fathers are not merely to raise their children to know Christ. They are to raise their children in something—”And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Kuyper details what is involved in such nurture, particularly as it relates to the child’s worldview and consciousness—”[The child’s] mental life must come to be established in such a way that their thought world corresponds to the thought world that has Christ at its center . . . Children must receive the nourishment Christ intended for them; they must be pruned as Christ wants their lives to be pruned; and as they are raised in this way, their inner consciousness must assume the fixed form that Christ would want them to have.” That work is the very work we have neglected. And thus, all of the fires and locusts devouring the crop.
We have given in to what Kuyper calls a “catastrophic dichotomy” in our parenting. That catastrophic dichotomy involves raising children on the one hand for eternity and on the other for the world. Bible reading, catechism, and prayer are the tools for parental nurture for eternity. And nurture for the world is left to whatever methods are employed by our unbelieving culture. Some Christian parents have seen the folly of such an approach and have made significant attempts at a better way. But they have ended up merely trying to sanctify the world’s methods. An example of this would be the Christian School in your area that basically provides the same education and atmosphere as the public/government school down the street with a Bible class attached to it. And such an approach amounts to buying an irrigation system to water dead soil.
If we want a Christian crop, and we do want a Christian crop, then it is time to plant in distinctly Christian soil. We need a root and branch reformation. And that begins with a Christian family, root and branch.