Authority of Parents Over Children

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InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
This is an area, where I greatly struggle, since I have hard time obeying or even honouring my parents in various things.

Parents get their authority over children solely from God. Thus, if asked by their children why they must be obeyed, is it not wrong for the parents to simply argue, "Because we are your parents," or "Because we nurture you!" I think it is of a great importance we tell our children that the only reason why parents must be honoured/obeyed by their children is because that's God's commandent. We should also notice that parents' authority is limited, to God's commandments. If a parent tells his child to kill someone, the parent, then, goes against God's commandment not to kill.

I am not a great scholar, so, I need help in finding the exact commandments God has given us in regard to the family issue, Where does the line go in parents' commanding their children? There are also some particular questions I'd like to take up: Do Christian parents have the right to command their under-age child to participate in their church, [if the child is not in agreement with his/her parents' doctrines]? (This is the specific situation my little sister is in, who still lives with her Arminian parents.) Another question, Is it doctrinally sound to submit to the rule of the government that 18+ people are to be considered adults and 18- minors? (In my understanding there are people, who are 60 years old and have never become men/women according to the Bible. Does not Scripture teach a child becomes a man/woman, when he/she departs from his/her parents and gets engaged with another child?)

Please, share your knowledge with me! Your help is very appreciated!
 

nwink

Puritan Board Sophomore
Samuel, I don't have an answer, but I wanted to add some to your question with some of my own questions on the matter so I can also find some answers. In America, not in Reformed circles but moreso conservative Christian circles, some people have been influenced by the Bill Gothard movement and his Advanced Training Institute. I know young people whose parents are committed to Bill Gothard's teachings, and one thing he teaches about is the "umbrella of authority". This umbrella means that parents are children's God-given authority, and that any disagreement with them is almost always a sin. I've seen some people in their mid to late 20's who still aren't allowed to make up their minds or live on their own because that isn't obeying the "God-given umbrella of authority" of their parents. I know this is wrong, but I also need help in knowing how to help people in these bad situations.
 

JennyG

Puritan Board Graduate
There cannot be one blanket rule....what about those for whom obedience would involve submitting to Islam or some other false creed?
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
Don't look too hard for absolute answers. Children are to obey their parents while they are children. All of us are to honor our parents always.

But honor differs by culture. What was honoring behavior in the Ancient Mideast will not necessarily be the same as honoring behavior in the 21st Century Western world. Honoring means acknowledging and appreciating their position of authority. But this will not necessarily mean obeying in every situation, and it may include accepting a large amount of independence. A 25-year-old Finn or American who's unable to make fundamental life choices on his own is not bringing honor to his family. Godly wisdom must apply. And such wisdom takes into account the individual people involved and the culture they live in. So there are no easy answers.

Our chief mindset, however, is certain. We are to strive to show as much honor as we can rather than look to give the least amount of honor required. Very often when someone asks what a commandment requires, their real question is "what's the minimum I must do?" That's the wrong approach. It will lead to resentful obedience, which in turn makes parents all the more determined to keep children under their thumb.

I'd encourage anyone struggling with parental authority to try to stop thinking in terms of "Do I have to obey this?" Instead, start asking "What can I do for them, on my own initiative, that would make them feel greatly honored?" That second question is a very grown-up, indepentent adult sort of question—and a godly one—that makes for great families.
 

Montanablue

Puritan Board Doctor
I'd encourage anyone struggling with parental authority to try to stop thinking in terms of "Do I have to obey this?" Instead, start asking "What can I do for them, on my own initiative, that would make them feel greatly honored?" That second question is a very grown-up, indepentent adult sort of question—and a godly one—that makes for great families.
I wanted to thank your post but my thanks button has...disappeared? Anyway, this is an excellent way to think about the issue and echoes advice my own pastor gave me. Adult children should actively honor our parents, I think - taking the initiative to help them, trying to think of them first etc - instead of passively waiting for them to ask something of us.
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
Don't look too hard for absolute answers. Children are to obey their parents while they are children. All of us are to honor our parents always.

But honor differs by culture. What was honoring behavior in the Ancient Mideast will not necessarily be the same as honoring behavior in the 21st Century Western world. Honoring means acknowledging and appreciating their position of authority. But this will not necessarily mean obeying in every situation, and it may include accepting a large amount of independence. A 25-year-old Finn or American who's unable to make fundamental life choices on his own is not bringing honor to his family. Godly wisdom must apply. And such wisdom takes into account the individual people involved and the culture they live in. So there are no easy answers.

Our chief mindset, however, is certain. We are to strive to show as much honor as we can rather than look to give the least amount of honor required. Very often when someone asks what a commandment requires, their real question is "what's the minimum I must do?" That's the wrong approach. It will lead to resentful obedience, which in turn makes parents all the more determined to keep children under their thumb.

I'd encourage anyone struggling with parental authority to try to stop thinking in terms of "Do I have to obey this?" Instead, start asking "What can I do for them, on my own initiative, that would make them feel greatly honored?" That second question is a very grown-up, indepentent adult sort of question—and a godly one—that makes for great families.
I appreciate your advice. However, how would you go about deciding the situation, in which my little sister is trapped? How should she act, since she feels it a great stumbling-block to her faith to be in the midst of Arminians? Is it wrong for her to disobey her parents' will to go to their church? Also, Is it right for the parents to force their child to go to their church? (I don't even know if that is legal. Isn't there a freedom of choice in religious circles regardless the age of a person? I know this is not how it works in Islamic countries - Islam is the only choice.)
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
Don't look too hard for absolute answers. Children are to obey their parents while they are children. All of us are to honor our parents always.

But honor differs by culture. What was honoring behavior in the Ancient Mideast will not necessarily be the same as honoring behavior in the 21st Century Western world. Honoring means acknowledging and appreciating their position of authority. But this will not necessarily mean obeying in every situation, and it may include accepting a large amount of independence. A 25-year-old Finn or American who's unable to make fundamental life choices on his own is not bringing honor to his family. Godly wisdom must apply. And such wisdom takes into account the individual people involved and the culture they live in. So there are no easy answers.

Our chief mindset, however, is certain. We are to strive to show as much honor as we can rather than look to give the least amount of honor required. Very often when someone asks what a commandment requires, their real question is "what's the minimum I must do?" That's the wrong approach. It will lead to resentful obedience, which in turn makes parents all the more determined to keep children under their thumb.

I'd encourage anyone struggling with parental authority to try to stop thinking in terms of "Do I have to obey this?" Instead, start asking "What can I do for them, on my own initiative, that would make them feel greatly honored?" That second question is a very grown-up, indepentent adult sort of question—and a godly one—that makes for great families.
I appreciate your advice. However, how would you go about deciding the situation, in which my little sister is trapped? How should she act, since she feels it a great stumbling-block to her faith to be in the midst of Arminians? Is it wrong for her to disobey her parents' will to go to their church? Also, Is it right for the parents to force their child to go to their church? (I don't even know if that is legal. Isn't there a freedom of choice in religious circles regardless the age of a person? I know this is not how it works in Islamic countries - Islam is the only choice.)
It's very hard to say without knowing your sister, your parents and their church. If you're insistant on finding a rule to settle this for you, we could probably find one. In fact, we could probably find one in favor of your sister and also one in favor of your parents, so you could pick the one you liked best. But I won't give you a rule to follow, nor say who's right and wrong. I don't know the situation well enough. And none of that would be helpful, anyway.

Rules are seldom the best way to settle these things. Whether or not we classify your sister as an adult, her responsibility toward her parents is to honor them. Neither defiance ("I don't have to obey you!") nor grudging obedience ("Okay, I'll obey you and stay because I have to") is honoring. Her challenge is to find a way to relate to her parents that's better than either of those options.

Reading between the lines, it seems you and your sister feel mistreated. You feel hurt and are convinced your parents are being unfair. And you're really beginning to resent their church. I suspect that honoring your parents and truly worshipping God in their church, despite these legitimate difficulties, needs to be a bigger priority for both of you than her escape from Arminian clutches. You have an opportunity to learn and practice great godliness by putting a desire to honor your parents ahead of you personal "needs" or "rights."

Again, neither defiance nor grudging obedience is the right answer. Pray for God to give you both wisdom and a humble attitude so that your heart allows you other options.

There's another issue. Since this matter involves separating from a church, if your sister ends up leaving she ought to try to do so on good terms with the church. To that end, I wonder if the pastor or an elder-type ought to be involved in whatever discussions your family is having about this. (It also might help your parents see where they're being too controlling, if that's the case)
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
She's under her parent's authority until she gets married. 18 has nothing to do with it. If she's asked to murder someone she has to say "no". If she's asked to wear blue skirts she has to say "yes".

You're really not in a position to question her parent's authority, unless they command her to do something clearly illegal Biblically.

So how do you determine that? I assume you are a member in good standing with a local church. If you're not, stay out of your sister's life. If you are, get advice from your elders.
 

Andres

Puritan Board Doctor
I agree with Jack that this isn't really a black and white issue, but since you want a definitive answer, my opinion would be yes, your sister would be wrong to rebel against your parents at this point. I know this is a huge point of contention, but arminianism is not the same thing as Islam. It sounds like your sister already understands the errors of arminianism so its not as if she is being deceived. She could still supplement her understanding with the reading of good books. Also when your parents see her compliance, respect, and honor coming forth I would imagine they would be more susceptible to discussions on why she disagrees with arminianism. The issue is all about respect. When a teenager tells her parents they are wrong about something, it tends to not come off very well.

Lastly, for any child who doesn't want to follow a parents rules, I would advise them to move out and pay their own bills once they turn 18. Of course they would still owe the parents honor and respect, but they would not be obligated to live their life in accordance to their parents standards.

---------- Post added at 06:40 PM ---------- Previous post was at 06:32 PM ----------

She's under her parent's authority until she gets married. 18 has nothing to do with it.
I'm not sure I would agree with this statement completely. Are you saying a 30 year old woman who has never been married but lives on her own and pays her own bills would still be obligated to go to bed at 10:00 if her dad told her too? A silly example, I know but I am just trying to understand the line of thought.
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
Hey, Andrew, I'd say yes, since when Christ spoke about the matter it seems like more of a transfer of authority than an age deal.
 

Andres

Puritan Board Doctor
Hey, Andrew, I'd say yes, since when Christ spoke about the matter it seems like more of a transfer of authority than an age deal.
Thanks Tim. Very interesting. I will have to do some more reading on this.
 

buggy

Puritan Board Freshman
Okay, here is a tricky question. How about evangelism to children or very young first-generation Christians?
Many churches evangelize to children and teenagers to invite them to "Vacation Bible School" or "Youth Camp" and its equivalent. Argument? "If they do not come to Christ by their teens, they probably never will".

Does non-Christian parents have a right to say "No, my child cannot attend your church event even if he wants to"? Will then the parental authority rule apply or will the "we ought to obey God rather than men" exception apply?
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
Okay, here is a tricky question. How about evangelism to children or very young first-generation Christians?
Many churches evangelize to children and teenagers to invite them to "Vacation Bible School" or "Youth Camp" and its equivalent. Argument? "If they do not come to Christ by their teens, they probably never will".

Does non-Christian parents have a right to say "No, my child cannot attend your church event even if he wants to"? Will then the parental authority rule apply or will the "we ought to obey God rather than men" exception apply?
I never accept kids into one of our children's classes unless a parent has in some way given their okay. We must respect parents. We have no need to try to circumvent unbelieving parents in a misguided belief that the end justifies the means. We trust that God will bring his children to himself, even if we can't evangelize them at this time out of respect for their parents' wishes.

The same principle would apply to teens. If their parents tell them they should not attend, I would tell them they have to obey their parents.
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
Don't look too hard for absolute answers. Children are to obey their parents while they are children. All of us are to honor our parents always.

But honor differs by culture. What was honoring behavior in the Ancient Mideast will not necessarily be the same as honoring behavior in the 21st Century Western world. Honoring means acknowledging and appreciating their position of authority. But this will not necessarily mean obeying in every situation, and it may include accepting a large amount of independence. A 25-year-old Finn or American who's unable to make fundamental life choices on his own is not bringing honor to his family. Godly wisdom must apply. And such wisdom takes into account the individual people involved and the culture they live in. So there are no easy answers.

Our chief mindset, however, is certain. We are to strive to show as much honor as we can rather than look to give the least amount of honor required. Very often when someone asks what a commandment requires, their real question is "what's the minimum I must do?" That's the wrong approach. It will lead to resentful obedience, which in turn makes parents all the more determined to keep children under their thumb.

I'd encourage anyone struggling with parental authority to try to stop thinking in terms of "Do I have to obey this?" Instead, start asking "What can I do for them, on my own initiative, that would make them feel greatly honored?" That second question is a very grown-up, indepentent adult sort of question—and a godly one—that makes for great families.
I appreciate your advice. However, how would you go about deciding the situation, in which my little sister is trapped? How should she act, since she feels it a great stumbling-block to her faith to be in the midst of Arminians? Is it wrong for her to disobey her parents' will to go to their church? Also, Is it right for the parents to force their child to go to their church? (I don't even know if that is legal. Isn't there a freedom of choice in religious circles regardless the age of a person? I know this is not how it works in Islamic countries - Islam is the only choice.)
It's very hard to say without knowing your sister, your parents and their church. If you're insistant on finding a rule to settle this for you, we could probably find one. In fact, we could probably find one in favor of your sister and also one in favor of your parents, so you could pick the one you liked best. But I won't give you a rule to follow, nor say who's right and wrong. I don't know the situation well enough. And none of that would be helpful, anyway.

Rules are seldom the best way to settle these things. Whether or not we classify your sister as an adult, her responsibility toward her parents is to honor them. Neither defiance ("I don't have to obey you!") nor grudging obedience ("Okay, I'll obey you and stay because I have to") is honoring. Her challenge is to find a way to relate to her parents that's better than either of those options.

Reading between the lines, it seems you and your sister feel mistreated. You feel hurt and are convinced your parents are being unfair. And you're really beginning to resent their church. I suspect that honoring your parents and truly worshipping God in their church, despite these legitimate difficulties, needs to be a bigger priority for both of you than her escape from Arminian clutches. You have an opportunity to learn and practice great godliness by putting a desire to honor your parents ahead of you personal "needs" or "rights."

Again, neither defiance nor grudging obedience is the right answer. Pray for God to give you both wisdom and a humble attitude so that your heart allows you other options.

There's another issue. Since this matter involves separating from a church, if your sister ends up leaving she ought to try to do so on good terms with the church. To that end, I wonder if the pastor or an elder-type ought to be involved in whatever discussions your family is having about this. (It also might help your parents see where they're being too controlling, if that's the case)
Thank you, Jack. I realize how unBiblical our thinking has been - I and my sister have worried too much about falling into temptation through attending a false church, or more specifically, being with other Christians, whose doctrine we do not approve of. God knows and understands our situation throughout. He knows our risk of falling into temptation and yet commands us to honour and obey our parents. That gives us comfort! Why? Because we know God knows what we ultimately desire - to live in accord to His good pleasure. We don't have to worry about falling into temptation because God knows our heart and is with us!
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
Thank you, Jack. I realize how unBiblical our thinking has been - I and my sister have worried too much about falling into temptation through attending a false church, or more specifically, being with other Christians, whose doctrine we do not approve of. God knows and understands our situation throughout. He knows our risk of falling into temptation and yet commands us to honour and obey our parents. That gives us comfort! Why? Because we know God knows what we ultimately desire - to live in accord to His good pleasure. We don't have to worry about falling into temptation because God knows our heart and is with us!
I think that comment shows a good measure of wisdom on your part. My concern for you has little to do with the possibility your parents' church might corrupt you. That doesn't seem very likely. Hang in there. Practice godliness as best you can in the situation in which God has placed you. Do so with joyful hearts, knowing what riches you have in Christ. Thanks for the discussion, my friend.
 

Sarah

Puritan Board Freshman
I went to an arminian-leaning church up until I left for college. It's a Bible-believing church, and most of the time what I learned there was truth, only occasionally picking up little bits of arminian theology that were corrected in me when I went to college. I benefitted greatly there. If your family's church is similar (arminian but focused on the Bible, not on arminianism), your sister should be able to worship peacefully with them and benefit from being involved in the church. Since she already knows about the doctrines of grace, hopefully she will filter what she hears to separate good and bad theology and maybe even have a positive influence on others in her Sunday school class or Bible study group, pointing out how what they're studying shows God's sovereignty, for example. I think going to church with her family is more important right now than going to a calvinistic church. Now that I'm older and married, I wouldn't join the church I grew up in, but I'm glad my family went there together when I was growing up.
 

Montanablue

Puritan Board Doctor
Just a practical suggestion - would it be possible for your sister to attend a reformed Bible study or midweek service? Your parents might be okay with that and it could be a good way to supplement with some reformed teaching while still attending their church.
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
Just a practical suggestion - would it be possible for your sister to attend a reformed Bible study or midweek service? Your parents might be okay with that and it could be a good way to supplement with some reformed teaching while still attending their church.
That sounds like a good solution to our problem. Although it depends on our parents' approval. And sadly I perceive they are very persistent in defending their children from false doctrines, that is, any other than that which they embrace and approve of.
 

kvanlaan

Puritan Board Doctor
I would add my vote to not contravening your parents' wishes. She is indeed under their authority still and that authority is God-given. Brings to mind Gamaliel: "But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God." (I know that pulls it out of context, but it came to mind anyway.)
 

Mushroom

Puritan Board Doctor
My daughters are under my authority until such time as I accede that authority over each to another man, to whom they will be wed. That is my biblical prerogative and responsibility. I would be remiss in their care to do otherwise. And I detest Bill Gothard.

Honor your parents, and counsel your sister to do the same.
 

O'GodHowGreatThouArt

Puritan Board Sophomore
As a nearly 21-year old person who is still living at home, I can greatly relate with some of the common objections a child takes up on a parent regarding authority.

Regarding a church, I am in a family who is not saved (yet profess to be Christians) who are split between the New Age and Methodist faiths. They're all about going to church to feel good and because its an obligation. I am of the position that you go because you love God, because you desire Him, His Word, His life, and His breath, not for any desires of the flesh.

Some of you may recall that massive spiritual struggle I was having with my family and spiritually over the last year (until about this time in August) in previous posts in the "Prayer Requests" and "The Pilgrim's Progress" forums on here. It was over these same viewpoints, as well as about the church conforming to their views and desires of the Bible, and not the Bible itself.

On this point, should you turn on your parents regarding the matter? I cannot answer that question, not from where I am at least. What I can say though is that a child, under the age of 18 in the USA (may be older or younger abroad), must conform to the desires of their parents regarding the church in question generally.

There is an exception though. If it is discovered with irrefutable proof that you are either being taught blasphemy/damnable heresy, or in imminent danger of being taught blasphemy/damnable heresy, then your parents are going outside the will of God, and you are thus not bound to honor their wishes regarding the church in question (2 Cor. 6:14). More than that, you're told to deny their request and flee from the prospect of going to the church (1 Thess. 5:22).

I am not that familiar with how Arminianism plays into all of this, so I will not attempt to make a call on the matter. The above was some general advice regarding the church situation as a whole. I leave it to wiser brothers and sisters on this forum to determine the smaller details.

Hopefully this does help, and I will be praying on the matter regarding your sister Samuel.
 

kvanlaan

Puritan Board Doctor
Tough one. On the one hand, we have, in many threads previously, called Arminianism heresy (on the basis of both the Bible and history), and thus to compel a child to learn Arminian doctrine would thereby be against God's Law and therefore out of the bounds of parental authority as it would force the child to sin. That's the narrow view. The more open view is that the parents are in error and though they are in error, we should still obey those in authority over us (as when the government takes our tax dollars to murder the unborn - this is against God's law, but we still pay our taxes). Since I am both Dutch and Reformed, I'm all about the magnanimous open view, and go really light on the condemnatory opinions... ;)

When it comes to LDS, it makes me think of the girl in Florida (or Ohio, can't recall) who converted from Islam to Christianity against her parents' wishes. I'm OK with that. Arminianism may be heresy, but it is still Christianity. Islam and LDS are in no way positively related to Christianity.

My hypocrisy generates so much heat, it keeps me and my entire family warm in the cold Canadian winters.
 
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