J. Richard Fugate and Ted Tripp couldn’t differ more regarding the amount of influence parents have in children’s lives. They even use similar words to describe their differing opinions (as indicated by the bold print).
“I have been asked, ‘Don’t you think that if you raise your children in the right way, God has promised to save them?’ If such a promise existed, it wouldn’t comfort me. I haven’t raised them well enough. Looking over their lives, I want to join the ranks of parents who would like to do it over again. I am keenly aware of shortcomings and limitations.” (Ted Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, pp. 224-225, emphasis mine)
“In the final analysis, you must entrust your children to God. How they turn out will depend on more than what you have done in providing shaping influences. It will depend on the nature of their Godward commitment. Ultimately, you leave them to God, knowing that you can entrust your children to the God who has dealt so graciously with you.” (Ted Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, 236)
J. Richard Fugate:
“Training children is not a hit-or-miss proposition in which the parent has no control. It is not that some children just turn out okay while others may not. There is no such thing as a bad seed.” (Richard Fugate, What the Bible Says about Child Training, p. 19) He goes on to say that Scripture offers a “promise from God that our children will turn out okay if we properly train them…a guarantee.” He says that children are “products of their upbringing.” Richard Fugate, What the Bible Says about Child Training, p. 21)
So who’s right? Well, his initials are Ted Tripp. What’s wrong with Fugate’s view? Plenty.
1. It’s blatant Arminianism applied to parenting. It sounds like Finney guaranteeing revival if the right methods are used. Particularly troubling is his statement that “there is not bad seed.” Actually, every child is bad seed. That’s what total depravity means.
2. It’s based on Proverbs 22:6, which I don’t think means what he thinks it means.
3. It ignores biblical examples to the contrary. For example, how many children in the Scripture grew up with the same parents but chose divergent paths? Cain & Abel, Jacob & Esau, Joseph & his brothers, David & his brothers, etc. Even more significantly, God is the perfect Father, yet His children have less than a stellar reputation. We’re a mess. Does that really reflect on Him? Has He not raised us properly? (I speak as a fool.)
4. Related to number 3, it ignores the child’s responsibility for his own soul. Fugate makes children passive “products of their upbringing.” That is terrible theology that leads to equally bad methodology. Children aren’t products of their upbringing, but of the fallen human race. They’re born sinful (Psalm 51:5; 58:3).
5. Most grievously, it ignores the role of God in the spiritual life of a child—or anyone else, for that matter. It ignores the need for divine intervention as taught throughout scripture, especially in Psalm 127. Only God can convict of sin (John 16:8). Only God can illumine your child’s heart and mind (I Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 3:18-4:6). Only God can draw your child to Himself (John 6:44). Only God can’t grant your child faith and repentance (Acts 11:18; 16:14; Eph. 2:8). Only God can sanctify your child (Lev. 20:8; I Thes. 5:23). Without the Lord’s assistance, our best labors are in vain. Yet, Fugate’s statement leaves no room or need for divine intervention. If you do it right, they’ll be fine. It’s all about you.
Statements like Fugate’s lead to self-sufficiency and pride. They lead to externalism. Ultimately, they lead to despair. The truth is, if our children’s spiritual lives depended on our performance as parents, Christianity would be on the endangered list. It’s an arrogant and misguided notion. We need grace. We need God to do what we cannot.
Don’t tell me doctrine isn’t practical.