What Does “Faithful Children” Mean in Titus 1:6?

Scowling ChildThis discussion on parenting resulted in an interesting interpretive question: the children of elders are required to be “faithful,” lest their fathers be unqualified. Does that mean that they must be born again, or that they must be well-behaved? It’s an important question, and not an easy one to settle.

Fortunately, Nathan Busenitz of Faith and Practice has done us a service by presenting data for the discussion here.

What do you think, and why?


15 Responses

  1. I’ve preached through Titus and 1 Timothy expositionally. I parked on the qualifications and this one in particular. It would seem that either view would trouble the one who doesn’t believe that right parenting promises a right outcome. I could see how that the “believing” or “born again” view would consternate the Calvinist. We compare Scripture with Scripture and the doctrines will agree when we’ve interpreted correctly.

    If Titus 1:6 is “born again” children, then our parenting should lead to the salvation of our children. If Titus 1:6 is “well-behaved” children, then our parenting should control our children’s behavior, which also seems to clash with your “don’t control” conclusion. For the Calvinist, how can we affect our children’s salvation when they are “spiritually dead? And for the Calvinist, isn’t moralistic parenting that strong-arms children into right behavior as much of a problem (Arminian Parenting 101)? How can we disqualify pastors for misbehaved children if a child’s good behavior really does require salvation? I believe the answer to this is obvious. Since we are chosen through belief in the truth and faith comes from hearing the Word of God, if we train our children diligently in the Scriptures, the quick and powerful Word of God will do its work toward the salvation of our children.

    God’s Word is perspicuous, and we would expect that especially here in a passage on qualifications. This one is cut-and-dry. It isn’t like “sober,” which is wrought with more ambiguity in its application. Are pastors with unsaved children disqualified? Yes.

  2. Kent,

    At what age of the unsaved child does the pastor become disqualified?

  3. Kent,

    You’ve not tried to understand my position, nor have you represented it fairly. Further, you’ve given no evidence for your interpretation. You may be right, but misrepresenting me, smearing Calvinists, and saying it’s cut and dry doesn’t prove your point or further the conversation.

    When you’re interested in a profitable discussion of a biblical passage, let me know.

  4. Andrew,

    I don’t have an age. Thanks for asking. I knew after I pushed “submit” that I should have mentioned something about that. Before they receive Christ, they should show evidence they’re heading in the salvation direction. The pastors children should manifest that.


    This is your blog. I haven’t said anything to disrespect you. I’m another believer discussing this with you. I do believe we do contrast and I originally brought up Titus 1:6 in the discussion to which you referred. I don’t have any axe to grind. I listened to your Psalm 127 message and I agreed with most of it. You say, “I haven’t tried to understand your position.” I think I’m crystal clear. You believe in training. You believe it impacts. You believe that the gospel is the most important aspect. You believe we need to rely on God, so pray. God does the changing. We have no guarantee. Does that sound like I haven’t tried to understand? :) I believe the Lord builds the house too, but I believe He does so when the parents rely on the Scriptural precepts and principles He has given for parenting. The parents “labor in vain” if the Lord doesn’t build the house says that the parents do labor.

    I didn’t exegete “faithful” (Tit. 1:6). I thought your linked article did fine in its arguments. Pistos is used most to refer to someone in a salvific way. A few times it obviously means “reliable,” but it is clear in the context when it does. I don’t see how I’ve smeared Calvinists—that seems like a stretch. They believe in total inability and are against moralism, plus they have a difficult time with Tit. 1:6—Nathan B. said the same thing in your linked article. Where did I smear them? I don’t think a Calvinist would feel smeared by what I wrote. Most of the above are questions that I would love to hear a Calvinist answer. I don’t see how they are a smear. The right position has to be consistent with the rest of Scripture. That was what I was targeting with my comment. I do think that is profitable in this discussion.

  5. From the perspective of someone who doesn’t know greek, hebrew, and got “d”s in spanish…here’s the way I always thought about it. A pastor who has “unruly” children probably shouldn’t be leading a flock. I believe that the Bible is full of principles for all aspects of life that, if followed, generally will produce good results. Hard work = success. Train a child properly = good adult. I think a pastor could do all the right things and be a great parent, but still have children who end up in hell. But I don’t think that pastors who use sound biblical principles and proper parenting skills will produce children who would bring reproach upon his ministry.

    Besides, how are we to know if an elder’s kids are born again? Only by their fruits. And I’m sure there are plenty of “good people” who are not born again.

    As a “layperson,” I would have trouble following a pastor whose kids were constantly in trouble. Why would you take financial advice from a bum or hire a personal trainer who’s 40 lbs overweight?

    Am I making any sense or just babbling at this point?

  6. You got “d”s in Spanish?

  7. Hey, Mrs. A was no pushover. Besides, you know that my brother is the brains of the outfit.

  8. “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth:
    for the LORD hath spoken,
    I have nourished and brought up children,
    and they have rebelled against me.”
    (Is 1:2)

    “What could have been done more to my vineyard,
    that I have not done in it? …
    For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant:
    and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression;
    for righteousness, but behold a cry.”
    (Is 5:4a, 7)

    From what role in the church shall we disqualify God since He had a child who rebelled against Him?

    The issue has to be more than just the regeneration or compliant behavior of the children. I believe the focus is more on the parent, not exclusively on the children.

    IMO, the question is not whether a child rebels (temporarily or permanently), but what the parent is doing/has done about the rebellion. God is a perfect Father, but not because He has perfect children.

    At the same time, because a pastor is to be blameless, there may be cases where a pastor should step down from a leadership role for the good of a flock due to a situation that is not exactly his fault.

  9. Sorry I was short, Kent. Your second post certainly represents my position more clearly than your first.

    For the sake of clarity, I’ve never heard anyone—regardless of theological persuasion—discourage controlling children in the sense of keeping them under authority. Insisting on obedience is essential (and is a clear requirement for elders from 1 Timothy 3:4-5); it’s just not sufficient. So Eli was condemned for not “restraining” his sons, but not for their hard-heartedness. Anyway, to say relying on God to change your child’s heart requires that you don’t participate in it and don’t require obedience is inaccurate.

    As for exegesis, Nate presented data for both sides of the discussion. Frankly, I tend to think that the arguments he put forward in favor of “faithful” (vs. “believing”) are more persuasive, though I admit that I’m not entirely settled. But you can’t just say he presented the exegesis when he deliberately presented data for both interpretations and made no conclusion. Your statement that pistos usually means believing—though it sometimes “obviously means reliable”—proves that the issue is not “cut and dry.” If, per your statement, it can mean either, what makes you assume that it means “believing” here? Especially when the parallel passage in 1 Timothy 3:4-5 deals with behavior and not belief? Especially when pistos children are contrasted in Titus 1:6 with children who are “accused of riot or unruly”?

    As for comparing Scripture with Scripture, how many times do we read about ministers of the gospel having their hands clean of the blood of their hearers (or some similar description) because they faithfully communicated the message, regardless of the response? Paul stated that principle repeatedly. Most OT prophets demonstrate it in that they preached faithfully yet had no positive response. Indeed, Christ’s earthly ministry demonstrates it. How can any person be held responsible for the unbelief of another?

    That’s John Gill’s position:

    “[B]y faithful children cannot be meant converted ones, or true believers in Christ; for it is not in the power of men to make their children such; and their not being so can never be an objection to their being elders, if otherwise qualified; at most the phrase can only intend, that they should be brought up in the faith, in the principles, doctrines, and ways of Christianity, or in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”


    Addendum 1: It’s not accurate to say that pistos usually refers to belief. The opposite is true.

    Addendum 2: Pistos occurs again three verses later, in Titus 1:9, where it has to mean “faithful.” That’s not a conclusive argument, since the word occurs 3 times and has both meanings in 1 Timothy 4:9-12, but it’s interesting to consider.

    Addendum 3: Far more importantly, pistos is used in the qualifications for leaders in I Timothy 3, as well. The wives of deacons must be pistos “in all things.” The meaning must be “faithful.” This is a particularly compelling argument in favor of “faithful.” When Paul used the word regarding family members of leaders, he apparently intended it to mean faithful.

  10. Thanks for chiming in, Ted. I agree with your comment.

  11. We’re fine, Chris on the possible shortness.

    Regarding pistos, I didn’t say “belief,” and purposefully did not. I said “salvific.” “Faithful” (pistos) is always used in the New Testament of believers and never of unbelievers, so this would be the only time in the Bible that it would be an unsaved person if it is. That doesn’t happen hermeneutically and especially when it is used 62 times. That is clinching IMO. His children are saved and it shows up in their behavior, as opposed to someone who keeps his kids under control externally—how would that be a faithful behavior? My look at the passages is that a person who is faithful regarding God is a saved person, since faith is a gift (Philip. 1:29).

    When I said it was cut-and-dry, I wasn’t referring to the salvation aspect of the word (even though I do think that is cut-and-dry too).:) I meant that it is cut-and-dry in that these must be saved children either way. If they are believing, they’re saved. If their behavior is good, then they are saved too. Scripture doesn’t refer to an unbeliever as reliable and trustworthy. The antithesis of this then is also true. I may not have been as clear as I wanted, but that’s why I was saying.

  12. I understand, Kent. Thanks for the clarification.

  13. By the way, you can see how Gill’s theology (which it will) guides his choice. I believe he would have been better off with a word study and made the point exegetically. I see his view as way off.

  14. Sure his theology affected his interpretation. Everybody’s does, including yours and mine. That’s unavoidable. When done intentionally and carefully, it’s both necessary and helpful. As you said earlier, Kent, “The right position has to be consistent with the rest of Scripture.”

  15. I agree with what you’re saying, Chris, which is why I said in parenthesis, “which it will,” but Gill, who I read regularly, veers off his normal pattern of breaking down some of the grammar and syntax to make a point sheerly on his Calvinism. At least he’s transparent in it, I guess.

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