Monday, July 10, 2006

"Children Who Believe..." - A Few Comments on Titus 1:6 by Carson

Defining Elders - 9Marks:

"Does this mean that the children of an elder must be devout Christians? There is a passage in the second paragraph that I read at the beginning of this address (viz. Titus 1:6-9) that is sometimes taken to support that view. I think it is mistranslated in the NIV. The NIV renders Titus 1:6, 'An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.' Does this mean that the children of every leader must be Christians? And if you say yes, then from what age? Two? Five? Seventeen? In fact, the particular term that is used there, 'must believe,' is an adjective that in many places is rendered 'must be faithful.' And in fact, in contemporary first-century lists of social virtues, where moral characteristics are laid out, the word always has that force. I think that what the text is saying is not that the children must be saved – after all, grace doesn’t run in the genes – but that at the end of the day, they must be faithful, not wild or profoundly disobedient.

The verse does not mean that children of ministers are sinlessly perfect. It does not mean that they cannot do some pretty stupid and immoral things. The question really is, how is the home being handled? What kind of discipline is imposed? What kind of encouragement is there? And how are these strengths reflected in the character, the faithfulness, of the children? Certainly it does not mean that when the children have left home and become adults and are outside their father’s purview – when he has no control over them – that they must all be fine, upstanding believers with nothing publicly wrong with their lives, or else their father is disqualified for vocational ministry. Even while they are still children and in his house, what is demanded is neither conversion nor perfection, but the kind of parental discipline that produces "faithful" children. There has to be some kind of display of that least common of gifts, Christian common sense, and grace and tact and discipline and encouragement, and sometimes a yank on the rope and sometimes perhaps an administration of the "board of education" to "the seat of learning," that produces "faithful" kids. Such a combination of modeling and discipline is important because that is also required in the leadership of the church. If you cannot do it at home you certainly cannot do it in the church. If it becomes obvious that the man has lost control of his dependent children entirely, if the kids are thirteen years old and the terrors of the neighborhood, the man is disqualified from public ministry in the church. That is what the text says."