"Is Character Training
By David W. Reece
I was recently reminded how easy it is to be swayed from God's purpose in
educating our children, as I read a feature article concerning
"character building" in a recent issue of a popular homeschool
magazine. The focus of the article was on the father's role and his
responsibility for "forming character" in a child. The author
suggested that we build character by setting limits allowing the child to expand
to acceptable behavior and inhibiting them from growing in directions they
shouldn't. He concluded that Christ was the image which we were to mold them
into. To be sure Christ, God, and the Bible were mentioned, but merely as tools
by the parent to accomplish "character building".
Because I am seeing
a trend among Christians, especially homeschoolers, toward "character
training", I felt it was necessary to point out the distortion of truths
and subtle lies that are filtrating into Christian homes.
"Character building" is never mentioned in the Bible. In fact, it
was not the "character training" by the parents of the shepherd boy, David,
which gave him faith, courage, and the power to kill the giant, Goliath. It was
and is faith in God's Word and a God empowered life. Godly deeds
manifested, then and now, were and are attributed to men and women who walk with
God in the Spirit and by faith in His Word.
Teaching our children how to walk with God in the Spirit by faith in His Word should be our emphasis in
educating and training our children, not "character building".
The emphasis on "character building or training" should be seen as another form of
behavior modification; which stresses, if we alter the surrounding environment
and stimuli, the outcome will change. The only difference between so called
"character building" programs today and psychology is that now we have
baptized the philosophy with the image of Christ.
I believe this concept of "character building" attacks the very
foundation of the gospel of Christ and builds an altar to the gods of humanism.
Humanism is man's best effort to redeem man; and psychology is the religion of
humanism in which God is not part of the solution. It is an evolutionary and
godless view of mankind.
Even as Israel committed adultery with foreign gods, the so called church has
intermingled with the false gods of psychology. This concept of "Christian
Psychology" has been popularized by some very gifted men and women. Their
teachings have challenged the traditional simplicity of the scriptural view of
man and have won many victories. This intermarriage is so accepted that we don't
even recognize it as being incongruent with the gospel.
However, the whole concept of "Christian Psychology" is a
contradiction to the gospel of Christ once delivered unto us. Christianity and
Psychology are laid on two opposing foundations. Christianity is laid on the
foundation of the work of Christ. Psychology is founded on the basis of Darwin's
evolutionary beliefs. Christianity sees mankind as an enemy of God, without hope
apart from the redemption in Christ. Humanism sees man without a need for God or
redemption. It states that man is basically good, whereas Christianity declares
man as utterly sinful. Humanism sees man's problem as being the result of a bad
social environment. Christianity reveals that man's problem is the result of
God's judgment upon Adam's sin.
How then does "character building" align itself with humanism?
Character building advocates assume that our children will change, if given the
right environment. These environmental changes may include rules or boundaries
which guide the children to make good choices. Christian character building
programs incorporate scripture memory and consequences or rewards determined by
the child's behavior. They teach, that if we know God's will, then we will produce
Godly character. Regardless of the variety of approaches, the ultimate aim is to
recondition the nature of man. Webster states that recondition
means, "to condition (as a person or his attitudes) anew."
The ultimate failure of this approach is that it ignores the proclamation of
scripture which declares that, "For I know that in me (that is, in my
flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but [how] to
perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but
the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no
more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I
would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after
the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of
my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my
members." Romans 7:19-23. Can you identify with this conclusion? I am often
reminded of this war between flesh and spirit that Paul describes by my five
year old daughter, Hannah. When Hannah is disciplined for her sins, she will
sometimes cry with utter frustration and declare, "Daddy, I don't have the
power to be good." Hannah's confession bears witness to the true testimony
which Romans 7 proclaims.
What hope then is there for our children? It is the same hope which God has
offered for all mankind. Paul after declaring man's inability to deliver himself
concludes the following: " O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me
from this body of death? I thank God- through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
Romans 7:24-25. The solution to every person's character problem is Jesus
Christ. God's work in Christ, not only provided for the payment of the
penalty of sin, it also made provision for the "making anew" of a
person. This "making anew" is not brought about by reconditioning the
current nature but by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in a believer at
the time of conversion. II Corinthians 5: 17 teaches, " Therefore, if
anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold,
all things have become new." II Peter 1:4 teaches that we have been made
partakers of His divine nature. Galatians 2:20 teaches " I have been
crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me and
the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who
loves me and gave Himself for me." Man's hope (and our children's hope) is
"Christ living in me." The power to do good comes from Christ. The
answer is not being Christ like (i.e., imitating Christ), but
being Christ empowered (i.e., transformed). When we are vessels yielded
to His lordship, then He is able to live in and through us.
How should we build character in our children? Our goal in training our
children should be to disciple them in the truth of God's word and teach
them how to walk in the Spirit. We agree
that our children should meditate, memorize God's Word, and be given Biblical
boundaries, but our goal for using these methods should be to lead them to
Christ. "The law was
given to Israel as a tutor to bring them to Christ" (Galatians 3:25-25).
"Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who
believes." (Romans 10:4) Even so, we use the law and commandments to point
our children to Christ. The law was given not to change man, but that man might
realize his sinfulness and his need for Christ (Romans 4:19). When our children
transgress the law and sin, we need to point them to the redemption (grace,
power, and forgiveness) that is in
Christ. Our hope should be that as they grow and mature that they will come to
the decision to place their trust in Christ and be born anew, recreated, born
again. Christ's character of love, obedience, kindness, generosity,
gratefulness, etc. is then imparted to them through the indwelling of the
Holy Spirit: the old man (natural man) is crucified with Christ, and the new man
(spiritual man) is resurrected with Christ. The character God desires to see in
His children is described as the "fruit" of the Spirit. Galatians 5:
22 -23 states that "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,
self-control..." The scriptures are suggesting that when we are empowered
and controlled by His Spirit, we will manifest these divine characteristics.
Therefore, our ultimate ambition is to teach our children how to be born-again
and filled with His Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), so that they may walk in a way
pleasing to God. Hebrews 11:6 "Without faith it is impossible to please
God. Galatians 5:16 "Walk in the Spirit and you shall not
fulfill the lust of the flesh." Romans 8:14 "For as many as are led by
the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God."
I believe there is a big difference between "character
training" and "Biblical discipleship".
"Character training" has as it's goal to change the
outward man. It simply advocates training children, using boundaries and commands, reward and
consequences to build character. These techniques are used successfully to
control and train animals, also. It seems to work on humans, as well. A
significant difference between humans and animals is humans are capable of
walking in obedience to His Word through the Holy Spirit. Using
"character training" methods give the appearance of godliness; but
knowing God's will does not necessarily mean man will obey it. Though
there may seem to be results using these method with the goal of "character
training", the Bible describes these kind
of persons as hypocrites or Pharisees, "white washed tombs filled with
Biblical discipleship is believing that as adoptive sons of
God, we are partakers of His divine nature. Those led by the Spirit of God will
produce the fruits of the Spirit. We, as Christian parents should devote our
time, energy, and resources into teaching our children what the Savior taught
his disciples--how to pray, live by faith and obey God's Word, walk in the
Spirit, worship God, and disciple others.
Scriptures for further study:
Eph 4:22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man,
which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
Rom 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with [him], that the body
of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
Col 3:9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with
Eph 2:2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world,
according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in
the children of disobedience:
II Cor 5:17 Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old
things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
I Cor 2:14 (KJS) But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit
of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because
they are spiritually discerned.
Note: See chapter on "Discipleship" in the SOW Curriculum for more
specific ideas on how to train a child to walk in the Spirit.
See other related articles on the SOW Blog..