"Character Training" is Unbiblical!
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
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
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
"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 FAILURE OF HUMANISM:
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
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!"
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.
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.
declares " 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.,
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
"Christ is the
end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes."
And, 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 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..."
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
"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
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
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 his deeds
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.
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