God’s Church’s teaching about child training is unique. Why? It has come by special revelation from God. How well do you understand what God has given His Church concerning child rearing?
Go to any bookstore and you will find dozens of books about child rearing. Some are purely rationalistic—the product of man’s thoughts and reasoning. Others purport to speak from a biblical perspective. However, do you realize that even these books are written mainly from man’s interpretation of Bible verses? That is not to say that there is not some good in certain books. But always there is truth mixed with error. This means that all books on child rearing must be read with extreme caution.
Only God’s Church has knowledge about child rearing given directly by God. What God has revealed to the Church is the only reliable knowledge that gives the desired results. Herbert W. Armstrong was personally very excited about the new revelation given on child rearing. We should be too. But are we? If we are, then we will be putting what we’ve learned into practice.
At the same time Christ was putting the Church back on track, Mr. Armstrong put his whole heart into getting members to realize the incredible importance behind the revealed truths that had been given to the Church. After Mr. Armstrong’s death, these became known as the 18 restored truths. Two of these truths in particular greatly expanded both our understanding of the purpose for and how to approach child rearing. Let’s take a thorough look at both in this two-part article series.
Didn’t Get It
Mr. Armstrong wrote this to the Church in 1979: “The real truth about marriage and the family relationship has not been realized—even in God’s Church!” (“Your Children—Future Gods?” Good News, September 1979). Mr. Armstrong addresses two concerns with this one statement. First, he acknowledged that people outside of God’s Church are presently blinded to the whole truth about marriage and family, which includes child rearing. We know that it is not until Christ’s millennial rule that the entire Earth will come to understand God’s intended purpose for marriage and family (Isaiah 11:9). Second, he recognized that members of God’s Church were lagging behind in their understanding of these truths, even though the knowledge had been given. Those of us who were in God’s Church in the late 1970s and early ’80s know that Mr. Armstrong labored intensively to correct this wrong spiritual condition troubling the Church. The sad history is, that by 1985, he realized that God’s Church was still failing to get it!
Today we must make sure that we do get the whole truth on marriage, family and child rearing. God is helping us do that in a remarkable way. How? The Philadelphia Church of God must fight to preserve God’s truth. God knows that humans treasure what they have to fight for. But we don’t fight for the truth just so we can put it on a shelf. We fight to apply it! Jesus Christ not only used Mr. Armstrong to reveal His truth, He used Mr. Armstrong to show us how to put it into action. The end-time type of Elijah knew that coming to a full understanding of God’s revealed truth takes much hard work, which includes study, constant and consistent review, strong teaching on the part of the ministry, and daily practice.
Here is the revealed knowledge necessary to deeply understand child rearing. Mr. Armstrong continued in the same article, “To understand, you need to know all about the spirit in man and how it operates. You need to know precisely what is human nature. You need to know how Satan operates—especially on children. You need to know in what manner God has set you—and your children—apart from this world.
“You need to know at what age Satan gets into your child’s mind. You need to know whether your child has access to God ….” You will not find these truths explained in any book from a bookstore. These are the deep thoughts of God that have been graciously given to us to use (1 Corinthians 2:10-12). We must study, believe, think about and learn to apply each of these in our family life.
Let’s look closely at the last part of this statement. Do our children have access to God?
The world as a whole is cut off from God. Mr. Armstrong stated in the “Author’s Statement” of Mystery of the Ages that he only came to understand this “mind-boggling” truth fully at the time of writing Mystery of the Ages. This idea was not Mr. Armstrong’s. Jesus Christ stated this same fact clearly: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him …” (John 6:44). This is the ninth of the 18 restored truths. No other Church on Earth knows this; if they do, they don’t believe it! God is only calling a very few now to support His Work and prepare for the coming Kingdom of God. So only those He calls are not cut off from God. This knowledge diametrically contradicts what the churches of this world teach.
We need to take in the significance of what Christ has established through Mr. Armstrong. This truth holds incredible meaning for our children. Our children are not cut off from God. They have access to God. This means that our children are in a different category than all other children on the planet! Of course, God loves all the children in this world—John 3:16 tells us that—but God is only working closely with our children at this time.
Mr. Armstrong wrote, “While other people—not members of the true body of Christ—and all other children are cut off from access to God, your children—if you are a truly converted member of God’s Church—can believe in Christ—are not cut off from God—and much of God’s truth, even though as yet too young to be converted. But they are a special treasure to God!” (ibid). Do we get what Mr. Armstrong is teaching here? Children of members can have a relationship with Christ and come to understand God’s truth because of their parents’ calling. Mr. Armstrong adds that they are a special treasure to God. How inspiring, exciting and thrilling! Do we realize what a sacred treasure our children are?
Mr. Armstrong viewed this as “important new knowledge” that should be received “eagerly.” This was not just Mr. Armstrong’s, or any other man’s, view—it was new revelation given from the Bible by God, specifically for God’s Church. Mr. Armstrong did not understand this truth until the mid-1970s. Yet the Apostle Paul had explained about the special category of members’ children nearly 1,900 years earlier. The incredible truth, lost to the Church from the first century, had been restored!
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy” (1 Corinthians 7:14). Paul was very clear here. Children of converted parents (or one parent) are holy! The Greek word for holy is hagios. Strong’s Concordance translates this word as sacred or consecrated. Something that is sacred or consecrated is set apart for holy use! God sees our children as sacred. Do we? All parents in God’s Church must ensure that our children remain sacred to God. God-inspired child rearing can ensure this.
The knowledge of godly child rearing places grave responsibility on converted parents to properly teach their children about God and His purpose for mankind.
Mr. Armstrong stated, “Now see how that applies to the children of converted parents. It does not mean they may be converted while still too young. It does mean they are not, like children of unconverted parents, cut off from God. It means that they may be taught about God by the believing parent” (ibid). Teaching about God and His purpose for mankind is the most important aspect of child rearing. Let’s expend some effort to understand the magnitude of this statement.
Here’s the point. Why should our young children be taught about God? Because God makes it possible for them to understand the truth! Do we get it? Our children can grasp the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Our children can know that God is a family into which they can be born. Our little toddlers can be taught to realize that God is offering them the opportunity to rule the universe. People in this world have such great difficulty accepting these wonderful truths of God because their minds are full of religious error. When parents faithfully do their part, a little child is able to grow up without being subjected to Satan’s religious deceit. Keeping our children’s minds free of error gives them an incredible edge in preparation for the Kingdom of God.
Mr. Armstrong continued, “Your children are in a special (consecrated) category. You may teach them about Christ—about the things of the Bible. Their chances of being converted when sufficiently mature are multiplied!” (ibid). Are we giving our children the full advantage that God wants them to have? We must never leave this kind of teaching to chance, or expect that our children will somehow get it by themselves. It takes vision, preparation and effort. All parents must have an organized plan for instructing their children.
In the early ’80s, many young people who were raised in the Church, did not grow up to become members of God’s Church. Mr. Armstrong was greatly disturbed by this trend. He placed the blame where it belonged—on the parents. He wrote, “Brethren, God’s Church is not showing even half the growth it should have from the oncoming generation of our members. This shows we have neglected the teaching of our children! When God has called you for special service in loyally backing the proclaiming of the gospel to the world by God’s Church, He intended that your children should also be called and enter into the Work of God’s Church” (ibid). Besides teaching our children about God, we must also teach them about His Work and show them how to back and support the Work. If our hearts are truly in the Work, this will not be difficult to accomplish.
God established through the Prophet Moses that it is the responsibility of the older generation to properly instruct its youth. “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7). The success of ancient Israel was tied directly to the quality of the instruction given to succeeding generations. The quality of teaching depends upon the spiritual maturity of the adult generation. Because of the continuing degeneration of the adults, eventually the teaching broke down. Ancient Israel became a miserable failure. The lesson is there for any parents willing to look (1 Corinthians 10:11).
From time to time we are confronted with young people who leave the pcg. This is a hard thing for parents and the ministry alike. We must all examine ourselves to see where we can do a better job. It is true that every child will not necessarily come into God’s Church. God has given every human the freedom to make a choice. Yet we must ensure that our teaching is not the cause. We are the last-hour generation. It is the time of Satan’s greatest wrath (Revelation 12:12). We witness the evil of man coming to its full expression, bringing tremendous pressure on us and our children. It is not an easy time. This is reality.
Yet there is still marvelous hope. Mr. Armstrong wrote, “Although Satan is going to influence your children, almost from birth, toward his selfish and rebellious attitude, you may counteract this by teaching your children the truth about God! And when sufficiently adult they will be called. None of this is true of children outside truly converted parents!” (ibid). We should be as positive as Mr. Armstrong. Let’s never forget that we have the power of the Almighty God behind us and our children!
Being the last-hour generation gives us some incredible advantages. With so many prophecies being fulfilled and such excitement in the Work, we are not at a loss for rousing examples to teach our youth. We can easily demonstrate how God works both in this world and in His Church. Do you see that we have a unique opportunity to make God real for our children?
Building on what God revealed through Mr. Armstrong, Pastor General Gerald Flurry wrote, “Having a child is about bringing the whole world at one with God—one child at a time! We are supporting Christ in that effort. Why are we bringing them at one with God? So they too can be members of the God family. That’s the only reason. When we see a little child, can we connect him or her to the God family vision?” (The God Family Vision). It takes real spiritual vision to see how important our little children are to God and the working out of His purpose. We must realize that our children can be the strength and quality of the coming Kingdom of God. We should strain to even see beyond that. It simply gets better and better.
Mr. Flurry continues, “Children of converted members in God’s Church, even if not baptized when Jesus Christ returns, I believe will still be a part of that firstfruits group because they were sanctified before Christ’s return. Our children have such a wonderful future!” (ibid). Do we see the opportunity that Christ gives us to help Him prepare His own Bride? Do we really see what God has planned for our little children? Those who grow up to believe, repent and become converted in the Millennium will eventually receive the Bride-level reward promised only to the firstfruits. What a future! This is for us and for our children.
Let’s not fail to recognize that our children’s place in that future depends mostly on us. Surely we want to give our children the best future ever!
From the Archives: Royal Vision, March-April 2004