Sheltering Children: Faith, Virtue, and Knowledge

Parents are always talking about how to protect their children without sheltering them. Invariably, in these conversations, the word “sheltered” is used as if being sheltered is a bad thing. I presume that most of the people who makes these arguments live in modern houses, with four or more walls and a roof and everything, and not, as they would seem to be advocating, on a bed of pine needles beneath a canopy of (preferably) sparsely limbed trees. To be fair, and to go ahead and make the anti-shelterian counter-argument before one of them does, yes, my house has windows. To go further, if a window overlooked an Adult Drive-in (my crack research team assures me that, while rare, they still do exist) I would either move, or keep that window closed.

My opinion on protecting children without failing to prepare them for life, is as follows. Anyone who reads the Bible to their children will have a hard time “sheltering” them. We have fratricide and other brutality in the first few chapters; keep reading and you’ll hit rape, incest, idolatry, rebellion, war, famine, pestilence, etc. And while I’m not advocating providing details to children, I am advocating the idea that they can understand more than we give them credit for. I have a friend who told his children that a prostitute was someone who behaves as if they are married when they are not. In the children’s minds, the prostitute was taking money to make dinner or to lay in bed and talk. But this was sufficient. The cynical mind says: but the child doesn’t truly understand what goes on when a man goes into a prostitute. A wise man says: do I? Proverbs says that the way of a man with a maid was too wonderful for him, Paul says that the true nature of the relationship between a man and a woman is a mystery. In the end, I think it is our foolishness that bites us, in that we believe that our exposure to sin has made us wiser rather than just more knowledgeable. We are become Eve, eating fruit not meant for us and gasping at the joy of untimely knowledge.

As a side note, in my experience, the problem with a sheltered child is that parents have often failed to give their children any real responsibility (authority for which they are held accountable). Responsibility and accountability allow obedience to perform it’s work, taking faith and adding virtue, and to virtue finally, knowledge.

Any thoughts?

8 thoughts on “Sheltering Children: Faith, Virtue, and Knowledge”

  1. I like the distinctions you make here. I believe a couple more could be made: 1) Knowing vs. seeing. 2) Injury vs. compassion

    On the first count, I think parents have a duty to their children to teach them “what the world is like” in a realistic way. This is very different from taking the kids out on a field trip to tour all the dirty cracks of the city so they can “see it like it is.” As they grow older, children need to know about the world so that they can live in it, love it, and minister to it. While the time to “see” will probably arrive, parents don’t need to go out of their way to aid the exposure…unless they believe their children are ready.

    On the second point, what I’m getting at is the maturity necessary for a person to witness the devastation of sin and feel compassion and sorrow instead of being hurt and scarred by it. I’m afraid that two extremes are much more common than the golden mean that Jesus presented. Some children are exposed to sin that cripples their minds and hearts. Others are so insulated from its realities that they struggle to “enter the storm” of the world and go to where the lost people are – wallowing in their sin, of course.

    [Sidenote: When I meet people who have to “avoid checkout lines” at the grocery store so they won’t be “corrupted,” I wonder how they ever hope to really encounter a lost person in the world he lives in.]

  2. I like the distinctions you make here. I believe a couple more could be made: 1) Knowing vs. seeing. 2) Injury vs. compassion

    On the first count, I think parents have a duty to their children to teach them “what the world is like” in a realistic way. This is very different from taking the kids out on a field trip to tour all the dirty cracks of the city so they can “see it like it is.” As they grow older, children need to know about the world so that they can live in it, love it, and minister to it. While the time to “see” will probably arrive, parents don’t need to go out of their way to aid the exposure…unless they believe their children are ready.

    On the second point, what I’m getting at is the maturity necessary for a person to witness the devastation of sin and feel compassion and sorrow instead of being hurt and scarred by it. I’m afraid that two extremes are much more common than the golden mean that Jesus presented. Some children are exposed to sin that cripples their minds and hearts. Others are so insulated from its realities that they struggle to “enter the storm” of the world and go to where the lost people are – wallowing in their sin, of course.

    [Sidenote: When I meet people who have to “avoid checkout lines” at the grocery store so they won’t be “corrupted,” I wonder how they ever hope to really encounter a lost person in the world he lives in.]

  3. What!!! A world outsite my home? You’re kidding…all this time I was thinkin’ that my home was it…now you’ve done it…now someone is going to have to explain this bright light that shines in my window each morning.

    Nice thoughts BTW.

  4. What!!! A world outsite my home? You’re kidding…all this time I was thinkin’ that my home was it…now you’ve done it…now someone is going to have to explain this bright light that shines in my window each morning.

    Nice thoughts BTW.

  5. Ariel,
    Good thoughts. I also hear people talking about raising children when what they really mean is raising adults. Sometimes, even a tiny change in terminology is sufficient to remind people that their little boy will one day be a man.

    On another note, I’d be interested in your take on the work of obedience. I’ve been thinking about it more and more of late and I come to the (partial) conclusion that obedience is a word that ties up so many components of the faith (such as faith, responsibility, love, authority, works, etc) that treating it as “doing what you’re told to do” is a massive disservice.

    [Sidenote: When I meet people who have to “avoid checkout lines” at the grocery store so they won’t be “corrupted,” I wonder how they ever hope to really encounter a lost person in the world he lives in.]

    My solution to this is to close my eyes and throw a random credit card at the cashier. It works for me!! 😉

  6. Ariel,
    Good thoughts. I also hear people talking about raising children when what they really mean is raising adults. Sometimes, even a tiny change in terminology is sufficient to remind people that their little boy will one day be a man.

    On another note, I’d be interested in your take on the work of obedience. I’ve been thinking about it more and more of late and I come to the (partial) conclusion that obedience is a word that ties up so many components of the faith (such as faith, responsibility, love, authority, works, etc) that treating it as “doing what you’re told to do” is a massive disservice.

    [Sidenote: When I meet people who have to “avoid checkout lines” at the grocery store so they won’t be “corrupted,” I wonder how they ever hope to really encounter a lost person in the world he lives in.]

    My solution to this is to close my eyes and throw a random credit card at the cashier. It works for me!! 😉

  7. Brian,
    now someone is going to have to explain this bright light that shines in my window each morning.

    It’s the eye of the Great Stone Dragon, Brian. And it’s hungry. Oh yes, it’s hungry.

    Thanks for stopping by,
    C.

  8. Brian,
    now someone is going to have to explain this bright light that shines in my window each morning.

    It’s the eye of the Great Stone Dragon, Brian. And it’s hungry. Oh yes, it’s hungry.

    Thanks for stopping by,
    C.

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