A Parent's Spiritual Authority Over Adult Children

Discussion in 'Family Forum' started by Theogenes, Sep 5, 2017.

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  1. Theogenes

    Theogenes Puritan Board Junior

    Does a parent have continued spiritual authority and responsibility for adult children who have moved far away and have their own homes but are not yet married? ( And therefore should be still training them in the fear of the Lord as if they still lived under the same roof??)
  2. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior

    Haven't you answered your own question by the way that you framed it?

    "Of course not," is the obvious answer. If someone argued such, it would be from the standpoint of an imagined biblical doctrine that unless and until one is married, parental authority continues as if the person in question were otherwise to be regarded and treated as a child.

    This means that one is not properly one's own person unless and until marriage; any reasonable read of I Corinthians 7 would rule out the notion that marriage is the sole cause of parental emancipation (to use the legal term), especially since Paul encourages singleness here (most think for an exigency unknown to us).

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  3. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior

    If I may say so, four single persons in the OPC have played an enormous role in my life, two of whom I know through their work and through others, and two of whom I knew personally and who impacted me deeply: the first two are Machen and Murray (who was single through much of his life) and the latter two are John Skilton and Grace Mullen. Many of you may have never heard of the last, but Grace was an incredible servant of the Lord, Reference Librarian and Archivist at Westminster Theological Seminary for many years, and a model of humble, loving, and skillful service to Christ and His Church.

  4. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Senior

    I sure hope not. I pray that I'm always someone one my children seek for spiritual advice but authority I think not.
  5. Theogenes

    Theogenes Puritan Board Junior

    Dr. Strange,
    Thanks for your reply and I fully agree with you!
    Another issue would be discipline. Any sphere that has an authority position requires the "power" to discipline. If you can't discipline what kind of authority can you be? So, in this context how could one discipline adult children who live far away? Its absurd!
  6. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    This may help-- 1 Tim. 5:4-5:

    "one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)"

    If an elder is to rule his own household (οἶκος), those outside of the household are not under his rule. If they aren't under his rule, the authority structure has necessarily changed.
  7. Krak3n

    Krak3n Puritan Board Freshman

    I have two questions along these lines, and am not trying to make an argument against what has been said.

    Regarding an elder's son, who has been in the church, turns 18 (arbitrary, but legally relevant), and rejects the teaching of his parents. Even if not overtly saying "I hate God!", but a life that shows no evidence of sanctification or love of God's commands. Is the dividing line of whether that elder should be an elder based on where the son lives? (I would agree that something should have been said long ago, for there would have been evidence of their rebellion before the son was 18.)

    Also, are not fathers the protection of their daughters until they are married? I have daughters and have decided that I am fine with them living with me until they are married, given they abide by our teaching and doctrine. I suppose this is more of a wisdom issue than of doctrine... though I'm not sure I can divide them.

    Just looking for more thoughts on this matter.
  8. Held Fast

    Held Fast Puritan Board Freshman

    I remained a spiritual head for my daughter until I placed her hand in that of her husband, but she had been living on her own for 4 years at that point at a military Academy and was a fully functioning independent adult in all other areas. The term "spiritual" I believe is operative - at 17 she was placed under the authority of the academy for all other aspects of her life. My son was raised to become a spiritual leader in the home, and did not marry until he was ready to take on that responsibility and the Lord led a woman to him who was ready to be led in that manner. This was a matter of my children's discipleship in the home, so it never caused issue for us.

    As for the rebellious elder's son ... if we were to presume there is an "age" I would look for 12 and 30, not 18, given their biblical significance. But I don't believe age is the determining factor. Geography might be more compelling ... however I confess that for myself, I have difficulty following the teaching of an elder whose children of any age are not walking with the Lord. I will not say that mine is the correct biblical interpretation; it is my own manner of esteeming highly the office of elder in the church.
  9. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I've heard of her because a lot of P&R books mention her in the acknowledgments section.
  10. Joshua

    Joshua pilgrim

    It is interesting to consider the Lord's rebukes of Eli (1 Samuel 2.27ff), for the wickedness of his sons (and lack of proper rebuke from Eli as their father), vs no record of such against Samuel for his sons' latter rebellion.

    Eli is adjudged guilty/responsible for not restraining the wickedness of his sons, in being too gentle with his reasoning with them, and it ends in judgment. We do not have the same thing with Samuel. In fact, we assume that his sons -at first- were in good repute, since Samuel himself appoints them judges. However, they did not end so. There is no recorded rebuke from the Lord, no promise of judgment to Samuel's house. Were the people given leave to stop listening to Samuel because of his wayward sons? No. In fact, Samuel -with great grief- is the very one to tell to Saul that his kingdom has been taken from him. Samuel was still in a sphere of authority, even in some sense over the king.

    There may be some mitigating factors between the relationship of a father and his grown children that warrant an examination of his fitness for office, but to make a blanket condemnation, or to confess difficulty following any such an one that has an unbelieving progeny no matter how far removed geographically, etc. is unwarranted. That is for a session and presbytery to discuss, perhaps, and seek the Lord's providential guidance. If a session and presbytery find that a particular elder has done all he can within a particular sphere of his influence in pleading with his wayward "child" who is geographically or otherwise removed, I do not understand the outward judgments of unfitness. This person is no longer in his "household." There are so many different scenarios -in our fallen world- that simply make blanket statements of accuracy in regard to this impossible.

    As there is no prescription of penalty for every possible sin that could ever come into existence, there is no prescription of resolution for every possible thorny situation in ecclesiology of the church. Not each case is cut and dry. Some require more thought, deliberation, and judgment than others.

    Case by case. :2cents:
  11. Krak3n

    Krak3n Puritan Board Freshman

    As Josh described, it's generally a difficult thing to make blanket statements, and we are only speaking hypothetically. I have to agree with you, though we may both be wrong here, but something would really not sit well with me knowing that an elder's son (or daughter) had rejected God. It would make it difficult to take teaching from them concerning headship and the family.

    Your examples of Eli and Samuel are very interesting. I'm glad you brought them up, spot on examples. The idea of a presbytery and session weighing these matters would be helpful in allaying my own concerns in the pew. I must admit, I've no real experience in a Presbyterian church, and only a vague understanding of Presbyterian polity. (Which I picked up in the book you linked in another thread just the other day.)

    When I consider this from a "generic" Baptist perspective, I'm really not sure how these things would be judged. I'm sure it would vary by church, but I've never seen church discipline take place in any manner. People normally just leave or the church splits. (Membership shuffle.) That is a problem for another thread.
  12. Joshua

    Joshua pilgrim

    Consider this direction from Christ, speaking about the Pharisees, who were white-washed hypocrites:

    Matthew 23 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, 2 saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: 3 all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe [that is, which is lawful and indifferent], that observe and do; but do not ye after their works [that is, those things which are unlawful in their own carriage and practice, such as their disregard of the 5th commandment under the guise of corban]: for they say, and do not.​

    Now, if Jesus says this about the Pharisees, how much moreso does it apply in our day of earnest men who have been duly examined and approved and received by the congregation for rule over them? This does not mean proper steps may not be taken into consideration, but talking about unbelieving sons or daughter who have moved out of the jurisdiction of their parents is an altogether different matter. The duty of individual laypersons is not to brush off elder rule based on their own finite understanding of the whole matter, but to -according to place and station- do what they can and move forward until the session and/or presbytery has done its due diligence in a matter. Sessions, presbyteries, and councils are not infallible, but they are the prescribed means of order in the church. What if we are subject to wrongful discipline? Submit to it with dissent (i.e. without admitting guilt, if conscience and Scripture tell us differently), then apply to the Lord for deliverance in lawful means, etc. It's not as succinct as that in real life, but the Lord has given this order to His people for a reason.
  13. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Here is a good rule of thumb. If you see a teaching that kind of looks like the hyper-patriarchalism of Doug Wilson or Doug Phillips, run.
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  14. Joshua

    Joshua pilgrim

    "Run -do not walk- to the nearest exit."
  15. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Professor

    Your answer is excellent, Alan. This *would* be a classic legalist move, though (and it would also imply that a single person who never marries, for example, is not out from under parental authority until the parents are dead - another absurdity).
  16. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Senior

    Dovetailing on Josh and Jacob, I find that donatism could easily find a home in the church if the sins of older children necessarily disqualify men from church office.
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  17. UKPuritan40

    UKPuritan40 Puritan Board Freshman

    In the case of Eli vs Samuel's sons...was not the difference that Eli's son's were wicked in relation to abhorring the offering of the Lord? Vs generic disobedience? Hence a difference in how scripture deals with them.
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  18. Krak3n

    Krak3n Puritan Board Freshman

    I didn't know this was a thing. Where do they generally err in their teaching? What would be a signal that they gone off the rails concerning the role of a patriarch?

    I hadn't ever heard of Donatism. When you speak of "older children" are we then speaking of those who no longer live in the home with their parents? If I can trust Wikipedia, I'm understanding Donatism (historically) as the rejection of elders who had rejected the faith during times of persecution. I don't want to deal further with that, for I am already speaking from ignorance to say even that much. I only mentioned the example of the elder and son above because in scripture we have, "He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?" I guess my question, piggybacking the OP, was about just how long the "keeping" is in effect.

    Thank you for bringing Donatism to my attention, I had no idea.

    That is interesting. You're right, after Samuel made his sons judges "they took bribes and perverted justice." Eli and Samuel were men in important positions, a priest and a prophet/judge, who both had older children, and yet were judged differently by God. There are many differences between them, and like Josh mentioned above, these things would need to be looked at on a case by case basis. We see in 1 Sam. 2:25 that Eli does rebuke his sons, "But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death." As you mentioned above, Eli's sons were doing a special kind of evil. 1 Sam. 2:17 says, "Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the Lord, for the men treated the offering of the Lord with contempt." I'm not trying to say that God was pleased with Samuel's sons perversion of justice, but we are told that God took special issue with the sin of Eli's sons. (Perhaps why it was his will that they would not repent.) All that to say, I agree. Good Point!

    As an aside, I think I conversed with your husband at Southwest Ohio Reformed Presbyterian earlier this year! I don't think we spoke for more than half an hour, but I really enjoyed talking with him.
  19. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Phillips, besides attempting sexual relations with one of the nannies in his house, follows the teachings of Bill Gothard. The woman stays under daddy's house and rules until she is married.
  20. Krak3n

    Krak3n Puritan Board Freshman

    Yes, clearly adultery is wrong, but I'd imagine that's not their teaching officially. I've heard of Bill before, never anything good about him. I'll take your word on Phillips.

    I'm more familiar with Doug Wilson, and before I knew anything about his role in Federal Vision stuff, I found many of his books on the family quite edifying and profitable. I'm not trying to press you on your statements, for there are authors I would not recommend based on the general ideas they propose as well. But do you remember anything specific that Doug Wilson taught regarding family that was out of line?
  21. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I would have to go through my notes--they are documented somewhere. His earlier teachings have good insights, but whenever he is called on b.s., he hems and haws and you can't get anywhere.
  22. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior

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  23. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    It's hard to think of an leader of God's covenant people, of whom the children are described in the Scriptures, who did not have a child who grew to be wicked. Aaron is the only one who comes to my mind. Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Moses (perhaps implicitly as the sons of "Moses and Aaron" are counted through Aaron and Moses' grandson Jonathon was an idolatrous priest), Samuel, David, Solomon, etc. all had wicked children. If we could only respect the leadership of elders whose adult children have rejected the teachings of their father then the office of elder would mostly be limited to those with small families or young children only.
  24. JimmyH

    JimmyH Puritan Board Junior

    Perhaps apropos to the direction this thread is taking is this excerpt from D.A. Carson's commentary on the daily reading from M'Cheyne's 1 year Bible reading plan. A meditation on 2Samuel 13 from his book 'For the Love of God' ;
  25. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    We would certainly need to start by tossing out anything by Francis Schaeffer or R.C. Sproul, Sr., both of whom had children turn out bad.
  26. BG

    BG Puritan Board Junior

    Has Sproul's children rejected the faith or fallen into sin?
  27. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    RCjr still affirms the faith, as far as one can tell. But he's had numerous scandals plague his ministry.
  28. Held Fast

    Held Fast Puritan Board Freshman

    If you regard the qualification "above reproach" in 1Timothy 3:2 as the summarizing qualification, for which all the following are examples, then an elder whose grown children are not walking with the Lord may in fact be "above reproach." But I would not take that for granted simply because they are no longer under his roof. I cannot imagine holding to a high godly standard will ever hurt the church if it is indeed God's standard.
  29. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    Well, most of us would consider a felony conviction to be some evidence of falling into sin. And then there was that thing with the Ashley Madison adultery website site.

    As for his theology, the PCA rejected his attempt to transfer from the ARP, and after the RPCGA proved to be more open minded, they accepted him and his church before subsequently deposing him and his session. He ended up at CREC at that point. He lasted there 4 years before moving to the Covenant Presbyterian Church microdenomination. Since rightly administering the sacraments is one of the marks of a true church ....

    Someone feel free to correct me if I've gotten the sequence or some other detail wrong.
  30. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    The reproach upon Eli and David (to echo what I think above is D.A.Carson's point, see post#24) is that they were not severe in law when severity was the thing required. They were mild in discipline, indulgent, and excepted their sons from the exemplary judgments that would have brought them credit, if also grief. Their comfort would have been in God (not their flesh), and in the manifest and awful respect of their whole family and the whole nation.

    Those who might object to the rightness of divine justice would have objected in any case; and by making friends of these, that is by favoring those who were willing to doubt the love of so strict a LORD, they strengthened the wicked and made the righteous despair. Thus it ever is, when men dilute the force of the law, or blunt the sharp edge of true doctrine, in order to limit the scandal of the Faith.

    If we construe a necessary offense as a needless one for any cause, we only weaken our witness; and we make ourselves less legitimately tender than we would be if we suffered for righteousness. And the converse is just as true. The faithful pastor or elder, who faces the pain of his wayward child, not turning away from it; and exercises discipline even to excommunication (if he is under local authority when it happens) or honors the strong discipline of another jurisdiction--he is to be commended, and not censured, as if he had the power of preventing reprobation in the case of his own son.

    This pastor knows what it is, first hand, to suffer such a blow. He can help another who faces that same sorrow. He knows better than anyone how imperfect was his labor in discipline and prayer for his son. But he remembers two things: he is not perfect like Jesus, and he still has recourse to Jesus. Many a son has been saved because he was disciplined. No son was ever saved by a foolish, wishful indulgence.
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