This post is part of a series walking through the third volume of Abraham Kuyper’s Common Grace
Kuyper now moves from “the family” to “raising children” specifically. Raising children is also under the category of common grace, though there are admonitions that go beyond it (i.e. raise children “in the fear and admonition of the Lord”, 429).
The battle over the family is ongoing, with “three essential viewpoints” about the battle for Christian education:
- Christian education means the highest academic standards.
- Christian education is entirely for the evangelism of children.
- The Reformed view that avoids extremes and tries to do the best of both 1 and 2.
Clearly both common grace and particular grace are at work here. It would have been clearer to have started here in the outline of common grace, but family precedes raising children, so here we are.
Before education, let’s look at “childrearing” in the broadest sense. We must begin with the fact
“that the present generation has something that it passes on to the next generation. The older generation gives, and the younger generation receives. The younger generation assimilates what the older generation either received itself or acquired through its own efforts.” (430)
This is how we are to pass along wisdom. The Dutch term for “child-rearing” is from the word “to feed.” This is not a one-time activity, but rather an ongoing process until the child can “feed” himself. It is also focused on more than just the body and includes the mind as well.
But this child-rearing of the whole person begins at conception, and so ties us to others into an organic whole, including our spiritual lives. Adulthood is the goal here, and the point when childrearing ceases. Dependence on others for food is the sign of the non-adult.
God designed us so that dependence is our beginning state. Common grace is how the helpless newborn survives, grows, and eventually thrives. In the physical we see a picture of the spiritual. The physical we do almost without thought as part of our daily routines. This is sort-of how we should handle the spiritual as well. Not that the mother should be a proverb-machine, but that she should lovingly nurture each child according to their spiritual needs.
This is not the training of animals, and the child may reject such instruction. This means that we too must be spiritually mature in order to pass this on to our children.