Bring Them Up in the Discipline and Instruction of the Lord -- By: Robert L. Plummer
JFM 1:1 (Fall 2010) p. 18
Bring Them Up in the Discipline and Instruction of the Lord
Robert L. Plummer (Ph.D., the Southern Baptist theological Seminary) is Associate Professor of new testament interpretation at the Southern Baptist theological Seminary. Rob is the author of 40 Questions about Interpreting the Bible (Kregel), Paul’s Understanding of the Church’s Mission (Paternoster), and numerous articles and essays. rob is also an elder at Sojourn Community Church. He and his wife Chandi have three daughters, Sarah Beth, Chloe, and Anabelle. During his spare time, rob enjoys running mini-marathons and drinking hot tea.
“It’s Sunday Schools!” he told me. “They’ve destroyed the faith of children!” Such was the assertion made to me by a father in San Antonio. Over a plate of Italian food, this man proceeded to offer a brief historical sketch of what he saw as the systematic removal of parental responsibility for the discipleship of children. This happened, he believed, because churches have institutionalized children’s programming.
To be sure, this well-meaning man did make some good points about the impotence of many men in the spiritual leadership of their households. At the same time, is church-based children’s programming really to blame for this impotency? And is the abolition of Sunday School really the answer? The man’s analysis seemed, at best, like an extreme and reactionary response to a problem that is much broader than a congregation’s Sunday School or children’s programs.
Since that conversation several years ago, I have been pleased to see the publication of many more resources devoted to a thoughtful discussion of the role of families and churches in the Christian nurture of children. This chapter is part of that ongoing conversation. My purpose is to investigate the New Testament and other writings from the first three centuries of Christian faith, asking the question, “How, during this time period, did discipleship occur in the context of Christian families—or did it? What were the expectations for Christian training in the household? And how did the community of faith partner with believing households?”
Family Relations in the Biblical Metanarrative
The inspired authors of the New Testament wrote within the framework of a foundational story—a “metanarrative”—that they assumed on the basis of the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus. It is possible to summarize the major movements of this metanarrative under four headings: creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. To understand the perspective of the earliest Christians on parent-child relations, let’s first look together at what early Christians—not only
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