Marriage and Family

The importance of fathers for teaching children about Christian worldview

One thing I wish that Christian parents and pastors emphasized more with young, unmarried Christian women is the need to choose a man who keeps his commitments. It turns out that passing on Christian values and worldview works a lot better when there is a man around to teach the children himself.

Here is some statistical evidence showing the difference that Christian fathers make, from Touchstone magazine.

Excerpt:

In 1994 the Swiss carried out an extra survey that the researchers for our masters in Europe (I write from England) were happy to record. The question was asked to determine whether a person’s religion carried through to the next generation, and if so, why, or if not, why not. The result is dynamite. There is one critical factor. It is overwhelming, and it is this: It is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children.

If both father and mother attend regularly, 33 percent of their children will end up as regular churchgoers, and 41 percent will end up attending irregularly. Only a quarter of their children will end up not practicing at all. If the father is irregular and mother regular, only 3 percent of the children will subsequently become regulars themselves, while a further 59 percent will become irregulars. Thirty-eight percent will be lost.

If the father is non-practicing and mother regular, only 2 percent of children will become regular worshippers, and 37 percent will attend irregularly. Over 60 percent of their children will be lost completely to the church.

Let us look at the figures the other way round. What happens if the father is regular but the mother irregular or non-practicing? Extraordinarily, the percentage of children becoming regular goesupfrom 33 percent to 38 percent with the irregular mother and to 44 percent with the non-practicing, as if loyalty to father’s commitment grows in proportion to mother’s laxity, indifference, or hostility.

[…]In short, if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). If a father goes but irregularly to church, regardless of his wife’s devotion, between a half and two-thirds of their offspring will find themselves coming to church regularly or occasionally.

A non-practicing mother with a regular father will see a minimum of two-thirds of her children ending up at church. In contrast, a non-practicing father with a regular mother will see two-thirds of his children never darken the church door. If his wife is similarly negligent that figure rises to 80 percent!

The results are shocking, but they should not be surprising. They are about as politically incorrect as it is possible to be; but they simply confirm what psychologists, criminologists, educationalists, and traditional Christians know. You cannot buck the biology of the created order. Father’s influence, from the determination of a child’s sex by the implantation of his seed to the funerary rites surrounding his passing, is out of all proportion to his allotted, and severely diminished role, in Western liberal society.

Basically, a child who doesn’t have a benevolent, involved father is going to have an more difficult time believing that moral boundaries set by an authority are for the benefit of the person who is being bounded. The best way to make moral boundaries stick is to see that they apply to the person making the boundaries as well – and that these moral boundaries are rational, evidentially-grounded and not arbitrary. It is therefore very important to children to be shepherded by a man who studied moral issues (including evidence from outside the Bible) in order to know how to be persuasive to others.

If a woman wants her child to be religious and moral, then she has to pick a man who is religious and moral. And it can’t just be a faith commitment that he claims with words, because he can just lie about that. Women ought to check whether men are bound to what they believe by checking what they’ve read. A man usually acts consistently with what he believes, and beliefs only get formed when a man informs himself through things like reading. It would be good to see how he puts those beliefs into practice, too.

My advice to Christian women is this. When you are picking a man, be sure and choose one who is already invested in Christian things and producing results. It’s very unlikely that he’s going to be interested in developing that capacity from scratch if he’s not already doing it. If you want your kids to be taught Christianity by their father, then make spiritual leadership a priority when you’re choosing a husband.

4 thoughts on “The importance of fathers for teaching children about Christian worldview”

  1. Interesting take. But what if either parent goes to different churches?

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  2. If a woman married a man who is not a serious Christian then it proves she isn’t either. The woman is only lying on these surveys about her level of commitment while the man is being honest. And the kids know that. Because unlike the survey people, they live there.

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  3. WK you gave advice as to what a Christian woman should look for, but no advice as to what a Christian woman should do once she is selected by a Christian man.

    In my own case I have fought with my wife many times regarding the raising and formation of our children. I remember one Sunday morning getting the kids ready for Mass when she went into one of her screaming fits (the Latin temper is not mythological) because they were taking too long. I told her to stop because I don’t want the children’s memories of Sunday mornings to be of screaming abuse. That led to a monster fight followed by three days of silent treatment.

    A Protestant example was when Lori Alexander published an essay entitled “Men prefer debt free virgins without tattoos”. Katie Emerson made a rebuttal video which she started by condemning the idea of what men prefer, saying she followed no one but Jesus. My first thought was, does Jesus pay the mortgage? She set up “jesus” as a rival to her husband.

    Of my six living children the only one who still goes to church was the defiant one who made no effort to please his mother. The others have all left.

    If a woman finds a committed Christian man and marries him she must show respect and a certain level of submission. If she opposes her husband she gives a sign that fatherhood is not important. There is a reason why that study showed a positive relationship between the father’s practice and inverse relationship to the mother’s practice.

    WK, you should have included an admonition to wives to always pray for a spirit of respect and submission.

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    1. It’s really hard to change a spouse of either gender once you have committed. The best course of action is to check a spouse-candidate over really thoroughly before you commit. It is also a good idea to make sure that your wife is part of a peer group that will encourage her to value her husband’s leadership, and do whatever it takes to produce young people with a Christian worldview. But again, it’s hard to change this after the wedding, which is why you need to look for evidence of demonstrated ability before you say “I do”.

      My podcast co-host Rose and I talked about some ideas for how to pick a spouse.
      https://knightandrose.podbean.com/e/commitment-issues-searching-for-love-with-purpose/

      One thing that would help in a case like this is if your wife left an opening to change her mind if she could be shown evidence that her beliefs were false. Then you could get in there with some evidence and convince her. When her mind changes, her actions would change. BUT that ability has to be evaluated and chosen before the marriage begins. It’s hard to learn it after the marriage has already started.

      It’s just really hard to tell a spouse to meet the Biblical specification after marriage, if they don’t believe that the Bible can ever go against their feelings. Does your wife realize that by not supporting you, she is undermining God’s goals for the marriage of raising effective, influential Christians?

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