I’m not going to surprise any of my regular readers by stating that I believe that fathers should lead their children to pursue advanced degrees and to reach high positions of influence. I think it is the man’s job to survey the world, to decide where the battles are being fought, to encourage his children to be the best in every academic discipline, to push them to take on difficult practical tasks, to assess their strengths and weaknesses as they progress (not their likes and dislikes), and to push them towards success in areas where the battles are being fought and where they have talent.
So, for example, if I had a child, here are some areas I would steer him/her toward:
- cosmology, to study the Big Bang and fine-tuning arguments
- software engineering, to make tons of money and not have to conform to teacher’s expectations
- philosophy, because that’s what William Lane Craig, Jay Richards and Stephen C. Meyer did
- New Testament, because that’s what Gary Habermas, N.T. Wright, and Ben Witherington did
- economics, as long as they went to Hillsdale/Grove City, then George Mason, because they could go on to politics
- law, as long as they went to Hillsdale/Grove City, then George Mason, because they could go on to politics
- biochemistry, because intelligent design is all bound up with the origin of life chemistry – but this is risky
- paleontology, because the Cambrian explosion is an excellent apologetic argument – but this is very risky
- dentist, because you can make a ton of money, and it’s not regulated
- veterinarian, because you can make a ton of money, and it’s not regulated
- mathematics professor, because you can influence children, but not be turfed out for your religion/politics
- medical physics, you can make a ton of money and no risk of being discriminated against
- bioinformatics, combine software engineering and biochemistry – but this is somewhat risky
- social scientist working on social issues like marriage and parenting and social policy, but this is pretty risky
I want to lead my future children towards academic excellence and effective professions where they can exert an influence. I would do this by using things like rules, standards, accountability, and moral boundaries. I would teach my children to learn to sacrifice their happiness to love God more effectively. I would encourage them to take risks, work hard, be enterprising, and to earn and save money.
I’ve been practicing all of this over the years on my male and female friends. I encourage them to go back to school, get advanced degrees, bring in good speakers to church and universities, show debates, read good apologetics and economics books, earn and save money, etc. The consensus view , among men and women who I’ve challenged, is that all this hard work is not much fun, but that they loved the feeling of being confident in their faith, and that they loved having a worldview that was comprehensive – integrating science, politics, history, economics, philosophy, foreign policy, etc. And they felt that it made them feel closer to God because they liked having the experience of defending him.
Although the leading seems to work really well on friends, but as soon as you try it on girl friends, some of them get really mad. And they don’t think that it’s a good parenting style either. Some Christian women say that children should do whatever they feel like doing, that every vocation is as effective as any other, and that children will rebel against high expectations and hard work, and become atheists. And worst of all, some women think that children need to be protected from the expectations, boundaries and standards of their own fathers. For a Christian man thinking about having a family, the thought that his children will not amount to anything is his worst nightmare. Women need to not only be comfortable with men leading the family through goal-directed parenting, but they need to encourage the men to be leaders.
So some women think that male parenting is bad for children, and doesn’t work to produce effect Christian kids.
But is it true?
Well consider two children of famous Christian apologists.
First, Lee Strobel’s son:
Kyle Strobel is a speaker, writer, and a practitioner of spiritual formation and community transformation. His main focus is on discipleship, spiritual formation, and creating a community of disciples who do the same. He has done masters work in Philosophy of Religion as well as New Testament. After doing further masters work in Spiritual Formation, Kyle has started his Ph.D in theology at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland in order to help integrate the often divorced spheres of theology and spirituality.
Kyle has focused his ministry on developing and equipping people to live a Jesus way of life, which is also the subtitle to his book Metamorpha: Jesus as a way of life(Baker, April 2007). Kyle and his wife Kelli live in Aberdeen, Scotland.
Second, Josh McDowell’s son:
Head of the Bible Department at Capistrano Valley Christian Schools, where he teaches the courses on Philosophy, Theology, and Apologetics. He graduated summa cum laude from Talbot Theological Seminary with a double Master’s degree in Theology and Philosophy. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in Apologetics and Worldview Studies from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Sean received the “Educator of the Year” for San Juan Capistrano, California in 2008. His apologetics training was awarded Exemplary Status by the Association of Christian Schools International. Sean is listed among the top 100 apologists.
I’ve talked to Greg Koukl, and he is amazingly intense and thoughtful about how he is raising his kids. I asked him this personally. He has a plan. He’s put a lot of thought into it. I’m sure his wife supports him leading the children. Apologists are good at persuading other people, and that is exactly what you do with your friends… and with your children. If you are tough on your friends, and that works, then you can be sure that being tough on the kids will work too.
I was talking to my friend Lindsay the other day, and asking her if she thought that any of her four homeschooled children would grow up to make a difference. Her response was very different than the women who distrust men as leaders. She said “all of them will grow up to be influential Christian conservatives. I’ll see to that.” That answer is music to a Christian man’s ears. There’s nothing a man wants to hear more than that he is leaving someone in charge who respects his desire that his children will make a difference for Christ and his Kingdom. What is the point of working so hard if your wife cannot be trusted to make something happen. Even if Lindsay somehow fails, at least she intends to achieve something.
If I have children in the future, I will have to pull money away from the ministries and scholars and conferences that I like to sponsor. My friends will not be receiving gifts and books and lectures and debates. I will have a lot less time for writing and relationships with atheists and co-worker debates. I’ll have to work for many years more at a boring job to pay for stuff that’s just normal every day stuff. If I have to do all that, then I would like to see that my wife is prepared to raise children, is supportive and understanding of what men do in a family, and focused on serving God effectively. And I would like to see her value the fact that a man has demonstrated his ability to lead by building up his friends over the long-term into effective and influential Christians – by giving them time and money and setting high expectations and monitoring their progress.
Women should not be afraid of men who have a track record of leading other people to be effective and influential. In fact, they should value it.