(Digital Editor's Note: This article was published first in the September 2023 print edition of The Stand. The guest writer is Debbie Wuthnow, AFA Action VP.)
How would you answer the above question? How does your answer inform your stance on the nation’s most pressing debates? How does it impact your choices at the ballot box?
Dr. Jim Garlow addresses this issue in his superb book Well Versed: Biblical Answers to Today’s Tough Issues. When the school Jim’s son attended prohibited him from sitting in on the 9-year-old’s counseling session, he asked the counselor, “To whom does the child belong, the parents or the state (i.e., government and government schools)?”
“The parents,” responded the school counselor.
“Wrong,” Garlow said. “Children do not belong to parents or the state. Children belong to God. He made them. But He has entrusted them to parents. … So as the one to whom God has given this child, I insist on remaining in the room if you, a complete stranger to me and my child, are going to have input into my child’s thinking.”
Defining four truths
Jim’s answer calls us to look to the ultimate authority concerning parents, children, and the state. All rights, including parental rights, come from God, regardless of whether parents believe in Him. In the Bible, four truths are clear on the issue:
- Children belong to God. Psalm 127:3 (ESV) says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” In order to define parental rights, we must understand that children ultimately belong to God; they are human beings created in His image.
- God entrusts children to their parents. The command for children to honor their father and mother (Exodus 20:12), the exhortation to listen to their parents’ instruction (Proverbs 6:20), and the charge to parents to “bring [children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4), show that not government but parents are charged with raising children.
- Parents are accountable to God for how they raise their children. The fact that God entrusts children to parents is not a license for abuse or neglect. The Bible is clear that we are accountable to God for everything entrusted to our care, especially how we raise our children.
In true cases of abuse or neglect, God has given the state authority to defend the child and “punish those who do evil” (1 Peter 2:14). However, it must not misuse that authority to punish good parents; that is evil itself.
- Parents have the right and responsibility to direct their child’s education. Parents are the primary decision-makers when it comes to their child’s education. Decisions about what, how, when, and where their children will be taught, as well as who will teach them, are theirs to make.
Defending these truths
Unfortunately, these four principles are not always acknowledged. In fact, in today’s culture, we see a disturbing trend of disregarding parental rights. A few recent examples include:
▶ A 2021 gubernatorial candidate in Virginia stated, “… I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach kids.”
▶ Eight of the twenty largest school districts in America do not require parental consent before teachers can use a child’s preferred name and pronouns in class, thus aiding a child’s gender transition without notifying parents.
▶ Minnesota’s legislature recently passed a law giving the state temporary emergency jurisdiction over a child who travels to the state seeking gender “transition” procedures.
In light of such practices, the nation desperately needs voters who understand biblical principles, defend them with vigor, and vote for candidates who uphold them.