It is not necessary for me to point out that the world at the beginning of the 21st century is a different place from that of the beginning of the 20th century. This was doubtless true at the turn of every century down through time. What is different now is the extent of the change and how significantly that impacts our lives. At the beginning of the 20th century, few families owned a car or had a telephone. Just pause for a moment and consider what an enormous impact those two pieces of technology have had on our lifestyle. What most families did have were parents who believed in God and gave, at the very least, lip service to the moral code of Scripture. As we entered the 21st century, most families did not have God; most children did not have Sunday School of any sort. We have rapidly evolving electronic media, which is changing the way we communicate, study, play and think. These were not developments which the brotherhood a century ago could have anticipated or even imagined. The last hundred years have seen more change than the last dozen centuries all added together.

The challenges of change

Unhappily, the changes have not, in the main, been for the better. Two quotes from Scripture will suffice to illustrate why this is: “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions” (Eccl 7:29); “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer 10:23). So with few exceptions, the technological advances of man have not been put to any godly purpose and the men who could direct technology to become a useful adjunct to godliness (if that is even possible) are not to be found. Consider the computer with which I typed and researched these articles; it has enabled me to do so with speed and accuracy and at the same time provided an outlet for me to waste all of the time (and more) that it thereby saved. If the truth be known, we would probably be better off without them altogether. But here is the problem; we are living in a society in which they are integral to virtually every aspect of living and we cannot easily reject them.

There is growing evidence that technology is changing the way we think. We are in danger of becoming intellectual lightweights with the ability to access any information at our fingertips but no desire to study and learn for ourselves. Internet research is accepted (it is on the Web, therefore it must be true) and acted upon with barely any thought. We need, therefore, to consider the effects that the technology and godlessness of the modern age are having on our families and ponder what we might do to reverse the trend. The main challenges are: technology, immorality and materialism. Simply put – we have the money to indulge in things which serve no godly purpose and the options are seemingly endless. While we shall offer some suggestions for assisting with these challenges in a practical way, it will be of little value unless we, as families, attack the root cause – Humanism.

The root of the problem – Humanism

Humanism is the worship of self; the belief that mankind has the answers and the wisdom to apply them correctly. Humanism is the absolute antithesis of God. As the Apostle Paul stated bluntly, “The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom 8:7). We need to recognise that the world (in ways overt and covert) is indoctrinating our children in the tenets of Humanism and having appreciated that stark fact, we must initiate a counter-indoctrination in the things of God. From the earliest age, it is the place of the family to manage this onslaught and to provide age-appropriate faith shields with which our children can quench all of the flaming arrows of Humanism. the three main challenges of our modern world for our families are sexuality, drugs and entertainment. Mankind today has not only abandoned the divine standards in all of these matters but they are teaching our children to accept ungodly values and are critical of those who would say otherwise. If the challenges are sexuality, drugs and entertainment, then the medium by which the world pumps them into us is education coupled with technology. Other than the challenges to deep contemplative thought, neither education nor technology is bad in itself; they are simply the medium by which access is advanced to immoral behaviours.

Let us not be deceived into thinking that sexual immorality, drunkenness and godless lives are modern inventions. One only needs to contemplate Sodom with all the vice, and as Ezekiel put it, “pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness,” to know that those problems are age old. We are, however, living in an age which our Lord warned would be a re-invention of Sodom and so the issues are very much current in modern western society. Modern day Sodom would have us believe that self-indulgence is the pinnacle of human achievement, that self-expression is desirable irrespective of the direction taken and that self- fulfillment is the proper ambition of every person. We know what God thought of those values when He obliterated ancient Sodom. We can confidently expect Him to do the same with our cities in the not too distant future. We cannot take a passive stand against Humanism. It is taking an active stand against us and our families and we must inoculate our children against every virulent strain of the worship of self.

How to protect our children

I believe that battles need be fought (and won) when our children are small. The tendency of parents to isolate and protect their children from the gross evils of the world is admirable and understandable but not necessarily helpful. We do not beat the issue of going to nightclubs by ignoring it until our child is 17. Unhappily, at 17 our teenager is least likely to listen to us and most likely to take advice from peers. Simply put, teenagers are more vulnerable than young children. The issues are best addressed when a child is young and impressionable and likely to accept parental guidance readily. Explain to your 5–6 year old what smoking is, why it is bad, how much it costs and why God doesn’t like it. Explain it again and again (and again) until you are sure the message has sunk in. We received unanticipated confirmation of this ourselves when one day one of our daughters commented about the woman in the queue in front of us. Much to Karen’s embarrassment, she remarked loudly how silly the lady was for smoking, wondered why she didn’t like God and lamented that she would get sick and die. Now the child is 18, baptised and has never smoked. The Proverbs have it right: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov 22:6).

Don’t wait until your child has a prob void can be a breeding ground for discontent and ultimate failure. Of course, in practice you are stopping something; it just doesn’t seem that way because it is replaced with a superior alternative. The things we said ‘yes’ to were always good. By the time the children really worked out what was going on, we had already instructed them as to what was best: they knew what they should choose and I think they were thankful for the happy times we shared with godly families. There is strength and solidarity in families working together with common standards and ideals. Not only does it work – it is also very enjoyable.

The parental example

There are two secular proverbs used in daily life which we will explore to demonstrate the need for a good and consistent example. They are: ‘what is good for the goose is good for the gander’ and ‘start as you mean to go on’. It is no good the parents expecting standards of their children in behaviour, dress or language that they are not prepared to abide by themselves. A child’s hypocrisy detection device is very finely tuned and will detect a double standard before long. It will not take them long to think that ‘what is good for the goose is good for the gander’. It is vitally important that parents set and maintain a godly lifestyle so that the young can both emulate it and have no cause to complain that what is expected of them is unfair. Of course there are some things that are only to be enjoyed among married persons and these are not to be flaunted before the children. These things must be reserved for when children are not present. What children see in the home from their parents must reflect what is expected of them.

The other important example is that of consistency. It is no good allowing our young daughters miniskirts and bikinis and then trying to change the standard later on when they start to blossom. The world is undergoing an extensive campaign to sexualise prepubescent girls. Dressing in immodest clothing is a major part – resist it! I am not suggesting we make our daughters dress like grannies but rather that we focus on modesty from an early age. that is, ‘start as you mean to go on’. Whatever the issue is, set the standard early and stick with it. We cannot wait until the issues are evident before we take action and the action we take must be consistent the whole while.

Remove not the ancient landmarks

“Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.” These are the wise words of the writer of the Proverbs in chapter 22:28. You may recall we have already sampled verse 6 from this chapter a few paragraphs previously and verse 15 is also connected, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child …” The context is, therefore, the raising of godly children. There has never been a generation quite as prepared to do things differently from our forebears as there is currently. For example, it was always (wisely) accepted among our brotherhood that alcohol presented an unnecessary risk and was best abstained from. This practice had been carefully handed down for generations but is being abandoned today. There is no good reason (and many poor ones) for this change. The spirit of the age wants to question, challenge and change things. Unfortunately, the driving force is Humanism and the changes are retrograde. Alcohol is biblically lawful but certainly not necessary. Nothing will erode our stand against the morals of the world with greater force than joining with the world in this respect. Our Lord particularly warned against this as we wait for his coming when he told of those who “eat and drink with the drunken” (Matt 24:49). We will do well to keep our families away from alcohol and preserve the ancient landmark.

Nor is alcohol consumption the only landmark which has been moved. Sadly, other landmarks have become increasingly mobile with disastrous results. Fathers will wisely set boundaries which align with those that their fathers set. The world would have us believe that boundaries and landmarks are restrictive. Certainly rules made in a spirit of Legalism are restrictive, but guidelines of Scripture are in a completely different class. There are some fine and worthy traditions which have every reason to be continued. Change them at your peril. Parents have no business in allowing or indulging in practices which their own parents shunned and which lead them down the pathway of immorality.

Godly education

The key to keeping our children safe in a dangerous world is knowledge. They need to know what the hazards are, why they are hazards and what the wise counsel of Scripture recommends. While there is nothing in the Bible about computers and mobile phones or the internet, Facebook and Twitter, we may rest assured that the principles behind the modern dangers are well covered in Scripture. The Proverbs have many worthwhile lessons in them and have been recorded to give “knowledge and discretion” (1:4) to the young. The words ‘wisdom’, ‘knowledge’ and ‘understanding’ each occur about 50 times in the book of Proverbs. This book is a manual for life, suitable for parents and children and it covers the big issues of modern life (sex and drugs) explicitly. Why not use the book to discuss the issues of life with your children?

Certainly we have moved well beyond not wanting to know (and not needing to know) what goes on in the world about us. There are a number of good authors within (and without) the brotherhood who provide wise biblical counsel particularly aimed at the dangers of modern life on children. Read such works and become informed, then pass on that information to your children. We must use the tools available to combat the immorality of the 21st century.

This article brings to a close this series. Hopefully the articles will have been of some value to the reader. The thoughts are not intended to be either exhaustive or necessarily dictatorial. What has been offered has been advanced in the sincere hope that it may assist parents to raise godly children. May God bless you all to that end