“No Bad Children, Just Bad Choices”

Pelagius had the view that children are born as clean slates

“Augustine’s view was that we are born into sin and this is why all men sin. In other words, we are not born with a good nature, but born sinful and need correction from the beginning. Not only does Romans 5:12 declare this truth to us, we see it in reality when we have children.”

 

This past week, as a fellow teacher and I were talking about the many discipline problems we have in our classes, a third teacher came along and told us her solution to all these problems was to tell the children, “There are no bad children, just bad choices.” I couldn’t help but share the thought on my Facebook page and it generated quite a bit of buzz.

As for my response to the teacher who said this, I simply smiled, nodded and bit my tongue fighting back the deep desire to bring some actual biblical truth to bear on the conversation. Knowing that whatever I said would be rejected, I went back to my classroom full of “non-bad” children, who make horrendous “decisions.” Of course, the goodness of these children just abounds. I get tingly goose bumps just thinking about it…no, wait, that is actually a recurring rash I get as a result of stress.

The reality is that the statement the teacher made and my beliefs about human depravity are on a collision course. No, that isn’t right. The more I think about it, the more I realize that the woman’s view is the only one that is allowed. My worldview has been completely removed from the school system. The powers that be have deemed a Christian worldview completely unacceptable in our educational system, especially in regards to our view on the nature of man.

What this means is that the orthodox Christian view that children are born into sin, with an original sin nature (Psalm 51:5, Romans 5:12, 18), is not permitted. This view of total, or complete, depravity, has been with us and considered as orthodox Christian doctrine since the early church. Augustine and Pelagius debated it for years.

Pelagius had the view that children are born as clean slates, good even, and it was up to us to train the children in their goodness. He denied original sin and said we had the free will to choose between right and wrong. Our morality was completely determined by us. The center of who we are was found in the heart of man (never mind that Jeremiah declares the heart wicked and deceitful above all things. Jeremiah 17:9, along with Proverbs 17:20). I realize that this a brief summary of Pelagius’ view of sin nature, but I don’t have time to dig any deeper. The point is that this is the view held by the school system, today’s culture, and sadly, much of the church.

Augustine’s view was that we are born into sin and this is why all men sin. In other words, we are not born with a good nature, but born sinful and need correction from the beginning. Not only does Romans 5:12 declare this truth to us, we see it in reality when we have children. I never taught my children to lie, yet they lie (Romans 3:4). I’ve never taught them to hit, yet they hit. I’ve never taught them to be disrespectful, but they are. Not that my children are all that bad in comparison to some of the children I deal with every day in the public school system. They are not. But they are sinners, in need of a Savior.

The general principle today is that I should put them in time out when they do transgress, and tell them that they are making “bad choices.” Yet, what screams at anyone with a bit of thought in this matter is that if you do not have any standard by which to judge bad or good, then how can you declare a choice as bad or good? How can you say that little Johnny is being bad when he decides to disobey my instructions, when there is no real standard of right and wrong in the worldview of the school? Remember, little Johnny is born good, according to the Pelagian model of understanding. But again, by what basis do we say they are born good? Where is this standard in the public school system?

This is one of my struggles I have as a teacher. I do have a standard, but I cannot use my standard, which happens to be God’s standard, to judge right and wrong. Just having the Law of God posted in the classrooms would have a restraining effect. (This is one of the three purposes of the Law, to restrain evil in society.) I know some might call this an illogical conclusion, but I will say it anyway: the children in our classrooms are not restrained because there is nothing there to restrain them. We are virtually powerless to do anything.

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