The orthodox Christian theology of Hadley Robinson

Counselor’s Corner - Focus on the Family

Godless advice that should be exposed

(Below is an open letter from Hadley Robinson to the two men who penned the advice in question.)

Dear Mr. Sanford and Mr. Geare,
I read with interest your column Counselor’s Corner in Focus on the Family Plugged In of May 15, 1998.
However, I was disappointed by your remarks in the first paragraph: 
A good portion of your son’s behavior is part of a normal development process.  Between the ages of 6 and 12, the need to identify with his peer group takes precedent over identifying with parents.  This continues through the teen years and usually concludes with total separation and independence by the age of 18 or 20.  To resist this natural pulling away hinders growth....
I can only suggest that what you said here is not only inaccurate but groundless in Scripture.  It reminds me of psychology textbooks I had in college and seminary which were a.) based primarily on observations of an increasingly sick and dying culture; and b.) had as their foundation a humanistic and atheistic world view.  I can only wonder what place these kinds of views have in a Christian publication?
To further clarify what I mean, let me ask the following.
1.  Why didn’t you appeal to Scripture to answer the parent’s question?  We have a lot of Scripture that deals with the peer herd and it is, for the most part, very negative.  Israel’s peer herd led them into idolatry and every kind of immorality.  David’s peer herd was continually dragging him down in his early days.  Solomon’s peer herd disgraced Israel.  Rehoboam’s peer herd was a spoiled and wicked bunch that helped lead to the divided kingdom.  Job’s peers didn’t know what they were doing and so on.  The churches of the New Testament had a terrible problem with following the culture they lived in.  In particular, the churches of Revelation failed, in the end, to keep peer influence at bay and were eventually destroyed by the Muslim hoards.  Even the Proverbs and Deuteronomy warn of going along with the crowd!
Based on experience and the Scriptures, I think your statement in paragraph #1 of your article is naive.  I have no doubt that there are pathological environments in some Christian homes where your advice might be relevant but most Christian parents want their children to grow up to be good wives or husbands that honor Christ.  How do you know that this parent has the problem you mentioned?  If he/she does, your advice is still not good; the parent better realize what his goal is for his child.  It is certainly not to make them objects which are here just for our joy and entertainment.  Training and instruction means preparing them for something else; to be able to walk alone with the Lord and have the personal qualities that enhance their Christian walk.  Do you really think the peer herd is any good at all in doing this?  Most parents we know that have followed advice like yours  for ten or fifteen years have children who are either rebellious in various ways, who have dishonored their parents in one way or another, or who are little or no use to themselves or the church.,
2.  How many children have you successfully raised?  This is important because many so-called experts in raising children have either no children to begin with, have only one or two, or have only young children.  How many of these so-called experts have spent the years necessary in observing successful homes, i.e., where the parents have raised children over twenty or thirty years and the now adult children are functioning people that honor their mother and father?  I don’t mean to be hard here but perhaps you have read too many books and have had too little experience?  It is like choosing a brain surgeon for yourself that has done a lot of the same operations you require or one that has primarily read books.  I say this because I and Mrs. Robinson have six children from the ages of 3 to 21 and we have done virtually none of the things you suggested.  Our older children have done well.  They are not all old enough for us to know how much of their faith is their own.  At least, they work hard in school and respect their parents.  Keeping our children away from the peer herd has been an important reason that they have done as well as they have.  I disagree with your assertion that we parents should encourage separation.  This doesn’t sound like the words of an experienced parent.
What we have done has been to make sure our children know that Mrs. Robinson and I truly love one another, spend copious amounts of time in the evenings with our children studying and reading the Bible as well as discussing important matters, treat our children as adults whenever possible, and show by our words and deeds that we love them.
3.  How do you think Jesus or Abraham would respond to your comments? Isaac lived with his parents all his life.  Joseph of Egypt would have done the same, if he could have, and finally did.  These two men had exemplary lives of faithfulness to God and, as far as we know, marriages that were permanent and stable.  The peer herd is fun but it is, most of the time, the blind leading the blind.  Why would a parent want that kind of thing going on?  You don’t address this.  Ephesians 6 commands the father to instruct and train his children.  Where in the Scriptures does it even suggest that parents encourage the peer herd?
While we cannot look inside the families of the Patriarchs closely, we can carefully read the Scriptures and look for timeless rules for families that God gave us for our success.  Dt. 6 is an important starting point and I am disappointed that you did not even mention it.  In fairness to some of your ideas, the Scriptures do teach that a man is to leave his mother and father when he marries.  You might have discussed what this means.  Is it total physical separation?  Is it spiritual; that is, he is now responsible for his household and how it is run? 
Perhaps I am missing something here in the Scriptures.  I just cannot think of anywhere the kind of concepts you enumerate are implied.  If the Church were having great success in impressing the world with the stability and holiness of its families, there might be some reason to be more generous with cultural observations such as yours.  This, however, is not the case. The level of commitment among today’s Christians appears to be as low as ever as evidenced by the adultery, greed, divorce, and the like that is prevalent in the Church.
For this reason, I think you have done a disservice to the Church with your suggestions.  Parents will read your article and be encouraged to send off their unprepared youth into the modern Canaan of ancient times.  We have enough lack of responsibility among Christian parents as it is.  Time and time again, we witness parents who find excuses why they cannot disciple their children properly as they pursue other culturally popular goals such as “careers” and the like.  We grieve at the numerous youth that have been shoved off into boarding schools and remote colleges by parents who mistakenly think they were doing their children a favor.  I am sure there are exceptions but the youth we know that have had this happen are struggling with the big questions in life, especially marriage.  How can the parents assist in evaluating future mates if the children are gone?  There is no precedent in Scripture which suggests that these kinds of decisions are the sole responsibility of the adult child.  In fact, Abraham and Manoah both assumed much responsibility in one of the most important decisions anyone ever makes – the son of the former heeded his father and was blessed whereas the latter ignored it and paid dearly. 
My point is that this culture has little right to make broad statements about how to establish permanent marriages and the Church needs to exercise some sorely needed leadership-by-example to the world.  We should look elsewhere for patterns and suggestions to enhance marriage and therefore the family.  How about the Bible?