Parenting as Spiritual Warfare

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By Doug Overmyer

OvermyerFig1

(Image source Wikimedia Commons)

I had gone five days with no contact with my wife and three children when I saw those familiar Golden Arches.  I was craving good American coffee, black thank you, none with that Australian milk please.  Nearly a week since driving out of Sydney up the coast to Brisbane and back through the edges of The Outback on a business trip, dodging a stray wild kangaroo darting across the road like the deer back home in Illinois, I was again regretting not investing in an international phone.  A week without Internet access or a phone to call home and check on my family! Yes, I was a newbie to international travel.

While ordering that gloriously black coffee with my Yankee accent, I noticed a sign: Free Wi-Fi!

Could it be? I pulled out my inert iPhone, connected to the Internet, and attempted to FaceTime my wife.  It was morning in Queensland, and I could not calculate the time change in my head, so I wasn’t sure what time it was back home.  I hoped not to wake up my wife and infant daughter from a nap.

After the fifth ring, the call connected. The image solidified, and there she was: my beautiful bride. But she looked awful!  She smiled weakly, and I could see the fever in her eyes.  It was yesterday afternoon there. She told me since I went off the grid the family had physically fallen apart.  A couple nights earlier, our oldest daughter had an ear infection that had her in tears.  Stomach flu had ravaged the other two children. And my wife had a high fever.  I was shocked because my wife rarely gets sick.  Her immune system is ridiculously strong, but there she was: almost incapacitated in illness.

I said that she looked lovely.  She laughed and reminded me I was a terrible but sweet liar.

A couple of days later while crossing the Pacific headed home, our oldest daughter also came down with that stomach illness.

I traveled a lot in those days, all across the States and in three countries.  Eventually, I noticed a pattern: when I was gone, something would go wrong at home. The basement would flood. An appliance would break. One of our children would get very sick. The roof would leak. Someone would get a tick bite with an infection and an ensuing ER visit. The other kids would be vomiting.  Every time.  I’m a slow learner.  But I finally saw what was going on: spiritual warfare.

We live in a reality where the supernatural closely interweaves with the natural. Imagine a tightly woven tapestry, where half the threads are invisible. If you pull on a visible thread, a crossing invisible thread moves. Pluck an invisible thread and nearby visible ones tremble.  This is an imperfect analogy, but we ignore the reality of the spiritual realm at our peril, and especially at the peril of our children.

In Western cultures, many of us parents leave the instruction of the physical world to government schools and instruction of the spiritual world to… well, we tend to ignore it, because we think it’s not as real. But what if the spiritual realm is as real as the physical?  Nature abhors a vacuum and eternity is calling from the hearts of our children, so what fills the vacuum of spiritual teaching in our children?

We know government-approved educational curriculum is based on materialism – the idea that nothing spiritual is real, or at least not very real, and all physical processes have natural causes.  So, children will not learn about the spirit realm there.  By the way, in 2014 the American public education system received about $552 billion for its materialistic education.[i]

Many Christian churches are content to teach a safe Gospel message: “Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. So be good.”  Children do not learn about the spirit realm there. By the way, in 2014 American churches received about $114.9 billion dollars for its moral education.[ii]

That leaves the most dynamic form of education in the United States: Hollywood.  The high priests of Gnosticism carefully craft spiritual instruction through television, movies, music, and video or card games. By the way, in 2014 Hollywood generated about $564 billion dollars to fund its spiritual education.[iii]

Have you heard about the Charlie Charlie Challenge?” my wife asked our 11 year old daughter regarding the demon-summoning supposed marketing ploy for a movie.

She replied, “Yes. Some of the boys do it at school.”

“Really?!”

I looked up from my mindless and incessant scrolling on the screen in front of my eyes, suddenly paying attention.  I had heard of teenagers trying this, but students in elementary school trying to summon a demon?

My wife asked her, “What do you think about it?”

“It’s really dumb,” she replied.  “Trying to talk to a demon.” And she shook her head, baffled.

Good answer, Daughter.

The anti-spiritual training that students receive in school contradicts the spiritual Gnosticism they receive from Hollywood, and yet young people easily if irrationally reconcile this dichotomy.  Most Western Christians and “enlightened” materialist adults easily accept the materialist worldview indoctrinated by post-Enlightenment government schools and they tend to interpret any supernatural occurrence as merely someone’s imagination at work or the result of other materialist causes. For them, a supernatural explanation is simply not possible because their worldview does not allow it.

Worldview is a perspective that filters how people subconsciously interpret their perceptions of reality. A person’s worldview automatically rejects certain explanations for his or her experiences, and automatically accepts other perspectives.  The Gospel writer John illustrates this in John 12, when the Father speaks from Heaven to Jesus in a crowd. Some people heard the words from Heaven with their eyes focused on Jesus and correctly understood they heard the voice of God speaking. Others interpreted the experience as the words of an angel, and still others said they heard thunder. How could people in the same crowd interpret the same occurrence so differently?  Simply put, they held different worldviews.

Jesus addressed the concept of worldview in Mathew 6:22: “The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness?”[iv]

The eye is the organ through which we view or perceive the world.  Jesus is teaching that if your worldview is healthy, then you can look at light and see that it is light, and look at darkness and know that it is darkness. But if your worldview is bad, then you will look at darkness, and think it’s light.  You will not know that it is darkness. Your askew worldview, in other words, prevents you from correctly interpreting your perceptions.

With respect to the spirit realm, if your worldview cannot allow for the existence of demons that can influence people, events, and matter or energy, then your interpretation of reality will be incorrect, but you will not be able to tell that it is incorrect.  When it comes to having a correct worldview, then, it is important to center your worldview on the true Light of the World: God the Son, Jesus Christ who came in the flesh, died, rose again, and is now in Heaven.[v] If your worldview is not centered on Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, then you will not be able to successfully equip your children for life.

It turns out that the Biblical authors never suggest that our children’s spiritual instruction and worldview formation should be delegated to government schools, religious institutions, or the entertainment industry. The Biblical authors actually seem to suggest that parents are responsible for the spiritual development and worldview formation of their children.  That’s a crazy concept I know.

Most people in Jesus day had a worldview that easily accepted the interweaving nature of the spirit and physical realms. The Gospel writers revealed several instances of parents bringing their sick or demonized children to Jesus for healing or deliverance.  Jews and Gentiles in Judea, Galilee, and Sidon all came to Jesus seeking healing or deliverance for their children.  In each case, an aspect of Jesus’ authority and power is revealed to us. But just as relevant to us, each parent demonstrated an understanding of the reality that was inherent in his or her worldview, an understanding that perhaps we have lost in our so-called advanced times. Their actions revealed that parenting is spiritual warfare.

While considering their understanding of the spirit realm, we can add the further revelations regarding Jesus – the center of our worldview – which they did not have to round out our perspective of the nature of spiritual warfare, and we should actively instruct our children to think and act on this perspective. Or perhaps it’s better stated this way: we should instruct our kids to think and act from this perspective.

New Testament writers sometimes saw natural reasons for their experiences and sometimes they saw supernatural reasons. For instance, Paul sometimes healed sick people supernaturally and other times he prescribed medicine. Paul, who probably had the most profound understanding of who Jesus is and what Jesus did and will do and thus thought from perhaps the most accurate worldview of anyone in history, easily discerned the nature of his perceptions.

The Bible is replete with guidance to parents providing instruction to their children because God understands that parenting is spiritual warfare. Parental actions have spiritual significance.  And, parental inaction can also have spiritual consequences. The enemy is active. Will you nap in the trenches, your weapons rusting nearby, allowing the powers of Gnosticism and materialism to impose their worldview on your children? Or will you take a stand and bring your weapons to bear?

Make no mistake: Gnosticism and materialism are the tools of powerful spiritual forces.  If you do not actively engage in spiritual instruction and worldview formation with your kids, they will.  If your version of Christianity cannot make sense of the terrible and weird things in the world and on the screen – both natural and supernatural – your version of Christianity risks becoming irrelevant to kids today.

And since they are seeking answers, they will find answers.  Hollywood, pagan mystics on the Internet, and New Agers in your community will indoctrinate young people on demonology, UFOlogy, the nature of good and evil, and the destiny of the human race, all from a bad worldview. When you think from Gnosticism, the Serpent of Genesis 3 is the good guy and the God of Israel is a genocidal maniac.  Can you easily provide a logical answer countering these concepts? If not, why not?

If not, your inaction regarding spiritual instruction and worldview formation creates a vacuum, which the pagan culture we live in will fill.

End Part I – Next Month, Part II

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ENDNOTES:

[i] Christopher Chantrill, US Government Spending, http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/year_spending_2014USbn_16bs2n_2024#usgs302, accessed 7/7/2015.

[ii] Rio Ribaya, “American Churches Receive Record $114.9 B donations in 2014 report.” http://www.christiantoday.com/article/american.churches.receive.record.114.9.b.donations.in.2014.report/57240.htm, accessed 7/7/2015.

[iii] The Statistics Portal, http://www.statista.com/topics/964/film/, accessed 7/7/2015.

[iv] Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[v] John 9:5, 1 John 1:5