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If we don’t transmit our knowledge of God to the next generation, it will be lost.
When I was growing up, a group of people intentionally removed themselves from the modern world and disappeared into the jungles of the Northern Tropics of Australia. Seeking a liberated and simple existence, free from the pressures and constraints of the world, they left behind their past identity and heritage, shedding their inhibitions (and most of their clothes!). They were known as the “hippies,” and their offspring were not familiar with modern medicines or technology. They had little or no respect for society’s laws, and many of their children received no formal education. Concepts like “god” and “truth” were not considered important enough to teach. Consequentially, and tragically, they basically degenerated into a non-God-fearing and a non-technological culture in one generation. In less than two decades, they produced a new generation, by and large ignorant of their former heritage and culture—in a sense, we could say it was a “primitive culture.”
The lesson is clear: If we don’t transmit our knowledge of God to the next generation, it will be lost. Those that follow may not have any means of regaining it, and they probably won’t even be aware of the need to do so. This has happened in the past to the New Guinea natives, the American Indians, the North Africans, and many others. All are descendents of Adam, yet somewhere in their past, fathers did not pass on the knowledge they had regarding God and their origins. Thus, when discovered by the Europeans, they were regarded as “primitive.”
When the Europeans first discovered the Australian Aborigines, they too were an anti-God spiritist culture. Do you realize that in reality it could have taken only one generation to produce such a culture? Like us, the Australian Aborigines had an ancestor who knew all about the true God . . . and he could even build ships! His name was Noah. At some point in history, the ancestors of today’s Aborigines did not transmit the true knowledge of God or the technology they once had to their offspring, and their godly legacy was lost.
It’s fascinating to note that the Australian Aborigines had legends which sound like parts of Genesis 1–11. They had legends about a flood that is quite similar to the account of Noah’s flood in Genesis 6 through 9. They also had creation legends that exhibited many similarities with the biblical account of Adam and Eve and the entrance of sin and death after Adam took the fruit. (This is strong circumstantial evidence that the Australian Aborigines are descendants of Noah.) After the Tower of Babel, as people groups split up and spread throughout the earth, many transmitted the history of their ancestors to coming generations. The account of the Flood was handed down, but the details changed over the years as it was passed on verbally, rather than in written form, as were the Scriptures. In the Aborigine legends, just as in the “Flood legends” of many other cultures, there are many elements similar to the Bible’s account, which is the original and accurately recorded written account that has not been changed.
Sadly, however, the Australian Aborigines (as well as many other cultures) lost almost all of the knowledge they once had. I’ll never forget visiting an Aboriginal mission station in North Queensland and hearing the story of an Aboriginal elder. The elder said he remembered wandering with his father as nomads across the Australian deserts. He asked his father, “What is God like?” His father replied, “I don’t know, son. We’ve forgotten.”
What a tragedy. The knowledge of God was not transmitted to the next generation—and now it was all but gone. When I spoke to the Australian Aboriginal students in my classes, in essence I was re-establishing the right foundation of thinking that had been lost for many generations.
Numerous examples from biblical history also reveal
that a legacy can be lost in one generation.
For example, the Bible makes it clear that Ham committed some serious sin in regard to his father. Ham’s youngest son Canaan also had some serious problems in his life, serious enough that Noah said, “Cursed be Canaan!” (Gen. 9:25). When one looks at the descendants of Canaan, we see the people of Sodom, Gomorrah, and the Canaanites—some of the most wicked people who lived on earth.
It certainly appears that Ham did not train Canaan effectively. Most likely, the same sin in Ham existed in Canaan—but to a greater extent, which often happens to the next generation. (When a particular sin in one generation is not dealt with, the same sin is often seen in subsequent generations but to an even greater extent.)
Another example of the devastation of generational compromise is found in the Books of Kings and Chronicles. As you read through Kings you are able to see the great degree of love and devotion that both David and Solomon had for God. Both kings—father and son—had a strong focus on the worship of the one true God alone. David, in particular, was uncompromising. Their devotion was demonstrated in their desire and commitment to build the great temple of the Lord.
Devastation, however, comes all too easily. Solomon’s compromise started with him allowing his foreign wives to worship their pagan gods. Then he allowed these pagan influences to infiltrate his people, resulting in them worshiping the foreign gods as well (1 Kings 11:1–4). Within one generation, Solomon’s son Rehoboam made a compromising allowance for people who wanted to partake in the same idol worship in the high places. From then on, Judah spiraled further into compromise and wickedness (1 Kings 14:23). In the generation after Rehoboam, King Asa inherited the evil idolatry already in place from the previous two generations. He was a “good” king, but lacked the instruction and wisdom to eradicate this evil (1 Kings 15:11–15). The next generation was then even more distant from acknowledging this great compromise.
The compromise of Solomon and his failure to teach and lead the next generation led to a blatant disregard for God’s Word. Israel had been clearly instructed not to have any gods above the One true God. Solomon’s failure had disastrous effects on the worship of an entire nation for generations to come. From then on, a consistent theme runs through the Book of Kings as we read time and time again that each king continued to allow worship of foreign gods in the “high places.”
Finally, at the end of 2 Kings, King Josiah rediscovered God’s Word and dealt decisively with the abomination of the high places. After reading about the many consequences of ignoring God’s instruction and the many warnings from godly prophets about further future consequences, King Josiah again brought Judah’s focus back to the one true God alone (2 Kings 23:4–14). It is true that God was never going to be unfaithful to His commitment to Israel as His chosen people, but God did not ignore His people disregarding His instruction. A deviation of commitment to God’s Word resulted in devastating consequences both for Israel and Judah for generations.
This is the overwhelmingly clear message to all of us: Humanity has never been, and never will be, able to disregard the written Word of God without major generational consequences.
Lost generations can only be restored when God’s Word is
again accepted uncompromisingly as truth.
The consequences of an ungodly legacy are incalculable. The repercussions send shock waves into the next generation, and even into eternity. That’s why our first “component for a godly legacy” is a compelling conviction that leads us to prioritize training up a godly generation.
When I was around ten years old, my parents hosted a missionary from Open Air Campaigners who was running a series of programs for adults and children at a nearby church. My parents widely advertised these programs and encouraged people to attend. I distinctly remember Dad and Mum picking up as many children as they could fit into the car to take them to these special outreaches. One night, I remember God instilling in me for the first time the conviction to devote my life to passing the Word of God on to the next generations.
During one of the sessions for young people, the speaker challenged us to make a decision to be a missionary for the Lord. I’ll never forget the strong conviction I had to make that decision. I met with the missionary after the meeting along with a number of others. We prayed and made this very sincere commitment. I didn’t know that this would mean that some 25 years later my wife and I would heed the call to leave our homeland and move to the United States as missionaries to challenge the American culture and call the church back to its foundation of the authority of the Word of God.
Like me, Mally was sent to Sunday school by her parents. One Sunday the teacher challenged the children to come forward to give their lives to the Lord. Mally knew that God had done so much for her by sending His Son to die on a cross to save her. In her heart she was willing to go anywhere and do anything her Lord wanted her to do, but being very shy, she told God that she would only go forward if someone else went forward, too. When she looked up, she saw that the whole Sunday school class had gone forward!
When Mally and I worked out the date this would have occurred, it was at much the same time as when I told the Lord I was willing to be a missionary for Him. The Lord was preparing both of us for a road ahead together . . . yet we had no inclination at the time that the other even existed. What a sovereign God we have! Little did we know what would be in store for us as the Lord took us up on our promise to serve Him!
The first time I did lay eyes on Mally, I really think it was “love at first sight.” (For me at least, Mally may have had her doubts!) In January 1971, I walked into our new church in Brisbane and was handed a hymn book by this young lady welcoming people at the door. I took the book, and she took my heart, and has never given me reason to want it back. Mally too will tell you that there was something special about that first meeting, but it took some time before I captured her heart. We began meeting each other on a regular basis, and in March 1972 we were engaged. We exchanged our wedding vows on December 30, 1972.
In 1976, during my second year of teaching, our first child, Nathan Robert Ham, was born in the country town of Dalby. Suddenly, we were parents. As I held that baby in my arms and looked into his face I knew that my life had new focus and purpose. I was married to a wonderful Christian wife. We wanted to serve the Lord to the utmost of our abilities. We were actively involved in the local church, and of course I was a “creation activist” at the local high school. Having my own son now, I felt profoundly different. As I replayed memories of my own childhood in my mind, thinking of how my father had invested his life in me, I began to ponder how to train up this child—the first of the next generation of Hams. What methods should we use? How could we make sure we did our best to see our children become committed Christians like ourselves? How do we ensure the biblical legacy that we have inherited continues?
As new parents, we thought long and hard about what we should do to ensure we were bringing up our children in the correct way. Again remembering how I learned from a child to build my thinking on the Scriptures, we began to develop a Christian worldview in child training, one based on the Bible . . . just as my father had done before me.
The family is the first and most fundamental of all human institutions ordained in Scripture. Steve and I praise the Lord that we were brought up in a Christian family with godly parents, knowing that many others haven’t had this gift. Our faults were (and are) many, but I’ve often felt that our family is entrusted with a special inheritance that we need to share with others . . . and so is yours.
The family is the backbone of a nation.
God uses the family unit to transmit His knowledge from one generation to the next and be “salt” and “light” in the world. If the family can be destroyed, the Christian fabric in society will ultimately unravel.
The family was first ordained when God created a helper suitable for man and instructed them to be “fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28). Like so many other essential doctrines of the Christian faith, the origin of marriage (and thus the family unit) finds its beginning in the Book of Genesis. Think about it: If the first 11 chapters of Genesis are not literally true, then the teaching on the family has no literal historical basis, and thus a family could be anything you wish to make it, but that is not the case. Evidence shows that the Genesis origin of the family is credible and historical.
For example, Jesus Christ quoted from Genesis chapters 2 and 3 to give the foundation of marriage and thus proclaim the true meaning of marriage (see Matt. 19:4–5). In this case, the authority of Christ gives great credence to the authority of Genesis. Jesus “created all things” (Col. 1:16). In Him “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). He is “the truth” (John 14:6), and He is “the Word” (John 1:1; 1 John 5:7). Jesus’ authority is clear and His recognition of the authority and origin of the Genesis family is significant. The apostle Paul did much the same in Ephesians 5.
Obviously, Jesus would not quote a myth as the foundation of marriage. To do so would make marriage mean whatever you wanted it to mean, with the added consequence that Jesus would not be the truth, and the Bible would not be infallible. This is discussed in detail in various creation books and articles. (There are lists of resources and tools at the end of most chapters in this book.)
Note also that God ordained only one kind of family—a female mother and a male father. Mark 10:6–7 states, “But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife” (NKJV).
What then is the reason for marriage? What is its primary importance? Why did God make two “become one” (Gen. 2:24)? Procreation (having children) is certainly a part of the scriptural mandate that God has given to parents, and must be considered as one of the primary important reasons for marriage. With five kids of our own (and hopefully a lot of grandkids to come!) I can honestly say that my wife and I have done our part to fulfill this mandate to “go forth and multiply!” This does not seem to be the norm in our culture anymore, however.
In 1986, my wife and our four Australian children (we now have a fifth, born in San Diego) arrived on a Qantas flight into Los Angeles. As we stood up to leave the plane, someone yelled out, “Man, what a troop!” It was as if we were out of the ordinary because we had four children. In this age, many married couples are deciding to have none, one, or only a couple of children. With four, we were considered unusual. However, families with many children are becoming more common again, particularly within the home school movement and other groups within the culture. I meet home school families these days with seven, eight, and even a dozen children—I wonder what that person on the plane would have said if he had seen one of these families!
Certainly the Scripture doesn’t dictate how many children a couple should have and there can be many reasons—whether medical or other—why some couples might have few or no children. However, we should all be at least aware that one of the primary purposes for marriage has not changed—to produce offspring. We certainly need to make sure we don’t have a self-centered attitude when considering such matters.
It is significant that Scripture is even more specific than telling us to just have offspring; we are commanded to have godly offspring. In Malachi 2:15, the prophet was condemning the Israelite men for taking pagan wives:
And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth (KJV).
This passage answers the “why marriage” question directly. Why does God make two people one flesh? What is this all about? From your union He seeks “a godly seed.” One of the primary reasons for marriage is to produce godly children; it is not just “seed” you are to produce, but “godly seed.” Certainly there are other purposes for this union of man and woman, but a primary purpose for this union called marriage, which is binding and established by God in Genesis, is to have godly seed.
If we don’t produce godly offspring, how will the future generations of the world hear the truth about living a righteous life? Romans 10:14 puts it to us this way:
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? (KJV).
If godly offspring are not being produced as they used to be (as statistics indicate in our once Christianized West), could our culture end up spiritually vacant like the Australian Aborigines, or the American Indians? Not only could it happen, but in many parts of our culture and our world, it is happening. We have to look no further than Europe to see that the peoples who were once at the center of Christian strength, have now become almost entirely void of the things of God.
We must produce godly offspring, who in turn will transmit the knowledge they have to the next generation, so they will be able to transmit this to the following generation—generation after generation. It is a strategic and eternally vital task, and obviously requires considerable work to ensure information is passed on and not lost from succeeding generations.
As Mally and I looked at our new son and pondered how to raise him in the things of the Lord, we were convicted by a question which has helped us develop a biblical view for bringing up our children. We challenge you to think about this question, too:
Knowing that God is the only One who knows
everything and who made all things; believing that
the Bible is His Word; what does God say about
training children—the methods, the priorities,
the nature of children, how to discipline them, etc?
If you can’t answer that question, then let me ask you another question in blunt English: Why are you having children if you don’t know what God’s Word teaches concerning how to raise them? You might know what psychologists, pastors, or your parents say; but do you know what God says in His Word?
As an itinerant speaker, it is easy for me to ask pointed questions like this because I usually don’t know the parents in the audience at all. It’s much harder for the pastor to ask those questions because he already knows the answer, and the parents in the church know that he knows the answer, and they all know that they have to live with each other! That is why it is much easier for itinerant speakers to get away with challenging audiences in such matters, plus it’s safer! I can stir them up and then get on a plane the next morning, leaving the pastor to deal with the controversy!
Sadly, from my experience traveling around Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, there are increasing numbers of Christian parents who are not using God’s methods to produce godly offspring. On top of that, many parents don’t know what the standards are by which to judge their children’s behavior, so they don’t know if their children measure up to godly standards. Because standards have generally dropped, many cannot see the ungodly behavior or attitudes of their offspring—they can’t even recognize it. Television is a prime example. What would have been called “obscene” on television a generation ago is the norm today, and Christian parents rarely censor these programs.
Why is this so? What has happened to cause this situation? In many ways, we can use the old analogy of the “cold-blooded toad.” Because a toad does not maintain a constant body temperature like a mammal, you can put it in cold water and heat it up so that the toad really does not recognize that it is being boiled to death until it is too late. We have become like the toad.1 We have lowered our standards to accommodate the world around us little by little, and now we can’t see how much we have deviated from the standards we used to keep.
The lack of a solidly biblical approach in the area of the family and education has done great harm to an entire generation of Christian children—and we are suffering the consequences in a big way. The time not spent by a father training just one child can lead to hundreds, or thousands, or millions not having the knowledge of God. (Remember the descendants of Canaan?!)
If you are a parent reading this book, do you really think you have built your thinking about child training on Scripture? Are you doing your best to train up your children to be godly offspring as the Scripture outlines for us? Could you write down clear biblical guidelines for raising your children?
Think carefully about that last question. Why not take pen and paper and see if you can answer it. If we are truly Christians, and understand that our thinking must be built on the infallible Word of God, then we should be able to write down all that God tells us about training children.
Each time I give my lecture on the family, I ask the audience to think over whether or not they could write down these things. When I do, a quiet hush comes over the auditorium, because the majority of Christian parents cannot do this! The same question can be asked of Christian teachers, Sunday school teachers, pastors, etc. If we cannot write down what God says about training children, then what right do we have to teach children or bring them into the world or make decisions or recommendations concerning their education?
Husbands and wives have all sorts of opinions about what a family is supposed to be, and all sorts of opinions about how to train children. But it is not a matter of our opinion; it is what God instructs us to do that matters. Steve and I have searched the Scriptures to obtain God’s instructions and then apply them in our own families. We certainly do not have all the answers, but together we have diligently sought to use the revealed Word of God as the basis for our thinking. Our children are far from perfect, and are certainly a constant source of blessings and challenges. However, we are each proud parents of children who want to love and obey the Lord Jesus Christ with all their hearts. I am writing these pages to share with you what we have found from the Scriptures that we apply in our family daily to attempt to fulfill Proverbs 22:6:
Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it (NKJV).
I have another question I like to ask my audiences: “What are you taking to heaven with you?” Most initially respond by saying, “Nothing!” That’s almost right. You certainly can’t take your bank account, or your car, home, or boat, but you can take your children with you. If you are willing and committed, God can use you as a vehicle to help transport your children to heaven . . . but you have to take it seriously. Look at the following picture and then answer yet another question: Which one of these will last forever?
We know that the car, boat, television, house, and money will all perish. What about the poodle? Sometimes children ask me if their pet dog or cat will be in heaven. I usually say, “Well, if your pet is needed in heaven, I’m sure God will make sure it is there.” I know that’s dodging the issue, but it’s the nicest way I can think of to tell people that I don’t believe animals continue to live on after death. Ecclesiastes 3:21 seems to hint that animals do not have immortal souls when it asks, “Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” On top of that, animals were not made in the image of God, whereas humans were. So, of all the things in the picture, only the soul of the child is going to last forever.
Now observe the next picture and answer this question. Which one of these can you take with you to heaven?
The answer is obvious—only the child can be taken to heaven.
Parents, think about this: Every child conceived in a mother’s womb is a conscious being who is going to live forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever—in either heaven or hell. Does that tell you something about what your priorities should be in regard to time and money? Consider this as you read Philippians 3:7–8:
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ (NIV).
The most important thing for anyone is that they know Christ. Nothing else ultimately matters in the big picture of things. Our lives on this earth are so short—in fact they add up to nothing compared to eternity. The car, the house, the career . . . all will vanish with time, but the soul of your child will live forever. Doesn’t that make you want to take a serious look at how you are bringing up your children? Jeremiah 9:23–24 reminds us:
This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord (NIV).
Once while visiting Israel, we observed the ruins of temples built by Herod I at Caesarea-Philippi, Masada, and Jerusalem. In their prime, the buildings were magnificent. Herod invested his wealth and time to leave a legacy of great buildings . . . but he wasn’t at all interested in the eternal state of his soul or others. What is the result of his priorities? Herod has been dead almost 2,000 years—and now there is hardly anything left of his palaces. They are basically just a pile of weathered stones. He lived in luxury on earth, but all these material things have basically disappeared—yet Herod’s soul lives on in eternity! Jesus, in Mark 8:36–37 puts the issue in perspective with these words:
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
Mum and Dad were more interested in eternal matters rather than the materialism of this world. They committed their time and finances to leaving a legacy that would last forever—children who trusted Christ for salvation, who married Christian mates to produce godly offspring for the Lord. I could never thank them enough for the impact that their efforts had on me. It was an impact that was direct and eternal. Matthew 6:19–21 really sums up the difference between my parents and Herod I:
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (NKJV).
What kind of legacy are you building?
Are you striving for earthly position and riches that are meaningless compared to the importance of knowing the Lord? When you are dead and your children and their children look back at your life, what kind of priorities will they see?
As a Christian parent, you would do well to look forward and think about your grandchildren or great-grandchildren, maybe even your great-great grandchildren. Think about this: Do you see godly offspring, or do you see generations who have not been given a godly inheritance? Within the sovereignty of God, much will depend on you.
You may need to sustain a godly heritage left by your ancestors, or you may need to start from scratch and re-create a legacy that has been lost. Either or, this is the great challenge before us:
We are to raise godly seed by accepting our responsibilities as parents; to see our children conformed to the image of Christ, diligently training them in truth, using the rod with love, remembering God’s warnings and blessings promised—so that our children will not learn the ways of the heathen, but will be able to distinguish good from evil, and so influence the world for Christ.
That is not only a great challenge; it is an important one. The way we train our children will affect the way they train their children and so on, generation after generation. The present generation does not need to be lost. A godly legacy can be maintained; a lost legacy can be reclaimed. By the strength of grace and His Spirit in us; with the truth of His Word to instruct us, we can raise godly children in this ungodly world. The process begins with you, and you must begin with a compelling conviction that leads you to prioritize training up a godly generation. That is the first essential component for building a godly legacy.
Let us then search the Scriptures and determine what the biblical standards for families are and then apply them so we can train up godly seed. However, I want to warn you, as we uncover the biblical principles we are called to, you may be challenged and convicted like never before. What lies ahead is real, down to earth, and very convicting. In my plain straight Aussie English, the chapters ahead are very forthright, and to the point, and we don’t pull any punches—but then neither does Scripture when it speaks on this issue! So be prepared!!
I hope you will read on with great anticipation and excitement. I trust what is written may help to change (if it is necessary) the direction your family is heading. Generations to come may be affected if you apply consistently the teachings of Scripture in this vital area.
Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.