Friday, July 06, 2007

Reason and Revelation: Ethos (Part 3)


"Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6) What is the "it" that Solomon is referring to? It is the set of core beliefs, values, and knowledge imparted to a child by his or her parents. Parents are the primary influencers of a person's ethos. So powerful is this early impartation of values, beliefs, and knowledge, that it is the basis from which life long patterns and lifestyles are formed and persist. It is a parent's job to indoctrinate and inculcate their children in the ways of God. We cannot afford to let them drift, assuming some day they will choose for themselves. We are to be their teachers and guides to instruct them to hold fast to the Lord. "For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him." (Genesis 18:19) For good or for evil, parents have a life long influence upon their children. Therefore we must take great care over the values, beliefs, and knowledge that we pass on to them.

"Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering." (Luke 11:52) Part of our ethos comes from those who have taught us. For example, those who have grown up under teaching from conservative Christian leaders most often have developed a more conservative ethos than those who have received more liberal Christian teachings. The problem with the Hebrew lawyers in Jesus' day was that they had ceased to teach a Biblical view of God and instead taught a message of conformity; conformity to their ways and traditions rather than the way of God. It wasn't that they had taken away knowledge, but rather the "key" of knowledge. James cautions us, "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment." (James 3:1) As teachers, we should take care to avoid teaching as doctrine our own personal views or "pet" beliefs about the scriptures and the Kingdom of God. We must always strive to teach the full Word and counsel of God.

"Do not be deceived: 'Bad company corrupts good morals.'" (1 Corinthians 15:33) Our core values, beliefs, and understanding are influenced to a great extent by the company we keep. The Greek word translated "morals" is the word "ethos". While our parents may instill in us a godly ethos, if we later choose to associate with "bad company", our good ethos will become corrupted by the ethos of those we associate with. It is important that we choose our friends wisely. If we are friends with the world (and those in the world) then we will, over time, begin to adopt their ethos. However, if we center our relationships around those who love our Lord, then our godly ethos will be strengthened and built up by those around us. This is why Solomon counsels us, "The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray." (Proverbs 12:26)

More to come... David Robison

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