I just read a personal account of someone who was telling of the importance of church in their life. When speaking of their daughters’ stint from church, they said this: “During the time they were out of church, we worried about them, but the Bible had promised that they would return to their faith.” (Emphasis added). That rhetoric rubs me the wrong way for two reasons: 1) That’s not Biblically sound and 2) it’s reminiscent of cult language.
The Bible does not promise that a child will not fall away from its parent’s faith if taught a thing properly and consistently. That ever-quoted verse in Proverbs is not a die-hard, one-size-fits-all kind of saying.
Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
If this verse were an absolute truth, there would be no need for free will or personal choices. Christianity would be naught but a robotic, mechanical faith with no love as a foundational structure. If this Proverb were to be taken literally, then why is there recorded in Scripture the charge to “work out your own faith with fear and trembling”? If this were true, then atheists and agnostics, as related to the Christian faith, would not—could not—exist, as the application of that verse would make it impossible.
Furthermore, beyond the desire for a spiritual legacy to be left for their children, the writer is implying that the maintainer, so to speak, of a child’s faith, and salvation, is solely on the parent; and should that child walk away from the faith of its parents, then the parents have failed, as a result of the child’s spiritual exodus. In addition to bad theology, that is just blantant grounds for emptional manipulation and abuse. Besides, though we do have a part to play in our relationship with Him, it is God who upholds and maintains our salvation.
Having a relationship with God is a personal endeavor. She who seeks God must come boldly to the throne of grace, and she must come alone.