First, Eric - I don't believe that I know you, which makes online communication quite difficult, and often almost impossible. The best venue for discussion is incarnational and in relationship. We don't have that, so please keep that in mind. But allow me to try and clarify your questions.
Jeremy,Thank you for your post. However, I am a little confused on a couple of issues. I am not an expert on the Bible, but i am eager to learn. First, I would like you to elaborate on your comment that "God is first and foremost a being of love and grace." Where do you derive this from?
First off, it appears that we may be operating in slightly different understandings of who God is based upon the sources from which we draw our faith and understandings. The Bible plays a big role for me and is an authority, but it's not the only source. I come from the Wesleyan tradition which seeks understanding and faith from a variety of sources, most often the things of scripture, reason, tradition, and experience.
I mention this because the basis of your questions seems to be drawn solely upon scripture. And while it's extremely important to me, the Bible is not the only thing from which I draw my understandings of the nature of God.
What passage tells us that God's love is first in the order of His attritbutes? What passage tells you that there is a "foremost" attribute and, consequently, an attribute that is "last" in priority?
Good call! I'm glad you called me out on this. "Foremost" was a bad choice of wording. You are right that our hope is not to fashion God into that which we desire, but to seek God who already is, and shift ourselves to desire the great I AM.
However, I'll stick with the wording of "first." My understanding of creation and the initiative that God made in creation was that God did so out of love. God's first impulse was love. It's my belief that our greatest understanding of God comes from the incarnation, life, death, life again, and ascension of Jesus Christ. And the gospels are saturated with the notion that the impetus for the incarnation is the love of God. If you're desiring a passage, what is likely the most famous verse in scripture will suffice, but so also will the whole of I John. There's great stuff in there: "This is the message we have known from the beginning...", a message of light and love.
If you have such a passage, where does it teach that God exercises this love in the releasing of His children to the spirit of the age and the prince of this world?
Okay, now I'm the one who is confused. I didn't say that God releases his children to the spirit of the age and the prince of this world. I'm not sure how you arrived there (unless you mean to say that public schools are that age and that prince, with which I would disagree). What I did say is that God the Creator/Father allows the space for his creatures to choose to chase after him...or not.
I am curious simply because it seems, on the surface, that such an action would be the antithesis of love. In fact, it could be construed at best as neglectful and, at worst, cruel.
I would also be interested to know what your views are on discipline with your children. I assume you accept the Biblical mandate to do so and that, as God deals with His sons, you chastise them out of love. But why do you do this? What is your objective? Again, I assume it is to teach them to love the good and hate the evil. You are showing them the Divine model that evil choices will result in pain, righteous ones with praise. But is that not a manipulation of the will? Are you not conditioning your child toward a particular end? Are you not limiting their "freedom" by directing their will in one direction and away from another? And so I am left confused. Are you loving your child when you do this, or are you going against love by teaching them the way of righteousness, rather than allowing them to find it on their own. And if you do choose to release them into the world, as the prodigal example you gave seems to suggest, will they really be free to make their own decisions? Your own words seem to say no: "I truly hope that he learns from his teachers and classmates. I believe that they will all teach him things that, as his parents, Meghan and I can't." Is not the goal of education similar to that of discipline: To instruct on what is true and what is false; what is right and what is wrong; what is beautiful and what is ugly? This also seems to be a manipulation of the will. Why can't the child learn these things for themselves? If they are not capable, then what is it that these "teachers and classmates" possess that you and Meghan do not. Considering what Paul says in 2 Tim 3:16-17, I can't imagine what that would be. And so I remain a bit confused. If influencing the will in a particular direction is to attach "balls and chains" to the subject, are we going against God's example by training our children in a Christian home? If so, are we guilty of the same by allowing them to go into a secular environment to have the same done by those who are enemies of God?Please clarify these for me if you would. In Christ,Eric
It's difficult for me to ascertain what you're asking here. What it seems to me is that you're setting up a false and simple dichotomy that implies that we either set our child outside the doorstep after s/he's take a first breath, or shelter every minute of their lives from the outside world.
Part of what I was saying in the post is that it's a difficult thing to know how and when and if to hold back or to let go. Absolutely, our children are in our care: Meghan and I are in great part their stewards, and make many a decision for them. But what we know is that someday, at a later age, we will no longer hold much of (if not all of) this stewardship. Someday, they will make their own decisions with little or no help from us (I shudder at the thought!). So in the meantime, as they are under our care and stewardship, we will do all that we can to help foster and train them for that time of life. Absolutely, we are seeking to foster (I'll refrain from the very you used: "condition", though that may work too) that they follow a certain path. No, I do not believe that is manipulation. Manipulation would be demanding conformity in all situations. We are not doing that - we are wrestling with the tension of choosing for them at young ages and gradually allowing them to choose for themselves so that when they are of age, they will not be clueless as to how to live life.
I fear that I've not answered all of your points of clarification (I confess to not being able to ascertain all of what you're asking). But hopefully this helps a bit.
Grace & Peace,