Dr. Joel Biermann believes every Dad needs to “know the point of what he’s doing” as a father, both with respect to God and to his family. The church community can be a great place for encouragement of fathers to consistently model the Christian faith with healthy family interactions. Joel is Professor of Systematic Theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. Pastor John Cain hosts.
The following program is sponsored by evangelical life ministries.
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And welcome to another edition of engaging truth. I'm your host pastor John Kane with us today, we have professor, uh, Joel Biman. Joel is a professor of systematic theology at Concordia seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. Welcome to the program, Joel.
Good to be with you.
So, uh, we are getting ready to observe a, uh, a holiday in the United States called father's day. So we'd like to talk a little bit about, uh, some of the biblical aspects of, of father's day. And, uh, you've you've given me a note here about the word TES. What do you wanna tell us about that particular word TES?
Yeah. Um, we use a lot of derivatives in English that come from Greek and Latin. Sometimes there's a Greek word that didn't make it into English. That's really good. Um, and tells is one of those Telus is the word that, uh, means end, but it's not just like the end of the book it's has more the sense of goal or purpose or the objective. It's what, you're, what you're aiming at, what you're hoping to accomplish. So in a athlete is striving to, you know, win a gold medal in their particular sport in Olympics. That would be their, tell us that's what they're going for. And everything aims at that. And everything gets centered around that. Um, I've come to the conclusion that I think that a lot of men who are striving to be good fathers, haven't spent enough time just stopping to think about what's my goal here.
What's the point what's, what's the tell us I have for my fatherhood, they have kids. They know they need to take care of them and you need to protect them. They need to give them a rich life. But I think we need to be a little more deliberate about thinking, what is it that I want to accomplish? What's my objective. What is it that I want to say? I've done it. So what's the measurement of a successful father. What's the tell us? And my first observation is I don't think most men even think about that. They tend to just kind of go with the flow. They see other men doing things. So they do the same thing. They see other families doing things with their kids, so they do the same thing and they don't give it my thought. And if they do give it any thought, they probably say something really foolish.
Like I just want my kids to be happy. And that's one of the dumbest things they can say from a Christian standpoint, because happiness is never the measure of what God would consider a productive or a right life. And I think we as Americans had a tendency to be way too caught up in this kind of happiness thing and having happiness and a, in a rich life and we're missing the point. So I would argue that a good father should be asking himself, what is it that God has given me these kids for what's my purpose. And then it becomes pretty obvious that I would say there are two critical things that every Christian father would wanna have happen for his kids. And the first one's pretty straightforward in that is I want my kids to know Christ to walk with Christ have eternal salvation.
So that at the day when Christ comes in glory, I'm there with my kids and we're all celebrating together. That's gotta be number one and that's pretty overwhelming and pretty significant. Then I say the second major goal. Second major part of this tell us for your Christian parenting is I want my kids to be good kids. I want them to grow up to be adults who serve well in society who are a credit to their God who are a credit to their church and a credit to their, their people who know them who serve those around them. Selfishly, we use their gifts well, who are doing what God put them here to do. So in other words, they're not fools. They're, they're not, they're not causing trouble. They're they're living well. And incidentally, those two aspects of the tell us, I would say map really nicely to the two aid major areas of our lives.
We have a relationship with God, which we received by grace, through faith in Christ. And we have a relationship with other people around us, which we pursue through doing what God gave us to do. So if that's my goal as a father, every single thing I should do as a father should be asked should be toward that goal. So I plan my schedule with my kids around those goals. I think about the friends my kids have around those goals. I think about the kinds of activities my kids do around those goals. So just having my kids going off to all these after school activities, maybe doesn't serve that purpose. Maybe I shouldn't be doing that. So I think thinking about your Tellus as a father opens the door immediately to a whole bunch of new ideas of what is it that I'm doing here as a father and how do I go about achieving what God has given me to do?
So Joel, in society and in our world, there are some places that as you're indicating may be supportive in some activities and places that might be not supportive. So what help do we have in a society that doesn't always value the nuclear family?
Yeah, well, you you've said a mouthful there, John, um, society definitely does not value the nuclear family and there's, uh, a host of reasons for that. It's not just because they're indifferent. There's actually a deliberate animosity and attack against the nuclear family from many elements of our, of our culture. And this is not just alarmist silly talk. It it's, it's, it's verifiable and there's there's evidence for this. And it fits really well with the whole understanding of our contemporary culture, because our culture has come to value individualism and autonomy, the self standing self-determining kind of reality that I, as individual matter most. And the idea that somehow God has given me things to do, God has told me things about who I am. God has established my identity, really challenged that autonomy and the idea of a family where you've got a mom and a dad.
And they're both given tasks by God. And they're given children to raise God's way. That's patently offensive to our culture nowadays, cuz they don't wanna be told what to do. And so the family frankly gets in the way and the idea of undoing the family is one of the clear goals of our culture today. And we have this going on all the time, redefining family. What is family? Family are people who love each other. Um, two dads, two moms, you know, dad with three mom, whatever, as long as people all love each other and they're all getting along and everybody's happy and we're all achieving what we wanna do. Then that's a family and that's patently op opposite what the scripture would teach us. So the world really wants to attack and undue families really allows to UND undo fathers. So men who wanna do things God's way Christian men who are seeking to follow Christ really need to be deliberate about putting themselves in situations where they get support and encouragement and probably the best choice about being a church congregation being part of a church, not just showing up for 60 minutes on a Sunday morning, but investing in the life of the church and participating in the community of the church, going to Bible class, going to midweek activities, um, and participating in things and creating events going on in the church where you have events for multi-generational things and you have studying together meals together because men need to be with other men who are trying to do it, right.
We find encouragement from that and we can find a little competition from that, which is a good thing for men too, you know, competing with each other and doing things the right way. It's striving to follow Christ. We encourage each other. That's iron sharpening, iron. The Bible talks a lot about that. And so men to seek out other men who are like-minded and who are similarly not like-minded in that, he believes what I believe, but we're both striving for what God has given us to do. We're both submissive to Christ and wanting to follow him and we're gonna do that together. So the church is a huge resource for that. And fortunately the church much more broadly also provides resources. There are web, um, websites and there are podcasts and there are radio programs and there are resources available to teach and to encourage into equipment, to be better at what God's given them to do. And I would argue that, um, Christian men need to be kind of smart about that and deliberate about that, seeking those things out.
So if we talk about, uh, these resources, is it better to have, uh, information shared or is it better to have information modeled or how do we put this into practice?
Yeah, that's, that's, that's a great issue. Um, we, we think too much in the Western culture. We, we, at least we've adopted this and I think in the Lutheran church, we've been quite, um, prone to reduce things to pretty much the, uh, intellectual side of things, the academic side of things, getting our thinking straight. If we get the right doctrines, we're good. If we teach kids the right things we're set. And so we think catechism class means learning all the right stuff. And once they memorized the catechism, we're good. And there I've done my part. I got my kids to catechism. I got 'em confirmed, did my thing. And that's woefully inadequate. The, the reality is that the kind of person we are, the way that we think about the world, the way we interact with the world is a product of the way we live our lives.
It's a product of the kinds of things that we engage in the activities. These things imprint us. These, these rights, these rituals, just these daily routines shape us into how we think about the world and how we operate. So that means that a dad who wants to a good dad and do a good job shaping and imprinting, his kids needs to think about the idea of formation. It's not just giving them the right information or making sure they go through the right classes. It's about modeling for them, what it means to live your life centered around Christ. It's about putting into action. The things that we talk about, how we spend our money, how we spend our free time, how we treat other people, how we talk about people when we're driving, how we talk about the people who cut us off and how we react.
All those things become factors in what I'm showing my child about. Who's the Lord of my life, how we live our lives, how we to make decisions about things. We, we need to demonstrate this stuff and we need to bring our kids into our thinking on some of those things. So they can see how we think through things and learn from that. And they need to see us treating our wives the right way and treating other people the right way. It's the whole Ench audit. You see, it's, it's never, it's never a matter of well it's quality time versus quantity. No, it's the whole package. It's good quality time, but it is the quantity goes with it as well. It's, it's how we live our lives and all of it has to come together.
I, I just, uh, heard about a public school teacher who privately, uh, commented about the, uh, the behavior of young people after the COVID lockdowns. You know, how many are wild and, and acting as if they were feral and without guidance and, and all of those things. So how do we take a step back and maybe get back on track with our young people?
Yeah, well, you know, it is interesting you, I had not seen, heard that report, but it doesn't surprise me the least. And what that probably indicates is that those families with those kinds of feral children were depending a lot on the schools to take care of stuff for them. And they were relying on the school to do the imprinting and the training. And they were that, that probably indicates the kids weren't getting a whole lot at home. So at home, the kids were kind of doing what they want, which is unfortunately the case at a lot of homes, uh, especially in homes where the children are spending a great deal of time in schools, in and daycares, because then when the kids are at home, mom and dad want to be fun and pleasurable. And so they don't do a lot of discipline, a lot of teaching, a lot of guidance.
And so the kids end up kind of running their own show, which tends to create feral kids, um, doing their own thing. And so I would say part of this is that the parent needs to realize, wait, these are my kids and I need to raise them. I need to be the one who's responsible for them. I'm the one who's accountable for them, not the pastor's job to give them spiritual truth. It's my job. The pastor can help me. The pastor needs to be, you know, working with me on this, but it's my responsibility and teaching them manners and teaching them respect, and then teaching them to use their time. Well, and to be cons considerate. That's my job. And I do that by deliberately expecting that of them holding them accountable. Um, things like routine are hugely important on this kind of stuff. Morning routines, evening routines after school routines meals together, devotions, bedtime, routines, prayers together, all of those things make an enormous impact.
The imprint they teach, they, they, they teach these things and too many fathers, frankly, I think, feel like I'm busy, I'm doing the important things. I'm bringing home the paycheck. I'm keeping the house together. I don't have time for the kids. Well then they need to ask yourself, why are they doing these other things? Why are they trying to make money? Why are they trying to keep the house together? What's the point they've lost track of their, tell us, they've let stuff overwhelm the really important thing, which is raising these kids. So your kids need to be cared for first. And then all those other things fit in.
So a healthy routine, a healthy, healthy boundaries, maybe rules, all of these things come together in, in the greater lifestyle.
Yeah. Big time. And you mentioned boundaries and, and um, kind of the, the rules that gets some kind of consistency. So there's a consistency is, is the, one of my driving words. When it comes to good parenting is you need to be consistent in your routines, in your expectations and in your rules, there are rules and they can be very, they're explicit. It can be quite, quite severe or what we might not severe, but very conservative. Like, you know, you are home at this time, you do your homework. First, you have these chores and the kids can have a whole bunch of rules they need to do, but they don't need to become burdensome when they're being consistently done. And the parents are being reasonable about what they expect their children to do are assisting them are teaching them are equipping them and, and providing plenty of time for the children to do the things they pursue as well.
It's that, it's that balance and a routine, but the parents need to be consistent in establishing. These is what we about cover our kids. And you'll do these things. We'll work on it together and we'll accomplish these things together. And when you don't, yeah, there are consequences and parents need to be consistent on that as well. One of the best ways to drive a kid crazy is to be inconsistent. And when a dad says one thing and does another junior gets the message really quick, dad really cares about what he does and that's what matters. And so that's a huge issue. Then the also the huge problem of when dad says, I'm gonna do this. If you, if, unless you follow through and then the dad doesn't follow through with this threat can learns about that really fast too. Or when a new rule comes into play that wasn't there before, because someone, somebody got annoyed and was irritated that doesn't sit well. So consistency is a big part of this.
We'll come back to our guest, Dr. Bierman, just a moment. First, I wanna let our listeners know about our program's website E LM, houston.org. If you go to that website, you can read more about us. You can download podcasts of some of our past pro programming. You can find shortcuts to our Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts. You can also on that website, Don, uh, uh, donate to support our work. All of our, on the air hosts are volunteers. And so your donations go far to help us purchase radio air time. We strive to have a wide variety of interviews with people who are doing interesting and creative, uh, things sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. You may write us at Elm Houston PO box 5 68, Cypress, Texas, 77 4 1. Now back to our guest, Joel, um, tell us a little bit about, uh, preparing children for their vocations.
Yeah. This is one of the biggest burdens that a typical child has growing up is figuring out what's he going to do when he grows up and when he is really young, it's fun. Cause it's just imagination. He thinks about all these things and it's fun to think about, you know, astronauts, garbage, man, whatever, you know, my son wanted to be a garbage man for a long time. Cause he thought garbage trucks were awesome. Uh, and then he went into the Marine thing for a while and it's just fun to think about, but then when you get into high school and you know, maybe I'll even far along as college, it's a terrible burden. What am I gonna do? How, how do I figure this stuff out? And I think parents should be a little more directive than that instead of trusting the, the school guidance counselor to help your kid figure this out, why shouldn't a parent figure, help this, figure this out, you know, your child better than anybody and you know, their skills and their abilities, you know, their interests.
And I think it would be really helpful if more parents and fathers especially took a little more time having conversations with their children, especially when they get into high school and college, you know, about how they're gifted, what they think they would like to do and why, you know, I think I wanted this cause I'll make a lot of money. This's probably not the best motivation, what what's in. What you know, what, how do you think about these things maybe you should be thinking about how has God gifted you? What responsibilities would you already have based on the talents God has given you that you need to be using those talents for others. The, the parable of talents are 25 moves, large that you've been given much. God expects much to who much is given much as much is expected. And so I think we need to help our children process things a little bit more.
You've got intellectual abilities, you've got, you know, artistic abilities. You've got manual skills that are outstanding, pursue those for the sake of those around you and help your children sort those things out. And so I guess what I'm really encouraging consistently here is parent directed father, directed child, rearing and setting, letting others do it or letting the culture do it or letting the peers do it. You need to be doing it. Um, that's gonna the hardest part of that, honestly, and I get this question a lot from fathers is how about how do you navigate that as children grow up? Cause you, what you do at two years old is different than what you do at six years. Old is very different than what you do at 13. And it's very difficult. You do it 17 or 18. And so learning how to navigate that is not always easy.
And probably the best counsel I can give for dads is think back to what you needed at those ages and try to apply those situations again, uh, you, you, you need to give obviously a young man room to experience being a young man, but you also need to realize he still wants direction. He still wants guidance. He still wants your affirmation and support. Even if you won't let on that, it's important to him because part of his independence is acting like he doesn't need you anymore, but he does. And so dads need to have a very thick skin learn how to roll with the kind of pushback from the kid and recognize when it's real rebellion. And when it's just testing the boundaries and learning how to sort things out. And so that's the best thing for a father to do is stay absolutely invested.
That doesn't mean he's a helicopter dad or, you know, tightly constraining everything, but he is, he knows. He knows when it's time to let the, let the rains loose a little bit more, let let the child run a little bit more. He, he gets a feel for that, but he's always right there. And it doesn't mean he's just blindly supporting everything his child wants to do. There are times when he needs to say there was some bad idea or I don't think that's worthy of your pursuit. I don't think that's the way that you really wanna act. And he needs to challenge him, but he shouldn't be afraid to do that. But that's, that's the joy of parenting. And that's the joy of fatherhood is equipping a young man, young girl to grow up, to be what God has created him to be and seeing them thrive in that. That's, that's pretty cool.
So explore a little bit, the difference between a job and a vocation in a God to given sense.
Yeah. Vocation's a huge area. And one that fortunately the church is doing a little better job in the last few decades. Kind of paying attention to that. And I think teaching a little bit more effectively, it was neglected for way too long in our churches. Um, the job is a task you've even given to do that needs to be done. Go get it done. A vocation is a, is a, a responsibility that God himself has given to you to fulfill for the sake of others. So I can have the job of grading papers. Okay, that's a job I've gotta get done. My vocation is to be a professor. And so my vocation is to fulfill well, what I owe my students and that means getting the papers graded. Um, so I might have a lot of tasks along the way jobs that need to be done, but vocations are, are more, um, centered around my identity, more centered around my, my, my reason for being in the world.
And so vocations begin the moment you're born. My first vocation is son, and then I have a vocation as brother. Then I have vocation as a friend. Then I have a vocation as a student, and then I'll have a vocation, perhaps as a husband, then a father, a grandfather. And then you get a, uh, take on jobs and you have vocation as coworker. So those vocations are defined primarily by the relationships I have. And every one of us has multiple vocations all the time. It's not just a matter of one vocation. This is my career. Career's not your vocation. Uh, a career can be a piece of the vocation. You do. It can be part of one of those things you need to accomplish that God's given you to do, but vocations have much more to do about relationships and responsibilities to those around me.
So you, you teach this to your children as well. Even when the child is six years old, you teach him about his vocation as student learn, well, his vocation as son or daughter learning to be obedient learning to be respectful. And, and so you guide them into their vocation. So that's a big part of this is the vocational training and guiding them is something they realize these are these beautiful tasks and responsibilities that God has given me in my relationships to other people and fulfilling them is what God put me here to do. It's my reason for being it's it's, it's what it means to be human.
So that Ephesians two eight through 10 idea that we're saved first and we are given something to do. So every one of us got, has got a God given plan, uh, a roadmap of what we're supposed to be doing, but finding that is oftentimes difficult for people.
It is. And you, you, you just brought up Ephesians 2 89 and that's great. Um, I do systematic, so I don't spend enough time on the Bible, but, um, you're quite right to emphasize the systematic theologies, the doctrinal side of things. But, um, the Ephesians 2 89 is such an awesome section of scripture. We have Luthers love it because, or by grace, your say through faith, not by your own works great stuff, but that comes verse 10. Um, God has planned for and advance the things he's given us to do. And so we have both these aspects here and what you, what you've just done is you've just reinforced what I started with. There's a twofold. Tell us, um, being right with God, having his grace and being right with my fellow man, doing what he's given me to do, fulfilling my vocations and Ephesians 2 8, 9 captures both of them right there in the space of about three verses it's powerful stuff.
And that's exactly what it does of the whole Christian life. And you're quite right, sorting out what it is I'm supposed to do can be kind of difficult. Maybe, maybe often we make it more difficult than we need to because we freight those decisions of way too much significance. Um, the way I tend to look at it is what does God want me to do? What does God's will for my life? Well, he want you to keep the commandments. Okay, well, that's a big load read through Luther's explanation of the small catechism on the 10 commandments sometime. And you realize there's a lot I need to do there. Um, fulfilling those commandments is pretty, pretty weighty expectation. So get busy doing that. And if you're doing all that, and if you're honoring your father and mother and you're serving your neighbor well, and you're looking out for your neighbor's interest and you're using your gift's wealth to serve those around you, then within that, do what you want.
And so should I be a farmer or should I be a pharmacist? If you're skilled to be the one, take your pick. If you've got a family farm that needs to be run, go do it. Is that God pleasing, you bet it's awesome. Stuff needs to be done. And if you're skilled to be doing it, being a pharmacist, do that. Why not? Um, should I be a pastor? Oh, maybe you should be, how do I decide? Are you gifted for that? Has God give you the skill? Yeah. Others encourage you on that line. Yeah. Is there a need for it? Yeah. All right. Maybe I should go do that, but does it mean you have to be a pastor? You can do all kinds of things in your vocations that are serving those around you. The key is, am I using the gifts I have?
And if you can say yes to that, that's good. So maybe you realize I've been using these gifts. Maybe I wanna use these other things. All right. Change your vocation. That's fine too. Just make sure that you're using what God has given you to serve while those around you. That's the only box you gotta check. Other than that, I think we need to give people a little more freedom and a little more latitude instead of making things so complicated. Like there's this one perfect route that God has for my life. And if I don't find it, I'm gonna ruin my life. That's just not true. It's just, that's a lie. It's just not true. Just do what comes along and, and enjoy it. There's this tax and ecclesiastic. So I'll use my Bible verse now. And it's either chapter nine or 10, I forget which one where it says whatever your hand finds to do, do it.
And so in other words, kind of whatever comes along, it needs to get done, get it done. And maybe we work too hard trying to find the ideal thing instead of just here it is, this needs to be done. I'll do it. And for myself, you know, people, I just decided to become a pastor. My dad was a pastor. I always kind of knew I would be, um, toyed with other things for a while. But yeah, I just went to school. I study degree, went pretty well. We was the seminary that went fine. I got a call. I'm the pastor. I mean, I didn't really ever decide it. Wasn't like I, people talk about, you know, God was pulling me. No, it just happened. And is that okay? I think that's just fine.
Well, you know, you've given us a lot to think about with, uh, the role of fathers, the blessing of fathers, you know, the giftedness of fathers, uh, that, that we receive some of what we need from God. And, uh, some is from our, um, intentionality and labors and consistency and all those other efforts that we put into this. It's quite a mixture, but it's, it's a great blessing that God gives to some of us to be fathers. I want to thank you Joel, for your time today and point our listeners to, uh, Concordia seminary, csl.edu, as a place where, um, we can get more information on the training of pastors and maybe some other information indeed, in that area. God's blessings and join us again real soon for another edition of engaging truth. Goodbye.
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