Back in 1984, a friend introduced my husband and me to the writings of R. J. Rushdoony. It wasn’t until 1985 that we actually met Rush and started making monthly trips to Vallecito, CA. In getting to know Rush and his wife, Dorothy, we also became friends with the rest of their family, members of the Chalcedon staff, and Chalcedon’s resident scholar, Otto Scott.
Otto was in a special category all his own. His grasp of history, his knowledge of world events, and his self-educated style made him a bit intimidating at first. I had to work while reading his articles and books and listening to him converse. Otto wasn’t about spoon-feeding his readers. He assumed that if you were reading something he wrote, you were interested. He didn’t try to make you interested.
Otto used an expression that has become his signature quote, and it is a distillation of a profound Scriptural truth: God is no buttercup. Jack Phelps, pastor of Covenant Bible Church, shared in a tribute to Otto after his death in 2006:
“[Otto] spent the dark years of World War II serving with the Merchant Marine, making several perilous crossings of the Atlantic during that conflict. He was on convoy in a North Sea storm, under threat of German attack, when, he said, the fierce forces of nature first caused him to realize that “God is no buttercup!”1
To be honest, this statement used to irritate me when I heard it, mostly because I didn’t really understand why others thought it so special. But as time, maturity, and sanctification have progressed in my life, those words ring truer and truer, and I appreciate their implication.
Randy Booth comments on Otto’s buttercup quote,
Another way to make this point is to recognize that the Bible is not a collection of “precious moments.” God’s Word speaks to the real world and it makes no apology for doing so. It is filled with stories about a fallen world and its redemption. There are no subjects that are off limits. Some people are embarrassed over certain things in the Bible, but God is not embarrassed. He covers the range of human sin and redemption. He freely speaks of life and death, sex and violence, treachery and warfare, and He does so in graphic terms (e.g., Ezek. 23:17–21; Mal. 2:3). He is not being gratuitous, and neither should we be.
The church should speak more, not less about these “forbidden” subjects. The silence of the church has given us the culture that is around us. If we don’t set forth what God says about these things, both in their sinfulness and in their righteousness, then the world will speak to them for us. They will define justice and sexuality and marriage and every other issue.2
Yet, in most of today’s churches, pastors and congregants busily try to soften the words of a politically incorrect God. The last thing most Christians want from Christian teaching or preaching is an “unkind” view of God, or to be presented with a God who requires obedience to His law-word. God is often portrayed as Someone whose sole purpose is to serve man and make him happy. Of course, these standards are man-centered.
Romans 10:14–17 states:
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? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
The prevailing theology of the day has transformed the gospel of peace and glad tidings into a message that leads those who hear it to believe they need to make very few changes in their lives. This seeker-friendly church paradigm, which has been our modern evangelistic model, self-consciously chose to do away with more difficult passages of the Bible. It is as though the church finds God’s total revelation of Himself an embarrassment and an impediment to the church.
Bojidar Marinov, an international missionary, recently reminded us that changed people change cultures.3 Those who have been changed by the Holy Spirit, though imperfect, cannot help but be salt and light to those around them. But if church goers have only been fed “baby-food” (Heb. 5:12–14) from the time of their new birth, should we be surprised that their “stomachs” reject meat?
Please, No Bad News
What is the effect of one generation failing to pass on the “meat of the Word” to the next? Those fed a milk-toast faith do not have the strength to face the trials of life. They have not been taught to seek wisdom and solace from the entire Word of God. They cannot be cultural leaders who apply Biblical solutions to their lives or to a decadent culture. When we see that the alleged divorce rate for professing Christians is identical to that in the general population, and that many church-going women are obtaining abortions, it is obvious that the culture is having more impact on the church than the church is having on the culture.
The church today prefers the “buttercup” God over the God of the Bible. I have heard more times than I care to recall that we must not preach a “harsh” God—a God who is angry at sin. There are actually believers who think that sharing the truth that God hates sin will “turn people off” and cause them to flee from Jesus, not flee to Him. Not only does this give man more power than he presumptuously assumes, but it means God needs a public relations firm to deal with the unpleasant parts of His resumé!
The cross is extremely offensive, and intentionally so. God’s righteous wrath on the sons of disobedience caused a sinless man to die a horrendous death. And, to add insult to injury, if a person fails to believe and receive the substitutionary atonement provided by the God/Man and thereby submit to His law-word, there is eternal death in store for him. Can we get any more offensive?
But a majority of parents, pastors, and “pleasers” want to take the offense out of the cross and replace it with a better life now message. Contrast this with Ephesians 5:6–7:
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them.
Too many mothers and fathers have become partners with the sons of disobedience by telling their children Bible stories rewritten to accommodate a buttercup-God. So, the story of Noah’s ark morphs into a story about an old man and his happy wife and friendly animals hanging out of a merrily bobbling-along houseboat. You would never guess it was originally the historical account of a worldwide, catastrophic flood brought upon all creation because of man’s unrepented sin resulting in death for all mankind, except the eight souls in the ark. The problem with presenting the Biblical accounts with watered-down versions like this is that we end up believing these fantasies ourselves.4
Genesis 6:6–7 says,
And the LORD was sorry that He had made man in the land, and He was grieved in His heart. And the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.”
That’s what you call an internal commentary from the book of Genesis that identifies God’s “motive” for judgment. One might imagine a “kinder/gentler” approach with something like:
And the LORD was slightly disturbed that he hadn’t made man as well as he should and was trying to forgive himself for his bad design.
And the LORD said, “I will give man a time out, as I reevaluate my commandments and see if I’ve been too harsh with them.”
Passage after passage in Scripture identifies God’s utter hatred for violations of His law. Psalm 5:4–6 and Proverbs 6:16–19 are but two.
Culture Changing Prerequisites
The family is the primary God-ordained institution, and any cultural transformation must begin there. As I’ve pointed out in previous essays, it is advantageous for a woman to experience the travail of labor5 so that she transitions from carrying her child to mothering her child, thereby becoming invested through her own blood, sweat, and tears. The focus necessary to deal with the intensity of labor is excellent preparation for the perseverance needed for a mother to guide her child through the ordeals of infancy and childhood.
Without question, raising children involves dealing with lots of problems since sinfulness is bound up in the heart of a child. The mother is uniquely positioned to teach her children that life has its share of problems and how to deal with them in a godly, righteous fashion. If she fears God and keeps His commandments, her witness will be stronger than her words.
R. J. Rushdoony states,
Childhood, youth, middle age, and old age all have their problems, as does every era of history. Problems are a part of life in a fallen world, and they are a necessary part of it, necessary to our testing and to our growth. Be sure of this: when you solve one problem, you create a new situation which has problems of its own. Problems are in part a product of sin and in part a condition of growth …
We need to accept problems and testing as a condition of life. Even in Eden, apart from the problems of farming, Adam and Eve were every day put to the test. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil could be bypassed or not. God presented them always with the problem of faith and obedience.
Solve one problem, and you will have another. This is life, and to be sick of problems is to be sick of life. Because this is God’s world, every problem has its answer, and with every answer we graduate to another problem, until we finally pass on into God’s eternal Kingdom and our reward.
Problems are thus not only aspects of a fallen world, as well as aspects of a growing world, but they are also opportunities sent from God, to test us, to enable us to grow, and to further us in the fulfillment of our calling.6
Rather than respond to the Biblical calling of motherhood, many women are too willing to have their children taught and nurtured by paid substitutes. The “experts” have successfully convinced these women that their children are better off interacting with other kids under a “trained professional,” learning arts and crafts in school-type settings from the time they are barely walking. These children don’t learn how to be part of a family, but rather how to be part of a collective in group settings where the caretakers often have little more investment than the paycheck they receive for keeping the children physically safe.
Are these babysitters/teachers prepared to love the child enough to deal with his selfish spirit? Are they prepared to fully deal with deceit when it makes its appearance? Or, do they just “make peace” and convince the child that she can have or do whatever she wants, whenever she wants, just so long as there is an appearance of cooperation (John 10:12–13)?
If we train our children in this fashion, they will grow up to look to the “village” to make up for their shortcomings, bail them out of bad investments, and excuse their bad behavior, often shifting the blame onto their parents. (I would agree that the parents are the guilty party as charged, but not because they were “mean” to their children. Rather, it is because they indulged their children instead of discipling them.) Rather than develop into culture-changers, Christian children raised in this fashion become part of the culture that needs to be changed.
A portion of dialogue near the conclusion of the 1962 film The Miracle Worker7 involves Helen Keller’s father thanking her tutor, Annie Sullivan, after she succeeded in improving Helen’s behavior and obedience. I share it here to make an important point:
Captain Keller: Miss Annie, your first month’s salary. With many more to come, I trust. It doesn’t pay our debt for what you’ve done.
Annie Sullivan: I’ve taught her one thing: No… Don’t do this, don’t do that.
Captain Keller: It’s more than we could do…
Annie Sullivan: I wanted to teach her what language is. I know that without it, to do nothing but obey is no gift. Obedience without understanding is blindness, too … I don’t know what else to do. I simply go on and keep doing what I’ve done and have faith that inside she’s waiting, like water underground. You can help, Captain Keller.
Captain Keller: How?
Annie Sullivan: The world is not an easy place for anyone. I don’t want her just to obey. But to let her have her way in everything is a lie … to her. You’ve got to stand between that lie and her.
And that is what God has called mothers to do—to stand between the lies of the flesh, the world, and devil—and relentlessly teach their children while their hearts are still tender. Mothers who teach their children what sin is help them identify it in their lives. By refusing to shield them from the consequences of disobedience, they are planting the seeds for culture-changing growth. The results of the opposite worldview in practice are all around us.
Otto Scott’s insight bears repeating: God is no buttercup. Doug Wilson comments:
Otto Scott put it well when he said that the God of the Bible is no buttercup. And when Jesus came He revealed all the attributes of the Father, and not just those things which we can easily interpret as comforting to ourselves. But the Lord’s words were simultaneously blunt and pointed, and as Chesterton put it, “He did not hesitate to throw furniture down the front steps of the Temple.” However, we like to hear all about love, and mercy, and comfort, and kindness. This is not bad in itself; these are all biblical revelations of God’s nature and character. But we present them out of context; we neglect the wrath, and holiness, and justice of God. We do not neglect these attributes because they are contradictions to the first set; we neglect them because we do not know how the Bible reconciles them. Notice how the apostle seats them at the table together, as though they were good friends. “Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness” (Rom. 11:22). We must constantly remember that a half-truth presented as the whole truth is an untruth. God is kind, and God is severe. Jesus reveals the nature of the Father to us; Jesus is kind, and Jesus is severe.8
Proverbs 6:20–23 states that parents are the responsible parties when it comes to inculcating a worldview that identifies God’s commandments as the lamp and light which will lead, protect, inform, and reprove children as they move through life.
The God of the Bible is holy and calls us to be holy as He is holy (Lev. 20:26 and 1 Peter 1:16). The problem with too many who claim Christ as their Lord and Savior is aptly exposited in the lyrics of the song “Be Like Him”:
You know a lot of people have their own ideas of what God is like and how we should live.
But our authority is God’s word alone, if we want to know what to believe.
You see, you thought God was just like you, willing to wink at sin, but He tells us plainly in His word that we must be like Him.9
2. http://feastofbooths.blogspot.... by Randy Booth
3. In a recent Law & Liberty podcast of the Chalcedon Foundation: http://chalcedon.edu/blog/2011...
4. In my read-aloud story book Teach Me While My Heart is Tender, each story conveys the ugly reality of sin, the beauty of godly repentance, and the necessity of forgiveness. Sugar-coating or minimizing sin only serves to vaccinate children from ever seeing their need for Christ’s atonement.
5. See http://chalcedon.edu/faith-for... and http://chalcedon.edu/faith-for...
6. R. J. Rushdoony, A Word in Season, Vol. 1 (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2010), 138.
7. I recommend any mother who is struggling with affecting a change of attitude and behavior with her children to watch this film. The scene in the kitchen as teacher and student battle for which one will be in control inspires me each and every time I watch it.
9. http://judylyrics.klsoaps.com/... from the CD Walkin’ Wise by Judy Rogers.
- Andrea G. Schwartz
Andrea Schwartz is Chalcedon’s family and Christian education advocate, and the author of eight books including: A House for God: Building a Kingdom-Driven Family, The Biblical Trustee Family: Understanding God’s Purpose for Your Household, Empowered: Developing Strong Women for Kingdom Service, Woman of the House: A Mother’s Role in Building a Christian Culture, and The Homeschool Life: Discovering God’s Way to Family-Based Education. She’s also the co-host of the Out of the Question podcast, and Homeschooling Helps (weekly live Facebook event). She can be reached at [email protected].