Can Adults be Trusted to Make Adult Decisions?

One of the underlying themes behind the healthcare debate is the question, “Should Adults be Trusted to Make Adult Decision?” Should an adult be allowed to decide they do not want to purchase health insurance? Perhaps they are part of health care sharing though an organization like Samaritan Ministries. Others may not want any provision for potential medical expenses for a variety of reasons. Liberals, in love with the nanny state concept do not really want to allow for adults to make decisions about their lives. After all, they may make the wrong decision and put themselves at risk.

Some of folks plagued with the problem of independent thinking rail against Federal control of their lives with policies like this. However, the liberal press and liberal/progressive politicians view the Federal Government as all knowing and all caring and have full time bureaucrats who know what is best for each individual. Avoid independent thinking for questioning their authority is rebellion and those who do so will likely be punished.

Many in the conservative camp are fighting against this kind of government intrusion into the lives of citizens but, as is so often the case, there is also a blind spot on the part of at least some conservatives in areas of their teachings.

For example, from time to time I receive calls, emails or letters from or about adults who had been raised in Bill Gothard’s teachings which come through the seminars and home schooling materials from his Institute in Basic Life Principles. The question asked is, “At what point should an adult be permitted to make adult decisions or are they subject to the whims and directions of their parents until their father passes away?” This may sound like an odd question, especially coming from within groups which claim to hold the Bible as the final rule and authority in faith and practice.

Some of the early calls surprised me. A counselor called that had a 42 year old woman who was still living at home. She had a high school education but had never worked outside of the home, even part time. She had never dated because she was “under the father’s authority.” She had been taught all of her life that she was under her father’s authority until he found her a husband, a proper courtship was carried out and the father turned her over to her husband as her authority. At the age of 42 the father had not found a “suitable” authority for her and she was now allowed to make independent decisions. She would be considered in rebellion if she did.

A young man called who was soon to graduate seminary. He was engaged to a very fine young lady and they were to be married after his graduation. Her parents were devout Gothard followers. He was unsure what to do as there was pressure for them to stay near her parents and he was to be under the authority of the father-in-law as his patriarch. Any deviation from this was considered rebellion.

Bill Gothard isn’t the only one within Christian circles that exerts this sort of legalism but since we have written at some length on Gothard’s teachings. Our article Bill Gothard’s Evangelical Talmud – Part 2 addresses the issue of authority and legalism. We later addressed the issues more extensively n our book, A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life, he seems a good example. Since we have spent so much time on the unbiblical nature of his teaching on authority and grace I won’t cover that here. As I have been talking recently with others who are trying to sort out what they have been raised with as opposed to what the Bible teaches, it occurred to me that the parents of these now adult children suffer that citizens may suffer at the hands of liberal politicians. They are afraid to let their children make a decision because they may make a mistake. Sure enough, they may. Someone once wrote, “Be thankful for your mistakes. They will teach you valuable lessons.” There is a great deal of truth to that. Parents do not like to see their children suffer and often mistakes cause us pain. But some of the best times of growth come from the pain caused by mistakes.

There is a spiritual dimension to this as well. Very often parents do not trust God with their offspring. For some, this will come as a real shocker. After all, their parents are devoted and dedicated to their service to God. They believe it is the obligation to prevent their adult children from making what they view as wrong decisions. In some cases the decision wouldn’t be wrong in any moral sense but simply different than what a parent may want. In some cases the decision may genuinely not be good decision. But how we react to and grow from bad decisions may tell more and be a better molder of our character than not being able to make any decisions. A young man wrote a letter to his father asking why the father worked so hard at preventing him from being a man. The father was puzzled until he read further. The young man wrote of how the father was always protecting him from mistakes by making all of his decisions and providing materially in order to keep him from “need.” The young man went on to point out how the father, a self-made man, had spoken often of how he had learned in the “college of hard knocks.” (A venerable institution where I have received my education as well.) God, he claimed, used those experiences to mold him. The young man asked why the father prevented him from learning to be a man in the same way the father had proudly become a man? That was a tough question for the father. He wanted so desperately to protect the son from pain. But sometimes we most clearly find God in the midst of the pain of a bad decision. Mistake also give us experience which in turn becomes wisdom, in other future decisions.

Authoritarian control, whether from a or even well-intentioned parents can be the very thing which cripples and makes citizens or children forever dependent.


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