By Terry L. Sumerlin
Solomon said, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). There have been, as most recognize, the following two views taken on this passage: (1) there are exceptions to the statement; (2) there are no exceptions to the statement. Of the two views, I accept the first. In order to establish this position, I direct your attention to two lines of reasoning.
If it is impossible for one to depart from “the way” once he is brought up in it, then: 1. How is it possible that the strange woman of Prov. 2:17 is spoken of as having departed “from the guide of her youth”? 2. How would one account for the conversion of the Jews on the day of Pentecost? They left the law under which they had been reared for a better one – the gospel. 3. The Baptist doctrine of “impossibility of apostasy” is true. If a child is reared properly, according to this theory, he is heaven bound and always in grace! 4. One is forced to conclude that it would be possible for a parent to be condemned for things which occurred after his own death. By this I mean, if a child who was faithful while his parent lived became wicked after the parent died, to be consistent with the theory, fault in rearing the child would be placed to the parent’s account after his death 5. It must be equally true that those who have not been trained up in the way they should go, can never go in that way.
If there are no exceptions to Prov. 22:6, it seems we must interpret, the following verses similarly: (1) “None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life” (Prov. 2:19). Is this the sin unto death of are there exceptions to this? Is it possible for one to regain spirituality after patronizing the strange woman? (2) “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord” (Prov. 18:22). Solomon also said that it is better to dwell on the housetop than with a contentious woman (Prov. 21:9; 25:24). Would a person say one who had found a contentious wife had found a good thing? (3) “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly” (Prov. 18:24). Have you not known people who were not particularly friendly who had friends? I have! (4) “He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread” (Prov. 28:19). There are those tilling land all over the world that are starving.
The point which I am trying to establish is this: Truth is not violated when there is an exception to a proverb. A proverb is such that it allows exceptions – for it is merely setting forth a general truth. This seems to be the idea in the passage before us as well as in the ones from which I have illustrated. Yet, while I believe my position on the passage relating to training a child is correct, let me hasten to say that such does nothing to change the parents’ responsibility to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).
Truth Magazine, XVIII:34, p. 12
June 27, 1974