Some time ago I read an advice column that responded to a woman who had become disillusioned with her husband and enamored with someone else. And as I read it I thought to myself, “I’m pretty sure that’s exactly how Satan would counsel if he was asked.” That got me thinking about how Satan might function as a marriage counselor and also how he might function as a parenting expert. To that end…
If Satan wrote a book on parenting, he would insist that children are primarily a lifestyle choice, a kind of accessory to life some people may choose and others may reject according to their own desires. He would insist that there is no intrinsic good in having children and that God doesn’t much care whether married couples choose to have them or not. He would want them to shrug off as quaint or antiquated the passages in Scripture that say things like “children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psalm 127:3) or the Creation Mandate that says, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). “It doesn’t matter what God wants,” he would say. “What matters is what you want.”
If Satan wrote a book on parenting, he would want people who have children to feel superior to those who want to but cannot. He would want those who are unable to have children to feel that God must somehow be opposed to them or be punishing them and want them to believe that they are missing out on something essential to the good and God-honoring life. He would want such people to feel miserable while others held them as objects of pity or divine disfavor.
If Satan wrote a book on parenting, he would want people to regard children as mostly a bother, as a choice that tends to hamper happiness as much as it enhances or amplifies it. He would want parents to think more of the financial cost, the cost to a free and affluent lifestyle, or the cost to vocational progress. He would want couples to dread children even more than they desire them.
If Satan wrote a book on parenting, he would want parents who don’t regard children as a bother to regard them as the whole point and purpose of life, to treat them like little gods. He would want parents to form their entire identity around their children and to be held idolatrously captive to them.
If Satan wrote a book on parenting, he would be sure to tell his readers that the world’s population is a problem, and that the earth is suffering because of the number of human beings who inhabit it. Therefore, humanity ought to do its best to suppress the birthrate, and to have smaller families rather than larger ones. He would want people to hesitate to have children at all and to feel a sense of guilt and remorse should they choose to have them. “The most responsible people choose not to procreate,” he would say. “You need to think about this faltering planet.”
If Satan wrote a book on parenting, he would want parents to believe that there is no great benefit to raising children in the context of a family, much less a traditional family made up of one man married to one woman, covenantally bound together for life. He would insist that children can be equally conceived and birthed in any number of ways, to any combination of people, for any given reason.
If Satan wrote a book on parenting, he would want parents to think that a genetic link between parents and their children is so important that they should not even consider adopting children. He would want them to regard biological children as intrinsically superior to adopted children. He would love to hear people express that adoption is too dangerous, too uncertain, and too disruptive to even consider.
If Satan wrote a book on parenting, he would want parents to believe that their children’s defiance is simple, sinless, and inconsequential. He would want parents to tacitly believe that children are born in a state of innocence rather than sinfulness and that parents should express no great concern when their children defy them, rebel against them, and act out against them. After all, “kids will be kids.”
If Satan wrote a book on parenting, he would want parents to believe it is best to refrain from disciplining their children. Though the Bible may say “Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart,” (Proverbs 29:17) Satan would insist that children have no need of consistent discipline. To the contrary, he would insist that consistent discipline will hurt them, harm them, or possibly even destroy them. He would insist that any discipline, and especially physical discipline, is tantamount to abuse.
If Satan wrote a book on parenting, he would want you to believe that if you do choose to discipline your children, it is best to flex some muscle and lay a good beating on them. He would want you to think that they respond best to the fear of your fury. He would want you to set aside self-control in your discipline and to hit them hard, to hit them frequently, and to hit them without mercy. He would not want you to consider the contradiction that you shouldn’t discipline them, but when you do, you should discipline them abusively.
If Satan wrote a book on parenting, he would want you to raise them in strict accordance with law rather than gospel, with strict rules rather than free grace. He would want parents to physically discipline them, then abandon them in their pain and misery, wondering how they can once again earn their parents’ favor. He would never want the consequences of their sin to lead to a discussion of the gift of God’s forgiving grace through Christ.
If Satan wrote a book on parenting, he would want people to believe that it is the task of children to teach their parents more than it is the task of parents to teach their children. He has ably presented in a host of modern shows and movies that children, by virtue of their youthful innocence and their greater ability to understand the modern world, have wisdom their parents lack. Parents, after all, are jaded by their many years and their antiquated experiences. They should humbly listen to their children and be taught by them rather than the opposite.
If Satan wrote a book on parenting, he would want parents to know that they should prioritize their children ahead of their marriage. He would want parents to prefer their children to one another, to orient their lives around their children instead of around their marriage. Ideally, he would pit a husband against his wife and a wife against her husband in the raising of the children and in all their activities.
If Satan wrote a book on parenting, he would want parents to believe that children must be kept constantly busy, and that they thrive best when they are enrolled in every extracurricular course and play on every team. He would want all of this activity to dominate the family’s time and attention. He would insist it’s best if the family reaches the end of the week and collapses with exhaustion because of all they have done.
If Satan wrote a book on parenting, he would want parents to prioritize participation in sports and activities ahead of participation in the local church. The church should take second or third place in their list of priorities. “There is time for that later in life; at this stage it is best to immerse them in activities and experiences. And if you’re worn out and need a day of rest, rest at home on Sunday.”
If Satan wrote a book on parenting, he would want people to believe children are sexual creatures who need to have their sexuality awoken at a very early age. They should see many things, have many experiences, and consider many options and alternatives. He would love and laud a term like “gender assigned at birth.” “Let them see all kinds of expressions of gender and sexuality, let them ask who they are and how they would like to express themselves. Let them do this at the youngest age possible.”
If Satan wrote a book on parenting, he would prescribe that parents give their children early and unfettered access to electronic devices and social media platforms. “Let them use TikTok. Let them browse Instagram. Let them spend their days on Reddit. No harm will come.”
If Satan wrote a book on parenting, he would want people to believe that children belong to society as much as to parents and that the government ought to have more of a say in their raising than their own parents. He would want society to regard family as a hindrance or even a danger to a child’s freedom of self-expression. “Let them be who and what they want at school and be certain you never tell the parents.”
If Satan wrote a book on parenting, he would want parents to be a little embarrassed about their faith in Jesus Christ, to think it’s best if parents don’t really raise their children in “the discipline and instruction of the Lord,” but instead help them keep their options open. “Don’t emphasize family devotions or you may just turn them off the faith; don’t read them the Bible before bed or they will think you’re a zealot; don’t insist they participate in the life of the church or they’ll someday turn against it all.”
Come to think about it, as I look at the world around me, I can’t help but wonder if Satan actually has written a book on parenting because it seems so many are obeying his instructions and following his advice…