April 15, 2011 | David F. Coppedge

Who Should Teach Self-Control?

A symposium at Massey University in New Zealand has come up with a profound thought: self-control is a key to a happier life.  Academics have helped themselves to an ancient notion that teaching self-control to children leads to happier outcomes as adults.  Did the world need science to reach this conclusion?
    Self-control is an important virtue in many religions and philosophies, such as Judaism and Stoicism.  But at the symposium, “Head of School Associate Professor Cindy Kiro, a former Children’s Commissioner, says the symposium would bring together some of the most prominent scientists, health researchers, community providers and policy makers in New Zealand to make sure that “science informs policy” on such matters.
    The press release from Massey University said nothing about parents, churches, synagogues or other non-scientific entities having any role in teaching self-control to children.  Rather, “If we can do the right things to promote self-control among children when they are young, we will significantly improve their chances of economic wellbeing, good health and lower participation in crime when they are adults,” according to a professor involved.  The press release was echoed on PhysOrg.

We need science telling us about obvious things like “self control is valuable” like we need government telling us to be kind to one another.  Teaching self-control belongs at home, but only by parents guided by the Creator’s instruction manual.  Scientists and educators cannot direct knowledge and virtue to good ends.  Just as a well-taught mathematician can be a better swindler, a self-controlled sinner could become a radical terrorist, or a follower of a false religion willing to endure useless acts of self-torture.
    Self-control must be directed to good ends, but who decides the good ends?  It takes self-control to become a champion athlete or skilled musician.  These are best as individual decisions.  Beware the government or scientocracy (see ID the Future) that decides the ends and trains its citizens, like Hitler Youth, to accomplish its political desires.
    Virtuous self-control requires submission to the Creator.  Paul said that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23, I Timothy 1:7).  In the last days, he said, people would be without self-control (2 Timothy 3:3).  That is the natural state to which people descend without pressure from outside or inside.
    Can scientists, educators and government bureaucrats lacking the spirit of God produce a self-controlled society?  How can they decide on “the right thing” for children?  What does “right” mean for someone who believes in evolution or scientism?  They have neither the means nor the ends to accomplish such feats among a population of sinners.  Imagine teaching Johnny, “Now today, Johnny, we are going to teach you how to be self-controlled.”  What answer could they give to “Why should I?”  It’s doubtful that an answer like ,“You’ll be happier twenty years from now,” will carry much weight to a youngster who, as a self-indulgent brat, cares only about the present.
    To be lasting, self-control must be seen as a responsibility or duty toward our Maker.  It is a virtue that is expected of us, but something for which (in relation to God) we are incapable of producing on our own.  Righteous self-control has to start on the inside.  Let those lacking self-control repent before God for their autonomy and self-indulgence.  Let them submit to Christ for redemption and reconciliation.  Let them receive God’s spirit and be grafted into His life.  Then they will have the resources for learning self-control.
    Churches, don’t outsource the teaching of self-control or any other virtue to scientists.  Bring the scientists inside.  They need it, too.

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