Kevin DeYoung ALMOST Gets it on Gay Marriage

The Gospel Coalition published an article today by Kevin DeYoung in which he made yet another case for why Christians should oppose Gay Marriage. His main points were relatively predictable: Marriage has historically be recognized as one man and one woman; State Recognition of Gay Marriage will result in religious oppression against Christians who dissent. He did, however, say some interesting things that I thought were worth highlighting and interacting with.

DeYoung clarifies very well what is actually going on in the political movement regarding Gay Marriage.

There’s a lot of confusion in this world, and among those things is the confusion that the Libertarian position on marriage is connected to the LGBT movement. This is false. Now the Libertarian world is a bit disjointed, so I’ll grant that that may be a correct diagnosis of SOME Libertarians. But just as there are some Libertarians who are Pro Choice, the position of the Reformed Libertarian must not be confused with them.

Whatever our belief on the correct definition of marriage, and whether gay marriage should be allowed, DeYoung does a good job of clarifying what is the real goal of the LGBT movement.

we need to be sure we are talking about the same thing. Let’s think about what is not at stake in the debate over gay marriage.

○ The state is not threatening to criminalize homosexual behavior. Since the Supreme Court struck down anti-sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas (2003), same-sex intimacy has been legal in all fifty states.
○ The state is not going to prohibit gays and lesbians from committing themselves to each other in public ceremonies or religious celebrations.
○ The state is not going to legislate whether two adults can live together, profess love for one another, or express their commitment in erotic ways.

The issue is not about controlling “what people can do in their bedrooms” or “who they can love.” The issue is about what sort of union the state will recognize as marriage.

Then later down, he gets even clearer:

…They want public recognition…

[…]

We must not be naïve. The legitimization of same-sex marriage will mean the de-legitimization of those who dare to disagree. The sexual revolution has been no great respecter of civil and religious liberties. Sadly, we may discover that there is nothing quite so intolerant as tolerance.

Indeed, true Libertarians who are consistent with their own principles will be opposed to the LGBT efforts in this area, not because they seek true equality and freedom, but they seek the coercion of those who hold differing opinions. True Libertarians (thin Libertarians) stand on the side of the bakers refusing to bake cakes and against the gay couple seeking to force them to bake them. Even though we believe the gay couple should have the equal right to have such a ceremony, we do not believe this confers upon them the right to coerce others

The LGBT community does want to coerce others. They want to police thoughts and opinions and to outlaw all that they consider to be an expression of intolerance. If they have their way, this will mean the State mandating that Christian churches perform weddings and other such things. Libertarians agree that such an outcome is unjust.

DeYoung makes a strong case for why marriage works best and society is benefited when it is done according to God’s plan.

DeYoung does a good job of arguing from a social standpoint why marriage works best when done the way God designs it. Of course, that is not the source of moral authority on the matter. All moral authority comes from the Word of God. But it is also good to observe, as Solomon often does in the proverbs, just how things go better when wisdom grown out of the fear of the Lord is followed.

Says DeYoung (emphasis added):

We must consider why the state has bothered to recognize marriage in the first place. What’s the big deal about marriage? Why not let people have whatever relationships they choose and call them whatever they want? Why go to the trouble of sanctioning a specific relationship and giving it a unique legal standing? The reason is that the state has an interest in promoting the familial arrangement whereby a mother and a father raise the children which came from their union. The state has been in the marriage business for the common good and for the well-being of the society it is supposed to protect. Kids do better with a mom and a dad. Communities do better when husbands and wives stay together. Hundreds of studies confirm both of these statements (though we all can think of individual exceptions, I’m sure). Gay marriage assumes that marriage is re-definable and the moving parts replaceable.

Now we want to be careful that we don’t overstate this argument. I don’t like his hand-waving claim of “Hundreds of studies.” That’s way to vague to interact with. What parameters is he exactly referring to here? For at least one set of those parameters, this clam is demonstrably false.

But with the overall point, I do agree. It is true that God created the family for a reason, and that life goes better when it is lived according to God’s plan.

Righteousness exalts a nation,
But sin is a reproach to any people.
– Proverbs 14:34

So Christians should be interested in promoting traditional marriage. I do not dispute this. But there’s an implied question there isn’t there. Keep reading.

DeYoung totally misunderstands the Christian Libertarian position because he completely misses what the real problem is.

I’ve hinted a couple times at the real Libertarian position on Gay Marriage, and it is the crux of this issue. DeYoung has a certain understanding of that position:

It is a sad irony that those who support gay marriage on libertarian grounds are actually ceding to the state a vast amount of heretofore unknown power. No longer is marriage treated as a pre-political entity which exists independent of the state. Now the state defines marriage and authorizes its existence. Does the state have the right, let alone the competency, to construct and define our most essential relationships?

Now I must grant, again, that this is the position of some who call themselves Libertarians. It may be so as a means of compromise, or because they are inconsistent. As I said before, Libertarianism is a broad umbrella.

But Christian, Reformed Libertarians are clear on this point. Our position is not that the government ought to recognize gay marriage. It is that government ought to recognize no marriage.

Here is the official Libertarian Party platform (emphasis added):

Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the government’s treatment of individuals, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws. Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships.

And Laurence Vance:

Same-sex couples should certainly have the right to form any kind of legal arrangement they choose whereby medical and financial decisions by one party on behalf of another could be made. But this right has nothing to do with them being a same-sex couple. It is only because any couple – gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, transgendered, or undecided – or any group of people should have the right to form any kind of legal arrangement they choose. If they want to call their arrangement a marriage, have a ceremony, and go on a honeymoon – fine. They have the freedom to do so just like they have the freedom to replace their Chevy emblems with Ford emblems and call their Camaro a Mustang. They just shouldn’t expect or demand everyone else to violate nature, language, tradition, and history and do likewise.

And Norman Horn:

Libertarians in general should not think marriage “licensing” is any better than occupation licenses, and are not within the purview of governmental power. If government has any purpose at all in this arena of life, it is to be a storehouse for consensually agreed upon contracts, of which Christian marriage or other arrangements such as those between homosexuals could be included. However, it is not up to the state to decide how to regulate such contracts.

Christian marriage is an institution of the church, not that of the government. Therefore, the government should have no power to tell churches what they can and cannot do regarding Christian marriage.

And C.Jay Engel (emphasis added):

No one has any authority to define marriage contrary to Scripture, which declares that marriage is a legal and spiritual union whereby one man and one woman become one flesh through means of a covenant.

Marriage is neither a state institution nor a church ordinance. Marriage is a common (though divine) institution and is not unique to the kingdom of Christ (which has been given the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper). […]

It is an agreement between two people. Though the terms and conditions are much more solemn, a marriage agreement is not altogether different than any other kind of legally binding agreement between two parties. Just as the state does not issue a license for every agreement people enter into, neither should they nor need they issue a marriage license. […]

Individuals in a free society are at liberty to honor or reject another party’s marriage. Christians are under no obligation to honor an unbiblical marriage (homosexual or otherwise) but neither may they restrict two parties from voluntarily entering into an agreement.

So to sum up, our position is that government should not be in the business of issuing marriage licenses at all – not even to straight couples.

But Why?

Because there’s another issue that he has almost completely overlooked. Well, no, that’s not quite right. He hasn’t completely overlooked it, he’s just not recognized it for what it is.

He almost gets it! He says at one point.

the state is engaging in (or at least codifying) a massive re-engineering of our social life.

Of course if that’s true, then there must be something inherent in what the State does in response to marriage. There must be something inherent in what a State issued marriage license is that this would be the obvious, natural impact of it.

A State issued marriage license is a writ of coercion. With it, you may use the implied threat of government force against various people in various ways in order to get what you want from them. You may coerce insurance companies into giving you favorable policies, for example. We reject all forms of coercion, and do not believe that the world becomes a more peaceful or just place by an increase of coercion, but a decrease.

The bottom line is that the State, in “recognizing marriages” and “promoting the familial arrangement whereby a mother and a father raise the children which came from their union,” does so with the only tool in its bag: The Sword.

Yes, the LGBT community wants to take that Sword and wield it against us, and to this we are absolutely opposed. But must we take that same sword and wield it back at them?

Why can’t we instead work towards a society in which there is no coercive aggression committed against anyone who has not himself initiated coercive aggression?

Ostensibly it’s “for the children.” Going back to his argument that traditional marriage is better, he said:

The reason is that the state has an interest in promoting the familial arrangement whereby a mother and a father raise the children which came from their union. The state has been in the marriage business for the common good and for the well-being of the society it is supposed to protect. Kids do better with a mom and a dad. Communities do better when husbands and wives stay together.

Yet what he fails to demonstrate is why the State is necessary to these ends! He fails to demonstrate how these would be threatened by a society without marriage licenses. Like if we didn’t have a legal means to coerce others, then there would be no way to raise kids in a nuclear family. Though to be fair, he did not have this in mind as the Libertarian view he was rebutting, so I don’t know that he realized he would need to.

Earlier in the Article, he said:

Any legal system which distinguishes marriage from other kinds of relationships and associations will inevitably exclude many kinds of unions in its definition.

This again begs the question of whether they should be distinguishing marriage from other kinds of relationships at all. There is no need for them to.

In short, DeYoung issues this cry of alarm:

if and when same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land—the integrity of the family will be weakened and the freedom of the church will be threatened.

While I don’t disagree with the second proposition, as has been discussed, that first one leaves a lot to be desired. The integrity of the family will be weakened? Not my family. I don’t need the State telling other people how to live in order for my family to follow the Lord.

Clay Jars, Vines and the Cultural Collision

So apparently, David Haseltine of Jars of Clay has come out as supportive of same-sex marriage via Twitter. Here’s a few soundbites:

Queue the controversy! Michael Brown posted a lengthy response to his comments at Charisma News. My reaction on Facebook was:

Sigh, as usual, we can’t seem to realize that there are two different issues at play here. What homosexuals do or call their relationships have no substantive effect on us. Us not attacking them for their behavior would not be to condone it. Why is this even a debate?

Oh yeah, because of that thing called government that possesses a monopoly on coercive aggression and has declared that we may not use the word “marriage’ without their express consent sought before hand. This issue isn’t really about marriage or homosexuality. It’s about the first amendment. The proper Biblical position is to oppose government licensing and definition of any marriage, returning that role to the church where it belongs, and to commit to only perform Biblical weddings.

Interestingly, Charisma’s article has prompted Haseltine himself to try to clarify himself, so it appears that there’s more to this story, though I haven’t read all of the particulars of it, because I’m not actually here to discuss Haseltine. I mention him because he’s a hot topic, and because he marks the next advance in an ongoing trend in which the enemy is sinking his teeth into the church’s stance on Biblical Authority. It comes in the wake of Al Mohler’s book rebutting Matthew Vines’ assertions that the Bible does not actually teach that Homosexuality is a sin, and it is this issue that I actually want to interact with.

If you’ve read much of my blog, you may know where I’m going, but please stay tuned anyway. This is one of those issues where I feel stuck in the middle, but not really. I don’t side with either Mohler or Vines. I have to confess that I’ve not read Mohler’s book yet, nor have I even had a chance to read through this quasi debate between them, but I’m familiar enough with Mohler that I can guess his position. (by the way if it seems like I pick on Mohler, I can’t give an explanation. I don’t particularly dislike him on a lot of things, but several of his statements lately, such as…., have required comment. Actually, I haven’t commented on that one, have I? Oh well…. Add it to the To Write list….)

I actually watched Vines’ video a while back and wanted to post a rebuttal, but never got around to it, and now that Mohler has come out with his own, I figure the time is right to put it out there. I think this needs to be written and this is the time to do it, because there is a third side to this debate; one that is hardly ever argued; one that is actually Biblical.

In the interest of full disclosure, and for the purpose of context, here is Vines’ lecture in full. Be warned. This is an hour long. You might want to pop some pop corn first, and definitely have your Bible handy. I would also encourage you to get and read Mohler’s book at some point, or at least read through the debate I posted above.

Continue reading Clay Jars, Vines and the Cultural Collision

Legislate Morality?

I read these comments from Al Mohler on Facebook:

“The argument for removing polygamy laws was simple: the state has no business legislating morality. But every legislature legislates morality. Every code of laws is a codex of morality. The law is itself inherently and inescapably moral, even irreducibly moral. The law can’t be anything other than a moral statement.”

In my early days, I made that argument rather vigorously, but have now come to modify my position. It is not so much that I have abandoned what I once believed, but that I now understand the nature of that belief with greater clarity.

Continue reading Legislate Morality?

Matthew 7:1-6

Matthew 7:1-6 says

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”

This portion of scripture is very often referred to. Usually it is cited by unbelievers or those who wish to rationalize their behavior as a way of saying leave me alone. Christians are likely to rebut that they are misusing this passage. It says that we’ll be judged with the same standard we judge others, so the call here is to judge by God’s standard rather than our own made up standard, since that’s the standard we want to be judged by, right?

While it’s true that we ought to seek God’s standard of holiness for our lives, we also ought to remember that we don’t really want to be judged by how well we adhere to it. None of us could survive such a judgment. Rather, we plead Christ’s obedience on our behalf as the basis for being judged righteous.

But even more to the point here is that such analysis does not fit with what comes after. Notice there are three proverbial sayings here, which I believe to all be related to this subject of our judgment in some way. I’ve boiled the three down to what I believe to be the lesson of each, and I believe it is the last, not the first, that should command our attention.

Continue reading Matthew 7:1-6

Discussing Marriage Equality

The previous post regarding Marriage Equality was prompted by my brother who shared the link to the article I was rebutting with me on Facebook. He’s also the brother who commented on my previous post. After posting that comment, we discussed the issue further on our Facebook wall. Here is a re-production of the salient points:

Continue reading Discussing Marriage Equality

Gay is Not the New Black – Are We Completely Missing the Point?

This article is a bullet point rebuttal of this one: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/07/19/gay-is-not-the-new-black/. You’ll need to be familiar with it as I’m just going to refer to portions of it by headings and referring to his arguments. I’m not going to reproduce any of it here for the sake of time.

General Objection

On the whole, we’re confusing the issue here. The issue is not primarily about defining a new minority group who should now get special treatment. Neither is the issue about the moral right or wrongness of homosexuality or calling homosexuality marriage. The issue is over whether everyone, and I mean everyone, has the right (civilly) to do as he pleases, so long as he does not harm his neighbor through aggression. Does the government have the right to restrict private behavior that does not harm other people? Libertarians say no.

Perhaps we’re looking at this the wrong way. It’s not so much that gay marriage is a good thing that the goverment should promote. It’s not that gays are people who should now get special sanction or treatment. I hope that I would never have suggested that. Rather, it is that the government, by being the authority that sanctions marriage, is usurping the God given role of the church. Anything we can do to remove the government’s grip on marriage and return it to the domain of the church would honor God. What homosexuals do and what they call it, is irrelevant to what the church defines as marriage, and so long as this generation is crooked and perverse, it matters not what government calls marriage. It does nothing to distort the reality and the standard. Those should be held up by the church.

So in terms of allowing freedom of religion – the right to choose whether to obey God.
And in terms of allowing freedom of choice – the right to do as you please so long as you are not harming another.
Then I support loosening, if not completely removing, the government’s grip on marriage.
Allowing marriage licenses for homosexuals to marry same sex partners is a loosening of the government’s grip, and is akin to Moses issuing certificates of divorce because of the hardness of the people’s hearts.
I don’t promote this so we can re-define marriage. I don’t promote this so we can sanction sin.
I promote this so the church can return as the authority for such definition and such censure of wrong.

The government should only be concerned with providing justice to victims of crimes and making sure that our freedoms remain intact.

And while homosexuality IS a choice unlike the race into which you were born, being a sinner is not. We are all born as sinners, and without the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, we are indeed lost. Expecting dead men to behave like live men simply because the government tells them to is foolish. The church should hold out to the gospel and those who believe will fall under his authority and receive his grace to renounce their sin.

The government redefining marriage will cheapen it. That much is certain. But like when the Federal Reserve prints fiat money, all it will cheapen is the meaning of the government issued marriage certificate. It can’t touch the standard of true marriage that the church and Christian couples can hold forth!

Specific Rebuttal Points

Continue reading Gay is Not the New Black – Are We Completely Missing the Point?

The Mosaic Law Should Not Be Applied to A Civil Government

Objection 1: God’s Law provides the moral basis for right and wrong. Without it, we would have no way of knowing what government should outlaw and what it shouldn’t.

Objection 2: Matthew 15:17-20 tells us that Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it and that the Law would not pass away until all was fulfilled.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mat 5:17-20)

Objection 3: Romans 13 tells us that government exists to punish those who do evil and reward those who do good.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. (Rom 13:1-6)

On the contrary, Jesus said (John 18:36), “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

I answer that God’s Law is for God’s Kingdom.

Continue reading The Mosaic Law Should Not Be Applied to A Civil Government

On Whether Homosexual Parents are Harmful to their Children

Disclaimer

You’re not going to like what I have to say. Please read with an open mind and a grain of salt. I do not mean to offend anyone with this or to cause division or controversy. I simply want to speak the truth. If you have questions or concerns, I would be more than happy to discuss them with you.

Introduction

The assertion is often made by defenders of the traditional family to the effect of “studies have shown that kids who are raised by homosexual parents are at a disadvantage when compared to kids raised by their mother and father.” They use this as an argument against gay marriage and gay adoption in a sort of “for the children” argument.

I always cringe when I hear this because it is a deplorable appeal to authority and an attempt to simply manufacture credibility. So I wanted to find out whether these claims actually had any basis in reality. It aggravates me to see the world successfully asserting that Conservatives on the right ignore facts and live in this made up fantasy world. It aggravates me so much because I find it to be true! I think Christians should have the highest regard for truth at all costs, if for no other reason than because we have supreme confidence in God’s Word. Or do we!?

When did we stop embracing the truth and start fearing it? Where is our faith in God that we are so afraid that some truth of science might contradict what he says? Our view of God and his Word is far too low!

So when it comes to these studies, I’m left with the following questions: What studies? When were they done? What was their methodology? What was their sampling method? Their sample size? Their margin of error? We need more information if we’re going to determine whether there is any worth in what has been said.

Continue reading On Whether Homosexual Parents are Harmful to their Children

CS Lewis on Marriage

Just stumbled upon a quote from CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity which I completely forgot about. He’s speaking of divorce here, but his thoughts are very applicable to Gay Marriage as well. I dare say they sum up my thoughts on the subject quite well.

Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is quite the different question—how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mohammedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine.

My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognize that the majority of the British people are not Christian and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.

Found: http://www.tillhecomes.org/cs-lewis-on-gay-marriage/

That author closes with this thought:

…in some countries Muslims are trying to enforce their Sharia law upon everybody in that country, just as here in the United States some Christians are trying to enforce some of our laws on all the people in our country. If anything has been learned from history, we know that it is bad for everybody when any religion picks up the sword of government and tries to enforce religious laws on anybody.

Very well said.

Sexual Orientation Change Efforts

So there’s a law in California on the governor’s desk that is aimed at banning Sexual Orientation Change Efforts.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/08/18/california-law-barring-parents-from-curing-gay-children-moves-through/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-spradley/california-conversion-therapy-ban_b_1633053.html

I included both links so you can get a good view of both sides of this issue. It seems that, like all such issues, there’s an intentional equivocation done by one side or the other in order to support their point. Having not read the legislation itself, which is extremely lazy of me, I know, I’m forced to draw my conclusions from these two articles.

It seems to me like the intended target of this legislation is toward “Mental Health Professionals” who use psychological counseling and therapy in order to try to force a patient to change sexual orientation. This is a far cry from a concerned parent sharing the truth of God’s word and encouraging the child to consider whether his behavior and choices please the Lord. However the conservative side seems to want to lump the two together and act as though the law is aimed at both things.

Granted there is this quote from the article:

Just because one is a parent does not give them the right to “change” the essence of who a person is. Read a biology text about the development of sexual identity that occurs prior to birth.

This is Dr. Mary Strobbe, a professor of psychology at San Diego Miramar College. So based on this it does seem as though they are not only concerned with professional counselors.

But even if they are targeting parents and the home, there is a strong difference between counseling your children to obey the word of God and forcing them to change the essence of who we are.

Which begs the question, is sexual orientation something that’s ingrained into the essence of who we are, as the LGBT community wants us to believe? Well, I ask you this, what is ingrained into the essence of who we are? Sin. We are all born with an orientation: a sin orientation. Homosexuality is just one symptom of that underlying disease. Unless that disease is cured, we shouldn’t expect the symptoms to vanish. And even if we try to treat the symptoms, then either they will simply be suppressed for a while only to come back stronger later, or other symptoms will surface. Without the radical change of conversion and repentence that can only come by the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit, nobody can change this essential characteristic of who they really are.

Thus, the goal of Christian parenting is not oriented toward changing anyone’s sexual orientation, or modifying any behavior for that matter. It’s aimed at ushering the children to the cross where they will meet Jesus. What the child does with him there is up to the child. Parents cannot force the outcome there. However, the Parent is responsible to ensure that this meeting happens. If the child responds in faith, then the change will start inwardly and will come from the heart of the child who is changed by the grace of God, not by the coercive actions of parents or psychological therapists. If the child responds by hardening his heart in unbelief, then no amount of parenting or therapy can make the child give up his sin, and it wouldn’t avail him anything even if it did.

So in conclusion, as long as some very common sense distinctions are drawn here to understand the difference between coercion and shepherding and protect the latter as within the rights of parents and religious people, then I’m actually in favor of this law. This is a bit like the distinction between spanking and abuse. There are very fuzzy lines there. But there is a difference between good gentle and nurturing spanking and harmful, violent and destructive abuse. The same is true of this. What’s interesting about this case is that, while parental activity may be somewhat in view here, the initial and primary target of this law is mental health professionals. In that case, it’s a bit like an abuse law that tries to outlaw taking your child to a professional beater. I think this is another case of Fox News trying to twist things to fit their agenda.

I think the key to knowing the difference between shepherding and coercion here is whether the parents are focusing on the externals or whether they are focusing on nurturing a heart that is oriented toward pleasing the Lord. The tree will be known by its fruit.