Paul's Passing Thoughts

Teenage Rebellion and Paul Tripp’s Broken-Down House

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on February 17, 2011

As some know, this blog has turned into, primarily, an apology against Gospel Sanctification which is the spawn of Sonship Theology. To hear many tell it, we are in days that hearken back to the reign of Josiah when the lost book of the Covenant was found in the temple. Though we haven’t lost the Bible per se, they claim the true gospel has been lost in the temple of our minds via Pharisaic teaching that we are supposed to exert our own effort in the spiritual growth process. Yes, the great sin of our day is “serving God in our own efforts,” not serving God in our own way. In fact, our own way is ok, “as long as our motive is love.” As Francis Chan says: “When you are loving, you can’t sin.” Don’t you know, Christ came to fulfill the law for us and active obedience is imputed to us like justification. As John Piper says, biblical commands should be seen as works that Christ has done for us, and thereby instilling thankfulness in our hearts with joy and praise following (“How to Use the Law of God Lawfully to Bear Fruit For God”).

I have never read “Age of Opportunity” by Paul David Tripp. He is a proponent of Gospel Sanctification (GS) and I have always assumed it was a GS application on teenage parenting. But lately, events in my life have driven home how scary that is. I presently have the opportunity to counsel a rebellious teenager. We will call him “Freddy,” and we will call his dad “Ken.” Look, I am just a lowly pilgrim trying to make my way in God’s kingdom like everyone else, and will tell you that I am no expert on teenage rebellion. So here I am, prayerfully trying to work my way through all of this. Why would I get involved? Simple: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” ( James 1:5). Other reasons will be stated later in this post.

I don’t like the hefty problems of life like severe “mental illness” and such. Why? Because it casts doubt on hope, and our God is the God of great hope. There is always hope when my great God is on the throne. In the Old Testament we have a picture of life’s problems in the person of Goliath. There he was; huge, ugly, very frightening, and mocking God. That made David angry. In the same way, the huge problems in our life seem to be mocking God by softly whispering in our ears, “hopeless, hopeless, hopeless.” Situations with rebellious teens can seem hopeless because they (teens) are formidable warriors. They will even fight to the death. As a means of revenge against parents, they will often commit suicide, knowing that the fallout will more than likely destroy their parent’s marriage, and leave the household devastated / guilt ridden. How do I know this? That’s what teenagers who have been interviewed say:

“Most teens who attempt suicide report a rich fantasy around the event, a fantasy that includes being noticed after death by those who have ignored them, causing regret among those they feel have wronged them and teaching a lesson to those who have harmed them. When teens think of suicide they often feel that they will be able to watch what happens after their death. This fantasy is an example of how weak a grasp suicidal teens have on the reality of the situation. Far too many suicidal teens do not ever stop to consider the finality of the act of suicide. Because suicidal thoughts are often part of a recognition/revenge fantasy it is all too easy for the immature teen psyche to play down the severity of suicide” (

Besides this, many parents fear their rebellious teenagers to the point of removing all weapons from the house and installing deadbolts on their bedroom doors to prevent ambushes in the middle of the night. Teenage rebellion subjects a household to constant darkness and turmoil. Often, there is only peace in the home when the rebellious teen is appeased.

Let me share what I have learned so far. I am strongly drawn to Ephesians 6:1-4 in all of this because it seems to be a rare and definitive statement in the Bible on child rearing:

“1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.’ 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

An incident between Freddy and Ken brings verse 4A to life. Ken became frustrated with Freddy, and the reasons were far from trite (among many, serious disrespect towards the mother / wife by Freddy), but Ken’s intentions were to deliberately provoke Freddy to anger and even threatened him physically.

Ken was angry about the situation but Freddy’s attitude was flippant and he displayed no shame for the things he had done, so Ken provoked him. A father is the pastor of the home. Could you imagine going to church and seeing your pastor provoking a parishioner in the hallway? You would be horrified, as Ken was afterward in regard to his own behavior, and many tears were shed over this lapse. What should Ken have done instead? “Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

I am totally amazed by this verse of Scripture. You can hear all of the “yes, but what about___?” But it seems like this verse keeps answering back: “two things; discipline and instruction.” Let me further explain. In working on this counseling situation, I did some research on military schools. But then I began to think: “Most of these schools are Christian schools, and the parents are dropping their teenager off because, ‘we can’t handle him / her anymore.’ Then, you read all of the wonderful testimonies about how parents get there children back fixed and remodeled. But the Christian boarding schools have the same Bible that the parents have!” Something just didn’t smell right, so I dug deeper. Apparently, the “secret” to the success of these boarding schools is the belief that teens thrive and find happiness in a structured, balanced environment. But that’s “discipline!” There just doing what Ephesians 6:4 says to do!

Of course, there are a lot of biblical principles that fall under discipline and instruction, but the child’s role and the parent’s role are plainly stated. A biblical counselor once told me that all of his counseling with teens is based on verses 1-3. He also told me that according to his experience, 90% of teen problems are related to their relationship with parents. It’s simple, honoring parents is the gateway to blessings, as these verses plainly state. According to him, all teen counseling must focus on honoring the parents, and the rest will usually fall into place. However, it seems to me that any counseling in regard to this subject must include the parents and the teenager so both understand how this works together. This point brings me to the second reason I am taking on this task; most teen counseling involves meetings with the teenager alone. This is ill-advised because even if the rebellious teen tells the whole truth, they are not usually mature enough to assess the issues of life; it is impossible to effectively counsel someone without a truthful and accurate assessment of their life.

Back to Ken and Freddy. I clearly see what Ken did in 4A, and I also see what Ken isn’t doing in 4B. This is so huge in this situation that you can’t miss it. Freddy has no structure in his life other than school. He is not required to do any chores. He gets home from school and just does whatever he feels like doing. Other than school and some sports, his whole life is texting, gaming, watching TV, surfing the web, listening to heavy metal music, etc. He leaves messes everywhere he goes in the house and refuses to pickup after himself. His room is always a mess, and he contributes nothing to the household. Can one call this the “discipline of the Lord?” I’m thinking, “no.” If this is absent via Ken’s failure, could it be connected to the rebellion? I’m thinking, “yes.” Are rebellious teens, well, undisciplined ? Now, Ken does the “instruction” part well (4C). Freddy gets a steady flow of solid theology, but in the home, there is no application thereof. Hence, Christ’s dynamic of practical application that concludes the sermon on the mount in Matthew 7 is not in place; there is instruction, but no discipline:

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Ken must lead his family differently; Freddy’s house is broken-down.

Since Freddy does whatever he wants at home, it would stand to reason that he would also begin to do whatever he wants in regard to school, and that’s what happened the other day. He announced to Ken that he wasn’t going to school because he didn’t feel like it. This has happened before, but this time, a course of action had already been established. Ken calmly asked Freddy to get ready for school several times. Upon continual refusal, Ken advised Freddy that the police would be called, but to no avail, so they were summoned. At this point, Freddy feigned a nervous breakdown which was an impressive display complete with convulsions. This was also anticipated, and Ken informed Freddy that he wasn’t buying the act. When the police arrived, Freddy was told that if he didn’t go to school he would be taken to a juvenile detention center. Freddy went to school.

The next morning, a peculiar thing happened. When Freddy was awakened for school, he immediately got up and dressed. For the first time in ten days, he ate breakfast. Actually, he devoured it like he was starved. Not only that, his demeanor was cheerful. Ken called a family meeting that night and presented a family contract based on Ephesians 6:1-4. Ken confessed his sin to Freddy concerning his failure to lead the home in the discipline of the Lord. He explained that “discipline” doesn’t just mean rules and punishment, it also includes entertainment ( as Tony Evans says: “We are free to play football because of its rules) and structure; in essence, balance. He explained the awesome concept of self-discipline not making the negative aspect of the Lord’s discipline necessary ( 1Corinthians 11: 30-32) as well as many other dynamics and elements of skillfully applying God’s word to life and the blessings that result (James 1:25). Ken also presented some instruction on how our conscience works with faith. In fact, Ken pointed out how happy Freddy was that morning, even after being forced to do the right thing! Freddy sheepishly agreed.

Oh yes, I can now hear the cat-cries from the peanut gallery. Ken is just making Freddy into a Pharisee. Ken is just teaching Freddy to clean the outside of the cup, etc., etc., add nausea. Only one problem. Ken attends a church where “the gospel” is heavily emphasized as an instrument of change. One of the favorite teachers propagated by the church is Francis Chan, who teaches that people will have a pure, deep desire to follow Christ if you simply show how great He is. Hence, all obedience will flow from being wowed by Christ, and thankfulness for His incomprehensible sacrifice. And if we sin when we don’t have that desire, oh well, we’re not saved by works anyway. In fact, it’s good when we sin because it “makes us more dependent on Christ.” Making an effort to obey supposedly produces “self-righteousness” or as Paul Tripp states it: “Christless activism.” At any rate, my apologies to the peanut gallery, a gospel-centered approach isn’t working here.

And this is probably the reason why: the disciples were with Christ face to face for three years. Did Christ continually wow them? I think you know the answer to that. When Christ confronted Peter in His resurrected body, do you really think he told Peter to display his love for Him through obedience so he would fail and be more dependent on Him? I think you know the answer to that as well. Christ spent forty days teaching the disciples before he ascended. What did He teach them and what did they come away with? Answer: “He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” And, “Then they gathered around him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’” Throughout the Scriptures, as here, the opportunity to correct the disciples on the supposed crux of discipleship is passed over. There are just too many times, in fact, hundreds, where some other word should be replaced with “gospel.” Such as:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and [continually showing forth the gospel] teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”(Matthew 28).

I have a question. Teaching the wisdom of God and demonstrating how it brings peace to ones life whether they are saved or not isn’t the gospel? If God’s wisdom can’t produce a peaceful household, how can it save a soul? God’s wisdom clearly demonstrates the way of life and the way of death, and Moses pleaded with the children of Israel to “Choose life.” Clearly, the apostle Peter emphasized this fact in his first letter (3:1, 15,16).

This now brings me to Tripp’s book which doesn’t mention Ephesians 6:1-4 at all. This is most striking; a book on rearing children, whether teenagers or otherwise, that doesn’t mention this passage. Why would that be? First, the passage turns Tripp’s theology completely upside down by offering reward / incentive for doing what is right. This blows away the whole concept of all change being at “the heart level.” It is an outward enticement to encourage the heart to do what is right. Also, the apostle Paul emphasizes the point by quoting Moses. Ouch! This indicates that this principle has been in place since the beginning.

Secondly, GS depends heavily on the idea that the New Covenant replaced the Old Covenant completely by ushering in a modified Law or new Law. But Ephesians 2:12 makes being unregenerate synonymous with being alienated from the “covenants” (plural) of promise.” Then Paul connects this thought by making OT law applicable to sanctification. Therefore, the NC didn’t replace the old, but rather the NC, though better and different, has important OC elements built into it that are essential to spiritual growth. This is devastating to GS theology.

On page 76, Tripp writes that the Bible doesn’t convey wisdom in regard to raising teenagers, which is blatantly false as it is obvious that the word “children” in Ephesians 6:1 would include any unemancipated children or youth within the home. Therefore, Ephesians 6:1-3 applies directly to teens with priceless wisdom needed to rear them. In fact, efficacious, but nowhere to be found in “Age of Opportunity,” at least not by me after reading through the book twice.

Also, throughout the book, Tripp redefines “heart” to be something else other than what the Bible says it is. For the most part, in the Scriptures, “heart” is the mind, and the Bible defines it as the primary turf of our warfare with sin. I go into this in some detail here:

Tripp doesn’t like that because if the mind is the primary turf of our warfare, objective application that could be construed as work, or efforts by us are made possible. Tripp believes that any effort by us to replace unbiblical thinking with biblical thinking is a denial of the gospel (How People Change, p.27).

Instead, Tripp presents the heart as a nebulous territory with various idols running about trying to hide from x-ray questions. Nebulous theology makes his theory of change possible.

Unless I missed this also, another biblical concept missing in AOO is corporal punishment. “Spare the rod, hate the child.” I am close friends with a couple who was counseled by a disciple of Paul Tripp. They informed me that whenever the subject was brought up in regard to their young children (not teenagers), the counselor became evasive. They also complained that there was a heavy emphasis on parental responsibility while insinuating that the actions of the children were only relevant from the perspective of the gospel (this is also heavily indicative of AOO). They eventually discontinued the counseling. Again, the idea that an outward application could facilitate inside change is an affront to Tripp’s theology. Neither is Tripp phased by the brazen contradictions to Scripture that follow. Because of what the Scriptures say about the importance of corporal punishment, its relationship to rearing teens is vitally important, especially in regard to thirteen-year-old’s who haven’t been reared in a Christian home.

Furthermore, AOO doesn’t address the fact that raising teens can be a life and death warfare. The book seems more suited for suburban Christianity than real life. I have to believe that parents dwelling in the turmoil and darkness of this warfare would find the book trite.

Paul Tripp proffers a child rearing that is gospel instruction only, and excludes “the discipline of the Lord.” Throughout the book, he chides discipline and promotes a “speaking to the heart.” Therefore, it is a hearing of the gospel, but a treatise against putting what is heard “into practice.” Therefore, his followers will not find the blessings of James 1:25, and their houses will be like the ones built upon the sand; broken – down.


6 Responses

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  1. b kirchner said, on February 22, 2011 at 4:39 AM

    I’m slightly confused with this essay. Near the beginning you said that you never read Tripp’s book The Age of Opportunity and then later in the essay you are quoting from it. At what point did you read it and I am assuming that you read it if you are commenting on it?


  2. paulspassingthoughts said, on February 22, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    b, kirchner,

    I expected the readers to deduct from how the post developed that I read the book in preparation for the article. I will take this opportunity to add that the book was full of the usual Paul Tripp material; including, but not limited to, the idea that Christians are transformed by the same gospel that saved us, and Larry Crabb style depth psychology. As one who did a college research paper on “Inside Out,” I often see Larry Crabb’s influence throughout Tripp’s writings.

    I also find it astounding that a book on rearing children cites Ephesians 1:18,19,22; 2:3,11-22; 3:14-20; 4:1,2,15,29, and even 6:-18, but not 6:1-4! Why? Because the plain sense of that passage wreaks havoc on Tripp’s theory for many reasons.

    The book offers no solid solutions for parents who are already in the midst of intense warfare with a rebellious teen, except to take the blame for being Pharisees and begin learning how to ask teens interpretive questions. Apparently, when the innocent little darlings have their idols revealed to them through x-ray questions, “their eyes will be opened and they will realize their sin.” While the parents learn to “speak to the teen’s heart” through interpretive questions, I guess rebellious teens agree to a cease fire.

    Tripp’s belief that the law has been reduced to a “single law of love” can be seen on page 65 where he says the heart if formed by that single law or the law of desire. Really, I could go on and on, the book is fraught with false doctrine.


  3. b kirchner said, on February 23, 2011 at 9:51 AM

    Thank you for the clarification. I have found that when dealing with such topics one must not assume anything. No disrespect intended. I’ve just been burned too many times in this world of New Calvinism…

    I have seen the destructiveness of the just luv ’em into the kingdom theology for our covenant children.


  4. paulspassingthoughts said, on February 23, 2011 at 10:15 AM

    b. kirchner,

    None taken.



  5. dmquelle said, on July 21, 2015 at 8:58 AM

    Are you saying teens should be given the rod? We stopped that a while back with our daughter (who is 12), and I’m looking for how to discipline now, particularly how to deal with disobedience (she is saved and is not rebellious but has been struggling more lately with obedience) as the rod no longer seems appropriate.


    • Paul M. Dohse Sr. said, on July 21, 2015 at 10:28 AM

      Education, education, and more education. First, make sure you are not in a church that teaches Gospel Sanctification which is about 90% of what is in the institutional Protestant church. If she is being taught GS, you WILL begin to see a trend towards rebellion. Secondly, we have to start thinking more towards how the Bible defines obedience; ie, love. To obey is not following a set of rules per se, it’s the essence of loving God and others. When a child obeys his/her’s parents, they are not obeying them, they are honoring their parents and loving them, and they are also pleasing God which invokes specific promises from God. In fact, Ephesians 6:1-3 is a covenant between God and children. Protestant churches are returning to the authentic soteriology of the Protestant Reformation which rejects the idea that mankind can perform any good work. Our children are being indoctrinated accordingly, and it is done in very subtle ways, but the fruits of it will become manifest over time.

      It is time for our children to think of obedience in terms of love. We must put a stop to love being defined apart from following truth. Disobedient children cannot lay claim to loving their parents accordingly. Disobedient children (as a pattern of life) are hating God and their parents. If your daughter is being taught that she can do no work that will gain favor with God, and she must live her life by faith alone so that Jesus will obey for her, which depends on the total sovereignty of God and not her–all bets are off. She will wonder what you are getting so uptight about and label you a “parent that just wants her to be a better Pharisee.”

      Thirdly, parent/children contracts are very, very, very, effective if done properly. Fourthly, watch the specific pattern of her “struggles” and make sure it doesn’t point to something specific. When? Where? What? Why?


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