Darrow Miller and Friends

How Children and Nations Develop

Ephesians 6:4:4, Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger [parorgizō – make angry or exasperate] but bring them up in the discipline [paideia – discipline, training] and instruction [nouthesia – warning, admonition] of the Lord.

Wise words, from an ancient voice. I am sure I exasperated my children more than once, drove them “up a tree.” What’s the antidote? The training and admonition of the Lord.

Paideia is a profound word worthy of study. It denotes education and enculturation, and applies both to children and nations.nations and children grow by wisdom

The noun form, used six times in New Testament, means “instruction that trains someone to reach full development (maturity).” It is derived from the Greek verb paideuo which is used 13 times in the NT and means, “to train up a child, so they mature and realize their full potential (development). This requires necessary discipline (training), which includes administering chastisement (punishment).” These words are used more frequently in the Old Testament, primarily in the prophets and the wisdom literature. They are found 41 times in the book of Proverbs and 18 times in the Psalms.

Reflecting the comprehensive nature of paideia, the word provides the origin of the word encyclopedia. Encyclopedia is derived from two Greek words—enkyklios “circular” and paideia “education, child-rearing.”

This usage of “encyclopedia” has been seen as essential to a liberal education. The term “encyclopedia” was first used in the 1530s to mean “course of instruction.” Its literal definition is “training in a circle,” i.e. the “circle” of both the arts and the sciences. (See Whole Education for A Whole Life.)

Both children and nations grow by wisdom

The purpose of paideia is to create people and nations that think broadly and act wisely. Proverbs 8:33-36 catches this vision:

Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it.

To hate wisdom is to love death

Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.

For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the LORD.

But whoever fails to find me harms himself; all who hate me love death. [emphasis added]

The twin promises at the end of these verses are a powerful statement for individuals and nations. To pursue wisdom is to find life. To pursue folly is to love death!

We want to see children and nations grow, to see them mature and reach their God-given potential. Paideia is the vehicle for this. This is the Paideia Principle.

Let’s look at the concept of discipling and training both for our children and our nations.

Paideia in the education of children

Where does the responsibility for the education of children rest? In the modern world, we assume that it is the state. And the state wants nothing more than to educate our children as this will create docile and compliant citizens.

nations and children grow by wisdomBut the responsibility of education resides, not with the state but with the parents.

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction,

and forsake not your mother’s teaching,

for they are a graceful garland for your head

and pendants for your neck. Proverbs 1:8-9

See also Proverbs 6:20; 10:1; 15:20; 17:25; 23:22.

While education is the responsibility of both parents, the mother has the most profound opportunity as she possesses the treasure of a nurturing nature. As we have written elsewhere, the words nurse and nurture speak of “promoting growth.” The words “instruct,” and “to build virtue” are also translated education. The mother’s nursing and nurturing function are foundational to the concept of the Paideia Principle.

The major components of paideia in a child’s education include the bringing up, instruction and formation of manners in a child – the shaping of moral virtue, not simply growing in knowledge. It involves instruction and discipline in order to,

  • Enlighten the understanding,
  • Correct the temper,
  • Form the manners and habits,
  • Fit for usefulness in their station or calling.

Paideia in the building of nations

Each testament in the scripture includes a significant passage that deals with paideia: Deuteronomy 4:4-8 and Matthew 28:18-20.

The Deuteronomy text marks a transition in the building of the nation of Israel:

But you who held fast to the Lord your God are all alive today. See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?

nations and children grow by wisdomIn Matthew 28:18-20 the resurrected Jesus Christ transitions the discipling of nations to His followers:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Reflect for a moment. What are the parallels in these passages?

Both deal with the transformation of nations. The Paideia Principle is at the heart of transforming an impoverished slave nation, Israel, into a free nation. Paideia is also at the heart of Christ’s Great Commission to disciple nations.

God’s laws and ordinances are the foundation for development

For nations to be developed, what must they be taught?

Notice that the foundation of a nation’s development is not its natural resources, or in today’s vernacular, money. The foundation of building a free, just, compassionate and flourishing nations is the teaching of God’s laws and ordinances.

What does God admonish in relation to His laws? They must be obeyed! Simply knowing His laws and ordinances is not sufficient. They must be followed for flourishing to occur. Only by internalizing God’s ordinances and voluntary obeying them will a nation become all God intends it to be.

What will obedience to God’s laws produce in the nation of Israel? What will it reveal to other nations? First, the peoples will see Israel’s wisdom and understanding. Second, the nations will recognize that God is near and present in the lives of the people of Israel. Third, other nations will recognize the greatness of Israel and the righteousness of her laws. Fourth, Israel and any nation that is obedient to all that Christ has commanded will be a free and flourishing people.

Paideia builds a wise nation that exhibits as Jun Vencer says:

  • Individual righteousness
  • Economic sufficiency for all
  • Lasting social peace
  • Public justice even for the poorest of the poor

Darrow Miller

… to be continued

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Darrow is co-founder of the Disciple Nations Alliance and a featured author and teacher. For over 30 years, Darrow has been a popular conference speaker on topics that include Christianity and culture, apologetics, worldview, poverty, and the dignity of women. From 1981 to 2007 Darrow served with Food for the Hungry International (now FH association), and from 1994 as Vice President. Before joining FH, Darrow spent three years on staff at L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland where he was discipled by Francis Schaeffer. He also served as a student pastor at Northern Arizona University and two years as a pastor of Sherman Street Fellowship in urban Denver, CO. In addition to earning his Master’s degree in Adult Education from Arizona State University, Darrow pursued graduate studies in philosophy, theology, Christian apologetics, biblical studies, and missions in the United States, Israel, and Switzerland. Darrow has authored numerous studies, articles, Bible studies and books, including Discipling Nations: The Power of Truth to Transform Culture (YWAM Publishing, 1998), Nurturing the Nations: Reclaiming the Dignity of Women for Building Healthy Cultures (InterVarsity Press, 2008), LifeWork: A Biblical Theology for What You Do Every Day (YWAM, 2009), Rethinking Social Justice: Restoring Biblical Compassion (YWAM, 2015), and more. These resources along with links to free e-books, podcasts, online training programs and more can be found at Disciple Nations Alliance (https://disciplenations.org).


  1. Jack Gutknecht

    September 3, 2019 - 9:24 am


    Your illustrator is terrific!

    • admin

      September 6, 2019 - 12:47 pm

      Thank you!