How can we be sure that all of an elder's children need to be Christians in order for him to serve in this capacity? I have received an email suggesting that the Greek word pista may be better translated faithful or trustworthy rather than believing. What do you say?
Many people are asking this question. My natural inclination is to be as conservative as possible--as I usually am unless the evidence overwhelms me. I think this is generally a pretty good policy. My leaning for many years was to construe pista (modifying tekna children) as "believing," rather than "faithful."
However, reasonable arguments are made that Titus 1:6 does not mean every child must be baptized.
* The older translations tend to render it "faithful."
* More often than not, when pista appears in the NT it refers to trust and reliability, not faith, or even necessarily spirituality.
* Since the translation is in question it would be wise not to base a doctrine on a single verse.
* My position is that the children are to be obedient and faithful to their father. This applies also to the deacons family (see 1 Timothy 3). In many families, children would range in age from young to grown, so to wait until all had been baptized would likely mean an elder would not be "qualified" until the final years of his life. This seems unlikely to me.
* One reason a well-ordered household would have been important is that the house churches met in these homes! There is actually an advantage to there being younger children in such a situation, as the parenting of the elder and his wife would be apparent to all! (Much harder to discern this when the children are older or have moved out!)
All of this is not to say that elders don't want all of their children to do well spiritually. Of course they do! In the local church where I teach, all four elders have children who have repented and been baptized. All eleven of their children are living faithfully. But this was not a requirement for their being recognized as elders. In our congregation, there are so many older families: there was no shortage of men who had brought every member of their family to faith. And that speaks volumes.
One suggestion: The paper "Elder Qualifications " written by Ron Sawhill covers the issues well. I am sure you will find it provocative and biblically stimulating. This paper can be found at this website.
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