Your son’s genius awaits cultivation; parents’ goal is to channel his might

Every child is made in the image of God and grows to reflect genius — even “sovereignty” — in his or her calling.

Local Christian radio notable Andy Napier and his wife, Kathy, have been homeschooling their two sons from the beginning, and are stoking their sons’ toward lives for which God is making them fit.

I am familiar with one Napier boy through a son’s recorder class. Both families sat their children before the inveterate homeschooling music taskmaster, Jackie Shellabarger, a woman familiar to a generation of area boys and girls.

From Miss Jackie, John Edward Napier and my Jacob Robert learned pitch, rhythm, beat, the difference between high and low vs. high and soft, and other tuneful essentials.

The other day in the mail was Mrs. Napier’s “family happenings” newsletter about the couple’s efforts to raise funds for Mr. Napier’s new job with TWR. The group, formerly Trans World Radio, is a multilingual ministry that reaches dozens of nations in dozens of languages with the message of the gospel.

Channel of lessons

Mr. Napier began taking mission trips overseas nine years ago, in which God stirred his desires to travel. His growing interest in world evangelism, which he can act upon at TWR, dug a parallel along his own path in which his sons followed.

“The first year God put it on my heart to teach the boys about a different country each month,” Mrs. Napier says. “We would get books from the library and learn about a country where our church had missionaries or a place where Andy would be traveling. I wanted the boys to know that God is bigger than where we lived and He wants people of all nations to come to know Him.

She goes on to say that by focusing on one country a month he could direct his son’s prayers. “What I didn’t realize back then was that God was not only preparing me, but He was also preparing our boys to have a love and concern for other people groups. They have heard stories and seen pictures of the people that God loves in other parts of the world. They prayed for Andy as he went each trip. This new assignment isn’t just about me or Andy, it is also about our boys and how God is at work in their lives, too.” ‡

To the Napier boys — or the Tulis boys, for that matter — I grant two extreme states of being. On one hand, all of them are ordinary, common, lively boys. Average, I propose. On the other, I would argue that each has within him a God-given quotient of genius and particularity.

The sovereignty of genius — in an average boy?

The inherent soulfulness and image of God in every human being is important today in light of efforts by our betters to squeeze down all people into their various engines, contraptions, ideologies and systems.

In one of his Princeton lectures in 1898 on the political developments arising from the reformed faith, Abraham Kuyper, a Christian statesman of the Netherlands, explores the question of sovereignty and how it operates even among commoners.

Sovereignty belongs to God alone, he admits, but one can see a reflective sovereignty in earthly realms, a limited sovereignty, say, in the state or the church.

He says sovereignty resides in organic culture, in science, for example. Lombard’s ideas ruled 150 years, and his pupil, Thomas Aquinas, produced a body of work that ruled 500 years. “The dominion of men like Aristotle and Plato, Lombard and Thomas, Luther and Calvin, Kant and Darwin, extends for each of them over a field of ages. Genius is a sovereign power; it forms schools; it lays hold on the spirits of men, with irresistible might.; and it exercises an immeasurable influence on the whole condition of human life. This sovereignty of genius is a gift of God, possessed only by His grace. It is subject to no one and is responsible to Him alone Who has granted it this ascendancy.”

In the arts this sovereignty is exhibited. “Every maestro is a  king in the Palace of Art, not by the law of inheritance or by appointment, but only by the grace of God. And these maestros also impose authority, and are subject to no one but rule over all and in the end receive from all the homage due to their artistic superiority.”

Kuyper brings his understanding of genius and “sovereignty” ever lower, down to where I am, and to where my offspring reside.

And the same is to be said of the sovereign power of personality. There is no equality of persons. There are weak, narrow-minded persons, with no broader expanse of wings than a common sparrow; but there are also broad, imposing characters, with the wing-stroke of the eagle. Among the last you will find a few of royal grandeur, and these rule in their own sphere , whether people draw back from them or thwart them; usually waxing all the stronger, the more they are opposed. And this entire process is carried out in all the spheres of life. In the labor of the mechanic, in the shop, or on the exchange, in commerce, on the sea, in the field of benevolence and philanthropy. Everyone one man is more powerful than the other, by his personality by his talent and by circumstances. Dominions exercised everywhere; but it is a dominion which works organically; not by virtue of a State-investiture but from life’s sovereignty itself.

This passage is in a discussion about the role of Calvinism in putting the state in its proper place, Calvinism being a force of liberation and freedom because its central claim about God is of God’s sovereign grace.

Your sons (daughters) live toward courage, expansion

I don’t believe I am any sort of genius, or that my children are remarkable above anyone else’s. I recited this passage to an 18-year-old son in the house during a college break, to offer him encouragement and a reminder of God’s plan for him. God has fit that man for a task in this life for which He fitted no other. His duty is to work hard on the tasks put before him, to become a good, true, honorable man, a fighter for principle and truth, a Southerner and a gentleman. In that way, I suggested, he attains in some respect the sovereignty of mind and personality that Kuyper describes.

Christianity recognizes in every soul a divine gift and a holy calling. Every son and every daughter has a good and noble calling, no matter how smart or intellectual or schooled. Kuyper’s confidence in the common man, this interest in the ordinary, is a part of a remarkable development against all culture in ancient times. According to Thomas Cahill in his history, The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels, this change in humankind toward perceiving the value of the individual began with Abraham and is best traced in the emergence of Israel and later the Bible.

Pears that have ripened in the sun sit in the cool of the evening, awaiting to be enjoyed. (Photo by Beth Kirby of Chattanooga who writes at

Sources: Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1987, 1931), pp. 94, 95

The photo above is by Beth Kirby of Chattanooga who writes Localmilk, a delicious food blog.

‡ The Napiers are about to put their house in Hixson on the market and Mrs. Napier is preparing to depart from many friends and family in the Chattanooga area.

Learn more about Miss Jackie at her website,

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.