…And They Will Not Depart From It

Having FunI wrote a guest-post here one month ago refuting the often-heard criticism about “forcing” religion on your children. A related criticism I recently encountered implied that children who receive a religious upbringing and/or education will eventually rebel and leave their parents’ instruction. A few things need to be said about this.

The most obvious reply to such a criticism is, “So what?” Why is a child’s future behavior relevant to what you teach them today, as long as you are teaching them the truth? The fact is, religious truth is precisely the target at which the critic is actually aiming. They certainly don’t complain about your children being taught principles of math or grammar. This is because they are not opposed to either of those. They do, however, have an ideological opposition to religious truth, and so they feel a need to complain. Were they being intellectually honest, they’d attack your religious beliefs directly and offer what they take to be valid arguments against it. Since they lack any rational objection to, in our case, Christian theism, all they can offer are irrelevant criticisms about religious instruction.

Some commenters on my last post observed that some children grow up to resent their religious upbringing. But again, so what? If a child resents having to eat his veggies, resents having to go to bed on time, or resents having to do his chores, does it make those things bad? Why then would it be bad to instruct them in religious truth? Since when does a child’s resentment dictate propriety? I don’t like always having to drive the speed-limit, but would a police-officer or judge care whether I like it or not? Now, some children may have some justification for complaint if, in fact, they were poorly raised or taught some falsehood. But one is not warranted in rendering a generalization about religious instruction based on mere anecdotes. If one has a complaint about being taught or raised under a religious falsehood, then his objection is not against religious instruction per se, but against the particular doctrines or practices which are false.

But what of children who grow up and reject actual religious truth? Since we’re not dealing with robots, but with volitional beings, it should come as no surprise that some children grow to have views different than those with which they are raised. However, such phenomena is not anything unique to religious instruction. After all, plenty of children raised in secular or non-religious homes reject secularism and grow up to eventually embrace the truth of a Biblical world view, a fact which does not prevent secular parents from indoctrinating their children with secular teaching. Nor should you stop instructing your own children in Biblical truth. At some point, your children will have to own their beliefs for themselves, but, while they remain under your instruction, you have a duty to teach them the truth.

“And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart: And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.” Deuteronomy 6:4-7

Furthermore, religious instruction should not merely be about Bible stories and doctrine. Rather, you should be teaching all things about the world as they relate to Biblical truth.

“…bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Cor. 10:5

Academic instruction should robustly be taught in such a way that it corresponds to the truth of scripture, which renders a comprehensive academic education as entirely religious in nature. For example, instruction about the natural world is incomplete unless it includes the supernatural origin of the natural world (e.g., Romans 1:20). Instruction about civics is meaningless without an objective lawgiver to give force to any intelligible notion of duty (e.g., Romans 13:1). The study of economics is meaningless without objective moral imperatives which guide the proper goal of economic policy (e.g., Exodus 20:15). Environmental policies are arbitrary without a Biblical view which places God’s created order into a proper priority structure (e.g., Matt. 6:26; Romans 1:22-23). The point is, all truth is God’s truth, and no academic topic is outside of the domain of a Biblical world view.

Finally, to reiterate what has been noted elsewhere, rather than simply teaching your children what to believe, you ought also to teach them reasons why those beliefs are true. Note also that, while scriptures can be given to support a particular view, one ought also learn to give some philosophical argument for one’s views (e.g., the Bible informs us that there is a Creator, but one can also use a cosmological argument to argue for theism). If you train your children how to confidently defend their beliefs, they won’t be likely to cave in the first moment they’re challenged by a skeptical college professor.

Defending one’s faith (i.e., Christian apologetics) is not just a good idea; it’s a Christian’s duty.

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and respect.”             1 Peter 3:15

–FG

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29 thoughts on “…And They Will Not Depart From It

  1. “After all, plenty of children raised in secular or non-religious homes reject secularism and grow up to eventually embrace the truth of a Biblical world view, a fact which does not prevent secular parents from indoctrinating their children with secular teaching.”

    Exactly how I feel. I will stop teaching my children what I believe in case they grow to believe something else, as soon as atheists start teaching their children religious principles. It just doesn’t make sense to ask any parent to not teach their children what they believe.

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    • Interestingly enough, I am not Christian, but my daughter is making the choice to be Christian. I’m raising my children to be exposed to a variety of beliefs, not just my own. I believe my children should have the freedom to decide what they believe on their own. I may not be an atheist teaching my children religious principles, but I’m a non-Christian that’s teaching my child about Christianity because that’s the path she believes is right for her.

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  2. I wholeheartedly agree with what you posted. I think it is time we, who opt to teach our children in this way, stop apologizing for it, or feeling somehow less because of it. Too many Christians feel bowed down by the secular culture we live in. A point I would like to make is that if more of us educated our children fervently, and explaining exactly why, more of us would have children going out into this secular world, with a Christian view. We, each one of us, needs to be brave enough to enter the colesium of this world and take a stand for what we believe in. I have raised two sons to adulthood through Catholic Home Schooling, and am in the process of completing the education of a third son. My two older sons deviate greatly in what they believe and how they live. My eldest son gravitated away from all organized religion for a long time. Upon marrying and having a child, he has moved into the Anglican Church; he was married there and had his son baptized there. It makes me sad that he (and they) are not Catholic, but they are Christian, so I am blessed. My middle son is a fervent Catholic who teaches RCIA, whose wife wears a veil in Church, and who is expecting his first child this Spring. He attended a Catholic College, and thanks be to God, it only strengthened his faith. My youngest son is 14 and it is up in the air! He is instructed in a Christian home, in a Christian-oriented curriculum, but he is becoming his own man. I pray he continues to worship in the faith he has grown up in; and I believe he will always be a man of faith. But I have no idea which particular Church he will belong to. We give them their foundation; their lives are grounded on a Christian faith. Where they take it is their life, and I know I have done my best by them. When I die and stand before the judgement seat of God, I will be asked what I have done with the souls entrusted to me. I know I will be able to say, “I set them on the path to You.” It is all a parent can do for their children. Great article!!!

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  4. Yes – yes – yes! It is more important to teach children the Truth contained in the Word, than it is to teach them mathematics. After all – will our reward in heaven be based on our kid’s ability to do calculus, or whether we were instrumental in leading our own children to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? What could be more important than our precious children’s salvation? There is no promise in the Bible related to letting your children “wing-it.” Far from it.

    Ephesians 6

    King James Version (KJV)

    6 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.

    2 Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise;

    3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

    4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

    Amen and amen.

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  5. “rather than simply teaching your children what to believe, you ought also to teach them reasons why those beliefs are true.”

    This. This is the core of it. Lacking this is what causes kids to leave the faith when they become adults. Lacking this is what breeds resentment. Because the bottom line is that everything you teach your kids must be a ‘why’ not simply a ‘what’ if you want it to stick with them. Most people won’t accept a ‘what’ without a ‘why’ and doubly so if they’re presented a ‘why not’ that they can’t answer.

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  6. I can not even begin to say how you hit this topic SO ON THE HEAD. The WHY is what we really need to be teaching. Why we believe as we do, why we have so much faith in God and His Son, Whom people say are unseen, unseeable, and therefore unbelievable.
    I LOVE Lee Stroeble’s books. (and I think I might have misspelled his name). And I think he even has books out for kids!

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  7. When we choose a Christ-centered, Scripture-centered education, teaching our children when we rise, we lie down, and when we walk by the way, we are standing on the promises of the Lord… that He will keep them, bless them, and that they will have dominion in the warfare they face! However, I wonder if many Christian parents ever expose their children to the evils of the world. (I am writing a post about this now.) They will one day, Lord willing, leave our homes. Then they will face the wickedness of adultery, abortion, pornography, addictions etc. We have to help our children form their ideas of these evils with the lens of the Word. They will learn about these things one day… if not from us, from the world. We must, as my husband calls it “spoon-feed” our children… tell them about these evils little by little. (For example, “Children, there are some people who act as if they are married to someone when they are not. They give their hearts to someone who is not their husband or wife. They share special things with them only meant to be shared between people who are married. This is evil in God’s eyes. This is adultery.”) We want our future teenagers to know that they can talk to us about anything. We are forming an open line of communication with our 6 and 7 year olds now. We want them to be sheltered yet exposed -by us- to these things so that when they encounter them as young adults, they will not be bombarded. They will not be surprised. They will not question their faith. They will already know how they will respond. They will stand firm. They “will not depart from it.”

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  8. Hmm…this one is difficult for me as I’m NOT Christian. I was raised Christian. I went to Catholic school. I didn’t have religion “shoved down my throat”. At the same time, I found myself completely against Christianity because it went against so much of what I believed to be true beyond religion. Christianity wasn’t right for me.

    At the same time, I’m not raising my children with a secular bend either. I’m raising them to follow whatever religion they feel is right for them. My daughter has decided she’s interested in Christianity. She’s the only one old enough at this point to make an educated choice. I wouldn’t be surprised if my boys decide Christianity is not for them, especially my oldest. If they do, that’s their choice.

    As parents it’s our job to raise our children in the way we think is best. I can’t knock you for raising your children with a Christian basis no more than you should knock me for raising my children to be free to choose their own path. What matters more than anything is raising your children with a strong moral and ethical basis so they have a sense of responsibility for their actions and learn to treat others with respect. Whether that’s done with or without religion included in the process, the results are similar. The children are raised to be inherently good people that treat others with love and respect. That’s a huge part of Christianity.

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  9. Thank you for this article. It says everything that needs to be said. I also agree that the “why” we belief is more important than the “what”, because that gives meaning. My boys are 3 and 6yrs, and if I can’t give them a “why” on a topic, they are not interested. And in teaching our children the “why”‘s in life, we also strengthen our own faith and resolve.

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  10. Very good points. I have met many people raised in the church that stay in the church. Now my Dad was a minister but he wasn’t always one. The first part of my life he was a drug dealer and into Wicca. He wasn’t around much either the first half…..so when he became a minister I didn’t care that he was strict & that he got rid of the t.v. etc…. My cousin says my Dad was too strict but I was just tickled pink that my Dad spent time with me and loved me enough to shelter me. I felt like the first half of my life I was exposed to anything and everything….many things scarred me. I was glad to finally feel safe. I became a Christian soon after my Dad got right with God (though I had always went to church, which of course doesn’t make you a Christian). I went to public school but morning and night we were in the Bible and that really gave me a good foundation. My Dad also taught me apologetics which helped during High school and he for the most part lived what he taught. Seeing that my Dad had a REAL relationship with Jesus is what showed me that God is real. He taught me how to read the Bible in context and he always asked questions to get me thinking. He taught me to think outside of the box. I’m very grateful to him and can’t wait to see him again in Heaven.

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    • Yes, I did note that, since we’re dealing with volitional beings, some persons will grow to reject the world view with which they were raised. Unfortunately, rather than basing their beliefs on good evidence or argument, some simply choose to be led by their emotions or prejudices. I know of individuals who were given good reasons for belief and yet left their faith to pursue an agenda which was not itself based on anything more than a desire to justify sin. Note that I’m not suggesting that they sin while we do not (we all obviously sin). Rather, I’m suggesting that they desire to reject any notion that their sin is, in fact, sinful, in order that they may continue in it without having to give any accountability for their behavior. You see, once one rejects God, there’s no longer any objective authority to set an objective standard to which one must adhere. Once one disposes of God, he believes he is free “to do what is right in his own eyes”. — FG

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  15. I happen to be the child of two different religions, Christian on my father’s side and Catholic on my mothers, though neither of them go to church or enforce religion on my sister and I. My best friend growing up was a Baptist and my Grandmother is an Atheist, so I have been exposed to many different religions growing up. I have also been encouraged to look at other faiths to see if any of them speak to me. I’m still looking at different options, but I must say that this, to me, seems like the right way to raise an individual. This way I can find my own path to faith and not be afraid to not follow in my parents footsteps. I’ll tell you, it’s really hard for a kid to go against their parents, even when they feel they need to. I think it’s wonderful that you are educating your children according to your faith, but I do hope that you are also teaching them about others, or at least letting them find their own ways of learning 🙂

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