I 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