Do Christians Indoctrinate Their Children?

A common accusation made against Christians by skeptics is that we indoctrinate our children. Not only is the skeptic making this accusation, but also making a judgment that it is morally wrong. So what is indoctrination, do Christians indoctrinate, and can an atheist object on moral grounds?

What is Indoctrination?

To indoctrinate someone, or a group of people, is to teach them to accept a set of beliefs uncritically. By this definition, I’m sure there are parents who indoctrinate their children with Christian beliefs. But notice that this definition doesn’t only apply to Christians, or religious people. This could be said of any teaching.

My parents taught me that Christianity is true. They also taught me to value inquiry and education. If I ever had a doubt, they would offer an answer, or admit they didn’t know. However, I was never told, “Never ask questions! These beliefs cannot be questioned!” A belief that cannot be questioned, or criticized, is probably not a justifiable belief. Let me be clear: I know of no Christian parents who indoctrinate their children. I’m not saying there aren’t some that do, but the norm would seem to be that while Christian parents teach their children that Christianity is true, they don’t punish them for being critical, or having questions. The idea that Christian parents in general indoctrinate their children in this way is absurd. It’s really a “below the belt” accusation that reveals the weakness of the accuser’s position. Rather than have a rational and cordial conversation about the strength and weaknesses of Christian theism, some skeptics have resorted to this ad hominem attack on Christian parents.

A Biblical View of Children

The Bible teaches that all children whether they belong to Christian parents, or not, are made in the image of God. The Bible teaches that God loves all children – so much that He sent His only Son to reconcile them to Himself. The Bible teaches that parents should teach their children God’s word, the Bible. Parents should also love their children unconditionally. My dad once told me, “There’s nothing you can do to make me stop loving you, so stop trying.” On the biblical worldview, children are to be loved by their parents, no matter what decisions they make for themselves. They may ultimately choose to walk away from Christianity. If so, parents should love and treat them no less. A Christian parent who indoctrinates their children is in error. We should welcome questions and critiques. Questions lead to answers, and this leads to a more solid foundation.

A Darwinian View of Children

On the atheistic worldview, children are the by-product of an unguided natural process. They have no more inherent value than any other animal. Ironically, on an atheistic worldview, there is no justification for the existence of objective morals. Morality had an evolutionary advantage, but it is not objectively real or binding, only illusory. So, how can an atheist say that it is morally wrong for Christian parents to indoctrinate their children? I say that it is wrong, but on my worldview there do exist objective morals. The atheist is bound to a worldview in which two things do not exist: (1) the inherent value of children, and (2) objective morals. They cannot object to the immorality of indoctrination, and they cannot self-righteously pretend that their worldview somehow values children over-and-against a Christian-theistic worldview.

As a children’s minister, I don’t take the accusation of indoctrination lightly. I teach my kids to think critically for themselves. Yes, I teach them the tenets of the faith, but I would never suggest that they should accept them uncritically. Kids are naturally inquisitive. They are constantly asking me questions about God, Jesus, and the Bible through a critical lens. I encourage them to do so. I don’t want them to be Christians because mom and dad are. I want them to be Christians because they have examined the evidence, reasoned well, and reached the conclusion that the claims of Christianity are true. If they ultimately walk away from Christianity, I would love them no less.

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70 Comments »

  1. Accusations come from Christianity encouraging people to teach their children theism as fact.
    Baptism, first communion, and Christian confirmation are some of the tools of indoctrination.

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    • If by “as fact” you mean “uncritically” then okay. Im a Christian-theist and will teach my children that it is true, but they are more than welcome to be critical and will ultimately make their own choice. This isn’t indoctrination, its parenting and every parent from every worldview does it.

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      • I disagree, teaching spirituality or Darwinism (despite the evidence for the latter) as true and then adding “but you can be critical if you like” on the end is indoctrination because it is manipulation of a child.

        The reason most Christians (Mulsims, Jews, etc) are that religion in adulthood is because they were taught that religion as truth;

        Teaching a religion that threatens eternal torture if rejected to children is absolutely manipulation and it is 100% indoctrination. Do you really think a child is going to be critical of what their parents tell them is true? They believe in Santa and monsters, come one.

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      • The definition of indoctrination is “teaching a group of people to accept something uncritically”. Teaching Christianity as true and inviting criticism, and also making it clear that the child must ultimately choose for themselves is no where near the above definition and certainly isn’t manipulation. I absolutely think a child is going to be critical of their parents. Most if not all children are, so i don’t know where you’re going with that. If children were never critical of parents, there wouldn’t be any atheists? You say there’s evidence for Darwinism and none for theism. We could surely have a rational dialogue about that without accusing the other of child indoctrination. It is beneath rational discourse and we can do better. Thanks for the dialogue Amanda, have a great day!

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      • So then you aren’t really teaching it as truth are you?
        After all how can you teach something as faith and truth at the same time? They’re entirely different

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      • And there would certainly be atheists if no children were critical, it’s called adults?

        So you really think that someone who is not capable of rationalizing the nonexistence of tooth fairies and boogeymen are capable of outwitting not only adults, but their parents, telling them mythical stories about human sacrifices coming back to life and virgins getting pregnant? It fits right along with the other stories, why should they be critical?
        By the time they’re teens they’re so guilted into the belief system from the fear mongering that they just accept it just in case.

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      • Amanda, I was an Atheist for 35 years, then Jesus Christ revealed himself to me supernaturally and now I know the truth. Since that day 11 years ago I have spent my time in study and apologetics. When I have children there is NO DOUBT I will give them a clear teaching on the Truth that is Jesus Christ.

        Whatever label you want to assign that is irrelevant, what IS relevant is their eternal destination, and I will do everything in my power to ensure they spend eternity in the presence of the one true God Jesus Christ.

        It would be the grandest example of child abuse to push your child down a path to eternal destruction. But I would love my children, not hate them… so I could never do that.

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      • Read my comment correctly, teaching theories as theories is fine. Teaching in your words “a theory as a fact” is apparently by your opinion indoctrination. I think you’ve created your own theory there… but I don’t see any facts to substantiate your claim.

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  2. Good so far – I’m trying to find the rest of the post. As a parent & pastor’s wife, I’ve been accused of this more than once. I find that most children are indoctrinated by their parents & teachers to fit in & not make waves. Not long ago a 6 year old who attends our midweek ministry scooted over next to my husband during the video, sighed sadly, & said, “I wish God was real.” His dad is an atheist. Who’s indoctrinating?
    My eldest daughter was visiting with a friend, the son of a teacher. She commented, “It sounds like you are an agnostic.” I watched the teacher completely interrupt the after school lesson to get in her face & inform her that he was not an agnostic, he was a (insert mainstream denomination)! This woman routinely discouraged him from attending youth group or being friends with her & tried to control what topics my daughter discussed with other students if she was within earshot. Even outside of the school! She had private conversations in which she tried to turn my daughter against me. Interestingly, she claims to be a believer. It has been our experience that most of our critics are not atheists, but “Christians” who don’t agree with our views or feel challenged by our children’s integrity. Sadly, the most common indoctrination I see is the consumers keeping their children on the edge of religion, having a form of godliness but denying its power, busy enough to always have excuses, numb enough from activity to keep them from questioning too much. Thanks for your post. I hope to find the rest of it later.

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  3. I’ve taught my own children, and, really, anyone I discuss Christianity with, that the bible is the truth, but don’t believe it because I say its the truth, read it for yourself. Put it through your own critical testing. Apply it to your life and see if its true. Does everyone believe and get saved? No, but its not my job to ensure they are saved, its my job to know that they hear the news of the gospel and their job to work out their own salvation. Sure some Christians might think they can “indoctrinate” their children with the gospel, and there are a couple of denominations that do this, but its not a great strategy for leading children to living as Christians long term.

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  4. Sorry about having to quit this but Amanda is more worldly and lost than most people, except Atheists, which she sounds like more than not. And it is people like Amanda (and there are millions), who have been let down by the Christian church. She thinks she is addressing spirituality especially Christian, but she cannot distinguish the things of God and the things of the world. She has been indoctrinated on the things of the world and has no concept of the of spiritual faith. Indoctrination is to teach, to train up your child in the way of the lord. To me that is simply being a good Christian parent. Ultimately, the child will chose for themselves. I pray for people like Amanda, who have yet to develop the ability to discern that there exist a sharp separation in fact of the natural and the fact of the supernatural. Faith in what is seen and faith in what is not seen. Fact in what is seen and fact in what is not seen.
    Perhaps I should not assume that all Christians (born again, Bible believing, fundamental Christian theology Christians, teach (indoctrinate) their children about Jesus, the historical Jesus,(Historical facts as documented by sources outside of the Bible), as well as, the Jesus of the Bible. The older I get the more convinced I become, that true believers in Jesus really don’t understand just what it is, that they actually believe. Beyond the memory verses, and rational head knowledge, they just don’t have the Jesus of the Bible in their hearts, it is so foreign to them to actually understand the true difference natural and supernatural (spiritual). There is no salvation outside of Jesus. and when I run up against people like Amanda, who think they have the answer, I don’t have to prove what I believe to be true. They have to prove to me that it is not.

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  5. Very important post. I have striven to teach my children the “why’s” of Christianity and encouraged their questions. As Scripture says, I want them to be ready always to give an answer. I feel that approach is definitely not indoctrination. I want them to be able to think for themselves and be confident in their faith, not just follow rules.

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  6. Great post.
    My grandmother was a Christian, she died a Christian. But my dad, when he moved out at 21, became an atheist.

    Me and my sister were baptized per my grandparent’s request and throughout our lives, we found our way back to religion.

    My Dad is still an atheist and even says he wants his remains donated to science. But growing up I never experienced indoctrination in any direction.

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  7. My husband and I raised our sons to follow Jesus. And to look both ways before they cross the street. And to eat vegetables. We did it because we love them. We also prayed for and modeled a personal and inquisitive approach to faith, because salvation is not inherited or earned. They had to choose, and continue to choose to walk in faith.
    We want them to have the type of relationship with God that can withstand temptation and a little or a lot of pushback from our culture. People who indoctrinate their kids with anything, albeit religion or business, run the risk of creating a mess to create when their kids become adults.

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  8. We should promote questions and answers by searching His word and deciding for ourselves. I have always believed and been taught that my Grandparents nor my parents faith will save me. My belief and trust have to be a product of God. Others can help in searching for the answers but each is responsible for their own decisions.

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  9. Thank you for your fine post. It is very articulate and needful in the Christian community. Our children are part of the mission field, is the way I see it. They are part of Christs’ commission to go into the world and to proclaim the good news. But we can’t be good teachers if we don’t respect our children. Indoctrination is akin to brainwashing. Their is no respect for the individual and his or her God given ability to think and reason. Indoctrination is counterproductive to the Gospel.

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  10. One more thing, Haden, this from personal experience: My brother is an agnostic. He was reared in the same household as I was, taught the Gospel in the same respectful way that I was. We have discussed these issues. He brought up the argument that God was a children’s fairy tale, much like Santa Claus and the Easter bunny. I saw his point–the merit to his argument–and I promptly told my oldest daughter the truth about Santa and I never indulged my youngest daughter in this childhood luxury. It wasn’t worth it to me that someday, one of them might come back with a similar argument and the justification that I had perpetuated this myth on them. My daughters are both Christians, though they do not believe exactly as I do, or ,even, exactly as I would like them to. But that is their reasoning and their free will at work. I respect them. I love and respect my brother as well. We are close.

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  11. Thank you for the post. It is so true, parents aren’t indoctrinating their children of any religion or belief, unless of course, said parents are restricting conversation, criticism or question. I can think of a few religions where this is true… there are many religions in which the parents will excommunicate, disown or even cause harm to their children for not following the family religion. The argument that Christian families do this is such an outdated, farce and ridiculous argument. I could really could get on a soapbox concerning this, but I will refrain. I will simply say for Amanda to categorize Christian as including Muslim, Jews, etc., proves her misguidance on the subject. Thank you for your encouraging post. Parenting is hard. Christian parenting is even harder. We need all the encouragement we can get! 😊

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    • “…there are many religions in which the parents will excommunicate, disown or even cause harm to their children for not following the family religion. The argument that Christian families do this is such an outdated, farce and ridiculous argument.”

      I’m sorry, but I have to point out that this is just not true. It happened in my family. Two of my siblings were thrown out of the house before they were even legal adults for not believing and behaving exactly what my father wanted. And he claimed to be a fundamentalist, conservative Christian. He also seriously abused and neglected my mother, myself, and all six of my siblings when we were in the home. It was perfectly dreadful.

      Please do not say such things just because you personally are unaware of ever having encountered it. This grievously wounds those who have lived it–many of whom you might know, but have never told you. Statistics on abuse and neglect *across religious boundaries* in America suggest that it is far more common than we have believed in the past. Google “statistics on child abuse in the US” and you should find plenty of well-documented and researched information on the subject… if you really want to know.

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      • GM – I am very sorry for your painful childhood and loss of safety and security at such an early age. Your story is heartbreaking. I was, by no means, making light of your situation. I was only referring to what seems to be a cultural attack on anything traditional, conservative and/or Christian. Your specific situation is exactly what I was referring to as the ACTUAL definition of indoctrination, but the implication that this happens in every, or even the majority, of Christian homes is just as much of a mistake as saying indoctrination only comes from Christian homes. There are so many avenues for indoctrination, and the pure definition of this term is not what I have found within a majority of Christian homes, neither by research nor by personal experience. Thank for your reference to Google searches, as I have already been aware of these and in the know, because I have a caring curiosity on the subject; thus, the reason for my argument.
        It’s quite interesting to me that you welcome the agreements to your debate to join you on your blog for further discussion and clarity, but for those with whom you disagree, you claim it to be a lobbying of personal attacks. That is a very typical sentiment in today’s society (that any disagreement is just simply the “hitting of red buttons” or a “personal attack” of someone else) when it is rather the different perspectives of different people from different backgrounds, and everyone is entitled to theirs in a free country. You and I are on different ends of the spectrum of this subject, and we will probably just have to agree to disagree without those kind of assumptions.

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      • Thank you, TW&T. I appreciate your compassion. I would agree with you, actually, that indoctrination does not describe the majority of Christian homes. I do believe, however, that it describes a plurality of them: in other words, it is not so very rare as we might hope. Even though it takes place in a minority of situations, being a minority does not mean it should be overlooked or downplayed.

        You mention an “implication that this happens in every, or even the majority, of Christian homes;” I meant no such implication, and I have very rarely seen others imply it. I agree that it is a mistake to do so; that argument is not one I was trying to make.

        I’m glad to hear you’re already looking into the stats and facts for these issues, as well as we know them, on your own. Not many people do, so I recommended doing so in the event that you hadn’t; it’s nice to hear I didn’t need to.

        “you welcome the agreements to your debate to join you on your blog for further discussion and clarity, but for those with whom you disagree, you claim it to be a lobbying of personal attacks.”–this is a very interesting comment to me. Firstly, “agreements to your debate” is an odd phrase, but I think you meant “people you agree with.” If that is what you meant, well, I think you misunderstood me–I expressly intended to welcome further discussion from those whose views are the most different from mine. Despite my background, I am a staunch, conservative Christian, and I extended my invitation to a staunch non-believer. Secondly, I’m not sure who you think I’m disagreeing with, other than you–and you are not one of the people I mean to identify as lobbing personal attacks. 🙂

        Rather, I was thinking of R.S. Helms (where he writes, “Amanda is more worldly and lost than most people… She thinks she is addressing spirituality especially Christian, but she cannot distinguish the things of God and the things of the world. She has been indoctrinated on the things of the world and has no concept of the of spiritual faith… I pray for people like Amanda, who have yet to develop the ability to discern…” etc.) and 7sawdust (where he writes, “Amanda, me thinks thou protesteth too much…It seemed like the basic liberal ploy… What on the surface was a supposedly honest inquiry, may just be throwing out there all the cool debate tactics you have learned along the way, trying to make those who read this blog get tangled up and finally admit defeat. I didn’t sense any real concern for children,” etc.) These comments take the ad hominem route, particularly the first one, attacking supposed motives and casting aspersions rather than building bridges as Christ would.

        Your comment about Amanda, in comparison, was pretty respectful and fair; I offer no criticism of it. R.S. Helms and 7sawdust are perfectly entitled to their perspectives on indoctrination, naturally, and I’ve said nothing to suggest they aren’t, or that I disagree with them; however, before God, they are not entitled to sit above Amanda in judgment. Somebody else has her number.

        Finally, I surmise that you and I are not, in fact, on opposite ends of the spectrum on the subject of indoctrination; I think we’re neighbors. I don’t think many to most Christian parents indoctrinate their children; I merely wanted to point out that one sentence you wrote is a very damaging sort of thing to generalize about as it neglects the real harm that *is* done to real people within Christianity. Their being in the minority, I will say again, does nothing to reduce the need to care for and tend to them with sensitivity and humility.

        On the subject of button-pushing and personal attacks, however, we might be on opposite ends of the spectrum, I’ll grant you that. 🙂

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  12. Amanda, me thinks thou protesteth too much…It seemed like the basic liberal ploy to define terms and then attack on that definition. What on the surface was a supposedly honest inquiry, may just be throwing out there all the cool debate tactics you have learned along the way, trying to make those who read this blog get tangled up and finally admit defeat. I didn’t sense any real concern for children nor for whether a parent has the right to teach what they feel their children need to succeed in life, in this case, Christianity. Atheist teach their world view to their children and yet you refuse to acknowledge that. If you don’t believe in Christianity and feel it’s a lie, then that’s another topic, one that seems like, in your case, no matter how much information were given or even if all your questions were answered, it’s a matter of your will, not facts or correctly written sentences. No amount of information given will satisfy one who says, ” I will not”.

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  13. Agreed! Just to shed a bit more light on the issue of Christians indoctrinating their children, though–that is DEFINITELY what happened to me and my siblings. I know plenty other Christians who have been indoctrinated as well. The church leaders or parents make a show of critical thinking to back up their faith, but a lot of it is mockery and misrepresentation of other beliefs and principles that differ from theirs without any serious, respectful, thoughtful engagement of the issues raised. You are fortunate that you have not encountered this, but believe me–it is alive and well, and it should not be minimized as a serious issue in the church. Perhaps it doesn’t characterize the majority of people, but it certainly has enough of an impact on the broad conservative culture I grew up in to characterize a great deal of how my peers and I thought and behaved while growing up and into our early adulthood, at least–and not in a healthy or winsome way at all.

    Btw, I feel it’s also worth pointing out that you began by saying you would investigate three specific claims, but you only went into detail on one of them before getting sidetracked. More thoughts on the other two claims might be a good follow-up post.

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  14. Amanda, I know many on here don’t appreciate your willingness to share your perspective–but I do. Thank you for being brave enough to speak up in a room full of people who think very, very differently. Your opinion matters just as much as anyone else’s, and your questions are just as important as anyone else’s answers (regardless of their merit). I would really love to continue chatting with you about your views on indoctrination, facts, theories, all of it, if you’re interested! Feel free to drop by my blog and hit the “Contact” button. You raise some great points and have obviously pushed some buttons here; I think the fact that people are getting defensive and lobbing personal attacks at you tells us that you’ve put pressure on a sore spot, even if we don’t realize that’s what’s happening. And I think taking a clear-headed look at those sore spots is important if we want to grow and mature and better ourselves, better care for our children, and better bless our community, too.

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    • On atheism children are the product of blind physical processes like every other organism – no inherent value in that.
      Objective morals don’t exist on atheism. There is no mind-independent standard to which we can judge something morally good or bad. It’s all subjective.

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      • I believe you have a misconception of the thought process. Even animals give more value to their offsprings than to others. Why couldn’t atheists do that too? Are you implying that atheists parents cannot love their children as much as christian ones?
        I do believe though that it might not be indoctrination, but teaching your children about your belief (whether Christian or atheist) is influencing them into getting your belief. The same way that being an english speaking couple influences your children to speak english, not french or spanish.
        How can morals based on the truth of the Bible be objective? You subjectively need to think those teachings are true. I’m not saying that most atheist are not the same way with their own morals!
        I do not understand what is a mind-independent standard is though!

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      • Atheists can do that, but it isn’t based on objective value. They assign the value themselves. Morality isn’t grounded in the Bible. Morality is grounded in God’s unchanging nature. The Bible is just the revelation of that reality.

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      • The Christian value is not objective, as it is Christian. I don’t think there is any debate on that.
        And isn’t it better for someone to assign value thanks to his own judgment rather than on the judgment of God?
        And I don’t think the question is whether God or not exists. It is whether his preachings are good. And throughout the Bible, there is a lot of objectively unmoral things. And especially to children…

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      • You do not need to “believe” anything about the Bible for its moral values to objectively true. That’s the point. They are objective, they come from a higher power – God. You and I cannot have separate ideas of right or wrong, that would be subjective… you might think its ok to kill a child molestor where you find them, I would insist on a legal proceeding. Those are subjective ideas, but we cannot operate in a society like that, otherwise people can do whatever feels right or moral to themselves. If we all evolved, and it is truly survival of the fittest, then I should be able to make any choice I want that furthers MY position in this world. But we know that is not true. We also know that a majority opinion does not make an immoral act, moral.

        Americans have voted to legalize gay marriage, and most people in America see nothing morally wrong with the homosexual lifestyle. God’s objective standard however says otherwise, which is why as Christians we need to adhere to God’s Word and not the word of a fallen secular world. Right or wrong should not change as society changes. God’s Word never changes and that is why his moral code will never morph over time.

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      • How come you are saying that we cannot have separate ideas of right and wrong and then just give an example where we do have separate ideas about killing a molestor?
        We also know that a minority opinion does not make a morally Christian act, objectively moral.
        It is morally Christian to kill your son because God asked you too. It is morally Christian to offer your daughters to rapists to protect angels. It is morally Christian to kill thousands of people because God decided they were not worth him. Do you condone these acts or are you glad to live in our « fallen secular world »?

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      • YES I would condone all of those acts if commanded by God. Absolutely. Because God is the lawgiver. He is the moral standard of truth. Your opinion on right and wrong is irrelevant as is mine. When you fully grasp that God created the universe we inhabit and holds it together moment by moment in delicate balance, you will realize that his thoughts are SOOOO much higher than ours (as scripture says). But humans have a tendency to think they can know better than a God who created them. Yet we cannot even make our own hearts beat.

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      • So we are clear. You are condoning mass murder, rape and killing one’s own son if God supposedly said so?
        Today, how do we know when it is God’s work and when it isn’t?

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      • I think I was pretty clear. Today you have to put to the test and hold it up against scripture. Additionally other believers will agree, and your spirit will be at ease in the decision.

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      • (friedbythefrench, I know this will bring some bloggers’ hellfire down upon me, but I just have to let you know–not all people who try to follow Jesus agree with what Keith Mosher is saying. In fact, with regard to the murder/rape/genocide, I am hopeful that the majority of us very firmly do NOT. We would, however, disagree that “It is morally Christian to kill your son… offer your daughters to rapists… [and] kill thousands of people.” None of those things are morally Christian.

        Christianity–the understanding and following of CHRIST, Jesus–did not exist in Abraham’s time. Abraham’s interaction with God as recorded in Genesis should therefore not be construed with the relationship God has with people through Jesus now–that Old Testament interaction had a different purpose. I should also note that 1. God never actually had Abraham kill Isaac, 2. God only asks Abraham to **offer** Isaac up, never gives an actual command to kill, 3. God in fact loudly and absolutely condemns child sacrifice elsewhere in the Old Testament. See Genesis 22, here for the account of Abraham attempting to sacrifice Isaac, and see Psalm 106:34-39, Ezekiel 16:20-22, and Ezekiel 23:36-39 for God condemning child sacrifice (you can search them on BibleGateway as well; I don’t want to clog up this comment with links).

        If you read Psalm 106 and those Ezekiel chapters, this actually provides a good segue to your third point about genocide. Obviously, in those passages, wiping out other nations is referenced–very, very firmly within the context of due justice. Those nations were thoroughly murderous, sacrificing their children as a way of life, and they passed on that practice to ancient Israel. If we can agree that child sacrifice is unacceptable, even to the Christian God, then I think we can agree that a culture that formally enforces it as part of a religion is extremely dangerous and toxic–and that that everyone who committed murder in that society, which must be the vast majority of people, deserve death themselves.

        However. It is important to note that God never “decided they were not worth him.” Having hand-made every single human with infinitely loving purpose and care, God loves every single one of us–even the ones he instructs authorities to kill for the sake of everyone else’s protection and stop a horrifyingly destructive practice. He mourns every person lost when a people group is wiped out, absolutely regardless of the reason. And in fact, Psalm 51:14-17 and Hosea 6:6 say outright that God does not desire sacrifice, but rather mercy. He will not back down from crushing a threat when innocents are being wantonly slaughtered; neither does he ever WANT to have to do such a thing. And, in fact, that is why he sent Jesus: so that even murders would have a way to turn away from their wrongdoing and be forgiven, rather than be killed in return. This is ALSO why Christians are NEVER justified in recreating that OT scenario and crusading or committing genocide themselves. God has NO USE for that now. Jesus wasn’t around in the OT, however, so it makes sense that God’s solution to systemic mass murder was damage control: eliminating the murderers themselves. That’s the ONLY reason Israel had the instruction to kill off other nations–because they were such hideously bad mojo–and it does NOT MEAN God didn’t love and care for and mourn those lives lost, too. This is the atomic bomb ethical dilemma that all of us can appreciate, now having that in our fairly recent history: destroy several thousand lives in an instant to end a war, or sacrifice untold quantities more–including and especially the very people you are sworn to protect as your first priority–by letting the war drag on instead. Which would you choose?

        We argue that none of us can play God, that the best answer to this dilemma is passive non-decision; but if anyone does in fact have the right to play God, it’s God himself. Here is the point where I concede a bit of common ground with Keith Mosher: if God has a solution, regardless of how terrible the fallout, you can believe that it is a just solution, and you can believe it is in fact the best solution. If you cannot see the justice in God’s work, and you cannot equally see the love, then you are not following a God that is truly worth worshipping, are you? May I also add, that if you are having a hard time seeing love and justice in the Christian God, you might well be mistaken about who he truly is, what he says, and what he does.

        Finally (and I know I’m going out of order, but bear with me), offering Lot’s daughters to rapists to protect angels was not God’s idea, or even the angels’ idea; it was Lot’s, and he in no way receives commendation for it. It’s simply recorded that that’s what happened. See Genesis 19 here for the account: Any sane Christian today would look at that and say, “Well gee, I’m not trying that any time soon!!” God absolutely condemns rape. He absolutely condemns child abuse. He absolutely condemns going rogue on “doing the right thing” because you think you’re doing him a favor even while you’re harming other humans. I could pull you up passages for these principles, too, but again, I don’t want to clog the blog.

        So, then, all this is to explain that “moral Christianity” is not at all what you think it is. There are evils that are obviously evil to the vast majority of humans, and when Christians get confused about that, that’s their fault, not God’s. It an absolute shame when we represent him so poorly, and I’m sorry for that. But I hope you will take the word of one of us who agrees with you that child sacrifice and rape and genocide are bad when I say that God wants none of these things from us–that practicing such is not “moral Christianity.”

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  15. Nice post. I was raised as a Christian — mostly Methodist and Presbyterian then Unitarian. I think of many things when I think of religion; e.g., values, stories and/or religious texts, rites and rituals, and creed/beliefs. I would say that now I’m an atheist because I don’t have a belief that God as a separate entity that is all good, all powerful and all knowing exists. However, I still hold to what I see as Christian values of the Golden Rule, loving thy neighbor, humility, etc. These are not always seen as the same in all cases by all sects, but much is held in common. I certainly value human life above animal life, but I think all life has value. I think it’s not okay to simply kill off animals for fun, for instance. I do think life evolved but I do believe there is a force of love in all living things and it is this love that has helped shape evolution. Like you, I have never seen a family that set about consciously indoctrinating kids. Attitudes can be passed on without much conscious awareness. For instance, I recall one study in which adopted babies whose adoptive mothers didn’t like orange juice also didn’t like orange juice. I seriously doubt the mother said to herself, “Oh, I hate OJ. I’m going to make sure my baby doesn’t like it either.” But the attitude is transmitted. I don’t think that’s “wrong” — and it’s probably inevitable. Some people I know were born into a Catholic family but no longer believe the creed – yet they still derive comfort from the rites and rituals. They may even forgo eating meat on Friday. Our family of origin seems to clearly influence who we become in many ways. It’s seldom a matter of “indoctrination” though. I wouldn’t say the same of some other countries…or say, most of Europe in the Middle Ages. People in the modern USA are exposed to all sorts of ideas and religions and philosophies. They might end up Buddhist or Muslim or Christian or Ethical Humanist regardless of how they were brought up.

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  16. Great food for thought in your article. Notice that homeschoolers–often Christians–teach children how to identify flawed thinking. Classical Christian education provides kids around sixth grade with an understanding of the informal fallacies. I try to teach them to college students and they have trouble grasping the concepts. It’s crucial to get these ideas in their heads when they’re young.

    It’s education, not indoctrination–because when the pastor engages in fallacies (or the newscaster or presidential candidate) the kiddo will be able to tell you.

    Good education, that’s what we need to do. Indoctrination is not a Christian-only liability.

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    • Nancy, thanks for bringing that up! I was a classical homeschooler, and studying logic and rhetoric and critical thinking helped me ENORMOUSLY–in particular, it helped me to break away from and reject the very definitively unChristian beliefs of my father. My mother taught me logic and critical thinking; my father taught my younger siblings and only educated them in such things to the extent that he could use them to further his own skewed purposes (which was mostly not at all). My youngest siblings still live with my father at ages 19 and 21, and as far as I know, they are still indoctrinated in the ways of misogyny, racism, isolationism, and fear that he taught them in the name of Christianity–but I’ve not heard from them in years since they cut off all contact.

      Homeschoolers do have a big leg up over other college students when they are exposed to this early, as are classical Christian-schoolers. However, the blanket statement that “homeschoolers teach their children to identify flawed thinking” is not wholly true. My family was not the only one who failed abjectly at this in most respects (I’m the only one of 7 that approaches “well-adjusted Christian”); I grew up around a number of other homeschool families who also failed to teach this to their children in one way or another. Probably the majority of homeschoolers I knew still turned out well; however, it was not all of them.

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  17. Maybe I will seem out of line here, forgive me I haven’t taken the time to read all of the comments. And I must also state I have no children, well two cats, and they never listen to me any way. But as a Christian I KNOW Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to eternal fellowship with God, and any deviation of that path ends in eternal separation.

    If I have children you bet I am going to make sure they stay the path of truth. Letting children “explore” other false religions does what exactly? Other than threaten to seal the fate of my child for eternity? No thanks.

    You might say, let your kid wander around and ask all the questions and dabble here and dabble there, and eventually they will return to the truth. If you do say that, you are most likely dead wrong and have now potentially damned the soul of your child.

    Look at statistics… a vast majority of “Christian” kids who enter secular universities abandon their faith before they graduate. Truth is truth, why would someone be inclined to explore well crafted deceptions???

    Unless of course, you don’t really believe in Jesus as you say you do (this is not directed at any one person, but the body as a whole).

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  18. Thanks for this wonderful post. As a Christian mom, there is a temptation to “indoctrinate” our children because we don’t want them to grow up living, thinking and reasoning like the world. As we speak, we are well aware that the world is already indoctrinating our children with its values — what should we do then?

    No, we don’t step in and make them think the way we think. After all, salvation is God’s work. We can’t make them like us but we can ask the Lord to prepare their heart for His Word. It takes more than indoctrination. It is regeneration that will give them a heart to choose the Lord.

    The Sword of the Spirit is God’s Word and when we have it and share it constantly, we must be careful to live them before our kids.

    As for my child’s education, I am a homeschooling mom, I painstakingly choose material for my child. At this point, I’m just doing my best to make her foundation in the Word of God strong. We read Bible Stories, serve the Lord together, share our goods with the poor in our community though we are not rich, and so on… I think the key there is for her to see that Jesus is enough and God’s Word is the truth enough for his parents to be so convinced of it they are living it out.

    And no, right now, I don’t give her freedoms like choosing a movie she wants with messages that would leave her confused or choosing a book that promotes ungodly practices. Of course, parenting styles vary from home to home. But for us, this is what we are adopting. This is what we believe will shield her at a time when she is most vulnerable. Soon, she will leave our nest, by then, hopefully her training in God’s ways will still be with her.

    Sacrifice is central in the message of Christ and I believe it is also the key when opposition comes. I want my child to know that as Christians we face opposition every single day. But we can maintain the purity of our message by living pure lives before unbelievers. We don’t have to convince others. We just have to share. We are bringing people to Christ His way. We don’t use devices like indoctrination. We entrust the Lord to move. Meanwhile, we share. And then I tell her that there will be times when we have to leave a conversation, with peace in our hearts, knowing that the Lord will deal with a person’s opposition in His time.

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  19. It is really a great and useful piece of info. I am satisfied that you just shared this helpful info with us.
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  20. What I appreciate about Christianity is the overwhelming evidence that we have. Evolutionists have no trouble believing in transitional forms, yet, never saw one. The creation has to be complete and synchronized as intricately and precisely as it is in order to nurture life. Evolution could not have randomly picked the earth to spin at the precise speed for 24 hour days, tilting at the exact angles for seasons and distribution of moisture, sunshine and air currents. The single cell is way too complex to have happened by chance. Scientists never saw life come from an explosion or from primordial soup or from some toxic environment. Christianity and the Jewish nation, have more evidence of GOD and their existence than any other religion or people. There are way over 35,000 original manuscripts of the bible. The archeologists are digging up evidence everyday of the bible stories, cities, people and customs from that time when Israel was chosen as GOD’s people to testify of HIS love to the world. The Scriptures speak of the creation, Israel, Jesus Christ, the church and the writers of Scripture. HIS book is about those four main points. Israel, the church and the Scriptures point to Christ as our mediator between GOD and man. GOD presented evidence of Himself in Creation and Noah and Abraham saw that. David recognized it. GOD chose Israel to testify of Himself to the world. Jesus came to point us to the Creator and let us know HE loves us and calls out to us to come to HIM to avoid the consequences of our sin. (sin would kill us even if GOD did not judge anyone for it). Jesus begins the church and sends the Holy Spirit to testify of Him to the believers. Millions upon millions of believers have testified of Jesus Christ and what He has done for them. The Holy Spirit is testifying of Jesus Christ continuously. the Holy Spirit reproves the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment. GOD compiles a book to tell us the whole story. 40 different authors from 7 different kingdoms or nations over 1500 years, all synchronized together to testify of Jesus Christ and what me must do to be saved from our sin and have eternal life. If Scripture were considered in context, allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture, it would be easier to see the relationship between the old testament and new testament, between Israel and Jesus Christ and those people of faith who are our examples of believers who pleased GOD. GOD’s creation testifies of HIS GODhead. Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, the prophets, the man Jesus who was lifted up drawing all men to Him, the Apostles, the Holy Spirit, the church, the volume of the Book HE sent us, plus all the afore mentioned evidences, testify of a Creator GOD to Whom we are accountable. Nobody has any excuse for not recognizing HIS magnificent power and glory over all creation. I like having evidence that only gets more concrete and sure as it is investigated and researched. Evolution should have millions upon millions of transitional forms. There should be manuscripts, witnesses, something to observe and test. The scientists can’t even validate their equipment and testing to know if the readings are accurate because they never saw 300 million years and nobody can guarantee their tests work. They never saw an ape turn into a human. They never saw a fish come out of water to start breathing air. They never saw a creature that was incomplete; without the organs and ability to take in oxegon, food, water and convert it to useful nutrition and circulate it throughout the body to feed every cell. If a creature didn’t have lungs, it couldn’t have lived long enough to evolve. If it ate food but couldn’t distinquish between nutrition and waste and spread the waste throughout the body, it would die. If a creature didn’t have a second mate of the opposite sex it would not have reproduced. If the first creature died because it couldn’t take in air, which means it would have died in 3 minutes, where did the next one come from?? Scientists never saw incomplete species thriving and reproducing. Was there a second bang for the next round of creatures? It is a lot easier to enjoy looking at the amazingly, synchronized, perfectly precise operating system of a living specie and to stand in awe of how perfect it works, consistently day after day. If anything does faulter due to accident or disease, where is evolution to keep it going without air or food or body temperature? I like evidence I can see and touch and experience and hear about from experts who know first hand. Jesus fulfilled hundreds of prophecies told about Him from those who lived long before He came. He couldn’t have jury rigged the Roman soldiers to do what they did to Him. He couldn’t have relied on the responses and verbal attacks of the enemies He had. Are there any prophecies predicting the ape turning into a man? Any prophecies predicting the sun to be 93 million miles away so it provides the perfect heat source without burning us up? Read Scripture in context allowing the Scriptures to interpret the Scriptures. The Scriptures are the same in every language. They are the authority over the commentaries, over the Greek, over the denominational doctrines and theories. The Scriptures contain plenty of facts. Scientific facts. Medical facts, historical facts. GOD’s creation, the Nation Israel, Jesus Christ, the Church, and the compilation of Scripture, were not hidden in a corner somewhere to keep you or I from seeing it all. If sin blinds the eyes, the first step to see better would be to turn from our sin…turn to what? who? If Jesus Christ speaks the truth, then we should turn to Him because He is all truth. He said so. If He isn’t, then He is a liar and having lied, He would have brought a curse upon Him for his own sin and would not have been capable of being a sacrifice for our sin. So, if He lied, none of us have any hope and we are all doomed. Believing Him is up to each of us. I would rather put my confidence in Jesus Christ and what He said and did rather than an apeman or science guy that came from an ape. Trust the facts. Scripture is full of them.

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