Are Christians Guilty of “Brainwashing” Their Children?
The more worldly and ungodly American society becomes, the more devout Christians will be criticized and persecuted for their beliefs and actions. One popular criticism that has been levied against Christians in recent years involves the Christian home. Allegedly, Christian parents are guilty of brainwashing their kids. Before children are old enough to digest for themselves all of the evidence for God’s existence, the Bible’s inspiration, or Jesus’ deity, some Christians (though sadly not near enough) are ingraining these beliefs into their children. Faithful Christian parents regularly and systematically teach their children fundamental Christian teachings without apology. Is this not a form of brainwashing? Is it not “forcible indoctrination”? How do Christians respond to the “brainwash” accusation?
First, we freely and unashamedly admit that we instruct our children in the ways of God from the time that they are born until they leave home. We sing to them about God. We talk to them about Jesus. We read to them from the Holy Spirit’s inspired Word. Moses instructed the Israelites:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (Deuteronomy 6:5-9).
Just as “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52), so the children of Jesus’ followers should be brought up “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
But is this really the right thing to do? Is it not arrogant to teach kids that atheists and agnostics are wrong and that theists are right? Should we not let kids decide on their own if they want to believe in God? Is it not cultish to say Jesus “is the way, the truth, and the life”—that no one will live eternally in heaven except through Him (John 14:6)? Shouldn’t children be allowed to think for themselves?
The fact is, all parents (even atheistic and agnostic parents) teach their children that certain things are true and certain things are false; that some things are right and other things are wrong. Think about it: Can parents teach their children that 2 + 2 = 4, or must they allow their children to learn this for themselves? Can a mother teach her children that they are not ever to crawl into a freezer and close the door, or must she allow her children to risk suffocation and “learn on their own”? Can a father forbid his son from touching his guns and knives, or should he just leave them on the floor for the child to discover on his own what he should or should not do with such things? Can parents teach their children that they are to be kind to one another, and if they bite and hit each other they will be punished? Can parents teach their children that lying is wrong? Or, must parents simply allow the children to lie whenever they want, and to make up their own minds if lying is wrong for them when they become 18? Most rational adults would never sanction such foolish “parenting.” All parents “brainwash” their children about certain things. [Furthermore, we also understand that children grow up and ultimately decide for themselves what they want to believe and how they want to act, regardless of past influences (cf. Joshua 24:15; Revelation 22:17).]
In truth, Christians teaching their children that God exists or that the Bible is God’s Word is as logical, truthful, and fundamental as teaching them that 2 + 2 = 4. If parents can teach their children laws of science, such as the Law of Causality, the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics, and the Law of Biogenesis, then they are implicitly teaching their children that God exists, because all of these laws point to a Creator. If parents can teach children that no mere man knows the future, and then read from the Bible dozens of examples of fulfilled prophecies, they have simply taught the fundamental fact that the Bible is a book of Supernatural origin. Indeed, God exists and the Bible is His Word.
God wants us to teach our children about Him and His Word because it is the right thing to do. If it is acceptable to teach our kids about reading, writing, and arithmetic, about the laws of science, and about how bad lying and murder are, it most certainly is rational to teach children about the evidence for God’s existence and the reliability of His Word. After all, we would not even have reading, writing, arithmetic, laws of science, truth, the value of human life, etc. without God. He is the foundation of every good and true thing. He “is true” (John 3:33). His “Spirit is truth” (1 John 5:6). His “word istruth” (Psalm 119:160; John 17:17). And the truth will set men free (John 8:32). Nothing is more important to teach children.
*If Apologetics Press may help you effectively “brainwash” (i.e., instruct) your children in the ways of God, please do not hesitate to call upon us.