Twelve Ways to Prepare Your Children for Times of Doubt

1. Let them know that it is not abnormal to experience doubt. This does not mean that your children will experience significant doubt, it just means that doubt is a common issue they will experience, to varying degrees, in a fallen world. Typically, your child’s struggles with doubt will not start until he reaches adulthood and begins to stand on his own two feet in many ways, including in his faith walk. But if you have helped your child understand that doubt is something common to all Christians, he won’t be scared to share his struggles when they arise later in life.

2. Share with them some of the doubts you struggle with. Of course, this is assuming you have brought your children up in the faith, showing them the strength of your faith as well. However, from time to time you should feel free to let them see you wrestling with God. This lets them know you are real, especially when they are older and more reflective. Showing them your doubts may embarrass you somewhat, but it can also go far in demonstrating that your faith is not shallow, but rather is marked by thoughtfulness. Sharing your doubts from time to time legitimizes the faith you do have, so they will be less tempted to think you are just a naive follower when they are older.

3. Help them prioritize their faith now. Make sure they don’t believe all issues are equal. Help them see the difference between negotiables and non-negotiables, essentials and non-essentials, cardinal and non-cardidal issues. Ensuring they understand the distinction between doctrine and dogma prevents the “house of cards” problem so that, even if they come to question one particular issue (i.e., creationism, inerrancy, premillenialism, Calvinism, etc.), they do not find it necessary to reject their faith completely.

4. Facilitate a love of Christian heroes. With all the exposure to cultural heroes (actors, musicians, models, etc.) so typical today, it is important that your children see the characteristics of godliness exemplified by real-life Christians. These examples should come from inside and outside the Bible. Reading about the heroism of Perpetua and her servant in their martyrdom is very difficult (and may be “R” rated), but your children need to know about people who actually lived out their faith with the same resources available to them today. Learning about Augustine’s life of sin before he was converted may be something you think you need to protect your children from, but perhaps they will remember the common struggle with sin when they are older and not feel so alone (which is the most fearful thing when one is doubting).

5. Allow for a great deal of mystery. We live in a western world and we love systematic theology. We want all the I’s dotted and the T’s crossed. But often, when we provide answers to all of our children’s questions, we don’t allow them to develop a respect for God’s inscrutability. He is beyond figuring out. His nature and his ways are mysteries to us. From “Why did God create the dinosaurs?” to “Why does God allow Satan to have so much power?” these questions need to be left unanswered (at least dogmatically). Allowing for and rejoicing in the mystery of God will help your children, giving them the freedom to worship in mystery and truth.

6. Ask the difficult questions. Many times we attempt to protect our children from hard issues that we think may cause them to doubt their faith. However, this is not wise. In fact, parents should be the first ones who bring up difficult issues, working through them with their children. “Why do you think God would take Spot away when he knows how much you loved him?” “It has been so long since Jesus rose from the dead, I don’t think he is coming back. What do you think?” Of course, you are guiding them to talk through things they may not have thought of otherwise. If you push them on these things early, they will be better prepared to hold on to their faith when their professor in college asks them similar questions in a much more hostile environment.

7. Make sure they know the heritage of their faith through church history. We all need to know that the anchor of our faith goes deeper than mom and dad. Again, times of doubt are intensified because we feel alone. However, these feelings of loneliness can also create doubt. By cultivating knowledge of church history, it will help your kids trace their faith origins back to the very beginning, making the picture of their faith much clearer when times of confusion arise.

8. Continually teach your children an apologetic defense of the faith. It is never too early to start your kids in apologetics. The most important doctrines of our faith are the simplest to defend. Your kids should know about all the arguments for the existence of God, the resurrection of Christ, and the reliability of Scripture. Often, this can be done by parents taking the antagonist role, then allowing the children to come up with the answers. I remember a time when Katelynn, my oldest, forgot a pencil that she needed for school.  I asked her why God, so powerful, allowed her to forget something so important. She prayed for the pencil to miraculously appear in her bag; when it did not, I told her, “I don’t think he exists.”  She responded, “Dad, that is dumb. If there was no God, there would not be a pencil to begin with.” Simple, correct, and profound.

9. Take your child on a missions trip. Kids in the U.S. have a strong sense of entitlement, believing they must have everything their friends have (and more!) or they are suffering abuse. The skewed points of reference they normally encounter (friends, neighbors, people they see on TV) create an inability to see the blessings they do have in their lives. Taking your child on a missions trip early (say, around age 12), reorients their perspective and gives them a good dose of reality.

10. Give them a chance not to believe. I remember hearing Billy Graham talk about a conversation he had with his son Franklin when he very young. He said, “Frank, your mother and I have decided to follow Jesus. We hope one day you will do the same thing.” And he left it at that. You children need to know they are free to not follow your same path so they take ownership of their own beliefs, rather than feel forced or tricked into believing the way you do. This disarming approach is very important for the future reality of their faith.

11. Prepare them for suffering. There is nothing that causes people to lose faith more than unexpected or “meaningless” suffering. This is where good theology is of utmost importance. When your children get older, they will surely suffer a great deal in one way or another. If they perceive that their suffering is something that was not supposed to happen, if they believe it is not God’s will for people to suffer, they will be very confused later in life, not knowing how to square what they believe with their life experience. But if we have taught our children well, giving them a strong biblical theology of suffering (i.e., we live in a fallen world; they should expect pain and difficulty), then disillusionment will not be a source for doubt.

12. Teach them to take care of their bodies. Many times doubt is brought about or intensified due to poor physical health. Your children need to know how vital the connection is between the spirit and the body. When one suffers, so does the other. A good eating and exercise routine will do much to prevent this type of doubt – which may be the most unnecessary of all sources of doubt (and depression).

122 Responses to “Twelve Ways to Prepare Your Children for Times of Doubt”

  1. Thanks, Michael, this is a really important one! This may be the first blog post ever that I actually print out and save!

    Under #1 “Let them know it is not abnormal to experience doubt.”, I would slip in there making sure they know the difference between a difficulty and a doubt. What’s that saying? Something like A thousand difficulties do not a doubt make. (Who said that?)

    Under #10, “Give them a chance not to believe,” I’m not quite clear what you mean. Do you mean not tell them, “As long as you live under this roof, you’re going to church on Sunday.” or “No joining the Muslim Student Union.” If so, that is the one section I’d have to disagree with, but maybe I just don’t get what you mean.

  2. Great ideas!

    I’d like to add a couple. Baptize them and make sure they receive the Lord’s Supper regularly. And teach them that there, no matter how they feel about it, the Lord is truly with them, in all of the winning and losing in life.

  3. These are very good, especially the idea of allowing your child to have some space to own his/her belief.

  4. Thank you very much for posting this article!!!

  5. Great post Michael! I will be re-tweeting this one later today. We often say that it is far better to inoculate our kids than to isolate them. They need to know what is waiting for them long before they actually encounter it. We, as parents, are on the front lines. This is a responsibility that we cannot delegate to teachers or youth pastors.

  6. Since doubt is viewed in such a negative manner most of the time, it is refreshing to read a list like this.

  7. “allowing your child to have some space to own his/her belief”

    Robin—I’m glad this concept is meaningful to you. It is also meaningful to me.

    Overcoming my own doubt……
    Nearly 12 years ago, our family was attending a small Baptist church that taught Reformed doctrine. At the time, I was interested in psychology and philosophy.

    Since I did not hide my interest in these two topics, the preacher believed it was necessary to bash both topics–so he could set me straight? Or to overcome his own insecurity? Hard to tell….

    A retired Reformed Baptist pastor from New York state was visiting our church. He asked me what I thought of the preaching. I shared my ambivalence concerning the preacher’s comments about my interest in psychology and philosophy.
    He asked if I was interested in reconciling my interest in psychology and philosophy with Scripture. I told him yes.
    He brought me a book by J.I. Packer….
    Fundamentalism and the Word of God (1958)

    As I read Packer, the doubt and the confusion from my fundamentalist background began falling away….Packer’s book even restored my trust in the truth of God’s Word.

    Comparing the behavior of both preachers in light of relationship….four pillars:
    Love, Trust, Respect, and Understanding…..

    When these four pillars of relationship are in place, then it is easier for others to receive our message.

  8. There seems to be some contradiction between 8 and 10. If you give your children a choice in what (if anything) to believe, then you should not be pushing the defence of a particular faith upon them from an early age.

  9. There is no contradiction so long as you see apologetics as giving honest rational, not manipulative rational. It’s kinda like giving reasons why u believe that a man landed on the moon yet not being emotionally manipulative in your arguments. Often parents do not give their children the option in their beliefs. Whether through fear or emotional manipulation, they force their kids into belief. This is just like anything else. Eventually u have to let them go so that they can excel. .

  10. Here’s a useful one I’ve found.

    As long as you beat any rational or critical thought out of them, destroy any desire for reason or truth and flatly refuse to be drawn into intelligent debate, then they will keep their (read: your) faith.

  11. As Richard Dawkins has just commented on twitter, this is a twisted way to parent. I am so glad I was brought up in an atheist household with no beliefs pushed upon me. Disgusting

  12. The contradiction lies in the fact that in number 8 you are endorsing one particular religion from an early age, whereas in 10 you are seeking to give children a free choice. If you endorse a religion from early in a child’s life, they have a diminished choice.

    • It is impossible to bring your children up in neutrality in any area. To even suppose such is an option lacks any practical wisdom, and, more importantly, is an attempt to foster (or indoctrinate) a worldview of neutrality. At some point your children will begin to doubt this “neutral” upbringing. My sugestion at this point would be to follow the advice of this article. At some point you are going to have to give a defense for this. And I suggest you present them with all the strengths and weaknesses of your worldview, whatever it is. I simply happen to believe that Christianity is the most defendable option of all.

  13. Entirely emotional manipulation. This whole piece, that is absolutely dripping in psychological shenanigan, is so very much like Scientology that it strikes me just how damaging Christian brainwashing is for children. Done in the way this blog describes, young people have so little chance of choosing their own paths in adulthood, and have years of guilt and struggle ahead of them in order to dig out of the propaganda by which they’ve been victimized. I agree with Billy Graham — before a young mind has reached adulthood, Christian parents should have the confidence in their own faith enough to simply tell their children “This is what WE choose to believe, and we hope you’ll share our interest and devotion one day.” They should not be manipulated in such a vile and destruction way.

    I suggest every person of faith who is also a parent watch Julia Sweeney’s one-woman show “Letting Go of God” in order to understand that each individual must be given the freedom of education, worldliness and an open mind and heart to be able to TRULY be a believer of Christ. Otherwise, you only make them feel deceived, and fearful of their own destinies when they grow up and realize their perhaps well-intentioned parents just unloaded all their own personal dogmatic ideals unfairly onto them. Do the truly wise thing by teaching them ethics, laws, and allowing them to find their own way spiritually. When they want your input, they will come to you.

    • Why wouldn’t teaching them ethics be brainwashing?

      I appreciate your candor, but your emotions cloud your antagonism. There is simply no reason why anyone should place their faith in what you have said. The apologetics point in your kids lives should deal with many alternatives, but those that have no rational basis (such as everything came from nothing or that the universe has always existed) should only recieve time relative to its strength and influence. As well, giving them morals without a sustainable rational basis is a worthless irresponsible activity. So, yes, I would say stay away from the bronze-age stuff, but that would most certainly disqualify any form of hard atheism. I would figure the best representative of secularism would be soft agnosticism or soft skepticism without the atheistic option being given too much time. Again, this will be disarming to your children when they get older.

  14. Sickening. Forcing and indoctrinating Bronze Age myths onto children is just wrong. It should be deemed as child abuse.

  15. I feel the need to apologise, as an atheist I can see concern in certain methods here but the lack of respect by some people who’ve came here is terrible.

    Frankly I find that loud atheists can be just as bad as loud religious people sometimes :-/

    • Loud people of whatever stripe do disservice to their cause, especially among the most thoughtful. But the power of emotion cannot be denied. For good or ill hateful sound bites makes the person think they are saying something substantial.

  16. “…should only recieve time relative to its strength and influence”

    This sums up the entire problem with your method. (And btw, I’m not questioning the teachings of Christ here. I’m questioning the manipulation of children by human beings.) In your above statement, YOU have already decided what universal theories or opposing religious doctrines are “strong” or “influential.” YOU are not giving your child the right to discover the world and its mysteries on their own; YOU are damaging their ability to make these decisions for themselves by marginalizing the faith of others for the express purpose, admitted to or not, of influencing the child’s own rational conclusions. I’m not saying that you have to compromise your own belief system. You will naturally share those principles as it IS your home and your child will live by your rules while they’re there. However, it is far easier than some people here would pretend to give whatever amount of time the child would be interested in talking about alternative beliefs. If your faith is strong, you shouldn’t mind continuing discussions about what others believe, or exploring atheism, agnosticism, science, ANYthing. You simply let the child know those are not YOUR beliefs but you respect the right of others to explore the universe in their own way. …unless you don’t.

    There IS no wisdom in mind control, which is what you suggest here. There is only fear. And perhaps this is at the heart of the problem. Christianity hopes to instill a “healthy” fear of God and punishment in order to keep man in check. So if you’re a Christian parent, you are acting out of that same fear, and desperate to keep your child from suffering on earth or in their afterlife. I see how being terrified would cloud your judgement, and make it darn near impossible to see the difference between neutrality and balance. If you childishly see the world as black and white, good and evil, healthy balance is impossible. Keep kids…

  17. Teaching a child ethics isn’t brainwashing because we, in this country, have determined that in order to have a fair and just society, we all must agree on a set of rules. Killing, stealing, or disturbing a person’s life, liberty and pursuit of happiness is simply unfair. You may believe what you want, live pretty much how you choose, but you may not negatively affect the lives of others, or come into their homes and behave destructively. It’s about how your conduct impacts others. Creating laws doesn’t necessarily say stealing is immoral. Creating laws says we simply do not tolerate it, and for it, you will be punished by your American peers. Justice is not brainwashing. Religious mythology was meant to instill a fear of supernatural ramifications. Repetitive enforcement that your soul will be banished to Satan’s lair to be tortured for eternity is brainwashing. Stating the reality that it is illegal in this country to rob someone is imparting a fact. Sharing the knowledge with a child that treating other people with kindness is rewarding and uplifting is simply the truth. I guess it’s about consequences. Reality is emotional pain, injury, prison or death. Brainwashing is repetitive enforcement of a superstitious belief or punishment. Nuance.

  18. Leila,

    Not that these are on par with atheism necessarily, but do you think I should give equal time to the flat earth theory or those who believe that 911 was created by Bush or those who believe in solapsism? Or do you think we should pre filter those that are rationally and historically legitimate according to their rationality and relative influence?

    And, of course, your list may be slightly different than mine, it is clear that there are world views that are going to be higher up these scales than others.

    When your children doubt it is often because they have been brainwashed and shielded from the way others think and believe. Our only responsibility as parents is to be able to explain and give reason for what we believe and why and give our children an education of what we believe to be legitimate options. Atheism will definitely be discussed in our family but I cannot lie and act as if it holds more legitimacy than it does. I don’t really expect you to do the same. All of us want our children to believe the truth, therefore we will attempt to give reasons for our persuasion accordingly. As long as we are intellectually honest, their doubt will not be caused by our overprotection. In this case, whatever they end up believing will be more true.

  19. “Teaching a child ethics isn’t brainwashing because we, in this country, have determined that in order to have a fair and just society, we all must agree on a set of rules. Killing, stealing, or disturbing a person’s life, liberty and pursuit of happiness is simply unfair. You may believe what you want, live pretty much how you choose, but you may not negatively affect the lives of others, or come into their homes and behave destructively.”

    Who determines that this is moral? What obligation to I have to believe that happiness and life are moral imperitives? Kant could not even pull this off with consistency. To say “you may not negatively affect the lives of others” is indoctrination of a worldview just as much as saying Jesus died for our sins.

    So, once again, there is no way for a parent to stay neutral. Your worldview that says the determination of the masses or the pusuit of happiness has to have some apologia tied to it. My advice would be to follow the advice of this post, just placing your faith in the place of mine. It will help in times of doubt. But remember, doubt is not a bad thing for through it true assensus is birthed.

  20. #13: Provide them with some evidence that God actually exists. Oh wait, there is none – scratch that.

  21. @C Michael Patton,

    The difference (and I imagine core complaint from many commenters here) is that your worldview does not prepare children to learn knew things or distinguish fact from fiction outside the realm of religion.

    You’re advocating teaching children to overcome their doubts by deciding in advance what beliefs are important to them and sticking to them, rather than by figuring out how to test if their doubts are valid and conduct those tests honestly.

    • “The difference (and I imagine core complaint from many commenters here) is that your worldview does not prepare children to learn knew things or distinguish fact from fiction outside the realm of religion.”

      That is an assertion from what I can tell. And it assumes a particular worldview. We all have to presuppose something. There is no value or virtue in vancancy. On top of this, we believe, as parents, our worldview to be legitimate, even if it is the assertion of agnosticism. Most of the time children will want to be like their parents. And if the parents are truly convinced of their worldview and it has implications, as most do, then the parents will want their children to believe as they do.

      This encourages critical thinking so that the belief sustained will be as stable as warranted. I really don’t think anyone should are fur against this post as all they have to do is insert their own worldview into it to see it work.

      Of course I believe that every advantage will go to the Christian worldview so long as true critical thinking and representation are done. This is the best a parent can do.

      Check out the doubt category on this blog. I write extensively on Christian doubt. Doubt can easily be eliminated from an intellectual standpoint. But from an emotional and spiritual standpoint (the source of most doubt and unbelief) the problems are much more complicated.

  22. Good post and interesting comments.
    I think Joshua 24:15 says something about this subject.
    He tells other people that They can choose other gods, but in his house they will serve the Lord.  It is a given that the Lord exists and that is who his family will serve.


  23. I am God. Since I am God, I know that you are doubting my claim to be God. Why? Am I any less than Jesus Christ? I don’t see Jesus Christ posting here. Therefore, the only logical conclusion is that you ought to be doubting the claims of Christians that Jesus Christ is God AT LEAST AS MUCH, IF NOT MORESO than my claim to be God. If you are incapable of doing this, then you are incapable of rational thought. Simple.

  24. Don’t forget to teach them how capricious God is. If you’re not sure of an example, try Job.

  25. Thank you for this post.

    Such a prayer now that our children would never deny our God-Father, Son, Spirit in any way, but stand firm in faith, by His will and power; and that we each and all are convicted to take His words on our hearts and teach them diligently to our sons and shall talk of them when we sit in our house and when we walk by the way and when we lie down and when we rise up. Deut 6,11

    I think the Lord will be asking us if they were interested in this.

  26. 5. Allow for a great deal of mystery. “Allowing for and rejoicing in the mystery of God will help your children, giving them the freedom to worship in mystery and truth.” – – How can there be mystery and truth? The only one of the 12 points that I agree with is #10. Give them the chance not to believe. <—– That is a very good idea!

  27. @Rune

    Thanks for your comment and your civility. Honestly, as a Christian, when I read those unnecessarily aggressive and rude posts, it just makes me feel defensive and dig in my heels, and they are not in the least bit persuasive, nor do they inspire any respect for the opinions of their authors.

  28. Kevin Bullock May 15, 2013 at 9:36 am

    Michael, I have three sons that I am attempting to bring up. I have no wish to merely indoctrinate them into a faith that they do not take up for themselves. These points are ones that have been on my radar but not articulated as clearly as you have here.

    One of the most deeply meaningful experiences my oldest son and I have shared together was during a mission trip to Honduras, he was 11 at the time. It still informs OUR worldview to this day.
    Excellent points excellent post.
    Thank you for your contribution to our home.

  29. Robert Filmer wrote his La Patriarcha in early 1600s…he twisted Scripture to justify absolute monarchy.

    John Locke’s challenge to Filmer was published in 1690 as First Treatise Concerning Civil Government. Locke confronted Filmer’s twisting of Scripture in a fair and reasonable manner.

    Filmer’s view of children as property of father is known as traducianism.
    Locke’s view of children as gifts from God to be raised for His glory (instead of the father’s glory) is known as creationism.

    I believe this disagreement can be resolved by understanding the difference between traducianism and creationism….

  30. Fellow Christian parents,

    Notice, reading some of these comments from athiests, how we not only must prepare our children to participate in the arena of ideas –now we must also contend with the notion that it is WRONG to teach our children what we have come to know as truth. We are told it is not ethical or healthy to do anything other than leave our children’s brains and spirits “neutral”.

    My children, while they are children, are my responsibility. Therefore I simply must teach them what I believe to be truth. Surely everyone can agree that it would be unloving, disrespectful, unreasonable, and unwise to do otherwise. I won’t bypass truth to comply with some imagined, impossible “neutrality.”

    *So, if anyone is interested in the minds of my children, try to change MY perception of truth, instead of telling me it is wrong to TEACH my children truth.*

  31. @Lora

    Can you please explain a little further? I won’t have time to discuss, but am interested in what you are saying.

  32. I understand what you are saying about teaching your children about what you have found as truth. In the same regaurd do you think it is ok for parents to teach their kids to hate another race or religion if the parents see it as truth?

  33. Thank you for your kind question, Irene.

    There seems to be lots of extremist thinking on both ends of the spectrum–atheism vs. fundamentalism.

    Considering the damage from my own fundamentalist background, I believe fundamentalists are wrong.
    As a Christian, I consider atheists to be wrong as well.

    When I was raising my children, I mostly read Dobson….which was okay. I just wish I had read more from other perspectives….during their teens, I studied the enneagram.

    WHen I homeschooled them, I learned about classical education and the trivium.
    When my children started high school, I went back to college to get my master’s degree. I was fascinated by the similarities between the trivium and Jean Piaget’s Cognitive Learning Theory–
    (If you are homeschooling, Bloom’s taxonomy is great for teaching critical thinking skills to your teens.)

    As I read chapter about Abraham Maslow for class one day, the Holy Spirit kept telling me to read I John. Once I read I John and recognized the parallels with Maslow, I knew the Lord was telling me to leave our fundamentalist church.
    So one Wednesday evening, I obeyed the Lord and refused to go to church with my husband that evening. Although he ranted and raged, the peace of God filled my heart.

    The Lord knows each one of us so well—He knows how to lead us, and He knows how to guide us. By the grace of God, my children have grown to be healthy responsible adults.
    They each go to a church of their own choosing….neither one of them are Bible thumpers and they both appear to be “worldly.” But the Lord knows their hearts….

    As far as Christian ethics… favorite author is Lewis Smedes. He openly refers to himself as a Dutch Calvinist AND he has rejected the pitfalls of fundamentalism.

    Hmm…I’m thinking that I didn’t answer your question very well, Irene :-/

  34. Hi BJ, I think mystery and truth can definitely co-exist, scripture says that we see through a mirror darkly in our present state and I think this implies that we have an idea of what it is we are looking at and get glimpses of the actual details but we do not know fully. Someday we will see face to face and it will be over and above anything we have dreamed of as written in Epesians:

    To him who by means of his power working in us is able to do so much more than we can ever ask for, or even think of: 21 to God be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time, forever and ever! Amen.

  35. Chad Dougless May 15, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    @Andrew, #8

    Andrew, in your mindset, what would you say when your child asks why you believe in Jesus? Would you simply respond that your prefer not to answer because it could be construed by others as pushing a view on them? Or would you simply respond with a defense of your viewpoint? Likewise, if you child asks why other people go to church and believe in Jesus, would you refuse to answer based on the idea of not forcing your viewpoint upon them?

    My guess is that your realize the pointlessness of your particular view in these statements. You of course would provide a defense for your beliefs (and yes, atheism is a belief). Do you hold yourself to the same standards you espouse are good and right? Or do you believe that children are so daft that if you were to defend your viewpoint that they would not “learn” from it? Would you counter your viewpoint with a balanced exposition of all other possible viewpoints so as to not unduly influence them?

    @Ian, #10

    Please define rational and critical thought. Or do you only define rational and critical thought as thoughts that agree with your particular viewpoint? That would be an irrational view, thus negating your initial premise. Please read and respond rationally and critically instead of with blatant emotionalism that is both not supported in Christian belief nor in the article you are responding to.

    It is always important to teach rational and critical thought, just as it is important for apologetics in general to use logical, rational, and critical thought for the defense of their position. Why you falsely believe that all Christians are simply uneducated, backwards, irrational morons certainly says more about your own irrational beliefs than those whom you oppose.

  36. @Lora,

    Well, you may not have exactly answered it, but still interesting! You are correct in thinking I may be another homeschooler! In fact, I am primarily doing it for academic reasons, with classical education specifically in mind. In other realms of the web, I have read about the controversy whether Dorothy Sayers knew what she was talking about and whether she was in line with historic classical education. Right now I tend to think that her connection of the trivium with child development is useful, but also that it shouldn’t replace the content, the meat, of classical Ed. Anyway, don’t want to get too far off topic here.

    I often get the impression athiests believe all Christians to bring up their children in a closed-minded stubborn way. This is such a mistaken notion. Open-mindedness is good! But it is not the pinnacle of education either. If the open mind in which an idea is contemplated is not well-trained and mature, no worthwhile contemplation can occur. The mind must be skilled in reason and expression. And there must be some knowledge of truth to work from. In other words, open mindedness has to be more than just a gateway to nothing. There has to be some “there” there. Thus my reference in a previous comment about truth (at least the desire for it) being necessary, and the idea of ignoring truth for the sake of “neutrality” being nonsense (and leading to nonsense!).

    Thanks for some interesting items to add to my “read about” list.

  37. @Curtis

    Well, I suppose that would be their prerogative. I would say what they are teaching is wrong, but their judgement would be authoritative in that case, not mine. I would try to change the mind of the parents, instead of saying the parents don’t have a right to teach their own children. Now, if they were teaching violence against other people, that would be different. That would be crossing a line necessary for civilized society, which protects the rights of the parents in the first place.

  38. Carrie Hunter May 15, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    So many bananas to peel and not enough time.

  39. Carrie Hunter May 15, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Ok in all seriousness…

    Hey atheists. Can you prove to me the laws of logic exist. But do so by providing same type of evidence you demand Christians provide for the existence of God.

    We need the following:

    Detail what the law of non-contradiction looks like (as in physical features not some written out explanation of what it entails.)

    Detail what the law of non-contradiction sounds like (what sound does it make when it is singing in the shower?)

    Detail what the law of non-contradiction taste like (is it pungent, sweet, savory etc?)

    Detail what the law of non-contradiction feels like (what is its physical texture?)

    Detail what the law of non-contradiction smells like (what smell does it emit?)

    Until you can demonstrate to me the physical properties of the law of non-contradiction, you have no grounds for appealing to logic. (Well you do have grounds as it is properly basic to use logic, but using your own criteria of evidence, you have no reason to believe it exist in the first place to use it at all.)

  40. Wow, Rich Dawkins!!! (Never read his stuff, but I do like his accent :))

    Any education has to involves a certain degree of indoctrination. No one can possibly give a completely unbiased view on everything with a myriad of options and let the child decide for themselves whether or not they have reached a certain maturity to decide for themselves. For one example, I wonder whether Dr. Dawkins teaches his kids to look both ways before crossing the street?

  41. Robert Filmer wrote his La Patriarcha in early 1600s…he twisted Scripture to justify absolute monarchy.

    John Locke’s challenge to Filmer was published in 1690 as First Treatise Concerning Civil Government. Locke confronted Filmer’s twisting of Scripture in a fair and reasonable manner.

    Filmer’s view of children as property of father is known as traducianism.
    Locke’s view of children as gifts from God to be raised for His glory (instead of the father’s glory) is known as creationism.

    I believe this disagreement can be resolved by understanding the difference between traducianism and creationism….

    So how can this disagreement be resolved?

  42. Traducianism of Robert Filmer has been passed down to the 20th century…known as fundamentalism.
    My two biggest problems with fundamentalist PRACTICE is that they tend to exalt authority at the expense of morality and they tend to exalt faith at the expense of reason.
    Even though I am a Christian, I must commend atheists for recognizing these problems even if they are unable to verbalize it in terms acceptable to me as a Christian.

    Enter my favorite philosopher: John Locke.
    During his years in college, Calvin’s Institutes was required reading for all students. John Locke owned 2 of his own copies in his personal library.
    In his political philosophy, John Locke preserved the Calvinist concept of morality superseding authority based upon Acts 5:29.
    In his work The Reasonableness of Chrisitanity and his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke described the ludicrous nature of faith CONTRARY to reason. He described the resurrection of Jesus Christ as faith ABOVE reason. He deplored an unexamined faith, as do I.
    The scholar Nicholas Wolterstorff has defined the complementarist view of faith and reason, making a connection between John Locke and Thomas Aquinas.
    He also described the preconditionalist view of faith and reason held by Augustin and Calvin. Since this second view of faith ABOVE reason depends on the Holy Spirit, it is suitable for those inside the church but not for those outside the church.

    If Christians want their ideas to have credibility in the cultural marketplace, then it would be best for them to learn more about the complementarist view of faith and reason, especially as it relates to the light of nature, that is faith ACCORDING to reason.

  43. Clint Roberts May 16, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Very good, Lora. I like.

    We should all be concerned any time we begin to hear militant language from anti-religionists who, having untethered their thinking from all previous foundations of reason and ethics, presume to know best how to raise everyone’s kids. Secular ‘Big Brother’ will not be delivering us into any future utopias. Quite the opposite.

    In a speech on Nov. 6, 1933, Hitler said, “When an opponent declares, ‘I will not come over to your side,’ I say calmly, ‘Your child belongs to us already … You will pass on. … In a short time they will know nothing but this new community’.”

  44. @C Michael Patton:

    It’s poorly stated, but it is not an assertion. The only way to distinguish fact from fiction is science, narrowly understood. Hypothesis, Test, Repeat. And the only reasonable way to determine if science is the only reasonable way is also science (i.e. the hypothesis that “this non-scientific method of telling truth from fiction is valid” must be able to be tested through experimentation).

    Critical thinking—at least as far as Wikipedia defines it—is not a valid way to separate fact from fiction. Its plainly valuable as a way to clarify your own thinking about a subject—a way to ask yourself “what do I believe,” It allows you to come up with a coherent explanation for some part of how the world works. Great, but that isn’t good enough. “What do I believe” is simply another way to say the more sciency-sounding “what is my hypothesis.”

    So the next step—the important step—is to design an experiment that will tell you if your hypothesis is wrong. Critical thinking will prove useful here too, but thinking isn’t a substitute for experiment (or experimental results). It facilitates the operation of science, but it isn’t a replacement for it, just as a can of gasoline isn’t a replacement for an engine.

    If you aren’t actually performing experiments, however, then you don’t actually know if what you believe is true, and teaching children not to put their beliefs through actual experiments, on purpose, reminds me of nothing so much as ritual foot binding.

  45. James,

    You said “The only way to distinguish fact from fiction is science, narrowly understood. Hypothesis, Test, Repeat. And the only reasonable way to determine if science is the only reasonable way is also science (i.e. the hypothesis that “this non-scientific method of telling truth from fiction is valid” must be able to be tested through experimentation).”

    Can you scientifically prove this philosophical assertion? Have u ever heard of logical positivism? Your categories are too narrow and your epistemology fails to warrant its own premises.

    Either way, experimentation, from a historical standpoint, is impossible. Historical warrant is, nevertheless, justifiable. In other words, we can be fairly certain about the past.

    As well, though you cannot test it, you can be fairly certain that other minds exist and that you were not created ten min ago with preprogrammed memories. As well, though sciences says nothing about it, I don’t think solipsism is true, do you.

    Science assumes properly basic beliefs that it cannot proves, does it not? Can you scientifically prove the law of non-contradiction exists?

    I think you need to be more critical of your own epistemology. It is simple, flawed, and philosophically absurd. (Not to mention that it has nothing to do with this post, either in refutation or support).

  46. I believe this disagreement could be resolved by considering the scientific experiment described in II Kings 4 (didn’t work for Gehazi, but it worked for Elisha)
    Hmmmm….I wonder why?

    I just posted my comments at the end of the thread: Is Bad Doctrine a Sin

  47. Yes, I have heard of logical positivism. Should I insult you by assuming you’ve never heard of Karl Popper? Or were you simply too reflexively defensive of the verbal carpet bombing from Frankfurt that you failed to notice that I was describing falsifiability, not verifiability? Perhaps the village neither wants nor needs to be “saved” from the godless Evidentialists?

    And yes, experimentation is impossible with history, because history is the observation, not the hypothesis, experiment, or theory. Arguing about the quality of your observation—or what hypotheses are coherent with the observation—seems like a useful diversion, but ultimately just grist for the progress machine.

    And no, I don’t believe there are practically basic beliefs. You’re welcome to read up on the alternatives to foundationalism on your own.

    I will say that I’m heartened by the fact that you’re at least nominally attempting to avoid the brain in the jar discussion, if only because that’s only actually interesting to madmen and billionaires, of which I’m neither.

    In terms of how it’s related, I flat-out said why it’s related: teaching your children that it’s OK to wall off foundational beliefs from examination is damaging to them, because—as you’re attempted to goad me into allowing—once you allow one belief to be treated as a fact without subjecting it to experiment, the door is open for all sorts of wacky nonsense to walk right in.

  48. @ James,

    1. Moral and ethical systems are not falsifiable. They are only better or worse depending on whatever one believes to be the goal of ethics and morals. The goal, whatever it may be for each persons worldview, is neither testable nor falsifiable. Despite this I think you would agree that ethics plays a great role in the progress (or regress depending on your view) of society.

    2. Are you saying that statements like “other minds other than my own exist” or “the physical world is real” are not basic beliefs? If not how would you suggest testing these in a falsifiable manner?

  49. @C Michael Patton:

    1. Yes, so moral and ethical systems cannot be “disproven” (Just in case: theism is neither a moral nor an ethical system, it’s a hypothesis about the universe.) “Ethics plays a great role in the progress […] of society” is a hypothesis worth experimenting on. ;-)

    2. So: billionaire, or madman?

    One of the wonders of science is that untestable hypotheses can properly be dismissed out of hand for what they are: a total waste of time.

  50. James,

    “One of the wonders of science is that untestable hypotheses can properly be dismissed out of hand for what they are: a total waste of time.”

    So the epistemological grounding for the whole scientific theory proves that science is a waste of time? I would not go there. It’s much easier to admit that there are properly basic beliefs that need not be tested as they cannot.

    Again, can you scientifically prove the law of non-contradiction? Is this learned or assumed. Nurture or nature?


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