To Brainwash a Child?

I’m not gonna lie to ya, the response to my post from last Monday floored me.  If you haven’t read Why I Would Never Force my Kids to go to Church, you might as well read it now.  Be sure to read some of the comments as well.  I was floored at the number of shares, views, and comments in response to the article.  If you’ve read any of the comments, you know very well that while there are a number of people who agreed with the premise of the post, there are also many who do not.  That’s to be expected, certainly.  There are a number of beliefs and worldviews out there that are vastly different from my own.  But what surprised me was the recurring use of one word by those who disagreed with my article.  Brainwashing.

To have a decent discussion about brainwashing, one has to start with a common definition.  To quote Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, “You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.”  (Admit it, you just read that in a fake Spanish accent, didn’t you?)  So let’s start with the dictionary’s definition of the word “brainwashing:”  A method for systematically changing attitudes or altering beliefs, originated in totalitarian countries, especially through the use of torture, drugs, or psychological-stress techniques.  Hmm.  That doesn’t sound like anyone I know.  Not one single Christian parent I know fits that description.  Think Hilter Germany.  The Hitler Youth?  Brainwashing.  How about the David Koresh’s infamous cult in Waco, Texas, which ended in a final and fatal standoff on April 19, 1993?  Brainwashing.  Loving Christian parents teaching their children about a loving Savior?  Not brainwashing.

Okay, maybe brainwashing is a bit too strong a word.  But at the very least, you’re denying your children the right to “free thinking” and the beauty of exploration and choosing their own set of beliefs.

Let’s explore that a moment then, shall we?  Let’s change things up with this blog format and have some interactive participation.  I’m going to list different scenarios and I want you to answer for yourself whether each instance is denying a child the beauty of exploration and the gift of choice.

1.  A parent who passes on loyalty to a certain sports team, giving their child apparel, pennants, and gear from the team of the parent’s choice from a very young age, thus raising their child to be a fan of the same team the parents like.
 2.  A symphonic violinist who starts his child on violin lessons at the age of 5, thus ruling out the possibility of the child exploring woodwind or brass instruments.
 3.  A Olympic gymnast who signs up her child in gymnastics from the age of 3, thus denying the child the chance to explore other options like ice skating.
 4.  A parent who teaches his child the theory of evolution as fact, thus denying the child the choice of learning about creation as well.
 5.  A vegetarian parent who passes on the vegetarian lifestyle to her children, thus denying them the exploration of many types of meat.

I could go on with other examples, but let’s stick with five for now.  Your answers may be different from my own, but here’s the bottom line.  If you believe that a Christian parent who passes on their beliefs to their children is denying their children the “beauty of choice,” then you have to agree that all the examples above are denying their children the beauty of choice as well.

You see, I cannot do anything other than pass on my faith.  Living out my faith and passing it on to my children is just what I do.  It’s like speaking English.  It just comes naturally.  It’s my “native tongue,” so to speak.  Am I denying my kids free choice by speaking English in the house?  What if they’d rather speak Italian?  Do you see how ridiculous this gets?  Just as I speak the English language without a second thought, so do I speak my language of faith, Christianity.

Some of the comments from last Monday’s post accused me of threatening or scaring my kids into behaving by talking about hell.  This is simply untrue.  If there are parents out there who do this, it’s a dangerous tactic that will almost certainly backfire.  My husband and I do not threaten them with, “You know, you’re gonna burn in hell for lying to me like that.”  Absolutely not.  That’s unthinkable.  So what do we teach them?  I’m glad you asked.  It’s quite simple, actually.  It comes down to two main categories.

1.  LAW.  In order to have a proper understanding of the second category (Gospel), one must start with this.  Here is where many people bristle, and sadly, if you can’t get past the Law, you will never be able to experience the beauty of the Gospel.  The Law basically tells us that we are all sinners.  Yes, I said it.  You’re a sinner, I’m a sinner, my kids are sinners.  Everyone is a sinner.  Does it hurt your pride to hear me say it?  It should.  No one likes to be told they’re wrong, and here’s where a lot of people fall away.  “I don’t need a religion that tells me I’m wrong or tries to make me feel guilty.”  Ah, but stay with me, dear ones, because if you stop reading here you miss the best part!  When did you teach your kids to lie, hit each other, fight, etc?  What’s that?  You didn’t teach them these things?  Exactly.  That’s because we are all sinful.  We truly can’t help ourselves.  No matter how hard we may try to be “good,” we will all fall short.  God demands perfection.  100% of the time.  No one can live up to that.  Ever.  But this isn’t the end, because look with me at number 2 now.

2.  GOSPEL.  You see, God wasn’t content to sit in heaven and watch us ruin ourselves.  He sent His only Son, Jesus, to this earth as a human being.  Imagine, the God of the universe taking on human flesh!  It’s unbelievable.  I can’t comprehend it myself, but I believe it and give thanks to God for it!  Jesus came down to earth and lived the perfect life we could never live.  Then He was crucified for all the sins of everyone in the world, and three days later rose from the dead.  His victory over death assures all believers that they will live with Him eternally.  Again, I can’t comprehend this.  Does this make sense?  Well, truthfully, no.  And that’s the beauty of it.  If someone had made up Christianity, they would have made up something that was “logical” to our finite minds.  Give us a set of rules to follow to gain heaven.  Let us earn our own way somehow.  But the “foolishness of God is wiser than men,” as I Corinthians 1:25 asserts.  You see, God’s “foolishness” is the message of the cross, as I Corinthians 1:18 points out: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

Friend, I don’t know where you are in your beliefs.  Perhaps you look at the cross as “folly” and think all Christians to be foolish and ignorant.  Perhaps you know the cross to be “the power of God.”  You fall into one category or the other.  As for me and my household, we believe.  My children know the message of the cross and believe it as “the power of God.”  We don’t brainwash them to believe this.  We simply teach them about their living Savior who was willing to die for them.  The Holy Spirit works faith in their hearts.  I pray He works in your heart as well.


Author’s Note:  The comments from my original blog post, “Why I Would Never Force my Kids to go to Church,” varied greatly, but there were a number of them that were blatantly rude.  If you’re going to leave a comment, please be considerate.  I don’t insult you if you don’t believe what I believe.  Please grant me the same courtesy.  If you wouldn’t say something to my face, don’t say it anonymously through a blog comment.  Thank you for your thoughtfulness.  
Photo is Have you changed your mind? by Zane Selvans

35 thoughts on “To Brainwash a Child?

  1. I think you have expressed this all very well. It’s often hard to put this kind of thing into words.

  2. Your initial post crossed my radar just before it went viral, and so I read every comment as it came in. Since I have a very Lutheran worldview, I nearly gave myself a headache from all the facepalming I was doing as I read the negative comments. 🙂 The number of angry and scarred people rejecting the good news because of a bad experience with a church was saddening, and I was humbled and impressed by the gracious responses you made. I hope and pray that some seeds were planted!

    And I’m glad you like the Princess Bride… 🙂

  3. Out of the possible definitions of “brainwashing,” you chose the one that was least likely to represent what people actually meant when they used the word. Other potential (and far more likely to be intended) definitions include:
    “any method of controlled systematic indoctrination, especially one based on repetition or confusion”
    “a forcible indoctrination to induce someone to give up basic political, social, or religious beliefs and attitudes and to accept contrasting regimented ideas”
    “persuasion by propaganda or salesmanship”

    All of which are clearly more likely to represent the actual idea people were trying to convey. Starting off by very clearly misinterpreting your critics doesn’t inspire confidence that you’re trying to have a good faith dialogue with them.

    1. Okay, let’s explore those then, shall we? Since the first two both use the word “indoctrination,” let’s define that as well. gives us three possibilities: “1. To instruct in a doctrine, principle, ideology, etc, especially to imbue with a specific partisan or biased belief or point of view. 2. To teach or inculcate. 3. To imbue with learning.” So, basically, teaching. But look at what says in addition, “The Latin word for “teach,” doctrina is the root of indoctrinate, and originally that’s just what it meant. By the 1830’s it came to mean the act of forcing ideas and opinions on someone who isn’t allowed to question them.” So again, we’re back to “brainwashing.” You see, I don’t teach my kids to “believe this OR ELSE!!!” I don’t tell them to believe it without questioning anything. That would be a form of brainwashing, yes. Contrary to what many people seem to believe, most Christian parents actually welcome questions from their children about the faith. How else can they learn? If we teach them just to believe without asking questions, that will certainly discredit the parent, and can lead to the kids rebelling against that faith later in life. My kids ask questions often, and sometimes I don’t have the answer ready on my tongue. In that case, I’m honest with them. I say, “You know, that’s a great question. I honestly don’t know the answer to that, but let’s read what the Bible commentary (or the catechism) says about that.” Part of passing along the Christian faith is actually encouraging questions about other religions, because it equips them to understand what they teach in comparison to what we teach. So the first definition you quote above, “any method of controlled systematic indoctrination…” again implies that we systematically push our beliefs on our kids without allowing them to question those beliefs. That’s simply not true. That definition of “brainwashing” doesn’t fit either.

      Your second definition above is very similar to the first, but again, there’s that word “forcible,” as if we’re standing over our kids saying, “believe this or else!” That definition also says to brainwash is to “induce someone to give up basic..religious beliefs and attitudes and to accept contrasting regimented ideas.” “Regimented” is defined as “Organized according to a strict, sometimes oppressive system or pattern.” We aren’t forcing our children to “give up basic beliefs” at all, nor are we encouraging them to accept contrasting strict and oppressive ideas. So as per definition 2 above, again, Christianity is not brainwashing.

      Now to the third definition above, “persuasion by propaganda or salesmanship.” This is easily the most malleable of the definitions, and is broad enough to include practically anything. Propaganda: “information that is designed to mislead or persuade.” Or from the Collins British English definition- “information, often inaccurate information, which an organization publishes or broadcasts in order to influence people” (emphasis mine). “Propaganda” is largely a word with negative connotations. Think again Nazi Germany. But it can also be more broadly defined, yes. And if you take the broad definition, advertising is propaganda, and thus, brainwashing. It’s designed to influence people to adopt a certain way of thinking. Same holds true for many newscasts. Those are far from unbiased. So are we all brainwashed? The tagline in the above definition of “propaganda” intrigues me- “often inaccurate information.” Hmm. Given that, I would say that Christians can make the claim that those who do not teach their kids the truth of Christianity are in fact brainwashing their own children.

      Bottom line is this- I pass on my faith to my kids because I know and believe it as absolute truth. I can’t prove my faith to you, and that’s why it’s called “faith.” If it makes you (or anyone) feel better to tell me I’m brainwashing my kids, I can’t stop you. I know that I’m passing on a precious gift to my children, and that’s far more important to me than what anyone on this side of heaven thinks about me.

      1. I wasn’t really commenting on whether or not it’s brainwashing, nor which of the three definitions I gave might be what people actually meant – arguing over words generally isn’t useful, and arguing based on definitions hardly ever accomplishes anything. Rather, I was pointing out that you chose the definition that was most likely to *not* be what people meant by the word, and then criticized that definition – which doesn’t make it very likely that you’re actually trying to engage with your critics on good faith.

        Given that, I don’t have much else to say. I do want to comment on this though:

        “Contrary to what many people seem to believe, most Christian parents actually welcome questions from their children about the faith.”

        I would be surprised to find that you have data supporting that assertion, but please let me know if you do. I can say anecdotally, having grown up in a Christian household (and having been Christian myself at the time), that I had the exact opposite experience, even with one non-religious parent and one parent who was a much more moderate Christian. When I (as a Christian) decided to read Bertrand Russell’s “Why I Am Not A Christian” in order to better understand the arguments for atheism so that I could proselytize better, I was reprimanded for reading a book like that. When I tried to discuss the book at my youth group (relatively liberal denomination), I was criticized for reading it. When I brought it up in religion class at the private Christian school I went to, it was viewed as a sign that I was leaving Christianity and treated as such. When I brought it up a few years later among Christian friends at the private Christian college I went to, they were all appalled that I would be reading something like that in high school.

        Given I got a similar response from my parent, multiple religious leaders, and my friends, I’m skeptical that “most Christian parents” act differently than most of the Christians I knew as a kid, but I’m willing to accept it if you have some data to back it up.

      2. Fair enough. I should say, “most Christian parents I know welcome questions from their children.” There have been a number of parents on my previous blog post who voiced the same sentiment, that they welcomed “free thought” and answered questions from their children about the faith. I’m sorry your experience was different.

  4. Love this and loved the one from last week.! As a parent trying to instill a strong faith in my children with the hopes that they will grow up to choose Jesus as their Savior, I couldn’t agree more! Thank you!

  5. I also chose to share my testimony, my faith, the peace and the joy that comes from having a relationship with the Most High God. If I had a chest full of wonderful diamonds, jewels, gold and good things….and buried it somewhere hoping that someday my children would stumble upon it and have it for themselves–that would be the same as keeping the Gospel of Jesus Christ to myself and hoping that they would find it too.

  6. I loved your blog about sending kids to church. It was great and I shared it to my FB page where it enjoyed many likes, comments and a few shares. There are people out there who want to use the internet to spread their hate and bitterness. It can be astounding to me at times. You continue to post what God puts on your heart. We strive to please Him and not man.

  7. I love it and I loved last week’s also! You are right on! Thank you for sharing your faith in this public forum. May the Holy Spirit work through your writing to move more people to believe in Jesus as their Savior

  8. How do you feel about things like Harry Potter, and Dungeons & Dragons? And are you children allowed to enjoy these films, and games?

    1. Honestly, I see this as an area of parental discretion. Some parents are very opposed to such things, and that’s their choice if they’d rather not allow their kids to read such books, watch such movies, etc. On the other hand, it can also be a chance to have good discussions with your kids about sorcery, magic, and so on. I think if kids have questions about things (and this applies to many different areas) parents should be willing to address those honestly and openly. Even when kids have questions about the Bible, other religions, etc, this can be a great learning experience. I think it’s far less effective to tell a kid, “We don’t believe in that stuff in this house,” and leave it at that. That doesn’t answer any questions and may lessen a parent’s credibility with their children.

  9. It’s funny about brainwashing…it apparently can be done so completely and thoroughly that you don’t know you were brainwashed.

    You believe in a friend who is invisible, intangible, and inaudible. You believe all of life must be understood through this particular lense. You believe in a God who watches our every move and will punish us if we commit the “thought-crime” of not believing in him. But you cannot see how this represents altered, forced belief.

    As to the numbered points:
    1. Do you teach the child that you MUST like this team or you are going to hell?
    2. If the child later changes her mind and becomes a rapper instead of a violinist, does the parent insist the child has rejected everything that is good?
    3. If the child doesn’t like gymnastics, do you force them to stick with it through high school and into college; do you tell them their life will be meaningless if they don’t become a gymnist?
    4. Do you teach your children about the flat earth society? Or the phlogiston theory of combustion, as an alternative to oxidation? And to directly answer the question, I think it’s fine for a parent to teach a child about creation, as long as that parent teaches ACCURATE information about evolution.
    5. Does the vegetarian tell the child if they ever taste meat, they are bambi-killers and earth-murderers and all-around bad people?

    You teach your children that your particular, specific brand of superstition is the only true path, and that they will be eternally punished with torture beyond imagining if they deviate in the slightest. That is NOT a recipe for a healthy childhood.

    You see, God wasn’t content to sit in heaven and watch us ruin ourselves.

    God made us this way in the first place. You don’t get to create imperfect creatures, and then demand perfection from them, and then pretend like you’re surprised they can’t cut it. Also, you say people would have made up something that makes sense, so the illogic of Christianity must make it true. I suggest you study Scientology. It makes much less sense than evangelical Christianity, so by your logic it must be even more true.

    1. You hit the nail on the head, actually, whether you realize it or not. “You believe all of life must be understood through this particular lens.” That’s exactly right, and my bet is that everyone has a specific “lens” through which they view life, and that lens is either through the eyes of faith or the eyes of unbelief. Faith does not make sense to an unbeliever, and nothing I say will convince you otherwise. You (and many others) seem to have a view that we teach our kids “You’d better believe this or else!!!” That is not true. You say, “You teach your children that your particular, specific brand of superstition is the only true path, and that they will be eternally punished with torture beyond imagining if they deviate in the slightest.” We don’t use scare tactics with our kids. What we teach our children is what the Bible teaches. Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Or again, Acts 4:12 says of Jesus, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Does this sound unfair? Guess what? God IS unfair. We all deserve to be punished for our sins. (And contrary to what you say, God did NOT make us this way in the first place. He created Adam and Eve as perfect human beings, but not robots. He loved them enough to give them free will, and they used that to choose sin. As a result, everyone born since [except Jesus, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit] is a sinner as well.) So if God was truly fair, He wouldn’t have sent Jesus at all. he would have given us the just consequences for our sins. But no, He placed the sins of the world upon Jesus’ sinless shoulders on the cross. Is that fair? Not at all? It’s like an innocent man taking the place of a murderer on death row. Completely unfair. But thank God for His unfairness! Jesus’ suffering and death in my place earned salvation for me! What wonderful news!

      Regarding Scientology, you’re right- that does make far less sense than Christianity. And I don’t mean to imply that the way to judge the merits of a religion is to pick the most illogical thing out there. Scientology was created by science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard. That should throw up some red flags right there. Christianity was not invented by a guy or a group of guys with an ulterior motive. The testimonies of all the apostles and eye-witnesses agree on the facts about Jesus’ life and teachings. There’s no way all those different people could have made up the same thing, especially when it involves Jesus, true God and true man, dying and rising to life again.

      1. “Faith does not make sense to an unbeliever”
        Having grown up Christian, faith makes perfect sense to me. I understand fully what it feels like to have faith, why people have faith, and what keeps people from giving up their faith. I also understand what it feels like to stop having faith and try to maintain belief on facts alone. Don’t assume you know what someone else understands.

        If your eye ended up in exactly the same state regardless of what photons hit it – nothing changed, no neurons fired, nothing at all – what would that be like? We have a word for that, actually: blind. If the photons coming in from the outside world don’t actually affect your eye, then you can’t tell the difference between photons that bounced off a car or off a basketball. You’re blind. And if most of your eye changes, but you have one spot that doesn’t react to photons at all, then that’s called a blind spot.

        The problem with faith is that it, in a very literal sense, blinds you. If your beliefs end up in the same state regardless of what knowledge you gain – if you have a belief that will never change no matter what evidence comes in – then you’ve blinded yourself as well. Your beliefs should reflect reality, and the way you correct mistaken beliefs is by allowing the evidence to push them in the right direction. If the evidence can’t push a belief, then the belief can be wrong and you would never know.

        (And as a side note, you are wrong again in your assessment of me when you say “nothing I say will convince you otherwise.” That’s false – evidence will convince me otherwise, just like any of my other beliefs. I don’t give religious beliefs special status, and I try to remain free of blind spots.)

      2. I’m glad you brought up blindness. That was our Gospel reading just this past week, where Jesus heals the man born blind. (John 9:1-41) There’s a lot of back and forth in this story between the Pharisees and the blind man and even his parents. Finally the Pharisees kick the guy out of the synagogue (basically excommunicate him), and then Jesus talks with the man. Of course, the Pharisees are always hovering about and thus overhear the conversation. Jesus tells the man, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Of course this makes the Pharisees mad, and they demand, “Are we also blind?” Jesus replies, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” Those who are spiritually blind refuse to acknowledge their sinful condition and need for a Savior. Ironically, only when we realize we are blind (and can see no way to save ourselves) can we see Jesus through eyes of faith.

      3. Quote: “We don’t use scare tactics with our kids….God IS unfair. We all deserve to be punished for our sins.”

        What you’re saying is, ‘We don’t use scare tactics, GOD uses scare tactics.’ Just because your scare tactics and harmful ideology is found in the Bible doesn’t make it better.

        “He created Adam and Eve as perfect human beings, but not robots. He loved them enough to give them free will… As a result, everyone born since is a sinner as well.”

        So Adam and Eve had free will, but everyone born AFTER them was a robot. Adam could choose to do good or evil, but I cannot. I was born as a sinner. Meaning even if I want to do good, and never want to sin, I have no choice. I have NO FREE WILL in this matter.

        ‘Fair’ wouldn’t be allowing us all to die for our ‘sins.’ God becoming human to save all of us was the very least he could do after setting up a system in which everyone will go to hell no matter how much they want to follow God.

        If I am a teacher and 5% of my students fail my class, well, that probably wasn’t my fault. I can’t force kids to study or try hard after all; they have free will and can choose to try or not in my class. But if 100% of my students fail–if every single student who comes into my class cannot pass, I think you would have a problem with me. You would wonder if I was really teaching the students what I said I was teaching them, or if I was using effective methods, or if I was not listening to them and refusing to answer questions. You’re first response wouldn’t be to think that all my kids must be bad students.

      4. You see, though, that’s just it. No one “wants” to follow God on their own. That’s the sinful nature in us. And no, we are not created robots either. Look at the diversity of comments on this blog. There are many views and opinions and beliefs. If we were all robots we’d all believe the same thing. People are not forced into believing in God. People can and do choose NOT to believe in Him. Thus we are not robots. If you see God as using “scare tactics,” that’s the Law at work. The Law always condemns. That’s the job of the Law. It points out our sin and shows us we can’t do anything to save ourselves. The Gospel, on the other hand, points the sinner to Jesus, who has done everything needed to fulfill the Law’s demands.

        Your example of the students failing is an excellent analogy. There is a lot of truth in that comparison. But I assume you’re trying to infer that God “set up” the system for 100% failure of humans, which is simply not so. By His grace, He offered Jesus as the sacrifice so we wouldn’t have a 100% “failure rate,” so to speak. There are many people who do choose not to follow God, and you’re exactly right- that’s their own fault, not God’s. But there are also a large number of people who DO take God at His Word, believe in Him, and gain eternal life. His “system” has resulted in eternity in heaven for countless saints.

      5. If a teacher flunked my son in math, and I found out she’d flunked the rest of her class also, I wouldn’t just want her to say “Fine I’ll have grace and give your son a pass, and let him have an A even though he earned an F.” I would want her to adjust her teaching methods so she is actually teaching the students. I don’t think it seems right for God to create us so that we can’t follow him, and then think providing Jesus as a way out makes everything better.

        You’ve made the analogy of an innocent Jesus taking the place of a murderer on death row. But murderers aren’t considered murderers unless they choose to kill someone. If I kill someone by accident, that might be manslaughter but it’s not murder.

        You’re the one who brought up the term ‘robot’, not me. You said God “created Adam and Eve as perfect human beings, but not robots.” You imply that if God hadn’t given them the ability to either follow him or not, they would be robots and not real people.

        But now you say I have no ability to follow God, and no ability to even want to follow God. I cannot choose not to sin; my “sinful nature” predetermines what I will do. In your theology I do not have free will; I am a robot who will become a condemned sinner whether I want to sin or not. It is not “justice” to throw me into hell as punishment for my sin, because I literally could not control my sin, any more than I could control my height or my hair color.

        Having black hair is against the law, and anyone who has black hair rightfully deserves death under the law. But oh the wonder! an innocent blond man has willingly paid the penelty for us, so that all black haired people will not have to be killed after all. It doesn’t make any sense when I say it that way.

        Thanks for responding to me…this is an interesting discussion

      6. Well, and here’s where it doesn’t make sense except through the eyes of faith. There are two truths a Christian must hold in tension.
        1) Universal rebellion
        2) Universal grace

        Starting with the universal rebellion, the following passages apply: Romans 3:23 (“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”), Romans 8:7-8 (“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”), Ephesians 2:1-2 (“You were dead [literally, “corpse”] in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the price of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.”) On our own, we are sinful, yes. Again, that’s the Law.

        But the other side of the coin is universal grace. You see, each of the passages I mention above don’t just stop there with such grim news. Romans 3:24 goes on to say that “(all) are justified freely by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:9-10 says, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you…If Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” And Ephesians 2 continues with some of the most beautiful words of the Bible- “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved… For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9).

        God is not out to “get us” for our sins. He’s out to win our souls for eternity. John 3:16-17 are well known verses because they are so comforting. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

        Those two truths, universal rebellion and universal grace, are held in tension because they seem not to agree with each other. Yes, all have sinned and can do no good apart from God, but God does not want anyone to perish eternally. That’s why He sent Jesus to take that punishment for us. Faith is humbling, yes. We realize that, like your son in the analogy you give, we don’t deserve that A. We can’t earn our own salvation. We can’t be “good enough” to get into heaven. Perhaps that’s partly why Christianity is rejected by some people. They want a method or way to earn their own salvation. But the good news is that we don’t have to earn anything. Jesus did that for us and He offers it freely to all.

      7. Thank you. That’s a good summary of the Christian message. That’s pretty well how I would have explained it when I was a Christian. That is the very message I am saying does not make sense and is not moral.

        I appreciate the universal salvation, and the teaching about God’s love; I think that’s a big improvement from many other world religions. But it’s still not right.

        I’m not viewing these verses from afar, you know, through an assumption that they must be wrong. I was a Christian most of my life. I learned about seeing the world through “the eyes of faith”. As far as I could tell, that meant whenever something could be a miracle or it could be a coincidence, you choose to see it as a miracle. Whenever you have an experience that could be God, or it could just be emotions, you choose to believe it was God. Whenever you think you may have heard from God, or it may just be your own self reaching conclusions, you choose to believe it was from God (as long as it lines up with the Bible, what the Holy Spirit is telling others, etc.) When you have a question, and you come up with a weak theological argument for it, and in your heart of hearts you realize, “This would make more sense if God isn’t real,”….you have to choose to turn away from the more likely explanation, and believe in your heart that God is still there whether he makes sense or not.

        I don’t think we should look at the world with the eyes of faith. I don’t think we should take any idea, or supposition, and organize our understanding of the world to make it seem true. I think we should look at everything with the eyes of reality and see what is really there. And if God is really there, we should worship him. And if God is not there, we should not keep inventing ways to keep him alive.

      8. Ultimately, that’s where we differ. I do choose to see the world through eyes of faith, even when I can’t explain it logically. Paul spoke of the very same worldviews we are discussing when he said in I Corinthians 1:22-25, “Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” If you seek only signs and/or that which can be explained by human wisdom, then no, the message of the cross will not make sense.

        Regarding your last paragraph, I agree- “If God is really there, we should worship him. And if God is not there, we should not keep inventing ways to keep him alive.” I’m not inventing ways to keep him alive. His whole creation shouts His existence. His Word reveals Him to me. So as for me, I’ll go with your first option- “If God is really there, we should worship him.” Amen!

  10. Wonderful follow-up! If we have this treasure, why wouldn’t we want our children to know of it? The most unloving thing would be to leave them on their own which would lead to their destruction. Jesus is the treasure worth more than we can imagine!

  11. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” AMEN!
    I guess forcing my kids to attend school, eat veggies, clean their rooms, and use manners is also brainwashing! Oh, wait, I have never used torture, force, drugs or psychological-stress techniques.
    Thank you for writing the first blog and this one! Both are great!

  12. I just would like to say that I have never heard of anyone brainwashed to be happy, contented and living a wonderful life inspite of whatever circumstances they encounter.

  13. You said, “My husband and I do not threaten them with, ‘You know, you’re gonna burn in hell for lying to me like that.'”

    There’s nothing wrong with talking to your kids about hell. Granted, we should not address their sin like that. But scripture does say, “All liars will have their place in the lake of fire,” in Revelation 21:8. But we ought not word it this way because it makes the offense look like it’s against us; when it’s actually against God. There’s nothing wrong with stating that the consequence is hell. BUT, we should ALWAYS bring the GOOD news back to our kids! I agree with you that we must talk about the law before the gospel, but we must not neglect to talk about the consequences of breaking the law. So it’s important to tell our kids that they deserve hell. That we all deserve hell. I was raised in a “Christian” home, but I was never taught this. Instead, I was taught “self-esteem,” and that was the biggest stumbling block for me toward my gospel. I thought wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy too highly of myself! I didn’t think I deserved God’s wrath and curse. When I saw that I DO deserve it, it made the gospel look BEAUTIFUL! People are afraid to talk about this with their kids because they don’t want to make their kids feel “wicked.” Yes… they should feel that way; at first. And then have that wonderful burden lifted by the good news. That we are destitute and wicked apart from Christ. But adopted and washed by a loving God.

  14. Again I say that you use twisted logic. If a parent teaches his sports team preference, or a vegetarian teaches vegetarian practice in what should be eaten, or if violin is taught, or evolution or math or medicine… These are all things that can be shown! With all its ups and downs. No parent teaches his child that the Dallas Cowboys are an invisible team that you should just believe in cause there is a story about a burning bush that says they are the best football team and have never ever lost cause they are perfect. Or the Violin teacher that teaches violin without the strings to measure if the sound is music or just made up noise. or the math teacher that says even though we can scientifically prove 2=2 = 4 I have blind faith in a book written when the sun revolved around the Earth (That was flat) that says 2+2=bunny so because I believe it I’m gonna teach it when your young and impressionable so you believe it too… Yes i think that could be called brainwashing. Anyone can look up the consequences of eating different foods. This is scientifically proven data vs. the mythology of the bible. Would it be comparable and acceptable to you if a vegetarian taught and practiced “if you eat meat you will be stoned to death and or burn for all eternity” to his children? This is where you can’t equate rational thinking with “This is the same thing as an Olympic Gymnast teaching his child that over ice skating” as you said.

    1. Many Christian parents I know are more than willing to answer questions their children have about faith, and not only the Christian faith, but others as well. How else will they learn what other religions teach in relation to Christianity? And again, we don’t threaten our kids with hell to get them to believe. The beauty of children is that they aren’t nearly as cynical as adults are. Kids believe the pure Gospel that Jesus is their Savior. We don’t scare them into this belief. God works very effectively in their hearts to bring about this saving faith.

    2. We all are given our children to teach as we see fit. Everyone of us teaches values to our children, beginning the day they are born. We don’t just teach them things that can be seen. We teach them right from wrong and believe me that is certainly not something we all agree on or that can be seen. I have brought my son up as a Christian and have never once told him he will go to hell. He has learned about love and charity and about a support system much bigger than his biological family. Teaching our children about only things that can be seen is hardly what we do and would be pretty concrete in terms of thinking.

  15. leob…ummm….never, ever did I tell my child that they must believe as I do or suffer. That is so far from the truth! Instead, I lived my life in front of them and allowed them to see how God provided for us, cared for us, loved us. The proof was in front of them every day of their lives. I did not prove to them scientifically that when they were hungry they could eat and feel better. It wasn’t necessary to do so. They experienced it for themselves. I did not prove to them scientifically that I loved them. They experienced it for themselves. I did not prove to them scientifically that God loved them–they experienced it for themselves.

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