Does the title sound exclusive and narrow-minded? What about this one: “Why I Rejected Religion and Instead Raised My Son on Star Wars” which is the title of an article by Vishen Lakhiani. He lays out the reasons he raised his son “without religion.” This was done in part because of their blended family, Lakhiani was raised Hindu and his wife a Christian (Orthodox & Lutheran).
I was raised in an evangelical Christian home and church, the kind of absolutistic religion Lakhiani rejects. I have decided to raise my daughter in very much the same tradition that I was raised. Not because it will make her feel good, be good, or do good, but simply because Christianity is true.
A Primer on Truth
Unlike Lakhiani’s article, I will state up front what truth is and is not and show how it applies to religion. First, truth, as Aristotle said, is that which corresponds to reality. To deny this is to assume it, as if I say, “truth does not correspond to reality.” I am expecting that statement to be taken as true (i.e., corresponding to the way things are). This understanding of truth, necessarily denies that truth is always what makes one feel good or works. Instead, it implies a necessary connection between what we know in our mind corresponds to the real world.
Second, truth is the same for everyday life decisions, just as it is in really big religious decisions such as the statement “God exists” is either true or false. The same is true for the statement “Jesus claimed to be God incarnate” or “God raised Jesus from the dead.” They are either true or false. There is no middle ground.
Third, some religious truths can be demonstrated, while others must be accepted based on faith or the authority of another. For example, Christians through the discipline of Christian Apologetics demonstrate the truth of the proposition “God exists” but adherents must accept by faith in God’s word the Bible, that God is Triune. Christian apologetics likewise uses history to show the probability or the best explanation given the evidence available (all historical truth works this way) that “God raised Jesus from the Dead.” But they accept by faith that by trusting in Jesus Christ they will be given the gift of eternal life.
Fourth, one need not know something comprehensively to know if is true or not. Indeed, this is hardly ever the case even in the sciences. We do not know comprehensively about atoms or galaxies. It is sufficient to demonstrate a truth by means of the subject that corresponds to the object. Philosophy demonstrates metaphysical truths such as the truth of the proposition “God exists.” History, given a theistic worldview, demonstrates that the best explanation concerning all the evidence is that Jesus was raised from the dead. Science will demonstrate truth about the natural world. Religion, the true religion, will give you truth based on authority, as to what to believe.
Fifth, all truth is absolute and there is no such thing as a relative truth. Indeed, all knowledge would be impossible and our lives unlivable if truth rested on the self-defeating absolute proposition: “all truth is relative.” The truth is there is no such thing as relative truth. All truth is absolute. Our grasp of truth may be weak or strong, incomplete or more complete, but the truth itself, is true nonetheless.
Finally, by nature all truth is narrow. It is no more narrow for me to assert Christianity is true (C is true), and everything opposed to it is false (all non-C is false) than for Lakhiani to assert his Pluralism is true (P is true) and everything opposed to it is false (all non-P is false). His approach claims to incorporate any approach to religion that is not absolutistic about one religion being the truth. Even if he never says it, his approach is just as narrow in implying that its opposite is false. Lakhiani’s approach may be more popular, sound kinder or be cooler because it has stories made into a movie behind it, but these do not make it true.
Assumption of Apologetics
Neither Lakhiani nor I defend our assumption of pluralism and absolutism respectively. Pluralism says no one religion is the true religion and absolutism says one religion is the true religion and nothing in any other religion can be true that contradicts it.
I will leave the defense of my view to the expert apologists. For those interested in a defense of my position, see Norman L. Geisler, Twelve Points that Show Christianity is True. For those interested in a Christian critique of Star Wars see The Religion of the Force and those needing a scholarly critique of Pantheism, the philosophy of Star Wars see Apologetics in the New Age.
Lakhiani’s major assumption is that no religion is true because no religion can demonstrate its major assentation, such as “God exists.” My major assumption is that Christianity is true because it has demonstrated some major truths such as the proposition “God exists” and “God raised Jesus from the dead.” Based on these contradictory positions, we will develop two very diverse ways of dealing with rearing children with respect to religion. At least I have made the differences explicit and the truth does not rest on the emotive persuasiveness of our methodologies per say, but points to the prior demonstration that a certain religion or view of religion (pluralism or absolutism) is true or false.
Saying that a religion is false does not entail that everything affirmed in a false religion is false; some truth indeed may be found. What it does mean is that where the false religion contradicts the true religion it cannot be true. In addition, somethings affirmed by the true religion are not as important as other things. The main things are the plain things. There must be central truths affirmed by the true religion all must agree with to be considered adherents of the religion.
Lakhiani may very well say his approach to religion is just the best he has found and he may be open to a better approach, but what he cannot say is that his approach is so good that it can even incorporate those who hold one religion is true and others are false. As even Lakhiani acknowledges, “I can’t take the best of Christianity and combine it with the best of Islam and Hinduism.” Why not? Because even Lakhiani must work with the same understanding of truth.
Teaching Christianity is True
I will map out in contrast to Lakhiani’s article, how I teach my daughter that Pluralism is false and Christianity is true.
Christianity is consistent with our experience of the real world. Indeed, Christianity perhaps more than any other religion affirms that we know the real world and can reason about the real world to the very existence of God (Rom. 1:18-20). Furthermore, it explains the reality of evil and why humans are sinfully separated from their ALL-loving creator.
Christianity, similar to Star Wars, teaches through stories. But, unlike Star Wars, the stories of the Bible involve real people and events that show how God intervened in their lives to provide a promised Savior. Not everything recorded in the Bible is approved by the Bible = God’s word. Just as not everything depicted in Star Wars is endorsed as something we should all do. No one want’s the pilot to turn of the guidance system and to fly their plane by trusting their feelings of a mystical Force. Indeed, Christianity properly understood takes its stories according to the genre and historical grammatical context. We take narrative as narrative, poetry as poetry, figures of speech as figures of speech, etc. We recognize that God over time superseded some commands with other commands and changed the way he deals with his followers through promises and covenants.
Some humans have decided based on arguments and the evidence that Christianity is true. Therefore, it is not, indoctrination but education to pass on truth, which is knowledge, to our children. Indeed, every religion expects parents to teach their children its doctrine and practices. To not do so, would be an implicit denial of the religion.
I teach my daughter science, about differing worldviews and religions, so she has a good grasp of what she is embracing as well as rejecting. She realizes that God is one transcendent Being who is distinct from the world as opposed to not existing (Atheism) or being identical to the world (Pantheism).
Most of the human race may have no idea who God is. That does not mean one cannot demonstrate who God is and what God is like and not like. This is what Christian apologetics claims to have done. Such reason stands on its own; independent of whether any one accepts it or feels good about it.
Education is about teaching knowledge. If we have knowledge of God, even partially or analogical knowledge, it is still important to teach what the child is able to understand: if through stories, then stories, if through questions, then answer to their questions, if philosophical demonstration, then sound demonstrations.
One should teach their child about all the major world religions. Most children will get that starting in middle school. But one should not teach it assuming all religions are equal or equally true or untrue. Not every religion has the same reasons for their claimed truth, the same claims and evidence of miraculous proof, nor the same faith message of salvation.
I use the Bible to teach morality, life lessons and truth.
The Bible teaches you to trust God.
The entire Bible can be summed up with this one phrase: “Trust God.” From the very beginning, the first created couple, failed to obey God (Gen. 1-3). Now, instead of being in an intimate relationship with their creator, they are separated from Him and cannot fix that problem, in everything, they must now trust in God’s message and provisions fix the problem of separation. Every man or women used by God in the Bible is taught in their life to trust God, in what he says and does. They must learn not to trust in messages or persons who contradict what God says and does.
The Bible teaches you to love the lord your God with all your mind.
Our mind resemble God’s in a finite way. The most important thing we can do with it, is orient it towards the creator. The Bible says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut. 6:5; cf Matt. 22:37).
The Bible teaches you that we are all one sinful human race.
The Bible says that God sees all of humanity as separated from him and there is no good that humans can do that will change that.
“There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one” (Rom. 3:10-11-12).
The Bible teaches you to judge rightly.
Humans will make judgements and will be judged. Therefore, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:1-2). The Bible is filled with lessons of people who judged rightly and wrongly and the consequences of they faced.
The Bible teaches you that emotions should correspond to reality.
From the very beginning, the first human couple is described as placing their emotions and desires over the cognitive truth of God’s word (Gen. 3). Emotions are not bad or wrong, God made us emotional beings. However, we must learn their proper role and place in our lives as we interact with the others and the created world. We should never let our emotions or desires change what God has said or make reality function in a manner that violates its intended purpose or design. Indeed this includes the designed function of our sexuality.
The Bible teaches the proper role of men and women
The Bible reflects and reinforces the roles and differences between men and women. This is depicted through the ancient Middle Eastern culture of Bible times. The proper roles of men and women in marriage and the family are taught (Eph. 6:1-9). Normal women who are wives and mothers are heroines in the Bible. They are in the line of the promised one and there is a special young virgin used for the miraculous conception of the Messiah; some women are prophets, followers of Jesus and the first witnesses of his resurrection. Common men are kings, judges, husbands, fathers and worriers used in the line of the Messiah; some prophets, apostles and followers of Jesus. The family is central in the Bible and defined as one male husband and one female wife (Gen. 2:18-25). The Bible is filled with the sins and human violations of these roles and orders. However, just because the Bible records the sins does not mean it approves of them as God’s created order and commands would show us.
The Bible teaches you that only God does miracles.
From the beginning of creation to the end of the new heaven and new earth, God, only God, can suspend the natural operation and do the supernatural. Indeed, it is the only sign and wonder that can confirm to us that God is involved or the cause. God uses miracles to show who is speaking and writing for Him. Humans and angels cannot do miracles of their own ability, only God can. The most important miracle being God raising his one and only Son from the dead. God would never do a miracle in a religion that is opposed to the true religion. This is one reason we know Christianity, being an extension of Old Testament Judaism, is true.
The Bible teaches you to reject relativism and pluralism.
The Bible affirms that truth is absolute and there is such a thing as a false religion. Every time the Bible affirms a truth, it implies its opposite is false. When the Bible says, “In the beginning God created . . .” (Gen. 1.1) it implies Monotheism is true and all views opposed to that are false (including Atheism and Pantheism). Commands in Scripture that reflect the moral law are absolute and applicable today. This would include such commands against murder, theft, adultery etc. Where commands are related to ceremonies or rituals, and these have been superseded by another covenant, then they are not to us, but for us to know.
The Bible teaches you to do good works.
Since the fall of humans, we must work, taking from creation in order to survive. But God shows us in the Bible that there is one thing we must not work for. God and God alone must provide for our forgiveness of sins and provide the means for our salvation from eternal separation from Him (death). Following our acceptance of His salvation, however, he enables us to do good works in this life to cause others to notice His goodness and glory (Eph. 2:8-10).
The Bible teaches you to obey your Parents and others in Authority.
Everyone must recognize their role and position in the world and live accordingly. We all have rulers, bosses, and parents. The Bible teaches us to respect this order and operate according to our positon, without abusing it or others (Ex. 20:1-17; Lev. 18-19; Eph. 6).
Every human asks questions because it is our nature to desire for knowledge. This is not a slam on all religions; people are free, in the U.S.A., to believe as they please. I respect their right to believe as they please and will gladly respect that in any dialogue. Members of my family have fought for that right and I would defend it as well. But respecting that does not mean I must agree with all they say or cease from speaking truth that is contrary to what they believe.
The reason I raise my kid with our religion is because it is true. Not because it works for me, not because it feels good, not because I say so, but because the founder of Christianity made a truth claim:
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. (John 14:6)
And if this is true then everything in any other religion opposed to this truth is false. Since, I am a believer in the true religion then I, as well as my church, will pray and educate my child to follow, by her own free will and intellect, that same religion. She is free (at least in the U.S.A), when she is not under my household, to leave it and believe and practice as she thinks best. No one is denying her that.
Only teaching her Pluralism gives her a(n)
Narrow exposure to one view of religions rather than the whole picture, that is one religion could be true, and everything opposed to it is false.
Exposure to an unreasonable assertion that all religions are equally valid, and she can pick whatever she wants as long as it works for her.
Life unquestionably based on ideas not older than a few 100 years and found only in recent books.
Fear of never being exposed to the true message of salvation and how to live an abundant life in union with Christ.
Pluralism takes itself way too narrowly (and seriously), if taught as the only way to see religion as a child it may be hard when she is grown to see “it’s just a view of religion” as opposed to the Bible, as the liberating word of God that will set you free.