I recently came across an article at The Public Discourse called “The Best Practices—and Benefits—of Religious Parenting.” Given I have some interest in the topic, I was curious to see what these best practices might be. We learn that religion in general has positive outcomes for parenting. In an increasingly secular culture, studies that prove the positive influence of religion are a good thing. But something was missing from these best practices that to me is, by far, the most important single factor of religious parenting: truth. Why would anyone want to raise their children in a religion that they don’t believe to be the truth? Probably because they don’t believe in truth, at least when it comes to religion. If it works, makes you happy, etc., that will do. Most Americans believe that just because something is true for you doesn’t mean it necessarily has to be true for me. Or put simply, true for you but not for me! Such a contention is ridiculous on the face of it, but many otherwise thoughtful and intelligent people actually believe this.
You’ll notice that the T word is not mentioned once in this piece on religious parenting, and that’s because its argument is utilitarian: religion in general is good for families and children. Whether it is true or not is obviously irrelevant. As Christians, though, the truth or not of our religion is the only thing. I don’t know about you, but if Christianity isn’t true, I’ll go try to find what is. I’m afraid too many Christian parents do not make truth the central issue in how they raise their children as Christians.
My motivation for writing a book on Christian parenting was the testimony of a young woman who was raised in a Christian home, was very involved in her church, and yet want away to college and quickly embraced agnosticism. That was inconceivable to me because in raising my kids as Christians my focus has always been that we believe it for one reason and one reason only: it’s the truth! And further, that every other alternative to Christianity is not true. I tried to imagine how young people could be raised in a Christian homes, go off to college and lose their faith. The only conclusion I could come to is that they were never persuaded that their faith was in fact true.
This is why the first chapter I started writing had the title, “It’s All About Truth.” Here’s the deal. Nobody is going to reject something if they are convinced to the core of their being it is the truth. Christians are fortunate because Christianity is really the only religion in the history of the world (Islam does as well, but they claim Jesus too) that claims complete exclusivity. Only Christianity is true, and everything else is not! I’ve heard or read atheists/agnostics/skeptics claim, many times, that all religions make the claim that they are exclusively truth, but that is not the truth!
This claim to exclusivity was radical and completely unique in the ancient world into which Christianity was born. In fact, because they rejected and would not worship the Greco-Roman pagan gods along with their Christian God, their enemies called them atheists. And many gave their lives because of that. The Christian claim is just as radical and unique today. Every religion on earth wants a piece of Jesus, but they can’t have the Jesus of the Bible because he is a jealous God, and he will have no other “gods” before him.
Thankfully, there is a massive amount of evidence for the exclusive truth claims of Christianity. We can take advantage of these not just for ourselves, but if we have children we can share that evidence with them. There is nothing any atheist or agnostic or skeptic or Mormon or Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist, or take your pick, can throw at me or my children that will rock my or their faith. Part of the reason is not only that God has provided abundant evidence, but that every doubt or question is welcomed in our house. Also, and crucial, is that alternatives to Christianity are consistently examined and interrogated as Christianity itself has been over the millennium. If something else claims to be the exclusive truth about reality, then it better darn well be able to back it up with evidence, logic, and explanatory power. As my children will tell you, nothing else comes close to backing up its truth claims as Christianity does, and Christian parents must never let their children forget it.