Does Teaching Children Violate Their Agency?


(Jason Walker) #1

A Friend of mine posted this question. I would love your feedback:

Joshua 24:15

“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

I felt inspired to share that today. I get a lot of push back on how exercising my faith and teaching the Gospel to my children violates their rights and challenges their eternal gift of agency …

To that, at least lately, I have replied with Joshua’s prolific response to what I believe was a similar circumstance in his day. It may be a little known fact that, while requiring those that live under your roof to at least participate in faith-based family functions May initially he argued as a violation of a child’s freedom of religion, it is also and inalienable portion of my first amendment rights under the Constitution as an adult voting member of this country, believe it or not. Among the right to freedom of speech afforded by the First Amendment, it also affords a citizen to raise their family and the religion of their choice so long as that does not hinder the freedom of another to do the same.

What are your thoughts? Is this a case-by-case or even Child by child decision? Is it foolish to think in One Direction or the other, meaning, should it be totally the child’s prerogative whether or not they attend church or read their scriptures or participate and family prayer or Gospel Hour? likewise, is it equally foolish to require all family members to attend church and family scripture study and family prayer time at the end of the day, etc etc etc?

@Tim_Ramey @CarsonWeitnauer @Vince_Vitale @Cameron_McAllister @Nathan_Rittenhouse


(Bonnie Crabtree) #2

Children do not have the capacity to make day to day decisions. Thats why they are under the governance and tutelage of their parents. God is not going to ask the neighbor on judgment day how well they taught your children.

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 admonishes us to teach our children in the ways of the Lord at all times.

On judement day I will have to answer for how I raised my children. NOT the community.


(Jason Walker) #3

Nice response @crabtreelighthouse


(SeanO) #4

@JasonWalker That is a good question. The notion that a child has an identity within them that is discovered apart from the influence of their family and culture is false. Our identity is always shaped from outside of us - it is never generated from within - that is an impossibility.

Consider this illustration from Tim Keller:

“Imagine an Anglo-Saxon warrior in Britain in AD 800. He has two very strong inner impulses and feelings. One is aggression. He loves to smash and kill people when they show him disrespect. Living in a shame-and-honour culture with its warrior ethic, he will identify with that feeling. He will say to himself, That’s me! That’s who I am! I will express that. The other feeling he senses is same-sex attraction. To that he will say, That’s not me. I will control and suppress that impulse. Now imagine a young man walking around Manhattan today. He has the same two inward impulses, both equally strong, both difficult to control. What will he say? He will look at the aggression and think, This is not who I want to be , and will seek deliverance in therapy and anger-management programmes. He will look at his sexual desire, however, and conclude, That is who I am.

The desires in our heart conflict with each other - how do we decide which to follow? We are taught, both implicity and explicity, by our culture and family. Here is a sermon by Tim Keller pointing out how culture shapes us and is shaped.

As Christians, we should seek to impart a godly culture to our children. It is not violating their agency to teach them the Gospel. If they do not learn how to live through the lens of the Gospel, they will learn it from their friends or school or government. We all learn how to live from without - so it is no violation of agency to teach children the truth of redemption in Jesus.

Is that helpful? The Lord grant you wisdom.


Is teaching kids religion brainwashing?
(Jason Walker) #5

Thank you for this response @SeanO, I will share with my friend and prayer group.


(C Rhodes) #6

This question from other people represents a huge fallacy. If any child is sent into the formal educational system. If any child is homeschooled. If you park them in front of an episode of a purple dinosaur, or a square sponge on the bottom of the ocean’s floor. If you allow them to engage in computerized games. You are indoctrinating.

No one seems to question those indoctrinations. Only when it involves GOD. That’s a level of dishonesty that will bite us in the patootie. And does in ways we do not acknowledge. To be perfectly fair to your child, in utilizing their own free will; we all should make exposure to who GOD is, available to all children. Circumstances of life will do that for us, if we do not take the lead.

Free will can not be removed, only blocked. In time the presence of GOD will be known. Received or rejected. We all get to choose.


(Natalia Love) #7

Dear Jason,

I don’t think this fully relates to your inquiry but it reminded me of something that my teenage daughter wrote some time ago and that I posted here on Connect. https://connect.rzim.org/t/write-no-evil-the-screwtape-letters-and-a-letter-to-your-teenager/592?u=natalia_love


(Lakshmi Mehta) #8

@JasonWalker, the first thought I had on reading the question was "Doesn’t not teaching your children violate their agency? " Every child seeks love as a part of that agency. One of the ways a child can feel loved is by knowing that the parents did everything in their power to impart whatever they knew to be good and true to their children for their protection. It would be very negligent to not impart knowledge and let the child suffer ill consequences of ignorance when knowledge could have helped. Ps 32: 10 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about . Infact diligent parenting must go beyond what is already known from culture or family traditions but also do the hard work of finding reasons for the faith and pass on that faith to future generations with reasons. When parents live out their faith and share how God worked in their lives, children will have hope to face their life in the joyful memories of past. Like in Ps 77:11 they may say in trials, I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. Besides, teaching provides the means for a child to develop humility and realize they are not in control of everything. I hope this is helpful…just a few thoughts I had on reading your post.


(Ann Ruvindi Nimna Jayakody) #9

Praise God, Just in school the other day , we had this same discussion and as much as it was very secular , it got me thinking and I really appreciate this response because the points are so true and gives me a good foundation to research more.
Thank you.


(SeanO) #10

@RuviJ Glad it was helpful. The Lord guide you and give you wisdom as you study more. Blessings!


(SeanO) #11

@JasonWalker Sure thing. The Lord bless you guys as you seek His Kingdom first. Encouraging to hear how you are praying through these things as a community.


(Jolene Laughlin) #12

I love your answer @cer7. Children, by nature and design, are constantly learning and absorbing in order to grow and develop mentally and emotionally. Refusing to provide guidance and leaving them to stumble along in the dark, pulling ideas in from a variety of sources, creates a lifetime of confusion and a lack of coherence in their very identity. In some of the interviews I’ve done for the RZIM classes, I have been shocked at the incoherence and disorganization that many people live with. Christianity provides a clear and comprehensive way of seeing the world. Even though we still face hard questions, there is a foundation that is built on solid ideas and principles and the logic of the Christian world view flows in a steady, single direction. As a believer, you are grounded on a solid foundation, and there is peace and comfort in that. Why wouldn’t you give that solid foundation to your children?


(C Rhodes) #13

Amen Jolene. Amen.


(STEVEN P SCHULTZ) #14

Youth Agency

The only real agency/choice we have is to choose God as our Spiritual (character) Father or not. Every decision we make here on earth is in one of those two directions. What is often overlooked and oversimplified is the hierarchy of responsibility, duty and authority that our stages (child, youth, adult) of life have to others in being accountable citizens and human beings. True human beings at a minimum keep the Noahidic laws. How can anyone make better choices without superior information? That is what family and societal teaching is designed to provide. Without that Godly guidance and firm correction our original nature is selfish and destructive to ourselves and others, as the news exposes daily. To withhold such guidance is to condemn our children, etc. to learn only from expensive or painful experience, neither of which is a great teacher. Reinventing the wheel with each person is chaos for all. Children can not make valid moral judgments until the mental/experienced age of about 8 years old, so it begs a mentor until adulthood with a managed field of widening choices. So it is also for us “sheep” who need the Holy Spirit’s shepherding.


(Jason Walker) #15

AMEN “GOD is Love, GOD is good, GOD is just, GOD is everything.” Jolene


(Jason Walker) #16

Thank you Steve. This is also good