My wife and I are blessed with three children, and we love how they’re different from one another. One has difficulty making decisions. We once went out for ice cream and she stood peering through the glass for what seemed like forever trying to decide what flavor to pick: Cookie Dough? Snickerdoodle? Chocolate Chip? Birthday Cake? They are all looked yummy! I finally said, “Sweetheart, they’re all great. Just pick one.”
When it comes to religion many people have the same philosophy, especially in raising children. They believe “all religions are about the same” and fear pushing one religion on their kids. Like ice cream, “they’re all great,” therefore children should have freedom to simply “pick one.” I realize this article will raise many issues and questions, but for now will share why allowing children to choose their religion is not only deficient, but dangerous.
First, “pick one” religion reveals a flawed view of truth. Many believe there is no such thing as truth, only different perspectives relative to one’s situation, background, or feelings. No objective truth means there is no ultimate standard of right or wrong, therefore we should all live in “openness” and “tolerance.” For someone to believe they are right and another person is wrong is seen as “intolerant,” “narrow-minded,” and “bigoted.” In a no-truth world, “pick one” religion makes sense because no religion is more true than another.
Second, “pick one” religion fails to see the difference between “taste” and “truth.” There is room for varying opinion in matters of taste, from ice cream flavors to vacation spots. After all, taste is a matter of personal preference and perspective. But each religion makes truth claims about God, Jesus, humanity, what’s wrong with the world, and salvation. Truth is different from taste. Truth does not violate the laws of logic. Many religions truth claims contradict one another, therefore cannot be equally right. Truth is not dependent on any time, place or condition, whether the laws of nature or the moral law written on each heart. That means truth is discovered (not created), and therefore does not change. If reality and morality are not a matter of taste, it is right to teach what is true and how to think.
A third problem is parents don’t give their children this kind of “freedom” in many areas, even literal matters of taste! What parent would let their child eat whatever they want? Some choices allowed in the name of “freedom” and “self-discovery” may actually be harmful. Parents have a responsibility to lead their children to what is right and best for them.
Last, “pick one” religion presents a confused view of humanity. If every person is essentially good and only needs to be improved, whatever makes them a “better” person is celebrated, whether practicing any religion or none at all. But the human problem is we are spiritually dead and need to be made alive (Ephesians 2:1-10). The Bible teaches we are all sinners (Romans 3:23) and forgiveness and grace are available through Jesus (Romans 6:23), not good works. Jesus claimed, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me (John 14:6).” Eternity does not hinge on whether someone chooses cookie dough, but whether someone chooses Christ. “Pick one” only works if the right one is picked. Parents, if you want to lead your child in the right direction, toward the way, truth, and true life, don’t push them, but point them to Jesus.
Dr. Chris Larmoyeux is the pastor at First Baptist Church Maumelle. He and his wife, Tonya, live in Maumelle with their three children. You can email Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.