Conspiracy theories about Christianity: #4: are the four Gospels unreliable since they are based on oral tradition and were written long after the events they describe?

When I was in elementary school, the teachers would sometimes have the class play this game: the teacher would whisper a short message to one student, that student would whisper it to another student, and the message would pass through a classroom of thirty students, one by one. When the last student heard the message, he or she was supposed to repeat it for the entire class. Invariably, the message had changed along the course of thirty transmissions.

One time a classroom wag added a dirty word to the message. He or she must have been thrilled to witness the vulgarity being repeated by all the rest of the students in the class. That was the last time we were ever invited to play that game.

Oral traditions are not highly respected in our society. They are treated as very unreliable. However, anthropologists have found that civilizations which do not depend on printed or digital sources for memory are highly successful in preserving narratives unchanged from generation to generation. These scientists have had enough decades to study oral traditions in Africa, the south Pacific, Siberia, and other nonliterate societies to be convinced that their professional storytellers learn the accounts delivered from previous generations and pass them unaltered to the next generation.

No doubt much of the Bible was oral tradition before it was written. The accounts in Genesis must have been passed from generation to generation before Moses put them into writing. Likewise, the four Gospels bear signs of being derived from oral tradition. Their brief narratives of events, their pithy teachings attributed to Jesus, and their use of keywords to build a framework for the entire account all show that these writings were originally designed to be spoken and to be heard.

Indeed, the custom among Jews of the first century was to have rabbis teach their disciples to repeat the rabbi’s messages. Committed disciples stayed with the same rabbi, hearing the same teachings repeatedly until they could speak them to others; then they were sent out to share the rabbi’s message. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is an example of teaching via oral tradition. The verses recorded by Matthew probably were memorized by Matthew through repeated hearings. Even before the death and resurrection of Jesus, Matthew and the other apostles had learned these lessons well enough to be sent to share them with others (Matthew 10:1-42). After his death and resurrection, Jesus again authorized his apostles to be his witnesses (Acts 1:8). Clearly, they met together and devised a common framework so that, as they shared the message, the entire world—first the Jews and then the Gentiles—heard the same message from the twelve apostles and from those who learned from those apostles.

Therefore, Peter writes, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (II Peter 1:16). John also writes, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life—the life that was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard, we proclaim also to you” (I John 1:1-3).

The New Testament is based upon eyewitness accounts! Why, then, do the skeptics insist that the four Gospels could not have been written within forty years of the events they describe? One basic presupposition of the skeptics is that Jesus could not have known the future. His prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem, found in Matthew 24 and Mark 13 and Luke 21, was fulfilled around the year 70. The words of Jesus match the history of the Roman siege and capture of Jerusalem so accurately that skeptics insist that those words must have been written after the events they describe. Without this presupposition, there is little reason to doubt that the Gospels were written a mere twenty to thirty years after the events they describe, rather than the more than forty years required by the skeptics.

Fourth century Church historians were far closer in time to the writing of the Gospels than we are. Moreover, they had access to full documents which we have now only in fragments. Those historians say that Matthew wrote the earliest Gospel in the Hebrew language or idiom. Indeed, Matthew’s intended audience clearly consisted of Jewish Christians, familiar with Moses and the prophets, and not needing any explanation of Jewish customs. Mark and Luke wrote for Gentile Christians. Both were indeed second-generation Christians, but Luke tells us that he researched his subject before he wrote. (Since he frequently mentions, in the first two chapters of his Gospel, the thoughts and feelings of Mary the mother of Jesus, it seems likely that she was one of his sources. He probably also interviewed several of the apostles, as well as other eyewitnesses to the work and teaching of Jesus.) Mark is said by the fourth century historians to have written the lessons that Peter taught about Jesus, so Mark’s Gospel is indeed based on an eyewitness account.

John’s Gospel differs significantly from the other three, which may indicate that he was aware of the circulation of those three Gospels and wanted to supplement them rather than repeating them. He includes some of the benchmarks of the oral tradition: the baptism of Jesus by John, the feeding of the five thousand, the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus, and his resurrection. But John recalls longer discourses from the Lord. He departs from the oral tradition, not to deny its accuracy, but to share additional information. And even if John wrote fifty years after he saw and heard and touched Jesus, he was repeating lessons he had taught repeatedly over those fifty years. His position as an eyewitness is solid.

Many Christians feel no need to question the accuracy of the Gospels because they hold to the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture: “All scripture is breathed out by God” (II Timothy 3:16); “No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (II Peter 1:21). But one does not have to accept the doctrine of inspiration to consider the New Testament accounts about Jesus to be reliable. During the time of oral tradition, the spoken accounts of the apostles could easily have been challenged and corrected by other eyewitnesses to Jesus. Even as the first written accounts appeared, people were alive who could have set the record straight. The Bible is trustworthy, not only because of inspiration, but also because of its historic track record. J.

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24 thoughts on “Conspiracy theories about Christianity: #4: are the four Gospels unreliable since they are based on oral tradition and were written long after the events they describe?

  1. “Many Christians feel no need to question the accuracy of the Gospels because they hold to the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture: “All scripture is breathed out by God” (II Timothy 3:16); “No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man,”

    This is an emotional belief. God has never breathed out anything since the scriptures through man, it was supposed to have happened over hundreds of years until the Bible was written. If a man or even the Pope or an Archbishop or maybe a dozen dedicated priests were to write a gospel to add to the New Testament or write a newer testament and claim God inspired every word they wrote would you believe it? Probably not, and that is why nobody has claimed such a thing if they want to be taken seriously. Do you believe any of these TV preachers who claim they are directly inspired by God himself while asking for a donation of 100 dollars? Probably not if you are smart enough, so why would you believe the explanation of a primitive people who were cunning and superstitious enough to claim the Bible was breathed out by God?

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    • Saul of Tarsus, who became the apostle Paul, was a literate scholar within the Roman Empire–hardly primitive or superstitious. He lived in the same time as Cicero, Seneca, and Philo, all highly civilized thinkers and writers. You are quite correct in saying that I do not accept the testimony of TV preachers who claim that they have special messages from God. Nor do I accept the Qu’ran as God’s message to the world. But the record about Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, is quite convincing. Aside from personal experiences of his reality (which you are not able to measure and I do not expect you to accept as evidence), I have found that the contents of the New Testament are reliable and trustworthy. Starting with the resurrection of Jesus, which contemporaries failed to disprove, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John present a man who matches perfectly the predictions of Moses and the prophets of a Redeemer sent by God. J.

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  2. I am confused, J. When I read this post I thought it was about Jesus Christ. Apparently, you are to debate the historical accuracy of the accounts of King Arthur and Robinhood. No small wonder, though, as the historical and literary support for the Gospels is quit astounding. If it were me, I would certainly try to drag you into a debate about Robinhood instead of actually addressing the topic of the post! Carry on LOL.

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  3. “anthropologists have found that civilizations which do not depend on printed or digital sources for memory are highly successful in preserving narratives unchanged from generation to generation.”

    The fact is the stories originated from events that were not understood and always attributed to mythical people and gods who were considered to be powerful and in control. We now live in a scientific advanced world and much of what was magical can be explained today, however story tellers who had travelled outside of the cities and countries would have been in demand and the simple common people of ancient times were perceptible to exaggeration and make belief.

    Scientists say that some of the myths and legends have some truth, but most are just stories, there are however a few that may have historic roots in geological events.
    For example we all know the story of Noah’s Ark with the world wide flood. Science says flood stories are found in many cultures. There never was a flood that encompassed the entire planet, however it is possible the story was from a massive flood in the Black Sea from about 5,000 BC.

    Atlantis a city that was supposed to be populated by people who were half god and half humans was written about by Plato. Science says Atlantis probably wasn’t a real place, but a real island civilization may have inspired the tale such as Santorini in Greece that used to be a single island, but a volcano erupted into the largest ever produced on the planet destroying the island causing tsunamis and creating a massive amount of sulphur dioxide that hung around for years in the atmosphere about 3,500 years ago.

    In Hindu mythology Ramayana, Sita, the wife of the god Rama was kidnapped and to cut a long story short bear and monkey like men help Rama and his brother to build a floating bridge between India and Lanka and they rescue his wife. Science says a satellite images indicate a line of limestone shoals that would have been submerged during the last ice age that connected these countries but about 4,500 years ago and it appears possible that people could have walked across.

    The natives to the deserts of central Australia the Luritja people told legendary stories of a fire devil being sent down from the sun to crash into the Earth and kill everything.
    Science says that 4,700 years ago a meteor landed in this area that would have broken up in Earth’s atmosphere and balls of fire would have been an impressive but scary sight.

    As you can see the art of story telling was not so much about reality but dramatization especially using gods and creatures with possibly some factual elements on the side, and I might add this aligns with what we understand regarding all the religious scriptures.

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    • With the difference being that none of the examples you offer link their main characters to historical figures such as Caesar Augustus, Pontius Pilate, or the high priest Caiaphas. Your examples might have relevance to the first eleven chapters of Genesis, but they do not counter the historical solidity of the New Testament accounts of Jesus.

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      • I have on my earlier comment referred to King Arthur and Robin Hood and a few others with written stories based loosely on people who may or may not have existed. In fact these examples are very much like the mystery of the existence of Jesus.

        These characters were immortalised by ancient people around 500 A.D. when King Arthur lived, and 1160 A.D. as some say for the birth of Robin Hood. People of Britain and Europe were just as superstitious and inventive as the ancient peoples of the Middle East during the time of the claimed Jesus Christ. If these accounts of many individuals from ancient times are not accurate or verified with indisputable evidence, it would be no different for any of the events depicted within the holy scriptures for any religion. For example:

        King Arthur, if he existed at all (which few scholars agree upon), he would not have been a king, but the commander of an elite force of fighting men. Furthermore, he would have lived more than 500 years before medieval legends suggest. It has been said during the battle on the “mountain of Badon”, he personally killed 960 of the enemy and 150 knights were said to have sat at Arthurs Round Table and when they had largely rid the land of monsters, dragons, and evil customs, the knights undertook their greatest task of all, the quest for the Holy Grail. (Historyextra.com)

        Academics, meanwhile, have combed the historical record for evidence of a real Robin Hood. English legal records suggest that, as early as the 13th century, “Robehod,” “Rabunhod” and other variations had become common epithets for criminals. But what had inspired these nicknames: a fictional tale, an infamous bandit or an amalgam of both? The first literary references to Robin Hood appear in a series of 14th- and 15th-century ballads about a violent yeoman who lived in Sherwood Forest with his men and frequently clashed with the Sheriff of Nottingham. Rather than a peasant, knight or fallen noble, as in later versions, the protagonist of these medieval stories is a commoner. Little John and Will Scarlet are part of this Robin’s “merry” crew, meaning, at the time, an outlaw’s gang, but Maid Marian, Friar Tuck and Alan-a-Dale would not enter the legend until later, possibly as part of the May Day rituals. (History.com)

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      • I am very well acquainted with the development of the King Arthur tradition and its possible historical foundation–less so with Robin Hood. We could also discuss Sherlock Holmes or Luke Skywalker. But I don’t think you will find that people told stories about Jesus of Nazareth for the same reason that we entertain ourselves with stories that we know are fiction. From the very beginning (the epistles of Paul) the assertion was made that knowledge of Christ Jesus and a faith-based relationship with him makes all the difference in the world. Therefore, his place in history rather than fiction matters. Asserting that the Gospels are merely fiction created for entertainment does not mesh well with the history of the Christian Church. The evidence that Jesus walked in the land of Galilee and Judea, that he taught his message to apostles who later spread it through the Roman world, that he died and was buried, and that he rose again is too strong to be ignored or confused with fiction. J.

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      • “But I don’t think you will find that people told stories about Jesus of Nazareth for the same reason that we entertain ourselves with stories that we know are fiction.”

        Ok I take your point, however as you will know there are many stories about gods and deities that began well before Christianity, and although unbelievable to Christians the people afforded the stories of their gods with the same reverence that you afford to your Christian stories.

        “Therefore, his place in history rather than fiction matters.”

        Can you not see that Christianity follows exactly the same pattern as every other religion? All the other worshippers of bygone gods had a relationship with their god or gods for thousands of years just as you and the many other religions do today, have you seen the dedication of Buddhist or Tibetan Buddhism Monks, if they do not have a similar relationship with their gods as you do with yours what drives them?

        “The evidence that Jesus walked in the land of Galilee and Judea, that he taught his message to apostles who later spread it through the Roman world, that he died and was buried, and that he rose again is too strong to be ignored or confused with fiction.”

        The evidence you speak of is no better than anything else associated with religions and gods through history. Is it not strange that all the past gods were extremely powerful creators and destroyers in the same way as yours is? Is it not strange some of the stories in Christianity are very similar and just as impossible yet you believe your Christian stories are fact and theirs are all fiction?

        Apart from Hinduism being the oldest religion in the world, Brahma is a part of the trinity of gods that also includes Vishnu and Shiva. There is a collection of sacred Hindu texts, verses and hymns that have revelations from saints and sages. Known as the Veda, they were compiled in 1500 B.C. and many texts mention creation and destruction, so can you see the obvious similarities so far?

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      • On Monday I addressed the question of whether similarities among religions invalidate all religions. I focused most on the dying-and-rising god motif, but I will agree that the moral teachings among religions are remarkably similar, and that the idea of creation and eventual destruction is also similar. That commonality may be evidence of truth rather than falsehood. Comparisons of Brahma/Vishnu/Shiva and Father/Son/Spirit do not hold up nearly as well. Any Christian or Hindu familiar with both religions can easily spot important differences.
        I consider it significant that Jesus, the Buddha, Confucius, Muhammad, and other founders of various religions are all historical figures, but only Jesus claimed to be God and is considered by most of his followers to be God. Moreover, Jesus is regarded as more than a teacher or guide–he is seen as a figure who reconciles wrongdoers to God. These things matter.
        Finally, I am curious: why are you firmly arguing against Christianity and its core teachings? Would we be having a conversation like this if I had spent a week offering evidence that King Arthur actually existed? J.

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      • “That commonality may be evidence of truth rather than falsehood.”

        Do you then believe that God made himself known to the other earlier ancient people and their religions? If that were so, would that mean they would have had contact with the Christian God long before Christianity, and therefore their scriptures about God predate the Bible.

        “but only Jesus claimed to be God and is considered by most of his followers to be God.”

        That is a controversial claim among your own Christian brothers and not considered to be true by the Jews. Claiming you are God is one thing but that does not prove anything as seven men around the world today claim to be Jesus Christ reincarnated, and many have a following of devoted believers.

        “Finally, I am curious: why are you firmly arguing against Christianity and its core teachings? Would we be having a conversation like this if I had spent a week offering evidence that King Arthur actually existed?”

        No, because King Arthur does not claim to be a god or need to be worshipped and does not impact in any way on my life unless I want him to, whereas religions push their ideologies into the public space, manipulate the politics and depend on child indoctrination so the churches will survive the next generation.

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      • I do believe that the Christian God interacted with people from the earliest times. I also believe that the Hebrew Bible contains the most accurate descriptions of those interactions and that other religious texts are–at best–distorted descriptions of the same interactions with many changes and additions.
        I wrote about Jesus’ claim to be God on Tuesday. In short, I do not think he would have been condemned by the Sanhedrin and handed over to the Romans for execution had he not identified himself as the Son of God.
        On the charge that religions push themselves into the public square, I gladly plead guilty. I think freedom of religion means open expression of all religious beliefs and polite conversations like the one we are having. That religions meddle in politics I deplore as much as you. Like Martin Luther, I would prefer to be ruled by an unbeliever (Luther said a Turk, who would be a Muslim) who is skilled at ruling than by a Christian who is incompetent. That children should be taught their religious heritage I think is obvious. To prevent parents from sharing their faith with their own children would be monstrous. Many adults do deny the instructions that they received in their youth, turning to other religions or to no religion at all. This includes adults raised by unbelievers who come to Christian faith later in life. But the security children receive from knowledge of the true God and faith in Jesus Christ is something that should not be denied to our children. J.

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      • “I do believe that the Christian God interacted with people from the earliest times.”

        I think maybe you could get a bit of flak from your Christian brothers for this comment because it indicates that God is not exclusive to the religions of Christians and Jews and could in fact be known as many gods worshipped through many other religions and maybe they contain truths about God that the Bible does not.

        In fact if you consider the Quran as being written in 600 years after the Bible and origins of both religions being traced to the Abrahamic faith and that the Quran has references to Jesus being found in 93 verses with various references of “Son of Mary” and others mentioned directly and indirectly over 187 times, and as the Muslims believe the Quran was a holy book of Islam given by God to Musa \Moses (Wikipedia) it becomes a very interesting situation, with basically the Christian God being a universal God known under different names and maybe religions around the world should be worshipping all the gods as the real one and embracing each other as brothers rather than hating each other.

        “I think freedom of religion means open expression of all religious beliefs and polite conversations like the one we are having.”

        In this respect I do agree, and I appreciate your time and effort involved. I do understand freedom of expression; however I was subjected to the indoctrination process as a child and I understand it is now a more intense process. Fortunately, I was not convinced a supernatural world exists that involves gods and devils, but I am concerned about indoctrination of the vulnerable within our “free society” into any kind of ideology that is not of their free choice.

        “To prevent parents from sharing their faith with their own children would be monstrous.”

        I agree in casually relating your own beliefs to a child, however no pressure should be applied to them, children should be innocent, left to make up their own minds when they are old enough, if parents believe they want to see their children in heaven so badly that they have to indoctrinate their children then they are being extremely selfish to the child, and as you have basically said the chances are the child may retaliate later in life as has happened on many occasions, but this is dependent on an individual strengths and weaknesses.

        I would not be against all religions being taught equally in senior schools as a social or a special interest subject, but I am definitely against creationism taught as science and evolution dismissed as a lie, because evolution is the basis of modern biology and medicine and will never be disproven.

        “But the security children receive from knowledge of the true God and faith in Jesus Christ is something that should not be denied to our children.”

        The security you talk about is indoctrination, children have security in their parents and should not be in their parents ideologies because this is where the brain is physically changed. This may be an extreme case, but this is how communist families over decades became deep rooted in their beliefs and how the Pol Pot regime was able to recruit children, who were taken away young and taught nothing but discipline and hatred until completely indoctrinated and able to kill with impunity. Indoctrination in any form is serious and not good.

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      • Steve. Just for the record and don’t think this means I have any interest in conversation with you.

        J will get no flak for his statement because his brethren all get that he did not mean it as you said it.

        Sad really that when the atheist realizes that his world view is void and nonsensical that the immediate tactic is to sow dissention among the brethren.

        Have no fear, the brethren are likely well pleased with the way our brother is handling your nonsensical and meandering responses to his post.

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      • Yep, “sowing dissention” you have discovered just how much of a cad I really am Wally.
        Glad you commented and glad you are well pleased.

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      • Well dunno what to tell you. Clearly you want the hosts brothers to beat him up, yet clearly we stand behind him. Now you will have to come up with argumentation based in logic and fact, and i know the void and nonsensical atheists really like to avoid that.

        Look Steve the only point here is that you clearly are trying to get a man’s friends to turn in him. That actually does make you a cad. What I would suggest is, that if you want to be taken seriously, is that you actually rebut something specific the host has said here. I date you. Disprove any single point he has made.

        You can’t. Your only argument is to discredit the speaker. Trust me Steve, you won’t ever come close to intellectually discrediting the host here with you cut and paste arguments. You don’t even understand the things you cut and paste from Wikipedia but it is pretty funny to watch you misapply it.

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      • Wally, I am getting a wee bit annoyed with your assumptions and accusations. It appears you always sniffing around to find something to accuse me of.

        For your information and correct me if I am wrong but the major religions are of the opinion they are of the true religion worshipping the one and only true god or gods, correct?

        Now if you will allow me, can I have a conversation with the host without being accused of something else that I may have unintentionally intended?

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      • Hey Steve. You did what you did. Not my problem really. Just like you just conflated Christian education with Pol Pot. This is not accidental. So when you intentionally misrepresent i will call you on it. If that annoys you I really don’t care. And when the host tells me to be silent i will.

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      • “Just like you just conflated Christian education with Pol Pot. This is not accidental.”

        Not correct, this was an example of extremist indoctrination. This was to explain how far indoctrination can change brains. Children of the Khmer Rouge were having to be de-converted, many of them had killed their own parents.

        Could you not figure that out?

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      • No Steve. You directly and intentionally compared Christian parents educating their children with communist terrorists training children to kill. Sheesh some day I hope to find an atheist with enough guts to own what they say. At least Christians proclaim the Gospel with no shame.

        You said it. My comprehension is just fine.

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      • Is it OK if I also call you Steve?
        I know nothing about your childhood and how you were taught about the Christian faith. I was brought to church and Sunday School every week and was taught at home how to pray. I was given little books with Bible accounts written in simple language, and when I was older I was given a Bible of my own. If that is indoctrination, then I cannot say that indoctrination is a bad thing. To take children from their parents and train them to think a certain way is wrong whether it is done by Asian communists, Islamic groups, or American public schools. Parents should be the primary teachers of their children and should be able to choose the secondary teachers, whether public schools, religious schools, or whatever.
        I am confident that God does not want to be exclusive to any group or culture.His Bible describes a gathering of all nations, languages, peoples, and tribes. But that diversity is united around Jesus. Jesus gave his life as a ransom to win the world for God. Jesus sent his apostles to tell all creation what he had accomplished. And Jesus fulfilled the promises that God intended for all people, although they were best preserved in the Hebrew Bible and were misunderstood and distorted among other cultures.
        The Quran is said to come from the same God who spoke through Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. But the Quran says that God has no Son and that each person must be his own Savior. The Christian Bible identifies Jesus as the Son of God and the Savior of all who will be saved. So the Quran and the Christian Bible cannot both be true. The Quran does not even acknowledge that Jesus was killed. The Christian Bible proclaims the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. Other cultures were also seeking truth and hope through a dying and reviving god. The evidence for the historic existence, death, and resurrection of Jesus is strong. On that basis, I reject the teachings of the Quran and accept the teachings of the Christian Bible. J.

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      • Yes, please feel free to call me Steve, you are “j” and I thank you for your personal account J.

        I was not raised within a very religious family, however we all identified as Church of England considering we left the UK on a ship and landed in NZ. I was only about 3 or 4 years old at that time and when I was old enough to be a nuisance my parents would send me up to the local Anglican church whenever they could.

        “If that is indoctrination, then I cannot say that indoctrination is a bad thing.”

        I understand what you are saying. You obviously have been bought up to be of the Christian faith in what was a traditional and natural process for your family and the society you live in as it was in previous generations.

        I just wonder if the Christian influence had not been dominant in your life would you have become a Christian, because if you had been born in India or Egypt you would not be a Christian. But regardless of where you are born, as a child you have a lack of maturity to make rational decisions, a limited understanding and knowledge of the world to realise that in a democratic society we all should be entitled to make our own life’s choices, and in fact that is what our countries have fought wars for.

        I differ to you, whereas I believe schools should teach the subject matter required to prepare the child for life within the adult world of employment with some emphasis on handling personal issues, social and domestic skills because I find that many parents these days both are working full time, eat out or buy takeaways, employ cleaners, gardeners and babysitters and converse with their kids on the mobile phone, therefore they cannot be trusted to provide any sort of decent education. I also think schools should not be involved in teaching religious or political ideals unless they are associated within other topics such as historical and geographical means or social behaviours etc. On the same hand, children do not deserve added mental anxiety at such a vulnerable age while working to pass exams and deal with the pressures they already have.

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      • Thanks, Steve.
        “I just wonder if the Christian influence had not been dominant in your life would you have become a Christian, because if you had been born in India or Egypt you would not be a Christian.” You do realize that there are Christians in India and in Egypt. They are a minority of the population, but they are there. I can only imagine what it would be like to be raised Hindu or Muslim and then to hear about Jesus Christ, his offer of forgiveness and reconciliation with God, and his victorious resurrection from the dead. Naturally, I would like to believe that I would be won over to Christianity by the evidence and by the power of God’s message. Clearly, we can only speculate about that.
        “But regardless of where you are born, as a child you have a lack of maturity to make rational decisions, a limited understanding and knowledge of the world to realise that in a democratic society we all should be entitled to make our own life’s choices…” You won’t like this, but Christianity says quite the opposite. Faith in God is a childlike acceptance, a relationship with a Higher Power which is not less than rational but bigger than rational. Christians differ about when and how one becomes a Christian. Baptists like Wally delay entrance into the Church through Baptism until one can declare one’s faith and say he/she wants to be baptized. Lutherans like me baptize infants, then have a period of training in the early adolescent years ending in a service of confirmation, when the young adult says he/she wants to continue as a member of the Church. In either case, there is a public affirmation of faith later in childhood. But that affirmation of faith can only reflect instruction in the faith, which is a shared responsibility of the family and the Church.
        I agree that many families are ill-equipped to oversee the education of their children. Many churches are also dropping the ball, entertaining the children without providing any instruction about the faith. It’s a problem. J.

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