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The Difference Between Religious Education and Indoctrination

When I went to Bible College I was not educated. I was indoctrinated. While other believers will protest that their Christian college was different, I wonder if that's true. In order to test this let me explain my experience, compare it with what a good education is, and see what you think. Okay?

Yesterday I had lunch with my friend Dr. Dan Lambert of the Evangelical school John Brown University. He is using my book, WIBA, in several different teaching venues, including college/master's level classes, and even at an adult study group for a church. I had written about this before. He's not the only one. My friend Dr. Richard Knopp is using my book in his college/master's level apologetics classes. I had written about this before too.

There are others, so I'm told. I would like to applaud them all for doing their very best to educate rather than indoctrinate their students. Some skeptics may claim they're indoctrinating their students anyway, but this is the best we can expect of them. I don't think the word "indoctrinate" can apply to doing what they're doing, even if they are arguing against me in their classes. Could we really expect them to do differently?

Dan is using my book along with Antony Flew's book There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. Quite a contrast isn't it? Maybe he considers me a "Notorious Atheist" too? ;-)

Dan is forcing his students to think through my book. Some of them come from Bible thumping backgrounds and are a bit annoyed by it. At the end of his classes he schedules a conference call with me answering questions from his students. Many of them are a bit nervous about that part of the class because they picture themselves talking to Satan, or something like that. But afterward they realize I'm just a human being and even a bit funny. Most Christians stay inside the conclaves of church circles and never meet or talk with a known atheist. It's eye-opening to them. They can no longer demonize me.

In Bible College, by contrast, I was never asked to read any atheist literature and the books we were required to read were on some sort of unwritten approved list. We read Christian books by Christian authors, some of which were written by our own (non)denominational authors. We were taught what to believe in my undergraduate years. Just coming out of High School we were taught the party line for the most part, or at least the classes I took from the professors there.

At Lincoln Christian Seminary it was different, of course, and I wrote about that experience in my book. But by that time with the indoctrination I received from Great Lakes Christian College I was aligned with my conservative denomination on most points of doctrine, and I was never asked to seriously question my faith.

Great Lakes Christian College is different now as far as I can tell, given that I know some of the newer professors there. But at the time of my education ('73-'77) it was as I say. I wonder if this is changing among undergraduate evangelical colleges? It appears to be.

In any case, both Dan Lambert and Richard Knopp are educators not indoctrinators. Maybe with the recent wave of atheist writers they have been forced to do this, I don't know. What Dan wants to do is introduce his students to the arguments of the atheists so that they won't lose their faith outside of the classroom after they graduate, when they encounter these same arguments. I can't fault him for that.

As I have said before, if a Christian reads through my book and his faith is strengthened then it did him no harm. In fact, it did him good. If however, reading through it destroys his faith, then that faith was not worth having in the first place.

Become educated. If all you ever do is read Christian apologetics books in response to the arguments of atheists like me, then you are not being educated. Here's an example of what I mean. Look at my friend Dr. Norman Geisler's review of my book (the former self-published edition, Why I Rejected Christianity), and what I wrote about his review. There is no comparison between reading his review of my book and reading it yourself, as I've said before.

Again, become educated, not indoctrinated.


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