Some years ago, when my grandson was 5 and new to school, he asked me whether people could come back from the dead. My father, his great grandfather, had recently died and I wondered if this had prompted his question. I told him I didn’t think people could return from the dead and asked him what he thought.
‘I don’t think so,’ he said. ‘They told us at school that Jesus came back from being dead but I don’t believe it. Do you?’ I told him, as he’d asked, that I didn’t.
‘It would be weird if great granddad came back from the dead, wouldn’t it,’ he said.
‘It certainly would,’ I agreed.
Flash forward to this weekend. Dennis and I are looking after my granddaughters. The eldest, 5 herself, mentions Easter. ‘They said at school that Jesus died in the cross and came back to life. I don’t believe it. I don’t believe in God or Jesus. It’s all too silly.’
Apart from these two conversations, which they initiated, I’ve never discussed religion with my grandchildren. I’m opposed to the indoctrination of young people. As a teacher my aim was always to help them think for themselves. While I’m only their grandfather, I want my grandchildren to make up their own minds about the claims of the ideologies they encounter. The views both my grandchildren expressed about God, Jesus and the resurrection were entirely their own.
What do their responses reveal?
1. That the much vaunted Christian assertion that we are born with an instinctive awareness of and desire for God is nonsense. I’ve come across several blog posts recently, including one by those boneheads at Answers in Genesis, claiming just this. It’s a notion loosely based on Paul’s claim in Romans 1.19 & 20:
…what can be known about God is plain to (people), because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
On the contrary, until children are actively indoctrinated with notions of God and the Christian fantasy, they do not have an innate sense of any of it.
2. That pushing ideas about God and Jesus on to the supposedly impressionable young minds is counter-productive. Even very young children have a level of discernment that can distinguish between fact and fiction. Not subject to peer pressure and free from the ridiculous notion that they are sinners, they are capable of seeing through ‘silly’ religious ideas.
3. That Jesus was way off the mark (as usual) when he said, ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me.’ They’re not interested, and the longer they’re able to keep away from him, the better.