Tag Archives: Christianity Today

Are Kids Born with Belief?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

That is the title of an interview with author Justin Barrett in the June 2012 issue of Christianity Today.  Barrett recently released a book, titled Born Believers: The Science of Children’s Religious Beliefwhich “builds upon previous research on cognitive development to show that children naturally intuit design—and a Designer—when exposed to the natural world.”

This type of research is important because of the occasional refrain that children must be brainwashed into belief in God, because without brainwashing children would not believe in God.  Put another way, belief in God is unnatural to children and must be forced upon them.  Is this correct?

Barrett’s research leads him to conclude that “virtually all humans are essentially born believers—they have a natural receptivity to religious belief.”  Barrett adds:

We are not starting with unformed blobs that can be shaped into anything we like. Research from developmental psychology suggests children learn some things more easily and are attracted to some ideas more than others. There are certain kinds of ideas that children can learn more easily and rapidly than others, and internalize more deeply, such as believing in gods.

Children have a natural disposition to see the natural world as having purpose. Research has shown that children have a strong inclination to see design in the world around them, but they are left wondering who did it. They also know design doesn’t arise through random chance or mechanistic processes. In fact, children (and adults) automatically look for a person behind purpose or design. By five months old, infants already make the distinction between things that are acted upon and those things that do the acting, that is, intentional agents (like people). And preschoolers’ default assumption is that these agents are super-knowing, are super-perceiving, and are not going to die. If a child is exposed to the idea of a god that is immortal, super-knowing, super-perceiving, the child doesn’t have to do a lot of work to learn that idea; it fits the child’s intuitions.

In response to the argument that belief in God is just another childish belief that children grow out of, Barrett reminds us that

there are all kinds of childish beliefs, such as the idea that other people have minds, that there is a real world out there, that the laws of nature are stable, that my mother loves me. All these ideas are rooted in children’s early developing intuitions. If that is someone’s claim, I accept it; religious belief is in awfully good company.

It seems that the brainwashing runs the other way.  Children have to be inculcated with non-belief, not belief.  Belief in God comes easily and naturally for children.  Telling a child that there is no “immortal, super-knowing, super-perceiving” agent goes hard against the grain.  It seems that God has designed the human brain to be receptive to belief in him.

Do Eckhart Tolle’s Teachings Contradict Christianity?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Recently I learned that a local church was hosting “Bible studies” based on Eckhart Tolle’s teachings.  So, does Tolle agree with the teachings of Christianity?  Is it appropriate to promote his beliefs in a Christian church?

First, let me admit that I have not read his books personally, but I have certainly read about them (if anyone would like to correct any errors I make in the following analysis, please do so by commenting).  According to Dr. James A. Beverley, in  a 2008 article written for Christianity Today, Tolle definitely does not adhere to the essential beliefs of Christianity.

Here is a brief list of anti-Christian beliefs promoted by Tolle:

1.  God and man are one (pantheism).  Christianity teaches that God is distinct from man, that He created man.

2.  The human self is an illusion (Buddhism).  Christianity affirms the existence of the human self, but laments its corruption by sin.

3.  Death and the human body are illusions (Buddhism).  Christianity affirms that both are real.

4.  Jesus is not uniquely God, since everyone is God. Christianity denies that everyone is God, and claims that Jesus is the unique human manifestation of God.

All of these teachings directly contradict Christian beliefs.  I’m sure Tolle’s teachings contain some wisdom, but his overall worldview is obviously not Christian in any meaningful way.  The fact that we have a local church promoting Tolle’s beliefs is another clear indication that Christian education is woefully inadequate (I’m assuming that the persons leading these studies are ignorant, not purposefully trying to undermine Christianity).

If you know of any other links that discuss Tolle’s beliefs in comparison to Christianity, feel free to post them in the comments section of this post.