No, Archbishop, They Don’t

The Archbishop of Canterbury thinks children should be taught the Lord’s Prayer.  No, Archbishop, they shouldn’t.  The Lord’s Prayer isn’t a magical talisman that will somehow or other lead children to live good and moral lives.  Teaching it to children won’t make them better citizens or happier human beings.  It won’t mean anything to their lives at all.

Unless, that is, they’re Christians.

To be sure, Christian parents should teach their Christian children to pray the Lord’s Prayer; to obey the 10 Commandments; to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and their neighbors as themselves.  Christian parents should be teaching their Christian children all of those things.

But non Christians?  No.  They don’t need to learn it because it isn’t a prayer they can honestly pray.  Only Christians can.  Only Christians can utter the words ‘Our Father…’ with any meaning or significance.  ‘Our Father’ is the core of the prayer and it indicates that those praying it have an intimate, familial, familiar relationship to the one to whom they pray.  Teaching persons to pray a prayer which shows a familial relationship to the One with whom they have no such relationship is the very definition of pointlessness.

Besides that, it’s a lie.  One who mutters the words ‘Our Father’ without having God as Father, without the familial relationship necessary, is one who lies.  And teaching children to lie is a very bad thing.  Teaching them that God is their Father when they ignore, dismiss, and live their lives completely apart from his Fatherly guidance is also a lie.

Archbishop, your interest is in ‘cultural christianity’ and not Christian faith.  Cultural christianity is meaningless- and in fact, a distortion of real faith.

Parents – if you wish to teach your children something meaningful teach them to love God and know his Son their Redeemer.  Then you can teach them to pray, with other believers, ‘Our Father…’  If you think, however, that teaching them a certain prayer will result in something wonderful you’re simply blind and mistaken.  You’ve turned prayer into magic.

About Jim

I am a Pastor, and Lecturer in Church History and Biblical Studies at Ming Hua Theological College.
This entry was posted in Modern Culture, Theology and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to No, Archbishop, They Don’t

  1. steph says:

    It’s history, it’s culture, it’s respect. It’s keeping an open mind. It’s allowing children the opportunity, encouraging them to explore. I’d be fairly ignorant if I didn’t learn the Lord’s prayer when I was little. Perish the thought. Yes, I love Rowan Williams. Heard him on the BBC Radio 4 yesterday – he introduced an hour of T.S. Eliot featuring the Wasteland read by Jeremy Irons and Eileen Atkins. Wonderful, powerful stuff. Coincidentally I bought the Poems of Rowan Williams yesterday. I like his poetry too… He has contributed immensely to society in his role as AB and Magdalene College in Cambridge are bloody lucky. The CofE will be poorer when he leaves and there will be a gap in society.

    Like

  2. steph says:

    so I’m not allowed to learn it? Don’t you explore and question before you believe? Is your Christian history sacred and private? Would you rather the world was ignorant? It’s more than human history and culture to you but that doesn’t lessen the vital importance of human history and culture and need for understanding in human society.

    Like

    • Jim says:

      sure learn it. it’s just not going to do you any good to do so. unless you’ve converted to christianity. 😉

      Like

  3. steph says:

    It probably contributed to my learning environment in a way that has prevented me from growing up a raving ignoramus historically illiterate atheist. I was indoctrinated into nothing. I’m still learning, exploring and changing my mind.

    Like

  4. steph says:

    Btw – Rowan never said it was a magical talisman. You’ve taken him out of context and misrepresented him. What he said was “I’d like to see schools introducing children to the Lord’s Prayer, so that they know that it’s there, they know what it means and know why it matters” and MOST importantly, “Then they may make up their minds about whether they use it. The Lord’s Prayer isn’t a very big or complicated thing.”

    Let children make up their own minds.

    Like

    • Jim says:

      you left out the most important part where williams went on to say

      “I don’t think it’s too difficult to introduce children to this and introduce it in plain language and say not ‘You’ve got to pray this,’ but this is something that’s really, really important to lots and lots of people and can change their lives.”

      no- it won’t change their lives. ‘it’ can’t change anyone’s life. imagining that ‘it’ (rather than God himself) can change anything is to believe that prayer is a magical device which can change reality. it doesn’t it can’t. prayer doesn’t change anything. God does.

      Like

  5. steph says:

    and I love you too. You’re not the messiah, just a naughty boy! 🙂

    Like

  6. markregier says:

    Yo Jimboy,

    What about the people in the book of Acts, people who have not yet called on the Name of the Lord Jesus, believed and been baptized, but still pray to God? Perhaps that tidbit of information is only incidental to the author (I don’t really know), yet it never seemed to be so to me. It never seemed to me that when, Luke, for instance, introduces Cornelius as a man who “prayed to God regularly,” (10:2), this before he was saved (11:14), that the text considers it pointless. I mean goodness, the angel even says, “Cornelius, God has heard your prayer…”.

    Like

    • Jim says:

      stick to the subject. we aren’t talking here about cornelius are we? what is it about folk today wanting to jumble everything together as though all apples belonged with all oranges?

      cornelius’ prayer that was heard was his prayer for the gospel (which peter brought to him). if you can demonstrate that cornelius prayed the lord’s prayer before his conversion then you might have a case.

      Like

  7. steph says:

    That’s right. He said “I don’t think it’s too difficult to introduce children to this and introduce it in plain language and say not ‘You’ve got to pray this,’ but this is something that’s really, really important to lots and lots of people and can change their lives.” But you’re taking it out of context Jim. He doesn’t mean the prayer all by itself will change lives. Through introducing children to tradition and ideas, and teaching them to understand what religion is about, children can come to know or believe in God. So rather that indoctrinating children with something like ‘God exists. Believe it or you’ll burn in hell’, children are given the benefit of discovering for themselves.

    Like

    • Jim says:

      no, no, no. introducing children to christian prayer before they’re christian makes as little sense as introducing a baby to a huge slab of steak before it has teeth.

      Like

  8. steph says:

    By the way I agree about apples and oranges. Just what the mythtics do. Bayes is for apples and the gospels are oranges. Jumbling everything together with no distinction or concept of reality. Apart from mathematical formulae devised to ascertain mathematical probability, being inappropriate for, and unrelated to historical probability and therefore irrelevant to historical religious texts, Dicky Carrier doesn’t have a structured method of application, but worse, he is dealing with mixed material, some of which is primary, much of which is secondary, legendary, myth mixed accretion. He has no method of distinguishing the difference and this renders his Bayes a complete muddle. But when a mythtic is so desperate to dismiss God and everything in the Bible, it’s convenient to dispose of inconvenient tradition and Dicky Carrier is under the illusion that Bayes provides a veneer of scientific language to conclusions he wants and is determined to ‘prove’…

    Like

  9. steph says:

    I disagree. I have become more religious through learning about history, tradition and religious ideas. How do children from secular environments become Christian without learning about religion? Does every child have a road to Damascus experience?

    Like

    • Jim says:

      yes, they must. we baptists believe the conversion experience is individual. we dont baptize ’em into the church in hopes that one day they might really believe something.

      Like

  10. steph says:

    His book ‘Proving’ History arrived this morning. A blessing from heaven, conveniently timed so I can smash him to pieces in my essay. No method. Badly written, poorly referenced, and cites absolutely no Aramaist and uses fundy Christian scholars to debunk NT methodology and an apparent theory of Aramaic which nobody believes anyway. He’s totally muddled, totally incompetent, totally under-read and completely over confident full of complicated and simple mistakes.

    Like

  11. steph says:

    They can’t have an authentic conversion experience if they aren’t already aware of Christianity. And this positive introductory way of learning gives them the opportunity to become aware and opens them up to or makes them more susceptible to the possibility of ‘conversion’.

    Like

  12. steph says:

    and I don’t see the benefit in baptising children in the hope they will eventually believe. Therefore I too naturally believe that becoming religious is an individual decision, but not that ‘conversion’ is a damascus road experience necessarily, but a slowly evolving process. If more people were educated into ideas there wouldn’t be so many biblically and historically illiterate religious fundamentalists or biblically and historically illterate deconverted fungusmentalists batting for the other side.

    Like

    • Jim says:

      i’m all for education in the faith. but faith comes first. without it in place already, education in faith just becomes information.

      Like

  13. steph says:

    He never said it was the foundation and nor did I.

    Like

  14. steph says:

    … until the education draw some of the educated people into ‘faith’ as a consequence of the information they’ve received.

    Like

  15. wken says:

    If I understand correctly, he’s saying that people should learn the Lord’s Prayer in the same way that one learns Romeo’s “to be or not to be” lament or the like. I’m fine with that, actually. As a prayer, no, it won’t do any good. But it can be relevant to see as a piece of history. To me, no, it’s not just a piece of history. But it is a piece of history. The texts of other religious groups which I’ve studied, I’ve studied in that form, rather than as religious experience.

    Anyway … this doesn’t bother me as much as such silliness as including “under God” in the US pledge of allegiance or using “In God we trust” for our motto, when it self-evidently isn’t so.

    Like

    • Jim says:

      i understand what you’re saying but i can’t take it as ‘just a piece of history’ any more than i can take my marriage vows as ‘something i just said one day’.

      Like

  16. steph says:

    How do you invent such interpretations? He’s not expecting anybody to read it like Shakespeare. Not even as ‘just a piece of history’. He’s not talking about ‘religious experience’. He’s not even saying that because it’s a prayer it’s going to ‘do you any good’ as prayer. It’s part of our cultural history though, and through learning about religion, if children grow up to believe, they will take the prayer up again with new meaning. And the Lord’s prayer is a central prayer for Christians. What on earth is so difficult about that? Some people are really keen to get their knives out for Rowan. Seems pointless to me. He has done so many valuable things to British society, encourages closer growing relationships between people of different creeds and origins.

    Like

  17. steph says:

    What is your problem? He never said it was central to the lives of a non believing school student. But part of every child’s education should be learning about religions, and Christian children should learn about religions too, including their own, which so many grow up knowing practically nothing about…. Part of learning about Christianity is learning the Lord’s prayer which is ‘really, really important to lots and lots of people’, and it’s helpful to the future of the world if children, even those who do not believe, understand and respect that. And I wish you appreciated that because it discourages the evolution of raving fungusmentalists. Like Dicksy Carrier who knows stuff all about Christianity.

    Like

    • Jim says:

      I dont have a problem. Non Christians have as much business praying the Lord’s prayer as non account holders have in signing someone else’s check. But I think we shall never agree on this.

      Like

  18. steph says:

    Well if that’s your attitude I don’t want to be a Christian. In fact I think I might become a raving atheist. Sorry for intruding on your precious history. I’ll stop learning right now.

    Like

  19. steph says:

    I think you should inform all education departments around the world that the education of children in religious studies should be immediately halted. They have no business teaching religious studies. While you’re at it, you’d better chastise the British authorities responsible for awarding me, a non Christian evil little sinner, with a scholarship to write a Ph.D in a (gasp) Theology and Religion Department at Nottingham University. I have no business doing such a degree.

    Like

    • Jim says:

      see that’s called exaggeration, overreaction, and the like. none of that is the topic of the present discussion is it. the present discussion is about teaching kids the lord’s prayer. you say they should be taught it. i disagreed. that’s all this is about. nothing more.

      Like

  20. steph says:

    I don’t want that sort of ownership. Those words (the Aramaic ones) belonged to Jesus, and he shared them with his disciples who were Jewish.

    Like

  21. steph says:

    Jesus chose his disciples in his lifetime. He did not say that they were to guard it and others had no business knowing it because it belonged only to his disciples.

    Like

    • Jim says:

      arguments from silence don’t work. i could equally say ‘he didn’t tell us to teach it to school kids who otherwise care nothing for christian faith’ either.

      Like

  22. steph says:

    Over interpretation and expanding his words doesn’t work either.

    Like

  23. steph says:

    They sure do. Secondary accretion which we endeavour to peel away to see Jesus.

    Like

  24. steph says:

    It’s mum’s birthday.

    Like

Comments are closed.