Education or Indoctrination?

I was reading the introduction to A New New Testament: A Bible for the 21st Century Combining Traditional and Newly Discovered Texts edited, and with commentary, by Hal Taussig, when I came upon this quote, explaining why he chose to title and structure this anthology of early Christian texts the way he has:

“My first reason is a rather simple redundancy with regard to the traditional New Testament: to know what is outside it, you must know what is outside it. In other words, it is a matter of adult education because education affirms options while indoctrination denies them.”

Here’s what resonates with me: “education affirms options while indoctrination denies them.” In fact, in indoctrination the options are vilified as the creation of heretics. In contrast, education informs people as to what is available for consideration and evaluation and allows the learner to make the necessary decisions. I have found, and have experienced, that indoctrination comes much more automatically and naturally than does education.

The fact is that there were a variety of lists of authoritative texts among Christians in the first four centuries CE. Several of these Second Temple Jewish texts, that didn’t make it into the Protestant Bible 1000 years later, were part of the various canon lists and some were even part of earliest Bibles to which we have access (codices from the 4th and 5th centuries CE). Thus, a sign of indoctrination is that most conservative evangelicals are completely unaware that the sixty-six book anthology they know as “the Bible” didn’t come into existence until the Reformation and that even today there are various other (and much older) canons than theirs. [See:

Indoctrination is an effort to tell people what to accept and what to reject; education is an effort to provide people with the options and teaches them means by which they can come to their own conclusions. Indoctrination serves the survival of ideological institutions, while education threatens their legitimacy and thus their existence. Indoctrination restricts possibilities, while education opens up possibilities. Indoctrination builds walls and limits participation, while education breaks down walls, promotes understanding and motivates acceptance.

Pastors, denominational leaders, Christian college instructors, and even parents, when it comes to how your Bible came to be the anthology that it is, are you engaged in indoctrination or education?

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