Monday, November 15, 2010

Indoctrination vs. Teaching

Lewis Wells at Commandments of Men shows the difference between teaching and indoctrination, and shows how he sees it fleshing itself out in the environment of patriarchy.  Read his post here.  Although he specifically ties this difference to patriarchy, the definitions fit for almost any type of belief system.  Aberrant views can be indoctrinated, but truthful ones can be as well.  One can be a mindless fundamentalist with the truth.

Wells explains that proper teaching leads one to have one's own moral compass, and gives one the ability to discern.  A good compass in determining whether instruction is one or the other is in how those that do the teaching deal with the conclusions of the taught.  If they are open to differing viewpoints of those they teach, there is a greater likelihood that they truly wanted to teach rather than indoctrinate.  I've had numerous situations in my Christian experience where I've come to different conclusions than those that taught me.  Their reactions to my ideas have been fairly telltale as to what kind of teachers they were.

Good teaching also helps to avoid being intimidated by teachers who think they know the truth in an absolute sense.  One thing I've noticed about teaching is that the humility level of the teacher is quite contagious.

Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.  James 3:1


  1. I don't agree with his negative spin on indoctrination. The dictionary definition is not nearly so sinister. Many would like a word that means the negative manipulation he refers to but indoctrination is not that word.

    I like his definition of teaching with it's emphasis on example driven teaching. This is something pulpit driven teaching leaves out for the most part. He also leaves out the key element of reproduction. Luke 6:40, 2 Tim. 2:2. The goal of teaching is not merely knowing what the teacher knows but becoming a teacher and helping other know - full reproduction of the teacher himself.

    Your James 3:1 verse must be interpreted in light of the whole N.T. In that context it is not pushing for only a few teachers.

  2. Tim,

    Thanks for commenting, and I think you make a good point. Indoctrination as a word has gotten some ill press the last few decades, and a different word - dictionary definition appropriate - could probably be used. Maybe brainwashing could be that word? If we teach others truthful things, like Jesus is Lord, using the bible, I could see how that could fall under indoctrination and teaching both, in the positive sense.

    My reference to James 3:1 was a specific application to the type of teachers he's writing about, and I think that judgment of teachers can come from men as well. I hold teachers to a higher standard than those who are not, as an example.