|photo courtesy of flickr creative commons|
By: Donnie Griffin
Children assume God exists. That’s just the way it is.
Until they reach an older age, usually in their adolescence, children don’t need to be convinced by classic, philosophical arguments for God’s existence. Whether born to Christians or to atheists, Islamists or Hindu, they are born with an intrinsic belief in the existence of some being that shares attributes like omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience (Rom 1:19-20).
That’s not to say there’s no practical need for parents to teach those arguments in some minimal way. It’s only that for the parent concerned about their child’s ability to know what they ought to believe about the things that matter most and why they ought to believe those things, those classical arguments may not be the place to begin.
So, where TO begin? Well, the beginning, and I mean Genesis 1:1, certainly has its benefits, but it may introduce more questions than you’d prefer.
So where, if not in the beginning, should a parent begin teaching when introducing Christian apologetics to their children?
You’ve probably already answered it – the ideal place to begin with children’s apologetics is Jesus Himself!
Here are three reasons why:
1.) Jesus is what it’s all about anyway
It’s pretty common for parents who are interested in raising Godly children to tell lots of Bible stories, usually from a Bible storybook. Many, in fact probably most of those stories are of the Old Testament variety. That’s probably a good thing because it creates a Biblical foundation that may not exist as fully without those lovely blue books.
Unfortunately, however, many of those heroes of the faith take on personas that misrepresent God’s purpose for preserving their stories for us. A good reason to begin your journey through the Bible and your introduction to teaching your child what they should believe and why to believe it with Jesus is that all of those great stories in the Old Testament are meant to point to Him anyway.
It’s easy to look at the lives of those great people of the Faith and assume that their great testimonies are meant to be examples for children to follow. Although there is some truth in that, much of the truth of those stories isn’t just their successes, but their failures as well. Because each one of them failed in various ways but were always granted grace from the Father in his covenant and the promise of a coming Savior, their stories easily segue into the greater, truer fulfillment of what each of the Old Testament faithful should have been.
Instead of children being left wondering, “what’s this all about,” beginning with Jesus and making Him the focus of your teaching explains so much of the “what” for them.
What’s this all about? It’s about Jesus.
2.) Jesus makes sense of it all
In and of themselves, those stories are difficult to make sense of. I mean really, what’s the point of most of the detail? Noah survived but his children, who God saved with Noah, made a mockery of him. Abraham wasn’t patient so he listened to his wife and created a problem for God’s promised seed. Although he was a witness to miracles unimaginable, Moses couldn’t hold his temper enough to trust God fully. David murdered a woman’s husband even though he was the promised ancestor of the Messiah and King of God’s chosen people.
If these people aren’t the heroes that they are often assumed to be, and God chose them to be his faithful few, then what of this mess of marauders? They’re not really so faithful are they?
Interestingly, it’s actually not their faithfulness that’s so important, but rather the real story is the faithfulness of God. But the problem is their lack of faith (and ours) coupled with God’s faithfulness leaves children with only a partial understanding of the whole story. It all only makes sense when they see the object of God’s faithfulness, Jesus.
Jesus is the answer to the question “why.” He is his own apologetic as well as the apologetic of God’s Word (John 1:1). When you lead with Jesus, kids get the Bible.
3.) Jesus is the end for all of the means
So when you’re teaching your kids those stories, when you’re raising Godly children, what’s the point?
You spend hours with them reading and explaining. You teach them while they’re standing, sitting, and lying down (Deut 11:19). You pray together and commit them to Sunday school, for what? So they’ll be good people? Maybe, but I hope not.
You are leading them to someone. You are leaving them to someone. Jesus is their only hope and you know it. All of the teaching, instruction, and praying is the means God uses through you to get them to his Son, Jesus. Why teach the rest if Jesus isn’t the point of it all (John 14:6)?
Most of this may be common sense to parents, but it’s often good to remind ourselves that parenting is not merely a call to stewardship, but an evangelistic and apologetic call. Our instruction is not only to raise Godly children to merely be “good” children. We are many times the evangelists God uses to express the Gospel of his Son to our children. We should be the first apologists our children ever meet as we teach them why the Gospel is true.
Sometimes all of that responsibility is overwhelming, especially in our busy lives as parents who first have to make a living. Sometimes we need a focus or a refocus in how we are evangelists and apologists for our children.
It’s good to remind ourselves that the focus is always Jesus, front to back.