Mommy, why does God matter so much- BLOG Image

Do Your Kids Know Why They Need God?

By Natasha Crain

A few months ago, my 6-year-old daughter asked a question that has had me thinking ever since:

Mommy, why does God matter so much?

It was the most fundamental of questions, really. Yet I was embarrassingly uncertain of how to answer it in a way that meaningfully encapsulates the full answer for her. I’ve thought about the question many times since she first asked it, and it’s always bothered me that I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on how best to reply.

Meanwhile, in the last several months, I happen to have read a lot of “deconversion” stories online (testimonies from ex-Christians of why they lost their faith). It hit me just recently that there’s a theme at the end of many such stories which ultimately points back to the answer to my daughter’s question (I’ll come back to that at the end of this post):

After people recount how they lost their faith, they often conclude their story with a glib comment of how they moved on because they “didn’t need God anymore.”

This is a strange conclusion that I think betrays a lack of deeper insight.

Here’s the deal:

If God exists, we need Him. All things were created through and for Him; He is the Source and sustainer of everything by definition. Therefore, if God exists, it’s not a choice to need Him, it’s simply a fact that we do.

If God doesn’t exist, we don’t need Him. We cannot need Him. We cannot need something that doesn’t exist.

In other words, saying that you don’t need God anymore is a nonsensical conclusion. Of course you don’t need God if He doesn’t exist. And if He does exist, you can’t choose to not need Him.

What their statement betrays, therefore, is that they had come to believe in God based on felt needs (desires) rather than on the conviction that God truly exists.

When they realized they didn’t need to believe in God to satisfy those felt needs, they simply eliminated Him from the picture and met those needs in other ways. It looks like this:

 

Desire and Conviction

 

Are Your Kids Building a Faith on Desires or Conviction?

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to inadvertently lead our kids in the dangerous direction of building a faith on felt needs rather than conviction.

I’ve noticed that deconversion stories commonly reference one of three felt needs that ex-Christians claim they don’t require God to satisfy anymore. These are instructive for us as parents, as we can see what is frequently being substituted for genuine conviction in God’s existence as the basis for belief.

 

Felt Need 1To be happy (Eventual revelation: “Wait! I don’t need God to be happy!”)

For some strange reason, many people subconsciously believe that in order to be happy, they need to believe in God. I say “strange,” because the Bible clearly doesn’t suggest that Jesus was in the business of making people happy or comfortable. Rather, Christians are called to a life of self-sacrifice and to follow Jesus at any cost. Responding to that call results in a Christ-centered joy, but is no promise of circumstance-centered happiness.

How parents contribute to the misunderstanding:

Let’s face it. The picture of Christianity that’s presented to kids in many churches is as rosy as punch. Lots of simple, happy songs and lessons about God’s love with an overarching tone that we all live happily ever after once we’re saved. When we fail to arm our kids with a more complete understanding of God’s nature (loving and just), the problem of evil and suffering in the world around us, and the sacrificial life we are called to live, we set them up to think being a Christian is about being happy. If the desire for happiness becomes the foundation of their belief, it’s a short step toward atheism when they realize they really can be circumstantially happy without God.

 

Felt Need 2: To be a good person (Eventual revelation: “Wait! I don’t need God to be a good person!”)

Ex-Christians often recount their deconversion with a summary line to the effect of, “I realized I didn’t need a cosmic policeman to be a good person.” This is usually followed by some kind of pronouncement of freedom, as if the person had felt personally shackled to the stone tablets of the 10 Commandments their whole lives.

But atheists can behave as morally or more morally than Christians. The Bible says that God has given everyone a moral conscience, not just those who believe in Him (Romans 2:15). It should be no surprise that atheists can be nice people who make morally good decisions.

How parents contribute to the misunderstanding:

It’s simple. We focus on our kids’ behavior by default. It’s 5000 percent easier to work on our kids’ behavior than it is to work on our kids’ faith development, which requires a lot of proactive effort. When parents make faith about what happens on Sunday and don’t regularly integrate faith at home, kids can easily begin to believe that being a Christian is about being nice. If kids start building their faith on the thought that Christianity is about being a good person, it’s easy to leave Jesus behind when they realize they don’t “need” God to do that.

 

Felt Need 3: To find some kind of meaning in life (Eventual revelation: “I don’t need God to live a meaningful life!”)

Earlier this year, former pastor-turned-atheist Ryan Bell commented, “Life does not need a divine source in order to be meaningful. Anyone who has seen a breathtaking sunset or fallen in love with another human being knows that we make meaning from the experiences of our lives.”

To this I say, Mr. Bell, your meaning doesn’t mean much. But that aside, atheists like Mr. Bell can find some kind of personal meaning in life without believing in God.

How parents contribute to the misunderstanding:

When we’re passionate about our Christian parenting, we can fall into the trap of beating our kids over the head with the idea that our lives are “all about God.” Our lives are all about God, but if we just emphasize this summary idea repeatedly without consciously addressing the why, our kids may ultimately conclude they can craft an alternative life meaning and leave God out of the picture. Building a faith on the idea that it’s the only way you can have meaning is a dangerous path. As Christians, our lives have meaning because we believe God exists; we shouldn’t believe in God because we want to have meaning.

 

So Why Do We Need God?

This comes full circle to my daughter’s question: Why does God matter so much?

Because He exists.

And if He exists, we need Him. We are dependent on Him for everything.

He is our Creator and Sustainer, and we are here to fulfill His purposes. If we live as though He doesn’t exist and we don’t need Him, our lives are like a key we keep putting in the wrong lock. We may put the key in a lock that “sort of” fits and can “sort of” move the lock around, but ultimately it won’t unlock the door to our soul’s eternal purpose.

It’s critical that we make sure our kids are building a faith based on the conviction of God’s existence and not felt needs. In my next post, I’ll be telling you about a fantastic new book coming out that will help you and your kids learn more about the evidence for God. Stay tuned!

Here’s a little experiment. Ask your kids tonight, “Why does God matter so much?” or, “Why do we need God?” Seeing how they respond can give you much insight into how they’re thinking about God at this point in their lives. I’d love it if you would come back and share their responses!

Visit Natasha’s Blog: ChristianMomThoughts.com

10 replies
  1. Tom Rafferty says:

    “Why does God matter so much? Because He exists. And if He exists, we need Him.”

    The above is an example of the usual “fatal flaw” in apologetics: attempting a logical syllogism with unsupported claims. The second sentence has not been shown to be true, it is a faith statement only.

    Every claim by a religious apologist is from the fallacy of the argument from ignorance, or the “God of the Gaps” argument.

    Reply
    • Josef Kauzlarich says:

      If Christian claims about God’s existence are unsupported, than what are atheist claims that He doesn’t exist? Claims based on evidence? Tell me…how have you possibly disproven God’s existence with empirical evidence? Your complaint about Christian evidence can simply be turned right around and applied to you. Atheists say that God is no longer needed to explain anything. Does this prove that God doesn’t exist? No. It simply shows that we are learning more about the universe. The questions for why the universe exists and how it came to be still remain. Why is there something rather than nothing? Science can’t answer such a question. Only philosophy can. What we can do is look at all the facts that science has discovered and ask if it indicates a creator or not. I think it overwhelmingly does. This is not “god of the gaps”. It is God based on evidence. It is no different from the atheist god of “nothing.” Atheists look at the evidence and think it indicates nothing. Calling it “god of the gaps” is to set the clock way back in the God debate. It’s like attacking a form of Christianity suitable for a twelve year old.

      I understand why its so comforting to assume Christians Apologists are so illogical and unintelligent. For based on your comment, I can only assume you find Christians illogical and delusional. It’s comforting for us to be so dim witted because it means we are wrong and therefore there are no implications for your life or need for you to change. But I think you should move forward assuming your arguments are coming against very intelligent people and should come against them with something more profound than “god of the gaps.”

      Reply
      • Andy Ryan says:

        Josef, atheism doesn’t necessitate a claim that no God exists, it simply indicates a lack of a belief in the existence of God. A God may well exist, I just don’t believe one does – hence I am an atheist. The basically means ‘not a theist’.

        NB: One can be a gnostic atheist or an agnostic atheist. Gnosticism deals with knowledge rather than belief. They’re two different, though often related, things.

        Reply
        • Josef Kauzlarich says:

          Understood and thank you. I very poorly, assumed since Tom thought the claim to be unsupported by evidence that he is an atheist who doesn’t believe in God and considers this position to be supported by scientific evidence. I admit this is a poor assumption knowing nothing about Tom. Maybe Tom believes God doesn’t exist but also doesn’t think there is supportable evidence for this belief in the same way that he thinks the Christian belief in God is unsupported. Perhaps he’ll enlighten us at some point.

          I still stand by the thought that Christians are certainly rational people who review the scientific evidence and conclude that it supports God’s existence. The position is supported by evidence, though not proven. This is an important distinction. You can’t prove through observable, empirical evidence that God exists nor can you prove that he doesn’t exist. Either position is taken on faith (yes atheists have faith that God doesn’t exist). If we knew all knowledge that science could give us, there still wouldn’t be absolute certainty of either position. However, when you review the preponderance of evidence, I personally find it to support the theory of a designer and thus God. Others may disagree with this, but that is the conclusion of their own mind which is just as unverifiable by science as my own.

          Tom’s thought to me begs the question, “if God’s existence isn’t supported by evidence, then what on earth that is not observable can be?” Is love something you can prove by science? Is justice? Is truth? Can logic be observed? These are intangible, immaterial things. Are we to say that they are unsupported by evidence because we can’t put them in test tubes?

          The truth is that God’s existence is well supported by evidence so Natasha’s conclusion is certainly valid.

          Reply
          • Andy Ryan says:

            “yes atheists have faith that God doesn’t exist”

            Some may do. I just don’t believe that he does. In the same way, I don’t believe that extra terrestrials exist. I don’t ‘have faith’ in either position, just like I don’t ‘have faith’ that Zeus, Allah or Ganesh don’t exist. I just don’t believe they do. I could be wrong on any of those positions. I don’t have faith that I’m not. I just don’t think I am. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am.

            And the reason I don’t believe is because I’m not convinced by the arguments I see given by apologists. To be honest, I don’t think many or even any Christians actually come to believe through pre-suppositionist arguments. These are arguments that are only compelling to people who already believe for whatever other reasons.

            “Is love something you can prove by science?”

            Sure, we can measure serotonin levels, which give the feeling of love.

            “Is love something you can prove by science? Is justice? Is truth? Can logic be observed? These are intangible, immaterial things”

            Now you’ve moved from a God – a being that supposedly interacts with the world on some level – with concepts. I don’t think this is a valid comparison. A being that interacts with our world should (or at least could), in theory, be detectable in some way.

          • Tom Rafferty says:

            Let me reply as simply as I can. Theists are making the positive claim that there is a god. Therefore, they are obligated to present evidence in support of such. The atheist is not making the positive claim, he/she is only saying the evidence is lacking, thus, we do not accept the claim.

  2. Josef Kauzlarich says:

    “Some may do. I just don’t believe that he does. I don’t believe that extra terrestrials exist. I don’t ‘have faith’ in either position…”

    To me, faith is belief in something without having perfect evidence. Since you believe that God doesn’t exist by calling yourself an atheist, this to me indicates faith in the idea of nothing or materialism. If you don’t have faith in these things, then I’d call you something else…but out of respect, I’m not interested in exploring that.

    “To be honest, I don’t think many or even any Christians actually come to believe through pre-suppositionist arguments. These are arguments that are only compelling to people who already believe for whatever other reasons.”

    Agreed. The majority of Christians don’t come to believe through arguments based on evidence. However, I’m sure you have read the many testimonies of previous atheists who did come to faith based upon compelling evidence. These arguments have and will continue to change people’s minds, the same way atheist arguments will continue to change people’s minds.

    “Sure, we can measure serotonin levels, which give the feeling of love.”

    A biological basis for love is a contentious issue. Since releases of oxytocin and vasopressin (primarily released during sex) are required for this theory to hold much weight, I find it hard to trust biology as an explanation for love between people in the long term. There are people who love one another deeply, yet can’t have sex or don’t have sex for various reasons.

    “Now you’ve moved from a God – a being that supposedly interacts with the world on some level – with concepts. I don’t think this is a valid comparison. A being that interacts with our world should (or at least could), in theory, be detectable in some way.”

    I agree. So I will say that He has made himself known through the Bible which is full of information about how God interacts with His creation. But that requires faith that this collection of books about Him are true (I don’t know what your persuasion is on these books…but I can probably assume you don’t believe them). But as the Bible is the collection of books that helps us make sense of why God has chosen to interact with his creation in the way He does, then that’s what I’ll use.

    I’ll admit my comparison with intangibles isn’t a perfect one because it compares a person with concepts; however, it stands in the sense of how God has chosen to position himself in the world. If He wrote in the sky with stars “I am here,” or appeared in physical form forcing earth to submit, well there wouldn’t be opportunity for real love or commitment to exist between creator and created. If the God described in the Bible came down to rule, I’d be surprised to see anyone not surrender to Him (if not with their heart than at least with their actions). The Book of Revelation by John the Apostle does describe a coming time when Jesus will return and have a “millennial reign” on the earth and declares that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. However, at the end of this reign it says that Satan (or the accuser) will be released for one last time and people will still join with him in defiance of God. So, according to the apostle John, it won’t matter that God is here in physical form. People will still reject Him as king and lord over their lives. He loves them enough to let them make that choice rather than force their will.

    This is only substantiated as truth if you accept by faith that the compilation of books that make up the Bible are from God and I believe there are many substantial reasons for accepting the Bible as true. However, hopefully you can at least see the logic that it would be hard for love to exist between a tyrant and his slaves. A tyrant would force us to his will by imposing his presence and will on us. But God is presented as a loving father that lets us choose to accept or reject His will for our life. I come back again full circle to Natasha’s conclusion. God exists. Therefore, we need Him. If He made everything, including us, then He is our source for everything and the only One who can sustain us.

    It’s been a pleasure discussing this with you, despite our different conclusions.

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      Thanks Josef. In reply to my comment about love you mentioned sex. This wasn’t really relevant to my comment – I had been thinking, as it happens, of serotonin levels in new mothers and how it affects how affectionate they are with their child. There are fascinating studies on this topic, but I’ll leave that for another day.

      Thanks to you for the discussion too.

      Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      “If He wrote in the sky with stars “I am here,” or appeared in physical form forcing earth to submit, well there wouldn’t be opportunity for real love or commitment to exist between creator and created.”

      Why not? I have real love and commitment to plenty of people in my life – they don’t have to provide evidence of their existence through clues or apologist arguments. Why would a God who made his existence plain make it harder for real love or commitment for him to exist?

      And does that mean that the disciples, or anyone else to whom God or Jesus appeared in a vision were denied this opportunity?

      “He loves them enough to let them make that choice rather than force their will”

      It’s not a choice for me, Josef – I’ve considered the arguments and am not convinced. I’m not rejecting the God you believe in any more than I’m rejecting the God of the Sikhs or Muslims – I just don’t believe they exist. I can’t CHOOSE to believe in them. If you died and found yourself in front of Allah, would it be fair for him to say “Josef, I gave you the choice to accept me, an you chose to reject me”? I’d say that wouldn’t be fair – you didn’t CHOOSE to reject him, you just didn’t believe he existed.

      “this to me indicates faith in the idea of nothing or materialism”

      I wouldn’t call that faith either. The world (and universe) appears to me to be a certain way. It seems to obey laws. I accept those laws out of pragmatism as much as anything. There doesn’t appear to be any supernatural. I expect the sun to rise tomorrow, I assume when I see a magic trick that there’s a prosaic explanation for it etc. These aren’t really faith positions.

      Reply
      • toby says:

        Read the old testament. God apparently was wandering around and talking to a lot of people. Adam and Eve talked with him and they still believed. Satan, lucifer, whatever, apparently has absolute knowledge of god, but still seems to have his/her/its free will intact which is counter to what you’re saying.

        Reply

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