Children

How Not Letting Your Children Ask a Question Leads Them to Atheism

By Michael C. Sherrard

Time and time again, I hear the story of one who has left their belief in God in the bin of their childhood memories alongside Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny. And more often than not, I’m given one reason that is quite strange. Well, its not strange to me anymore because of how often I’m given this answer. Too often, I have people tell me that the reason they do not believe in God anymore is because no one ever let them ask a question.

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Just recently a friend of mine had an old college friend who is an atheist find him on Facebook. The old college buddy sent my friend a nice message that said, “I know we had our differences, but I’ve always admired you and appreciated the respectful conversations we had.”

“It was strange to the get the note,” my friend told me. “Too random to not consider that maybe the Lord was orchestrating something here.”

So my friend kept the conversation going and at one point he asked him, “What is your biggest objection to the existence of God today?”

His friend’s answer is a sad indictment on the state of many churches. He said, “No one would let me ask a question.”

The friend went on to explain how in High School he started to have some questions, and so he brought them to his pastor and other church leaders. And rather than acceptance and a healthy conversation he was practically shown the door. He was told on more than one occasion that believers don’t ask these questions. They just trust God and have faith. He concluded that his questions didn’t have answers and that Christianity is a fable.

This is not a unique story. I hear this all the time.

How many of you have heard or even said yourself, “If we had answers then we wouldn’t need to have faith.” But Jesus welcomed skeptics and questioners and gave them answers and so should we. If we do not, we will affirm the doubts that cause questions and send our children to atheism.

But we are on the side of truth and have nothing to fear. We need to encourage questions and welcome the questioner. So what can we do to encourage and allow teenagers to ask questions so that they don’t have to just ask siri or google, or worse, decide that there are no answers to their questions and abandon their belief in God?

There are three things we can do to create an environment that allows teenagers to ask questions.

First, we build relationships. Many articles and surveys are showing that the younger generations want community. They want relationships with adults. And it is our responsibility create them. It is the burden of the older generations to build bridges to the younger ones. We need to de-segregate the generations in the church. Teenagers need to know people that have answers and they need to trust them enough to be able to ask a question.

Second, respond to the questioner, not just the question. Teenagers, and all people for that matter, use questions for purposes other than getting an answer. Sometimes they ask a question to rattle you. Sometimes they ask a question to get to know you. Sometimes they ask a question to test the waters so to speak. Your response will often tell them more than your answer. So control your facial expressions, anticipate as many scenarios as you can, and get in the habit of affirming questions by saying things like, “That’s a great question”, “I’ve wondered that myself” or “That is the right question to be asking.”

Third, ask questions yourself. Get teenagers thinking about important things while they are in a safe environment. Don’t let the first time they hear a question regarding the reliability of scripture be in the classroom of professor who wants to convert your child to naturalism. My goal is to ask my children the questions I know they will have before they have them. And I make it a point to tell my children to never stop asking questions. “The important thing is to never stop questioning” is probably what my kids are going put on my grave marker.

I had such a proud moment the other day. My six year old daughter was jumping on the trampoline and we were talking about taking care of other people. Something happened at school that day and it was a natural opportunity to talk about protecting the weak and how we always need to be nice and invite other kids to play.

At one point I said, “Sherrard’s always…” and I waited for her to finish. I was expecting her to say, “take care of those weaker than us.” But she blurted out, “Ask Questions!” I smiled very big and slept very good that night.

There does not exist a question for which there is not a good answer. So welcome the questioner and find an answer to their question. Do not be afraid of not knowing everything and being asked a question that you can’t answer. There are countless books and resources. And there are organizations like Ratio Christi that can help train you and point you to the resources that can help you along the way. And there is always me. Always feel free to reach out for guidance or support. I like to do more than write.

Original Blog Source: http://bit.ly/2nc5F63


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31 replies
  1. Ed Vaessen says:

    Question: why are you a Christian? If you had been born in India, you most likely would have been a Hindu.

    Reply
    • Tim says:

      Truth isn’t dependent on where you are born or even when you are born.
      If you were born hundreds of years ago you would have believed that the earth is flat.

      Also, there are Christians in other countries, so thinking that someone born in India would not be a Christian is not true.

      This is a genetic fallacy.

      Reply
      • Kyle says:

        The claim was you would “most likely” be Hindu. Not that you would absolutely be one. This is statistics and not a fallacy.

        Reply
          • David says:

            It doesn’t. It is simply a way of saying that most people aren’t Christians because of some rigorous consideration of the evidence. Most people are Christians because they were born into a Christian culture. Do you disagree with this Brian?

          • Kyle says:

            When is the last time you looked into Hinduism with any seriousness? Islam? Judaism? Anything? The point was that there is rarely any conversions to or from anything outside of faiths closely linked to your geographic region.

      • David says:

        Tim, you’re making Ed’s argument for him. You are right, truth is not dependent on when or where you were born. The earth has never been flat. But belief is very much a function of circumstances. Belief in a flat earth, while ridiculous to the modern man, was believed by all/most thousands of years ago. Do a study of the percentage of progeny of Hindu families that have become Christians. Do the same for Christian to Hindu and you will find that the majority of people follow and adhere to the religion of the culture in which they were born. Conversion of a Hindu to a Christian or vice versa is rare. And the idea that a child born into a Hindu family would disregard his parent’s faith from birth, with no outside influence, and become a Christian is silly.

        Reply
  2. David says:

    Yes, let them ask the questions. But if you want them to become or stay Christians, only give them the data that supports your dogma. But keep in mind that if you withhold all the discomfirming evidence today, later they may discover they have been deceived, become atheists anyway and on top of that, hate you for it.

    Reply
    • Tim says:

      I see what you’re saying – “only give them the data that supports your dogma”.

      In all my conversations with agnostics, unbelievers, atheists, or young Christians I give the truth. All of it. However, when giving truth, you have to be tactical in how you say it.

      Reply
      • David says:

        Why do you have to be tactical Tim? Just lay it all out there and let the hearer decide. Why do you have to spin it? Harmonize it? Apologize for it? In fact, why not make this blog a collection of posts from Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Agnostics, Naturalists, Humanists, Atheists, Scientists, ……? The reason is that this sight exists to convince. To spin all the evidence toward belief in Yahweh and his son. Seems like an admission that the evidence for your side of the argument is deficient. If your version of religion was so superior and obviously true wouldn’t it be more “obvious”? The fact that Christian apologetics has become so ubiquitous is evidence of the weakness of its arguments.

        Reply
        • Ed Vaessen says:

          If Christianity were true, it would be obvious true for all people. If Islam were true, it would be obvious too. If Hinduism were true…

          No religion ought to prove itself. A true religion would be self evident. Anyone would see it.

          Reply
          • toby says:

            Oh, no, Ed. Us heathen atheists and other religions are just suppressing the truth. We all know it, but we choose to ignore it. Or some such drivel.

          • Kyle says:

            Do you hold naturalism to these same standards? If naturalism were self evident, then none of the religions would’ve popped up in the first place.

  3. Sanford says:

    Anyone who has truly been born again by the Spirit of God could never be “talked out of” being a Christian. It’s not an intellectual issue, but a spiritual one. I didn’t just wake up one day and decide I was going to be a Christian. No, something very real happened to me. I experienced God. He showed Himself to me. He is as real to me as any other person in my life. No amount of intellectual arguing could ever change this for me. I know that I know that I know that He is real because I have a relationship with Him. He lives in me. He changed my nature. My faith is evidence of His existence! Those who deny God’s existence aren’t going to be convinced by intellectualism. The Bible says their minds (spiritual eyes) have been blinded by the “god of this world….lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Cor 4:4). I once was blind but now I see! We also know that “the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14), not intellectually. “No man can come to me, except the Father, which has sent me draw him” (John 6:44). We can argue all day with the atheist on an intellectual level, but unless the Holy Spirit is drawing him to a place of conviction, humility and repentance, we will be arguing in vain. Better to pray that God would send those into our lives who are being drawn, so we can be co-laborers with Christ in bringing people into a true new birth experience. As for the large number of young people who are being talked out of being Christians on an intellectual level, I would say that they never had a true, spiritual conversion experience to begin with. If they had, nothing could ever convince them otherwise.

    Reply
    • Ed Vaessen says:

      I wonder. Is this copy/paste?
      Apart from that: as an objective proof it does not serve.
      What’s more: you do not seem to realize what objective proof is.
      I do not doubt that it is possible that you had a genuine experience and that you know things that we don’t. But you communicate it poorly.
      Don’t you really realize what a horrid poor case you make?

      Reply
      • Sanford says:

        Thank you for exemplifying the point I made. Don’t you realize, as I said, it has nothing to do with intellect. I am not trying to “make a case”. I don’t have to. God makes His own case. A creation is proof of a Creator, I am not called to prove God, but to proclaim Him. He will prove Himself to anyone who sincerely and humbly searches for Him. Ask and it shall be given you, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you. He gives grace to the humble, but resists the proud. I communicate from a Biblical worldview. The things I say are foolishness to you because you receive not the Spirit of God. The Gospel is hidden from you because your mind is blinded. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned. The fool has said in his heart, there is no God. These are God’s words, not mine. His communication, not mine. It’s God you have a problem with, not me.

        Reply
        • Andy Ryan says:

          “A creation is proof of a Creator”
          Then you’re begging the question by calling it a ‘creation’.

          “He will prove Himself to anyone who sincerely and humbly searches for Him”
          I know people who sincerely and humbly searched for God and got nothing back.

          “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God”
          And the wise man said it in his head.

          “These are God’s words”
          But you admit you have no evidence for that.

          Reply
          • Sanford says:

            The preaching of the cross is foolishness to them that perish. I’m just a very, very silly guy!
            Can you give one example of a book without an author, a building without an architect, a song without a composer, a painting without a painter, etc. etc. etc.?

          • toby says:

            Sanford: can you give an example of a material object caused by a non-material object. That list of things you typed all have something in common. The cause and the effect are both material. How do you justify non-material causing material. It seems to be an unsupported analogy.

        • David says:

          Sanford, how convenient that the bible lets you opt out of the intellectual search for truth. So fortunate for you that you can ignore all disconfirming evidence. I hope you aren’t a scientist. How exactly did you become a Christian? Please share your testimony with us Sanford. What was this “very real” thing that happened to you? You said he was as real to you as anyone else in your life. I’m curious, if all the participants on this blog got together could you introduce us to him? Not metaphorically speaking of course, but in person? Maybe we could put our fingers in the holes in his wrists. Maybe you could get him to perform a miracle for us. Heal a paraplegic or suspend the laws of nature so we could observe him?

          Reply
          • Sanford says:

            Your ignorance of spiritual things is laughable. What a ridiculous comparison: comparing being born again by the spirit of God, having your very nature changed (something experienced by millions), with a hallucination brought about by sleep deprivation. Don’t you really realize what a horrid poor case you make? (copy and pasted!) Spiritual things are understood with the heart, not with the head. That’s why you just don’t get it.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “What a ridiculous comparison: comparing being born again by the spirit of God, having your very nature changed (something experienced by millions), with a hallucination brought about by sleep deprivation”

            Sanford, it’s up to you to demonstrate that the two are different. You’re begging the question by claiming that a God is responsible for the former experience. People have an experience that that explain as coming from the Christian God. Other people have similar experiences that they explain through other Gods. Obviously what happened seemed real to you and profoundly affected you. But that doesn’t mean that the Christian God had to be responsible or that David’s alternative explanation or comparison to altered brain states through sleep deprivation is unfair, inaccurate, or ridiculous.

    • Ed Vaessen says:

      In his book ‘Why people believe weird things’, Michael Shermer wrote about an experience he once had had as a young man. While riding on a bicycle a long tour across the USA, he lost so much sleep that he started to hallucinate. He at one moment believed that his friends, who were seated in a van and following him to give support, were actually aliens.
      From this we learn that a personal feeling can not tell us without a shred of doubt about what is real.

      Reply
      • Sanford says:

        Your ignorance of spiritual things is laughable. What a ridiculous comparison: comparing being born again by the spirit of God, having your very nature changed (something experienced by millions), with a hallucination brought about by sleep deprivation. Don’t you really realize what a horrid poor case you make? (copy and pasted!) Spiritual things are understood with the heart, not with the head. That’s why you just don’t get it.

        Reply
    • Raymond Mitchell says:

      Sanford. I think you are partly right and partly wrong. Yes we can know God through our spiritual experiences and know His love, etc. But for you to say our mind and intellect has nothing at all to do with someone desiring to know God is really very foolish and incorrect and you are ignoring many things in life and the Bible when you say that. God wants us to use reason and logic to seek the truth and to discern truth and true teachings from God from the false teachings and the false teachers. God gave us a brain for a reason and we are made in God’s image so he gave us logic and reasoning so that we can use logic and reasoning to determine God’s truth in many cases. Even when we read the Bible we have to use logic and reasoning to interpret it and get the proper interpretation. Jesus uses this often and rebuked people for not using logic to interpret the Bible or decide if Jesus was the Son of God. In John 10:31-32 the Jews wanted to stone Jesus for blasphemy for saying He was God and Jesus asked them “I have shown you many miracles from the Father. For which miracle are you going to stone me for?” Jesus was asking them to look at the evidence of His miracles he did, then use logic to reason that those miracles he did are not very common at all in our historical lives or in known history, and people cannot do miracles themselves, so how did Jesus get the ability to do miracles and heal people and raise them from the dead? Since only God can do miracles, then using deduction logic Jesus must be from God, not just human or from Satan. Jesus was urging them to use logic, reasoning and their minds to become a Christian believer! In John 7:24 Jesus rebukes the doubters and unbelievers for not using logic in their beliefs and Bible views. He tells them to stop judging (using logic and deduction conclusions) by mere appearances and make a proper judgment (proper logic and reasoning that leads to a conclusion). In the context Jesus uses logic from the scriptures that their belief that healing on the Sabbath was evil is wrong and God wants Jesus to heal people on the Sabbath and that does not violate the law of Moses or the 4th Commandment to do no work on the Sabbath. Jesus was saying their logic and reasoning were faulty and wrong and urged them to use their minds and logic correctly to lead them to the truth of God. Jesus said if they obeyed God and allowed infants to be circumcised on the Sabbath day (to heal them physically and spiritually) and that was not evil, then why is it wrong to heal the whole body on the Sabbath Day? Use your brain Jesus was preaching loudly at them.If we are not to use our brain then why are Muslims or Catholics wrong if they are born into a family who are Muslims so they just simply follow their parents religion without checking out if it is the truth or not? If they stay a Muslim their whole life then they die and God judges them into hell and the lake of fire forever. However they could argue that being a Muslim or Catholic makes them feel good and they love their relationship with God and they know God loves them for living the true religion while they blow up bombs on people, kill them, or rape little boys. Why are they wrong? Many of those people claim to have a super happy joyful relationship with God and they just simply followed the religion of their parents, but their religion contradicts the other religions and the Bible so they cannot all be true. So how do we know one of their religions is not the truth if you do no use logic and the Bible? Also, check out Matthew 12:25-28 where Jesus used total logic, reasoning and deduction to show the Pharisees that saying Jesus cast out demons by Satan’s power was false and illogical so they should not believe that idea. He was urging them to use their brain, mind and to look at the evidence and use proper logic and reasoning so they could begin a new loving relationship with God through Jesus.

      Reply
      • Ed Vaessen says:

        Raymond Mitchell says:
        “However they could argue that being a Muslim or Catholic makes them feel good and they love their relationship with God and they know God loves them for living the true religion while they blow up bombs on people, kill them, or rape little boys.”

        Logic and reason tell us that we should avoid the logical fallacy of hasty generalization. I might have taken offence here as you accuse my Roman Catholic parents (they rest in peace) of having raped little boys or approved of such deeds. But I don’t.

        Logic and reasoning are not your exclusive servants. Anyone can use them. In fact, they have successfully been used to show that a literal interpretation of the book of Genesis is wrong. The earth is far older than 10,000 years and we do not descend from Adam and Eve.
        It was this use of logic and reasoning that drove Christians to reinterpret the Bible and remain Christians all the same.

        Reply
      • Ed Vaessen says:

        Lack of understanding seems to reign the mind of those who think that:
        1. logic and reason should lead people to acknowledge Christ
        2. God rightfully punishes those who do not acknowledge Christ

        Let’s start with the second point.
        People like Andy, Kyle, Toby and others here are among the chosen few. We actually can afford time to think about these matters. Not so others. When I visit members of my family, I see them swallowed by what swallows most ordinary people in this world: 24/7 running their day to day human business. All raised in Roman Catholic tradition, they still have no full grasp of the tenets of their own religion. For example: they did not know what the Immaculate Conception was until I, the family atheist, explained it to them.

        What does Raymond Mitchell expect? That my family members abandon their duties and dive into books? Should they consult popes, priests, pundits, ayatollahs, mullahs, shamans and whatever ‘specialists’ and spent years thinking about what they hear?
        It is preposterous to think that they could. They would be jailed for neglecting their children and other things. And the same applies to people of all other religions.
        But suppose they miraculously could free that much time. It then still would in vain. Popes, pundits, ayatollahs, mullahs, shamans and other specialists are the living examples of that failure. They all have had a lifetime to seek the truth and they all came/stuck to different conclusions. It is because the human mind works that way. Once you have found a truth (and in most cases that truth is poured into you at a very young age), you have a tendency to stick to it, certainly when that truth gives you a sense of purpose and belonging.
        So there is no justice in punishing people for believing the wrong thing.

        And as far as logic and reasoning leading to Jesus is concerned: anyone reading Matthew and his story about a solar eclipse, an earthquake and walking zombies will reasonably and logically conclude that the man had a lot of fantasy and that his story is a humiliating mockery of God.

        Reply
  4. Bryan says:

    As an exmormon I see Sanfords method of knowing God the same as how people gain a knowledge that the Book of Mormon is true. As testimony of the book of Mormon can only come by the power of the Holy Ghost. A testimony of Joseph Smith as the prophet of the restoration can only come by the power of the Holy Ghost. So on and so forth. I’ll stick with what I can prove by science.

    Reply

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