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10 Things Children Should Learn About Faith

By Natasha Crain

[NOTE: This post is 4 years old but continues to receive a large number of visitors from Google searches on teaching kids about faith. A lot has happened here on the blog since I wrote this–including having the opportunity to write a book that was released in March 2016 by Harvest House Publishers: Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith! If you’re here because you’re looking for resources to help you effectively raise your kids to follow Jesus in the midst of this secular world, please take a moment to check it out!] 

Yesterday, my 3-year-old daughter asked about the word “faith” after hearing it in the devotional book she received for Christmas. I told her that faith means we believe in God even though we can’t see Him, hear Him or touch Him. Hearing myself say that out loud, I realized for the first time just how difficult the concept of faith can be. My definition was true in a simple sense, but as my kids grow I want them to understand the greater richness of the word as used in the Bible.

This inspired me to study the different instances of the word translated as “faith” in the New Testament. Based on my (digital) study Bible, there are 245 such instances. I read each of the passages and categorized them into 10 key insights on faith that I hope to teach my children as they grow.

Children Faith God

10 Things Children Should Learn About Faith

1. Faith is what saves. Amongst the many verses that attest to this, Ephesians 2:8 clearly states, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”. Our children first and foremost need to learn that faith in Jesus is the only thing that results in salvation of our souls.

2. Faith can grow. Since the Bible clearly establishes faith as the requirement for salvation, it is natural to think of it as something we either have or don’t have. While that is true for saving faith, many verses make it clear that the faith of (saved) Christians can and should continue to grow (e.g., Romans 4:20, 2 Corinthians 10:15, Philippians 1:25, 1 Thessalonians 3:10, Romans 14:1). Our children need to understand that growing faith is a life-time process that starts with saving faith.

3. Faith can fail. In Luke 22:31-34, Jesus foretells Peter’s denial. In verse 32 Jesus says, “…but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” Our faith can fail due to our circumstances. When facing such circumstances, our children need to know they can pray for their faith to remain firm.

4. Faith is a gift. Romans 12:3 and 1 Corinthians 12:9 tell us that faith is a spiritual gift from God and therefore it varies by person.  When it first registered for me last year that strength of faith is actually a gift, I honestly felt a sense of relief; I had always thought something was wrong with my faith because it’s been more of a struggle for me to believe than for many other Christians I know.  Our children should understand that faith DOES vary amongst believers and that comparisons are fruitless. What matters is our personal faith growth.

5. Faith can move mountains.  Jesus says in Matthew 17:20 and 21:22 that if you do not doubt, your faith can move mountains; note He didn’t say that “medium” faith will move hills! Our children need to understand that the power of prayer lies in full conviction.

6. Faith means to trust. The book of Matthew quotes Jesus saying “O you of little faith” on five occasions. On all but one of those occasions, He was addressing the disciples regarding their fear or worry (6:30, 8:26, 14:31, and 16:8). If little faith results in worry, that implies great faith results in trust. When our children are worried or scared, we should help them pray specifically for God to grow their faith; faith that results in trust is the remedy for fear.

7. Faith is protective. There are two New Testament verses that use faith as a metaphor for spiritually protective armor (the “shield of faith” in Ephesians 6:16 and the “breastplate of faith” in 1 Thessalonians 5:8). Our children need to be aware of the need for spiritual protection in their daily lives, and that faith is the basis for that protection.

8. Faith results in action. Hebrews chapter 11 recalls many of the most faithful people of the Old Testament. Each verse starts with the pattern, “By faith (person) (did something)”.  It wasn’t enough for the author to point out that each of these people HAD faith; the focus was on what that faith produced. Our children need to understand that authentic faith results in action.

9. (Great) Faith is believing before you experience.  In almost every instance where Jesus acknowledged someone for having great faith, it was in the context of believing in Him prior to experiencing healing (e.g., see Matthew 8 for the “greatest” faith of the Centurion). Our children need to know that faith doesn’t require waiting for signs or experiences that lead to the “conviction of things not seen”; Jesus acknowledged great faith as first believing in Him.

10. Faith is a decision everyone makes. Even if a person does not have faith in God, he or she must have faith in another “unproven” alternative about the afterlife (even if it’s that nothing exists). Our children need to realize that faith is a decision everyone makes, not just Christians.

Original Blog Source:  http://bit.ly/2n1hiOs


5 Ways Christian Parents Fail to Prepare Their Kids to Engage with Questions of Faith and Science

By Natasha Crain

I’m coming down to the final six weeks of writing my next book and am very much looking forward to being on the other side of that deadline! I’ve missed being able to blog regularly during this intense writing time, so I had to take a break today and share a new post inspired by some of the topics my next book will address. (On a side note, watch for a new post very soon to reveal the cover and title of the book!)

Children Faith Science

My favorite section to write has been on Science and God, because I know so many parents are looking for help in talking about this subject with their kids. While writing the chapters in that section, I thought a lot about how we, as Christian parents, are collectively failing to adequately prepare our kids to engage with questions of faith and science. Today, I want to share 5 ways I believe that’s happening, and encourage all of us to consider what we can do better in our own homes.

1. We don’t talk about the relationship between faith and science at all.

This is, without a doubt, the number one way we fail our kids in this area—we fail to say anything at all. Not only do we need to say something, we need to say quite a lot. Over and over again, researchers have found that a leading reason why so many young people walk away from faith is that they believe they have to choose between Christianity and science. Meanwhile, other research has shown that only ONE percent of youth pastors address any issue related to science in a given year.

This is a giant disconnect.

Regardless of the fact that churches need to do a much better job in this area, parents need to take the reins. This is our responsibility, and there is absolutely no doubt that questions of faith and science will challenge our kids in some way…whether this is an area we feel equipped to discuss or not. If you do feel equipped, great—get started. If you don’t, that’s OK—start learning. Those are really the only two options.

2. We boil all “science versus faith” conversations down to one (or two) issues.

I find in talking with parents that when you say the words “science and faith,” most people quickly launch into a conversation about evolution. There’s no doubt that evolution is one of the most important topics in this category, if not the most important topic. But there are many other questions our kids need to understand, especially at the more philosophical level. For example, people throw out broad statements like “science disproves God” all the time. Kids need to know what to make of those kinds of assertions just as much as they need to know what to make of the subject of evolution.

The second section of my next book will address six of these broader questions:

  • Can science prove or disprove God’s existence?
  • Do science and religion contradict one another?
  • Do science and religion complement one another?
  • Is God just an explanation for what science doesn’t yet know?
  • Can science explain why people believe in God?
  • What do scientists believe about God?

3. We teach overly simplistic answers that ignore important nuances.

I understand that science is not a “user-friendly” topic for many people. The only C grade I ever received in my life was in high school chemistry and I’m still bitter about it.

Unfortunately, this leads many parents to either 1) ignore the science-versus-faith dialogue completely (see my first point) or 2) teach overly simplistic answers that can inadvertently do major damage to their kids’ faith later.

One of the most important ways we can avoid this is by taking the time to define key words. For example, consider the question, “Can science prove or disprove God’s existence?” If someone asked me that, I couldn’t even answer their question unless I first asked them: What do you mean by science? What do you mean by prove or disprove? And what do you mean by God? People use those words in many different senses today and you simply can’t have a meaningful discussion without understanding their more nuanced underlying question. They may be asking:

 Can a specific branch of science provide evidence that strongly challenges a specific historical claim of a given religion? (Answer: Yes.)

Or, they may be asking:

Can the field of science, when defined as the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the natural world, say anything about the existence of God, when defined simply as a supernatural being who may or may not have created the world? (Answer: No—and even most atheists would agree.)

While we may wish we could simply teach our kids easy answers like, “Of course science doesn’t disprove God!”, we fail to adequately prepare them for this challenging secular world when we do.

4. We teach only one of several Christian views on origins (age of the Earth and evolution).

If you’ve read my first book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side, you know how strongly I feel about this. There are eight chapters written to explain why Christians have varied views on how and when God created the world—based on both scriptural and scientific considerations. While many parents don’t teach their kids anything at all on this subject, many of the remaining parents only teach their kids one specific view (for example, young-Earth creationism, old-Earth creationism, or theistic evolution). Whatever view you teach, your kids will hear challenges from both other Christians and from atheists—a very confusing position for them to be in if you’ve never explained the issues at stake.

Note that I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t tell our kids what we believe. There’s no problem at all with explaining our own convictions. The problem lies in teaching them our views in a silo rather than taking the time to explain why fellow believers and skeptics interpret science and/or the Bible differently than we do.

5. We’re overly fearful of suggesting there’s a conflict between Christianity and science.

One of the things I found most interesting when preparing to write on whether or not science and religion contradict one another was just how quick Christians are to lay out a case for why Christianity and science are not in conflict. Much of the time, Christians jump straight to showing 1) how science can’t say anything about a Being outside of nature and/or 2) how there’s no reason to expect that science could even be done if there weren’t a God to rationally design the universe. Those things are true. But much of the time when skeptics talk about the conflict of science and Christianity, they’re talking specifically about the conflict between mainstream scientific consensus and a specific claim of the Bible that intersects with the natural world—for example, the age of the Earth (based on the young-Earth interpretation of Scripture) and direct creation (versus evolution). If we just keep insisting “there’s no conflict,” when there actually are apparent conflicts in some areas, we miss some very important discussion opportunities with our kids. Again, we have to define terms clearly.

Finally, it’s important to remember that the accurate interpretation of scientific data and the accurate interpretation of the Bible will never be in true conflict. If apparent conflicts arise, (at least) one interpretation is wrong. When we’re convicted of the accuracy of our interpretation of Scripture, we shouldn’t be afraid to acknowledge when the Bible conflicts with scientific consensus; Scientists can be wrong. On the other hand, when there is an apparent conflict, we should be willing to thoughtfully consider the scientific data; Our biblical interpretation can also be wrong.

Rather than sweep apparent conflicts under the carpet, we can help our kids significantly by 1) confidently explaining why apparent conflicts may arise and 2) studying the scientific and scriptural considerations together.

What questions about science and faith do you most have trouble discussing with your kids? If you don’t currently have these discussions, what’s your biggest barrier?

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


 

5 Attitude Changes That Will Transform Your Christian Parenting in the New Year

By Natasha Crain

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been able to write a post because my nose has been buried in writing my new book (if you’re new to the blog or missed what I’m working on, you can read about it here!). My deadline is March 1, so my ability to write new blog posts will continue to be sporadic for the next couple of months, but then I’ll be back to writing more regularly again…and I can’t wait. Writing the new book has brought so many important subjects to mind for the blog!

Christian Parenting New Year

In the meantime, I did want to end the year with a post on New Year’s resolutions. I’ve always been a person who loves setting goals, but I’ve noticed that I set fewer and fewer goals as years go by. It’s easy to get complacent and set in our ways, isn’t it?

One of the reasons I think it’s so hard to actually reach the goals we set is that successful changes in behavior require corresponding changes in underlying attitudes. For example, I’ve been trying to stop biting my nails since I was 15. It’s never happened. The problem isn’t that I can’t physically reach that goal; It’s that, deep down, I’ve never truly believed that this is an important problem that really needs my attention.

Despite the importance of our underlying attitudes in reaching goals, we rarely think of goals in terms of attitudes. So, rather than writing a post about New Year’s goals framed in terms of behavior, I’m writing a post about important attitude shifts we should aim to make.

With that in mind, here are 5 important attitude changes that can truly transform how we disciple our kids. For each one, I’m also giving an example of a behavioral resolution—an action point. But rest assured that unless we first take the attitude changes to heart, those behavioral resolutions will quickly fall by the wayside.

 

ATTITUDE CHANGE #1

From: The Bible is important.

To: The Bible is so important, I need to read it with my kids regularly—and if I don’t, their spiritual development will be significantly compromised.

 As Christians, it should go without saying that the Bible is important. We shouldn’t give ourselves a congratulatory pat on the back for such a belief. But it’s what we do with that belief that will really impact our kids’ spiritual lives. Don’t think for a second that simply paying lip service to the importance of God’s Word will ignite your kids’ interest in it. Without a strong foundation of how to read the Bible, what the Bible says, and why it matters, kids won’t learn how to depend on the source guide for their faith. Instead, they’ll learn to depend on what other people tell them about Christianity.

That’s very dangerous in a world saturated with false information.

So, if you don’t currently read the Bible with your kids, make this the year to start. And don’t depend on devotionals as a substitute—they can be a helpful addition to your family’s spiritual life, but they should never be the starting point.

Behavioral resolution: Pick a Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) and commit to reading one or two chapters per week with your kids (decide on the number of chapters based on how much information your kids are able to take in on a given night). For example, you could decide to read the book of John two nights per week over ten weeks. After that, pick another Gospel, or choose one of Paul’s epistles.

 

ATTITUDE CHANGE #2

From: My kids’ bad behavior will dictate how much time and energy I can spend on their spiritual development.

To: The time and energy I spend on my kids’ spiritual development will have nothing to do with how bad they’re being at any given time.

This is not a conscious attitude for most parents…we don’t set out to let our kids’ bad behavior drive anything. But it sure is easy to let it happen, right? This is something I noticed in my own home this year. I struggled a lot with the constant fighting between my two daughters, which often left me with less than zero energy by the end of the day. They would be mad at each other, or mad at me, or I would be mad at them…and, honestly, the last thing I felt like doing was making the effort on those nights to switch gears and bring it back to God.

But when we start relegating our kids’ spiritual development to the small (who am I kidding…tiny) slivers of time when everyone is in a good mood and feeling like sitting down to discuss what really matters in life, we’ll never make headway. Because it’s so easy to fall into this trap, it’s critical to 1) be aware of the danger and 2) put a plan in place to avoid it (see below).

Behavioral resolution: There’s one key way to support this attitude change—schedule family spiritual time. Start with finding a set time of just 30 minutes to put on the calendar each week. Kids might fight it at first, but over time, if you’re consistent, it will become something your family just expects. And having it planned will help you not succumb to parental fatigue (as long as you don’t cancel it!). This is a great way to do your Bible reading (point 1).

 

ATTITUDE CHANGE #3

From: I’ll talk to my kids about faith whenever good teachable moments arise.

To: I’ll proactively determine what to teach my kids about faith and when.

In case you’re behind on popular parenting lingo, a “teachable moment” is when you use an unplanned event to teach your kids about something. Taking advantage of such times is important. But if this is your primary strategy for teaching your kids about Christianity, it’s one of the most ineffective parenting attitudes you can have.

There’s a simple reason for that: Not everything your kids need to be taught will have a corresponding moment naturally arise. In my book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side, I chose 40 of the most important faith conversations parents need to have with their kids in a secular world. Maybe 10 of them would naturally come up in conversation. But when was the last time you saw a brilliant opportunity naturally arise for addressing whether or not the Bible supports slavery? Or whether or not Christianity is responsible for millions of deaths in history? Or how a loving God could command the killing of the Canaanites? Or what the historical facts of the resurrection that most scholars agree on are?

Yet all of these are highly important conversations to have, given the challenges our kids will hear from skeptics today. It’s our responsibility to know what conversations need to be had and to proactively have them. We can’t just wait around for a corresponding teachable moment to happen.

Behavioral resolution: Pick one faith topic each week to have a conversation about with your kids. If you have my book, this will be easy. Read/review a chapter each week yourself (just 4-5 pages), then ask your kids a corresponding question to facilitate conversation. You could have one night per week (e.g., Sunday) where you spend 30 minutes with your Bible reading time and another night per week (e.g., Wednesday) where you do these discussions. Alternatively, you could do your faith discussion over dinner on a given night of the week, or on your commute to school if it’s long enough.

 

ATTITUDE CHANGE #4

From: I need to work on my kids’ (collective) spiritual development.

To: I need to tailor my discipleship to the needs of each of my kids.

If you have more than one child, it’s tempting to mentally merge them into a single discipleship “target”—We are the parental unit (the disciplers) and they are the children unit (the disciples). The problem is, just as in non-spiritual matters, every child is unique in his or her needs. We shouldn’t effectively make our home into a one-size-fits-all church program. Kids are ready for and interested in different areas of faith development at different times.

This is where I think devotionals can be a good supplement to the other things you do as a family (the above points). If you’re doing set times for Bible reading and faith conversations as a family, you can choose devotional books to use with your kids individually on other nights. Just be sure to really spend time looking at the ones you pick, as many have very little “meat” and are hardly better than 365 lessons on being a nice person. (In the 5- to 8-year-old range, I’ve found Max Lucado’s Grace for the Moment to be simple but solid. For about 7- to 10-year-olds, I’ve really liked The One Year Every Day Devotions: Devotions to Help you Stand Strong. No devotional is perfect, but I at least feel comfortable recommending these.)

Behavioral resolution: Write down three areas where you think each of your kids most needs to grow spiritually this year (Prayer? Learning to read the Bible independently? Understanding the basics of the faith? Studying apologetics? etc.). Then ask each child to write down three areas of their own. Compare your lists and decide on a final list of three goals for the year together. Make an action of plan of what you’ll do to work on those goals.

 

ATTITUDE CHANGE #5

From: I want to pass on my faith.

To: I want to help my kids develop their own faith.

While it’s common for parents to say they want to “pass on” their faith, it’s not necessarily a good way to think of our role in our kids’ spiritual lives. We have to remember that what we experience with God can never be exported to our kids; It’s unique to us.

I think one of the biggest reasons so many kids turn away from faith when they leave home is that parents spent too much time trying to pass on their own faith rather than helping their kids develop their own.

This attitude change will fundamentally alter how you think of your role as a Christian parent. It’s a lens through which to view all that you do. Are you continually just trying to express what you believe and what you do with that belief? Or are you teaching your kids why there’s good reason to believe Christianity is objectively true—why anyone should believe it? Changing our perspective on what, exactly, it is that we should be doing as Christian parents can make all the difference in the world.

Behavioral resolution: Reflect on how you currently see your job as a Christian parent, and the difference between passing on your faith and helping your kids develop their own. Commit to either beginning or continuing a study of an apologetics topic of interest (for those new to the blog, apologetics is the study of how to make a case for and defend the truth of Christianity). Need a reading plan? I’ve got a bunch for you: Click here.

 

Which of these attitude changes do you feel you most need to make next year? Share your thoughts below!

 

Three Tips for Parents Raising the Next Generation of Case Makers

If you’re a Christian Case Maker (a Christian interested in making the case for what you believe) and you’re also a parent, you’re probably interested in raising your son or daughter to become a Case Maker as well. I have four kids of my own, so I definitely understand this desire. I want my kids to have the tools and truths they’ll need to be good Christian ambassadors. I want them to understand their worldview and defend it against competing ideas. Parents often contact me to ask what they can do to raise up a generation of competent Christian Case Makers. Here are three quick tips to get you started:

Parents next generation

Don’t Defer – Be a Good Case Maker
It’s often said that some things are caught rather than taught, and that’s also true when it comes to transferring a worldview to the next generation. Our kids are watching us and copying our Christian example. That truth often scares me, but it’s the reality of our situation. What kind of Jesus follower are you in front of your kids? Are you someone who openly discusses your worldview around the dinner table? Have you provided your kids with examples of winsome Christian case making as you engage people with other beliefs? Do your kids know they can come to you for answers when they encounter objections related to their faith? Are you prepared to answer their concerns or questions? As parents, we can’t defer this responsibility; we can’t offer our kids a book or a video when they’ve come to us for an answer. We need to be good Christian Case Makers and the first line of defense for our kids.

Don’t Delay – Pick a Good Youth Group
OK, I’m going to say something controversial here: Whatever church you may be in right now, if it’s not a place that helps you equip your kids to make the case for what they believe, find a new church. I know how that probably sounds, but all of us pick a church for one reason or another. Sometimes we make this decision based on the teaching of a pastor or the style of worship. If you’ve got kids, I think it’s fair (at least for a season) to pick a church on the basis of its ability to train your kids. It’s quite likely a church that’s great in one area, may not be great in another. That means you’re probably going to have to sacrifice something for yourself in order to get something important for your kids. It’s worth it. Take the time to find the youth ministry doing the best job in this area and join them in this important mission.

Don’t Deny – Provide a Good Opportunity
You and I both know, however, that many youth groups are more concerned about eating pizza and playing games than they are about developing Case Makers. That’s just the sad reality we live in. As parents, we’re going to need to do something to pick up the slack. I began by volunteering in a youth ministry class; many of my friends began as small group leaders. Whatever it takes, be patient and begin to humbly offer your services until you’ve earned the right to help shape the ministry. In addition to this, consider the value of additional outside training like the Summit Worldview Academy. Yes, I know it’s more expensive than the average summer camp, but that’s because it’s not the average summer camp. I’m probably just like you; I’m living on one income as a detective (I’m a volunteer at Stand to Reason) and I have four kids (two still in high school). I’m often financially strapped. But I’ll do what it takes to get my kids the training they need, even if I can only do it once. I’m on the lookout for good opportunities to supplement what I’ve already taught my kids.

CCC4Kids Shadow LEADIf you’re a parent, you already know how quickly time flies. I can’t believe I have adult children, and I fret about whether I’ve done a good job equipping them over the years. That’s why Susie and I decided to write Cold-Case Christianity for Kids. Our experience as parents, youth leaders and pastors taught us that young people begin to question their faith in junior high. We wanted to provide a resource that would answer critical questions kids might have before they even begin to ask them. We wrote the book for two groups: (1) Parents who can read the material together with their kids, even as their young Christians work through the Cold-Case Christianity for Kids online Academy, and (2) Leaders (like pastors and teachers) who can use the book (along with the free associated teaching resources) to train up larger groups of kids in a classroom or ministry setting. In fact, we have a special offer for educators and ministry leaders to help them teach the case for Jesus. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s the need to be intentional. We need to model a rational Christian life for our kids, put them in a church setting that can help them grow and provide them with intentional opportunities to learn.

This podcast content is related to this blog post:

 

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, and God’s Crime Scene.

Comment or Subscribe to J. Warner’s Daily Email

 


Resources for Greater Impact

CCC4Kids Shadow LEAD

Cold Case Christianity for Kids (Paperback)

 

What it Takes to Raise a Christian Child in a Country Ruled by Moral Confusion

By Natasha Crain

Oh, this election.

How it’s brought out the worst in everyone, including the two people running for office.

As crazy as the last few months leading up to the election have been, I haven’t felt inspired to write anything about it…until now.

The recording of Trump making vulgar and lewd comments about women is bringing me out of my election silence. But not for the reason you might think.

In the past few days, I’ve watched with amazement as scores of articles denouncing Trump’s character have been shared on social media by my liberal friends. They are rightly outraged at what he said. But these are the same friends who are pro-choice, support transgender bathroom choice, believe there’s no problem with sex outside of marriage, and think that not supporting same-sex marriage is bigotry.

Raise a Christian Child

Liberal America, from whence does this hodgepodge of moral views come, other than from your own fickle liking?  

Should not your moral outrage be tempered to the whisper of an opinion by the realization that, without a belief in God, you haven’t an objective foot to stand on?

This week’s showcase of moral confusion from our collective society demonstrates how few people bother to consider the basis for their moral convictions. As Christian parents, it’s our responsibility to raise our kids with feet firmly planted on objective moral ground. But what does that mean when they’re growing up in a country ruled by moral confusion?

 

First, it means we must proactively teach our kids how to think critically about the nature of morality…unlike the world around them.

You know what kind of political comment I never see? Something like this: “Now, let me say up front that this is just my personal opinion, and my opinion only, because I don’t believe in any revealed religion and therefore realize I have no basis for believing there is an objective standard of morality that applies to all people. So, if you disagree with me, your view is just as valid as mine, because in a world without such objective standards, everything is a matter of opinion. With that acknowledgement out of the way, I just want to say that I think what Trump said is so morally outrageous! Again, that’s just according to my opinion, and if you think what he said is totally fine, your view is valid as well.”

Ahem.

That is certainly not the kind of (consistent) thinking that is found in popular culture. Instead, secular America treats morality as a grab-bag of whatever the mainstream likes, while condemning those who disagree as if there were some objective basis for that morality in a world without God.

This. Is. Confusion.

We have to teach our kids the logical moral implications of a theistic versus atheistic worldview.

This isn’t even about which worldview is correct. It’s simply about consistent thinking.

In a theistic worldview, there is an all-good God who is the objective standard of morality—His character defines what is good and evil for all people, regardless of personal opinion. This standard is what gives meaning to the words right and wrong.

In an atheistic worldview, individuals can have a preference for what they think is right and wrong, but no one can claim a higher authority for that preference. I might say murder is wrong, for example, but I can only mean wrong in the weakest sense—“murder is wrong in my personal opinion.” Someone else could legitimately claim that murder is great, and there would be no objective arbiter of morality between us; no one could say what we ought to do. Morality is simply subjective.

If people were thinking in ways consistent with their worldview, we should see a lot more comments like my hypothetical one above.

 

Second, it means we must teach our kids why there’s good reason to believe the Bible is true.

Let’s say that you gift your kids with the critical thinking skills needed to understand the difference between objective and subjective morality, as I described above. That gives them the foundation for at least having consistent thinking, but it isn’t sufficient for giving them an understanding of why there’s good reason to believe it’s the theistic worldview that offers the accurate picture of morality. For that, kids must have good reason to believe that the Bible is true.

This means much more than a parent faithfully repeating that the Bible is God’s word throughout a child’s 18-plus years at home. It means thoroughly addressing why anyone should believe the truth claims of any book that claims to be divine revelation:

How were the books in the Bible selected?

Why were books left out of the Bible?

How do we know we can trust the Bible’s authors?

How do we know the Bible we have today says what the authors originally wrote?

Does the Bible have errors and contradictions?

For more on these questions, see my post, Don’t Expect Your Kids to Care What the Bible Says Unless You’ve Given Them Reason to Believe It’s True. As that title suggests, our kids won’t have any reason to base their moral understanding on God’s word if they don’t have the confidence that it’s accurate in the morality it teaches.

 

Third, it means we must give our kids experience applying their moral understanding to the social issues at the forefront of discussion today.

My first two points address the theoretical knowledge kids need to engage with the world. But if we don’t help them apply it to the actual social issues in the spotlight, it’s like studying a manual on how to ride a bike without ever getting on one.

All the foundational knowledge in the world can quickly get confused when presented with nuanced circumstances. For example, just today I saw someone on Facebook make the case that every person should be pro-choice, if only because some kids would otherwise be born into horrible families that will abuse them. Most people who have given thought to the abortion issue can see right through that (bad) logic, but if a child encountered such thinking for the first time, he or she might think it makes sense.

Taking the opportunity to walk through individual social issues that involve moral questions can make an enormous difference in preparing kids to engage with a secular world.

(Incidentally, I highly recommend Persuasive Pro Life: How to Talk about Our Culture’s Toughest Issue as a great resource on the abortion subject.)

 

Fourth, it means we must help our kids develop a willingness to boldly stand up for their beliefs.

We should be leery of raising kids who will have all the right beliefs but have no guts to stand up for those beliefs in a hostile world. The two don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand.

I experienced that on a small scale this week. I heard through the grapevine that there’s a child in my son’s class at school who is being picked on by other kids. I pulled my son aside at home to talk about what he’s seen and heard. He acknowledged that he had witnessed this happening, so I asked what he had done about it.

Absolutely nothing.

He knew it was wrong, and he didn’t like what he saw, but he told me it’s “too embarrassing” to say something to his friends. We had one of those overly looooong parenting talks, and I explained why it’s so important to stand up for your beliefs even when it makes you uncomfortable.

Two days later, on the way home from school, I noticed he had tears in his eyes. He told me that some kids were talking about doing something bothersome to that child again. But this time he told them to stop. And they did.

Knowing what’s right, doing what’s right, and standing up for what’s right are three different things that aren’t automatically connected in our kids’ minds and hearts. It’s up to us to proactively draw those connections and raise kids who will be a light to the world rather than a light tucked away in a comfortable home.

 

Let me end this by saying that if you’re thinking, “I can’t believe she thinks you have to believe in God to know that what Trump said is bad!” (as some readers who stumble upon this post are bound to suggest)…you’ve totally misunderstood what I said.

And that’s exactly representative of the moral confusion in America today.


5 Signs You’re Forcing Your Religion (or Atheism) on Your Kids… and 5 Signs You’re Not

By Natasha Crain

Since my book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side, came out in March, I’ve been blessed to receive 75 five-star reviews of it on Amazon. To all who have taken the time to leave those reviews, thank you! It means a lot!

In addition to those 75 reviews, I’ve also received 2 one-star reviews…from people who haven’t read the book.

One headline says, “How to brainwash and indoctrinate your child instead of letting him/her think for themselves [sic]”. This is followed by his review, which simply says, “This whole concept is a little upsetting to say the least.”

The other one-star review says, “If you don’t trust your children to follow your religion on their own (without constant reinforcing) then either you don’t trust in your kids or in your religion.”

Clearly, neither of these commenters have read the book and are simply rating the idea of doing something—anything—to “keep your kids on God’s side.” I probably receive at least one blog comment to that effect every week: If you’re raising your kids with a Christian worldview, it automatically means you’re forcing your religion on them.

This is, frankly, nonsense.

Let’s take a minute today and consider what “forcing” your religion—or atheism—on your kids would actually look like…and what it wouldn’t.

Forcing Religion Kids

5 Signs You’re Forcing Your Religion (or Atheism) on Your Kids

 

1. You encourage them to have a blind faith, whether you realize it or not.

A blind faith is one where a person accepts certain beliefs without question. I’m pretty sure that if you asked most Christian parents if they want their kids to have such a faith, they’d answer with an emphatic, “No!” Theoretically, everyone wants their kids to have a faith more meaningful than that.

But what many parents don’t realize is that you can inadvertently raise your kids with a blind faith by encouraging them to “just believe” in Jesus.  Is this a heavy-handed or malicious forcing of religion? No. But it has a similar effect—it leads to kids having a faith that exists just because yours does.

Atheists who encourage their kids to reject God without question (because believing in God is just so ridiculous) are effectively doing the same thing.

 

2. You answer your kids’ questions about God with disapproval.

When kids ask questions about God, it’s the Christian parent’s privilege and responsibility to take the time to offer accurate and thoughtful answers. If your kids’ questions are met with disapproval, however, you’re teaching them that they should just accept what you believe for the sake of believing it. Again, is this a heavy-handed or malicious forcing of religion? No. But, again, it leads to kids having (some kind of) faith just because you do.

Atheists who are determined to make sure their kids don’t fall for the idea of God and show disapproval when their kids express interest in religion are guilty of the same thing.

 

3. You trivialize other worldviews.

I’ve heard far too many Christians condescendingly laugh at the idea of evolutionary theory, the fact that Mormons have special underwear, or that Muslims believe virgins are waiting in heaven for faithful martyrs. We don’t need to believe that every worldview is true (that’s not even possible), but we do need to make sure we don’t trivialize the beliefs of others by treating them as intellectually inferior. When we do, we’re effectively pushing our beliefs onto our kids by trying to make other beliefs look “small.” Instead of issuing snide remarks, we should be focused on teaching our kids to fairly evaluate the evidence for the truth of varying worldviews.

Atheists who teach their kids that Christianity is an absurd belief system for uneducated or gullible fools should take the same advice.

 

4. You threaten them with hell when they question the truth of Christianity.

If your gut reaction to a child expressing doubt about the truth of Christianity is something like, “You better not stop believing or you’re going to hell!”, you’re strong-arming them into belief.

Yes, hell is a reality spoken of repeatedly in the Bible. Yes, kids must understand that there is real judgment that awaits all people. But trying to make kids believe in Jesus out of fear won’t lead them to a true relationship with God. Parents should meet kids’ doubts with an open willingness to talk about questions…not with threats.

Atheists get a pass on this one since they don’t believe in hell.

 

5. You tie them down with ropes and repeatedly yell, “You will believe the way I do…OR ELSE!”

This is what it would look like to literally try forcing your religion or atheism on your kids. Obviously, that’s not happening. But people will keep using the word forcing anyway.

 

And 5 Signs You’re NOT Forcing Your Religion (or Atheism) on Your Kids

 

1. You encourage them to have beliefs rooted in good reason and evidence.

The opposite of raising your kids with a blind faith is raising your kids with a faith that’s deeply rooted in good reason. It’s helping them discover the evidence for God in nature—things like the origin of the universe, the design of the universe and of living things, and the origin of morality. It’s helping them understand that all religions can’t point to the same truth. It’s helping them learn the historical evidence for the resurrection. It’s helping them understand the intersection of faith and science. By teaching them why there’s good reason to believe Christianity is true, you’re making sure their beliefs are their own and are not just being pushed onto them from you.

(All of these subjects are covered in my book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith. If you need help discussing these things, please check it out!)

Atheists can do the same by not simply expecting their kids to reject God, and by talking about the actual evidence they believe points to an atheistic universe.

 

2. You not only invite your kids’ questions, you raise questions they haven’t even thought of.

Parents shouldn’t see themselves as a Q&A machine. We need to be able to answer our kids’ questions, but we also need to teach them about the questions others raise about Christianity. As I’ve said before, if our kids are someday shocked by the claims of skeptics, we didn’t do our job. By proactively sharing those challenges, we demonstrate that truth has nothing to fear and that we’re not “forcing” them to see only one side of the picture.

Atheists should do this as well, by sharing with their kids the challenges theists raise to their worldview.

 

3. You proactively teach them about other worldviews.

It’s one thing to share the challenges to Christianity with your kids (point 2, above). But it’s another thing to study worldviews in their entirety. For example, you might address the common atheist challenge that miracles aren’t possible, but that doesn’t give your kids a comprehensive understanding of what the atheist worldview is and what its implications are. It’s important that kids get that bigger picture for the major worldviews today so, once again, they never feel we’re forcing them to see only one perspective.

Atheists…you knew it was coming…should be doing this too. If atheist parents just nitpick at Christianity by teaching their kids random snippets of Christian belief and never take the time to offer a comprehensive picture of the Christian worldview, they’re just as guilty of passing on a one-sided perspective.

 

4. You deal with your kids’ doubts by helping them find meaningful answers to their questions.

Parents who address doubts by helping their kids find meaningful answers to their questions—rather than personally threatening them with eternal consequences—are giving their kids the tools they need to make their faith their own.

If atheists have kids who are doubting their atheism, they should equally work to address those questions rather than casually brushing them off.

 

5. You DON’T tie them down with ropes and repeatedly yell, “You will believe the way I do…OR ELSE!”

Ironically, given those one-star reviews, my book is all about why parents need to not push a blind faith onto their kids…and how to, instead, help them make their faith their own.

It definitely doesn’t suggest we should effectively or literally force religion upon our kids. No ropes. No yelling. No threats. Not even a one-sided presentation of Christianity.

But the claims will continue to come because too many people don’t stop to think about what it actually means to force religion on kids…and what it doesn’t.

Fortunately, I now have this post to share and help them out.  I’m sure they’ll be very grateful.


Visit Natasha’s Website @ www.ChristianMomThoughts.com 

3 Reasons Your Kids May Eventually Think Christianity is Worthless

By Natasha Crain

During Vacation Bible School this summer, our church collected an offering to help an orphanage in Mexico. The kids were all encouraged to bring what they could to contribute toward the cause.

My daughter, age 7, has always been very generous with her allowance and came running down the stairs with a Ziploc bag of piggy bank money the morning after the collection was announced. I smiled with appreciation for her giving heart and told her, “I’m so proud of you. You always want to share your allowance with others. That’s wonderful, sweetheart.”

Kids Christianity Worthless

She looked at me, gave a slight shrug, and replied, “It’s JUST money I had in my piggy bank. It doesn’t really matter.”

My blood immediately went to a rolling boil. I have worked really hard to teach my kids the value of money and emphasize how grateful we need to be for every small thing we have. I couldn’t believe her cavalier attitude that morning.

I unsuccessfully tried to cover my deep annoyance and disappointment.

“You have got to be kidding me. I seriously can’t believe you just said that when we have talkedso much about gratitude and generosity. That’s several dollars you have in that bag! How can you say it ‘doesn’t matter’?”

She looked down at the bag, which held two dollar bills and a bunch of coins. Then she looked at me in confusion and said, “MOMMY. This is not ‘several dollars.’ This is two dollars and a bunch of change that doesn’t matter.”

I took the bag and dumped everything out on our floor, then made piles of four quarters. I counted it all up and told her that she had $8.36.

She was shocked.

She scooped it all up, promptly put it back in the bag and announced there was “no way” she was giving away $8.36. Before I could launch into a sermon on generosity, she was halfway up the stairs looking for her piggy bank so she could deposit her newly found riches.

I’ve reflected several times on that experience, but not as much on the subject of generosity as on the subject of what it means to accurately value something.

There was $8.36 in that bag before and after our conversation. But something happened that drastically changed the value my daughter assigned to it—to the point that I couldn’t pry it out of her little hands just a few minutes later!

Similarly, Christianity is objectively true regardless of the value a person assigns to it. But something happens to many kids that fundamentally changes the value they place on it. Ultimately, the statistics show that at least 60% of kids reject faith by their early 20s…they decide it no longer has value. It literally becomes worthless.

Why the change? I think it boils down to three things.

 

1. They never understood how to value it.

My daughter ultimately didn’t know how to add up all the spare change in the bag. She could plainly see it all but didn’t know how to add all those different coins together. She just looked at the two dollar bills and assumed that’s all there was to the total value.

In a culture where people chalk religious belief up to nothing more than a person’s opinion about what may or may not exist beyond our natural world, most kids never learn how to appropriately value their religious beliefs. They don’t, by default, come to understand that:

  • Christianity is either true or it’s not. It’s an objective truth, and can’t be a matter of opinion. People may have different assessments of whether or not it’s true, but it’s not something that actually can be true for some and not others. When kids understand that, they’ll be more likely to value their faith because they’ll realize there’s much more at stake than a trivial matter of opinion. (For help talking to your kids about the nature of truth and Christianity in the context of other worldviews, see chapters 9-13 in my book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side.)
  • The truth of Christianity can be assessed by looking at evidence. Even if a person realizes that Christianity is ultimately an objective truth, they may place little value on committing to Christ because they believe there’s no real way of knowing Christianity is true. Our culture perpetuates the idea that faith is blind—a big leap in the dark. But that’s not the nature of biblical faith at all. Biblical faith is rooted in good reason (1 Peter 3:15). Again, kids don’t understand this by default. We have to shape their understanding so they know that they really can be confident that their decision for Christ is rooted in good reasons. That conviction makes all the difference in the world in how much a person values their faith.

 

2. They never had time to value it.

I’m guessing that if I had put my daughter in a room without distraction and plenty of time, she could have come close to totaling up the coins on her own. But between school, homework, piano lessons, soccer and chores, there’s no way such an exercise was going to get priority. She just didn’t have the time to appropriately value what was in the bag.

It’s really easy to play the victim when it comes to the perceived predator of time. I’m hugely guilty of this myself. “I have no time!” “I just wish there was more time!” “Where did the time go?” Those are things we all say. But the fact is, we all have the same number of hours in the day. It’s a matter of how we choose to use them. If your family’s spiritual life is crowded out by the constant shuttling between extracurricular activities, it’s time to really consider that. It might not be comfortable to look at it this way, but if we’re too busy to set aside family spiritual time at least once a week (for Bible study, faith conversations, prayer, etc.), we are quite literally choosing other activities over our kids’ spiritual growth.

It’s up to us to make time for them to learn to value their faith.

 

3. They forgot how to value it.

Last year, I actually had taught my kids how to add up coins of different values; there was a point in time when my daughter probably wouldn’t have been so cavalier with the money because she did know how to value it. But she forgot.

It’s easy to take for granted that whatever we taught our kids last month, last year, or three years ago is still part of their working knowledge. But planting seeds isn’t enough. We have to continually water them, tend to the growing soul, and plant more seeds. Otherwise, those earlier seedlings can easily be lost, and our kids can simply forget how to value what they may have know how to value in the past.

 

May we all help our kids develop a faith that they clutch like that Ziploc, realizing the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:8).

 

Visit Natasha’s website at www.ChristianMomThoughts.com


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Atheist Vs. Christian Summer Camps: Which More Effectively Taught Their Worldview This Summer?

By Natasha Crain

A blog reader sent me some information recently on an atheist summer camp (thanks DD!). I was fascinated to read all that they are doing to promote an atheistic worldview with their young campers. It immediately made me wonder how Christian camps stack up. After all, about 40 percent of all U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 have been a camper at least once at a religious summer camp—making camp a perfect opportunity to give large numbers of kids an understanding of why there’s good reason to believe Christianity is true and how to defend their faith in a secular world.

So are Christian summer camps imparting this critical knowledge? To find out, I Googled “Christian summer camps” and visited the websites of 100 camps across the country. I spent hours going through these sites to see what they offer so I could share the findings with you.

I wish I could say I had a positive report.

Before we look at what I found, however, I want to first give you a glimpse of an atheist summer camp for comparison.

 

What Happens at Atheist Summer Camps?

The largest atheist summer camp is called Camp Quest. Camp Quest started 20 years ago and has grown to 14 locations throughout the United States. According to its website, “The idea to offer a summer camp program designed for children from atheist, agnostic, humanist, and other freethinking families originated partially in response to the Boy Scouts of America’s increasing enforcement of their policy requiring boys to profess a belief in God.  It became clear that children from nontheistic families needed their own place to belong and enjoy the summer camp experience.”

The camp’s tagline is, “Summer camp beyond belief!” Campers participate in all kinds of traditional camp activities—for example, archery, canoeing, climbing, crafts, dance, horseback riding, and swimming—along with an important core of “freethought” activities in line with the camp’s secular mission.

So what do they mean by “freethought”? They define it this way: “Broadly, it means cultivating curiosity, questioning and a certain disdain for just taking the word of authority; demanding evidence and knowing you can make your own observations even if they lead you to disagree.”

In other words, they do activities that aggressively teach kids their worldview in the context of others.

You might not immediately conclude this from their freethought definition. After all, doesn’tevery parent want to cultivate curiosity, encourage questions, and teach kids to think for themselves? Make no mistake, however: Camp Quest and all self-identified “free thinkers” ironically believe that freethought inevitably results in the same atheistic/agnostic conclusions.

One of the most loved freethought activities at camp is the Invisible Unicorn Challenge. The children are told that there are two invisible unicorns who live at Camp Quest but that they cannot be seen, heard, tasted, smelled, or touched. They cannot escape from camp and they don’t eat anything. The only proof of their existence is contained in an ancient book handed down over countless generations. The challenge: Can you disprove their existence?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that these kids are supposed to see that the idea of God is just like these invisible unicorns. While the kids will learn that you can’t strictlydisprove God’s existence (how can you disprove invisible unicorns?), they’ll also learn that there’s no evidence of them, so there’s no reason to believe in them. (The claim that there’s no evidence for the existence of God is pervasive today but flawed—see chapters 1, 7, 8, 21, 27, and 28 in my book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith, for help talking to your kids about this subject.)

With activities like these, kids are actively learning why they should believe their worldview is an accurate picture of reality.

Meanwhile, at Christian summer camp…

 

What Happens at Christian Summer Camps?

I went to a Christian summer camp for several years as a kid and remember those weeks rather fondly. I remember the excitement when it was time to go to the snack bar for afternoon popsicles; I remember the smelly but fun cabins where everyone would stay up late talking; I remember being sent off by camp counselors with a notepad and pen to write a letter to God and having no idea what to do; I remember nightly songs around the campfire; and I remember having my first crush.

What I don’t remember from those years is growing in my understanding of Christian faith. Of course every camp is different, and every camper is different, so that’s not to say that my experience is representative of all or even most. But, after seeing what happens at Camp Quest, I was keenly interested in seeing how Christian camps today compare.

Here’s what I found from my survey of 100 Christian camp websites.

First, many say nothing of their Christian mission outside of generally promoting a “Christian camp” label. If you’re considering sending your kids to “Christian” summer camp, make sure you know what exactly that means. At many places, it doesn’t mean much.

Those that did detail the faith-based component of their camp were quite similar in focus. The key words repeatedly found on camp websites were: worship, relationship, good values, community, devotions, experience, and growing close to Jesus.

I want you to see first-hand the specific descriptions these camps offered. Here’s a good representation of the key phrases found throughout the sites…along with some side notes I couldn’t help but make:

  • Wholesome Christian atmosphere
  • Excellence in Christian camping (This made me laugh out loud. I get the term “Christian camp” but “Christian camping” makes me wonder how Christians camp differently…)
  • Take the next step in your faith
  • Fun, faith, friends (alliteration is fun, but it doesn’t say much)
  • Demonstrate that the Christian life can be one of meaningful fulfillment (Another laugh out loud moment—“can” be?)
  • Enjoy recreation in a Christian atmosphere
  • Dynamic speakers (I’m glad they’re dynamic, but what will they speak dynamically about?)
  • Show kids you can be a Christian and still have fun (What kind of message does this send? That everyone assumes Christians can’t have fun and this camp will prove the universal assumption wrong? How about showing kids why there’s good reason to believe Christianity is true so they understand why they should be a Christian in the first place?)
  • Special moments to learn about a loving God
  • Exciting Christian campfire programs
  • Gain deeper insight about God (I like how that sounds, but insights could mean anything…)
  • Grow strong in a welcoming Christian experience
  • Transformative worship
  • Campers come to know Jesus and pass on God’s love with excitement
  • Give kids a moral compass and learn God’s Word
  • Be encouraged and strengthened in the Lord
  • Wholesome recreation consistent with Christian standards and purposes (“consistent with” is about the least committal descriptor I can think of)
  • Enjoy God’s wonder
  • Enthusiastic speakers (enthusiasm is great, but, again, what content are they enthusiastically sharing?)
  • Establish goals to move closer to Jesus
  • Provide a life-altering experience
  • Enjoy high energy worship (I’m glad they clarified it’s high and not low energy…)
  • Conform campers to the character of Christ
  • Bring kids to a saving knowledge of Christ
  • Explore faith and God’s creation while you enjoy outdoor time around the campfire
  • Promote a lifestyle that honors God
  • Provide strong Christian role models
  • Nightly cabin devotions
  • Explore actions and teachings of Jesus Christ
  • Each adventure-packed day ends with campfire singing and a Bible message
  • Daily group Bible studies
  • Awesome worship music, live speakers, and meaningful Bible study
  • Activity-based application of biblical principles
  • Bible-based teaching based on shared adventures
  • Values-based camping
  • Help campers build a relationship with Jesus
  • Experience Christian community
  • Provide programs allowing campers to make a personal commitment to Jesus Christ
  • Emphasize Judeo-Christian values
  • Be inspired and challenged as the staff brings the Bible alive in new ways
  • Christian lifestyle is demonstrated through Bible study, devotions, music, and personal interaction
  • Experiences that strengthen the spirit, mind, and body under a strong Christian emphasis
  • Steadfast focus on the Creator in the midst of adventures (I’m imagining a kid sliding down a zip line with camp counselors yelling, “Focus on who ultimately created this!”)
  • Focus on values important to all faiths (now we’re just going to focus on the lowest common denominator?)
  • Speakers sharing from their heart on how God’s Word has transformed them

If you read through all those “talking points,” it’s clear that Christian camps overwhelmingly focus on the experience of being a Christian. And, of course, facilitating opportunities to experience God is hugely important! But one of the ways we experience God is with our minds and stems from the confidence of our convictions. Out of 100 camps, just TWO explicitly mentioned anything related to teaching Christian worldview in the context of other worldviews and how to engage with our secular culture:

  • Prescott Pines: “Stand up for your faith in the face of adversity” (funny enough, this is a camp in my hometown—but not the one I attended!)
  • Camp Kanakuk: “Helping your child grow in their character, and ability to communicate and defend their faith”

While other camps may address these topics as part of their general Bible teaching or messages, it certainly wasn’t a focus enough for them to explicitly mention it on the other 98 sites. I’m not saying that every single camp should have this as an emphasis, but given the challenges kids are facing today, the fact that 98% of camps are at the very least not promoting that they’re going to talk about Christianity in the context of other worldviews is both surprising and disappointing.

 

What Should We Make of All This?

In terms of numbers, the attendees at Christian camps far outnumber those at atheist camps. But if you’re tempted to think that means we shouldn’t care about this comparison, you’re missing the point.

Atheists are still a small percentage of Americans overall (5-10%), but their numbers are quickly gaining because they aggressively promote what they believe to be the truth of their worldview versus the falsities of other worldviews. Meanwhile, the number of Christians in America continues to decline in response. Churches have been slow to realize the urgent necessity of teaching apologetics given the increasing challenges to faith today…and it’s clear that Christian summer camps are no different.

This is a shame. Truly. A lost opportunity with thousands of kids.

I hope that this post will reach the inbox of people involved with camps and encourage them to think of how their program next summer might be more tailored to these subjects.

Importantly, that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be “exciting campfires,” devotionals, “high energy worship,” fun speakers, and so on. All of these things contribute to a memorable camp experience. But there may be nothing more important today for helping kids draw nearer to Jesus (a stated goal of most camps) than helping them know confidently why there’s good reason to believe Christianity is true.

If you’re involved in camp planning for your church or other organization and want some content ideas for teaching apologetics at next year’s camp, please email me through my contact form.  

 

Addendum: Two Camps to Consider

There are two fantastic programs for teens that do focus on equipping kids to engage critically with other worldviews and I want to make sure you know about them as you consider opportunities for next summer.

First, Summit Ministries offers intensive two-week retreats designed to teach older teens how to champion a biblical worldview and to strengthen their faith in a post-Christian culture. These retreats are in Colorado, Tennessee, and California. They have incredible speakers. If you want to see what Christian camp can look like, check out their sample schedule. Wow.

Second, Faith Ascent’s Base Camp in St. Louis offers “5 days and 4 nights of fun, fellowship, and intense preparation for the challenges and opportunities college bound Christians will be presented with. In a real college environment we ask and answer the tough questions Christian teens are asking (and being asked).” They, too, have fantastic speakers and an incredible schedule.

I hope you’ll check out these excellent programs and consider them for next summer if you have kids of the appropriate age.


 

Resources for Greater Impact: 

How to Talk to Your Kids About Hell

By Natasha Crain

The other day, I received the following comment on an old blog post about hell:

 

The belief in hell is sown into the hearts of many children which this blog advocates and this belief can reap major consequences. Children grow into adults. Millions of adults are on the edge of a belief in [G]od [and] needlessly suffer with the shadow of hell.  They live [in] fear…What a waste…a tragedy. 

Hell is one of the bedrocks of the Christian faith. I absolutely reject Christ.  I work and pay taxes. I am charitable. I am [a] good father and husband. I am kind, forgiving. I like looking at the stars. Yet, without a doubt under the rules of Christianity I am doomed to be tortured for millions…billions of years. In fact, trillion[s of] years of endless agonizing pain wrap[ped] around for trillions of more years.  What is my misstep?  I reasoned that earth was old and books suggesting otherwise unfounded.

 

There are a lot of misunderstandings about Christianity and hell embedded in this comment—and those misunderstandings are quite common. Because there are so many wrong ideas about hell floating around, we as Christian parents must proactively ensure that our kids gain an accurate understanding of this difficult topic. When young people lack that understanding, they’re often quick to dismiss hell based on simple “gut reaction.” But hell is too serious a topic to leave to the discretion of our kids’ feelings. We need to guide their understanding from a biblical perspective.

In chapter 4 of my book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith, I explain that people often unknowingly roll three layers of questions into one big objection about hell. We can help our kids understand hell much more meaningfully when we address those questions individually and sequentially:

 

1. Why does God need to punish anyone?

2. Who should be punished?

3. What should the nature of punishment be?

 

Like many people, the commenter above implicitly has objections to hell from each of these categories. In this post, we’ll look at answers to the questions using his concerns. For anonymity, we’ll call him Mr. C.

 

Why Does God Need to Punish Anyone?

When Mr. C says, “Millions of adults are on the edge of a belief in God and needlessly suffer with the shadow of hell,” he is assuming that Christianity isn’t true. If Christianity is true, then people should be warned about the reality of hell and have an appropriate level of concern about it. But Mr. C seems to believe that the whole idea of hell can’t possibly make sense.

A major reason he can’t make sense of hell, however, is because he misunderstands why God would need to punish someone. He believes that, in his case, it would be because he “reasoned the earth was old and books suggesting otherwise [are] unfounded.”

Rejecting the Bible is not why God punishes people. (And, as an aside, plenty of Christians believe the Earth is old.)

God punishes people because of sin.

It’s critical that our kids understand this! As I explained in chapter 4:

“The reality and seriousness of sin is ignored when we suggest there’s no need for God to punish people. To see why that’s such a problem, we need to better understand what sin is. The Bible tells us that God is perfectly good, and that He has written His moral laws on the human heart (Psalm 18:30; 1 John 1:5; Romans 2:14-15). Sin is a transgression against those laws. If God didn’t exist, there would be no sin, because there would be no moral laws to sin against. But if a perfectly good God exists, and humans violate His moral laws, we have to ask, What should God do about it? We expect a penalty for breaking human laws, so why wouldn’t we expect a penalty for breaking divine laws?”

Furthermore, God is both perfectly loving and perfectly just (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 9:7-8; Psalm 33:5; Isaiah 61:8). Justness is the quality of fairly conferring deserved rewards and punishments against a standard of right and wrong. God’s justness and lovingness go hand-in-hand. Just as an earthly judge wouldn’t be loving for setting free those who break human laws, God as a heavenly judge wouldn’t be loving for setting free those who break divine laws.

If sin is real, and God is just, there must be some kind of penalty for that sin.

 

Who Should Be Punished?

If we’re honest, most of us can get our heads around this idea of necessary punishment—for really bad people. But garden-variety sinners? People who lie, lose their temper, and live more selfishly than they should? We think these people deserve something more like an extended time-out, not hell. In other words, it’s not that we don’t think God should punish people, but that we don’t think He should punish people like us.

Mr. C certainly feels this way, as he listed his qualifications for escaping God’s judgment: “I work and pay taxes. I am charitable. I am [a] good father and husband. I am kind, forgiving. I like looking at the stars.”

Interestingly, many murderers could even fit this description (yes, even a murderer can have moments of kindness and forgiveness—where do you draw the line?). But pretty much everyone agrees murderers deserve punishment (see point 1). So it’s clear we have to take a more objective look at who should be punished.

Romans 3:23 answers that question: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

All.

Not one human is morally worthy of being in God’s presence. Romans 6:23 goes on to say that God has set the penalty for sin as death—which, as the law giver, He has the right to do. The combined picture of these verses is really quite simple, even if we don’t like it: Every single person is guilty of breaking God’s moral laws and He has set the penalty as death.

That’s true even if you like looking at the stars like Mr. C.

 

What Should the Nature of Punishment Be?

If hell only involved 100 years in jail, we’d spend a lot less time talking about it. But the traditional view that hell is an eternity spent suffering in flames? That’s where many people draw their line of “reasonableness.” In fact, most people have never thought through the logic of the first two questions in this post (why God would need to punish anyone and who should be punished) because they jump straight to the assumed nature of punishment. Those first two questions, however, are critical to understand before you can even consider the nature of hell.

The problem is, our human idea of what’s reasonable has no necessary bearing on what’s true. We simply do not have God’s perspective (Isaiah 55:8). We do know, however, that God is perfect, so His punishment is necessarily completely fair—even if we don’t have the full perspective to understand it. Because we can’t use our own idea of what’s reasonable to determine what’s true about hell, we have to look at what God has revealed about it in the Bible.

Jesus referred to hell as a terrible place to be avoided at all costs (Mark 9:48-49; Matthew 8:12; 10:28; 22:13; 13:42). The severity of hell is something all Christians agree on. There are different views, however, on what exactly the nature of hell is and how long it will last:

  • Those who hold the literal view believe hell is a place of actual fire where those who reject Jesus will spend eternity. This is what Mr. C referenced in his comment.
  • Those who hold the metaphorical view believe hell is an everlasting punishment of some kind, but not a literal fire. They say fire is a biblical symbol for judgment.
  • Those who hold the conditionalist view believe those who reject Jesus will cease to exist. They say the many biblical references to eternal punishment refer to the punishment’sfinality, not duration.

For more on the varied Christian views of hell, I recommend the book, Four Views on Hell.

 

The Often Overlooked Ending

Breaking our discussions about hell into these three component questions gives kids an important framework for understanding logical and biblical connections. But we can’t overlook the critically important ending to the story—God has made a way for people to avoid hell if we accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as payment for our sins! That’s the crucial other half of the picture. (For help with the rest of this conversation, see chapter 20: Why did Jesus need to die on the cross for our sins?)

As author C.S. Lewis famously said, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’”

Visit Natasha’s Blog @ ChristianMomThoughts.com


Resources for Greater Impact:

3 Key Things Skeptics Will Say to Shame Your Kids for Being Christians

By Natasha Crain

I haven’t blogged in the last couple of weeks because my family and I were on vacation. We went on a wonderful trip to the island of Grand Cayman! I successfully managed to avoid email while I was there, but that made for quite a backlog by the time I returned. As I started going through the emails to my blog address, I was struck by the nature of comment after comment left by atheists on various old blog posts while I was gone: one emotional attack after another and not a single discussion of evidence for/against the truth of Christianity.

I actually get such emails all the time and am very used to it. But seeing them all piled together made me realize how often the objective of skeptics is to shame Christians rather than to engage in fair-minded discussions about evidence—something highly ironic given how much skeptics talk in theory about how important evidence is.

Shaming can have an especially negative impact on kids, who are very susceptible to believing emotion-laden statements. But this, too, is something we can (and should) prepare them for. While shaming comes in all kinds of forms, I can roll 90 percent of skeptics’ comments into some version of three general claims.

Here is what your kids are most likely to hear…and what you can do about it.

 

1. “You’ve been indoctrinated.”

The Implied Shame Claim: You’re just parroting what your parents have drilled into your head throughout your childhood. You’ve been brainwashed and can’t even think for yourself. If you’re brave enough to look at [evidence/science/common sense] instead, you’ll see how crazy Christianity is.

I probably receive at least one blog comment each week about how I’m indoctrinating my kids simply by raising them in a Christian home. Skeptics love to say this. The problem is, it betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what indoctrination even means.  As I explained in this post, indoctrination is “teaching someone to fully accept the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions and beliefs.” In other words, indoctrination is a problem with how you teach someone something. It’s not inherently related to any particular belief system, though religion is one type of belief system where indoctrination is possible. Atheists can indoctrinate their kids as well.

So, unless a skeptic has been inside the homes of every Christian in America, seen how we are teaching our kids Christianity, and then had appropriate reason to conclude that we don’tcollectively expose our kids to other ideas, it’s utterly meaningless to say that “Christians indoctrinate their kids.”

What Parents Can Do:

  • Make sure you’re not actually indoctrinating your kids. Make sure you are teaching them what other people believe. That doesn’t mean you should teach them that what everyone else believes is true (that’s not logically possible)—it simply means you’re appropriately comparing and contrasting other ideas, opinions, and beliefs.
  • Make it explicitly clear to your kids that you don’t want them to believe in Jesus just because you do. (Read why this is so important in my post, Six Scary But Important Words Every Christian Parent Should Say to Their Kids About Faith.) When you’ve actuallydemonstrated that it’s important for them to own their spiritual decisions, they’ll have no reason to later question whether they’ve been “indoctrinated” when someone suggests it.
  • Teach your kids the evidence for the truth of Christianity (you’re going to see a recurring theme on this bullet point). In that very process, you’ll be comparing and contrasting truth claims from various worldviews and your kids will know first-hand that you didn’t “indoctrinate” them.

 

2. “If you allow yourself to think critically, you’ll see there’s no reason to believe in God.”

The Implied Shame Claim: Don’t you want to be a critical thinker? Someone who is rational, reasonable, and uses their brain? If you have faith, you’re throwing all that out the door. You’re choosing to believe something in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

“Critical thinking” is a buzz phrase today. Technically speaking, critical thinking is the “objective analysis and evaluation of an issue to form a judgment.” The funny thing is, skeptics always assume that such thinking necessarily leads to their own conclusions. The logic goes like this:

  1. Critical thinking means forming beliefs based on evidence.
  2. There’s no evidence for God.
  3. If you believe in God, you’re not thinking critically.

The problem with this logic is the second statement—the foregone conclusion that there’s no evidence for God. A more honest assessment would be that Christians and atheists disagree over what constitutes legitimate evidence for God. As much as many skeptics would like to make critical thinking their own domain based on this implied argument, the reality is that neither Christians nor atheists are willing to believe in something without evidence; Christians believe there is evidence for God. That’s why conversations about who’s thinking more critically than whom are absolutely pointless. There are Christians who think well and Christians who think poorly; atheists who think well and atheists who think poorly. This says nothing about the evidence itself.

What Parents Can Do:

  • Be intentional in talking to your kids about definitions. So many times, Christians and skeptics talk right past each other with conflicting meanings of the same words. In this case, discuss the words critical thinking and faith (skeptics incorrectly assert that faith means believing something in spite of evidence —see chapter 8 of my book for help with this conversation).
  • Discuss the implied argument of the three points listed above and explain that this is the logic behind skeptics’ claims that Christians don’t think critically. When you expose your kids to the thinking behind the shame claim, they won’t be fazed by it later.
  • Teach your kids the evidence for the truth of Christianity (yup, here it is again!). It’s one thing to show them the faulty logic (see the point above)—it’s another thing to teach them how to combat a faulty premise themselves.

 

3. “Christians are less intelligent than atheists. Studies show it.”

The Implied Shame Claim: You’re stupid if you’re a Christian and that’s not just my opinion—it’s beenproven.

You may be surprised to hear that a number of studies have found a negative relationship between intelligence and religiousness—in other words, they suggest that the more intelligent a person is, the less likely they are to be religious. Many passionate atheists are well aware of these studies and use them as ammunition for their arguments that religion is for the poor, ignorant, or unintelligent.

My professional background is in market research (I have an MBA in marketing and statistics) so I decided to personally review the studies that are constantly referenced by skeptics. I explained my findings in detail in my post, Are Christians Less Intelligent Than Atheists? Here’s What Those Studies REALLY Say, and further in Chapter 16 of my book.

Here’s the bottom line of what you should know: Over the last 80+ years, many studies have been done on the relationship between intelligence and religiousness. In 2013, researchers pulled together all the ones that quantified that relationship. Of the 63 studies they identified, roughly half showed no relationship at all. The other half showed at least some kind of negative relationship (the more intelligent you are, the less likely you are to be religious). That said, statistically speaking, it’s not very helpful to simply know there is “some kind” of relationship. You have to know how strong the relationship is to know if it matters. So researchers combined the results of all these individual studies to evaluate that question overall…and found the strength of relationship to be very weak. What do I mean by very weak? A -.17 or -.20 correlation is considered to be a trivial or negligible relationship by most statisticians. In other words, hardly worth mentioning. There is no reasonable basis for suggesting Christians are less intelligent than atheists according to this data.

What Parents Can Do:

  • Give your kids an appropriate framework for considering this kind of claim before you even discuss specific studies: Even if we could reliability measure which group is collectively smarter (we can’t), the answer wouldn’t tell us anything about the truth of Christianity. Intelligence doesn’t equate to always having the right answer. The important question we must constantly point our kids back to is, Which worldview is an accurate picture of reality? (Not which worldview theoretically has the smartest adherents.)
  • If your kids are teens, take the time to read my summary of these studies and findings and then discuss (links to my blog post and book above).
  • Teach your kids the evidence for the truth of Christianity (I told you this would keep coming up!). How else will they know how to set aside distracting claims like this one about intelligence and answer the key question, Which worldview is an accurate picture of reality?

 

So, you must have caught the recurring solution that combats all of these attempts at shaming:Teach your kids the evidence for the truth of Christianity.

Consider for a moment why that in particular is the antidote for almost any shaming attempt. Shame by definition is “a painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness or disgrace.” In other words, the root of shame is feeling inadequate.

In order for our kids to feel (more than) adequate when they encounter shaming attempts, they need to have the deep conviction that what they believe is really true. Only then will they be able to fully see these shame claims for what they are—shallow and baseless emotional attacks—and be able to say confidently with the apostle Paul, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

 

If you need help talking to your kids about the evidence for the truth of Christianity and how to address secular claims with your kids, please check out my book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith.

Visit Natasha’s Site @ ChristianMomThoughts.com


 

Resources for Greater Impact:

3 Key Things Skeptics Will Say to Shame Your Kids for Being Christians

 

What To Teach Kids About Unanswered Prayer

By Natasha Crain

My son Nathan wasn’t feeling well recently so we all prayed together for him to feel better. The next night at prayer time, Kenna pointed out that we prayed for him already but he wasn’t feeling better. She had a look of simultaneous confusion and disappointment on her face.  In a total of about 3 seconds I had the thought that this is the beginning of a lifetime of seeking to understand why God does or does not answer certain prayers AND replied, “We’ll keep praying and trust God that Nathan will feel better.”

I felt a giant theological error well up in my throat. How often we casually imply or even consciously think that if we just “trust God” for a specific prayer outcome, He will answer the way we want!

“Everything will be OK! Just trust in God!”

Yes, everything will be OK . . . perfect actually . . . when Christ returns and God is glorified in His kingdom for eternity. In the meantime this life is a mess. We are sinful people with free choices, surrounded by other sinful people with free choices. There is illness, there is death. There are natural disasters. Christians live in this fallen world and are affected by its consequences as much as non-believers.

Yet, we are to pray. We are to ask God for our hearts’ desires in the midst of all this. If every Christian’s prayer for a specific (positive) outcome was answered, however, we would effectively be in control of the world through God.  Thank God that prayer doesn’t work that way!  It’s actually a little scary to think of millions of people (even if they are Christians) controlling God like a puppet through prayer strings. I would much rather God be in control, in His infinite wisdom and perspective.

The dynamics of prayer are really not unlike our children making requests to us . . . we encourage their requests, consider their requests, and want them to continue making requests, but may not grant them what they want depending on how it would impact themselves, us or others  . . .  just like God relates with us through prayer.

Jesus powerfully demonstrated this himself when he prayed in Mark 14:36: “Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” God CAN do anything but his specific answers to prayer are based on how our requests align with His will.

If we come to believe that God can or should be trusted for specific outcomes, our relationship with Him will be as variable as the ups and downs of life; a good outcome equals happiness with God, a negative outcome equals disappointment or anger with God. This is not what our relationship should look like, yet it is very common.

To put this in a simple framework for my kids, I’ve boiled it down to these 5 key concepts that I emphasize at home.

    1. God wants us to continuously pray. (e.g., Philippians 4:6-7; Ephesians 6:18)
    2. God hears our prayers. (Implied in the fact he wants us to pray, plus Psalm 34:15)
    3. We can and should pray for our hearts’ desires. (e.g., Matthew 21:22; Matthew 7:7-11; John 14:13-14)
    4. God CAN answer our prayers for specific outcomes, but may not, depending on His will. (e.g., Matthew 6:10; Matthew 26:42; Mark 14:36)
    5. God works all things together for good. This statement, from Romans 8:28, can easily be taken out of context. Paul is not saying that God works all things together for OUR good (at least as we would commonly perceive “good” in this life). He follows in verses 28 and 29 by explaining that the good he is referencing is God’s overall plan for the world leading to His final glorification.

Here is is how I apply these truths for my (young) children:

“We just prayed for (fill in the blank). Do we know God WANTS us to pray? (yes) Do we know God hears ALL of our prayers? (yes) Do we know that God CAN answer any prayer he chooses? (yes) Does God answer EVERY prayer the way we ask? (no) What is important is that we always pray because God wants us to, but we have to remember that only God can decide how he is going to answer our prayers.”

In this way I hope to teach them that we should not limit or censor our prayers, but at the same time we need to respect and trust in God’s infinite wisdom . . . not our own.

What To Teach Kids About Unanswered Prayer

The 5 Worst Beliefs a Christian Parent Can Have in an Imploding Society

By Natasha Crain

America is changing fast, and not in the direction we’d like.

In light of recent events, I don’t think I need to detail all the signs that point to an imploding society. We see it. We feel it. We fear it.

Instead, I want to focus on our role as Christian parents within a society at such a point as this. In particular, I’m concerned about some very harmful beliefs—both conscious and subconscious—that I’ve noticed some Christian parents have.

Today I want to highlight five of the worst beliefs we can have when our society is spiraling downward.

The 5 Worst Beliefs a Christian Parent Can Have in an Imploding Society

1. I’m doing my part to make society a better place by raising kids with good values.

I’ve heard some variation on this way too many times. Let me make this very clear: Raising kids with good values is not the same as raising kids who love Jesus. And there are two important reasons why focusing on good values rather than on Jesus will never fundamentally alter society.

First, without universal acceptance of an objective moral standard (God), society will always disagree about which values are good. Without God as the standard, the goodness of a value system is simply a matter of opinion. One person can claim abortion is morally acceptable and another person can claim it’s murder. “Good” values can’t rescue a society when there will never be fundamental agreement on how to define what’s good in the first place.

Second, the fundamental problem in a troubled society isn’t a lack of values. It’s sinful human nature. Even if everyone agreed on the same set of objective moral values, they would still sin and act contrary to those values. Society’s deepest need for healing, therefore, isn’t more people with good values (however those values are defined)—it’s more people who know and love Jesus, who acknowledge the ever-present reality of sin as the world’s ultimate problem, and who accept Jesus’ sacrifice as the solution to that problem.

There will never be complete peace on Earth. But when we, as Christian parents, stay focused on raising kids who love Jesus—not just raising kids with good values—we are raising a generation who can impact society in an eternally significant way: by raising more witnesses for Christ.

 

2. I don’t need to waste my time teaching my kids the falsities of others’ beliefs when they’re better served learning the truth of Jesus Christ.

This is what someone said in response to one of my blog posts about the importance of helping our kids understand the secular worldview. And it absolutely belongs on this list of the 5 worstbeliefs a Christian parent can have in an imploding society.

It’s well known, based on multiple independent research studies over more than a decade, that at least 60% of kids who grow up in Christian homes turn away from faith as young adults.These kids learned the truth of Jesus Christ…but when they encountered false claims to the contrary, they were led astray.

In a society that’s quickly turning away from God, kids will be exposed to claims against Christianity at exponentially increasing rates. When they start to see their beliefs in the context of such claims, they have to know how to evaluate those competing views. Think of it this way: Just because a football team knows what to do when they have a ball at practice with no opponents around doesn’t mean they’ll know what to do when thousands of pounds of force come at them in a real game. If they don’t know what the other team will do, and how to respond, they’ll fumble…they’ll make poor plays…they’ll be pushed back. Similarly, our kids won’t be living in a Christian vacuum. Thousands of pounds of force will be coming at theirbeliefs. You can ignore it, but statistics show your kids’ faith will likely not stand up again after it’s been tackled by today’s opponents. Why wouldn’t you prepare them for that?

(If you need help learning about the specific faith challenges of today’s secular world, how to explain those challenges to your kids, and figuring out what all that means for you as a Christian parent, please check out my new book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith.)

 

3. God is in control, so whatever happens in our society is meant to happen. I’m not going to be concerned about it.

Allow me to be blunt: This is just plain laziness, whether a person wants to admit it or not.

Of course God is sovereign. But it’s not biblical to sit back and watch the world unfold because God is ultimately in control.

Did God tell the Israelites, “Just chill out. Don’t be concerned about Canaanite society. I’m in control and this ship is sailing regardless of what you do”? NO! He commanded the Israelites towage war against Canaanite society. The Israelites were used by God to execute judgment against them.

Did Jesus tell the disciples, “Just hang out here in Jerusalem after I’m gone and I’ll make sure the rest of the world hears the good news about me on my own?” NO! He commissioned the witnesses of his life, death, and resurrection to go out and tell the world about him…and to be willing to suffer and die in the process.

The fact of God’s sovereignty has never meant that we should relegate our faith to whatever status society wants to place on it. If we care about the world our kids are growing into, wemust be concerned about society’s changing moral and legal landscape and be willing to act on that concern accordingly.

 

4. My kids will learn what they need to know about the Bible at church.

If we’re going to raise kids who will represent Jesus in a society spiraling downward, they better be prepared to speak to the truth of the Bible—God’s Word to people in all societies. The Bible tells us where we came from (God), why we’re here (to have a relationship with God), the most significant problem we face (sin, leading to separation from God), the history of God bringing a solution to that problem (Jesus), how we should live our lives in response (putting Jesus first), and where we’re going (a final judgment of the whole world). I’m going to go out on a limb and say that’s pretty relevant stuff for today…and always.

Meanwhile, research shows that fewer than 1 in 10 Christian families read the Bible together in a given week.

As Christian parents, we should collectively feel that like a punch in the gut.

The belief that kids will learn what they need to know about the Bible at church is not conscious for most parents. But when we don’t study the Bible with our kids, our lack of action speaks to that subconscious belief. And it’s an undeniably wrong belief that will ultimately limit our kids’ effectiveness in engaging with a secular society.

As I wrote in my post, Why Your Kids Can Spend 600-Plus Hours in Church and Not Get Much Out of It, we have to remember that over the years a child attends Sunday school, teachers vary, curricula vary, and churches vary (as families move). Kids are handed various pieces of Christianity during that time, which they collect and store internally. But unless there is a consistent, focused, goal-oriented spiritual trainer in their life—a parent—those pieces will almost certainly lie around unconnected. This is especially true when it comes to their understanding of the Bible.

Furthermore, there are many things kids need to learn about the Bible that are never covered in most Sunday schools: How were the books in the Bible selected? Why were books left out of the Bible? How do we know we can trust the Bible’s authors? How do we know the Bible we have today says what the authors originally wrote? What about the supposed errors and contradictions in the Bible?

All of these questions are favorites for skeptics to weigh in on. But your kids won’t know what to make of their claims if you’ve assumed they’ll learn all this at church. They almost certainly won’t.

 

5. I’m sure things won’t get that bad.

I have been guilty of believing this until pretty recently.

But what a giant, dangerous deception it is.

To be sure, there are places in the world where Christians face persecution of a nature we may never see in America. If that’s your standard of bad, it may be true that things won’t get that bad.

But there are other kinds of bad that would represent an enormous change in the way of life for Christians in America…kinds of bad that are quickly becoming a reality, faster than most of us would have imagined. Every week (dare I say every day) there is a new headline that has negative implications for religious liberty in our country. Those headlines will keep rolling in.

We can ignore them, assuming things can’t get too bad. After all, this is America! Or we can look at such headlines like canaries in a coalmine—advanced warning signals of a precarious future for Christians in this country—and start taking more action in the public square on behalf of the next generation:

  • Stay up-to-date on the latest news affecting Christians (The Stream is a great place to do so).
  • Share articles representing Christian viewpoints on your social media.
  • Actively discuss these issues with your friends–online and in person.
  • Write politicians regarding key issues.
  • Gain an active knowledge of what public schools in your area are teaching that may be of concern and act accordingly.

Rather than assuming things won’t get that bad, let’s work together to make sure they don’t.

The 5 Worst Beliefs a Christian Parent Can Have in an Imploding Society

Don’t Be Afraid to Be the Cause of Your Kids’ Questions About Christianity

By Natasha Crain

A couple of weeks ago, I started teaching a 5-week “Introduction to Apologetics” class to adults at a local church. In the first session, we talked about the evidence for the existence of God in nature—the origin of the universe, the design of life, and our innate moral knowledge.

During the question time at the end of the first session, one of the men raised his Bible in the air and said, “This was empowering! It gave me even more appreciation for God’s Word!” Other people had similar positive comments. I left feeling like things went great.

Don’t Be Afraid to Be the Cause of Your Kids’ Questions About Christianity

A couple of days later, my husband ran into someone from the class and asked what he thought of the first session. The man hesitated, then said, “Honestly? It really shook me. I know others said it was empowering, but it really made me start thinking about things—like all the atheist claims she talked about.”

My husband relayed this conversation to me…and I subsequently went into a funk for several days.

I felt like I totally failed. So many thoughts ran through my head:

How did I mess this up?

What could I have said to better demonstrate how powerful the evidence for God is?

How could one person say this was empowering and another person say it shook his faith to the core?

I must not be a very good apologetics teacher if my class had a negative impact on someone’s faith.

What if my class ultimately becomes the trigger that sends him away from the Lord?

Then, one morning, I woke up and realized something very important: I was having the same fears about apologetics causing a person to question his faith as many parents have about it causing their kids to question their faith. And I always tell those parents they need to promptly conquer their fears and forge ahead for the long-term spiritual benefit of their children.

It was time for me to take my own advice.

 

Conquering the Fear of Causing Doubt

I’ve received a number of emails and comments over the last couple of years from parents who say they don’t know if they want to get into all this “apologetics stuff” with their kids because they “only want to teach them truth” and don’t want to risk leading them astray by alerting them to all the challenges posed by nonbelievers.

But, as I point out to them, you don’t get to choose whether or not your kids will hear challenges to Christianity. In today’s world, they will hear those challenges! The only choice you have as a parent is if they’ll hear them first from you—in an environment where they’ll have your guidance readily available—or if they’ll hear them first from nonbelievers—in an environment where they’ll be processing what they hear on their own.

I shared a (true) story in a blog post a few months ago that so readily demonstrates the reality of that choice that I have to briefly recount it again. A young Christian I know was taking an undergraduate humanities class. He said that, so far in the semester, he had “learned” the following: Jesus never even claimed to be God in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), Christianity borrowed ideas from earlier pagan myths, and the church arbitrarily picked which books to include in the Bible according to its own biases.

He noted, “The reactions of other students are of shock and disbelief. Yesterday the professor asked a student how these facts made her feel. She said she was mad and couldn’t wait to go yell at her pastor and parents. The professor egged her on. It was like watching a commander rally up his troops to tear down his enemy.”

The girl in the class was presumably ready to throw out years of Christian upbringing after a couple of months in a single college class.

All because she heard the “other side of the story” for the first time.

This is exactly what happened to the student in my class.

When I teach apologetics, I don’t simply present the case for the truth of Christianity. I acknowledge what skeptics say at every step of the way. I explain why things like the origin of the universe, the apparent design of life, and our innate moral understanding are best explained by the existence of a universe-creating, life-designing, and moral law-giving God—but I also describe the naturalistic (non-God) explanations offered by atheists. It was hearing those alternative claims for the first time that shook my student’s faith.

Parents, please take this to heart: When we explain the claims of skeptics to our kids and it raises questions they might not otherwise have had yet, we’re not damaging their faith…we’re actually strengthening it for the long term, even when that means our efforts may be the very thing that causes their questions now.

Parents make choices with a similar tradeoff all the time. We let doctors give our kids shots that cause temporary discomfort for the good of their long-term health. We take the training wheels off their bikes, knowing they’ll take some falls before becoming a confident rider. We allow them to struggle through difficult homework problems without giving them answers so they’ll better understand the material in the future.

So why do parents fear causing temporary spiritual pain for the good of their kids’ long-termspiritual health when these other examples seem to be no-brainers?

I think the difference is confidence—parents are more confident that they can effectively manage the process of teaching their kids to ride a bike than they are that they can effectively guide their kids’ spiritual development. To overcome that, parents need the confidence of knowing two things: 1) that Christianity really does have compelling answers to secular challenges, and 2) that they personally are equipped to offer those answers.

Gaining both types of confidence is in your control. You just have to commit to deepening your knowledge of Christianity. I didn’t say you have to become an expert. There are plenty of experts you can point your kids to. But you do need to become a well-trained guide.

Make your summer reading really count this year. If you’re just getting started learning about making a case for and defending Christianity, check out my reading plan specifically for parents here (it starts with my book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith, and takes you through four more books that will round out your core apologetics knowledge). If you’re ready to go to the next level, I have five other reading plans here.

And through all your reading, remember this: Truth has nothing to fear.

 Your willingness to tell your kids what other people believe makes that statement loud and clear.

Don’t Be Afraid to Be the Cause of Your Kids’ Questions About Christianity

30 Things You Can Do This Summer to Deepen Your Kids’ Faith

By Natasha Crain

It’s now officially summer!

For many families, that means a (slightly) less hectic schedule for a few glorious weeks. At the same time, it can mean small-scale panic at what to actually do with the extra time your kids have.

Solution: Take the opportunity to get more creative with engaging together spiritually as a family. Here are 30 ideas to get you started!

 

  1. Choose a gospel to read as a family (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John). Decide on a timeframe (days or weeks) and divide the chapters accordingly.

 

  1. Pick two chapters per week from my book to discuss as a family. You probably have about 10 weeks of summer vacation. That means you can cover about half of the 40 critical conversations from Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side in that time! It’s a perfect opportunity before another hectic school year.

 

  1. Watch the “What’s in the Bible?” DVD series together. This 13-DVD series takes kids all the way the way through the Bible. It’s perfect for kids who need entertainment combined with their learning in order to pay attention. My 7-year-old son, for example, thinks it’s hilarious AND learns from it. However, kids who learn better from a more A-to-B approach will likely find it too chaotic. My 7-year-old daughter (my son’s twin) hates it because she has “no idea what’s going on.” I end up pausing it every 5-10 minutes (in a 25-minute episode) to explain. Nonetheless, it’s meaty WHILE being crazy, so it’s a great option for kids with certain personalities and learning styles.

 

  1. Schedule a “questions night”—a time for your family to get together and discuss any questions your kids have about God. Here’s how we do that in our family. Don’t just do it once! Do it throughout the summer, and hopefully beyond.

 

  1. Have your kids interview a nonbeliever. This could be a family member or friend. Help them come up with some questions, then discuss the responses later.

 

  1. Choose a news story with a faith angle to talk about. The sky’s the limit here. The Christian Post has a ton of material to consider.

 

  1. Find a way to serve others together as a family. Then discuss what the Bible says about serving others, so your kids have a meaningful understanding of how their beliefs tie to their actions.

 

  1. Attend Vacation Bible School. VBS is a fun week offered by many churches for kids to play and learn together. And you don’t have to just go to the one offered by your church–attend one at another church and get to know more people!

 

  1. Pick a relevant single word to focus on and discuss. Some good words for discussion from my book are faith (chapter 8), objective truth (chapter 9), justness (chapter 3), miracle (chapter 24), and evolution (chapter 37).

 

  1. Invite your pastor over for dinner. Depending on the size of your church, your kids may never have actually interacted with your pastor. Invite him to dinner and give your kids the opportunity to ask questions they may not want to ask you (or that you may not know how to answer)!

 

  1. Read or watch a debate between a Christian and a nonbeliever. Debates make for great discussion opportunities with older kids. Here’s a debate on the existence of God you can use, and here’s one on the reliability of the Bible.

 

  1. Do an internet research project together. Pick a faith-based subject to Google with your kids (e.g., “Did Jesus exist?”). Look at several of the articles from different viewpoints together. Talk about how to evaluate all the conflicting ideas you see online.

 

  1. Watch a science DVD series from a Christian perspective. This collection is great: The Intelligent Design Collection – Darwin’s Dilemma, The Privileged Planet, Unlocking the Mystery of Life.

 

  1. Learn about Christian persecution worldwide. In many countries, Christians are being persecuted. Open Doors USA is one organization that works on raising awareness of this. Use their site to help your kids gain more perspective on what the cost of following Jesus can be (and talk about how you can help).

 

  1. Encourage your kids to invite a friend to church. Have a conversation with your kids beforehand to help them fully understand why sharing our faith is important.

 

  1. Get The Belief Book by David McAfee and discuss. This is an atheist book written directly to kids which explains that religious beliefs are just holdovers from ancient people who didn’t know how to explain the world. It’s filled with inaccurate caricatures of faith and would be an excellent discussion tool for older kids.

 

  1. Introduce logic games. Critical thinking is so important in faith development today! Here’s a game we do regularly in our family that can help even the youngest kids think better.

 

  1. Visit a different church (another denomination or religion). Then discuss the difference in beliefs and practices versus your own…and why they differ.

 

  1. Break down the meaning of a worship song. If you ever stop to pay attention to the words in the songs we AND our kids sing at church, you’ll note that the meaning isn’t always obvious. Kids can learn a lot from discussing the songs they’re used to singing and it makes the songs more meaningful at the same time. (As an example, think of the song, “Open the Eyes of My Heart Lord, I Want to See You,” and how not obvious that meaning is to a child.)

 

  1. Get a new Bible game to play as a family. Search for “Bible games” on Amazon and you’ll find many options.

 

  1. Take a family spiritual inventory and act on it accordingly. Have each family member write down what they feel is good about your family’s spiritual life and what could use improvement. Get everyone thinking by identifying categories like prayer, Bible study, church attendance, service, and conversations. Take action on areas for improvement!

 

  1. Write letters to God. Have each family member take 10 minutes to write a letter to God. Pick a topic that is relevant at a given time for your family–it could be something light-hearted like complaints you’d like to “file” or something more serious like expressing disappointment about unanswered prayer. Share your letters.

 

  1. Print an internet meme to discuss. Google “religion memes,” click on the search results for images, and you’ll see all kinds of discussion-worthy topics.

 

  1. Do a Bible timeline activity. In my opinion, one of the greatest problems with biblical literacy today is understanding how the whole Bible fits together as one story of salvation history. When kids grow up without that understanding (as I did), the Bible is just a jigsaw of unconnected stories with questionable relevance. If you search on Amazon for “Bible timelines for kids,” you’ll see many activity options for kids of different ages. Pick one and work through it this summer.

 

  1. Go to a Christian bookstore together and pick out a devotional. It doesn’t have to be January 1 to start a devotional habit. Take your kids to a Christian store and select a devotional book to start.

 

  1. Pick a magazine and hunt for examples of the secular worldview throughout the articles. For example, with a teen girl, you could pick a popular teen beauty magazine. Get two copies—one for you, one for her. Have each of you go through and circle examples that are in conflict with a Christian worldview. Compare and discuss.

 

  1. Play “What would you say if…”. Certain personality types love intellectual challenges. My daughter, for example, loves open-ended questions that she can try to answer in the best way possible. If you have a child like that, you can facilitate conversations in a game format by asking “What would you say if…” Here are a few examples: What would you say if your friend’s mom said God doesn’t exist? What would you say if someone told you the Bible is 2,000 years old, so it’s not relevant for our lives today? What would you say if someone told you Christians are hypocrites so they never want to be a Christian? What would you say if someone told you they believe in science, not God?

 

  1. Create a family prayer list. Write down the biggest needs for your family and those you know and commit to praying together consistently throughout the summer.

 

  1. Role-play being an atheist and have your kids try to convince you that Christianity is true. This can be an eye-opening experience for all involved and show you what subjects you should study together going forward.

 

  1. Read a religion research study together and discuss. The Barna Group does a ton of interesting research about religious belief and activities in America. Their studies could lead to many interesting conversations with older kids and trends in our country and what it will mean to them to be a Christian in an increasingly secular world. Here’s one research example that just came out: The End of Absolutes: America’s New Moral Code.

 

If you have any other ideas that you’ll be using in your family, please share in the comments!

30 Things You Can Do This Summer to Deepen Your Kids’ Faith

Please Don’t Tell Your Kids to Believe in God Just in Case He Exists

By Natasha Crain

Today’s post, like my last one, is in response to some comments I saw in a Facebook group recently. A mom posted that her 5-year-old asked, “How do we know God is real?”

Amongst the many responses from fellow parents was this one: “I would say… Maybe God isn’t real. If he isn’t, then have we lost anything by following him and living good and moral lives? No. So if our faith isn’t true, we can still live lives that spread goodness and love. And if it is true then we get to experience the source of goodness and love when we pass on to the next life. Either way we make a good choice to follow God and spread love and goodness in this world.”

This response is the basic idea behind what is famously known as “Pascal’s Wager,” named for the 17th century philosopher Blaise Pascal who first championed it. The gist of the argument is that humans should live as if God exists because we have everything to gain and nothing to lose from it—a safe bet. If it turns out that God exists, then you gain heaven and avoid hell; if it turns out that God doesn’t exist, you’ve lost nothing. So everyone should just believe in God, right?

No, no, no. Please don’t use this as your Christian parenting philosophy…either implicitly or explicitly.

Over time, I’ve received quite a few blog comments from Christian parents suggesting this is their underlying rationale for faith, and I’ve seen many Christians attempt to use this logic with nonbelievers. However, it’s riddled with problems and I implore Christian parents to avoid this mentality at all costs. Here are four reasons why.

 

1. Such a mindset perpetuates the myth of blind faith.

If, in response to the question of how we know God is real, we have nothing more to offer our kids than “better safe than sorry,” we have implied there’s no surer footing for their faith available. This is exactly what atheists want our kids to believe.

Atheists incessantly proclaim that Christianity is all about blind faith—a complete leap in the dark with no evidence to support it. When we, as Christian parents, don’t teach our kids that Christianity is, in fact, a faith based on extensive evidence, we perpetuate this destructive claim. Given the increasingly secular world in which our kids are living, it is our God-given responsibility to 1) teach them that Christianity IS an evidential faith and 2) teach them what the evidence is. (If you need help with this, please get my book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side!)

 

2. A philosophical wager doesn’t address the question of which God to bet on.

It’s pointless to bet your life on the existence of a generic God because there are multiple ideas of God to choose from. Should we bet on the Christian God? The Mormon God? The Muslim God? The differences between these concepts of God are not trivial. Each religion would say that if you aren’t “betting” your life on that particular idea of God, you have just as much to be concerned about as if you were betting on no God at all!

Once you understand that there isn’t a simple “God or no God” choice, it naturally leads to the question of what good reasons there are to choose one religion over another. In other words, a decision must still be made to some degree based on evidence and not safety. Pascal’s Wager can’t help with that.

 

3. A philosophical wager doesn’t take into account the trade-off between probabilities and cost.

Imagine for a moment someone told you that if you run 10 miles every day of your life, you will get to be God over your own eternal paradise after death.

Would you do it?

No. For two reasons.

First, the probability of this being true is extraordinarily low; there are no good reasons for believing it. Second, there is a giant cost of daily exercise involved. Maybe if someone told you that throwing a penny out your window would achieve the same outcome you’d give it a go just for fun. But you’re certainly not going to run 10 miles every day of your life given the tiny probability of it being true.

As Christians, we believe there is an enormous cost of following Jesus. We are called to prioritize our relationship with Him beyond all Earthly relationships and pursuits, taking up our “crosses” to follow Him daily.

If you believe that there is no evidence for the truth of Christianity (as atheists typically do), becoming a Christian would be an unreasonable trade-off to make with your life. It’s like running 10 miles every day to be God over your own eventual paradise…an unreasonable decision given your assessment of the probability that this is an accurate picture of reality.

Once again, this brings us full circle to the question of why there’s good reason to believe Christianity is actually true. Our kids will only live out the costly life Christians are called to have when their belief is accompanied by conviction.

 

4. Mere probabilistic arguments have little impact on the heart…which is what reallymatters.

In the Christian view, believing that God exists is not enough. James 2:19 points out that evendemons believe in God. Saving faith is about our relationship with Jesus, and God knows our heart. If we are, for all intents and purposes, living a Christian existence because we see our faith as a safe choice, we are fooling no one except ourselves.

 

Parents, please understand that when I write posts in response to well-meaning comments I see from Christians online, it’s not to be critical for the sake of being critical. It’s because I believe we Christian parents HAVE to step up our game. This world is getting more challenging for believers every day and it requires us to avoid passing down harmful beliefs at all costs. We must strive to arm our children with accurate beliefs, an accurate rationale for those beliefs, and an accurate defense of those beliefs. Let’s be vigilant in this. Together, we can raise a generation ready to stand strong for their faith…even when it’s not a safe choice.

 

Please Don’t Tell Your Kids to Believe in God Just in Case He Exists

 

Is Spiritual Truth a Matter of Opinion? An Open Letter to a Relativist

By Natasha Crain

I received the following blog comment this week, packed with statements that your kids are likely to hear (and possibly come to believe) about the nature of truth. I wanted to reply to the commenter right here in a blog post because I feel there is so much that is important for everyone to understand about what he is saying.

I’m going to include the full comment below so you can read it in its unbroken entirety, then I’ll break it down part-by-part. If you have older kids, I encourage you to read them this letter and use it as a discussion starter.

For context, this person is responding to an atheist who had commented on a post previously, and is encouraging him to stay strong in the midst of Christian claims.

You are really brave defending your stance against a bunch of evangelical Christians banging on you. I myself am not an atheist. If I have to put a label on myself, I would choose agnostic theist. I believe in God or a higher power, but I don’t have an absolute certainty of his or her nature.

 My belief is rational to [a] certain extent. The rest is on faith. However, unlike Christians, my spiritual path is highly personal and subjective. I will never say that “you’d better believe what I believe or you will suffer eternal consequences”. Christians, whichever denominations, like to intimidate me which [sic] this “Jesus is the high way” tactic even though I never initiate any religious conversation with them. However, I have survived as a gay, Vietnamese, and non-Abrahamic-faith person, and my life is pretty good so far. I know you may not like to hear this. I feel connected to God with contemplation, prayer, and compassion practice. When I have a child, I will not raise him or her as an atheist or a believer. I will do my best to raise him as a person who has a higher sense of empathy and compassion. If he chooses to be a Christian, Buddhist, Wiccan, Pagan, etc., I will support his decision. I believe that God is like an ocean, and different spiritual paths are like rivers. I am not the one who decides which river is the best to reach the ocean…

Keep your stance and keep searching truth…your truth. Not mine and definitely not these Christians’.

 

My Response: An Open Letter to a Relativist

 

Dear Minh,

Thank you for being willing to honestly share your spiritual journey in the comments section of my blog. It’s clear that spirituality is an important topic for you, as it is for me. With that in mind, I’d like to respond to several of the points you make.

 

You said: I myself am not an atheist. If I have to put a label on myself, I would choose agnostic theist. I believe in God or a higher power, but I don’t have an absolute certainty of his or her nature.

From what you’re saying here, it sounds like you are “agnostic” about what kind of God or higher power exists because you haven’t found anything pointing to that Being’s nature withabsolute certainty. However, it’s important that we’re honest with ourselves about this desire for absolute certainty. There’s pretty much nothing in life we know with “absolute certainty.” For example, do you know with absolute certainty that you are a real person and that everything you experience is not just an illusion? No, but you have good reason to believe you really exist and you live accordingly. We claim to know things all the time that we can’t beabsolutely certain about. When the preponderance of evidence points toward something being true, we go ahead and say we know it.

The question I would leave you to consider, therefore, is this: If you discovered that a preponderance of evidence pointed to a specific religion being the one true revelation of God to humans, would you accept it as truth? Or do you require a level of certainty that you don’t require of anything else in your life?

If you require a unique level of certainty in spiritual matters, then I would suggest perhaps you don’t want to find truth. If you are open to considering the weight of the evidence for the possible objective truth of a specific religion, then I would invite you to begin that investigation in earnest. If you would like to learn about the evidence for Christianity specifically, I will recommend a great starting book at the end of this letter.

 

You said: My belief is rational to certain extent. The rest is on faith. However, unlike Christians, my spiritual path is highly personal and subjective.

It sounds as though you are suggesting that a highly personal and subjective spiritual path is a better way than an objective one, such as in Christianity. However, it’s important to realize (if that’s indeed what you are implying) that by claiming this, YOU are making an objective statement–that a highly personal and subjective spiritual path is best for everyone! That’s a contradiction.

 

You said: I will never say that “you’d better believe what I believe or you will suffer eternal consequences”.

If you’re an agnostic theist, then you presumably don’t believe there are eternal consequences for your beliefs, so of course you will never say that. But what you are really saying here is that it’s wrong (and probably arrogant) for Christians to suggest to others that they have objective knowledge that beliefs have eternal consequences. Here’s the problem: What if Christianity is true? What if there are eternal consequences for what you believe? Would it be more loving for Christians to tell others about that, or to stay silent in the fear that the truth might bother you? Whether you believe Christianity is true or not, it’s not logical to suggest it’s a bad thing for Christians to warn other people about what they believe to be eternal consequences. When a person truly believes something horrible will happen to another person unless they warn them about it (think of someone about to get hit by a bus), the logical and loving action is to warn them. I would hope you would do the same if that were your belief.

 

You said: Christians, whichever denominations, like to intimidate me which this “Jesus is the high way” tactic even though I never initiate any religious conversation with them.

We really need to stop here and better define the nature of intimidation; there is a huge difference between an intimidating delivery of a message, an intimidating message, and feelingintimidated.

If a Christian has gotten in your face, waving a Bible in the air and shouted angrily at you, “Jesus is the only way!” then they have delivered a message in an intimidating way. And I apologize if you have been the recipient of any such graceless delivery. That is not how Jesus would speak.

An intimidating message is one that is frightening in and of itself. Is the message that Jesus is the only way to God frightening? If so, I encourage you to really dig deep and understand why it would be frightening to you if there was really just one objective truth. The gospel is good news…Jesus died so that our sins can be forgiven and we can be reconciled to our wonderful Creator.

Finally, a person can feel intimidated even if someone does not deliver a message in an intimidating way and doesn’t even deliver an intimidating message. There is nothing inherently intimidating about saying that Jesus is the only way to God! But if, in response to that, you feelintimidated, then it’s worth digging within to understand why the notion of one objective truth is so challenging to you personally.

 

You said: However, I have survived as a gay, Vietnamese, and non Abrahamic-faith person, and my life is pretty good so far. I know you may not like to hear this.

Minh, the test of truth should never be whether or not our lives are “pretty good.” A person can believe the world is flat (a wrong belief about reality) while having an amazing life from an earthly perspective. It’s not about survival and circumstances; it’s about having good reason to know that what you believe is an accurate picture of reality.

 

You said: I feel connected to God with contemplation, prayer, and compassion practice.

But why put so much trust in your feelings? Our feelings can’t be the final arbiter of truth. If I tell you I feel connected to Jesus as God’s son, who represents the only way to God, you wouldn’t believe I’m right. So there has to be something objective–evidence outside of your and my personal experiences–to help us determine what is actually true.

 

You said: When I have a child, I will not raise him or her as an atheist or a believer. I will do my best to raise him as a person who has a higher sense of empathy and compassion.

Why are empathy and compassion the most important values? Why are they “higher” in value or truth than whether or not God exists? If God doesn’t exist, and the world is only material, then there is no basis for objective morality; there is nothing morally good or bad because there is no moral authority. Empathy and compassion are morally equivalent to killing people if we are just molecules in motion. To be sure, I’m not suggesting that most atheists would ever think killing a person is OK. But, in a world with no God (a moral authority), at best you could say that killing people is not good in your opinion, and therefore you won’t do it. Atheists can be “good without God,” but they have no objective basis from which to call anything good. Similarly, if you don’t believe in a God who has revealed anything of His nature, you have no objective basis from which to refer to empathy and compassion as “higher” values.

 

You said: If he chooses to be a Christian, Buddhist, Wiccan, Pagan, etc, I will support his decision.

If by “support” you mean you will continue to love him dearly, regardless of what he believes, then I agree wholeheartedly. But if by “support” you mean you will accept whatever he believes as an equally valid picture of truth, then once again this is a contradiction. At the end of your whole comment, you advise fellow readers to not search for the truth of Christianity. Clearly, if your son believed Christianity is true, you would not feel that view is as valid as yours. Thus, you are willing to claim that at least some views are objectively wrong.

 

You said: I believe that God is like an ocean, and different spiritual paths are like rivers.

If you study where all these “rivers” are actually leading, you’ll see that they make logically incompatible truth claims; they aren’t even claiming to run to the same ocean. As a simple example, in Judaism, Jesus is not the Messiah. He is simply a man. In Christianity, Jesus is the Messiah and is God Himself. These claims cannot both be true. They contradict each other and cannot point to the same truth.

 

You said: I am not the one who decides which river is the best to reach the ocean.

If God exists, as you and I both believe, then you are correct: We are not the ones who decide which river is the best to reach the ocean. GOD IS! Ironically, by stating that you are not the one to decide what is best, so you therefore choose to believe that all paths are fine, you ARE making a claim of what is best. God, and God alone, determines which “river” flows to Him. The question is, has He revealed which river that is, and if so, which revelation is correct? Christians believe He has revealed that river as Jesus. We are not claiming to have decided that on your behalf, which I think is a misunderstanding that flows throughout your comment. We are simply claiming that the river that runs to God has already been decided by God and are sharing what we believe He has revealed.

 

You said: Keep your stance and keep searching truth, your truth. Not mine and definitely not these Christians’.

After all you wrote about the equally valid paths to God, it’s hard not to see the irony in how you’re advising others to definitely not search for the truth of “these Christians.” Are all paths valid except Christianity? You champion relative, subjective truth, but in doing so, you are making an objective claim that all paths are equally valid (except, notably, Christianity).

The bottom line is this: Truth is not what we like the best, what makes us most comfortable, what costs us the least, or what makes us happiest. It’s what accurately matches reality. I encourage you to consider the actual evidence for the truth of various worldviews, including of course, Christianity. If you honestly and openly do so, I am confident you will see that there is good reason to believe that Christianity is the uniquely true revelation of God. An excellent book that examines this evidence from the perspective of a detective is Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels.

 I wish you the best and hope that there is some food for thought here.


 

For anyone wanting to better understand the nature of objective truth, whether or not all religions can point to the same truth, why Christians can claim to “know” Christianity is true, and how common sense and personal experience are or are not helpful in determining truth, please check out my new book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith. It’s available from your local Barnes & Noble and Christian book retailers, as well as ChristianBook.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and Amazon.com.

Is Spiritual Truth a Matter of Opinion? An Open Letter to a Relativist

What Exactly is a Biblical Miracle? 3 Key Things Your Kids Should Understand

By Natasha Crain

A few weeks ago in our family worship time, we were studying the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 (Matthew 14). After we finished the story, I asked what I thought was a pretty straight forward question: “So, how did Jesus feed 5,000 people with just a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish?”

Kenna responded, “He must have cut the bread and fish into little tiny pieces to feed that many people!”

It was such a simple and logical answer, but it said so much about her young understanding of miracles. A million coloring pages of Jesus walking on water (which I’m pretty sure is the count coming home from Sunday school in the last couple of years) won’t teach our kids some basic concepts central to the understanding of biblical miracles.

Here are three key things our kids need to understand about the nature and purpose of miracles in the Bible.

 

1.    Miracles are supernatural.

One of the most common pejorative statements I see atheists make is that Christians believe someone can walk on water, a dead man can come back to life, animals can talk, and so on. The underlying assumption is that Christians foolishly believe these things are possible within the bounds of our natural world and its laws, when clearly we should see that they aren’t.

This is not a correct understanding of biblical miracles. Christians do NOT believe that miracles are naturally possible, just as atheists do not. We agree! The point of difference is that Christians believe miracles are possible on a supernatural level, and atheists don’t believe a supernatural level even exists.

I realize this distinction sounds a little theoretical, but it’s very important and actually quite simple to explain to kids in a practical sense. I told my kids (age 4) that if Jesus merely chopped the bread into 5,000 pieces, that would be something anyone can do, because that is how our world works (when you chop many times, it makes many pieces). What Jesus did was a miracle because it was something that can’t be explained by how we know our world works; food doesn’t suddenly appear out of nowhere! Jesus could do miracles because He had the power of God, and anything is possible for God. God is not limited by how our world works.

 

2.    Miracles proved who Jesus was.

This is the million dollar point that I don’t think I really understood the significance of until a couple of years ago when I started reading apologetics.

Jesus needed to do something while He was on earth to provide evidence (yes, evidence!) that He truly was the son of God. Think about it – He was making bold claims of divinity; how could people know that what He said was true?

Jesus didn’t just tell people to have “faith” that what He was saying was true. He usedmiracles – acts not possible by someone without God’s power – to prove it. Jesus understood the need for evidence to legitimize His claims. The resurrection was the ultimate miracle that proved to His followers that He was who He said He was.

To demonstrate this to my kids, I put on a mini-act where I told them I was God. I claimed that I wanted them to eat cookies every day because it’s good for them and that they needed to listen because I was God. They laughed and said they didn’t believe me because I’m not God! I told them over and over that I’m God. After a while, we talked about what it would have been like for Jesus’ friends to hear Him say He was the son of God. They had to have a way of knowing He wasn’t just a regular person saying that (like mommy was in the cookie example). Jesus did things only God could do to prove He reallywas God.

 

3.    Miracles are still historical events.

The disciple Thomas did not believe that the other disciples had seen a resurrected Jesus. He said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).

When the resurrected Jesus appeared to Thomas, Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus replied, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

This is an incredibly rich passage for Christians. Even though miracles are outside of our scientific understanding and laws, they are observable by witnesses and have natural/historical outcomes. The apostles historically observed the miracle of the resurrection, which led to a conviction so strong that they were willing to die for their beliefs. Their willingness to die was undoubtedly based in large part on their knowledge that they had witnessed the resurrection miracle.

We demonstrated this to our kids by talking about how difficult life was for the apostles after Jesus died. The miracles He did were so amazing that the apostles had no doubt that Jesus was God and they were willing to do whatever it took – endure beatings, jail and death – to tell the whole world about Him. Today we know about Jesus in large part because of what the apostles did after witnessing His miracles!

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts – what else should kids know about miracles?

For more articles like What Exactly is a Biblical Miracle? 3 Key Things Your Kids Should Understand visit Natasha’s website at ChristianMomThoughts.com

What Exactly is a Biblical Miracle? 3 Key Things Your Kids Should Understand

Don’t Expect Your Kids to Care What the Bible Says Unless You’ve Given Them Reason to Believe It’s True

By Natasha Crain

Don’t Expect Your Kids to Care What the Bible Says Unless...

A mom left a comment on one of my older posts the other day that said, “It sounds like you are teaching your kids to question the Bible. We should never teach our kids to question the Bible!”

To that I say…Of course we should.

Let’s not get confused, however, by what it means to “question” the Bible. To ask questions about something doesn’t mean to doubt it by default. Neither default acceptance nor default rejection is the response of a critical thinker.

To encourage our kids to question the Bible means to encourage them to examine it fully so they can determine its truth value for themselves.

This is a spiritual process so sorely lacking in most kids’ (and adults’) lives today.

Our kids learn a selection of key Bible stories throughout their childhood, but what do they learn about the Bible–why they should even believe those stories?

Typically, next to nothing.

Yet, parents and church leaders spend years preaching to kids from the Bible, assuming those kids should and will accept it at face value. It takes just a few skeptics to throw darts at that face value before kids make the point of this “atheist pig”:

 

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Don’t expect your kids to care what the Bible says unless you’ve taken the time to help them understand why there’s good reason to believe it’s true.

In Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side, I wrote 8 chapters to help you do just that. Of course, there are many other possible topics to address on the Bible’s veracity, but I selected these because they are the most pertinent and the most frequently attacked by skeptics.

Here’s an overview of these 8 key questions you should be teaching your kids to ask of the Bible.

 

1. How were the books in the Bible selected?

Skeptics claim: In the first centuries after Jesus, there were many rival versions of Christianity, but the representative writings were suppressed by those in power. Our New Testament books represent the version of Christianity that happened to win over time. The winning books weren’t picked until some 300 years after Jesus’ death, and they won because they found political favor at the time.

Kids need to understand: That there were many early Christian writings, how the early church leaders sifted through those writings over time, and how the books of our Bible today were eventually deemed authoritative.

This is explained in Chapter 25 of my book.

 

2. Why were books left out of the Bible?

Skeptics claim: There are many “gospels” missing from the Bible which give equally valid but completely different views of Jesus than the one we have. If these books had made it into the Bible, Christianity would mean something very different today.

Kids need to understand: Why the mere existence of dozens of early Christian writings that never made it into the Bible says absolutely nothing. The question they need to be able to confidently answer is whether or not any of those writings can legitimately claim spiritual authority by way of connection to Jesus and His apostles.

This is explained in Chapter 26 of my book.

 

3. How do we know we can trust the Bible’s authors?

Skeptics claim: The gospels were written decades after Jesus lived by anonymous authors based on growing legends and unreliable oral history.

Kids need to understand: Why we can be confident that the gospels are based on reliable, eyewitness testimony.

This is explained in Chapter 27 of my book.

 

4. How do we know the Bible we have today says what the authors originally wrote?

Skeptics claim: The Bible has been copied, edited, copied, edited, copied, edited, etc. so many times since the original authors wrote their content that we have no way of even knowing what the books we have should say. (See the quote on the image at the top of this post from one actor making this claim.)

Kids need to understand: Why thousands of copies of early manuscripts and hundreds of thousands of differences between them actually don’t undermine what we know about Christianity.

This is explained in Chapter 28 of my book.

 

5. Does the Bible have errors and contradictions?

Skeptics claim: The Bible is filled with hundreds of errors and contradictions, clearly demonstrating it’s not the Word of God. (See bibviz.com as one example of this claim.)

Kids need to understand: How to evaluate alleged errors and contradictions (with special consideration of the alleged contradictions in the Gospels).

This is explained in Chapter 29 of my book.

 

6. Does the Bible support slavery?

Skeptics claim: God’s laws about slavery in the Old Testament show that, far from being a perfect moral Being, He actually supported this terrible institution–even sex slavery (see Exodus 21:7-11).

Kids need to understand: The issue of slavery in the Old Testament is very complex and requires an appropriate understanding of biblical context, culture, and history.

This is explained in Chapter 30 of my book.

 

7. Does the Bible support rape?

Skeptics claim: The Bible approves of rape.

Kids need to understand: The meaning of biblical laws on rape (Deuteronomy 22:23-29) and the biblical context for three key passages often used to support skeptics’ claims in this area (treatment of female war captives, treatment of the Midianite virgins, and treatment of the women of Jabesh-gilead).

This is explained in Chapter 31 of my book.

 

8. Does the Bible support human sacrifice?

Skeptics claim: God may explicitly condemn human sacrifice in the Bible, but He violates His own prohibition multiple times.

Kids need to understand: The theological background of God’s command for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the nature of child sacrifices of kings, Jepthah’s vow, the consecration of firstborn males, and Jesus’ death on the cross.

This is explained in Chapter 32 of my book.

 

So should you teach your kids to ask these and other questions about the Bible? Absolutely. If you don’t, skeptics will. And soon your kids won’t care what the Bible says any more than the “atheist pig”.

Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side is available from your local Barnes & Noble and Christian book retailers, as well as ChristianBook.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and Amazon.com.

For more articles like Don’t Expect Your Kids to Care What the Bible Says Unless You’ve Given Them Reason to Believe It’s True visit Natasha’s site ChristianMomThoughts.com

Don’t Expect Your Kids to Care What the Bible Says Unless...

What Christian Parents Can Learn from Atheist Churches

By Natasha Crain

There’s a new church movement you may not have heard about, but it’s growing by leaps and bounds. It’s called the Sunday Assembly. It started less than two years ago in England and now has more than 60 congregations around the world. Twenty-five more congregations are expected to launch by early 2015. The Sunday Assembly is growing especially quickly in the United States, where congregations have formed in 17 cities.

At a Sunday Assembly, church members come together to sing songs, hear a speaker and reflect on their lives. Outside of church, they have small groups, book clubs, a choir, peer-to-peer support and a variety of opportunities to volunteer. Their motto is “Live better, help often and wonder more.”

So what’s unique about this rapidly growing church?

Most of the congregants don’t believe in God. It’s a church for atheists.

 

What is an Atheist Church?

The Sunday Assembly was started by two comedians named Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones who liked the idea of a church without God. Pippa is an ex-Christian who found she missed church elements like “community, volunteering, and music,” but didn’t miss God. Sanderson had noticed the joy at Christmas created by caroling and wondered if it was possible to harness those warm feelings and just celebrate the fact we’re alive.

When Evans and Jones launched the Sunday Assembly, they promoted it using the (appropriate) phrase “atheist church.” However, they now avoid the atheist description and promote the Sunday Assembly as a group “celebrating life.” A New York congregation actually broke off from the group earlier this year because they wanted to focus more on celebrating godlessness than celebrating life.

True to this rebranding effort, the “Frequently Asked Questions” page on the Sunday Assembly’s website attempts to distance the organization from a strict atheist association. In response to the question, “Is Sunday Assembly exclusively for atheists?” they say, “Absolutely not. We say in the Charter that we don’t do supernatural but we won’t tell you you’re wrong if you do. One of the unique things about Sunday Assembly is that it is radically inclusive–allowing us to celebrate life together, regardless of what we believe in.” They go on in other answers to discourage using their group as a vehicle for presenting atheist philosophy or for telling others that they’re wrong for what they believe.

Irony lurks below the surface of this shallow inclusiveness. The first item on their public charter says, “We are born from nothing and go to nothing. Let’s enjoy it together.” Make no mistake: this isn’t just a secular gathering where no claims are being made about God one way or another. The Sunday Assembly is built on explicitly atheist assertions. And people are loving it.

 

A Very Important Lesson for Christian Parents

I’m fascinated by this rise of atheist churches, and I think there is a very important lesson Christian parents can take from it:

We have to make sure our kids are attracted to Jesus and not just the church.

Humans are built for relationships. We desire community; we desire to help others; we desire to live a “good” life and find meaning in what we do–all things that can be found in church. Christians believe that these desires are given to every person by God. That means church is a place that can fill a God-given need for our kids whether they believe in Him or not.

The risk is that they’ll mistake that partial fulfillment for the sum of everything they spiritually need.

Bart Campolo, son of well-known Christian pastor and speaker Tony Campolo, made the news last month because of his deconversion from Christianity. In an interview, he described how as a teenager he was drawn by the sense of community and “the common commitment to love people, promote justice, and transform the world.” He commented, “All the dogma and the death and resurrection of Jesus stuff was not the attraction.”

Church – not Jesus – was the attraction.

How can you know if your kids are attracted to Jesus or just the church? Look at their spiritual development outside of church:

  • Do they show an interest in reading and understanding the Bible, or just an interest in good values and community service?
  • Do they initiate conversations about faith and ask thoughtful questions?
  • Do they demonstrate a desire to discern what God wants for their life?
  • Do they pray? (If you don’t know, ask!)

There are certainly a lot of kids kicking and screaming all the way to church each week. That’s a whole other problem. But let’s be sure to not assume a happy church-goer is also a Jesus-lover. As the Sunday Assembly has shown us, a lot of people are happy to do church without God.

What kind of “relationship” do your kids have with your church? Have you ever considered if it’s a Jesus-centered relationship? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

For more articles like What Christian Parents Can Learn from Atheist Churches visit Natasha’s website: ChristianMomThoughts.com

How to Get Your Kids to Ask More Questions About Their Faith

By Natasha Crain

The most popular post on my blog is one I wrote last year called, The Number One Sign Your Kids are Just Borrowing Your Faith (and Not Developing Their Own).

That post has been read by more than 80,000 people and shared almost 14,000 times. Clearly it resonated deeply with people.

So what was the sign that your kids are just “borrowing” your faith?

They rarely, if ever, ask questions about it.

Many parents wrote to me and said the post made them realize that they were doing a lot of talking about God…but their kids weren’t doing a lot of talking back.

If your kids aren’t showing much proactive interest in talking about faith, I have a very easy and effective solution to share with you today: Start a questions night.

For the last several months, our family has set aside a night each week in order to simply sit and answer any questions our kids have about faith. They absolutely love it. And I can tell you that they weren’t asking these questions before we started the questions night. They knew they could always ask us questions, but that doesn’t mean they actually did. Setting aside a special time for questions opens the doors of communication in ways that don’t necessarily happen otherwise.

These question nights have facilitated some of the most important conversations we have ever had with our kids.

Here are 9 tips to help you get started with your own!

 

1. You don’t need to know how to answer all your kids’ questions before you launch your questions night.

Whenever I mention to someone that we have a questions night, the first response is always, “I don’t think I could answer my kids’ questions!”…followed by an uncomfortable laugh. If that’s what you’re thinking as you read this, please don’t let that concern stop you from doing it! You will never know how to answer all of your kids’ questions. No matter how prepared you are, they will ask questions you’re not sure how to answer…so there’s no point in waiting.

 

2. When you don’t know an answer, there’s no need to be embarrassed…just use it as a chance to teach your kids how you find answers yourself.

I’ll never forget one of the first questions my daughter asked: Why did Jesus have to be baptized if He wasn’t a sinner?

I have to admit I had never thought about that (if you’re interested in the answer, here’s a nice quick article). I laughed and told her that was a really great question that I hadn’t even thought about. Then I showed her how we could use my study Bible to find an answer.

Here’s the thing to remember: When your kids stump you, they’re proud of themselves…not ashamed of you. Praise them for asking a great question, then use it as an opportunity to demonstrate how to find the answers together. My kids love thinking of questions so good we can’t answer. And we love it too.

 

3. Explicitly tell your kids that any question is OK.

If your kids are old enough that they may have doubts about their faith, they may not open up with those questions by default. Other kids might fear their questions are too basic and won’t want to admit they don’t understand something they feel they should. Be sure to explicitly tell your kids up front that all questions are welcome and you’ll never bedisappointed by or angry about something they want to know.

 

4. If you think your kids might need time to warm up to the idea of asking questions, have some ready to go in advance.

If you’re not sure that your kids will hit the ground running with the new questions night, pick a couple of interesting questions in advance to throw out on their behalf. That way you won’t be sitting around awkwardly staring at each other in silence. If you need some ideas, check out my list of 65 questions every Christian parent should learn how to answer.

 

5. If you have more than one child, “open the floor” to questions but make sure everyone has the chance to ask something.

When we first started doing this, we went around in a circle, having each of our kids ask a question on their turn. The good side of doing it that way is that it encourages everyone to be thinking. The bad side is (1) that it can kill the momentum of the night if one kid is not feeling particularly thoughtful (everyone will be sitting around waiting for them to come up with something), and (2) that if your kids are competitive (as mine are), they’ll spend more time thinking up a good question for their impending turn than listening to the current discussion. We found the whole night flows better when you simply let everyone throw out questions as they have them. Just make sure that if someone didn’t ask something on their own, you give them the chance to.

 

6. Don’t assume young kids don’t have big questions to ask.

For a while, it was only my twins (age 6) asking questions. My 4-year-old rolled around on the floor, seemingly bored by the more “advanced” conversation going on around her. When I asked her each time if she had a question, she gave me an embarrassed look and said, “Nooo!” She was intimidated by the questions from her older siblings.

But one night she finally spoke up and said she had a question.

“Mommy, why did God create soldiers who kill people?”

I was more than surprised that this was a question on my 4-year-old’s mind (I still don’t know where it came from).

If you have young kids, don’t assume they don’t have big questions. Kids as young as 3 or 4 can benefit from doing this! It might take time for them to speak up, but you just might be surprised how much they’re already thinking.

 

7. When your kids ask a question that the Bible doesn’t clearly answer, be honest about that and use it as a key teaching opportunity.

Quite often, I find myself answering a question with “the Bible doesn’t tell us for sure” or “the Bible doesn’t give us all of the details on that.” For example, my kids often ask questions about heaven—what it will be like, what we’ll be doing, etc. I tell them that the Bible doesn’t give us all the details, and that there are many things like that.

But I don’t like to leave it there. I think it’s an important time to teach them about the three points I described in my post, How to Handle Questions God Didn’t Answer: God’s revelation is not broken, we can trust that God has revealed all we need to know, and it should be our life’s work to understand the answers He has given us.

 

8. When your kids ask a question that’s been a struggle for you personally, tell them as much.

This might sound counter-intuitive, but I actually love when the kids ask something that’s a difficulty in my own faith. As for many people, the problem of suffering in the world has always greatly troubled me. When the kids ask questions on this subject, we discuss free will and its implications, but I’m quick to tell them that this has always been hard for me (and many others) to understand. I explain to them that it’s easy to look at those things and see them as evidence against God. I’m very honest about it. But after I acknowledge that, I use it as a perfect opportunity to talk about how much evidence there is for God and why we are Christians despite those difficulties.

Getting real about your own faith challenges gives you credibility with your kids and helps give them a more realistic understanding of what a living, breathing faith looks like.

 

9. If you miss a week…or two…or three…don’t give up on it.

There was a period of about a month when we got busy and didn’t do our questions night. It would have been easy to let it go at that point. But when we told the kids one evening that it was time to do it again, they cheered and all ran into the living room to sit down. They started waving their hands in the air to be the first to ask something. And we literally couldn’t stop the questions from coming.

After just one month.

Again, they could have asked us those questions at any time. They didn’t need a “questions night.” But in the hustle and bustle of life, those questions often don’t naturally arise. So give it a try in your own family. It could completely transform your kids’ spiritual life.

 

Here’s a challenge to all of you as an easy start toward this. Ask your kids today, “What is one of the biggest questions you have about God, Jesus, or the Bible?” Come back and share what they asked and what happened in your conversation!

 

For more articles like: How to Get Your Kids to Ask More Questions About Their Faith visit Natasha’s site at ChristianMomThoughts.com

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