More than once this past school year, my husband and I sat around the table with our kids at dinner and details about their day led to conversations about their faith, how to stand up for it and how to share it. I didn’t always realize it, but we were teaching our kids apologetics, or how to defend their faith. This is an important post by my friend, Janel. I urge you to read it.
It was my senior year in my public high school; World History. We’d been assigned a debate with ties to Christianity in history. A lot of the brightest students from our school were involved. And here’s the brilliant logic that spiraled from my mouth: “So many people have given their lives for Christianity. They wouldn’t give their lives if it wasn’t true.”
Now, I’d actually hijacked this argument from an apologetics book my parents had given me. All of the disciples had been tortured for their faith, it said, and none had recanted on the Resurrection, on their faith in who Jesus was.
But there in class, my slightly altered argument wilted. The teacher swallowed and even rolled her eyes. My team, of course, was hung out to dry in the debate. Looking back, the flaw in logic was as clear as a Windex commercial: Who can tell all the people throughout time who’ve given their lives for lies? Torture, even, does not ensure sudden clarity. Wow, I’ve been giving my life for this terrible cause, and now I’ve seen the error of my ways.
Unfortunately, I stepped into a stereotype of Christians in that instance, which (God’s sovereignty aside, which it never is) affected the testimony I’d worked hard to cultivate among my unbelieving friends. In their eyes, I joined the ranks of the Christians who, for example, insisted Scripture supported the sun was not the center of the galaxy.
It was partly my own weaknesses of logic (I’m generally a feeler, not a thinker!), along with my interaction with a lot of ardent, well-meaning Christians and their sincere children, which caused me to resonate with the words of Rosaria Butterfield. Her testimony alone compels me: She is a former Syracuse University literature professor and former lesbian, who conveys a powerful testimony of her conversion to Christianity. Her husband is a Reformed Presbyterian minister, and she is a homeschooling mother. Ms. Butterfield writes honestly in The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert,
Christians always seemed like bad thinkers to me. It seemed that they could maintain their worldview only because they were sheltered from the world’s real problems, like the material structures of poverty and violence and racism. Christians always seemed like bad readers to me, too. They appeared to use the Bible in a way the Marxists would call “vulgar”—that is, common, or, in order to bring the Bible into a conversation to stop the conversation, not to deepen it.
Don’t get me wrong; I know a lot of Christians who school their children commendably in apologetics. But this is different from apologetics: This is logical reasoning. It is the God-glorifying art of thinking, not simply understanding the three most compelling arguments against evolution. Actually, it may look like playing the devil’s advocate a bit with the apologetics textbook, so your children can learn how the world thinks—and learn to let their faith sink as deep as any problem.
If all truth is indeed God’s, then we needn’t fear grappling with any honest question.
In fact, the ability to reason well may be the very weapon that protects our children and their own faith. Picture a believing young adult enrolling in a state university and possessing zero rebuttal for that thoughtful, precise, liberal professor, or that pregnant or homosexual friend weeping in her dorm room. Instead, I have a vision of gradually, intentionally inoculating my kids with pressing questions and thoughtful conversations about what they read and watch and hear; exposing them to disconcerting current events and challenging people; and honest talks about some of the most critical ethical issues we’re facing as parents. I think of Hebrews 5:14: But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. I want to demonstrate over and over and over that God and His Word are an anchor as deep as our culture’s most penetrating questions.
Tim Kimmel, author of Why Christian Kids Rebel: Trading Heartache for Hope, writes poignantly,
The mainline church movement was blindsided…and didn’t offer thoughtful responses to all that was going on around it. To many young kids in the midst of that tumultuous decade, the church came across as irrelevant and out-of-step with where the world was heading.
I’m not advocating wisdom by the world’s standards, which God clearly says pales in comparison to His wisdom. Obviously you can still be walking vibrantly with the Lord without being well-read; I live in Africa, where so many are vastly undereducated, but their relationship with God still thrives through immense hardship. But this is about engaging our culture—and our own Western-thought-trained faith. This is our Mars Hill, where we apply faith to every disturbing, critical aspect and question of life.
The Cross is going to be offensive. But with God as the author of all logic, my reasoning doesn’t have to be. It means that we, having an intimate relationship with the Truth and the Life, present Him in a way that demonstrates the fullness of His relevance, compassion, freedom, and the orderly reasoning He created.
What does this look like? Well—for our family:
- not shying away from uncomfortable conversations, but using them as opportunities for a Scripturally-reasoned worldview (see [Talking about] Sex Begins in the Kitchen, 5 Ways To Change America from the Dinner Table, and 7 Habits of Parents whose Kids Solve Problems for a few ideas and key principles).
- our kids reading books on thinking and argument—like The Thinking Toolbox and The Fallacy Detective; I’m a homeschooler, so I’m looking to get into a writing series that teaches kids solid thinking in their writing this year. Higher-order thinking is helpful in every occupation.
- helping our kids understand the “heart” questions nestled inside the questions of the mind. Can our teenagers understand the deep fears and concerns of a girl wanting an abortion? Have they ever encountered racism, homosexuality, and poverty up close and personal? Do they understand how feminism, for all its weaknesses, has changed the world for the better for our daughters? (Check out 8 Ways to Teach Our Kids to Say “Yes” to Discernment…and “No” to Judging Others.)
- without exasperating our kids, asking gentle, well-placed questions when their logic is less-than-holistic. It means asking a lot of good “why” and “what do you think about…?” questions.
- continuing to read material that holds me personally accountable to understand the hearts of those in our culture, and engage their most deeply-held beliefs. I have really enjoyed Tim Keller’s Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism, which helps just as much in the coffee shop or the blogosphere as it would the pulpit.
Our kids can be the generation who courageously demonstrate that Christianity and God’s Word are not only plausible, but more adequate than any empty philosophy. C’mon with me: Let’s raise kids who love God with all their minds.