In my next post, I’ll be returning to the 65 Questions Every Christian Parent Needs to Learn to Answer series. But I wanted to spend some time today to give you a “case study” that demonstrates the importance of getting serious about spiritually preparing our kids for the world.
It comes from a comment I received recently on my post, 8 Reasons Why Kids Don’t Want to Go to Church, from someone who grew up in church but turned away from Christianity as an adult. I decided not to publish it as a comment on that post because I wanted to address it here without the commenter’s name attached.
This person’s comment includes several points of popular rationale for leaving Christianity. It’s (unfortunately) an excellent example of the worldview competing for your child’s heart and mind.
Below is the person’s comment, with my responses to you, as a Christian parent, in red italics.
Doubting the existence of god (especially the biblical god) should be number one on the list, not number seven. [He is referring to the list of 8 Reasons Kids Don't Want to Go to Church.] Within that category might include a deistic belief in an unknowable god or in a god that doesn’t resemble a personal monotheistic god such as a “cosmic consciousness” held by branches of Buddhism. The point is Christianity is but one of vast number of beliefs and god concepts. [Yes, Christianity is one of a vast number of beliefs and "god concepts." So is atheism. The number of competing ideas says nothing about their relative truth. Our kids need to not only be aware of the many religions/worldviews in existence today, but how they relate to Christianity, and why they logically can't all be true.]
We no longer live in closed monotheistic Christian cocoons. Multiculturalism and the information age expose us to a hugely diverse range of ideas and beliefs; many in stark opposition to Christian doctrine. [Well said! If you're a Christian parent, please read these two sentences over and over and over. If you think it's enough to simply teach your kids the core beliefs of Christianity without worrying about how to appropriately defend those beliefs (apologetics), please take what he is saying to heart. It's our responsibility to know the tough questions being asked and to proactively engage our kids in discussing answers from a Christian worldview.]
It is a battle ground of ideas and Christianity is not faring so well. [Indeed it is a battleground of ideas. And, in some respects, I agree with his assessment that Christianity isn't always faring well – not because Christianity itself doesn't fare well against competing ideas, but because many Christians are not prepared to engage in the battle on Christianity's behalf. When we aren't prepared to answer tough questions – for example, why exactly we believe that the resurrection was a historical event that provides reasonable evidence for a belief in Jesus as God – we are irresponsibly adding to the secular perception that Christianity does not "fare well" compared to other worldviews.]
I was one of those doubting skeptical kids and I still am twenty years later. The turning point for me was after I read the bible followed up by a history of religion course. [Last year, I interviewed a secular world religion teacher and wrote a post called, "Will a World Religion Class Shake Your Kids' Faith?" This is a perfect example of someone whose faith was shaken by being exposed to non-Christian ideas for the first time. Take the time to check out that post – it's very eye-opening.] I never quite realized just how absurd and nonsensical Christian claims were until I read the bible. [It's critical that our kids understand the Bible IS weird/contrary to our everyday experience. Check out my posts, "Make Sure Your Kids Know the Bible is Weird Part 1 and Part 2". If you don't study the Bible with your kids, they simply won't be prepared to deal with its apparent oddities when they eventually encounter them on their own. Barna Group research shows that less than 10% of all Christian families read the Bible together. This is an enormous problem for our ability to raise kids who are prepared to faithfully deal with biblical challenges.] Its stories and claims for miracles defy science, reason and believability. [The definition of a miracle is something outside of the explanation of natural laws. Be sure to read my recent post, "What Exactly is a Biblical Miracle?" for some key points your kids need to understand. As for "reason and believability," this is the most common attack on Christianity today – that Christianity is opposed to reason. This is simply a false dichotomy, and one that our kids need to learn to think critically about. There is significant evidence for God's existence, the resurrection of Jesus and the reliability of the Bible. Our kids need to understand that Christians believe because of the evidence, NOT in spite of it. We, as parents, then need to be educated on – you guessed it – apologetics to teach them that evidence.]
Perhaps the greatest absurdity of all is Christian scape goat theology that holds that the torture and murder of an innocent redeems the guilty, as if guilt is somehow transferable characteristic. [This is a good example of the emotional appeals to "common sense" that I wrote about in my guest post, "Preparing Kids to Encounter Atheism Online." In the way it's phrased, it seems pretty crazy. But appealing to our emotional reaction says nothing about whether or not God indeed worked that way through Jesus. We need to teach our kids how to identify emotional appeals and separate the search for truth based on evidence from the search for truth based on what makes personal sense to us.] And worse yet is the obscene notion held by fundamentalists that we are a fallen, inherently wicked species, evil by our nature and born guilty… guilty of being less than perfect; less perfect than a god. [Atheists commonly find the Christian notion of a sin nature repugnant. The question of whether we are fundamentally "good" or "bad" is one that deserves much attention with our kids. Of course, if an atheist says he/she believes people are fundamentally good, it begs the question of where the person is getting their standard of good/bad from. Without a moral law giver, that's a tough one to answer.]
The study of ancient religions reveals strong similarities dating back to the oldest of them, some much older than Christianity. Parallels between stories in the bible and that of earlier Pagan, Babylonian and Greek mythologies are remarkably alike almost to the point of plagiarism. The point for point similarities are so great it convincingly demonstrates that Christianity has drawn a great deal of its content from other religions. [It's becoming more and more common to hear people make these claims. J Warner Wallace has written several excellent articles about the topic. Check out "Why the Pre-Jesus Mythologies Fail to Prove Jesus is a Myth" as a starting point.]
Everyone has their own reasons for abandoning their formative faith. But a renewed interest in skepticism and independent critical thinking have set the stage for growing numbers of young atheists. [I'm thrilled that independent critical thinking is part of the mental environment today. No one needs a blind faith. But our kids need to understand that critical thinking is a skill set, not an antithesis to faith. There are Christians who are critical thinkers, and Christians who are not. There are atheists who are critical thinkers, and atheists who are not. One of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is an understanding of how to think critically about faith. Critical thinking is something to be embraced, not feared.]
In the UK stats show that 60% of teens and young adults call themselves atheist, up 15% since 1995. While the number of young atheists in the US is considerably less the growth rate of atheism is still high. Higher than for any religion in the industrialized world. The real question for a Christian is can your belief system prevail on the playing field of ideas. My answer is no, at least not any more. [I find the ending of this comment to be very sad. There are many robust answers to intellectual questions from a Christian worldview. It seems that this person did not grow up engaging in these tougher questions of faith, however. The result is a belief that Christianity can't hold its own. What an unfortunate conclusion. We can't make our kids Christians, but we owe it to them to give them a robust spiritual training so they're ready for the battle today. Our kids need spiritual armor more than ever. How much are you giving them?]
Do any of these perceptions of Christianity surprise you? Which do you hear or see most regularly? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
As a side note to atheists who may come across this post, I don’t have the time to engage in a debate over each of the points made here. This person’s comment was like a broad sweep across topics that cover many books, and we’re not going to resolve anything in blog post comments back and forth. Because I don’t have the time to engage in extended discussion, I moderate all comments and won’t publish anything that is simply seeking antagonistic debate.