POST UPDATE (MARCH 2016): Since the time I wrote this post over two years ago, I have had the wonderful opportunity to write a book answering 40 tough but important questions like these, specifically to help parents! Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith clearly and concisely answers 40 questions that parents most need to discuss with their kids in our increasingly secular world. It’s available from your local Barnes & Noble and Christian retailers, as well as online at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and christianbook.com. If you need help with the topic in this blog post (how to explain the evidence for God’s existence), you’ll find it in Chapter 1!
As I’ve written about before, we have a family worship time each night before the kids go to bed. Lately, these worship times have not been meeting my standards, to say the least.
I don’t know what it is, but suddenly my soon-to-be 5-year-old twins find it necessary to stand on their heads and/or attempt handstands while my husband and I are offering what they should understand to be priceless spiritual wisdom.
I finally snapped a couple of nights ago.
“Guys, it’s not like God can’t see you right now. He sees you being disrespectful and not obeying your parents. He knows all you are doing and thinking.”
Well, that’s true, but I immediately felt lame for saying it. It made God sound like a cosmic policeman or Santa who “knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.”
The nature of my message visibly impacted Nathan. He slowly sat down, carefully pondering my creepy warning.
“Mommy, we can’t SEE God. How do you KNOW He is watching us?”
While Nathan’s question was specifically in response to the notion of God seeing us when we can’t see Him, it really pointed to a much larger question looming on the horizon: If we can’t see God, how do we even know He exists?
This question simply couldn’t be more important as a foundation for everything else in Christianity (or more well-timed for purposes of blog topics, given my recent posts on Apologetics).
A friend of mine who has an advanced degree in Apologetics mentioned to me once that one of the best things parents can start doing with small children is explicitly give them a worldview that reality doesn’t only encompass what we can see and touch (the physical world). For example, most everyone accepts the reality of things like emotions, beauty and thoughts, but they don’t physically exist.
What he said made sense to me at the time, but I didn’t have a full appreciation for how deeply important his insight was until I learned more about the current discussions on faith and science – discussions which are turning so many people away from Christianity.
In most scientific circles, it’s believed that science and religion are highly incompatible. Many, if not most, scientists believe that the scientific method is the only way to determine truth and the nature of reality. This is called “methodological naturalism.” It means that scientists search for natural causes of all natural phenomena and rule out supernatural causes (i.e., God), regardless of whether or not supernatural causes would best explain natural phenomena – such as the creation of mankind.
As my friend suggested, one key starting point for apologetics with kids of any age is to explicitly paint for them a worldview that reality encompasses more than the natural world explored by our senses. Here are two key components of that message, as summarized for my 5-year-olds:
1. Just because you can’t see or (audibly) hear God doesn’t mean He isn’t real.
There are many things that are real that we can’t actually see. We can’t always see air, for example, but we know it’s real.
Discuss examples of things you and your kids can think of that you can’t see but know to be real. Key point: We can’t determine what is real simply by what we can immediately detect with our five senses. In order to find out if something is real, we need to look for “evidence” (clues).
2. Although we can’t see or (audibly) hear God, we have much evidence of Him from what we CAN see.
While we can’t see the air around us, if you blow on my arm, I can feel the air. That is “evidence” (a clue) that air exists even when we can’t see it.
God never asks us to just guess that He exists! Even though we can’t see Him directly, He’s left us much evidence that we CAN see so we can know He’s real. For example, He’s left us clues in how he created our world, how we are all born with a sense of what is right and wrong, in miracles that Jesus did to prove He was God, and, most importantly, in bringing Jesus back to life after He died – something that hundreds of people got to see! Jesus’ life and resurrection were amazing “clues” God left us so we can know He’s real.
Discuss the clues God leaves us today when we have a relationship with Him. Give examples of how you’ve seen God work in your own life.
In coming posts, I’ll elaborate on each of these two points to provide fuller conversation points for discussion.
Have you discussed the “evidence” for God with your kids? What kinds of evidence have you talked about?