I teach apologetics at a seminary partly because of my kids. I want them to grow up in a world where belief in God is viewed as plausible and desirable. Unfortunately, there are loud voices—Internet atheists, new atheists, new new atheists—who think belief in God is on the same level as belief in fairies, leprechauns, and flying spaghetti monsters. And there are other voices—fideists, anti-intellectualists, naïve believers—who think evidence for God exists as much as evidence exists for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Both views are extremes, and both are mistaken.
Faith in God is a reasonable faith. I want my kids to see that Christianity is true to the way things are—that it corresponds to reality. I want them to see Christianity as good and beautiful too—that Jesus and the Gospel satisfy their longings in a way that nothing else can. I want them to know what they believe and why they believe it. I want them to love the right things in the right way. In short, I want to teach my kids apologetics. In this post, I share three ways my wife and I taught our kids apologetics without them knowing it.
First, intentionally ask questions around the dinner table. With four kids, soccer practice, school projects, youth group, and more, dinnertime has become an important vehicle for bringing the family together, celebrating the day, and enjoying each other’s company. It is also a time to ask questions that provoke thoughtful discussion about God. We want our kids to see God behind all that He has made. A simple question is, “How have you experienced God’s fingerprint in your life today?” While our kids often struggle to answer, it has taught them (we hope) to be more attentive to the divine in the midst of the mundane. A common phrase in our family is, “Look at how creative God is,” (looking at a sunset, a landscape, or an animal). We are trying to poke and prod them to see the world in its proper light: everything is sacred. Everything is created. The world is enchanted. These questions and observations teach them to look for clues that point to God.
Second, develop family traditions that embody important truths of the faith. Many holidays provide natural opportunities to teach apologetics to our children. Each year for advent, we light a candle, read the Gospels, sing Christmas hymns, and pray for others. Over the years, these traditions have prompted many questions: Why did Jesus come to the earth? How can God become man? At Easter, our family makes Resurrection cookies as we read the crucifixion story. As the cookies are placed in the oven (the tomb) guarded by green and grey soldiers and sealed shut with duct tape, our kids ask questions like: What is a miracle? Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Why did Jesus have to die? How did Jesus get out of the heavily guarded tomb? (Duct tape is really hard to break after all.) At Thanksgiving, as we share a meal with others, our kids, prompted by the annual ritual of over-eating, ask the following probing questions: Who were the original Pilgrims giving thanks to? What does it mean to say God is our provider?
Finally, encourage your kids to read stories. Even when our first child was in Ethel’s womb, we read to him. Every night for the past 16 years, we’ve read to our kids. Every day ends with them reading a book. Our kids love stories. And this is intentional. The Gospel is a story—the best possible story—and every good story points to God’s story. Reading stories helps our kids see the world, as C.S. Lewis put it, through a thousand different eyes. They learn what it is like to be South African (Cry, The Beloved Country), a slave (Uncle Tom’s Cabin), a hero on a quest (The Odyssey), an intelligent boy thrust into manhood (Carry On, Mr. Bowditch), part of an epic battle (The Lord of the Rings), and so much more. Reading novels, biographies, and now … wait for it … theology and apologetics developed in our kids, without their realizing it, a thirst for truth, goodness and beauty.
What are some of the ways you taught your kids apologetics?