Dr. Josh Mulvihill
You have helped train your children or grandchildren in the Christian faith. They are familiar with key Bible characters and stories, and they have even memorized Scripture passages. You’ve explained the gospel. They know that Jesus died on the cross for their sins and rose again. They have even had some significant experiences that have profoundly shaped them. So they should be safe, right?
What will they do when someone makes a claim and provides “evidence” that the Resurrection never happened? Or that the Bible is full of errors? Or that Christianity is guilty of horrible evils in history? Suddenly, “because mom or dad, or grandma or grandpa said so” doesn’t work. Even as early as grade school, children hear other voices that seek to undermine everything that you and other spiritual authorities taught them.
Young people will not remain faithful to a faith they do not understand and cannot defend. In a post-Christian culture, it is more critical than ever for young people to be prepared to defend themselves from attacks on their faith. They need to know what they believe and why they believe it. Throughout church history, this has been known as apologetics. Apologetics is the defense of the Christian faith. Peter states that Christians are to be prepared “to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15). A portion of Paul’s ministry included a defense of the gospel: “I am appointed for a defense of the gospel” (Phil. 1:16). Apologists are individuals who defend Christian beliefs and practices against attacks, provide arguments for the truthfulness of Christianity over other worldviews, and refute unbiblical ideas or theories. The goal of apologetics is to persuade belief by presenting a rational basis for Christianity, to defend the truth by answering questions or the objections of unbelief, and to reveal the foolishness of false ideas, so they do not capture our hearts and minds.
Apologetics is an essential aspect of your discipleship ministry to your children or grandchildren and can be divided into the following four categories:
Prove. Develop a case for Christianity utilizing biblical, scientific, historical, archeological, and personal testimony to establish the truthfulness of the Christian worldview. Show that Christianity is true, credible, reliable, and aligns with the real world.
Defend. In every generation, there are many attacks against Christianity. Children need to be introduced to these distorted ideas, learn to test them against God’s Word and be able to identify truth from error. The two primary areas of attack: the Son of God and the Word of God.
Refute. Compare and contrast with other religions and belief systems to verify the Christian faith and dismantle false and erroneous views. Refute arguments made in support of different beliefs by showing they are unreliable, irrational, unverifiable, or simply do not make sense with what we see in real life.
Persuade. Work to clarify biblical truths, answer objections, address criticisms, provide answers, and eliminate any intellectual difficulties that stand in the way of coming to faith in Christ. The goal is to encourage alignment with God’s Word, apply the truth of God’s Word to life, and establish a lifelong commitment to the gospel. Apologetics is a partner of evangelism where we seek to convince children to accept truth claims about Christianity and trust Christ. Give your child every reason possible to embrace the Christian faith and reject counterfeit beliefs.
Seven Tips to Help Children Understand and Defend Their Faith:
Utilize questions to grow the faith of future generations. Your goal is twofold: become an askable parent or grandparent and become skilled at the art of asking good questions. Use questions to create serious spiritual dialogue, encourage critical thinking, and discover what children believe.
Take objections from a child seriously. Do not mock an objection or dismiss a question. Instead, spend as much time and energy as needed to fully explore a topic with a child.
Anticipate attacks and arguments that a child will face in the teen and adult years. For example, after teaching a biblical truth to a child or grandchild, present the faulty argument, prove why it is false, give reading material that establishes the truth, and continue to point out the erroneous arguments through conversations over the years.
Build an apologetics library for each child. These suggested books make great gifts: Cold-Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace, Tactics by Gregory Koukl, Answers Vol. 1-4 by Answers in Genesis, Quick Answers to Social Questions by Bryan Osborne, Demolishing Supposed Bible Contradictions by Ken Ham, Debunking Evolution by Daniel Biddle, True For You But Not For Me by Paul Copan, and The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel.
Expose children to the truth in real-life experiences. For example, allow older children to see a live ultrasound, so they learn the horrors of abortion, or visit the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, to teach the truth of creation and then visit a natural history museum to show the error of evolution.
Look for examples of false beliefs or erroneous messages in movies, music, books, and television. Point them out, ask questions, and discuss why something is problematic. Always point back to Scripture so that it is not your opinion but based on the authority of God’s Word.
Utilize the truth method. The truth method is intended to teach a biblical truth, identify a message from the world, and analyze it to determine the good and reject the bad using five steps:
Teach a biblical truth through instruction and discussion. What biblical truths do your children and grandchildren need to be taught to stand firm in their faith?
Recognize the idea or concept the world is communicating. What lies or half-truths threaten their faith today?
Understand the claim by analyzing it. What is actually being said?
Test the idea according to the Bible. What does the Bible say about the topic?
Hold fast to what is good, and reject what is bad. What should be rejected and why?
Rise up, parents and grandparents! We are in a battle for the hearts and minds of our children and grandchildren. The battle of ideas is real, and it’s taking no prisoners. Helping a child detect errors and discern truth in the age of fake news, social media, and conspiracy theories is critical, and you are uniquely positioned for such a time as this.
Dr. Josh Mulvihill is the Executive Director of Church and Family Ministry at Renewanation. He served as a pastor for nearly 20 years, serves on the board of Awana, and helps to provide leadership to the Christian Grandparent Network. He holds a Ph.D. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of Biblical Grandparenting, Preparing Children for Marriage, and Biblical Worldview. Josh is married to Jen, and they have five children. Josh blogs at GospelShapedFamily.com.