The Real Test

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Are you smart enough to talk about God with a preschooler?

I happen to have many friends and acquaintances who are interested in apologetics (being able to explain the Christian faith). We are an interesting crew, ranging from folks with highly advanced Ph.D’s to schmoes like me, and we are keen on being able to put our faith into words. We want people to understand that belief in God and His Son, Jesus Christ, is not a blind leap into an uninformed, unintelligent abyss, but a reasonable belief grounded in reason and evidence.

This desire for understanding puts us in the path of people who don’t always agree with our view of the world. In fact, many apologists actually seek out those with the toughest questions, the most skeptical of the skeptics. They do this not as a fool’s errand, but as an act of worship and charity; worship, because they want to tell of their glorious God, and charity, because they want their skeptical friends to hear the truth of the Gospel. And it is exactly encounters like those that keeps my apologist friends forever reading, researching, writing, honing their understanding of God’s universe and will.

We seek, to the best of our ability, to make God known.

All of this is well and good, but if we’re not careful we can get into a rut. To put it plainly, we cheat. We tend to think that the deep questions of the faith come from mature minds, from people who are able to critically assess the universe in which they live. So we build our answers around that presumption, importing large words and sophisticated sounding terms that are meant to impart wisdom as well as create the impression that we know of which we speak. We arm ourselves for adults and feel like we have things mastered.

But have you ever tried apologetics with a not-quite-four year old?

Now THAT is a test. Perhaps the real test of whether or not you truly understand what you believe.

Because a four year old doesn’t have the intellectual or moral hang ups of an adult. They don’t have the baggage of past sins, the experience of past hurts, or any other number of objections that make faith in God difficult. A four year old is just the opposite: so gloriously free of preconceptions that their questions are truly a search for knowledge.

You don’t think about this when you’re doing apologetics with adults. You assume there’s a knowledge base of some sort, and you go from there. With kids, it’s a blank page. And it’s hard. You never realize just how silly you can sound until you try out a fancy apologetic argument on a preschooler.

It sounds about as stupid as trying to explain superheroes. In your mind it all makes sense, but you can see on the kid’s face that what you’re selling, they ain’t buying.

And when a kid doesn’t get a concept, when they truly don’t understand – but want to – they ask the question that every parent dreads hearing, but every apologist thinks they’re prepared for: why?

Why can’t we see God?

Why does God live in heaven?

Why did Jesus have to die?

Why is there sin?

Why did my grandmother get sick?

Why do some people get baptized?

Why do you pray?

Why do some prayers not get answered?

Not all of a preschoolers questions are whys, though. You get a lot of interesting whats as well: what will heaven look like? What does Jesus do all day? What if God has stinky feet? What happens if we don’t love God?

And don’t forget the wheres, whens and hows.

It is astounding how quickly the philosophy in your head falls apart in a four year old’s hands, how guilty you can be of not thinking deeply enough so a preschooler can understand.

When Jesus said it takes the faith of a child to come to God, I don’t think he meant simple-minded in the sense we think of. I think he meant it in the sense that a child seeks genuine answers with genuine awe. As adults, we just seek answers that will shut somebody up, end the argument, get us through the day. It’s a utilitarian belief rather than a sincere one. That’s a broad statement to make, but I don’t think it’s unfair.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because both of my children have been asking some profound questions, but especially my son. He wants so badly to understand things that he can turn a five minute car ride into an interrogatory hell. He asks a million questions, often repeating the same ones, not because he’s not listening, but precisely because he is. And it pushes me to constantly reframe my answers, to drill down, distill, cut away the fluff that adults will allow until I get to the meat that he’s craving.

I’lll stand on a stage and face an audience full of adults any day. And they’ll probably think I’m smarter than my son does.

So for all you apologists out there who think you have the answers down pat, may I issue you a helpful challenge, one meant to hone your own thinking and help make you sharper for the adults you face?

Sometime in the next month or so, volunteer to teach your church’s preschool class, or give the children’s church sermon.

You’ll be amazed at how much the kids can teach you.

2 thoughts on “The Real Test

  1. Well, I don’t have any kind of a degree but God leads me to places to read in the Bible and when I ask for His wisdom He gives it to me and guides my words. I am learning more in my walk with Jesus that I can’t speak, write, or do anything good without Him and He alone guides me to tell people about Him regardless if they agree or disagree. Yet, we are to give our reasons to show why we believe this but it is up to God after we tell them. I, too once disbelieved even though I went to church as a kid. I was spiritually discerned but still others told me things and it still didn’t make sense until I met Jesus during the most troubling times of my life and on March 7, 2008 the Spirit of God showed me clearly in my heart what was true of His Word in and immediately I said yes to Jesus as my Lord and Savior. God is guiding me to share these words in John 6: 60-71 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.
    God wants me to tell you that once we speak with truth in love there is nothing left to say or do. The rest is up to God. In His timing will they accept Him and we may never know if they will accept it later. Prayerfully consider these words in your heart as you speak of the Word of God with God’s Truth in love as it says in John 6:65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”
    We are to show God’s love and tell them why we believe with careful regard to what Jesus said. We cannot prove to anyone unless the Father enables them to go to Jesus. We can however tell them the proof we have about God, but it will not ultimately prove it unless God enables them to see His Truth. My heart was able to see Jesus when before I couldn’t see Him. Yes, tell them why, but the rest is up to God and in His timing whether they will or won’t.

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  2. Also, the mind alone can’t know the Truth of God because we are so limited and when we are spiritually discerned we cannot accept the Truth of God. We do need to give an account to why we believe, however the heart will know what the mind is limited to know because when we are saved by the Grace of God, our hearts are transformed by the Holy Spirit which searches all things and knows what we ourselves can’t possibly know. I am definitely not smart to tell anyone at any age about God and answer questions except when I pray in the name of Jesus to answer my 4 year old’s questions that she asks also. Satan wants me to feel guilty if someone doesn’t believe or understand what I am saying about God, but then the Holy Spirit of God shows me in my heart that all I am to do is tell of how God lives in my heart and whatever else in the Bible. Those who are apologetics can tell a lot more, but I tell whatever God guides me to tell about Him and then the rest is up to Him. Sorry for this being so long, but God was urging me to write these things. I hope I didn’t offend or upset anyone. I am sure that God has given those who are apologetics more gifts for this, I am just saying what God tells me to others including my children.

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