17 Comments

“Daddy, I Don’t Think God is Real!”

I had what was perhaps the most interesting theological conversation I’ve ever had last night, and it was with my seven year old son. It started with overhearing him tell his younger brother that they had to be “normal” by obeying us parents and to quit “acting up.” When I asked what he meant by “normal” my son explained that being obedient was normal, disobedience was not. I told him that, while we were teaching he and his brother to be obedient, to do so all day every day was not possible. In fact, what is normal is to be disobedient. That was why we spend time teaching them about Jesus Christ. That only by submitting to Him, in repentance and faith, would God make us a new creation that desires to obey Him. That was when the conversation got interesting. My seven year old son looked at me and said, “I don’t know if I believe in God, I think He’s made up.”

Like many parents would understandably feel at that point, there was a moment of panic that set in. “I have a seven year old atheist!!” ran through my mind. But what followed was a series of questions from my wife and I that patiently and lovingly asked why he felt that way and trying to explain, biblically why we could believe God was real and why we could trust his promises. In the end, this conversation only lasted about fifteen minutes and, while we could see his young mind was still trying to process what we said, we could tell he was really considering it. It was perhaps my proudest moment as a father. Not because I skillfully answered his questions, trust me, I’m not that smart. But because my son, at seven years old was wrestling with the hard questions of faith and was seeking genuine answers. He wasn’t just blindly accepting what mom and dad said, he wanted real life explanations that made sense. And it was the blessing of God to allow my wife and I to be the ones to explain it to him.

Now there is a very real reason why I have relayed this touching family moment. It was only a few months ago that I had picked my kids up in Sunday School one day. As I entered the class, I overheard the teachers leading the children through a “sinner’s prayer” and welcoming them to the Christian family. While this post is not intended to decry Sunday Schools in general, I remember the sense of genuine concern I had over this. Christians are not made because someone lead another in a prayer or had them sign a card. People become Christians because they have been humbled by the understanding of their wretched sinfulness and, in repentance and faith, turn to the only possible means of salvation, Jesus Christ. While a later conversation with the Sunday School teacher addressed this issue, I could not help but think of it again last night.

In our current evangelical culture, my kids would have been declared saved and no one would have ever been allowed to question that. Never mind we are repeatedly called in Scripture to examine ourselves and see if we are in the faith. Never mind the parable of the sowers which describes what false converts look like. None of those things are considered, only that they said the sinners prayer. Yet, last night in my son, I saw the doubts and questions often used by many to deny the existence of God. While this is not proof of a definitive lack of salvation, neither should it ignored as a possible indication he has not yet been made new. In most churches and Sunday Schools today, these serious and reasonable questions go unanswered. Many times, churches erroneously assume young kids simply can’t understand these big concepts. They teach them Bible stories and figure that is enough. But even well meaning churches, who teach solid biblical truths, only have a couple hours per week to teach the answers these kids desperately need. A couple hours against a full week of secular humanist onslaught is often simply not enough.

So what is the answer? In a word, us. We parents are the ones God has assigned over our children. He has given the responsibility and the authority to raise them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. It our duty, not our option, to be the primary source of biblical instruction in their lives. It is we, not school, not friends, and certainly not television, that should be forming the worldview that they will one day live by. And that worldview should be grounded solely in the good news of the gospel. That means we, as parents, must be prepared to answer some of the hardest questions we will ever encounter. That means we need to know our Bibles. That means we need to understand at least a basic level of apologetics. It means we have to understand the difference between the unbiblical concepts of evolution and the Bible’s teaching on Creation. It means we cannot be lazy. It means we have to work hard. It means giving up our time and our pursuits so that we can train up our children to love the Lord and commit their lives to Him.

Some may see this as an overwhelming task. They may think, “I’m just not smart enough,” or “I’m not equipped to teach like that.” If you have children, God has equipped you to teach. The Bible never attempts to persuade us that teaching our kids might be a good idea. It commands us to. And if you have commanded, you have been equipped. If you don’t feel intellectually capable, change it. The resources out there to provide Christians with this ability are numerous. Ministries such as Answers in Genesis and CARM exist for the express purpose of providing apologetics training. Numerous sound biblical preachers such as John MacArthur, R. C. Sproul, and Voddie Baucham have websites and audio messages that can assist you as you study the bible. But the single most important things you can do are pray, read your bible and spend time with your kids talking about the things of God.

Truly we parents have no greater ministry than the training up of our children to fear and love the Lord. This is not anyone else’s responsibility, it is ours. Let us not abdicate it to anyone or anything else. Oh, and the second proudest moment of being a parent happened to me this morning. My son came up to me and said, “Now I know God exists, because if he didn’t I wouldn’t be here.” Excuse me, I think I have some grit in my eyes I need to wipe away, because I can’t explain these tears any other way.

About Chris Hohnholz

Born again believer in Jesus Christ • Co-Host, Producer, All Around Gofer Monkey at Cross Encounters Radio

17 comments on ““Daddy, I Don’t Think God is Real!”

  1. Amen, my brother! It brings me – an empty nester who blew many opportunities – much joy to see younger men and women realize their joyful yet trepidatious duty before God to teach them about themselves (sinful creatures in rebellion against Holy God) and God (creator and ruler over all, holy and gracious toward those He has called).

    While we must not accept all any man tells us, my wife and recently found Paul Tripp’s seminar on parenting very helpful: http://www.paultrippministries.com/Store_ProductDetail.aspx?pid=I3195D257591BFI35Bgh

    And these three books are, IMO, the best for parenting and child rearing:
    http://shop.churchandfamilyreformation.org/Family-Driven-Faith-Paperback-w-Study-Questions-BKFDFPVB.htm

    http://shop.churchandfamilyreformation.org/The-Faithful-Parent-BKFPMPSS.htm

    http://shop.churchandfamilyreformation.org/Shepherding-A-Childs-Heart-BKSACHTRIPP.htm

    Because we all need some encouragement and conviction.

    Press on GoForth! Trust God – He will save His elect; and He has commanded fathers to teach their children about Him.

  2. You have touched upon a topic I am **truly** passionate about (maybe overly so…or is that even possible?). Thank you for your words, GoForth…how true and needed-to-be-heard! I have touched uoon it, as well, on my blog. Some may find it edifying…

    http://countryblossom.blogspot.com/2011/07/its-youa-letter-to-christian-parents.html

    and to the mothers, specifically:
    http://countryblossom.blogspot.com/2011/07/mothers-love.html

    (If it is rude to leave those two links, please feel free to delete them…the last thing I would ever hope to be is rude! Again, this is just a passion of my heart and I do my best to encourage others in their roles as parents!)

    Kindly,
    Katy :)

  3. Wonderful, brother, and praise the Lord for the precious gift of parenting. As a father who is also resolved to raise his family as God has ordained, I share in your joy. My oldest is still only 2.5 years old, but we are still able to engage in family worship and it is such a blessing. She is learning “Nothing but the Blood”, and it melts my heart when she sings it on her own accord. You probably are already familiar with these resources, but I posted something last week you may find helpful (or any other reader): http://airocross.com/2011/12/01/parental-resource-recommendations/ Also, check out Julius’ link in the comment box as it is loaded with great family and parenting resources.

    It’s encouraging to see other fathers out there seeking to honor Christ through raising our families to love and fear the Lord – thanks so much for posting!

  4. Great news! Praise God for your faithfulness. He rewards those who diligently seek Him.

  5. Your son was me at 7 years old. During a family devotions time I asked with tears “But how do we know this is real?” I don’t remember what my parents said to me that day, but in His mercy, within a year, God saved me soundly. I am now an empty-nester of two God-fearing children (who never did ask that question to my knowledge).

    Thank you for a very good article. It just hit home for me. A reminder for us to not forsake our responsibility as parents to be their primary teachers of the Word always.

  6. what a great encouragement for me to keep pressing on with my two girls. it does take time, effort, patience, and sacrifice……something that today’s fast and entitled society could care less about.
    there are times when i think my girls aren’t understanding what i’m saying, but then, just like you shared, there are the moments that bring me to joyful tears because i realize they do. that gives me just another reason to praise my awesome Lord. to Him be the glory.

  7. I thank God for you bro, the best place to have our children question the existence of God is in our homes, where we can then explain lovingly why we KNOW God exists, and by having our children know they can ask us the ‘hard’ questions and receive reasoned and logical replies helps us to know where they stand and that it is normal to question God’s existence sometime in our walk with Him. It’s better for our children to ask us questions the sooner the better, than asking their friends and for us as parents to be prepared to give an answer for the REASON(s) we believe and the Hope we have. Glad you didn’t let doubt grow and nipped it in the bud. Garrick asked similar questions around that age and it was a few years later that he repented and wanted to be baptized. I think you handled it perfectly and I pray and hope many who still think ‘just having someone say the ”sinner’s prayer” is all that is needed see the error of this unbiblical approach (i say it is no different than rubbing a lamp and thinking a genie will answer your desires). May we never falsely inoculate anyone with a false assurance, let them dwell upon the Fear of the Lord and once humbled then they can cry out to God for mercy of which we KNOW He will answer!

  8. I want to say how much I appreciate the comments that have been left here. It is encouraging to know that there are many parents who understand the duty we have training up our children. Thank for the links that you have all shared. JR, thank you for sharing this article on your blog. I pray that causes many parents to commit themselves to raising their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

  9. GoForth says: “I pray that causes many parents to commit themselves to raising their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.”

    Amen!! How I echo your thoughts! :o)

  10. Go Forth,

    Excellent. Well stated. I think that grit in the eye thing is contagious. Thank you for sharing such a tender and precious moment with us.

    @Katy, Thanks for sharing as well. I look forward to reading your posts…and shameless self promotion is never rude around here! We all do it!! :)

    In the unfathomable and overwhelming love of our Savior,
    -atg

  11. What a fantastic post.

    Where so many Christian parents would have responded to their kid, “Well just wait till next Sunday, we’ll both sit down with the cool youth minister and he can set you straight,” you actually took the Bible’s command that father’s are responsible for teaching their children about God. What a novel idea. :o)

    Thank you for sharing, this has been a great encouragement!

  12. I used to serve in a youth group as a leader, and trust me, I wish there were more parents like you in the church. Our biggest struggle was that the parents would expect us to fix their kids in an hour and a half.

  13. What if your son had concluded that God was not real? Suppose you did wind up with a seven year old atheist. What would you do? Many atheists who disbelieved from a young age and had the bravery of telling their parents have gone through shaming, ostracizing, outright disowning and even physical abuse by their religious parents simply because the child took on different beliefs or rejected the beliefs.

  14. I would let my son know that under no uncertain terms that he was always going to be my son and I would always love him no matter what. And because I loved him, that as long as God gave me breath, I would share the good news that Jesus Christ died for his sins every chance I had.

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