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.