I spotted this comment on Natasha Crain’s blog from someone who disagreed with her on training your kids to learn how to defend their faith.
The commenter “Hope” wrote this:
Because this is a blog you are no doubt restricted by trying to be concise and focused on one thought and, for the most part, in the midst of a dialogue with the people (like me) following your blogs…but in reading this out loud to others who are not following your blog, some things were pointed out that I might have noticed otherwise and thought I would mention.
First, thank you for the few tools in trying to help us with our children/grandchildren.
Here are some things we all must remember:
Everything hinges on God, who is the one ultimately in control. It does not hinge on our eloquence, finesse, or intellectual prowess. We can do everything right (or wrong) and still two identically raised children may go into extremely diverse directions.
Our children and grandchildren make their own personal choices.
The greatest tool we do have…even once the kids leave the nest, is PRAYER. Prayers is something sadly neglected by so many Christians. Being ill and many times unable to “do” much of anything, I have sadly in the past said “sorry, all I can do is pray”. I have learned to leave the word “all” out in that statement as I find it a privilege and honor to be able to pray. It is our right, our duty and an awesome responsibility.
I do enjoy your blogs and so look forward to your upcoming book, thank you so much and I will continue to pray for God’s guidance in all that you do and write!
I think her name is kind of ironic, since when it comes to her kids keeping their faith in college, “hope”, is all she has. I think this comment represents pretty well a very common attitude that Christian parents AND pastors AND church leaders have to the problem of children losing their faith. So let’s take a look at this.
What is the practical impact?
First thing to notice is that anyone who says this is basically clearing the way for themselves to not have to do any work. Apologetics is work.
To learn apologetics, I did things like this:
- read books in subject areas I knew nothing about
- order and listen to HUNDREDS of audio tapes from Veritas Forum, Access Research Network, Stand to Reason, Biola University, etc.
- order and watch (many times) dozens of debates on VHS tapes and DVDs
- order and watch (many times) dozens of lectures on VHS tapes and DVDs
- attend conferences, debates and lectures locally, in other cities, and in other countries
- reach out to non-crazy atheists in order to listen to their questions
- form discussion groups with other apologists to find answers and discuss problems
This is what I had to do in order to answer the questions that people actually ask when deciding on theism and Christian theism, in particular.
Questions like these:
- how do you know that God exists?
- how do you know the Bible is reliable?
- how do you know Jesus rose from the dead?
- why does a good God allow suffering and evil?
- why are there so many different religions?
Those are real questions, and they require real answers.
But Hope has a different way of answering those questions. She says:
- I have no role in helping my children see why Christianity is true
- Christianity is affirmed or denied by sheer act of will
- Rational argument and evidence are irrelevant to knowing truths about God
- Nothing I do can affect whether my children accept Christianity or not
- All I can do is pray (which requires no spending of money, and no time commitment)
Practically speaking, I understand that this is what a person says when they want to rationalize not having to think, not having to read, not having to spend money, not having to acknowledge that some Christians know more than they do, not having to lift a finger to be a parent unless it feels good to them. They can be as self-centered and irresponsible as they want to be – which they would not be in any area that mattered to them – and then they can throw up their hands and say, “it’s not my fault”. You can easily imagine a case where a teacher told her students similar things – “I have no role in showing you what is true, you will have true beliefs about the material by sheer act of will, rational argument and evidence have nothing to do with this area of knowledge, I cannot control your beliefs about this subject, all I can do is pray for you to pass the tests”. Unless that teacher was unionized or tenured, she would be fired on the spot.
In fact, in NO OTHER AREA of life – not school, not work, not home-buying, not investing, not wedding-planning, not having the family over for the holidays, not planning a vacation, etc. – would this woman apply the method above, which is basically do nothing and pray. It’s very important to understand that. Hope will give her best effort in areas that matter to her, but when it comes to Christianity, she wants to DO NOTHING.
There is only one problem with this: it makes her feel bad when her children run off to follow Richard Dawkins. So when that happens, she has to explain why DOING NOTHING was actually the right thing to do. She has to justify herself to her religious peers when her children repudiate Christianity in the strongest possible way. And this is her justification – she is spiritually superior, and not to blame. She wants to put a pious whitewash on her laziness, ignorance and cowardice. And to make other people who are not lazy, not ignorant and not cowardly feel unspiritual, to boot. That’s the real reason why so many Christian parents and leaders say things like Hope.
The worst part of this is dealing with these parents and pastors is actually after the damage has already been done. Even when they are staring defeat in the face, they still resist any attempts to try to get them to engage by learning apologetics. They will continue to resist reading anything, watching anything, listening to anything – it’s very rare that you get one to “turn on” to apologetics and become passionate about it. It’s amazing to me. They are able to marshal all kinds of arguments about the things they care about. But not when their kids are at stake.
I think I am particularly bothered by men in church who follow sports more than apologetics. For them, Christianity is just about reading the Bible and showing up in church. But all the real effort goes into memorizing rosters, draft picks, fantasy leagues and other trivia. It’s just depressing. Especially since men have the primary responsibility, either as parents or pastors. I really am not sure what to do about it, but it boils my blood to see the way these selfish grown-ups justify themselves with pious platitudes.
You can read Natasha’s much more civil blog post on Hope’s comment. She has a much more tolerant view, and more broad life experiences to draw on than I do. I am sure her feelings and approach would be much more tactful and effective than my angry response.