How early can you start to teach children about Christian apologetics?

Here’s a post from a new blog called Beyond Teachable Moments, which offers best practices for Christian parents who want to prepare their children for a world that doesn’t always support Christian convictions – and that’s putting it mildly. In this post, the author explains how she is able to prepare her two boys for a pretty common objection to Christianity.

The challenge:

I think all kids, and adults, have a curiosity about where the Bible came from, how it was put together, and how it was passed down.  That is why my husband and I wanted to teach our kids some of the basics about this topic early on in their lives.  We have found our kids to be really receptive to this material.

[…]Do these differences in the gospel accounts mean that the disciples made up the story about Jesus, or that they are at least unreliable eyewitnesses, as some conclude?  If the eyewitnesses to the gospel accounts can’t get their story straight, should we believe their testimony at all?

So the mom planned out an activity to teach her kids to defend against this objection: (how old do you think kids have to be for this to work?)

The gist of this activity is to set up a scenario where your kids act as eyewitnesses to an event, and then help them to discover that they each will remember and report on different aspects of that event.

There are many ways to do this activity.  I chose to create my own scenario, which I detail below.  You could alternatively have your kids, or one child and a different adult, watch a video clip together on YouTube or on a DVD.  Just make sure to watch the clip on your own in advance so you that have the details straight in your own head first.  Then ask similar pointed questions to the ones listed in the activity outlined below.

I arranged for our kids to meet me in the living room at an appointed time.  I told them that I had something special to show them.  I didn’t give them any further preparation.

Then I dressed up in a strange and elaborate costume.  I put on various pieces of my kid’s dress up costumes (a hat, a mask, ponytails in my hair, a cape, a shirt with a picture on it, gloves, a scarf, and various things sticking out of my front and back pockets, and I had a stuffed animal tucked in somewhere to boot).

At the appointed time, I came into the room where my kids were seated and announced with a strange accent:  “Welcome everyone.  I am Mommy the Magnificent and I have a magic show to perform for you!”

I then explained how I was going to make something disappear in my magic hat.  I put a small toy in my hat; I waved a fancy cloth over top of it that I had taken out of one of my pockets, turned around a bunch of times (mainly so they could see the back of my costume), and said some magic sounding words.  I did some fancy dancing moves and made the toy disappear (by concealing it in my hand).  I then bowed and left the room.

The kids were amused, but also confused.

I told the kids to stay where they were, and quickly took off all of my costume and hid it out of sight.  I re-entered the room where my kids were bouncing off the walls, re-gathered them onto the couch and told them that that they were just eyewitnesses to what I had performed for them.

Then I asked: What is an eyewitness?  (Answer: Someone who sees something with their own eyes.  As they also heard something, our kids coined the term ‘earwitness’ as well!)

I told them that I was going to interview each of them to find out what they saw in my performance.  I took them one by one into a different room where our conversation could not be overheard by their brother, and interviewed them individually.  I told the one waiting to be interviewed to think hard about what he had just seen in preparation for his interview.

Click through to read how the kids responded. I don’t have any kids of my own, but I am reading this blog to see how it’s done. Each post is showing a completely new creative technique for teaching apologetics to these two young boys. If you have any techniques like this, post an example in the comments.

Do you think that it is worth it to have a stay-at-home mom doing these sorts of activities with kids? Do you think that a government-run daycare would do similar activities? What sort of policies should a liberty-minded government enact in order to free up mothers to stay home and nurture their children like this? Which political party do you think is pushing for those policies? Which party is trying to make it harder for moms to stay home and do these sorts of activities?

9 thoughts on “How early can you start to teach children about Christian apologetics?”

  1. Your post title in an interesting question for me right now. My own children are grown, but I now have two young children in my care. Since they’ve been with us, we’ve discovered a number of things about the time they’ve been living with their biological father that has left them quite damaged. One of the areas of abuse centered around his religion, Islam.

    Since they have become comfortable enough with us to tell us pretty much anything – and ask us pretty much anything – they have both rejected their father’s faith, yet they remain hungry for God, rather than rejecting religion or God completely. The strength of it is startling. It’s also forced me to learn more about their father’s faith than I ever wanted to know and be able to answer their questions that compare between the two. They are only 7 and almost 9 right now, but their age doesn’t matter; I had always believed that if a child is old enough to ask the question, that child is old enough to hear the answer. Their questions have almost all been about “why is this true, but this other thing isn’t?” and “why do you believe what you believe?”

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  2. Thanks WK for sharing our experience with your followers. It is encouraging to see that many parents are also thinking along the same lines.

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  3. Is this the best way to educate our children with regard to being a responsible, Christ-following believer? Perhaps we would do better, actually, to model the life of faith to our children by standing with the poor and oppressed, as Christ did, rather than creating and perpetuating arguments for doctrines, which Christ did not seem to be too concerned about. Is it more important that we defend the notion of an eyewitness, or that we become living witnesses ourselves? Why spend the time developing rational arguments when the most powerful images are actually those of active love in the world? The majority of converts are converted not by argument, but by humble love.

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    1. Well, I think your approach works for non-Christian religions like Mormonism, where people decide what to believe based on feelings. But Christianity isn’t like that – it’s a knowledge tradition, with rationality and evidence at the core. That’s why Jesus reasoned with people, e.g. – the Sadducees. That’s why he gave them his resurrection as evidence, i.e. – the Sign of Jonah. That’s why Paul reasoned with non-Christians, as was his custom (in Acts).

      Not sure what evidence that you have for “humble love” being authoritative. That’s not a Biblical view. And I don’t think that there is any evidence for that. That certainly wasn’t Jesus’ approach. He used miracles to authenticate his claims to non-believers – e.g. – by healing the paralytic to establish that he could forgive sins.

      Are you a Mormon, then?

      Also, how could you establish Christian claims as true just by being nice to people? What if a Hindu was nicer to his kids than you, would that mean that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then? Does this “I’m nice, therefore it’s true” work in chemistry labs, or software shops, or in any other serious area of life? If not, then why do you prefer your approach to Jesus’ approach?

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      1. Thanks for the response! I’ll lay my cards on the table and say that I am, in fact, a Christian, and I’m a graduate student in the history of philosophy, so these issues are near and dear to me. I think we have significantly different conceptions of what Christianity is. For example, when you say “Christianity isn’t like that – it’s a knowledge tradition, with rationality and evidence at the core,” I simply have to disagree. Christ, who is the core of Christianity, is not rationality, nor does he privilege evidence over action. The tradition of Christianity, I would argue, is not a “knowledge tradition” but a “love tradition,” that is, it’s more important how we love, how we act, as opposed to how we think.

        We might ask what the Scriptures tell us about truth. What is truth? Jesus says that he is the way, the truth, and the life–therefore, truth is not a series of propositions or evidence, but instead truth is a person. When Jesus discusses things with his opponents in the New Testament, his arguments are not based on logic or reason (if this were so, his opponents are equally rationally justifiable), but rather on a totally different conception of what truth is–truth is not a matter of working out the logical consequences of the Law (Pharisees), but instead working out the loving consequences of the covenant (see Christ’s comments on working on the sabbath). We can say the same for Paul, who, in his letters, is far more concerned with healing lived communities than he is with rational arguments (indeed, many of his arguments only work if we have specific faith commitments first, and would fall apart without a more basic, faithful foundation).

        With regard to your final questions, I would suggest Christians actually have an obligation to question the alleged truth of chemistry labs, software shops, etc. The degree of truth, here, cannot be gauged by whether or not a result is repeatable, nor whether or not it gives us more control over our environment, but how we orient ourselves toward the given realities of our world. As it pertains to interreligious dialogue, it is true that there are non-Christians who live a life more in step with the Truth than Christians, but we can finally divide them from Christians by saying that Christ is our ultimate embodiment of Truth (as opposed to Vishnu, Buddha, etc.).

        So, to summarize, truth is revealed in the person of Christ (according to his own words about himself), not the propositions of thought. To think otherwise, that is, to assume truth is the result of logical thought, is actually to adopt a pagan form of philosophy–that of Enlightenment Reason–and substitute this for the truth revealed in Christ.

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