Monday, February 7, 2011

Teaching Our Children About God

I remember when I was pregnant with Autumn being introduced to an idea that was new to me.  The teacher of our Sunday school class brought up the idea that in teaching our children about God from the time they are born, they will always know God.  As a soon to be new parent, I thought that would be amazing.  I would love to guarantee, in a sense, that my children will know and love the Lord.

When my daughters were 3 and 5, they told me that they knew God and loved Jesus. They may have been even younger, because I didn't write down the date.  I puzzled about it for a bit and wondered if they were certain.  I questioned them several times.  They told me they were certain.

Last year, I read God, Marriage, and Family by Andreas Kostenberger.  As I read the book, I became keenly aware that we cannot "guarantee" how our children will turn out or that they will come to know the Lord.  I questioned what I'd been taught in that Sunday school class so long ago.  In my questioning, I have become more and more convinced that faith in God cannot be logically reasoned out.  Faith is a gift from God--a gift that we do not deserve or earn.

Ephesians 2:8 ESV
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God"

We live in a pragmatic age--in which all that is practical has value, whether we are speaking of words or things.  And all that is not practical, well, it is expendable.  Twitters, texting...  That pragmatism combines with post modernism in interesting ways.  There is the predominant belief that we are in control of our destinies and that we can reason for ourselves so that we might understand the world around us.  

The son of a friend of mine considers himself a Christian agnostic.  Essentially, he doesn't believe in God, but lives by a moral code.  He isn't a Christian by the definition that a Christian is someone who believes Jesus died on the cross for our sins, died, was buried, and rose again from the dead three days later.  This young man doesn't believe in Jesus.  I have read the responses of friends, including me, on his blog.  The responses are filled with logical apologetics defending and logically reasoning out the existence of God.  At the end of the day, this young man refuses to believe.  Belief is a step of faith.  I love Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." NIV

So, as parents, what are we left to do?  What is our responsibility?  How should we teach our children about the Lord.  The Word is clear:  "18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Deut 11:18-19 NIV

We are to pray for and love our children.  We are to teach our children about the Lord, with the understanding that if and when they believe, their salvation will be a gift of God's grace to them.  

I have been puzzling for several weeks about how to review a book on my desk.  When it first arrived, I loved it.  It's a large size book which is wonderful for reading with kids.  I like the formatting.  I enjoyed the stories, even if they aren't always as natural as I think they might play out in real life.  My husband, on the other hand, had an immediate and strong opinion about the book when he began perusing it.  He was very concerned about the content of the book.  I don't think I would even be able to explain all of his concerns, though the are deeply rooted in what he believes about God.

The questions I've come back to is--How do we teach our children about God?  and What do we teach them?  and if we give them a defense of their faith, will they be stronger and more able to defend their faith?  These questions seem simple at first and yet they're difficult.  

How do we teach our children?  
By our own examples.  As Susie Larson talks about in her book Growing Grateful Kids, we can't give our children something we ourselves don't have.
By reading the Word with them.
By talking about God with them.
By explaining God's Word to them and praying with them.
Most of all, by loving them with God's love.

What do we teach them?
God's Word.
From the Westminster Catechism for Young Children:

Q. 1. Who made you?
A. God.

Q. 2. What else did God make?
A. God made all things.

Q. 3. Why did God make you and all things ?
A. For his own glory.

Q. 4. How can you glorify God?
A. By loving him and doing what he commands.

Q. 5. Why ought you to glorify God?
A. Because he made me and takes care of me.

If we give them a defense of their faith and teach that other religions are simply wrong, will they be stronger in their faith and more able to defend what they believe?
There has been a movement to return to the learning of the catechisms so that young people might not doubt and that it might also strengthen what they do believe.  Apologetics have their place.  They are important.  But, it is important to know that apologetics encourage us in our faith, but they do not lead to faith.

My husband's belief is that honesty is the best policy--teach them the truth and teach them what's out there.  Don't belittle other beliefs or people who don't believe in Jesus.  

My next post will be a review of the book that is on my desk.

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