Why Your Children do NOT Need Apologetics

Why Your Children do NOT Need Apologetics May 5, 2017


I grew up with Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel teaching me how to “be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope,” first Peter three fifteen. It seems to me hope should not require so much effort to defend, but who am I to argue with a proof-texted piece of Scripture?

As parents tasked with stewarding the spiritual instruction of our children, some of us might revert back to our own upbringing and consider giving our kids the same type of apologetics teaching we were given. And the resources are out there—in fact, Strobel’s seminal apologetics book, The Case for Christ, has recently been made into a major motion film. But I encourage parents to leave apologetics materials off of your bookshelves and away from your home, and here are some reasons why:

Transferring Parental Fear. As a kid who began a relationship with God based on the fear of being sent to hell, I am very weary of transferring fear to my children’s spirituality. Before we share our faith with our children, we have to do the hard work of uprooting our own fears lest we consciously or subconsciously pass it on to them. On the surface, the enterprise of apologetics sounds like a rational exercise—give an academic defense of our faith—but lurking beneath is fear that our children will be lured away from the life-giving goodness of God by the corrupt, secular world. Even for those who have deconstructed such rigid binaries, the impulse to protect our children is strong. Examine your hearts before you pick up an apologetics manual for your kids/teens, and ask whether it is fear that is driving your parenting. If it is? Put the books back down.

Confines Faith as Doctrine. Our faith is a dynamic experience that shifts and evolves for us and especially for a child growing leaps and bounds in their development. We cannot capture that experience and box it into a set of propositions to memorize and defend—that limits and denies the realities of the human experience. Any spiritual instruction we give our children should be shared, never coerced by manipulating them into a recitation of doctrines. Unfortunately, this is what apologetics does, it tells a child what they need to believe and how to defend it. A child should never be told why they believe, their faith journey is one they get to discover for themselves.

Burden of Defending God. What are we teaching our children when we tell them they are in charge of defending God? It’s a lot of stress to place on a child who should be more concerned about developing their own personalities, than to be tasked with converting others. Our children should be free to simply observe and watch God work in the world, free to let God move in their own tender souls, free to wrestle authentically with their growing sense of self and faith. God is not interested in recruiting our children for God’s marketing team, and neither should we.

To be clear, I’m not saying we shy away from academic iterations of our beliefs. I think it is important to develop critical thinking in our children so they learn to interrogate their own faith, and for that matter, any religious system. A healthy debate isn’t just for the purpose of launching attack grenades, but is an exercise in clarifying our own beliefs.

Being able to do so also empowers our children to protect their autonomy for their spirituality. Our children should be equipped to draw emotional and intellectual boundaries so they aren’t vulnerable to abusive and toxic influences.

But the problem with apologetics is with its aim to fortify a narrow position and keep our children insulated within that shelter; whereas a healthy, critical engagement will always have its goal a deeper connection with others, even those who practice very different beliefs. Insecurity drives a person of faith to defend their faith, but one who is truly confident of their own spirituality will not be afraid to love those who believe differently—to connect with others without fear and partner with them to do good together.

Let’s raise our children with that kind of certainty—not of doctrine, but of love of self and others. A generation of children who extend their hands out with invitation, instead of up in defense, will be more compelling than any apologetics.

Join us at Raising Children Unfundamentalist.

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  • It’s not just these. Apologists love to use their dirty tricks, one reason I’m an atheist. I feel that truth, in general, stands up to scrutiny.

    • Doubting Thomas

      The problem with teaching a child apologetics is that once they see through the word games and bad arguments often the entire house of cards goes down with it.

      • rllawren

        so what if you teach them the truth of Christianity and the logic of it? Wont their house be a better built one than the ones that have fallen?

        • Doubting Thomas

          I don’t think there’s anything logical about Christianity, so getting your children to believe it is logical often involves the word games of apologetics. I think a better thing to do would to be teaching children critical thinking skills and allowing them to evaluate the claims of religions. If Christianity were true, this would mean they would still end up Christian.

          • I agree. In general, truth will stand up to scrutiny.

          • Timothy Fish

            How is Christianity not logical? Much of the New Testament is logical proofs giving the reasons the writers knew that Jesus was the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament.

          • Doubting Thomas

            God kills himself as a sacrifice to himself? God communicates the most important message ever through a book, but instead of writing it himself (Jesus written) he gets anonymous secondhand authors decades after the events to write things down? God loves us and doesn’t want us to go to hell but creates hell and sentences people to go there for committing sins that he knew they would commit before they were even born? God tests Job by killing his wife and kids even though he knew the outcome of the test thereby making the test pointless? I’m just scratching the surface of the nonsense that is Christianity.

            Christianity is only logical if a person is raised to believe it before they know what logic is.

          • Joel Lay

            None of these are issues of logic. All you’ve said is you don’t like God’s methods, therefore it’s illogical, which is in itself a logical fallacy.

            Further, assuming a Godless, material world, which is devoid of objective meaning, where do you ground an immaterial set of rules (logic) to govern thinking?

          • Doubting Thomas

            You’re conflating the every day use of the term logical with the system of formal logic. I ground formal logic in the fact that it’s derivations have been demonstrated to be correct over and over and over again.

            And my examples aren’t complaints about god’s method. I’m simply pointing out the ridiculous things that believers are required to think are reasonable (logical) actions. Swallowing such nonsense is most easily accomplished when it’s fed to the very young.

          • Joel Lay

            Your initial statement said it all. “In my opinion.”
            Just because something is difficult, confusing, and perhaps even odd, doesn’t invalidate its existence. Take quantum mechanics just for starters. There have been plenty of things i did not understand or seemed odd to me, from my perspective. That doesn’t mean the agent performing these things doesn’t exist.

            Also, saying “swallowing such nonsense” is again prejudicial and well poisoning. It’s like asking somebody, “Why do you believe such nonsense.” To answer, the person much admit they believe nonsense. Not to mention that it’s a non-sequitur. So, if your going to complain about logic, you probably should not employ fallacious reasoning when discussing. Not to mention your “grounding” of formal logic is completely arbitrary and circular.

            I’ll be the first to admit that all of Christianity hinges on the resurrection. Did Jesus rise from the dead? Everything else (like Job’s interaction with God) is really secondary. So, if the resurrection happened, then everything i interpret must be done through this lens. If the resurrection didn’t happen, then there is no basis for the Christian faith, and no reason to defend any oddity or difficulty in the bible. It’s pointless. You could elephant hurl a list of such things. I’ve spent years studying bible difficulties. There is no new ground being covered. It is absolutely critical to beleive in the resurrection to be a Christian. It is fundamental to believe that Jesus existed, performed actual miracles, was God’s son, died, rose from the dead and was glorified.

            Lastly, your “fed the very young” comment is defeated in the very article we are discussing. Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell both came to Christian faith in their adulthood, as atheists. They didn’t grow up being indoctrinated to the Christian faith.

          • Doubting Thomas

            I have a very good and incredibly important response to your comment. I’m going to write my response in an unknown language on some metal plates and bury them. A few years later I’ll have a convicted con man dig them up and translate them into English using magic rocks and a hat. I’ll have him re-write my response, then enlist the help of hoards of neatly dressed cyclist to scour the country telling anyone who’ll listen to them my response to you in the hopes that one day my response will find it’s intended audience.

            Does this sound illogical (ridiculous, nonsensical, irrational, etc) especially since I apparently have the ability to communicate to you through this medium? Well it’s perfectly logical……….especially to Mormons. You’re just complaining about my methodology. Nothing I’ve done is illogical according to the formal laws of logic, much like killing yourself as a sacrifice to yourself or having unknown secondhand authors write the most important book of all time is illogical.

            It’s just that it’s a really dumb way to do things and would be considered illogical in the every day sense of the word.

            This conversation just reminds me why I hate apologetics sooooooooo much.

          • Joel Lay

            I agree, when you are talking about errors in reasoning versus formal logic. What you are talking about is questioning the absurd. I have no problem with that. So, whose point are you trying to prove here? We often use written documents regarding the communication of historical truth. The absurdities of the book of Mormon do not undermine all of written history, including the 66 books of the bible.

            There has been gobs of ink spilled on the reliability and authenticity of the 66 books of the bible. You are attacking biblicism, which at its extreme is the notion that God delivered the 66 books in the King James english, bound in leather. While there are those within Christianity (mainly southern fundamentalist, and not classic Christianity) that do this, you’d be better directing this argument at Muslims since this is how they all view the Quran.

            I couldn’t tell you the name of the authors of any of my high school or college texts books. This does nothing to invalidate the content of what was written. For example, we can examine the book of Mormon to see if it accurately deals with geography and archeology and find that it is in error. If it were accurate in these basic, verifiable claims, we might then have reason to consider the extraordinary claims. It isn’t.

            The fact is there are books of the bible where we know more about the authors than others. All of this was considered and exhaustively argued when formalizing the canon. Apologetics is where we test the reliability of the uncontroversial claims to then examine those that are extraordinary.

          • Doubting Thomas

            I’m not attacking biblicism. I’m pointing out the absurdity of the entire endeavor.

            It would be like Superman wanting to be somewhere immediately and instead of flying he calls a cab.

            Your god has an incredibly important message for everybody. Does he come down personally and hand everybody a book? Does he beam the message into our heads?

            No. Instead he sends himself in human form to earth, doesn’t write anything, then lets people record hearsay decades later and then slowly spread what they wrote around the world.

            Your character’s proposed attributes and actions are out of sync to the point of absurdity.

          • Joel Lay

            Your Mormon comparison is absurd. Your poisoning the well with such an example. Your basic criticism revolves around what they call in forensics, chain of custody. As a journalist I learned that accurate history can be compiled long after the events transpired. There is a great piece on this chain of custody called “God’s Crime Scene,” where a forensic investigator for the LA Police came to Christ after being an atheist and raised in an atheist household. The recording of eye witness testimony is not hearsay.

            Most of the Bible is a message to a specific group of people for a specific time and place (Israel). The Bible has within it, many messages. I think it’s quite incredible that 40 authors, from various backgrounds, writing over 1,500 years of time, would conclude in a document that does unite one common message. Of course, your main objection is around the events recorded around the life of Jesus. Even skeptics and antagonist like Bart Erhman admit that the Bible conveys an accurate record of Jesus of Nazareth.

            Both the examples you cite (injecting facts into our head) would undermine our personal autonomy as humans and would render us robots. You wouldn’t even be you.

            So, you’ve yet to demonstrate absurdity. Your being incredulous.

          • Doubting Thomas

            My point has nothing to do with the veracity of the Bible. Even if true, it’s still a dumb way to go about things.

            Mormonism is absurd. The idea that god put an important message on gold plates which would be later transcribed into book form and passed around after is ridiculous. It’s ridiculous because it’s an abject failure compared to what could actually be achieved by an all-powerful deity.

            But here’s where it gets bad for you. The fact is Mormonism has spread at a more rapid rate than Christianity. The dumbassery that is Mormonism has spread its message at a faster speed than Christianity. Your god’s attempt to spread his message has a worse success rate than a known fraud and conman. Even if it were true, why worship something so incompetent?

          • Joel Lay

            Nothing to do with veracity? Nonsense. Of course it does. Again, incredulity.

            Um, Christianity has spread globally for almost 2k years despite extreme persecution at its onset. Mormonism has essentially hijacked orthodox Christianity and has been around less than 200 years. But that is neither here nor there. The spread of a philosophy is seperate from it’s veracity. The idea of counterfactuals is fun, but the reality is that calling God incompetent based on your incredulity is stubborn. Unless you’d like to claim omniscience to consider every possible world where you could have done it better.

    • Joel Lay

      What would say is the best example of a ‘dirty trick’ used by apologists?

      • Special pleading, argument from ignorance, circular reasoning…the list goes on and on.

        • Joel Lay

          Ok, so provide an example where these logical fallacies are employed.

  • James

    Great post. I really like what you said about defending god and transferring the fear of god. So true.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    It rather depends I would have thought as to what you think apologetics are for. A faith founded in robust spiritual practice and which intuitively feels as though it makes sense as a successful explanation of life and existence, but which perhaps is not fully reasoned through, may be undermined by (often flawed) attacks on its rationality (and indeed personal attacks on the holder’s own) and a sensible apologetic properly and fairly dealing with the contrary arguments will often be useful in answering the question “Am I just being stupid about this?”
    Trying to get kids to memorise and parrot debating points as an answer to every opposing point of view is not a good idea, however: that I would agree.

  • Douglas Beaumont

    Well if towering intellects like Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell can’t convince you, no one can.

    *eye roll*

  • John

    So, why did Peter write those words? Any idea why he might think they were necessary and advisable to his audience, and us today? If all you want to do is critique what defined your upbringing, fine. But don’t assume that scripture or the large array of other believers out here process it the same as you or had the same upbringing as you. That is projecting your experience onto others. It is fine to disagree with how apologetics is done today, but the last part of your post for raising kids with critical thinking and debate is lacking in specifics, which are necessary to bolster your position.

  • Joel Lay

    Wow! I’ve worked in Children’s ministry for 16 years and can only respond to this as divisive nonsense. Not surprising that the affirmative responses are from atheists who are doing little more than trolling. Faith is never an “either – or,” but is a ‘both – and.” This article essentially says that faith and doctrine are in opposition. That is complete and utter nonsense. Grounding one’s faith in doctrine is very much a complementary practice, and one who pursues one without the other will likely suffer for it.

    • Martha Anne Underwood

      I have also worked in Christian education for a very long time and I agree with what Cindy says. You can believe in a doctrine all you want but without a relationship with God it is nothing.

      • Jonathan H

        Martha, that is at least soft fideism if not a hard form of it. Fideism is no longer a viable option for the Christian worldview.

        • jekylldoc

          Just out of curiosity, why “no longer” a viable option? What has changed?

      • Joel Lay

        OK, define a relationship with God. Be specific.

  • Canbuhay

    I love how you give an apologetic against doing apologetics! If you can at least learn what that word means before you write hit pieces like this, it would deserve more respect. I would also suggest you read how apologetics training has exploded today in the Christian community for the very purpose of training believers to be winsome ambassadors for Christ to people who DON’T share our faith. This is not about just defence but engagement. This is precisely what our apologetics ministry does.

    BTW, when you write, “Let’s raise our children with that kind of certainty—not of doctrine, but of love of self and others” you’ve also made a doctrinal statement. And if I can point out, you sound awfully certain of this doctrine, too, right? Perhaps you’d consider it a fundamental idea that Christians should adopt?

    Apologetics helps us understand these kind of circular arguments and helps us refute these contradictions. Your article proves exactly why clear-thinking Christianity and good apologetics is so necessary today.

    • jekylldoc

      Canbuhay – an eloquent discussion. What you missed is that the OP addressed people’s fearful pressure on their children to do apologetics. In my reading, Ms. Brandt was addressing actual experience, and not arguing against apologetics in general.

      I always tried to give my children conceptual tools for bridging the gap between the conceptual structures of ancient times and the living faith that those structures addressed. But those tools have to come at an appropriate age – too much damage has been done by oversimplified formulas passing themselves off as understanding.

      • Joel Lay

        It’s missed, because she fails to make a case. It’s a bald assertion.

        • jekylldoc

          Joel – maybe her parents were the only ones who pressured their children that way, though I very much doubt it. At this point I am very much doubting whether those who are here to defend apologetics have ever even given a thought to what concepts are usable at what age. Much less whether they will be useful for engaging the doubt that comes with life or just for polemical discussions of abstractions.

          • Joel Lay

            Another prejudicial comment. Who are you to judge what others did or didn’t do? I’ve never seen a teacher or material that wasn’t sensitive to the age of audience. If anything, i’ve seen the opposite. Material dumbed down. We expect a lot of children academically and athletically, etc. I’ve NEVER seen kids or ministries try to force kids into doctrine and i’ve reviewed a lot of material.

          • jekylldoc

            Good to hear it. But the preoccupation here with defending apologetics in general, and lack of discussion of approach to children, doesn’t give me much confidence about the commentators. Obviously I don’t know them, but they do remind me of people I have met in life.

          • Joel Lay

            Apologetics is a medium that any Christian can apply and benefit from. There is nothing intrinsically “fundamentalists” about apologetics. Unless you are referencing presuppositional apologetics. McDowell and Strobel are evidential apologist so that doesn’t jive with the OP.

            I’ve honestly seen little to nothing of formal apologetics with children. I see it much more with youth who are most certainly dealing with issues of moral relativism, secular humanism and various forms of post-modern thought that are hostile towards Christian values and beliefs. Just read on through the comments here. Plenty of atheists accusing God of being stupid, and the Christian faith as being untenable.

            For example, i was often hit with “your faith is make believe…, illogical,…. myth.., superstition…, contrary to science…, etc.” I knew my faith from an experiential position, but i was essentially silenced because i had little or no answers other than, “well, that’s what i believe.”

            There are a couple of errors i see happening within the Christian culture that speak to this disconnect. One is that Christianity can be boiled down to its systematic doctrines and that is all we need. I myself have problems with this sterile type of theology. (But, i don’t see how this relates at all to apologetics.) In response, many have amplified the need for experiential Christianity, where everything ‘formal’ becomes a burden and hinders one’s enlightenment. Both are in error.

            Apologetics serves three useful functions. It helps Christians to answer and engage skeptics, antagonist, and those who are hostile to the faith. It helps to deal with roadblocks that might be a hindrance for others to consider the Gospel. We see direct testimony of Paul doing this. And, it helps the believer to understand the why of what they believe.
            Regarding reason 2, i’ve been chatting with a college student who is not a believer, but is receptive. But, she has some roadblocks, the biggest being the issue of suffering. My study in apologetics has helped me to deal with this hindrance and lay the groundwork to share the gospel.

            At the end of the day, the OP failed to clearly define her issues and placed doctrine and an individual faith connection at odds, without ever citing an example or making a case. It was a divise article that failed to correctly identify and address any of the issues of fundamentalism.

          • jekylldoc

            Joel – I agree that there is nothing intrinsically fundamentalist about apologetics. On the other hand, it is clear that fundamentalism has declared the outcome of the inquiry in advance, and so its adherents turn reflexively to apologetics rather than engaging honest questions with honest analysis. So “apologists” begins to be associated with the social process of fundamentalism.

            A simple example is the matter of evolution. Fundamentalists declare that their faith asserts evolution to be wrong (with little basis, IMO). So their only effort in engaging the subject is to “prove” that evolution is wrong. Obviously this is not only doomed to failure but undermines the intellectual integrity of the whole process of apologetics.

            McDowell and Strobel are examples of less-blinded apologetics, but are vastly overrated because they cater to the fundamentalist social process. People want to believe that however they imagined God, scriptural origins, or the Resurrection must be true, and so anyone with any intellectual chops who gives reasons for agreeing with those imaginings is considered some sort of fount of logic and insight.

            I also agree with you about the examples of errors with respect to apologetics. I think denying the importance of reason has become a common mistake in the emerging church movement, for example. But if I had to choose (note, I do not say anyone really does have to choose) between adherence to doctrine or devotion of the heart, I have no doubt which is more important to salvation.

            I took the OP to indict pushing doctrine on children at the expense of genuine faith exploration. That is, the opposition is found in the behavior of many evangelical and fundamentalist parents and teachers. An extreme example would be the nuns who rap the children’s knuckles for questioning the existence of Purgatory. If you have never seen that kind of dishonest propagandizing in Christian Education, all I can say is you have been fortunate.

            Finally, I agree with you about the usefulness of apologetics, though not of all apologetics. A quick and dirty “answer” that is recognizable as a cover-up by both teller and hearer might help clear the way to an actual life of faith (your reason number 2) but it is not going to help deal with skeptics or to help understand reasons for faith content (I take “understand” seriously).

  • rllawren

    wow… there are so many fallacies and nonsense in this I dont know where to start.

    but let me try…

    1-the numerous false dichotomies As it defending the faith is not also inviting others into truth. As if fear of your children falling into corruption is a bad thing. etc.
    2. the word Faith in Scripture means Believing the infallible word of God (Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the word of God) Faith is not belief but it is believing in a supernatural way in what God has declared to be true or will be true. Those truths are what we call doctrine. So one cannot have an “evolving faith” but rather a growing one. At least if you want to use the Biblical definition. And if you dont want a biblical definition, then stop using a biblical word. Faith has no origin except in Early Christianity. One can have belief and that can be evolving. But faith is a term that has biblical origin, like the word Saint. And as such is confined to the meaning intended.

    • jekylldoc

      rllawren –
      “the word Faith in Scripture means Believing the infallible word of God
      (Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the word of God)” No, it really doesn’t mean that. Check out Hebrews – was it “the infallible word of God” (as you or anyone else defines it) that those paragons of faith were believing? For that matter, was it that faith which James declares he will show by his works? How did we ever get so confused as to think that 20th century fundamentalism, a reaction to science and scholarship, captures the faith that led the disciples to hold all things in common?

      Unpack that scripture a bit. “Faith comes from hearing.” The first century disciples believed that God was overturning the order of the world – that injustice would be made right, and love would come to rule in the hearts of everyone. If we construe that as supernatural only, that is, nothing that could be mistaken for nature, we are left with an incredibly limited faith. Rather, the disciples heard good news – the blind see, the poor are fed, the captive is set free. And so, in hearing, they learned to believe it could continue to happen and the kingdom continue to come. The source of doubt is imperial power and omnipresent human corruption, not science or knowledge. The coming of the kingdom has so little to do with “believing” Malachi or Isaiah that I can’t begin to accept limiting it to doctrine.

      So what about “hearing by the word of God”? Was Paul saying, “study my letters, they are the word of God?” or was he talking about the truths that the Spirit lays on our hearts and opens to us so we will understand where meaning is to be found? “Lord, to whom should we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

  • James

    Just a little food for thought…

    1. Transferring Parental Fear.
    Fear, in and of itself, is not a good foundation in the pursuit of truth or what is worthy of belief. But there are a multitude of noteworthy scriptural admonitions and encouragement…
    Proverbs 9:10
    The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
    1 John 4:18
    There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.

    2. Confines Faith as Doctrine.
    Faith, Biblically speaking, is the active, ongoing, and personal pursuit of learning that God can be trusted with everything. It should not be confused with mere religion or the following of self imposed dictates that can somehow earn His love.
    Romans 1:17
    For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”
    Ephesians 2:8-9
    For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
    Hebrews 11:1
    Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

    3. Burden of Defending God.
    Christians are not called to carry the burden of “defending God”… that would be like the Spurgeon analogy;
    The Word of God is like a lion.
    You don’t have to defend a lion.
    All you have to do is let the lion loose,
    and the lion will defend itself.
    Hebrews 4:12
    For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
    2 Timothy 3:16-17
    All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

    Hopefully, we are eating well at the Lord’s table…
    your thoughts?

  • Robby Hall

    Defense is proper and necessary because in every age historic Christianity will be under attack. Defense does not mean being on the defensive. One must not be embarrassed about the use of the word defense. The proponents of any position who are alive to their own generation must give a sufficient answer for it when questions are raised about it. Thus, the word defense is not used here in a negative sense, because in any conversation, in any communication which is really dialogue, answers must be given to objections raised. Such answers are necessary in the first place for myself as a Christian if I am going to maintain my intellectual integrity, and if I am to keep united my personal, devotional and intellectual life – Francis Schaeffer

  • PrimusxPilus

    You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
    John 8:44 ESV

    • jekylldoc

      Don’t be shy, say what you really feel about it.

  • Timothy Fish

    This article sounds like something that has been written as a reaction to abuse. If that is the case I am sorry for you. I’m old enough that I didn’t grow up with Lee Strobel’s book. It wasn’t my parent’s fear that caused me to fear, but before I accepted Christ I was fearful. I worried that the Lord would come back and I’d be left alone. I believe that fear was a God thing. But we should not fear giving people a logical reason to believe. For some people, that is what the Lord uses to draw them to him. For others, not so much. Let’s let the Holy Spirit sort out which is which.

  • Martha Anne Underwood

    Great post, Cindy. For children to form a lifelong faith, it must come from their own engagement with God and scripture not somebody else’s. We must allow God to work in our children’s lives and trust that God will. We do not need to defend God. What we need to do is follow Christ and proclaim the God News not scare our children into believing with the fear of hell if they don’t.

    • Jonathan H

      Thank you for your post. However, I think you have fallen into fideism which is no longer a viable option for the Christian worldview. Faith and reason can be integrated, for reason is needed more and more in our post-Christian Western culture. The left-side of the brain is just as important as the right-side. Integration is need, not a false-dichotomy. Thank you.

    • Joel Lay

      Ok, how does one learn to “follow Christ?”

      • Martha Anne Underwood

        Parents need to model their faith to their children. They need to see you base your decisions on how Christ lived. At home you talk about how to participate in worship when they go to church with you. In worship encourage them to sing the hymns or follow the words in the hymnal, say the creed, participate in the prayers. In church you sit up front so the children can see what is going on. You wouldn’t want to look at someone’s backside throughout the service and neither do your children. You tell your children the stories of our faith leaders as told in the Bible. Instead of telling the child this is what the story means and there is no other way to look at, you ask them questions about what they think the story means.

        That is why I liked using the Rev. Jerome Berryman’s “Godly Play” when teaching Sunday school. It is based on the Montessori method. Stories are told in a variety of ways using materials the children can touch and “play”
        with. After the story, the storyteller asks “wondering questions” like “I wonder how ____ felt in this story”, “I wonder what ___ did after meeting ___”. The storyteller nor the children comment on anyone’s answers. Afterwards the children can use the materials from the story and retell it to those who choose to do that. They can also get materials from other stories, draw or paint a picture about one of the Bible stories they have heard. I want our children to have a personal and communal relationship with God, not be able to spout some doctrine others have decided as the truth. Let us trust the Holy Spirit to work in our children’s lives.

        • Joel Lay

          Again, you, like the OP, are creating false dichotomies, pitting doctrine against a personal faith. It’s fallacious. Further, you went on to lay out YOUR doctrine to participate in the practice of the church.
          i hope you realize that the whole notion of hymns was to teach doctrine. Illiteracy has been an issue through most of history, so hymns were an artistic and engaging way to communicate doctrine, as well as express worship. You also sight the creed, which of course is doctrine. The doctrine of understanding the essentials of the Christian faith.
          Within the Bible there are a lot of areas where we can ask, what did this mean to Moses, or Daniel, etc. In fact, even the most fundamental material ive reviewed when with the Southern Baptist Church always asked open questions to stimulate children to think. The bible has stories, narrative, history, poetry and some of it is straight doctrine. Romans comes to mind. It isn’t a story like Daniel.

          So, if you treat ALL of the bible as a “story” where the meaning is fluid then you are in fact imposing your doctrine of relativism onto the text.

        • swbarnes2

          I wonder how the wives and children of Job felt…I wonder how all the people drowned in the Flood felt…

  • Veritas

    Not one word of Scripture to be found. Strange, for an article claiming to be from a Christian.

    • wullaj

      Not one word of scripture is found in your comment. Strange, for a comment denouncing someone else’s faith.

      • Veritas

        You are so right! Let me correct my error, and speak from Scripture: “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” 1 Peter 3:15

        We are not denouncing her faith. We’d just like to see her give a biblical defense if it. And corroborating evidence would be good too. Instead all we have is a singular and subjective experience of a thoroughly closed minded person. Good day to you.

        • wullaj

          Good job. Also, who is ‘we’? Are you Legion?

          • Veritas

            The vast legion of Christians who read more than just Patheos. 🙂

          • wullaj

            Cool story, bro.

          • Veritas

            Nah, no where near as cool as you, brah. You slayin it!

          • wullaj


    • Canbuhay

      Why would that be strange? There’s no biblical evidence for the view that we shouldn’t teach students evidence for the faith.

      • Veritas

        You’re right. It is strange from human logic and philosophy, I suppose. It’s like someone claiming to be a liberal but having no problem with fascist tendencies among their group. Then again we see that all the time…

  • jekylldoc

    Great. Thoughtful. Insightful. I love the recognition that faith is a dynamic lived experience, not a set of propositions to be learned. That key unlocks so much.

    I have a mild disagreement over “defending God.” Sometimes God does need defending, IMHO. The problem is that we have mistaken defense of the authority of the church for defense of the honesty of faith. I hope the phrasing makes it obvious that the second is not something which can be done primarily by proofs or authorities, but rather is conveyed sub-textually when we engage with those who doubt that honesty.

    In any case, children do not bear that burden any more than they bear the burden of defending democracy or defending integrity. Wrestle with it, yes. But they should not be asked to feel they have to persuade others or put up a fight on behalf of such principles.

    • Joel Lay

      What you are overlooking is that a Christian Worldview is under constant attack in a post-modern world. Any “lived experience” goes through ebbs and flows. Paul, in particular warns of false doctrine and even the elect being deceived. I’ve known too many well intentioned Christians who have been misled by allowing their feelings to lead the way and become deceived through chasing the next spiritual high.

      • jekylldoc

        Joel – in my experience, most people who rush to the defense of the “Christian Worldview” that is under attack are actually mainly interested in defending their own sense of rightness. I am in favor of defending God, but as I said that is not done with arguments, for the most part. What persuades people is the experience of Christians who demonstrate heartfelt concern for others.

        But that discussion is quite beside the point of Ms. Brandt’s essay. Parents have a responsibility to give their children space for reaching their own understanding. A set of doctrines adopted because one feels pressured has no saving value. They will not renew the heart or nourish the spirit. Doctrine can give some stability against emotional flux, but a genuine will to trust God does not emerge from outside pressure.

        • Joel Lay

          First, i don’t think you really addressed anything i mentioned.
          There are several issues with what you are saying and defending how the author presented it. One, that is a broad brush fallacy. There is absolutely no mistaking the fact that the author unfairly impugned, and created a false dichotomy with doctrine and one’s personal faith experience.. and apologetics as a whole. You’ve simply doubled down on that. My personal experience is completely different than your own. Therefore personal experience is often a bad gauge and leads to hasty generalizations.

          Giving children space and “training them up in the way they SHOULD go” are not mutually exclusive propositions. I would say that in one sense, I pressure my child to work hard, study and achieve academically, since, much like myself, my motivations as a youth were not always focused. On the other hand, her career path interests and electives and extracurricular are all things she has the main say on.

          The OP essentially impugned Strobel and McDowell, which is nonsense, since both came to Christ as adults, out of atheism.

          “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16).

          “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1).

          In fact, most of Paul’s writings are submitting doctrine to local churches to either correct them or prevent them from drifting in to error.

          • jekylldoc

            I seem to have missed this yesterday, in the flurry of posts. Sorry.

            I did not mean to skip over the points you made in the post I was responding to. My statement that “doctrine can give some stability against emotional flux” was meant to acknowledge the point you made about over-emphasizing emotion. Nor, I think, is personal experience meant to be an ultimate or absolute guide.

            But when children are deciding what path they will take, they should understand the reasons why some choices are better than others. In matters of faith, that means being able to integrate the things they know from experience with the insights offered by tradition and the other faithful. “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing them” is not true because it is written in the Bible, it is true because wickedness is like that: it wants to remain secret, because people know better than to be pleased with themselves when they choose it. Likewise grace is God’s nature, not because of some supernatural revelation, but because what we know of God supports such a conclusion.

            We all pressure children to follow good habits, knowing that our nature is slothful and selfish. Good work habits have their effect by getting the work done. But ultimately we all know that a workoholic, obsessed by working to the point of sacrificing the company of family and friends, is not walking a spiritually healthy path. Working just because of inner pressure, and never making sense of it for oneself so that one can make intelligent balancing decisions, is not virtuous or worthy, (even if it does get a lot of work done). In matters of faith it is even more important to let the principals we are taught take root. If they never become ours, if we are always just accepting whatever we were taught, they don’t give room for spiritual life.

          • Joel Lay

            Your response (which i appreciate) is exactly why i take such issue with the article. The OP did a poor job of communicating and defining her areas of criticism, and the result were hasty generalizations and a false dichotomy. As a former ‘fundy” i think there are major issues with how matters of doctrine are communicated, regardless of the age of the audience. Those are things that most certainly need to be addressed. Instead, what i’ve found is that people will often address error by employing more error, in that they throw out the baby with the bathwater. Thank you for your feedback.

          • jekylldoc

            “there are major issues with how matters of doctrine are communicated, regardless of the age of the audience.” I agree, obviously.

            Perhaps you are right about generalizations in the OP. I rarely find that people’e essays here have been rigorously thought through and carefully edited. I take them as explorations, like working papers in an academic setting (only not as careful as those are). At that level, I am satisfied that Ms. Brandt was addressing a true issue or choice, (the way overzealous and age-inappropriate apologetics interfere with honest faith formation) not a false dichotomy, but I agree that it should be discussed in a way that does not imply that apologetics conflict with lived faith.

    • Canbuhay

      “I love the recognition that faith is a dynamic lived experience, not a set of propositions to be learned.”

      That itself is a proposition that you’ve learned about faith.

      Anyone who tries to polarize knowledge of our faith and how to apply that knowledge as part of our faith isn’t talking about Christianity. Christian faith is grounded in the truth of who God is and His character (including propositions!) and then rightly obeying and trusting God because of what we know about Him. Anything else ignores the very concept of Christ being the Living Word of God.

      • jekylldoc

        You have a lot of propositions packed into that paragraph. I disagree with most of them. Clearly the primacy of living faith over doctrinal propositions is supported by scripture, for example. James’ famous (or infamous) “I by my works will show you my faith” is one, but also from the same epistle, “You believe there is one God! Good! Even the demons believe that, and tremble.” Jesus’ long debate with the Pharisees repeats the same refrain, that the attitudes of our heart matter much more than our mastery of the rules. Jesus to the Samaritan woman at the well referred to transcending “beliefs” to worship God in spirit and in truth.

        You say I have learned that about faith. But in fact I have “learned” it through living it. Doctrine has not led to my engagement with God, but rather clearing away doctrine has. You assert that Christian faith is founded in propositions about God, but clearly those propositions have changed over the centuries. Most of what we “know” about God is that we don’t know very much about God. Fortunately we are saved through faith, not through knowledge.

        You seem to interpret the life of faith as “applying knowledge” (of our faith). But this is clearly not helpful in understanding the response of the thief on the cross, or the response of sick people asking to be healed, or the response of Peter to the lame beggar, or the response of the boy who shared his lunch at the feeding of the multitude. “Applying knowledge” was as far from their mind as “deducing propositions”.

        Finally, you state “Anything else ignores the very concept of Christ being the Living Word of God.” I would appreciate your taking that apart into pieces and defining your terms, because I cannot even make sense of it. By “Anything else” you mean what? Any notions of Christian life and faith which don’t accord with your interpretation of scripture? By “the Living Word of God” do you refer to the logos of the universe, as John would have it? Are we talking about “Fear not”? What do you mean by that?

    • Chris Nandor

      On the Christian view, God never “needs” anything from us. He desires it, but doesn’t need it. We cannot thwart his will regardless of our choices; if we could, then that would demonstrate God to lack omnipotence or omniscience.

      And apologetics, as normally practiced and taught, certainly does *not* assert or imply that God does “need” anything from us. It’s a straw-man criticism of apologetics.

      • jekylldoc

        Chris – my agreement that God needs defending is an agreement with the apologists’ side in this odd discussion. The original essay asserted that God needs no defense, and I disagree.

        I don’t think omnipotence or omniscience are even comprehensible qualities, much less qualities of God. In my view it was a serious mistake when the Judeo-Christian tradition incorporated these Platonic ideals as doctrine. The quality of relationship by which we best encounter God does not gain anything by incorporating such philosophical descriptions.

        • Chris Nandor

          I’ve never heard an apologist say God needs defending. Literally never. So I don’t think you are taking any apologist’s side.

          And while we cannot fully comprehend these attributes, what we *can* say is that God knows everything that has, will, or could happen; and God, with that knowledge, can do anything he pleases to ensure the outcomes he wants.

          So no, God does not need us. He never has, and He never possibly could need us, or anything at all.

          • jekylldoc

            Chris –

            I refer you to the comment by Robby Hall, 5 days ago. And in fact, the very term “apologetics” refers to making a reasoned defense of the faith. If you want to quibble about whether it is actually God being defended or just Christian understanding of God, fine, I am not really interested in the discussion.

            I am curious how you think we know God knows everything that has, will or could happen. I quite specifically disagree, but then I have no particular evidence – just reasoned argument and the lack of evidence that this is true of God.

  • Veritas

    Here is a much more thorough and thoughtful discussion on the need for apologetics in children.

    As someone who came to faith partly with the assistance of apologetics, I won’t cast all children in a cookie cutter mold like Ms. Brandt. Some children need it, some don’t. And labelling it only a response to fear and defensiveness when it could just be critical thinking is disingenuous and weak. As an atheist I had no problem walking away from this new thing called Christianity years ago, if the evidence did not hold up.

    Remember to love the one true Lord with all our heart, mind, and strength!

  • sandi

    If the author thinks apologetics encourages a “narrow position and keeps our children insulated within that shelter” and she doesn’t think it encourages “a healthy, critical engagement [which] will always have its goal a deeper connection with others” – she doesn’t even know what apologetics is! She has it backward. Where does she get that it’s about preaching hellfire and brimstone? Apologetics means learning the history, science, archaeology and philosophy that provides insurmountable, undeniable, tangible evidence for the Bible’s truths. It supports their heartfelt faith and help them grow in their confidence that Christ is the way and the truth and the life. This helps our kids be FEARLESS – not fearful – about engaging nonbelievers and widening their scope of knowledge of other worldviews! This is the most ridiculous argument against apologetics I’ve ever heard.

    • swbarnes2

      If science, history, archaeology and philosophy all supported the Bible, then the vast majority of the world’s archaeologists, scientists, historians, and philosophers would accept Christianity. They don’t.

  • Presbys Ergum

    ~~ Matthew 28:19-20 —
    i think, prior to our “going”, we should strive (agonize!) to make disciples of our kids — teaching them to observe all things whatsoever;
    otherwise our faith & works are in vain….

  • ksed11
  • Matt Woodling

    Reason #4: Christian apologetics teaches terrible arguments that will dull a child’s ability to think critically.

    • Chris Nandor

      Matt, if you were thinking critically, you would realize that you are engaging in the question-begging fallacy.

  • Chris Nandor

    Three thoughts.

    First, all of your points against apologism misrepresent it as it is practiced by most people.

    Second, I saw your Facebook page. Why do you want to systematically reduce capitalism, racism, and cis-heteropatriarchy by one tenth? Why not eradicate them completely?

    Third, what do you say to the fact that capitalism has, literally, pulled more people out of poverty than any other economic system in history? We’re talking by hundreds of millions of people. (Actually, probably more than all other economic systems combined.)