Along with my regular posts at SeanMcDowell.org, I am now featuring some of my former students in the Biola Apologetics Program. This post is by my friend Timothy Fox, who helped me with both the Awana Advocates curriculum and the updated and revised Evidence that Demands a Verdict. He also blogs at Free Thinking Ministries and you can follow him on Twitter at @TimothyDFox. Enjoy!
Bedtime Theology: Having Spiritual Conversations with Your Kids
By Timothy Fox
When my son William was three years old, he had a bedtime ritual. My wife and I tucked him in, we said our prayers, and then I had to lay next to him, holding his hand until he fell asleep. It was sweet and I loved that my boy enjoyed my company, but some nights it would take up to an hour until he was finally asleep. So occasionally I would try to talk him into letting me go:
Me: “Can daddy go now? I’ve been here a while and I have work to do.”
William: “But then I’ll be all alone.”
Proverbs 22:6 time. I always try to teach my son a little theology whenever I can in a way that he understands. And as we had been reading through William Lane Craig’s children’s series, “What is God Like?” together, I had a perfect opportunity:
Me: “You’re never alone. God is always with you.”
Boom. Omnipresence. God is everywhere, and so He’s always with us. I was pretty proud of myself. But when has a child ever been satisfied after you’ve answered just one question?
W: “But I can’t see him.”
An understandable response from a child. William could see mommy, daddy, and the rest of his family. But if we can’t see God, how do we know He’s real? I certainly didn’t want my boy to think God was just an imaginary friend, so I responded with the topic of the first book in Dr. Craig’s series:
Me: “That’s because God is spirit.”
You can’t see God since He is spirit. A person without a body. (Actually three persons, but William wasn’t ready for the Trinity yet.) And this directly relates to God’s omnipresence: God is both everywhere and yet nowhere in particular since He is spirit. He isn’t “tied” to any one location in space since He isn’t physical.
W: “Oh. Who is God?”
What a question! How do I explain the Almighty God to a child? I did my best:
Me: “God is the one who created the whole world. He’s always with you because He loves you. So can daddy go now?”
W: (pauses) “No, I want you to stay.”
So what’s the moral of this story? That I’m such a wonderful, spiritual father? No, but I’m trying. Here are a few things I hope this short conversation illustrates:
1. It isn’t hard to begin conversations about God with our children. They’re always asking questions so find a way to steer your discussions to spiritual matters. And make the most of it. Children are naturally inquisitive so use that as an opportunity to pour biblical truth into them.
2. Don’t underestimate your kids. They grasp a lot more than we give them credit for. Challenge them. And if they don’t get things immediately, that’s okay. Keep at it. They will with time. Also, children have amazing memories. You never know when they’ll repeat something you’ve said - good or bad. Even when it seems like they aren’t listening, they are. Always.
3. Know your stuff. You are the first - and most important - teacher that your child has. But you can’t teach your children about God if you don’t know about God. I was able to answer the questions my son asked because we had been reading through a children’s book series about the attributes of God. Like 1 Peter 3:15 commands, we must always be ready to answer questions about our faith, especially when they come from our own children.