Sean McDowell | April 13, 2020

The "Go-To" Resource for Talking with Kids about Jesus: Author Interview

Natasha Crain has become the “guru” in how to practically teach biblical truth to kids. I love her depth in theology and apologetics, but also her down-to-earthstrategies that all parents can use. Her latest book is Talking with Your Kids about Jesus: 30 Conversations Every Christian Parent Must Have. Especially given our current quarantine, this is a very helpful guide for parents who want to make the most of the situation. I hope you will consider getting a copy of her excellent book. But first, check out this brief interview and consider sharing it with a friend:

SEAN MCDOWELL: Your recent book is entitled Talking to Your Kids about Jesus. What makes this book different from your first two?

NATASHA CRAIN: The running theme across my three books is that they equip Christian parents to have the conversations with their kids that are most important given today’s secular world. Each book has a different focus with completely different conversations:

Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side is an "apologetics 101" for Christian parents, covering a broad survey of 40 subjects on God, Jesus, truth and worldviews, and the Bible.

Talking with Your Kids about God covers 30 conversations specifically about God (e.g., evidence for God's existence, science and God, the nature of God, and the difference God makes).

My new book, Talking with Your Kids about Jesus, covers 30 conversations specifically about Jesus (e.g., the identity of Jesus, teachings of Jesus, death of Jesus, resurrection of Jesus, and the difference Jesus makes).

The three books complement one another and are designed to be a trilogy to read and reference for years to come.

MCDOWELL: In your experience, what is one of the biggest truths about Jesus parents often forget to teach their kids?

CRAIN: As parents, I think we often spend far more time talking with our kids about the teachings of Jesus than about his identity because we’re preoccupied with the task of shaping our kids’ behavior. When we’re faced with the daily parenting drama of kids fighting, lying, gossiping, hitting, cheating, back talking, yelling, and so on (all before 9 a.m., of course!), we have a multitude of natural opportunities to share how Jesus taught us to live. It’s not so natural, however, to inject conversations into the mix about who Jesus is and how we can know who he is. But that doesn’t make doing so any less important. Let’s be clear: if Jesus was only a human, his teachings are no more authoritative for our kids’ most recent behavioral issue than those of our next-door neighbor. Jesus’s identity is foundational to everything we believe as Christians.

The first six chapters of Talking with Your Kids about Jesus are written to help parents specifically with these conversations on identity. They include the following topics:

  • Is Jesus a Myth?
  • Is Jesus the Jewish Messiah?
  • Is Jesus God?
  • Did Jesus Really Perform Miracles?
  • Did Ancient People Believe in Miracles Because They Were More Gullible?
  • How Can Jesus Be Both God and Human?

MCDOWELL: Can you give me an example of one of the truths about Jesus you encourage parents to teach their kids? And specifically, how can they do it?

CRAIN: The second section of the book is on the teachings of Jesus. I focus on six topics that are frequently misunderstood by both nonbelievers AND Christians in today’s world. My favorite chapter in that section is on what Jesus taught about judging others—something that is so often misunderstood and something that comes up all the time in discussions on social media. As soon as you so much as suggest that something is a sin or a doctrinal error, someone is bound to quote Matthew 7:1: “Do not judge!” Yet, right judgment is incredibly important according to Jesus, so we need to make sure our kids understand more thoroughly what he says on this. Jesus’s words in Matthew 7:1 were actually a prelude to a warning about hypocritical judgment, not all judgment. In other words, he proceeded to tell us how to judge sin rightly—we must deal with the plank in our own eye before trying to remove the speck in someone else’s (see also John 7:24).

Each of the chapters in my book has a conversation guide to help parents walk through the chapter’s content with their kids. So, for example, the first conversation question for this chapter says, “Eighty- seven percent of young non-Christians say that Christianity is ‘judgmental.’ What do you think they mean by that?” This is designed to just open the conversation and get your kids talking. The next questions ask parents to read Scripture directly to see how the Bible talks about judgment for themselves. For example, kids are asked to compare Matthew 7:1-5 and James 4:11-12 in order to consider which kinds of judgments we should and shouldn’t make. Then they’re asked to apply these learnings to real life situations: “Imagine that you have a Christian friend who is bullying another kid. Based on the verses we’ve read, what would be a biblical way of addressing their actions with them, and what would be an unbiblical way?” A follow up question asks, “If you confronted the friend in a biblical way and they replied, ‘You’re a Christian! You’re not supposed to judge me!’ what would you say?”

More broadly, my approach throughout the book is to give parents conversation questions that get them into the Bible with their kids, then help them practice responding to real life situations in this way.

MCDOWELL: You have 30 chapters on different truths about Jesus. Which chapter was the hardest to write? And why?

CRAIN: My chapters are short (about 5 pages each) in order to make learning practical for busy parents. That space constraint makes every chapter challenging because I want to avoid simplistic answers and there is always so much more that could be said! But if I had to pick one, I’d go with chapter 2, “Is Jesus the Jewish Messiah?” It’s a very complex question with many different possible discussion directions. I really wanted parents to understand why the subject is so complex and why it’s not as simple as is often portrayed. For example, we can’t simply tell our kids there are X number of prophecies fulfilled by Jesus because it depends on what a person identifies as a prophecy and scholars vary greatly in their opinions on that. I explain these complexities in the chapter and encourage parents to focus on the prophecies of greatest significance and consensus (a list with Scripture references is provided).

MCDOWELL: One of the questions you tackle is where Jesus went between his death and resurrection. What's your answer?

CRAIN: There are some pastors who have popularized the idea that Jesus went to hell and fought a cosmic battle with Satan between his death and resurrection. But the Bible says nothing about such an event.

That said, Christians do have varying views on where Jesus was between death and resurrection, based on different interpretations of two rather obscure passages from 1 Peter (1 Peter 3:18-20 and 4:6). I outline these possibilities in the chapter, but conclude by focusing on affirming what we do know from Scripture:

  • Jesus was still alive (though he didn’t have a resurrection body yet).
  • He went to “paradise” the day he physically died (Luke 23:39-43).
  • He was finished atoning for our sins (John 19:30). (Note this is in contrast to the idea popularized by some teachers that he finished atoning for our sins in hell.)
  • He wasn’t giving people a second chance for salvation (as is also sometimes speculated; see Hebrews 9:27).

For those familiar with the Apostles’ Creed line “he descended into hell [after he was buried],” I also provide historical background on where that came from.

If you enjoyed this interview, please consider joining me and Natasha for a livestream conversation on YouTube this Wednesday night, 4pm PST on my YouTube channel (Dr. Sean McDowell). This interview will focus on practical things parents can do to help their kids learn biblical truth. Please join us and get ready to ask Natasha some questions!

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author, popular speaker, and part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell, TikTok, Instagram, and his blog: