Should We Teach Children Apologetics?
by Hillary Morgan Ferrer
In the fall of 1991, my life as a Christian changed forever. I was 12.
My pastor took a break from his normal biblical exegesis and embarked on a sermon series unlike any I had ever heard. Later I discovered this field of study had a name—apologetics. For what felt like the first time, my faith was finally mine. It wasn’t my parent’s and it wasn’t my church’s. It engaged an aspect of Christian living that I never realized existed: loving God with my mind.
I remember my tiny little hand scribbling notes as fast as he could speak. Each week, he went over an alternate theory for the resurrection. Did the disciples steal the body? Did the Romans go to the wrong tomb? Did Jesus just swoon? Skeptics use these theories, and more, to explain away the resurrection of Christ. Each week, my pastor explored another “possibility” and showed how these skeptical interpretations required more faith than believing in the resurrection.
A lightbulb went off in my mind. This faith that I had been learning about since I was young was not just a blind faith. It was a real-world, factual, bet-your-life on it, for reals true kind of truth. Who knew?!
Thus began a lifelong love affair with apologetics, one that led me to the ministry that I now lead: Mama Bear Apologetics. Most apologists have stories of regret, lamenting their years of doubt. My story is filled with gratitude for being exposed at a young age to evidence and arguments for Christianity. It may not be what brought me to the faith, but it is definitely what kept me from leaving. Anyone can leave a cultural faith. It is much harder to leave a robust, well-supported, rational faith.
Whenever people ask if children should be taught apologetics, I of course have to share my story. When it comes to raising kids in the church, chapter 1 of the Mama Bear Apologetics book is full of sobering statistics that refute the idea that we can go about business as usual. We are seeing a net loss of 35% of our church population in each generation, and if the trend continues as is, the number of young Americans who report that their religion is “none” or a non-Christian religion will rise to over 50% of the population by 2030.1,2
We can no longer expect our culture to reinforce Christian beliefs. We are in Babylon, so to speak, and the messages targeting our kids are undermining their ability to understand, receive, or retain the gospel.
Throughout my high school years, I devoured works by Christian thinkers like C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, J.P. Moreland’s Loving God with All Your Mind, and Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict. I grew up in a time when facts were facts and could be defended. Now, any “fact” you offer can be swept away by labeling it “alternative facts” or “fake news.” I was told that I was entitled to my own opinions, but not my own truth. Fast forward 30 years and our kids are being told to “live their truth.” Back then, love was defined by 1 Corinthians 13. Now, even the word “love” has been hijacked to mean some namby-pamby version of “don’t offend anyone.” Our kids are being told that disagreement equals hate and that their perceptions and feelings can determine reality.
These messages permeate almost every song, every movie, every book your children are permitted to read in school. Apologetics is no longer merely defending God’s existence or the evidences of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection (though these are vitally important). Apologetics now means having to defend ideas that we took for granted growing up—ideas like truth, morals, authority, and gender.
We are to teach our kids to build their lives on the firm foundation of Christ. But accepting the truth of Christ entails that our kids first believe that truth exists and sin is real—these are not social construct created by Christians to oppress dissenters. Young people must understand that accepting the truth of Christ means rejecting false and contradictory ideas about God. We must teach them that Scripture cannot be revised to be more politically correct without changing the gospel itself. Remove any of these bedrocks, and we build on sand.
We can no longer be oblivious to the schemes of the enemy. It is time we prepare our kids to filter through the false messages they will hear and distinguish God’s truth from popular lies. If these kids are anything like me, it could make an eternal difference.
Lifeway Research, “Reasons 18-22 Year Olds Drop Out of Church,” 2007.
2 Stephen Cable, Cultural Captives—the Beliefs and Behavior of American Young Adults (Plano, TX: Probe Ministries, 2012), 7.
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