Last week, I wrote about Natasha Crain’s forthcoming book, and as I composed that post, I asked one of my sons what they would say if a skeptic asked “How do you know God exists?”
He replied, “Let’s start with this, God made everything, right? But if people said He didn’t, it couldn’t just exist by itself! Only God can make everything by saying a word… and because He’s doing many miracles. (pause) And the Bible.”
At the time, I made a mental note of those points, in the hope that we could circle back and address them at a future date. Providentially, my son brought that conversation up today and rather confidently reasserted that a person who doesn’t believe God exists should just read the Bible.
While that is true, and that the Holy Spirit often brings people to a saving knowledge of God through the Word, my child’s smug tone called for some correction and guidance; So I became the skeptic.
Mom, the Skeptic
“I should just read the Bible, huh?” I confirmed. He looked at me with a bit of shock and then fired back:
“Yeah, just read it and then you’ll know.”
“Well, what if I don’t believe it because I think the New Testament was just written by a bunch of liars?” I said confidently.
…silence… wheels turning…
“They were Christians, so they didn’t lie,” he explored.
“Maybe I don’t believe that. I’m pretty sure they were just lying,” I pressed.
“What?! But the disciples wouldn’t lie,” he sputtered, becoming frazzled as he threw out some names of Biblical figures that he assumed would convince me.
“Nah, I think all those guys were making stuff up. Probably to make money or be popular or something.”
He sank into the couch. The confidence was gone and he was ready for help.
“Would you like to know what I’d say to a person like that?” I asked, signaling that I was done pushing him. He eagerly said “yes.”
“I’d tell that person that the disciples died. They were killed for saying and writing what they did. Do liars die for things they know are lies?” I asked.
“No,” he said.
“If they were lying and then people started killing their friends, would they keep on lying or would they say ‘Whoa! Wait a sec! I’m done saying this stuff, don’t hurt me!’?”
“They’d say they were done lying!” His confidence was returning.
“One of the reasons that I can believe the Bible was written by people who were telling the truth is because they were willing to die for the things they wrote; things they would have known were true, or not true. Since the disciples saw Jesus come back from the dead, they knew that believing in him would mean they’d actually be saved to be with him in heaven. They were willing to die for the things they were saying because they really believed them. It’s not the only reason I believe the Bible, but it’s a good reason,” I explained.
A Visual & Mental Aid
In the hope that a more tangible example would help him, I asked him to pretend I’d told him there was a million dollars in a cardboard box (there is a box on our counter, so it was a visible prop), and that I would give it to him if he let me spank him as hard as I could 5 times. I asked him to pretend he had SEEN me put the money in there, so he knew it was really inside. Would he let me spank him if it meant he could have that money? Without hesitation, he was emphatically saying “YES! YES!”
Then I explained that we’d now pretend I’d told him there was a million dollars in a cardboard box, and that I would give it to him if he let me spank him as hard as I could 5 times. But THIS time, he peeked in the box and saw that there wasn’t ANY money inside. Would he let me spank him this time? With equal emphasis he was saying “OH NO WAY!”
Then I put him back in the seat of teacher. I asked, “So why should I believe the Bible if it was just written by a bunch of liars?”
“It wasn’t written by liars! They died for the things they wrote and liars don’t do that,” he explained.
“So now will you feel frustrated and confused when someone asks you that question?” I asked him. He confirmed he wouldn’t and was visibly relieved.
This was one of the first times I’ve pushed back on him about his beliefs in this way, so I tread lightly. I swooped in pretty quickly to offer him the answer and to walk him through the thinking in a way that he could understand, and I made sure he was feeling confident before I had him run off and find something to do.
Have You Tried It?
Hopefully this example of roleplaying as a skeptic will be an encouragement to you as you interact with kids who may be fairly knowledgeable about biblical beliefs, but who may not yet have experienced pushback or the need to think more carefully about WHY their belief makes sense. Have you tried this with your children? We’d love to hear over on our Facebook page how that went!