Do You Know What You Believe?

I received a golden opportunity driving back from my in-laws’ house late one night. It was a 90-minute drive, and my wife had fallen asleep. From the back seat came the question, "Daddy, why do you believe in Jesus, Christianity, you know, all that stuff?”

The question came from out of the blue like a spiritual missile, launched from the mouth of my teen daughter. Here's what I said:

1.     You have to decide for yourself about the key truths of Christianity, and you shouldn’t believe what I say just because I say it. You need to think and explore for yourself. (I would likely be more authoritative to a younger child.)

2.     I believe that the evidence is clear in favor of a Creator. The creation is too complex, and living beings are too complicated to be explained by evolution. The theory of evolution does not satisfy my common sense.

3.     If there is a Creator who in some way made the physical world out of nothing, then there is no other miracle that would be too difficult for that Creator. Thus, the Bible’s miracles are possible.

4.     If there is a Creator and this Creator made me a reasoning, social, and curious being, I believe this Creator made me curious so that I would want to know about Him. Thus, we should have stories of His dealings with men down through the ages.

5.     Of all the stories about God (all the religions), only one matches what I see to be true in the world. I see horrible sin committed by people, so I know that sin exists. I see sin in myself, so I know that I am sinful. I see an amazing earth that spins precariously in a hostile vacuum, just the right distance from a heat source so that liquid water is possible, tilted at just the right angle and rotating at just the right speed to limit the temperature range, and with just the right mass to maintain a blanket of atmosphere of just the right mixture to sustain life. Because this world provides so wonderfully for me, I believe the Creator is good. If the Creator is immensely powerful and good but I am sinful, then something went wrong with His creation. The Bible’s account of creation and the first man’s sin appear true to me. I need a way to be reconciled to my Creator.

6.     The way of reconciliation is credibly supplied in Jesus, who is still, after 2000 years, the most captivating and remarkable personality ever to have lived. Because miracles are possible, I am willing to read the New Testament accounts of Jesus and weigh with my intellect whether they are credible. Since the writers of the Gospels do not make themselves out to be superheroes or holier-than-thou figures, these writings ring true. Since the closest followers of Jesus claimed that He rose from the grave, and they were willing to die horrible deaths rather than recant, I believe they reported exactly what they saw.

7.     Based on evidence, I believe that the New Testament books were written soon after Jesus’s resurrection, and that they were jealously guarded by the fiercely loyal and heavily persecuted believers of the first few centuries. They were written in Greek, a common language, and there is no controversy today as to what the words mean. Many copies of these books were made early on and even survive today, so that any believer or skeptic down through the centuries could compare and determine if any changes had been made. Many books or letters were excluded from the accepted group of Scriptures, which proves to me that certain rules determined which writings were inspired versus those that were not. Thus, I believe the New Testament is both reliable and inspired.

8.     If I believe that Jesus is God and that the New Testament is inspired, then whatever Jesus commands me to do, I have an obligation to do. Because I still drag around an earthly body, I still sin, but I also believe that the infinite value of Christ’s death pays for my sin. Thus God, who set up this exchange, accepts that payment in full.

9.     Because Jesus spoke of hell and eternal separation from God, I believe in this eventuality for those who reject the offer to believe in Jesus and will not accept His sacrifice.

10.  Since I believe in hell, I have a passionate desire to keep my children out of there, and so I take my parenting duties seriously.

I felt pretty proud of myself at the end of my speech. The truth is, I may have used all the right words, but I wish I had spent time afterward listening to her thoughts on the matter. I talked but I didn’t communicate. Communication happens only when the words you speak are received as you meant them, and without hearing her thoughts, I couldn’t be sure.

Just because you get to have such a conversation with your child, it doesn’t mean you’ve triumphed and the matter is closed. You will have to show that your behavior is based on your core beliefs. You must connect words with actions in order to validate your beliefs.

(from Parenting Unchained, chapter 13)