By Natasha Crain
In the course of doing some research for my book recently, I came across the following “most helpful customer review” on Amazon for Jerry Coyne’s book Why Evolution is True:
I was raised in a very conservative Christian environment and taught Young-Earth Creationism (anti-evolution, anti-Big Bang, etc.). I bought into it for a long time. In college, I finally began to investigate some of the claims for myself – reading what was really being said by ‘the other side,’ rather than what I was being told was being said. The disparity I discovered can hardly be exaggerated: what I had been taught bore essentially zero resemblance to the real thing. Genuine evolutionary theory was virtually unrecognizable in the creationists’ caricatures of it. I learned that I had been lied to – intentionally, or not, I do not know – and that the quantity, diversity, and quality of evidence in support of evolution was simply crushing.
I felt so disheartened reading about this person’s experience. You can just feel the sense of shame she had when she discovered her understanding of evolution had been oversimplified by the Christians in her life (this is not to suggest that the young-Earth view itself is oversimplified; it was her understanding of evolution that had been oversimplified).
That feeling of shame is all too common amongst adults who turn away from Christianity. There are numerous comments on ex-Christian sites that read to the effect of, “Once I grew up and started encountering arguments from non-believers, I felt like a fool for being a Christian all that time.”
If we raise our kids with an oversimplified faith, we’re building a ramp to eventual shame when difficult questions arise.
Here are six ways you may be raising your kids with an oversimplified faith.
1. You make faith a Sunday phenomenon.
The cold, hard truth is that going to church once a week is never going to give kids (or adults!) a deep understanding of Christianity. Church is not a replacement for conversations about faith, Bible study and prayer at home. In fact, research conducted for the book Already Gone showed Sunday school had either a zero or negative impact on the eventual faith of kids who attended regularly!
Faith was never meant to be lived out once a week at church. But even more so today, kids have a significant need for deeper engagement on faith topics that can really only come from proactive Christian parenting at home.
2. You make sure your kids know a lot about what’s in the Bible, but not a lot about the Bible.
After 18 years of going to church, I left home with approximately the following understanding of the Bible: Jesus is the son of God and died for my sins, I need to believe in Him in order to be saved and spend eternity in heaven, God created the world, Moses parted the Red Sea, Daniel was saved from a lion’s den, and somewhere along the way Jonah was swallowed by a whale.
Oh, don’t worry, I could tell you all the books of the Bible in order too, and recite many isolated verses I had dutifully memorized in years of Sunday school. But who wrote the books of the Bible? Why should I believe what the New Testament writers said about Jesus? How do I know what they originally said is what is in the Bible I read today? How do I know the translations we have accurately convey the original meaning? Why should I trust the Bible at all?
These questions never even crossed my mind. I simply knew the stories in the Bible, but nothing about the Bible. Today Christians are regularly challenged by such questions online and in the media. Knowing what’s in the Bible is necessary but not sufficient. Kids need to know about the Bible too…
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