Apologetics: The Most Important Vaccine
By Jeff Laird
Parents know that, no matter what they do, germs are out there, and sooner or later, their children will be exposed to them. More than likely, that will happen when Mom and Dad aren’t there to sanitize things beforehand. So, to better protect our children, it’s best to expose them to germs on purpose. That has to be done carefully, deliberately, and in a controlled way. Done right, it gives the child a chance to develop resistance to those germs in particular, and other germs in general. It won’t necessarily make them immune, but it will make them stronger. That resistance to germs can only come by exposure. If we as parents don’t offer that in a structured way, our children wind up vulnerable to germs they shouldn’t even be threatened by. The end result of avoiding all exposure to germs is not a safer child, but a far more vulnerable one.
Now, please re-read the above paragraph, but every time you see the word “germs”, replace it with “false beliefs”.
Parents who care about their children make an effort to protect them from false teachings and unbiblical philosophy. That’s a good thing, without a doubt. Too often, though, that protection comes in only one form: total avoidance. That is, parents try to protect their children’s minds by completely eliminating all exposure to contradictory ideas, attitudes, and thoughts. That’s actually a terrible strategy, which the germ analogy helps demonstrate.
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It’s critically important for our children to see that we, as believers, are not only aware of other views, but that we have considered and responded to them. It’s tragic to see so many children leave home, and their home church, only to have their first, probably catastrophic exposure to the myriad attacks against their Christian faith. No one would be surprised if a teen who had never been vaccinated contracted mumps soon after moving into a public dorm. Why should we, as Christians, be so surprised when a child, having never been exposed to conflicting ideas, assumes their parents and church never considered them?
Intellectual avoidance only does one thing: it conditions the child to accept everything they read, hear or see. It over-develops their trust in self-titled experts, and weakens their development of healthy, Biblically-endorsed skepticism (Acts 17:11, 1 John 4:1). Of course, children and teens aren’t oblivious to contradiction. They’ll notice when new information conflicts with their upbringing, and they’ll feel the natural resistance to change. But without experience in dealing with doubt, criticism, challenges, and alternatives to their faith, they’ll have little chance of defending the truth, and be at much greater risk of abandoning it entirely.
At the same time, mere exposure isn’t enough. Our physical immune system does all of its work behind the scenes. When it comes to false doctrines, attacks on faith, and worldly thinking, our children need more than simple awareness. They need more than simplistic warnings and a laundry list of alternative views. They need to be taught how to think critically, rationally, and reasonably about all things, but particularly about matters of faith…