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Ten Questions Every Christian Must Answer

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How Should Christians Engage the Gay Rights Debate

Questions About Faith and God

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Author Interview

Does God Use Lasers to Fight Satan?

By Chris Carpenter Program Director -Noted university apologist and author Dr. Alex McFarland is passionate about his work.  Having spent the last two decades tackling some of Christianity’s toughest questions, McFarland emphatically believes that the best way to build a strong, biblical foundation for the future begins with those who are just learning to tie their shoes.  

In his latest book, 21 Questions Your Kids Will Ask About Christianity, McFarland answers tough, thought-provoking questions that might make the most well-intentioned Christian parent scratch their head in bewilderment.  But throughout the book’s 288 pages, he emphasizes to parents just how important it is to have an answer for these mind-bending puzzlers.

I recently sat down with Dr. McFarland to discuss the number one question children seem to have for God, the importance of figuring out the question behind the question, and whether God uses lasers when he fights Satan … the answer might surprise you.

You have a new book coming out, The 21 Questions Your Kids Will Ask About Christianity.  I have an 8-year-old son who is just starting to ask me questions about faith, God and Jesus. Fortunately, we have him in a Christian school and started real early with him. Why do you think a book like this is needed right now?

Great question. A book like this is needed for a couple of reasons, one, because our culture has become pretty anti-Christian. But the other reason is because kids just naturally have questions about God. In the writing of this book over a 15-month period, I interviewed about 100 children raging in age from five to 12, and we discovered that they have a lot of really probing questions, some kind of funny questions that we can talk about, but kids ask questions.  Moms and dads have the privilege and really the responsibility to be the primary spiritual driver in the lives of their kids, and so, I felt like a resource to help moms and dads to do that effectively was needed.

Is this book meant to be used as sort of a manual, or just a type of book where you read it really through and just kind of absorb all the information?

It’s really a how-to book, very practical, with real deliverables; how to talk to my children about a relationship with Jesus, how to answer some of the really tough questions. We have 75 or 80 questions from actual children. It’s a how-to manual; and here’s the thing I find, a lot of moms and dads, before they can really pass the faith on to their children, need to drill down a little more deeply in their own faith. And so, mom and dad, as you prepare to answer your kids’ questions, your own understanding of God and Christ might deepen along the way.

In all the interviews you did with children, what’s a question that kept coming up over, and over again?

The main one that I would hear from kids eight to 12 would be, “Why do so many bad things happen?”

Well, that’s a common question that a lot of adults ask.

It is. It’s one of the perennial apologetics questions. If God is love, if God is powerful, why is there so much pain and suffering in the world? The problem of evil, we might call it. But I noticed that kids’ questions change as they grow up. Five and six year olds are very concrete thinkers, very black and white.  A little boy asked me, “My pastor says that God and Satan are fighting. What do they fight with, lasers?” A little girl asked me, “Did the baby Jesus wear diapers?” I wrote an article that was in magazines last Christmas out of the book, and we grown-ups, we might recoil. I will tell you this, just in the spirit of full disclosure I’ve had more than one little child ask me, “Where does God go to the bathroom?” We grown-ups will go, ‘Oh, that’s irreverent,’ but kids are very concrete thinkers. By seven, eight, and nine, as a child develops the ability for abstract thought, the questions change. A little girl about eight years old said, “How does God hear the prayers of so many people all at once?”

A little nine year old boy asked me, “If God made everything, who made God?” So, mom and dad, we’re telling our kids the most important thing in your life is Jesus and the Lord, which is true, but if we have a “deer in the headlights” look when we get those questions, and we say, uh, I don’t know, and Heaven forbid, don’t ever say to your child, you shouldn’t ask questions like that.  We want to be able to give good answers and biblical answers, but we need to be able to show to our kids that, hey, this is real in my own life, too.

Was there any one question that you really got a lot of enjoyment out of answering? You mentioned God fighting Satan with the lasers. Was there any question that you just thought, “This is the best question, I never would have thought of this otherwise.”

One little girl said, “When the baby Jesus was in the manger, did he get cold?” And my heart just kind of melted at the empathy. This little girl, she was concerned. “Was Jesus shivering? Was he cold?” I think the thing that just continually would touch my heart was how sincere little children are about God. One little five-year-old boy, he looked at me and he said, “I believe in God.” And I said, “You do?” He was five years old. I said, “Why do you believe in God?” He said, “Well, all this stuff had to come from somewhere.”  He’s thinking rationally as the good Lord made him. Now, it will take years of public school to beat that out of him, but for right now, he’s thinking rationally.   I’m being facetious, of course.

What should a parent do if their child asks them a question that’s not one of the 21 that you answer in your book?

Mom and dad, do not snow-job your children. One thing about a five-year-old, they have radar, they can spot a phony a mile away. It is perfectly okay to say, “Hey, that’s a great question. You know, I’m not really sure, but we can find out together.” And let your child know that your Christian growth is a lifelong adventure. There’s Christian birth and there’s Christian growth, and it’s a lifelong journey. Mom and dad may have been a Christian for fifteen years, but your son or daughter can know that, “Hey, I’m daily pursuing Jesus, too. Hey, that’s a super question.” But please, mom and dad, don’t ever say this, don’t ever say you shouldn’t ask questions like that, or that’s a bad question.

In your book, you write about the importance of figuring out the question behind the question. Why is that important?

The question behind the question is often very telling. If a child were to ask something when they are six through nine years old there is usually a real sense of justice in it. Kids have a real moral compass at this age.  You’re going to hear the phrase, “It’s not fair, that’s not fair, you don’t love me.” There’s a real season in which a child’s view of their heavenly Father is being informed by their view of their earthly father. A child needs to know, and we might as well prepare them ahead of time. Sometimes prayers don’t get answered the way we think they will. God is not the cosmic vending machine, and we don’t want a child—let’s say you prayed for your grandmother to get well, but she passed on anyway. We need to help kids understand that God loves us, but sometimes God says no to things we ask for, or sometimes God says wait for something better, and you don’t want a child by age nine or ten to say, “God’s not fair, or God doesn’t care about me. I thought you said that if I pray in Jesus’ name it will be done.” We need to help kids understand that while God loves us and God blesses us, God is in control and God often does things that maybe we don’t want to hear, but we need to hear. I think that we need to help children understand that just as I, your father or your mother, I love you but I’m still the leader of the house. God loves us, but He’s the leader of the universe and He will always do what’s good for us. God will never fail, God will never hurt us, but sometimes because He loves us and knows more than we know, and sometimes He’s going to say no. And so, we don’t want a child to emerge at 12, 13, or 14, with mistrust of God. You can always trust God.

As an author, what is your greatest hope for this book? What do you hope it accomplishes for those who read it?

In all of my books, by the grace of God, if there’s one thing that I would like to get across to the American church right now, and this comes very clearly through in this parent book, I hope, it’s that as Christians we have to have a very high view of scripture. Psalm 119:93 says, “I will never forget your words, for through them I found life.” Psalm 119 says, “Oh, that my ways were directed to keep all of thy statutes.” If there’s one thing we need a lot in the American church, we need to recognize again the authority of scripture. And for children at a young age, help your kids understand that the Bible is like your best friend. Jesus, the living Word is your savior and friend, but scripture, the written word should also be our daily God. And part of the problem today is we’ve got churches that are doing things that are unbiblical, and churches that aren’t standing up for truth. We need to recognize the authority of scripture. I want to challenge moms and dads to really instill the love of this in the hearts of their children, Proverbs 3:5-6 says,” Trust in the Lord with all thy heart, lean not on thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and H will direct thy paths.” If we want God to direct our paths and really have lives that reflect Jesus and bear fruit for eternity, we’ve got to feed on the Word. So, the theme in my heart is God’s Word -- the Bible; we need to believe it and we need to read it, we need to live it, and we need to pass it on.

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