Essential doctrine to the faith- where do you start with kids?

(Sarah West) #1

I hope this isn’t too vague. During study at home, we are using West Minister Catechisms to help understand core doctrine. As my children get older, they’ve been bringing attention to the huge gaps in the christian life. For example, they meet a new “Christian” but the glaring differences in doctrine are too opposite to ignore. (They believe in God but not hell etc).

Trying to refocus in the new year, “narrowing” down the essentials in the christian faith. I feel like a squirrel at times! So much to teach but the age gaps make it harder.

What are your top five areas to start when it comes to this… I’ve focused in the last year on Jesus life, death and resurrection and validity of the Bible.

Is there a parenting group on here? If not may I start one?

Happy 2019!

(SeanO) #2

@Swest That is a great question. @CarsonWeitnauer could speak to creating some sort of environment for parents to discuss parenting and apologetics - he also has provided some apologetics resources for kids in a thread linked below. I do not have five specific points I would emphasize necessarily. I look forward to hearing others’ thoughts. Here are 2 things that come to mind after reading your post:

  1. Make sure they know the Bible (I think something like ‘The Bible Project’ can be helpful) - as you go through the Bible, the questions and topics will rise naturally out of the Biblical text
  2. Discuss the idea of ‘levels of doctrine’ - help them understand that we can be Christian without agreeing on every detail - I don’t think we should underestimate the intelligence of our kids (I’ve provided some resources on levels of doctrine below). With topics like the end times, views of how God handles final judgment, baptism, etc this can be very helpful mental scaffolding.

Levels of Doctrine

Not all doctrine is equally important. Some beliefs are at the very center of our Christian faith and to deny them is to deny Christ. Other beliefs are important to how we practice our faith and are therefore the cause of disagreement between many denominations, but these beliefs do not place us outside of Christ. Still other doctrines, such as eschatology, are difficult even for very learned and godly people to understand clearly and are therefore a matter of opinion.

The below article offers a fuller explanation of levels of doctrine and gives a helpful summary list of 4 levels of doctrine.

  1. absolutes define the core beliefs of the Christian faith;
  2. convictions , while not core beliefs, may have significant impact on the health and effectiveness of the church;
  3. opinions are less-clear issues that generally are not worth dividing over; and
  4. questions are currently unsettled issues.

Where an issue falls within these categories should be determined by weighing the cumulative force of at least seven considerations:

  1. biblical clarity;
  2. relevance to the character of God;
  3. relevance to the essence of the gospel;
  4. biblical frequency and significance (how often in Scripture it is taught, and what weight Scripture places upon it);
  5. effect on other doctrines;
  6. consensus among Christians (past and present); and
  7. effect on personal and church life.

(Sarah West) #3

I look forward to reading through all of this! Bible project is my absolute favorite resource. Thank you so much. And, I too, look forward to hearing others thoughts! @SeanO

(SeanO) #4

@Swest I don’t have kids yet, but when I was a kid I remember how large an impact ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ had on me. Not all kids are the same, but for me it actually served as quite a powerful apologetic because Lewis included in story form some of the intellectual arguments brought against Christianity. I also feel those stories helped me understand some very subtle truths about how God works in mysterious ways and on a time scale very different than our own. It ‘sanctified my imagination’ as some have said. I was actually able to show a video clip from ‘The Silver Chair’ (see link at bottom thread) to answer one of my youth group student’s questions about ‘How do we know that we are not in the matrix?’ Sounds a bit funny - but to them it was a dead serious question. I could not figure out how to answer well, but when I showed them the video clip with Puddleglum it clicked and they got it right away - satan is trying to deceive us with lies and keep us from recognizing the reality of God’s Kingdom.

May the Lord Jesus fill your kids with His Spirit and grant you wisdom as you teach and guide them.

(C Rhodes) #5

Because many of the children I know, feel unheard, unconsulted,and unconsidered in day to day decisions about their lives; I always start with the personalization of JESUS. I tell the children that the one thing that can never be taken from them is the love of GOD. Realizing this never fails to fill little eyes with unshed tears. Adults often forget, what they think is best can feel like encroachment.

(Matt Western) #6

Great topic - and I like all the answers so far.

My wife and I teach Sunday school for primary school age, and have a 15 year old daughter.

There are heaps of Sunday school curriculum available but we try and cover.

  • God created, and we are His creation
  • Satan was an angel, but fell because of his pride (we don’t dwell on this too much)
  • The Fall: Man and Women were created in God’s image, but also decided to ‘go their own way’. Link this to ‘doing your own thing’
  • Jesus was perfect, and that we can accept him by faith, and make as clear as possible the substitutionary atonement of Jesus taking our place and we deserve death. Make clear it’s a gift being offered, and we can receive it. We can choose to accept or reject a gift. We use the Romans Road most years at least once.

I’ve used this one in the past ‘The Bridge’ - showing Us, God, Sin, and Jesus as the bridge between us and God.

If we are looking at an Old Testament passage, story or anything in the New Testament, we always try to point towards Jesus. For example, we see flaws in the characters in the Old Testament, and we show they are sinners just like us, and need Jesus.

I also like the passage that Jesus said, unless we are humble and become like children, we cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18:2-5
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

We are very careful not to solicit a premature confession of faith by children - so they think they are saved because they prayed a prayer, but always offer an invitation to ask more questions of us or parents later if they want. It’s quite interesting during craft time the conversation that is had after a lesson - the kids are relaxed and kind of ‘debrief’ around the table, and they often ask simple but very often not that simple questions about what has been talked about in the lesson.

I like Andy Stanley explaining John 3:16 for kids. God loves, God gave, We believe, We receive.

As my daughter has gotten older, we discuss what we call ‘God’s design is best’ - in relation to gender, marriage, sex and sexuality, wise use of time and money, kindness, giving is better than receiving - but at all times we stress the unconditional love of God shown through the person of Jesus who ‘loved us and gave himself for us’, and who rose again on the third day. Because of Jesus, we can be made right with God. God is always, always willing to restore the relationship with us because of Jesus Christ, no matter how much sin we fall into. We don’t have to run away, and hide and ‘fix ourselves’ or turn over a new leaf before we come back to God. We cannot earn favour of God by doing good things - unconditional love by definition is exactly that. And we are clear that we are just as much a sinner as she is, broken and in need of Jesus.

We also are trying to teach her how to think, not what to think. We describe the idea of boundaries and responsibilities. The more responsible we are as we grow, the bigger our boundaries become. A small child has very tight boundaries put in place by parents who know that (for example) touching a heater will burn them, or sticking a fork in a power socket will kill them. You cannot explain electricity to a 2 year old - you can only put a boundary in place for their safety. As we move towards adulthood - boundaries are still there but they are still much broader. Laws of the road, laws regarding taxation etc etc. As we become adults, we move out from the authority of parents, to the authority of the laws of the land, and of course the authority of God, our Creator.
We watched Andy Stanley’s message series ‘Guardrails’ as a family:

(Matt Western) #7

This is excellent. Any thoughts where personal / family standards might fall under? Probably as a parent, I would guess some would be a cross-over between points 2 and 3. As a teenager, some of these things would start at 4 (because my parents say this but they are uncool), and then move up towards 3 or 2 hopefully as maturity grows into adulthood.

Our daughter goes to a Christian school where there are many denominations represented, and we have friends in various denominations - we try to explain by saying on areas of personal conviction. We choose to do x based on these Biblical principals - however, another family chooses to do differently. I try to explain, as a dad, I have a responsibility to do my best, but we also as a family completely respect another families decision to choose a different personal conviction. We agree on the absolutes, and can respectfully discuss our differences.
A lot of areas are under this - what does modesty look like in a fairly sexualised culture. As a young woman growing up, the way in which you attract attention from guys is the type of attention you will get (explaining to my daughter it’s not good to flaunt your body, you’ll get the wrong type of attention). Every family comes to a different personal standard. How do we arrive on our position on alcohol consumption, how do we make wise media choices (movies, music, books), many many other areas.

There has been a huge amount of articles written on Christian unity - it’s such an important topic I think.

(Sarah West) #8

@matthew.western @SeanO I am so encouraged with the responses. Connect is such a great thing! As I look at the material and suggestions, I think family convictions would fall under #2 @matthew.western. Would you agree @SeanO ? Family has such a strong impact on church and society…just a thought.

And maybe I should know this, but the list you provided (absolutes, convictions, opinion, undecided issues) is there a book that breaks this down? I am fairly certain I’m teaching, accurately, the absolutes, but I like to read. I’ve read several authors talk about this but no references. @SeanO I’m always worried I may appear simple by asking questions but I told myself 2019 is a year of connecting the dots and allowing Abba to pour all He has into me. I’m going to use this awesome forum and ask away! You may get sick of me :slight_smile: And thank you again for the conversation.

(Sarah West) #9

@SeanO I answered my own question! In my excitement, I missed the link you provided on absolutes etc. Thank you!

(SeanO) #10

@Swest Please do ask all of your questions :slight_smile: That is why Connect is here - we all have lots of questions, it’s just part of life. And we are committed to this community being a safe place to ask all the questions you need.

(SeanO) #11

@Swest Glad the link helped! You may have already read it, but ‘Mere Christianity’ by C. S. Lewis is a great resource on this topic. Also, I included a few articles you may find helpful.

For me, I think the essentials are:

  • deity and humanity of Jesus
  • the crucifixion and bodily resurrection of Christ
  • the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the one true God
  • Jesus is the only way to God - He is the life - the door - the gate - the way
  • the day of judgment - there will be a day when Jesus returns to judge the world
  • to follow Jesus we must repent - turn from our sins - and follow Him - we cannot live in darkness and light at the same time - we must cast off the works of darkness and walk in newness of life

I could obviously add things to this list easily - like the Trinity or the inerrancy of Scripture - but I was trying to go with the bare essentials to be saved.

In Hebrews 6 we see a list of fundamentals that includes repentance, faith, resurrection and judgment - I think that list is helpful.

Hebrews 6:1-3 - Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.

(Matt Western) #12

I would like to echo that Sarah. I’m finding Connect a great place to talk and ask question and is a great source of encouragement and am loving how questions that have been slightly bothering me can be asked here. And I also agree that the family unit is the building block of society and church. Sadly, the world system would seek to break down the family unit - and wordviews such as Neo-Marxism seek to destroy any God given structures like marriage and family.

I like how you use the Hebrew (Aramaic?) word Abba in reference to God, who is our Heavenly Father. It’s one of my favourite passages in Romans 8:14-17 - and it is amazing how we are joint-heirs (as the KJV translates it) with Jesus and adopted into God’s family. The Holy Spirit indwells Christians and testifies to our spirit that we are God’s children. It’s a very encouraging passage to me personally.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, *“Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:14-17 NIV

(Lorraine Ruhl) #13

Three layers of Doctrine and Obedience

  1. What did Jesus say and do? This covers a lot of ground because he interacts with Old Testament material all the time and processes it in light of the New Covenant.
  2. What did the Disciples preach and teach.
  3. How does the rest of Scripture fit into the first two.
    All of the above overlaid with “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
    I Peter 3:15.

Solid discipleship while allowing for subtleties in interpretation is a growth process that is caught best when modeled. This can happen by being with believers from many faith backgrounds on a regular basis while keeping the Scripture solid at home.

We have the gift in our generation of access to giants of the faith that have done their study and made a global impact for the Kingdom. Teach your children to be diligent to check what they hear with Scripture.When views seem to clash, allowing them to simmer over time with lots of added Scripture reading allows the truth to sift to the top.

I find Romans 14 and 2 Timothy 2 helpful to remember.
Lorraine Ruhl

(Loralie Brown) #14

If you are on Facebook, look up “The Christian Parenting Lounge” started by Natasha Crain. It is a forum for parents to discuss such topics as you have raised. Are you familiar with her? She is an apologist with a focus on teaching parents how to approach apologetics with their kids. She has 2 good books out on the subject. God bless!

(Sarah West) #15

I know Natasha very well! I’m her Communications Director with GAP (Grassroots Apologetics for Parents). We are both writers! She’s actually encouraged the writing of book #2 for me! It’s half finished and I’m working on the book proposal! It’s a very introductory book on why apologetics is needed based on my personal journey. Small world! I’ll tell her she comes highly recommended. :wink:
But as I go deeper, for personal growth, I like to bounce ideas off and this forum is great! Thank you @Lorbrown

(Loralie Brown) #16

haha! Too funny. I’ve signed up as a GAP ambassador, but we attend a very large church and so these things can take time to get off the ground. Hopefully soon! Take care and I’ll look forward to “bumping into you” from time to time in these forums :slight_smile:

God bless,