Motherhood and the Life of the Mind

Early yesterday morning, I met up with a friend at my neighborhood coffee shop. A morning outing without my kids, on a weekday, is a rarity during this season of my life, so it was a treat to have uninterrupted adult conversation for a whole 90 minutes. :-)

I had forgotten about the hustle and bustle of early weekday mornings in a suburban cafe. Experiencing it again made me reflect on days gone by. Before my older son was born, I worked as a research associate for a biotechnology company just a couple blocks down from this particular coffee shop, so up until about 11 years ago (Eeeeek! That long?) I was one of the career women standing in line for an overpriced coffee, checking my watch, hoping not to be late for work. I loved my job; I loved having my mind challenged on a daily basis and honing my skills on cutting-edge biochemistry equipment while perched at my bench wearing my white lab coat. It felt like my “place” in the world.

My last day on the job was five days before I became a mother. BAM! The world shifted under my feet.

For the first 18 months of my new life, I was surrounded by several close friends with new babies. I had an active mommy-social-life in addition to the demands of caring for an infant and a husband. My life was rather full. But one by one, those friends moved away, my son grew and became a bit lower-maintenance, and I found myself experiencing increasing restlessness. I knew I was called to be a stay-at-home mom, but I was becoming desperate for intellectual stimulation. For about five years, I tried to develop passions for things I saw other moms doing, but to little avail. I joined Bible study groups made up of young moms, but never quite fit in and often found the material shallow; I tried my hand at various visual arts but found out pretty quickly that I didn’t have much natural talent; I started writing a novel that never went beyond chapter 1. I felt discouraged, like a piece of me was missing, and my spiritual life was a bit crippled by that deficiency.

Then, through a series of very painful circumstances, God showed me, in no uncertain terms, that my intellectual fulfillment was inextricably linked to Him and to my ministry calling–a calling that He had been leading me towards since college, though I didn’t recognize it until that much later date. So, exactly 10 years after finishing my bachelor’s degree, I applied to graduate school and began working towards a master’s in science and religion (that science background had a much higher purpose than I ever expected!). Five years after that momentous event, here I am, about to begin doctoral work. I am overwhelmed just thinking about where I was spiritually and intellectually (stagnant) and where God has brought me–while I’ve remained a stay-at-home mother and the primary educator of my children. Sometimes my heart feels like it’s going to burst with the gratitude I feel for this transformative, enlightening,  joyful, no-turning-back journey I’ve been granted. The most wonderful thing about it, though, is not how my inner life has changed for the better; rather, it’s how much better equipped I have become to be the mother I should be.

What am I getting at? Am I saying that every mother should follow the same path that I have? Do you need a PhD to be a great mom? No, of course not! We are each uniquely fashioned and purposed. But, we are all commanded to love God with our minds and we are urged to train up our children in a way that honors and glorifies Him. We must  maximize our potential in this regard.

Here’s what I want you to know. As mothers, our spiritual maturity depends in a major way on our intellectual development. We have to get beyond knowing WHAT we believe to be true about God and the world and be able to say WHY we believe it to be so. When one of our children approaches us with questions such as “Mom, how do you know God’s real, and not just made up?” or “How do you know the Bible is true?” we’d better have something more substantial than, “Oh honey, we just have faith!” if we want to train up warriors in this decaying, increasingly hostile culture. What’s more, we cannot underestimate the value of modelling for our children the value of lifelong learning.

Moms, if you haven’t already, then I implore you to begin today. You may be thinking, “I don’t even know where to start! The very idea of sweeping the cobwebs out of that corner of my brain is so daunting!” Allow me to give you a quick-start list that you could easily cover by the end of this calendar year by simply replacing a chunk of your entertainment time with study.

1. First, you need to understand why the life of the mind is essential to the Christian. I recommend Dr. J.P. Moreland’s book, Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul.

2. Get a handle on worldview and how to discern truth from the subtle falsehoods we’re bombarded with. I suggest Kenneth Sample’s book, A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test.

3. Spend some time studying the essential doctrines of Christianity. Tragically, many Christians don’t even understand the faith they claim to profess! There are many great books out there, but I would start with C.S. Lewis’s famous book, Mere Christianity. It’s not a systematic theology text. Lewis’s purpose in writing it was to communicate the minimum set of core doctrines that must be held. After this, I would suggest something that delves into theology in a non-intimidating way, such as Dr. Alister McGrath’s Theology: The Basics.

4. Develop your ability to defend Christianity against common objections. I particularly like the format and readability of Dr. Douglas Groothuis’s book, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. Don’t be intimidated by the page count! This book is extremely readable and digestible. You could take it a section at the time, with breaks in between.

5. Learn about the history of ideas and their impact on human culture. This is a MAJOR area of weakness for secularists, and has a nearly untapped potential for apologetics and evangelism. It’s the area I’ve chosen for my PhD research, actually. Study some of the great works of philosophy and literature from the past two thousand years. You can wade in easily with Mortimer Adler’s book, How to Think About the Great Ideas: From the Great Books of Western Civilization.

6. Sharpen your ability to think clearly and reason well by learning to avoid common fallacies. I recommend The Fallacy Detective: Thirty-Eight Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasoning.

Partner up with another mom so that you can encourage and sharpen one another in your quest to become better thinkers, better Christ-followers, and better educators of your children.

The saying is so true: All Christians are theologians, philosophers, and apologists, the question is simply how competent we are. Competence takes work, but oh, what rewarding work it is! Few investments bring such certain and abundant return.

Let us raise up the next generation to highly value Christian scholarship, to have solid reasons for their hope, and to carry on this legacy for the glory of God.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Why Science Does Not Disprove God (and my commentary)

An article on Time Magazine’s website caught my attention today due to some social media buzz. I’d like to link to it here and offer my personal thoughts. timeThe article, Why Science Does Not Disprove God, is written by Dr. Amir D. Aczel, who has recently published a book by the same title. (I’ve not read the book, only the author’s article.) It’s notable that an article with this title is on Time’s website. Maybe their site views were down and they needed something to attract the ever-dependable, vociferous anti-theist internet trolls for the sake of a traffic spike (tongue-in-cheek). Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the article, but I think some of the language was a bit ambiguous and could be misconstrued, hence my motivation for this post. So, without further ado… Aczel begins:

A number of recent books and articles will have you believe that—somehow—science has now disproved the existence of God. We know so much about how the Universe works, their authors claim, that God is simply unnecessary: we can explain all the workings of the Universe without the need for a “creator.”

Yes, this is an accurate depiction of the common pop-atheism claim. But the argument is a poor one. Dr. John Lennox’s charmingly snarky remark comes to mind here:

It is those scientists who make exaggerated claims for science who make science look ridiculous. They have unintentionally and perhaps unconsciously wandered from doing science into myth-making–incoherent myths at that.

(God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?)

In reality, science has been woefully unsuccessful in answering some essential questions about the world. Contrary to the claims of some dogmatic materialism devotees, there are areas that seem to be utterly closed to empiricism. Hold this thought–I’ll elaborate in a moment.

Aczel goes on to laud the extraordinary achievements of science, including the mapping of the human genome (a project headed by a devout Christian, mind you) and the elucidation of cellular machinery. But then he makes a statement that I think needs careful clarification:

Science has won major victories against entrenched religious dogma throughout the 19th Century.

We need to understand what “entrenched religious dogma” means here. It does NOT mean essential Christian doctrines, the tenets of the faith that are required for saving knowledge of Christ. The “dogma” Aczel is referring to (I’m giving Aczel the benefit of the doubt here) includes specific interpretations of Scripture held for philosophical and other reasons. The point being, those interpretations aren’t the only options for textual coherence and Christian orthodoxy, so the “major victories” of science he refers to are not victories over Christianity. Science, the study of God’s natural revelation to us, helps our efforts to correctly understand God’s special revelation (Scripture). That’s both a win for science and a win for Christian theology.

Aczel mentions Leon Foucault’s pendulum, and how it experimentally demonstrated the rotation of the earth. But he goes further, seeming to make the claim that this was key in disproving geocentrism. That’s a very misleading statement. First of all, by the time of Foucault, heliocentrism had long been accepted by the Church and the scientific community based on empirical evidence. Perhaps Aczel means that the pendulum demonstration offered more support for the heliocentric model. Second, it must be noted that the geocentric model was indeed held by some Christian (and academic) authorities in centuries past, but at that time Scripture was being interpreted in an overly- literalistic way mainly because of theologians’ commitment to Aristotelian cosmology. My point being, evidence in strong support of heliocentrism is more of a “victory” over a non-religious natural philosophy (geocentric cosmology), one that happened to be held by religious and non-religious people of a certain time period. Aczel ends the paragraph with:

We now know that Earth is billions—not thousands—of years old, as some theologians had calculated based on counting generations back to the biblical Adam. All of these discoveries defeated literal interpretations of scripture.

I’m glad he was careful to use the phrase “literal interpretations of scripture.” The age of the earth controversy hinges on textual interpretation, not on authority or inerrancy of Scripture. This is a point many anti-theist activists refuse to acknowledge, because it ruins one of their favorite arguments against Christianity. And don’t let them tell you that Christianity has simply re-interpreted Genesis 1 and 2 to escape a fatally crushing blow of good science. There were theologians and church leaders in very early Christendom (first few centuries after Christ’s resurrection) that did not interpret the Genesis “days” literally. No matter what view you happen to take on the age of the earth, be mindful that this is not an issue that Christian orthodoxy hinges upon. The anti-theist (or even the Christian) who tells you otherwise is either dishonest or woefully under-educated on the nuances of ancient near-eastern literature and the complexity of biblical hermeneutics. Aczel continues:

But has modern science, from the beginning of the 20th Century, proved that there is no God, as some commentators are now claiming? Science is an amazing, wonderful undertaking: it teaches us about life, the world, and the Universe. But it has not revealed to us why the Universe came into existence, nor what preceded its birth in the Big Bang. Equally, biological evolution has not brought us the slightest understanding of how the first living organisms emerged from inanimate matter on this planet, and how the advanced eukaryotic cells—the highly structured building blocks of advanced life forms—ever emerged from simpler organisms. Neither does it explain one of the greatest mysteries of science: how did consciousness arise in living things? Where do symbolic thinking and self-awareness come from? What is it that allows us humans to understand the mysteries of biology, physics, mathematics, engineering, and medicine? And what enables us to create great works of art, music, architecture, and literature? Science is nowhere near to explaining these deep mysteries.

When I read this passage, I could almost hear the materialists caterwauling, “Argument from ignorance!! Argument from ignorance!! God of the gaps!! God of the gaps!!” Please hear me on this: It is very probably true that science will elucidate much more about the natural world as time goes on. The history of science has taught us to expect this, and a biblical view of the cosmos and of mankind does as well. BUT, there is a key difference between something the scientific community hasn’t yet figured out and something science CANNOT answer (for one reason or another). Materialists put an enormous amount of faith in one particular idea: There is a material explanation for EVERYTHING, even if we never discover all of them.

Think about that for a moment. Realize that this is not a scientific statement. It is a 100% philosophical statement that reveals an a priori commitment to materialism. What if some things have a non-material explanation? The handicapped version of scientific inquiry used by the materialist is impotent to discover such a thing. In other words, “There are only material explanations because those are the only ones I’m willing to consider.” Do you see the problem with this dogmatism? For example, Aczel mentions that science has no idea what preceded the Big Bang. Do you know why? Because space, matter, and TIME came into existence at that moment. “What happened before?” becomes a nonsensical question. What does that leave you with when you’re trying to determine a cause of the Big Bang? Something immaterial and timeless with power of causation (ahem). Science, by definition, can only study our universe’s matter, space, energy, and the regularities that govern them. It cannot go beyond that. The question of “before” the Big Bang is closed to science. The only thing the materialist can do is speculate, but all of the alternative theories suffer from logical problems, such as the impossibility of an infinite past series of events or moments in time.

Aczel also mentions the origin of the first life as a grave difficulty for science. This is a different situation, because life came about in the course of time after the beginning of the universe. So technically, science can investigate the how and when of life’s genesis. Intelligent design advocates are accused of the “God of the gaps” fallacy, which plugs God into any gaps in scientific knowledge. But this is categorically false. What the design advocate is claiming is that the genetic code and the characteristics of living cells bear unmistakable marks of intelligent agency. That is entirely different from saying, “Since we don’t know where life came from, God must have done it.” In other words, the biological design argument is based on empirical data not on a lack of data. The materialist, who is philosophically committed to considering only one type of explanation for natural phenomena, refuses from the start to accept indicators of design, no matter what evidence comes to light over time. Talk about open-minded inquiry.

I particularly love that Aczel asks, “Where do symbolic thinking and self-awareness come from? What is it that allows us humans to understand the mysteries of biology, physics, mathematics, engineering, and medicine? And what enables us to create great works of art, music, architecture, and literature?” The higher cognition and rationality that is required for symbolic and abstract thought, for the conception of elaborate and artistic creations, is unique to human beings. Furthermore, these are capabilities that wouldn’t have emerged based on a survival or reproductive advantage out in the prehistoric jungle. It’s a bit silly to think that some ancient hominid who first developed the mental construct of numbers, for example, was somehow more physically fit, or more attractive to a mate who had no such concept. Rationality, including symbolic/abstract thought, and acute moral awareness delineate us in kind, not degree, from the rest of the animal kingdom. This is one facet of what philosophers of religion mean when they refer to the imago Dei, the image of God. I love Aczel’s next argument (emphasis, mine):

But much more important than these conundrums is the persistent question of the fine-tuning of the parameters of the Universe: Why is our Universe so precisely tailor-made for the emergence of life? This question has never been answered satisfactorily, and I believe that it will never find a scientific solution. For the deeper we delve into the mysteries of physics and cosmology, the more the Universe appears to be intricate and incredibly complex. To explain the quantum-mechanical behavior of even one tiny particle requires pages and pages of extremely advanced mathematics. Why are even the tiniest particles of matter so unbelievably complicated? It appears that there is a vast, hidden “wisdom,” or structure, or a knotty blueprint for even the most simple-looking element of nature.

Indeed, there should come a point in our scientific investigation when we admit that material explanations for some phenomena are appearing less and less likely, and we should consider other possibilities. This is not to say that we close the door on material explanation!! We are simply broadening the scope of our inquiry. Why on earth would any competent scientist object to this? The only reason, as far as I can see, is that it rubs their metaphysical fur the wrong way. After a few good words on the fine-tuning problem, Aczel declares:

…the purely hypothetical multiverse does not solve the problem of God. The incredible fine-tuning of the Universe presents the most powerful argument for the existence of an immanent creative entity we may well call God. Lacking convincing scientific evidence to the contrary, such a power may be necessary to force all the parameters we need for our existence—cosmological, physical, chemical, biological, and cognitive—to be what they are.

I agree. Even the late Christopher Hitchens admitted this troubling problem for materialism. (<—that video is a MUST-WATCH). The odds are not in their favor. The article ends with:

Science and religion are two sides of the same deep human impulse to understand the world, to know our place in it, and to marvel at the wonder of life and the infinite cosmos we are surrounded by. Let’s keep them that way, and not let one of them attempt to usurp the role of the other.

This comes very close to what I believe is the correct philosophy of science and faith integration: Science, when correct, will never conflict with theology, done correctly; they actually exist in synergy, complementing and even supporting one another. In the oft-quoted words of the brilliant scientist Johannes Kepler, the practice of science is merely “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.”

Thoughts on Public Education and the Christian Worldview

This article is not going to be a tirade against public schooling. I have many intelligent Christian friends who have their children enrolled in public school, and I do not think less of them for it by any means. But, I feel God leading me to say a few words about one enormous failing of public education. My intent is not to try and convince parents of publicly schooled children to switch to homeschooling or private school. (For many families, public school is the only option, period.) My goal here is to help you understand the core problem with secularized education and offer advice on how to successfully counteract it.

I need to begin by first explaining why my husband and I have chosen to homeschool our sons. It’s not for the reasons commonly thought by non-homeschooling parents or by secularists.

I do not homeschool in order to isolate my children from non-Christians. Now, it is certainly true that the vast majority of people my kids come into contact with are Christians, because we are active in our church and most of our friends and family are Christians. The fact of the matter is that a shared worldview draws people into close relationships with one another. But if a non-Christian family moved in next door, for example, those children would be welcome to come hang out at my home. This is the example set by Jesus Christ himself.

I do not homeschool in order to shield my children from certain scientific theories about the origin of the universe, the origin of life, and the origin of species. Actually, I began teaching my kids about the current scientific thought on these matters at about the age of 7, and I do this by explaining the scientific theories from the secular perspective and the theistic perspective. Furthermore, I make sure they understand the diversity of views on origins WITHIN Christendom, including the strengths and weaknesses of each position. The most important thing a Christian parent can teach their children about this topic  is that there is great synergy, not conflict, between science done correctly and theology done correctly.

Okay, with all that said, what is the giant failing of public education that needs to be understood and effectively counteracted by parents of children enrolled in public school?

A secularized education communicates the falsehood that truths about the world are entirely separable from–and have meaning apart from–God and the Christian worldview. Attempts to “neutralize” education in order to accommodate a pluralistic society result in distortions that slant everything away from the truth about God, the nature of man, and objective morality. The “big questions” may not be directly addressed in the classroom, but this avoidance automatically yet subtly communicates the philosophy of relativism–that there are many “right” answers to those questions, so the school room is not the place to teach one particular view.

What does this mean for children who attend public school but are from practicing Christian families? They tend to grow up with a compartmentalized intellect. On the one hand, there’s everything they learn at school, and on the other hand, there’s everything they learn at home and at church. But this is all wrong. All truth is God’s truth, and every discipline (history, mathematics, science, literature, social studies, etc.) is related in some fashion to ultimate reality.

I’ve often heard parents say, “Well, almost all the teachers at our public school are Christians, so I’m not worried.” This shows misunderstanding about the central issue here. It’s not about what a teacher may quietly choose to skip when presenting the state curriculum to his or her class; it’s about the teacher’s complete inability, legally speaking, to present anything within the correct framework.

Take a look at this very short but excellent video:

(I highly recommend that entire video series, even if you never plan to homeschool. There are some great nuggets of wisdom in them!)

So, is there a viable solution for families that use public education? I think there is, but it involves a serious commitment of time, energy, and some financial resources.

1. Parents need to be fully aware of everything their children are learning in school and how things are being taught so that they can explain how worldview plays into each and every subject.  Philosophical adjustments to the material will need to be made when instructing the child on how to integrate the facts they’re learning into the over-arching Christian worldview. This will require quite a lot of reading and preparation on the parents’ part. I would strongly suggest studying books on worldview and culture by respected Christian scholars such as Nancy Pearcey (Total Truth is a must-read, but all of her books are excellent) and at least one good book on relativism such as Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air by Greg Koukl and Dr. Francis Beckwith. If you have older children, read such books together and discuss them. Summer break is an excellent time for something like this.

2. Ongoing intellectual dialogue between parents and children is essential. Talk about their studies with them at every opportunity (car rides, dinner table, etc.) and ask them deep questions. For example, say they’re studying World War II and Nazi Germany. That’s the perfect time to have serious discussions on the sanctity of life, on the social implications of neo-Darwinism (carefully distinguishing it from common descent), the nature of man, and objective morality.

3. Attend conferences and workshops on apologetics, worldview, and classical education. If you have kids in high school, take them along with you. You will glean a wealth of information and practical tools for fostering a fully integrated worldview in your home. You could even enroll in an online course from time to time. Various universities, seminaries, and ministries offer non-degree programs in apologetics and worldview with high-caliber content. Pass along your knowledge to your children in conversation.

And last, but most importantly, no matter how you have chosen to school your children, be in continual prayer about how you can best guide them into a coherent and integrated view of reality. God will honor your efforts to bring Him glory through teaching your children to better love Him with their minds.


Wreaking Havoc on Scientific Materialism: C.S. Lewis on Natural Law and Divine Action in Nature

This is a cross-post of my new piece at the HBU School of  Christian Thought blog.

There are two rather typical responses from materialist scientists and philosophers to the suggestion that a creator God guides the development and sustains the order of nature:

1) Our current scientific theories on the evolution of all things are sufficient to explain all natural phenomena. The idea of a creator has been rendered superfluous.

2) Science doesn’t have it all figured out, and truth be told, it may never give us comprehensive knowledge of natural history or a full explanation for the stability and regularities of the cosmos, but plugging God into these knowledge gaps is no better than the ancient Greek practice of attributing thunderstorms to Zeus.

Standard practice for an apologist faced with such statements is to describe the evidence for cosmic and biological design or the shortcomings of naturalistic theories when it comes to explaining the indications of rationality in nature. The apologist uses science to argue for a God-designed, God-guided natural world. This is a solid technique and one that I often use. However, it isn’t the only angle from which to approach such a discussion, which is great news for faith-defenders lacking scientific expertise.

god in the dockIn the C.S. Lewis collection God in the Dock, there are two essays that are incredibly insightful and instructive. Lewis was not a scientist, though he knew a great deal about the reigning theories of his era and commented upon them in many of his writings. But he was wise to the fact that, more often than not, the core issue is philosophical, though the materialist scientist rarely recognizes this. Lewis’s tactic for dealing with materialist claims such as those above was quite powerful, as we see in “Religion and Science” and “The Laws of Nature.”

In the first essay, Lewis addresses the question of divine intervention in nature. He sets up a Socratic dialogue between himself and a materialist who insists that “modern science” has proven that there’s no transcendent cause for the workings of nature.

 “But, don’t you see,” said I, “that science never could show anything of the sort?”

“Why on earth not?”

“Because science studies Nature. And the question is whether anything besides Nature exists—anything ‘outside.’ How could you find that out by studying simply Nature?”

This is a key point that is all too often missed by those claiming that science has ruled out the existence of God. But Lewis’s interlocutor persists in his objections:

“But don’t we find out that Nature must work in an absolutely fixed way? I mean, the laws of Nature tell us not merely how things do happen, but how they must happen. No power could possibly alter them.”

In other words, because there are “laws of nature,” it is impossible for anything to disrupt the regular course of nature. Such a thing would, he says, result in absurdity, just as breaking the laws of mathematics would.

But Lewis demonstrates, in his typically charming yet utterly logical fashion, that natural laws only tell you what will happen as long as there is no interference in the system from the outside. Furthermore, those laws can’t tell you if such interference is going to occur.

Science studies the material universe and can say quite a lot about how it operates under normal conditions. What it cannot rule out is the existence of something independent of the universe with the power to intervene in natural affairs. This supernatural activity would entail a cosmos that is an open system rather than a system closed to “outside” immaterial causation. Again, the limitations of science preclude it from ruling out such a state. Says Lewis, “…it isn’t the scientist who can tell you how likely Nature is to be interfered with from outside. You must go to the metaphysician.” It is, it turns out, a philosophical question.

In the second essay, “Laws of Nature,” Lewis examines the question of God’s guidance of the natural world and whether or not the prayers of mankind have any bearing on the course of events.

Lewis walks us through his own thought process in dealing with the assertion that nature is deterministic, functioning according to a set of laws, like balls on a billiards table.  But look, declares Lewis, no matter how far back you go in the causal chain of natural events, you’ll never reach a law that set the whole chain in motion. He says, “ the whole history of the universe the laws of Nature have never produced a single event. They are the pattern to which every event must conform, provided only that it can be induced to happen. But how do you get it to do that? How do you get a move on?”

Natural laws are completely impotent when it comes to event causation; they only tell what happens after ignition, so long as free-willed agents (God included) do not interfere. About the laws Lewis says, “They explain everything except what we should ordinarily call ‘everything.’” Indeed.

“Science, when it becomes perfect,” he explains, “will have explained the connection between each link in the chain and the link before it. But the actual existence of the chain will remain wholly unaccountable.”

There is, then, no contradiction between natural law and the acts of God, for he supplies every event for natural law to govern. Everything in nature is providential! In other words, we don’t need gaps in scientific explanation to have a place for postulating divine activity. But, nota bene, this is not to say that there aren’t real gaps in the explanatory framework that materialist science, by nature, cannot fill.

What does all this mean about the effectuality of human prayers? If a causal chain is already in motion, what difference could prayer possibly make? To answer this, we must be mindful of God’s timelessness and omniscience:

“He, from His vantage point above Time, can, if He pleases, take all prayers into account in ordaining that vast complex event which is the history of the universe. For what we call ‘future’ prayers have always been present to Him.”

And, it’s out of the park, ladies and gentlemen.

The Young Defenders Series: Using Story and Art to Teach Apologetics to Children

Parents and Teachers who have come to understand the high value of apologetics in cultivating an informed Christian faith are well aware that there aren’t many educational resources appropriate for elementary-age children. My colleagues and I have often discussed the fact that one of the more frequent requests we receive is for apologetics-focused children’s books and curricula.

In response to God’s calling and the dearth of available resources, I began developing the Young Defenders storybook series in the summer of 2012. My vision was to communicate key apologetics concepts to children using winsome stories and unique artwork. The story part was right up my alley, but the art–not so much. So, I approached master artist Christopher Voss of Voss Art Studio about illustrating my first manuscript, and he agreed, despite the fact that our investment of time and energy was risky. Long story short, our first book was purchased by Apologia Press, and we were contracted for three successive books in the series.

GodIsReallyThere-Cover PicIn the spring of 2013, book one was released. How Do We Know God is Really There? introduces Thomas, a perceptive boy with lots of questions about biblical truth claims. An astronomy project inspires a thoughtful conversation between Thomas and his dad about evidence for a Creator of the cosmos. Basically, the story makes the cosmological argument for the existence of God accessible to young readers.

Cover Art Hi-ResBook two, How Do We Know God Created Life? was released just a few weeks ago. This time, Thomas is joined by his mom and best friend Sophie on an exciting excursion to an insect exhibit at the Museum of Natural Science. Through the story and illustrations, readers learn fun facts about fascinating insects as well as a case for the intelligent design of living creatures using butterfly metamorphosis as the model. If you’ve ever seen the Illustra Media documentary, Metamorphosisyou will be familiar with this argument. My goal was to explain it in a manner comprehensible to elementary age students, and I knew Chris Voss’s illustrations for this story would be amazing (I was right).

Books three and four will cover the reliability of the Bible and a defense of the resurrection, respectively.

Story and art are highly effective vehicles for communicating important truths about the world, particularly the rationality of the Christian faith. Worlviews begin forming at a very young age, hence the need for equipping our young sons, daughters, and students with solid reasons for the hope we have in Christ.

Thus far, feedback on the Young Defenders books has been overwhelmingly encouraging! Children as young as six or seven are grasping the arguments and repeating them to their friends. Children as old as twelve still appreciate the content and whimsical artwork.

Book one is currently available through Amazon and iTunes. Signed copies of book two are available through my other ministry website, and the ebook is also on iTunes. Within the next month or two, book two should be made available through Amazon.

All proceeds from the sale of Young Defenders storybooks are used to pay for the phenomenal artwork and to fund my PhD coursework. Thank you for your support of this project and my ministry!  

What an Apologist’s Job is NOT

jobA year or so into my grad school work, I tentatively assumed the role of public apologist. The landmark day was in the summer of 2010, when I instituted this blog to formally make myself available to both believers and non-believers struggling with questions about the alleged truths of Christianity. Not surprisingly, as I’ve worked to educate others, I have learned many valuable lessons on what to do and what not to do in apologetics ministry. For the benefit of apologists of all levels, I’d like to share a couple of important insights that may change the way you see and practice this discipline at the interpersonal level.

I’m going to tell you what your job is NOT.

You are not a spoon-feeder. I have found that many folks, abrasive atheists/agnostics in particular, aren’t willing to undertake serious research on their own. They’re armed with a hundred pop-atheism talking points that have long been answered, which goes to show they haven’t investigated the opposing viewpoint at all. Instead, they expect you to take a significant amount of time out of your schedule to distill your entire bank of knowledge on a topic into a few paragraphs and then relay it to them on social media or by email. If you do go to the effort, they often wave their hand at your response and change the subject. Don’t fall into this trap. Pay attention to verbal cues and the attitude of the individual to determine whether or not they are sincerely interested in your answers, give them a sentence or two to chew on and then direct them to a book, article, or lecture by a reputable scholar. If they come back at a later date, having studied the sources, further dialogue is warranted, so long as they maintain a respectful tone. If they simply dismiss your words and suggestions with poor logic, make snide comments about the scholars you recommend, or change the subject, cut off the conversation and stop wasting your time. Such a person is a distraction from ministry, not a legitimate beneficiary. Often, such persons will try to goad you into arguing with them further by questioning the depth or breadth of your knowledge or even your credentials. Don’t succumb to the temptation to defend yourself. Never forget that one of the strongest tactics of the Enemy is to keep you busy with futile business.

You are not a mind-changer. Apologetics is about disseminating truth. The apologist is called to demonstrate the quality of the evidence for Christianity and provide substantial answers for objections. This does not include debating with someone until they concede a point. The success of your efforts cannot be measured by how many times an interlocutor says to you, “good point,” or “you’re right.” Rarely, if ever, will a hardened skeptic say such a thing to you. As the subtitle of this blog hints, we are to put pebbles in shoes; we give the person some relevant facts to consider and point them to sound resources, but at the end of the day, the individual must be, or become, open to the evidence. Emotional barriers are powerful things, and they’re almost always disguised as intellectual objections. The truth is, for some people,  no evidence that now exists or ever could exist would make a difference to them because deep down, it isn’t about the facts at all. As the atheist scholar, Dr. Thomas Nagel has so bluntly put it, “It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.” (The Last Word, 1997)

 You are not a soul-saver. Apologetics ministry is not about “winning souls,” as the old-time evangelists would put it. Rather, our work is about removing true intellectual obstacles. For some believers, this removal brings great relief from doubt, for some seekers, it paves the way for a more serious investigation of Christianity. But ultimately, the acceptance or rejection of Christ is a choice made by the individual in response to the Holy Spirit’s calling. Do not even try to own someone’s decision.

Today, I’m praying for all believers engaged in apologetics, whether at the scholarly level or in their own home. Please also pray for me. Soli Deo gloria.