Friday 14 August 2009

Apologetics in family life

Apologetics has relevance in all parts of life, including our families. Whether in our nuclear or extended family, we need to be prepared to give a reason for our faith, not just by responding defensively to our family members’ tough questions, but more positively as we give reasons for the Christian faith we hold and how this has relevance for our lives. I suspect that readers of this blog with teenagers, who are encountering new ideas, philosophies and beliefs and are asking difficult questions, will appreciate what I am suggesting.

A key priority for every parent is to regularly remind our children what we believe, why we believe it and how this has shaped our lives. My reflections on this topic have been helped in recent times by re-reading 2 Timothy and by my reading (and recent review) of Ted Tripp's book 'Shepherding a Child's Heart' (see my previous post here). While I have some concerns about his book, it is difficult to dispute that the focus in parenting should be on the child's heart, rather than just their behaviour.

In the midst of the cut and thrust of family, it is easy for parents to fail to look beyond behaviour to the rebellious heart that produces it (Luke 6:45). Our primary effort should be to ensure our children internalise the message of the gospel, so that as they grow older they will "choose this day whom (they) will serve" (Joshua 24:15). A key part of our role is to remind them of the things that we were taught by faithful men and women. As we "Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David..." (1 Tim 2:8) we are to remind our children of these things and why we believe them (1 Tim 2:14). Remembering and reminding - two key tasks for parents!

This may be a daunting task for parents, but there is a great word of encouragement in Paul's second letter to Timothy, particularly for those who have seen their children resisting the truth that they have taught them. Just as Paul trusted in God for the well being of Timothy, so too parents have to trust in God for the spiritual well being of their children. While it is our task to remind our children of the truth that we have taught them, we do this in the power of God. We remind our children to “Follow the pattern of the sound words” (2 Tim 1:13) that they hear from us, as we read and study the Bible together and as we share our faith in the midst of life; but our children cannot guard this truth in their own strength. The “good deposit” can only be guarded “…by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us”. Is there any wonder that Paul “constantly remembers [Timothy] in his prayers night and day” (v3)? He thanks God for Timothy's faith (v3) because ultimately Paul knows that it is God who made Timothy into the man that he is.

Paul challenged Timothy never to be ashamed of his faith in Christ (2 Tim 1:8-10) but to hold to this faith no matter what the cost and follow the pattern or standards set for him by Scripture:
Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you (2 Timothy 2:13-14).
Family apologetics, like all apologetics must be prayerful, and done in the power of God. We need to seek God's wisdom for the words to share with our children and the power of the Holy Spirit to work within their hearts. This is the nature of the task set before us as apologetic parents.

Case Magazine

Readers interested in thinking more about the nature of apologetics should watch out for our next edition of Case magazine which has as its theme "To give a reason". This will be out in September


Unknown said...

Thank you for this, it is something that weighs on my heart. I have two boys, 5 and 17, both have a tendency to be sceptical and resistant to my faith, and I appreciate the reading tip, and the reminder to focus on faithfullness, rather than panic about visible signs of success.

The attribute that springs first to my mind when I consider parenting is integrity. One should recognise that you can't place a border around your best self and say "this is the bit I want you to learn from and emulate". It is our child's first truly intimate relationship, and it demands from us as little and as much as being ourselves. This is, as you mentioned, is particularly heightened during teen years when the hypocrisy radar is turned up to 110%. And even with the littlees, I believe its best to start as you mean to continue.

Ironically when we are tempted to "live for our children": working hard to provide financial security, being a taxi, mobile ATM, and generally attending to their practical needs, we are at risk of becoming so starved of spiritual life ourselves that we end up modeling a walking spiritual vacuum to them. It can be tricky to get our priorities right.

Trevor Cairney said...

Hi Paul, thanks for your comment. I appreciate your honesty. Being a parent has its challenges and as you say, one of the greatest is 'integrity', which for me is being true to Christ in giving him first place in our own lives and showing our children what it means to follow him, rather than just telling them. Every blessing as you seek to be a godly parent who honours Christ as you serve him in your family day by day. Trevor