Recently, I was teaching a group of high school students. We were looking at the attributes of God, specifically, his omnipotence — that he is all powerful. As a part of this discussion, I said that there are things God cannot do: God cannot make a 2 sided triangle, a married bachelor, or a square circle. God cannot sin or deny himself.
This was met with a surprising amount of pushback from the students…
“You’re limiting God.”
“The Bible says nothing is impossible with God.”
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
I explained that God can do anything that is logically possible, and not contrary to his nature. Then, one girl said something very striking: “This is just really difficult for us. We’ve been taught since we were little that, ‘God can do everything’, and now you’re saying that he can’t.”
Make The Complicated Simple For Young Children
This young woman astutely put her finger right on the issue. In my experience, the church does a good job lowering the bar for our young ones. We teach simple truths to our children like:
Christians are supposed to love everyone.
God is love.
God can do everything.
And, we need to do this. Our children’s eyes are going to glaze over if we expound on the intricacies of the penal substitutionary atonement. And let’s be honest, some adults would have this reaction too, which reinforces that we need to make important concepts accessible for everyone.
However, while those sample statements above are generally true, they are incomplete…
Teach More Complete Truth As Children Get Older
The general inability of young people to defend (or even explain) their faith stems in part from the failure of the church (and parents) to teach progressively more complete and robust truth as our children get older.
Christians are supposed to love everyone, but if we don’t explain how that actually works out, our children are likely to support homosexuality, because “hey, we’re supposed to love everyone, right?” And in my experience, our high school students, even those in the church, are in favor of same-sex marriage. They lack a complete framework for making biblically-based decisions, taking into account loving others AND loving God. (For more on this topic, see this.)
God is love — this is true — but this doesn’t mean that love is our God. Additionally, God is jealous for what is rightly his — our attention and devotion. He is wrathful. He is just. We often don’t put these equally valid and exhibited attributes of God into the picture as much as love, so our children are left with a distorted picture of the character of God, which will cause them difficulty down the road.
It is generally true that God can do everything. However, he can’t sin. So, that’s at least one thing he can’t do. He also can’t break the laws of logic, because they are grounded in his character. So, no square-circles or two-sided triangles.
There are countless more examples of this type of issue, but I hope you see the problem. We do a good job teaching the simple, easy to understand, truths to our youngsters, but we need to be intentional about continually refining these truths as they get older.
How To Do It - Three Steps
1. Always set the bar a little above where they are currently
In school, children are always challenged to go a little beyond where they currently are. Not too little so as to bore them, and not too much so as to discourage them. We should do the same with the rich depths of Christianity.
2. Ask open-ended questions about God and Christianity
Make them consider things in a new way. Model the kinds of questions they should be asking (and learning the answers to). This also gives you the opportunity to see how they think through things and find out what they know. So, you can then address areas that are lagging behind, or compliment areas which are excelling.
3. Be transparent about your personal growth
It isn’t just children who should be growing in the knowledge and practice of their faith, we all should be. Let your children see that you are learning and growing too. Some of your best devotional times with your children should/could be when you share from what you have been learning, not just from some devotional book. Model that discipleship is a lifelong process that you are on too.
What Do You Think?
What are some other areas where we need to refine what we teach as children get older? And what are some areas where we as the church do this well? I’d love to know what you think!