The Benefit of the Doubt

A blog about Dialogue, Doubts, and Christian Faith ~Travis Dickinson~

How to NOT shelter your kids from ideas: Make a case for Christianity’s truth, goodness, and beauty



(Note: this is part 3 in a 3 part series. Part 1, Part 2)

Three strategies

In this series of posts, I’ve argued that we should not shelter our kids from ideas. Now I’m a big fan of sheltering our kids in a variety of ways (including literally with a roof), but I think we should, in age-appropriate ways, expose them to ideas while they are in our care. Or you can just shelter them and hope for the best…but I don’t recommend it!

There are three strategies offered here to appropriately expose our kids to ideas. The first is to teach our kids how to think and not just what to think. The second is to present alternative ideas fairly and charitably. I recommend presenting these alternative ideas first without evaluation so that your child accurately understands them. Only then do we earn the right to evaluate these alternative views and evaluate we should.

3rd Strategy: Make a case for Christianity’s truth, goodness, beauty

The third strategy is to make a case for Christianity. It always catches me off guard how many people grow up in the church and have no clue about the rich case for Christianity. I often hear people say (often, in this moment, as caught off guard as I am) that they have never been given or challenged with the reasons to believe. They genuinely believed, but they have nothing to say about why they believe, at least nothing that a nonchristian will find compelling.

So I think we need to make the case for Christianity to our kids. However, I’d like to suggest we make a mistake if we only present the case for the truth of Christianity. We ought to also show the goodness and beauty of the Christian worldview.

To be clear, we do have to present the case for the truth of Christianity. This is not at the end of the day just a good story. But the case for the truth of Christianity can sometimes be met with a yawn or even repugnance if it is not also shown to be desirable.

Take, for example, the common objection of the injustices of the church. This sort of objection, I think, is best seen not as evidence against the truth of Christianity, but as evidence against its goodness. It is typically showing how bad Christians have been at times and there is nothing morally superior about this religious approach. But notice that it doesn’t follow from this that Christianity is, therefore, false.

As I sit here today, it is definitely not just the case for the truth of Christianity that compels me to believe. Don’t get me wrong. I think the case is very good. I find the cumulative evidence, including the arguments for God’s existence, reasons to think that Scripture is reliable, and that Jesus said and did what the New Testament claims he did (and etc.), to be quite good. I also find no objection that defeats the justification for my belief. There are good and interesting objections (such as the problem of evil, divine hiddenness, and certain textual issues), but there are what I find to be satisfying Christian responses. But this isn’t where it ends for me. I also think that Christianity has and does produce large amounts of good in the world. I also think it is the ultimate love story, the ultimate rescue mission, the ultimate self-sacrificing hero story all wrapped up into one. In short, it’s beautiful.

Now given the bigness of the claim here, I’m only going to be able to hint at what would be involved in a full explication of these ideas (also I have talked about the goodness of Christianity here).

Darwinism as ugly

Let’s first consider a view I do not think is beautiful or good. When it comes to biological life, a naturalist version of Darwinian evolution may be true. I don’t think it is true. I find the thesis that there is a God who has creatively worked to bring about a radically diverse cosmos (including biological life) superior. But let’s imagine Darwinist naturalism is true. If it is true, it seems it is neither beautiful nor good. The diversity of life including all human life is mere accident. We are merely, in the words of Bertrand Russell, the “accidental collocation of atoms.” Life has no grandness or purpose. There is no enchantment. We live, we die, and that’s it. Most of us try to be good and yet we fall so very short. We can try harder, but we’ll still fail. And that’s it. That’s the end of the story. We don’t find in this narrative anything but no news or bad news for our lives. We are also set in a world where survival would be the highest virtue, except there is no such thing as genuine virtue in this world. We may do well at surviving for a time, but then we die. And that’s it.

This notion, it seems to me and with all due respect, is ugly. Again, it may be true, but we should all be rather depressed if it is. It also seems difficult to see how this idea is good. It’s difficult to see how anything like love and the desire to be good follows from this view. In fact, love and moral goodness are often denied as actual objective things on this view. There’s no doubt one can live lovingly and doing good, but it doesn’t follow from the worldview. It seems one has equal justification to steal and oppress.

A beautiful and good Christ

Now if Christianity is true, then there is a God who will bring judgment on evil doers. He will right ALL wrongs! There is, on this view, great hope. There is purpose for one’s life. Our fallenness and our brokenness are not the end of our story. We may be redeemed! We may be made new. In fact, the whole cosmos will be made new. We will know God as we are fully known. There is a distinct beauty to these ideas.

To be sure, there are beautiful ideas that are nevertheless false. And I’m not saying that Christianity’s beauty straightaway defeats Darwinian naturalism. We of course need to weigh the evidence. But where I am deeply compelled to believe is that, in addition to the intellectual case, I find the Christian thesis so very attractive.

So as we make a case for Christianity to our kids, I think they need to know that it is the greatest story ever told. And the story of Christianity provides us with a story and a purpose. It should also profoundly motivate us to live as Jesus lived, full of grace and truth. He loved the unlovely and the humble, but called out arrogance and religiosity.

I want my children think well. I also want them to understand genuine versions of alternative worldviews. But I’m also desperate for them to see this rich, full-bodied view of Christianity. I want my children to see a view that is intellectually robust, but also beautiful and good.

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