CHARLOTTE – For Christian parents to pass on their faith to their children, they should not answer their children’s questions but respond with more questions to help their kids think through the issues themselves rather than rely upon their parents, famed Christian apologist Josh McDowell and his son, Sean McDowell, explained recently at the Southern Evangelical Seminary’s 21st Annual National Conference on Christian Apologetics in Charlotte, North Carolina.
In raising his four children, Josh McDowell explained that he tried to never answer their questions but to respond to them with another question because he wanted them to develop their own convictions rather than simply become Christians because their parents are Christian.
“I needed to teach my kids to think,” he said, “to think logically, to come to their conclusions. Because if there is always dad’s answer, then they couldn’t develop convictions.”
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
There isn’t supposed to be a ‘dad’s answer’ and a ‘son’s answer’ on points of doctrine; there should be a shared answer, what together, the community of which you’re both a part understands is the answer on something.
This is why traditions as varied as Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, and Reformed, have all made use of catechisms and confessions to teach both old and young, within their flocks. That is why the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 could not understand what he was reading in Isaiah without someone to guide him.
Individual interpretation can lead one astray; after all, “the heart is deceitful above all things.”
If your son asks for bread, should you give him a stone?
Of course not.
So, instead of throwing back a question at him, you say, “This is what we, collectively, as (fill-in-the-blank) understand this passage to mean; here are some cross-references that support this interpretation; here’s what our tradition says this means.”
Of course, if you’re the head of your own ministry, like Josh McDowell, I suppose you can’t very well point to a tradition older than yourself. In which case, shoot, why not just say, “Because I said so, and I’m the boss around here!”, because that’s all you have to stand on. Which is not much.
I suppose I’ll give Josh McDowell this much: at least he did a better job of raising his son than Tony Campolo or Francis Schaeffer did, since the son is still relatively orthodox – for now, at least…
Yet he’s still leading others astray with his bad advice, which is unconscionable.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”, we are instructed.
Likewise, “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.“