Teaching is challenge, and often just when you think you are getting somewhere one of the beautiful little darlings turns around and lands a big philosophical question like a slap across the face. Your mind whirls and whizzes trying to find an answer you can fit into a sentence or two as you watch the crowd of faces light up with recognition of a major flaw in your teaching or even worse switch off completely. Working on your feet you feel like you have 3 options:
1. Try and say something to placate the child, hoping them don’t ask for details.
2. Tell the child that’s a big question and you’ll like a minute to think about the answer, then either revisit it or more likely forget.
3. Distract the children with a new activity.
There are specific courses run for explaining apologetics to kids, the web is full of one sentence answers, and yet I find them hugely dangerous. Many teens dismiss easy answers when faith stops producing them, they relegate God to Santa and the tooth fairy and other things that have just as daft reasoning behind them.
Take for example the age old question ‘why did God create the world’. Some say ‘he wanted the company’ more scripturally based answers are ‘for his glory’ (psalm 19) ‘because he loved us’ (Jeremiah 31) ‘because we were part of his plan’ (Ephesians 6) or ‘to do his work’ (Ephesians 2). None of them are really sufficient, the logic is incomplete at best. If I was really pressed for scripture I’d go with Isaiah:
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom” (Isaiah 40:28).
It’s tough not knowing the answers and it’s tough admitting it. It makes us sound weak, foolish and uneducated, but pat answers are just as bad. We are blessed to be in relationship with a God too big for answers but willing to make himself small enough for us to ask. We should not be afraid of the words ‘I don’t know‘, because you can always follow them with ‘God is a mystery, faith is believing even when you can’t find the answers, because you know enough answers to not need to know them all.’ Teaching youngsters to see God as the greatest of mysteries to discover, is a gift we have been given and one we should not squander with pat answers.