Author: John Ferrer
Here at Papa Bear Apologetics we want to empower men and especially dads to defend the Christian faith. How do we propose defending the faith? Well, it starts at home. Defend the faith by defending the your family. Let these apologetics tips be a little skill training for you. With these insights, you can take what you’re already doing as men and as fathers, and recalibrate it for promoting discernment, discipleship, and a more deliberate walk with God.
1. Dignify the questions
In apologetics you are not just answering questions, you’re answering people who have questions. Underneath these apologetics tips we have to remember that defending the faith is not just some war of ideas, or a fight for culture. It’s a relationship between real people. There’s a social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual aspect to defending the faith. In this way, a lot of the work of apologetics is simply taking tough questions seriously.
All this means we shouldn’t rush into “answer mode,” but really listen to the person. Listen for clues about why they’re asking, why it matters to them, or what they’re hoping to hear. One way to do this is to repeat the question back to them, in your own words, and ask them if you’re understanding them correctly. This works especially well with older children and adults. For example, “If I’m hearing you right, it sounds like you’re asking [X]. Is that correct?”
By dignifying their questions, that tells the person, or in this case, it tells your kids: You matter. You’re important. I hear you. When your child asks an innocent question, trying to understand something, their sense of safety, courage, and identity can tie into that question. Most of the time they aren’t having some major crisis of faith, but even if they are, when you meet their question with dignity, patience, and a receptive attitude, you’re building trust with your child so those communication lines are open and healthy. Even if you don’t have an answer, you can still bless them by listening well and then saying something like, “That’s a great question,” “I never thought of it that way,” “That’s really interesting, why do you ask that?”, or “You stumped me. We’ll have to go look that one up.”
2. Encourage Curiosity
Make your home a safe-space for asking questions and searching for answers. This tip builds on #1. Now I’m not talking about rebellious or evasive questions – like when they’re trying to talk their way out of daily chores. You can still dignify these questions (#1) without “helping” them avoid their chores. For example, “It’s funny that you ask that question, I was going to ask the same question after you finish your chores.”
When you’re dignifying your kid’s questions, and cultivating curiosity, your children can feel more safe and courageous in searching for answers. That’s because they know they can ask you questions and that you’ll try to help. You can also feed into their curiosity with follow-up questions, activities, new challenges, or making a game, project, or a detective story out of their journeys of discovery. If your child wants to know “Why did God make potatoes?” You can steer them towards info about potatoes, where they come from, what animals eat them, their role in farming, how to grow them, how to cook them, how to shoot them, etc. And you can make a little project with them. For example, grow a potato plant in the back yard, or help you with a potato recipe that they picked out.
3. Practice finding answers
Related to the last point, you can help your kids develop skill and confidence in learning projects by helping them practice the art of finding answers. The next time your child asks you a meaty/interesting question you can, for example, challenge them to find at least two possible answers to their question, and then bring those answers back to discuss with you. This works well when you don’t know/remember the answer, but you still want to dignify their questions (#2). This also works when you know the answer. You and your kids will tend to learn things better when you’ve discovered them for yourselves.
Online searches can be great for this kind of thing, as long as you have parental filters in place. You can also require them to keep the screen facing you. That way you can glance at their progress every so often. Another solution is to require them to use a family desktop computer that’s facing out for everyone to see. These days you have to assume kids will either accidentally or deliberately come across some shady content, unless you have safeguards in place.
It’s also not a bad idea to make an adventure out of your next library visit. If you have time for pre-planning, you can make it a scavenger hunt. Or if your child has a good question that’s over your head, you can help steer them toward the right books. And maybe go out for a snack or dessert afterwards too so they associate learning with the fondest of memories.
You can also have your child call up and interview family members or one of your trusted friends, to find answers to their questions. Interviews can help socialize your kids and teach them how to use dialogue as a mode of discovery.
4. Pausable Moments
Next time you watch a show with your kids and spot a teachable moment, hit “pause” and discuss it with them. It’s also a good idea to take time after the show to reflect on its message. Or use the ROAR method to filter out the bad parts from the good stuff (see, chapter 3 in the Mama Bear Apologetics book).
By utilizing pausable moments we’re shifting from being a passive audience to an active audience. We’re developing a habit of interacting with media by thinking through stories, evaluating the message, weighing the narratives, and fact-checking their claims. There’s too much trash masquerading as entertainment for us to safely swallow everything mainstream media feeds us.
My wife, Hillary, to this day still remembers when she was a child watching a movie with her mom when mom paused the scene and said, “Do you see how that guy opened the door for the pretty girl but let it slam in her friend’s face? He’s not a gentleman. Gentleman treat all women with respect, not just the ones they’re interested in.” Lesson learned.
5. Spot the Fallacy
No list of apologetics tips is complete without including some logic. There are a handful of logical fallacies that pretty much everyone should know. Once you know what they’re called you’ll start spotting them everywhere. This means more discernment and less susceptibility to slick deceptive messaging. It’s amazing how much clearer we can think when we have the right word to describe things.
With fallacies, you can make a (kid-friendly) drinking game out of the next political debate or news interview. Instead of adult beverages they can drink water, or juice, or eat a peanut, or piece of popcorn every time they spot a logical fallacy. Some of the most common logical fallacies are:
- Ad hominem – attacking the person instead of the idea; ex., “Joe Biden’s healthcare policy is terrible because he’s creepy.”
- Circular reasoning – using a conclusion as proof of the conclusion; ex., “the Bible is true because the Bible never lies.”
- False dichotomy – claiming there are only 2 options when there aren’t; ex., “You can either care about black lives or care about police, but not both.”
- Cherry picking – using only selective evidence and ignoring the contrary data; ex., “The recession is the President’s fault because it happened on his watch.”
- Genetic fallacy – affirming or denying an idea entirely because of its source; ex., “I saw it on the news so it must be true.”
- Strawman fallacy – mischaracterizing an idea in a way that makes it easier to reject or defeat. Ex., “Pro-lifers really just hate women.”
- Red Herring – diversion from the relevant topic, idea, or argument. Red Herrings often sound like they’re related and important but when you look close, it’s off-topic. Ex., “If you BLM folks think cops are brutalizing young black men, why won’t you talk about how white lives matter too?”
If you want to study more logical fallacies. Here’s a good place to start: yourlogicalfallacyis.com.
More Apologetics tips?
These apologetics tips should help you lead your children in gathering answers to their tough questions. Chances are, they won’t just focus on Christian worldview issues, Bible questions, or Christian apologetics. That’s okay though. If they are learning to love learning, and how to find answers, and gaining discernment along the way then they’re in good shape. You can’t anticipate every challenge they’ll face, or every skeptical objection they’ll hear. But as they see tough questions get answered again and again, your kids will be less and less intimidated by new objections. The truth is out there!
For another 25 apologetics tips go to: www.intelligentchristianfaith.com