This interview with author Natasha Crain and writer Sheryl Young originally appeared at the website of Ratio Christi Campus Apologetics Alliance and is reprinted here with permission. The book Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help them Build a Lasting Faith> is the Christian Activities BOOK OF THE MONTH for March.
Natasha Crain’s book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help them Build a Lasting Faith>, is now out from Harvest House (as of February 2016). It comes at a time when we are seeing young people walk away from church and their Christian faith in larger numbers than ever. Crain adds a valuable possible solution to the problem... parents learning Christian apologetics so they can converse with their kids about important, deep questions they will face from various worldviews in today's academic environment.
"Apologetics" is not apologizing for our faith. It comes from the Greek word apologia and 1 Peter 3:15: "Always be prepared to give a reason for your faith and to do so with gentleness and respect." The technique of apologetics encompasses learning historical, philosophical and scientific facts which support the truth of the Bible as God's Word and Jesus Christ's birth, life, crucifixion and resurrection, plus reasons for holding to the biblical worldview even in today's culture.
Crain holds an MBA in marketing and statistics from UCLA. She became “successful” in marketing as the world would define success, but after she and her husband had children her whole perspective on life was changed.
“Although I grew up in a Christian home and spent my childhood going to church every Sunday, I can’t say that I took my faith very seriously,” she says on her blog site, christianmomthoughts.com.
“I was ‘saved’ but for the moment I had more immediate interests here on earth. When we had kids, I wanted things to be different for them. I knew faith was meant to be a more integral part of life and I wanted them to experience that. So I took the next logical step… I started a blog!”
Realizing she needed to go deeper to answer some of her blog readers’ questions and comments, including those from atheists and skeptics, Crain earned a certificate in Christian apologetics from Biola University.
We asked our colleague to answer some questions for us before she gets caught up in a whirlwind of accolades and publicity, as we are sure will happen when this book takes Christian parenting by storm.
Q: What aspects of today’s culture most influenced your writing this book for parents?
I think Christian parents have a general sense that the world is becoming increasingly challenging toward Christians, and that it will pose some difficulties for their kids’ faith. There is a corresponding sense of fear and concern. But, in my experience talking with parents, very few can really put their finger on the specifics of what that means.
What are the big questions that are challenging the faith of so many? Where will kids encounter those challenges? And what does that mean for us as Christian parents in our discipleship of our kids? That gap between knowing the world is challenging and knowing what that specifically means, is why I wanted to write Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side.
I wanted to get the key questions in front of parents so they can say, “Ahhhh…OK. I see. These are the questions taking center stage today…” and then give them the confidence of knowing how to talk about those questions with their kids.
Q: Your chapters don’t contain easy facts like how many animals walked onto the ark. You have some very hard-hitting topics. How did you choose them?
Great question. There are hundreds of questions that people ask about Christianity, and a whole lot of “Question and Answer” books exist out there. What’s unique about the particular set of questions I address is that they are the focus of both atheists and other skeptics when posing challenges to Christians; they are the questions that kids are most likely to hear about from vocal opponents to Christianity today. Importantly, many are questions that parents don’t even realize are hot topics.
For example, Chapter 3 asks, “Why would God command the genocide of the Canaanites?” This is a huge subject with which skeptics like to challenge Christians, but it’s simply not something most Christian parents are sitting around wondering about.
Similarly, Chapter 24 asks, “How can Christians believe miracles are even possible?” Many Christians take the possibility of miracles for granted but couldn’t explain to their kids (or skeptics) why that’s a reasonable belief. The last eight chapters of the book focus on some extremely important questions about the age of the earth and evolution that intimidate a lot of parents. But it’s just not optional today to be able to understand basic questions like “What are the major pieces of evidence for evolution?” (Chapter 38).
Q: You have a whole section of chapters dealing with the validity of the Bible. What would you say to Christian parents, and perhaps church people who work with children, who still may feel teaching them to have “blind faith” is enough?
Yes, eight of the forty chapters cover questions about the Bible, such as “How were the books in the Bible selected?” “How do we know we can trust the Bible’s authors?” and “How do we know the Bible we have today says what the authors originally wrote?” It’s one thing to learn what’s in the Bible, but another thing to learn about the Bible.
Parents who teach their kids that they just have to believe the Bible because it’s God’s Word are setting them up for a world of difficulties. Skeptics will “inform” those kids at some point that the Bible is just an ancient book, filled with scientific errors, fairy tales, and contradictions. What reason will kids have for not believing those claims? If all they’ve been told is that the Bible is true without an understanding of why there’s good reason to believe that, skeptics will quickly get a foothold in their heart.
Q: Many from the last two generations have walked away from God and church. Is there still a chance to bring them back into the fold?
One thing I know for certain is this: God is in control. That doesn’t mean we should throw our hands up and do nothing to affect the next generation, of course, but it does mean we needn’t fear the future. I think, in some ways, the challenging culture is actually a good thing. It is forcing people to consider what they really believe. It is moving people away from simply wearing the Christian label. That opens the door wide for impacting the next generation with apologetics – if young people better realize today that they have to make a conscious decision about their beliefs, the time is ripe to give them the tools with which to do that. So, yes, I absolutely believe we can turn the trend around, and apologetics is a major key to doing this.
Q: Is it too late for parents with adult children to influence them through your book?
Not at all. In fact, I’ve heard from many grandparents who are really excited to use the knowledge they gain from the book to have conversations with their adult kids who have walked away from the Lord, and to influence their young grandkids. The opportunity to use apologetics has no age limit!
Q: Before becoming purposefully involved in apologetics, did you know what you were writing could be classified as “apologetics?”
Before I was writing about apologetics, I was writing about taking Christian parenting seriously in general. But I didn’t yet know that today a big part of taking that role seriously means training kids in apologetics. I learned that firsthand when skeptics started finding my blog and commenting on my posts. They would challenge what I was saying, and I was forced to confront the fact that I had no idea how to respond to factual claims like, “Jesus never existed.” I soon learned what apologetics meant and began reading like crazy.
As I learned, I started sharing the knowledge on my blog, and soon the blog had officially shifted focus to Christian parenting in a secular world. I prefer to talk about my subject matter in that way, rather than use the word apologetics, since most Christians have no idea what that means.
Q: How did you get from simply writing a blog to being contracted by a major Christian publisher?
When the blog had really started taking off in readership, my husband and I realized how much that revealed a ministry need in this area. We decided to cut back my work hours in our family business so I could start writing some e-books to self-publish. The very next week, I received an email from a senior editor at Harvest House who had come across my blog and wanted to know if I would be interested in talking about writing books. I literally fell off my chair in surprise. I wrote back immediately (of course!) and was able to meet with the editor and the president of the company soon after.
I worked the next few months on crafting book proposals for them, and eventually the one that would become my book was approved. The editor who initially reached out to me is the editor who worked on my book, and I can’t say enough about how amazing it has been to work with him. He truly understands the need for parents to understand apologetics and has a heart for wanting to get this message out.
Q: For writers who may want to follow in your footsteps, did your marketing know-how help in gathering readers and followers?
Yes, marketing is an extremely useful background to have when you are thinking strategically about how to grow an audience. Marketing teaches you how to think about segments of the prospective audience, how to select a target audience, and how to position yourself uniquely for speaking to that audience. When you’re ready to market a book, other promotional knowledge comes in extremely helpful!
That said, blogging is actually very unique in terms of what is needed to grow a “platform” (what publishers call your base of readers). For those who are interested in starting or growing a blog, it’s blogging-specific knowledge that you really want to acquire – how to structure your website effectively, how to write compelling post titles, how to craft posts people will actually read, how to gain traction in social media, and so on. I would recommend looking for resources on those things first. Michael Hyatt’s book, Platform, has already become a classic in this area.
Q: What’s next for you? Are there any plans to turn this into a small group study workbook that could be used by church or other groups?
I would love to create some additional resources to go along with the book – a discussion guide, a curriculum for homeschoolers or Sunday schools, a kids’ version, etc. Those are the kinds of things a publisher considers after the book has been out for a bit, so these possibilities are all on the horizon. And, of course, I have many ideas for new books too. We’ll see what God has in store!
The foreword for Keeping Your Kids on God's Side was written by J. Warner Wallace, author of the celebrated apologetics book Cold Case Christianity. Joining Ratio Christi and Wallace in endorsing the book are defenders of the faith such as Nancy Pearcey and Sean McDowell.
See more about the book and Crain's other resources at the christianmomthoughts.com blog linked above.
Interviewer Sheryl Young is the Media Outreach Coordinator for Ratio Christi. RC is a global movement equipping university students and faculty to give evidence for the Christian faith in order to stand for the truth of Christ. At the same time, our chapters provide a safe and charitable venue for atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and adherents to any religion to investigate the claims of Christianity, discuss religious beliefs, and seek truth without fearing reprisal.
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