Teach Apologetics to Children: Children are intelligent!

When you think of the word “gamer” what goes through your head? A young college kid with a scruffy beard, donning a wireless-headset? Or, how about a child sitting at the computer; their body here on earth, their mind in a whole other zone? Statista.com documents that in 2017, 35 percent of “gamers” worldwide were between the ages 21-35, in contrast to the 22 percent of 10-20 year-olds and 15 percent of 51-65 year-olds (the smallest two of four segments).[i] Statista shows that video games are not the child’s toy that many consider them to be.  If we are going to call them a toy for a particular age group, we should classify them as toys for young post-secondary students and young men and women with a career.  That is a mere hypothetical suggestion that should never be taken seriously. It is wrong to classify video games as toys for any specific group of people.  As Statista shows, in this past year, 15 percent of men and women who were on the verge of retirement also enjoyed playing video games. There is no rational reason why video games should be classified as toys for a specific age group.  There is no reason why a 55-year-old ought not to enjoy playing video games or why an 82-year-old should not enjoy playing video games. Shirley Curry, is one such 82-year-old who has made a name for herself in the gaming community with her skills playing video games like Skyrim.[ii]

However, video games are not the only thing that has been classified according to age. Education and intelligence have also been classified by age. A common ground that education and intelligence have with video games is discrimination,[iii]. If you are an adult and you play video games you are, therefore, inherently immature – this is the conclusion that more than a few people believe. Not all discrimination is bad. Discriminating against someone because they play video games is bad, but forbidding children from owning video games like Grand Theft Auto 5, based solely on their age, is good. In the realm of intelligence and education, children are often discriminated against by prohibiting them from receiving various teachings, under the guise that said information is too complicated for them to understand. It is true that a child will not understand teaching-X if they don’t have the necessary prerequisite knowledge needed to understand the teaching.  However, this concept applies to everyone. For example, I was invited to go and see a European French political comedy movie with a friend. I declined his offer because I knew that I would not enjoy it. It was subtitled, for one, and I am not the fastest reader.  Based on the fact that I have virtually no knowledge of European French politics, any and perhaps all the comedic points the movie would have made would be lost on me. My refusal to watch this movie wasn’t spun as not being intelligent enough; it was simply my lack of knowledge in European French politics needed to make sense of the comedy.

I have taught children for many years. One common thread that I persistently saw weaving its way through children’s ministry is that children are quite capable of catching on to complicated pieces of information. I’ve been at the helm of many conversions with first-graders and even kindergarteners where complicated concepts were at the centre of the conversation. In one Sunday school lesson with first and second-graders I exegeted the Bible verse, 1 John 1:9. They understood that 1 John 1:9 is a conditional promise. That is, “if you confess your sins” God will be faithful to forgive you your sin.  But what if you don’t confess your sins to God and repent? God won’t forgive your sins. We went through the fact that “confess” doesn’t mean to say, “I’m sorry”, but rather it requires actively meaning that you are sorry. They understood that this is an unbreakable promise of God and that it is unbreakable because God cannot deny himself; that is, He cannot forget to forgive or simply change His mind when true repentance is in play because forgiveness of sin for true repentance spins from His nature.  His nature is not something He can change, (2 Timothy 2:13). How can I know that God will forgive me my sin, without exception, if I truly confess my sin? ANSWER: God cannot decide not to be God, anymore than I can decide not to be human.

This is what Christian theologians would call an apologetic. The answering of the question as to why we believe what we believe, (1 Peter 3:15b).

A number of years ago, as the last lesson of the year before summer vacation started, I taught a worldview lesson to a class of first and second-graders. The children accepted that they will meet, at some point either during the summer or at some point in their life, people who will say that they are wrong about God existing or that Jesus is not the truth, or even the only truth. We exegeted 1 Peter 3:15. The children understood that, as Christians, God wants them to be ready to represent Him (1 Peter 3:15b).  They are not to rely on their own intelligence, but rely on God’s leading (1 Peter 3:15a).  They are not to just be ready to give reasons why they believe what they believe, but they also ought to know why they believe what they believe.  Then they ought to be prepared to give those reasons in a compassionate manner. Why? What is the reasoning for this? 1) God is the only One who can bring people to Him, and 2) we need to know what we believe and why we believe it for the sake of our relationship with Jesus and so we can explain to others those reasons; and 3) a compassionate response is an uncompromisable approach because, sometimes,  it is very hard for people to accept that their view of the world around them – their worldview – is wrong.

These are just two of many examples of lessons I’ve lead with children over the years where I implemented an apologetic into the lessons. Children need to know not just what the Bible says and what it commands of them.  They, like adults, need to know why it says what it says. We need to not just tell them what to believe but we need to give them reasons to believe what we, Sunday school teachers, pastors and parents tell them. We need to utilize their intelligence, not discriminate against their intelligence. We need to bring this complicated information to our children, not keep it from them, if they are going to grow up to be mature adults who represent Jesus to their next generation.

[i] – https://www.statista.com/statistics/722259/world-gamers-by-age-and-gender/ – accessed December 16, 2017
[ii] – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzkY7wa8Ksxv4M5NyUYgTmA – accessed December 16, 2017
[iii] – Even though it is wrong to give a sweeping judgement against video games as toys for age group X, there are video games that should be dedicated to certain age groups and, as such, individual video games are rated into categories for various ages. The typical ratings for video games are:
E: Everyone – Video games that have content that is safe for every person of every age.
T: Teen – Video games that have content that is suitable for persons who are teenaged and older, but not suitable for persons who are classified as children.
M: Mature – Video games that have content that is suitable for persons who are legal adults.
These ratings, by their nature, discriminate. The iconic open world video game Grand Theft Auto 5 (GTA5) is rated Mature. As a result, anyone under the age of 18 is discriminated against. RockStar Games, the developers of GT5, has chosen to not allow all persons under the age of 17 to own this video game. The retail stores that I’m familiar with are not permitted to sell M-rated video games to anyone who is 17 years of age or younger. Of course, this doesn’t prevent an adult from buying a video game like GTA5 and giving it to their son, daughter or young sibling, but this issue is best left for a different discussion. The reality is, there is a reasonable amount of discrimination that is at play when it comes to individual video games.

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