My husband and I are expecting our first child in September, and I am currently wading through On Becoming Baby Wise to prepare for this new season of parenting. As a seminary student studying apologetics, I admit my mind often drifts from the book’s pages about feed-wake-sleep cycles to questions about how I will encourage Baby Anderson to seek God and discern truth from falsehood amid a buffet of beliefs.
I was so excited when I learned my friends at Mama Bear Apologetics were writing a book to answer these very questions. Mama Bear Apologetics: Empowering Your Kids to Challenge Cultural Lies released on Tuesday, June 4, and covers the foundational presuppositions of several worldviews from postmodernism and naturalism to emotionalism and self-helpism. The book includes chapters by female apologists Hillary Morgan Ferrer (founder of Mama Bear Apologetics), Teasi Cannon, Julie Loos, Hillary Short, Rebekah Valerius, Cathryn S. Buse and Alisa Childers.
This book is not solely for mamas. Short writes, “A Mama Bear is not necessarily a mom. I know this to be true because the founder of Mama Bear Apologetics doesn’t have kids herself! A Mama Bear is any woman who recognizes that the children in the body of Christ need guidance, role models, and solid answers to the tough questions about faith.” (After reading the book, I also recommend it for Papa Bears.)
Children are never too young to learn what Christians believe and why
Although we do not have children right now, I have learned from other parents that their children’s theological inquisitiveness often catches them by surprise. They ask questions like, “Who created God? Why did Jesus die? How can God listen to me and everyone else pray at the same time?”
These questions should indicate to us that children are never too young to learn what Christians believe and why, yet we often enroll students in a crash course on apologetics during their senior year of high school and send them on their way. Meanwhile, atheist organizations offer resources like Kids without God, a website belonging to the American Humanist Association “for the millions of young people around the world who have embraced science, rejected superstition, and are dedicated to being Good Without A God!”
Mama Bear Apologetics includes some statistics that convinced me of the need to be able to articulate to children the reasons and evidence for Christianity. Some research indicates as much as 46 percent of youth have spiritually “checked out” at the end of middle school, and most students’ worldviews are “set” by the time they are 13 years old. This is why books like Mama Bear Apologetics are a great asset in raising children who think critically and biblically about the world around them.
The greatest strength of Mama Bear Apologetics is the book’s advocacy for a “chew-and-spit” approach. Rather than rejecting an ideology wholesale because it is not “Christian,” the writers advocate that Christians be marked by our discernment, learning how to chew the meat and spit out the bones: “[A] discerning worldview does not need to fear the false messages that this world churns out if it has already been trained to identify which aspects to reject.”
This approach is different from dividing the world into categories such as “Christian” and “non-Christian” when talking to children about competing worldviews. The mamas in Mama Bear Apologetics caution that this black-and-white thinking will hinder their growth in discernment in the long run, as they explain in their book:
The danger of dividing up the world into simplistic ‘safe’ and ‘dangerous’ or even ‘Christian’ and ‘non-Christian’ categories is that our kids will eventually (and perhaps accidentally) swallow a lie from something they thought was safe or Christian, or reject a truth from something they thought was dangerous or non-Christian… Why? Because it gives them the mistaken impression that as long as they categorize something correctly, they can turn their brains off and operate on autopilot.
Most students’ worldviews are “set” by the time they are 13 years old.
At the end of every chapter, the writers use the acronym R.O.A.R. to demonstrate a posture of discernment toward each worldview. Below is a brief summary of what each letter stands for in the acronym.
R – Recognize the message. When we are watching movies with children, for example, we can help them identify the main message and assumptions.
O – Offer discernment. This is where the “chew-and-spit” method comes into play. If all truth is God’s truth, we can and should identify and affirm the truths of a given message or worldview, while also recognizing and rejecting any falsehoods about God and reality.
A – Argue for a healthier approach. Sometimes, we are tempted as Christians to deconstruct a belief system without proposing an alternative, healthier approach to replace it. Biblical wisdom helps us offer healthier approaches that result in God’s glory and humanity’s good.
R – Reinforce through discussion, discipleship and prayer. Lastly, the writers of Mama Bear Apologetics provide some practical ways to reinforce these healthier approaches, such as conversation starters and activities for children.
In reference to “-isms” like modernism, naturalism, postmodernism and so on (most of which are covered in Mama Bear Apologetics), Ravi Zacharias said, “What the mistake is in each of those cases [is that] in grabbing the finger of one discipline they thought they had grabbed the fist of reality.”
The writers of the book successfully demonstrate how various worldviews have glimpses of truth embedded within them, but they are insufficient to account for the whole truth about God and reality, and they certainly do not offer the salvation, hope, and purpose of Christianity to people.
In the end, I know I cannot control Baby Anderson’s beliefs. In the words of Paul David Tripp, I am called not to “ownership parenting” but “ambassador parenting,” representing God’s love and truth and providing reasons and evidence for why Mommy and Daddy are Christians to Baby Anderson. Mama Bear Apologetics has given me some foundational tools in my toolbox for this task.