Category Christian School Comment
Title 48.1 Raising Daniels in a Secular Babylon
Author/s Dan Egeler President, ACSI
Preview Our children are growing up in an increasingly post-Christian and secular society, where the public views people of faith as irrelevant. What does it mean that we live in a secular society, and how should we and our children engage with this secular culture?
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Our children are growing up in an increasingly post-Christian and secular society, where the public views people of faith as irrelevant. What does it mean that we live in a secular society, and how should we and our children engage with this secular culture? James K. A. Smith, professor of philosophy at Calvin College, recently gave a fascinating talk on that topic.

Smith believes that the terms secular and secularism don't do justice to the increasing complexity of our society. This complexity provides a unique opportunity for people of faith to speak into the inevitable "cracks" that develop when questions are left unanswered by those who view faith as irrelevant or even extremist. Secularists can increasingly be characterized by their persistent, enduring longings for transcendence and fulfillment.

As an example of a crack that people of faith need to be looking for, Smith cites British novelist Julian Barnes' memoir, Nothing to Be Frightened Of. Barnes writes, "I don't believe in God, but I miss Him." By writing this statement, Barnes makes himself a poster child for secularism, especially since he didn't grow up in religious circles and has no interest in anything related to faith. Yet Barnes is looking for answers that only a transcendent God can provide.

Smith believes that in this climate, Christians shouldn't be manning our battle stations, but instead should be seeking out new opportunities to make an impact that only the gospel can make. The world desperately needs Christians in the public realm who can articulate how faith addresses people's need for transcendence and true fulfillment.

As Christian parents, we have the opportunity to raise children who can fulfill this assignment. How do we do that? First, by initiating transparent conversations with our children, who are natives to the secular culture. They have questions and doubts just like everyone else, and we need to acknowledge that doubt.

"Doubt isn't the enemy of faith; it's a companion of faith," according to Smith. "We are all Thomas now. If the church doesn't have the courage to be honest about that, then a rising generation who feels this cross-pressure is going to feel like we are hiding something." We parents are a key segment of the church to our children.

A second way to raise faith-articulating children is to teach them to "listen for the cracks" from those who are skeptical of people of faith and to winsomely and courageously share the truth that transcends time and culture. This next generation can serve as Daniels who are voices of faith in an increasingly hostile and secular Babylon.

A third way to ensure that our children are equipped to articulate their faith is to enroll them in a Christian school. According to Dr. Larry Taylor, headmaster of Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas, Christian schools are one of five key influences on a child's belief system. "One's family, neighborhood, church group, peers, and school are examples of the multiple influences on our child's belief system," he writes in Running with the Horses.

When all five "points of impact" give a congruent message, children are more likely to develop strong, contagious faith- faith that can make a difference in a secular society.

By investing in a Christian education and being deliberate about the conversations you have with your children, you're making great strides toward raising children who are equipped to engage our secular culture.

Dan Egeler
President, ACSI


References

Barnes, Julian. 2008. Nothing to be frightened of. Toronto, ON: Random House Canada.

Smith, James K. A. Our secular age. http://qideas.org/videos/our-secular-age.

Taylor, Larry. 2013. Running with the horses: A parenting guide for raising children to be servant-leaders for Christ. Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press.

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