When I enrolled in Biola’s M.A. in science and religion program in 2009, I was driven by my passion for teaching science and faith topics to adults. My ultimate dream has long been to educate believers, particularly church leaders, on the complexity and importance of responsibly integrating Christianity with the natural sciences. I never imagined that one of the ministry projects God would call me into would be writing apologetics material for young children. It was utter serendipity, but isn’t that just like God?
Kids often ask tough questions, and they aren’t usually satisfied with evasions or simplistic answers. So, on the day my (then) 7-year-old son asked me how we “know for sure that God is really there,” I was presented with a unique challenge: to translate my training in Christian apologetics into conceptual language that would make sense to my young son, build up his faith and equip him for defending his views when (not if) they are challenged.
As we sat together on the living room floor, I laid out a scientific and philosophical argument for God’s existence as carefully as I could, using simple vocabulary and lots of hand motions. His thoughtful reaction, which included more excellent questions, was more than I could have hoped for. I was so inspired by the exchange that I wrote a blog post recounting it that very afternoon.
The main point of my post was that we often underestimate the intellectual capacity of younger children when it comes to matters of apologetics and worldview. We tend to preoccupy ourselves with shielding them from the evils of the world, when we should be devoting some of this precious, fleeting time to equipping them with solid answers for the challenges often leveled at the Christian faith. Besides, doubts aren’t always fueled by input from secular society; kids are naturally inquisitive and more analytical than they’re given credit for. My son has always been homeschooled and is being brought up in the church, but at the same time, he is learning that fact claims should have support. It didn’t surprise me that he recognized the need for good reasons to believe in God, and I praised his candid inquiry.
After my blog post went live, I was inundated with emails and social media notifications. Comments and questions poured in, asking me to recommend apologetics books for young kids. Over the next several months, as I regularly received emails with the same request, I finally started to get a clue. God was showing me that many parents need help explaining to their children why Christianity is a reasonable belief system.
Could I help? I didn’t know for sure. But several friends encouraged me repeatedly, and so one sunny spring day, I sat down at my computer and began recreating the conversation I’d had with my son in the form of a short fiction story. Christopher Voss, a talented artist that I knew through mutual friends, took a huge leap of faith and spent his summer illustrating the story with imaginative and endearing cartoons. I loved what we had created. But would anyone else?
As it turned out, I should have had more confidence in God’s prodding. Within weeks of compiling all of the material, a wonderful, well-respected publisher bought my book, and I am pleased to say that the reception so far has been phenomenal. I unveiled it at an apologetics conference in New Jersey last April, and the book sold out. The best part was having a mom, who bought the book on the first day of the conference, come back the next day and tell me all about her son’s reaction to the story. “I could just see his wheels turning!” she exclaimed.
I hope to hear many, many more reports like that one. I suspect that God may be using the story to reach moms and dads as well. Perhaps they will be inspired to seek out for themselves, and for their children, more of the reasons we have for the hope that is within us. I pray for that.
Melissa Cain Travis (M.A. ’12) is the author of How Do We Know God is Really There? — the first book in The Young Defenders series, which is targeted at children ages 6 and up. It is available at sciencereasonfaith.com, as well as Amazon and iBookstore.