Honey, Michael’s grandmother, is one of my favorite people. When she asked if she could call me to discuss something, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But when she told me her dear friend’s great-grandchild had asked some pretty advanced theological questions of her great-grandfather and they wondered how I would answer her, I was so excited.
This precocious 6-year-old asked:
- Where did Adam and Eve come from?
- How do we know Jesus is God’s son?
Here is what I would have said in the moment:
Wow! These are great questions! Do you know that people have been wondering about these very things for thousands of years? Lots of people have answered these questions in different ways. I wonder what you think. Where do you think Adam and Eve came from? How do you know Jesus is God’s son?
Then, based on what she said and how satisfied she is with her own answers, and how many follow-ups she has, I would say:
Let’s find out more together!
As a good Methodist, I would probably want to use the method described in the Wesleyan Quadrilateral (see below), but as a person who works with kids, I know that we sometimes give way more information than kids actually want or need. It’s always great to ask what they think first no matter what the tough topic. It gives you more time to think up an answer and gives you more insight into how they came to this question in the first place.
And I know that we don’t want to say the “wrong” thing, so we end up saying nothing. But our kids don’t need a perfect answer (I honestly don’t think there is such a thing. Just look at the 2000 year history of other Christians wrestling with how we make sense of Jesus’ humanity and divinity.), they only need to know it’s safe to wonder together about God and our place in God’s story.
If you have a child who wants to explore more with you, here is a great methodical framework:
The Wesleyan Quadrilateral
- What does Scripture say about this?
- What does tradition say about this? (This can be found in denominational doctrines, how the church fathers and mothers answered these questions, and how your own congregation thinks and lives out this topic.)
- What does reason say about this? (God gave us incredible brains! We get to weave together all kinds of disciplines to figure out how it all works together. And it’s okay if there are conflicting thoughts!)
- What does your experience with God teach you about this?
If I used this framework to answer, “Where did Adam and Eve come from?” it would look like this:
The first story in our Bibles is all about this question! God’s people were curious to know where we came from, so the leaders told a story about how God created the heavens and the earth, and all that fills them, including people! God made Adam and Eve. God made them from the soil to take care of the earth, the plants, and the animals. They were God’s helpers. We’re God’s helpers, too!
The early listeners of this story, the Jewish people, wondered about where we came from and what God wanted them to do. Some people believe this story is an account of the creation of the world just as it is written. Some people believe this story is just a story that helps us know more about God’s design for the world and humans.
Science also tries to answer this question. Scientists have found evidence that the earth is billions of years old and that it took a very long time, way more than six days, to create all that we see around us.
I have felt God’s love and I believe that God made the world and every human. I believe God made me and God made you. What do you think?
If I used this framework to answer, “How do we know Jesus is God’s son?” it would look like this:
The New Testament tells us the stories of Jesus. There are many stories where people ask Jesus if he is God’s son or calls him the Son of God. In the story about Jesus’ baptism, God says, “This is my Son whom I dearly love; I find happiness in him” (Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, and Luke 3:22).
For the last 2000 years, people have wondered about this. What does it mean that Jesus is God’s son? How do we know for sure that Jesus is God’s son? I think that comes back to having faith, having hope, in Jesus and the followers of Jesus. Sometimes reason and thinking can’t answer a question, and you have to rely on your heart. My heart says that Jesus is God’s son. What does your heart say?
Do you have a precocious child in your life who has asked you a question you weren’t sure to answer? Send the questions my way! I’d love to take a crack at ‘em!