Q&A: My Son Says He’s an Agnostic. Help?
Please pray. My son says he is an agnostic. I am so worried about him. He said he’d accepted Christ when he was six, but now this. What do I do?
This can be one of the most upsetting things a parent can deal with. I will never forget the day I was driving along with our children and our then nine-year-old suddenly said, “Mom, I think I’m an atheist.” I panicked. This was the child we prayed over since the day he was conceived. This was the child who claimed Christ when he was six and seemed so concerned about spiritual things. It was an awful moment. Really, it was awful few months.
It’s not at all unusual, though. In fact, it’s pretty typical for kids in the preteen years to struggle with spiritual doubts. When their hormones start to flow, their emotions become confused at the same time that their brains are rapidly changing and developing. Six-year-olds seem to discover there is a spiritual reality out there; nine- or eleven-year-olds seem to realize there may be other explanations about that world than the one Mom and Dad gave him. A recent study of adults raised in Christian homes found that many who later left the faith began having doubts in middle school, and a second group began to wonder in high school. If those doubts aren’t addressed – and sometimes, our kids may not mention them out loud – then those thoughts may carry into the teens and beyond. It’s a critical time!
So, what can you do?
Probably the most important thing is to maintain a strong, loving relationship with your child. The Gen2 Survey found that a good relationship with a Christian mother or Christian father was one of the strongest predictors that a child would grow up to continue in the faith he’d been taught. Don’t let their doubts keep you from showing them your love.
Don’t freak out. You really do want to know if your child is having spiritual doubts, don’t you? Of course – otherwise, how would you know how to pray and talk with him? We need to keep communication open, and if our kids feel like they can’t discuss a problem with us, then they won’t — instead, they may not share their struggles until they find a place where their doubts are welcomed. Listen to our podcast with Carol Barnier. She describes her battle with doubts as a teen in a Christian family and how she eventually came to Christ after several years as an atheist.
Listen to them. “I’m glad you told me you are feeling that way. Let’s talk about it.”
Address their questions. You’ve got to listen to know what they are, but once you do, make sure you let them know this, “There are answers. I may not know the answer to everything you ask, but I will sure help you find the answer!”
The Word says, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18) We don’t have to leave our minds behind to come to Christ. Ours is a reasonable faith and you can have the confidence that we have nothing to fear from the truth.
Here are some great resources to help your skeptic get those doubts answered:
More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell (probably the easiest read).
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (the most philosophical).
Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell (a stunning collection of real evidence).
The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel.
The Lie: Evolution by Ken Ham (many struggle with doubts because of what they’ve heard about evolution – this was a huge thing for Melanie as a teen).
Get those books and read through them with your child.
And here’s a book for you, especially if your child is in the teens or beyond and still running from God: Engaging Today’s Prodigal by Carol Barnier. This is the best resource we’ve seen for knowing how to interact with kids who have rejected how they were raised.
Encourage them to seek God themselves, to hunt down the answers to their questions. It’s the most important quest of their lives. There are some precious promises to those seekers:
“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)
“I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me.” (Proverbs 8:17)
Encourage them to be like the father of the demon-possessed child, who cried out, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
That nine-year-old boy who told us he thought he was an atheist, came to Christ just a few months later. It was very obvious he was changed. He had made his faith his own. He had a real and abiding faith. He’s now an adult who is a rock solid Christian and a very real blessing to us.
We pray your doubting child will come to Christ with all his heart — and soon!
We have two great online classes for parents that discuss this and other issues common to the preteens (Boot Camp 9-12, click here) and teens (PreFlight, click here). They are some of the most popular and encouraging things we do!
Your brother and sister in Christ,
Hal & Melanie