Kids ask a lot of questions and that's a good thing. There are times when parents love questions and there are times when we fear the question and there are some questions we'd flat out rather avoid. Enter, the 21 Toughest Questions.
However, the first and most important question is: Can Alex McFarland answers these questions? Alex has an impressive resume which includes being president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary. He's shared the stage on speaking engagements with some heavy apologetics hitters like Chuck Colson, Josh McDowell, Ravi Zacharias, and Frank Turek. He is a recognized expert on world religions. Yes, he can answer these questions.
Why does the book exist?
The stated purpose of the book is very clear. It's in the title, it's on the back cover, it's explained in the introduction: Kids ask tough questions and parents need to be ready to offer a confident answer.
The book succeeds in this by offering Biblical insight, pro and con arguments, along with what Alex calls "Hope filled answers." The "Hope filled answers" are not sugar coatings. The questions are tough and sometimes the answers aren't easy to hear. Alex doesn't shy away from that. For any answer that might cause a child to despair the "Hope filled answer" is the reminder that Jesus does not abandon us in the struggle to find the answer.
How to use this book
21 Toughest Questions is not an encyclopedia. It's not meant to be a "if your child asks this question give them this answer" kind of book. Instead it poses a tough question and then leads you through the evidence in scripture to build a fully developed answer. Along the way throwing in background and stories to help illustrate.
It's this approach that makes this book worth the effort because, frankly, if you don't care, the book won't help. It's not an easy-out for the parent who doesn't have time and it's not a replacement for a parent unwilling to dig in to some hard topics. You, as the parent, must be willing to go through this book with your child.
The book is divided into six parts: Questions about God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, the Bible, the Church, and the last section is directed at parents. These really are the tough questions. We're not talking - how many animals did Noah take on the Ark? We're talking about "Why does God allow evil and suffering?", "Is Jesus really God?", "Will the Holy Spirit leave me if I keep sinning?", "Is the Bible really the word of God?", and maybe the most poignant for the parent, "What will your family legacy be?" To name just a few.
When your child starts asking the tough questions, instead of waiting for each question to come up, make a plan to go through this book from beginning to end. Give them the education and the reinforcement before the question comes up and they'll have a better understanding of how to deal with the question if you're not there. Let's face it, the questions never come up at a good time. They always come up when we don't have time. So take the initiative.
This book is not a replacement for studying the Bible on your own, or with your child, but like a good commentary it will help clarify some misunderstandings.
The Wrap Up
This book is worth your time as a parent, no matter your kids age, and it's also worth your time as a student of the Bible. Some of these questions are ones we never deal with in our Christian walk and Alex's style is an accessible way to start digging.
PS One thing to watch out for on page 116. Alex refers to Lutherans as Post-Millennialists. This is not true. Lutherans are amillennialists. So, let's get that fixed in the reprint, Alex. *Yes, I'm just having fun. I mean, it's true, but still, just having fun.*
PPS I received a free copy of Ã¢â¬ËThe 21 Toughest Questions Your Kids Will Ask About Christianity' from Tyndale publishing, but was not required to write a positive review. It just turned out that way.
Just the other day, my eight year old daughter asked, "Daddy, I know the Bible says believing in Jesus is the only way to be saved from our sins, so what happened to all those people who lived before Jesus was born?" How would you answer that question? Are your kids asking you questions about Christianity? If they haven't yet, standby, because its not a matter of "if" but "when" they will ask. Are you prepared to give an answer?
The book, The 21 Toughest Questions Your Kids Will Ask about Christianity, is a great resource to equip you to give your children (or kids you interact with) answers to many of the tough questions they will ask (and maybe even answer some of yours!). Author Alex McFarland is clear, simple, and biblical in answering the 21 questions, which he divides into five categories (God, Jesus, the Trinity, the Bible, and the Church).
I've received formal training in the Bible, so most of the information was a great review for me, but what impacted me most was the idea behind why the child asks the question and how to evaluate it and use it for their growth.
"When children and teens ask questions about God, the Bible, Christianity, or something that touches on a spiritual matter, our first reaction may be to blurt out an answer. There are times when that approach is called for, but it's better to pause and think, Why is my child asking this question? What information (or misinformation) is in her mind that may be influencing her? Has a recent event or circumstance in his life prompted this line of thinking?"
I'm one of those that is quick to blurt out the answer as if I'm the Bible Answer Man, rather than ask what possible issue my child is wrestling with. This was one of those "Aha!" moments for me. I don't want my children just to have the "right answers," I want them to use their God given minds to reason through the Scriptures and apply them to their lives.
Mcfarland goes on to teach the parent/teacher/pastor how to use their child's question as a teachable moment by asking further diagnostic questions to get to the heart of the issue and ultimately help the child.
This book is for parents, grandparents, teachers, pastors, and any who deal with children and is a very easy and well worth your time read!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers as part of The Tyndale Blog Network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
You don't normally expect a book from Focus on the Family to theologically deep. This one is. Author Alex McFarland didn't produce a book of dumbed-down theology you could hand to your son and say, "Hey, kid, just read this." Raising godly children is not simply a matter of giving them correct data. No, The 21 Toughest Questions Your Kids Will Ask About Christianity is for you, the parent, to read, so you yourself will know the truth about God, Jesus, the Bible, the Church and a slew of other topics. In the process, you'll equip yourself to pass on the historic truths of Christianity to the next generation.
While there are parts that I would disagree with, on the whole the book is solid, more conservative than normally found in mainstream evangelicalism. McFarland covers a wide range of topics without being too skimpy or too verbose.
I recently received the book The 21 Toughest Questions Your Kids Will Ask about Christianity: & How to Answer Them Confidently by Alex McFarland. This book really interested me even though my children are young, however my 4 year old has already begun asking questions about God and heaven. I am sure the questions will only get tougher to answers in the years to come.
The author does a really great job of answering those tough questions Biblically and in an easy way to understand for children. Each chapter includes a short recap, how to best answer and apply with your family. While reading through this book, I highlighted out many areas in the book to share later on. This book also gave me a better understanding of some of those tough questions that even I have heard some adults ask and at times have ponder myself.
Not only is this a great book for families with children, but I also feel it would be helpful to someone who is a new believer.
I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.
Alex McFarland has tackled the tough job of picking the toughest of the tough questions about Christianity and trying to answer them, not for theologians, but for young people. (The 21 Toughest Questions your Kids Will Ask about Christianity: and how to Answer Them Confidently, Tyndale House, 2013)
First of all let me get the Ã¢â¬Ënegatives' out of the way. I was distracted by the layout of this book, too many sidebars, key concepts and quotes scattered throughout each chapter made it hard for me to follow the author's train of thought. I think he also got carried away with some of his answers. I kept thinking about the person who when asked what time it is, answers with the instructions on how to build a watch. When I think kids I usually think under the age of 12, but this book definitely seems to be speaking to an older group, and the biographical data says that McFarland has spoken in "hundreds of churches and university campuses worldwide".
On the positive side, McFarland has done an excellent job of picking some of the questions that most Christian parents are going to have to try to answer for their children. Everyone seems to want to know why we're so Ã¢â¬Ëexclusive', if the miracles really happened, why God allows such horrible things to happen, and how can anyone think that God really loved the world when the Old Testament is full of accounts that should be rated "R" for violence. Children want to understand the Trinity, and unlike adults, they're apt to ask someone to explain it to them. They want to know how Christians can be so mean to other people (and each other) and there are a lot of other questions too. Questions that leave most people trembling as they try to answer without sounding to off base.
This is a much needed book. I wouldn't go so far as to say, like is implies on the back jacket, that we're all theologians, but McFarland's point is really that with a little bit of background information, parents don't need to be afraid to talk to their children about the mysteries of the faith. And he does provide some of that information along with some interesting ways of getting the point across.
Along with some answers, he provides some interesting additional information, geared towards sparking interest in further study on their own. It's not written for little children in the style of a "Beginner's Bible" but he manages not to go so far in the other direction that you need a Seminary education to be able to pronounce some of the words, much less begin to understand them.
I rate this book 4/5.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. (And I've already passed it on to a friend who is helping someone try to make sense of this journey called the Christian Faith.