Today, we'd like to share with you a Q&A with Janelle Alberts and Ingrid Faro on their new book Honest Answers: Exploring God Questions with Your Tween.
Q: Honest Answers is divided into four parts, addressing some of the biggest faith questions that come up. What are the four areas you tackle?
Q: How is Honest Answers designed to be used?
Rather than a book for parents to read when questions arise or to give their children to read, it’s a discussion book.
Parents can tackle one or two small chapters a week for maybe twenty minutes at a time the family picks—maybe Sunday evenings before bed, for instance. “Parent primers” are for parents to read on their own, then the “Honest Answers Q&As” are a way to talk through that information with their kids. They can tell their kids, “Our family is planning to start something new—reading a few short questions and answers each week so we get to know some church stuff that we haven’t talked about before.”
Plus, the Bible has ancient cultural subtleties that are not obvious to our kids (or most of us adults for that matter), which can tempt our kids to ignore whole parts of Scripture altogether. As parents, we do not want our kids to do that.
To address that, this book helps parents engage in dialogue, or dialegomai. Dialegomai is a Greek word in the New Testament that means to discuss, dispute, or reason. It is what Paul did in Athens and refers to wrestling with and talking through who God is and what He’s all about. We want our kids to ask questions and talk about them openly and honestly, even when we don’t have good answers.
Q: What are the most important things to emphasize both about oral tradition and the oldest written manuscripts when it comes to the compilation of the Bible?
One thing we can tell our kids is that oral tradition is not the same as the game of telephone. Oral tradition was really, really strict. Assigned people were trained to pass down stories with crazy specificity. It was a way many cultures like Bedouins, Native American tribes, and African, Middle Eastern, and ancient Near Eastern tribes passed down their cultural stories. Preliterate people did and still do handle cultural stories through oral tradition.
We can also let our kids know that maintaining the details of an oral story is very different when we know the people, care about those people, and know that the circumstances are grounded in real-life situations.
As for the manuscripts themselves, we have more than ten thousand fragments to help verify the accuracy of the Bible. This is thousands more fragments than the most famous and well-documented ancient Near Eastern literature besides the Bible: the Iliad. We have fewer than two thousand fragments of the Iliad.
There are lots of other points of interest to discuss that we share in the book, but the essential goal is bringing a few talking points to our kids’ attention so they’re not afraid to dig in and learn more on the matter.
Q: Is it okay for kids to have friends that don’t believe the same things that they do, whether it be related to science or denominational differences? Is it acceptable to agree to disagree?
Even people who think a lot alike, attend the same church, or are in the same family will not agree about everything. The church body has hands and feet—different people who bring unique talents and considerations that our kids will benefit from. That said, our closest relationships affect how we think about important matters, so building a strong community calls for a thoughtful, purposeful approach. What we can tell our kids about that process is that we have reached a time in history in which we all come to conversations with such a fight face that discussions are shutting down.
Conversation (dialogue) with people who think and believe differently than we do can also help us ask questions. And without questions, we don’t get answers. God is big enough to handle all our questions, and we should not be afraid of or avoid people who disagree with us or question us either.
Q: Is there one piece of encouragement you’d like to leave with parents of preteens?
We’d like to leave so much encouragement! But we’ll stick with this simple thought: possibility abounds.
Tween years are a vulnerable, confusing, unsteady time in our kids’ lives, and although that’s scary, it’s also a time that they are cracked wide open in their need for something that’s real and true. They are desperate for answers that do not trivialize their questions as “little” and that carry a gravitas weightier than their fear of having no one to sit with at lunch.
Trivial is where God starts to separate the proverbial wheat from the chaff about Himself with our kids. God showing Himself in the little things is what shows our kids how to cling to God in the big things. And God is showing Himself to our kids. God offers us a church body with endless possibilities of community and support, a Bible that is possibly the greatest material gift known to humankind, and prayer, which harnesses for our children the infinite possibility of utter unaloneness.
Honest Answers: Exploring God Questions with Your Tween
About the Authors
Janelle Alberts is a regular contributor to Christianity Today's Gifted for Leadership, Relevant, iBelieve.com, and more. She's committed to taking hard-to-understand Scripture and boiling it down into logical, clear messages readers can relate to.
Ingrid Faro is dean of academic affairs and associate professor of Old Testament at Northern Seminary in Lisle, Illinois. Her previous work includes a contributed chapter in Divine Suffering: Theology, History, and Church Mission.
How have you handled questions about faith with your tween?
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