The Table Podcast

Explaining the Christian Worldview to Children

In this episode, Mikel Del Rosario and Melissa Cain Travis discuss explaining the Christian worldview to children, focusing on her apologetics work and the Young Defenders Series of children’s books.

Timecodes
00:15
Travis’ background in defending the faith
07:36
Apologetics in primary education
10:02
The Young Defenders Series
16:02
Explaining the Kalām cosmological argument for children
19:47
Travis’ scientific work before pursuing apologetics
21:29
Presenting God as Creator
25:27
How to know right from wrong
28:44
The historicity of Jesus’ resurrection
33:09
Helping parents understand the relationship of faith and science
36:32
How parents can explain apologetics to their children
40:38
How pastors can integrate apologetics into children’s ministry
44:18
Travis’ apologetics resources
Resources Science and the Mind of the Maker: What the Conversation Between Faith and Science Reveals About God
Transcript
Mikel Del Rosario
Welcome to the Table, where we discuss issues of God and culture. I’m Mikel Del Rosario, cultural engagement manager here at the Hendricks Center. And our topic today is “Explaining the Christian Worldview to Children.” And our guest, coming to us live via Skype, is Melissa Travis. And Melissa is a professor of apologetics at Houston Baptist University. Welcome, Melissa.
Melissa Cain Travis
Thank you. I’m glad to be with you.
Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah, so good to have you on the show. Well, tell us a little bit about what you’re doing at HBU right now.
Melissa Cain Travis
I’ve been on the faculty at HBU since 2013. I work in the Christian apologetics department, where I’m an assistant professor. I have designed our course on science and faith, and I’ve taught that at the undergrad level, and more recently at the graduate level in the apologetics program. I also teach courses in philosophy, religion, and introduction to philosophy.
Mikel Del Rosario
Interesting. So, how did you get interested in the whole concept of defending the Christian faith?
Melissa Cain Travis
That’s a really interesting and somewhat humiliating story, actually. I grew up the daughter of a Southern Baptist pastor in rural North Carolina. And interestingly enough, though I was raised in a Christian home, I was in the church every time the doors were open, and I went on to do my undergraduate work at a Christian university, I never heard the term “apologetics.”

And throughout all of those years, from birth to age 22, no one ever directly challenged my faith. So, after I graduated college, my new husband and I moved to the big city of Houston, Texas, where I went to work in the biotechnology industry.

So, I went from rural North Carolina, country Christian girl, who had been inside a bubble practically my entire life, to a very cosmopolitan environment, surrounded by people with scientific backgrounds. And I was suddenly in a lion’s den, so to speak, I guess you could say. And my worldview was being challenged on almost a daily basis, even by people who claimed to be some form of Christian or another.

So, I was in a bit of a panic because I could talk about the Bible all day long, but I couldn’t answer the kinds of tough questions that were being asked in my day-to-day exchanges with colleagues. So, God had mercy on me, and on my lunch break one day, at work, I walked across the street to a Barnes & Noble bookstore with no intention whatsoever of doing research because, as I said, I didn’t even know the existence of the discipline of apologetics.

But I’m browsing the bargain shelves, and I stumble across this book entitled The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell. And I’m reading the little blurbs on the front cover, and it occurs to me this sounds like something that would help me in these conversations that I’m having with my colleagues.

So, I bought the book, and that was my big, grand introduction to the discipline of apologetics and my first exposure to the idea that the truth claims made by Christianity are actually defensible. So, that led to a domino series of events, and after my two boys were born, I decided to go and get a formal education in a discipline related to apologetics.

So, I did the master’s program at Biola University in science and religion, since my background was in the sciences and that was the area I was most fascinated with. And now I’m trying to finish up my last year in a Ph.D. program where I’m studying the history and philosophy of science as it has carried on through the Western tradition.

Mikel Del Rosario
That’s a great program, and to see what you’ve done with it is pretty amazing. You were on the cover of Christianity Today, at one point, with some of our mutual friends from HBU with Mary Jo Sharp, who we’ve had on the show before, and she was here for one of our Women’s Leadership conferences; Holly Ordway, who’s also heading up the apologetics program there. And it was entitled something like “The Unlikely Defenders.” Is that right?
Melissa Cain Travis
Yes, that’s right.
Mikel Del Rosario
And the whole angle of that was, here we have women – and there was – you had another colleague there as well – women who are actively doing Christian apologetics, engaged in the defense of the faith in a field that for the most part has been associated with men pretty much. How does that impact the way you do your ministry?
Melissa Cain Travis
It’s interesting. It has its ups and downs in that respect, actually. The pros far outweigh the cons. So, often when someone discovers that I’m in a field associated with theology and apologetics, they’re maybe a little surprised at first, and that sparks a curiosity – a good, healthy curiosity – and, you know, maybe a newfound respect for the fact that this is a field that women are breaking into.

And, of course, there have been the little instances here and there where doors would close, or an invitation would not be forthcoming because of how someone, at some institution, felt about women teaching mixed audiences.

Thankfully, those instances have been few and far between. But I think that we’re to a point now where lots more women are discovering that this is a very live possibility for them, when it comes to formal studies, or even just self-study – you know, for personal edification and for teaching their children, or for teaching in their home church. So, as far as women in apologetics, it’s an exciting time I think.

Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah, the same magazine – Christianity Today – ran a blog post on hermeneutics, or the title of the blog is “Hermeneutics.” It’s her – H-E-R – dot meneutics, and it’s a blog on women. And you’re called the “apologist mom” in that article. How did that come about?
Melissa Cain Travis
So, the journalist who actually wrote the cover story for the Christianity Today issue, Andrea Dilley, decided, after the fact, because she herself is a stay-at-home mom who homeschools her children, and that’s what I was doing at the time while I was teaching part time for HBU, she thought it would be very interesting to spotlight the fact that there are professional women apologists who are doing the mom thing, doing the wife thing, and also carrying on academic work.

So, she called me, and she said, “Hey, what if we did a piece on hermeneutics where we spotlighted what you’re doing and the context you’re doing it in?” And I thought that was a great idea because one of the things I’m passionate about is inspiring other women who are in a very similar life stage. So, that was how the article was born.

Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm. Now, when people think about apologetics, of defending the Christian faith, and many times they think about doing academic debates or talking to skeptics at – maybe on a college campus or something, but it’s not as often discussed, you know, that we need to be able to answer tough questions from our own kids. How do you see being a parent – and being a mom specifically – as tying into that whole defense of the faith?
Melissa Cain Travis
Well, I think any mom, with children over maybe the age of three or four years old, is already well-aware of the fact that kids start asking these profound questions about ultimate reality from a much younger age than we would typically expect. And that was exactly what happened to me.

So, what I have found through doing conversational learning with my kids, which is very much based on my personal learning in formal academic settings, I’m able to help build within them a confident faith. And they see that the rational side of the human experience is not compartmentalized from the spiritual side of human experience, that our awareness of reality can be perfectly integrated.

And I love that I see how they’ve embraced that. And they use it in their day-to-day conversations with me and with their dad when it comes to some of these bigger questions.

Mikel Del Rosario
Do you just wait for them to bring questions up, or do you sometimes initiate some of the conversations?
Melissa Cain Travis
Both. Sometimes we’ll be in conversation about something where they aren’t really asking questions, but the topic of the conversation actually raises really good questions from a Christian worldview, Christian apologetics or theological perspective.

And I’ll say, “Well, what do you think about,” and I’ll try to get them thinking about it from that standpoint. And that has led to some pretty fantastic conversations.

And I’ve been so pleased that even months later, they can bring it back up and say, “Hey, Mom, I heard such-and-such,” or, “I saw such-and-such on TV, and it reminded me of that conversation.” And they can come back and regurgitate to me what it was we talked about and how they’re apply it to other current event or what have you.

Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm. Well, it sounds like you not only know how to give good answers to these tough questions, but how to make them memorable as well for kids.

Not only are you doing the homeschooling thing – right? – with your kids, and working on a Ph.D., but you found time to author this wonderful series of children’s books called The Young Defenders – a series. Can you explain to us how the idea for this series came about?

Melissa Cain Travis
Well, I actually have my older son to thank for it; he inspired me. When he was about seven years old, out of the blue one day, he looks at me and says, “Hey, Mom, how do we know all that stuff in the Bible isn’t just made up? How do we even know God is real?”

And so, I’m sitting there stunned. I was about a year into my master’s program at Biola, and I had just studied some arguments for the existence of God. And one of those was the cosmological argument – the Kalām version of the cosmological argument.

And so, I sat very patiently with my seven-year-old, as he’s playing and listening, playing and listening, just explaining to him the nature of our universe and how it needs to have an ultimate cause to explain why it began to exist in the first place.

And it amazed me that as I kinda went through the steps of the argument in kid language, he was able to grasp it, and he was able to talk back to me about it. And he was completely satisfied with the explanation and felt confident, from there on out, about the existence of God, which I thought was a wonderful thing.

Mikel Del Rosario
That’s awesome. Yeah, there aren’t a lot of resources like this. I know Phil Vischer has the “What’s in the Bible?” series. The DVD series has a little bit of apologetics incorporated into it, but for the longest time, people would ask me, “What can we, you know, use for it with our kids?” And there wasn’t a lot out there.

And so, I wanted to ask you just – with this first one, I wanted to kinda go through these books and talk about these, ’cause these are real questions that real kids have. Kids have big questions. And there’s a character in here – first of all, I have a neighbor who has two kids, ten and six, and they love the drawings in this series. Tell us about the – just the approach to doing this in a story format and the main character, Thomas, and how did you come up with this whole world, a way of introducing these topics for kids?

Melissa Cain Travis
At HBU, one of the things we emphasize is the importance of what we call “cultural apologetics.” And cultural apologetics includes things like literature and film, for example. And I was very inspired by this idea that we could capture the imagination of a child using a fun story to engage them through a form of entertainment that they’re already familiar with and hopefully already love.

So, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to have this character, Thomas” – and, of course, he’s named after the infamous doubting Thomas, the apostle who asks for evidence that Jesus really was resurrected from the dead – “so, wouldn’t it be great to have this kid, with that name, asking very big questions that maybe skeptics in the lives of real-life children have posed and have led them to go and ask their parents the same sorts of questions?”

So, I thought, “Let’s take this character and let’s put him in exactly those kinds of situations and then place a knowledgeable adult in his life – whether it’s a parent, or a grandparent, or a camp counselor, or a worker at a science museum, so on and so forth – who’s knowledgeable and can walk him step by step through an argument that reinforces either the existence of God or one of the truth claims of Christianity.”

Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm. I like how, in the first book, he’s looking at the stars, at the sky with his dad through a telescope. I just love – you know, being a dad myself and having a son, that’s a cool way to segue into a discussion about, you know, “Where did the universe come from?”

And so, did you actually follow a classical apologetics method on purpose, starting with the arguments for the existence of God based on the universe and then moving on to other arguments?

Melissa Cain Travis
When I did the first book, I didn’t have an outline for where I wanted the series to go. I was just confident that the very first topic I needed to tackle was the existence of God, because that was the first big question that my seven-year-old had asked me. So, once that book was accepted for publication, and I started having conversations with apology educational ministries about where we wanted to go from there.

It seemed logical to me, “Okay, well, we’ve done the existence of God; next let’s talk about whether or not life is designed.” So, we have the cosmos; now let’s look at life. And then the third book is on, “How do we know right from wrong?” So, basically the moral argument for the existence of God.

And then finally culminates with the resurrection. So, we go from sort of the base point of natural theology, just the existence of God, all the way through what we need for full Christianity, which is the existence of Jesus.

In other words, we’re not just making an argument for the transcendent, not just making an argument for the existence of the divine; we really want to get the kids all the way to Christian theism, which is why I tackle the resurrection in the fourth book.

Mikel Del Rosario
Very good, very good. Well, for those who aren’t familiar with the Kalām cosmological argument, that sounds like a very huge philosophical topic to many people. How would you go about helping a child understand this argument for God from the beginning of the universe?
Melissa Cain Travis
Well, in the book, Thomas asks his dad, “You know, how do we know that God’s really out there?” And it centers around their hobby of astronomy. So, his dad pulls out this big book on astronomy and takes him to a chapter written about Edwin Hubble. And one of the things Edwin Hubble was famous for was finding empirical evidence of the expansion of the universe. Okay?

So, there’s lots of technical science that goes into that. And, of course, we aren’t going to try to break that down for a seven-year-old child. Right?

Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm.
Melissa Cain Travis
So, what I did in the story is it’s very simplified, and Thomas’ dad says, “Hey, just imagine that the universe has been filmed with a giant video camera from its very beginning.” Right? “And we see that over time, all of the galaxies in the universe have been spreading away from each other as the space expands. So, if you imagine that in reverse, then what happens?”

And little Thomas thinks about it, and he realizes, “Well, if we were watching this in reverse, everything would be getting closer and closer together, and at some point that would have to stop, and there would have to be an ultimate beginning from which everything began spreading out.”

And I use that to demonstrate to the child hearing the story or reading the story that if there is an ultimate beginning of something, if something begins to exist, then we need to have an explanation for that ultimate beginning. And the nature of that ultimate beginning is such that it has to be timeless and immaterial and very powerful. So, the book ends with a description of what, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, we conceive God to be.

Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm. That’s so interesting that you’re able to take something that someone might read in William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith or On Guard and then translate it down to a level where they can just read it to their kids in the book and then have those conversations. Because I know a lot of Christians who are kind of frustrated with even, one, learning the material for themselves, and then, two, how do I now make it so that my child can understand – right?
Melissa Cain Travis
Right. And I just want to encourage parents through these stories to see, look, you don’t have to go into all the details. When your child is young, give them some basic framework. Right?
Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm.
Melissa Cain Travis
We don’t have to bring in what all the philosophical objections and counterarguments to these arguments for the existence of God, or the arguments for the resurrection or whatever. As the child gets older, you can slowly introduce those kinds of things, but you just shouldn’t feel like you have to, you know, make ’em drink from a fire hose from the very beginning. Give ’em little bite-sized chunks of this. You know? Sufficient for the day.
Mikel Del Rosario
Even just to hear that there are good reasons to believe, and it’s not just, “Well, the Bible says –” and that’s all we have.
Melissa Cain Travis
Right.
Mikel Del Rosario
Certainly the Bible is very important, but I think, especially nowadays, it’s helpful to be able to show what the Bible teaches, but also helpful to be able to show people that it’s not true because it’s in the Bible; it’s in the Bible because it’s true.
Melissa Cain Travis
Exactly.
Mikel Del Rosario
And show people we have good reasons for Christian faith. Now, you have a science background. We were mentioning that a little bit. Tell us a little more about your scientific work.
Melissa Cain Travis
So, I did my undergraduate degree in general biology, with the thought that I would eventually do some sort of graduate work in the sciences – maybe research, maybe some sort of biomedical school, something like that. And I took a year off, after I graduated with my undergrad degree, to put my husband through finishing school. And, during that time, went to work in the biotechnology industry and really liked it.

So, I didn’t end up pursuing graduate studies in the natural sciences. I did biotech work for five years before becoming a stay-at-home mom. And so, throughout those hard conversations with colleagues those five years, and then transitioning to being a stay-at-home mom, during which time I spent quite a bit of time in apologetics self-study, and particularly in scientific apologetics, and then from there, made the decision to go on and further my education in that area.

So, while I did not end up pursuing the natural sciences at the graduate level, the background has served me incredibly well because I’m able to read the literature from fields like biochemistry or physics or physical anthropology and glean from it what I need in order to better understand how we defend Christian truth claims that are in some way related to that scientific data.

Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah. Well, let’s talk about this second book How Do We Know God Created Life? This has a DNA double helix right on the front, and it looks like this is something that was right up your alley. Tell us a little bit about the main thrust of this book and the argument that you present.
Melissa Cain Travis
I love that one. It was actually inspired by a fantastic lecture that I heard doing one of my summer residencies at Biola. Dr. Paul Nelson, who is a philosopher of biology, gave this fantastic lecture in which he gave an argument for the design of life based upon butterfly metamorphosis. And it was the most incredible thing, up to that point, I had ever heard. Because first of all, I love butterflies, and I’ve always been fascinated with the biology of metamorphosis.

So, when he presented this argument, I was blown away, and it stayed in the back of my mind for a couple years, leading up to the writing of The Young Defenders series. And I thought, “I have to do one of these books on Paul Nelson’s argument from butterfly metamorphosis.

So, the gist of the story is Thomas and his best friend, Sophie – which, by the way, her name’s very intentional, too; it’s the word that means wisdom. So, we have Doubting Thomas and his best friend Wisdom. Right?

So, they got on a field trip to an insect exhibit at the Museum of Natural Science. And they’re reading the cards associated with all the different insects that r viewing. And they come to the butterfly exhibit, and there’s language in the information card that makes it sound as if butterflies are just an accident of nature.

Well, it turns out, in this story – you don’t learn this in the first book, but you learn it in the second book, that Thomas’ mom is actually an entomologist and knows about everything there is to know about the biology of insects.

So, that’s the point, in book two, at which a knowledgeable adult explains in kid language to Thomas why butterfly metamorphosis points to the existence of a Creator of life.

Mikel Del Rosario
Wow. So, some spoiler alerts here in case there are any kids listening. But these are great stories. And I feel like you’re bringing some very believable, very realistic conversations to the table. Were some of these inspired by actual conversations you’ve had with kids?
Melissa Cain Travis
Conversations that I’ve had, but also conversations that were reported to me by other parents. I’ve had countless parents come to me and say, “My child is very science oriented. They love watching all the great documentaries on National Geographic or Nova, and they noticed that there’s tension between a claim that they heard on one of these documentaries and what they learned in Sunday school. And please help me know what to do.”

So, that happens a whole lot. And then parents who come to me and say, “My child has a peer at school who is skeptical of Christianity, and they’ve made these claims based on science. And help me; what should I say?”

Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah. I remember when my son was in kindergarten. He was in kindergarten – second semester kindergarten at a public school, and someone said to him, “Do you still believe in that God thing?”

And he comes home and he tells me about this. And I’m just so amazed that we think that we ought to prepare our kids to – you know, in high school to go into college so that they can be prepared to have an answer when people ask them about their faith, and here my child, in kindergarten even, people are asking him about it.

Well, the next book we talk about the moral argument, the right from wrong argument. And this one, I thought, was fairly realistic as well. What was the story behind this, and how did you lead up to the moral argument for kids?

Melissa Cain Travis
So, in How Do We Know Right From Wrong?, Thomas, like all kids everywhere, at all times, is faced with a situation in which he stands to gain from dishonesty. And he gives in to the temptation of kind of indirectly deceiving an important adult in his life. And after that, he has a major crisis of conscience, and he goes to this adult – happens to be his grandfather who’s in – visiting from out of town.

And he confesses, and he’s devastated that he’s disappointed his grandfather. And his grandfather’s very gracious and forgiving, but it segues into a conversation about what our moral conscience is telling us. Like why do we have this sense of guilt when we do something that is wrong?

And then that leads into a second conversation, later in the story, about this idea that there is such a thing, objectively speaking, as right and wrong, and what do people who do not believe in the existence of God do in terms of justifying claims about this behavior being right and this behavior being wrong?

So, we get kind of a two-pronged argument in the story. Thomas learns about the more natural revelation side of the human moral conscience, but then he also learns the philosophical argument about being able to ground right and wrong in a standard that is true for all people in all places at all times.

Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm. And I like how you have the grandparents involved in this one. Like you said, having these role models, adults who are well-equipped to give good answers to the hard questions.

And I think some people forget that we don’t have to just be parents in order to benefit from these kinds of arguments for children, because we all have children that we know in our lives.

Whether you’re a youth leader, whether you are a grandparent, whether you are working at a church or at a school or, like me, I have neighbors who have a six- and ten-year-old, we all can benefit from understanding how we can actually bring these arguments down to a level where children can get it, understand it, and where they can have their faith strengthened, if they’re Christians. And if not, where they might have a spark where they just get curious about God early on, and God could use that, as well.

Well, when we go through these arguments – let’s take a look at where we’ve been – we looked at the creation, that the creation requires a Creator. That the design we see in the universe requires a Designer. And then even morality points us to the existence of God. There has to be a moral law giver.

But some people will say, “Well, okay. Well, doesn’t that lead you just to a generic kind of God?” And this is where you talked about driving home the point that Jesus is real, and Jesus is who He claimed to be, and that He, in fact, rose from the dead.

So, let’s talk about this last – and I have to tell you, Melissa, I really like this one; it’s probably my favorite one. And I read this first. So, I read the whole thing out of order because, you know, the Jesus conversation is my area of interest. So, tell us how you came up with this story and what the argument was that your driving toward in this particular one.

Melissa Cain Travis
Okay. So, in How Do We Know Jesus is Alive?, Thomas and his best friend, Sophie, go off to summer camp. And while he’s at summer camp, he finds out that one of his cabin mates is struggling with this idea of what happens after we die. And this is something Thomas hasn’t thought very deeply about in terms of giving evidence for how we know there is such a thing as a resurrection from the dead, or that there is such a thing as an afterlife.

So, in this story, the knowledgeable older person is the cabin counselor that Thomas and his cabin mates have. And they, on a little fishing trip, start having this very low-key, no-pressure conversation within hearing of this child that has expressed some skepticism about life after death. And they start talking about the crucifixion of Jesus and the events that happened after the crucifixion of Jesus that strongly point to the historical reality of Jesus’ resurrection.

Mikel Del Rosario
You know, I like how they’re fishing during that time, and my neighbor’s kid said, “I wish I could go on a camp and have experiences like that.” And so, they’re really connecting with the character. And this camp counselor – I think his name was Michael, right? – he just so happened to know what sounds like the amenable facts approach to the resurrection.

What were some of the facts that you thought were really important to put in there that you would condense down for children?

Melissa Cain Travis
So, of course, the problem of the empty tomb and the conversion of the apostle Paul, someone that was very hostile to Christianity. And the way that disciples went from being really, really sad about the death of Jesus to rejoicing and spreading the gospel far and wide.
Mikel Del Rosario
How early do you think is – I don’t know if there’s a – if there’s a one-size-fits-all answer to this, but it starts out talking about this kid’s grandfather died. How early do you think is optimal to talk to kids about what happens when people die?
Melissa Cain Travis
Well, obviously, it’s going to differ on a case-by-case basis from one child to another. I think parents just have to use their own discernment about whether or not their child is ready.

These are the kinds of issues that tend to come up in early elementary school. If a child hasn’t experienced the death of a loved one prior to that point, then chances are extremely good that they have a friend at school or a friend at church who has been through the loss of a loved one or maybe even just the loss of a pet and them wondering, well, people die, too, and what happens to us? Do we just go away forever? Is there something else after this earthly life?

So, again, parents have to use their own discretion because they’re the ones that know their kids the best. But I would say, as a general rule, the target age range for this particular topic would be somewhere in early elementary school.

Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Yeah, it’s a very realistic situation that you painted in the book. And it’s a great way to present the case for the resurrection as well, because you have the positive evidence that’s strong enough to make a positive case for the resurrection of Jesus.

But also, it’s strong enough to defend against naturalistic challenges like Thomas brought up in the book. You know, what if somebody else stole the body? Well, that doesn’t account for the conversions of James, the conversions of Paul, the conversions of all the disciples who really believe they saw the risen Jesus.

Well, you are doing your Ph.D., you’re homeschooling, and you managed to do this entire series. Now, you have another book as well which is for the parents, for the adults, looking at the science side of apologetics. Tell us a little about that.

Melissa Cain Travis
Yes. So, Harvest House released Science and the Mind of the Maker: What the Conversation Between Faith and Science Reveals About God on July 3rd of 2018. And my purpose in that book was to talk about the intellectual history involved with this question of nature pointing beyond itself to a transcendent mind.

So, I have history-of-idea, I guess you could call it, chapters sprinkled in other chapters that deal with our best, most up-to-date scientific data, and I argue for how that data can be used in philosophical arguments for a Christian truth claim.

So, I talk about the Kalām cosmological argument, for example, except for at a grown-up level instead of a kid level, and the fine-tuning of the universe. I talk about the design of life based upon the biochemistry of DNA, on biomimicry which is human engineering that mimics mechanisms that are found in nature to argue for an engineer of the natural world as well.

And my favorite chapter is probably the one where I discuss our universe is intelligible because the mathematics – the higher mathematics that we use in disciplines such as theoretical physics are so effective.

So, we have this purely rational system of thought – higher mathematics – that for some very mysterious reason maps onto the natural world with just wonderful precision, just astonishing precision.

And what does that tell us exactly about the nature of nature, but besides that, what does it tell us about the nature of man who can turn around and make these observations and these fantastic, scientific discoveries using these immensely complicated systems of mathematics. And I won’t give away my conclusion there.

But then, at the end of the book, I bring it all together and say, “Okay, look – I have all of this intellectual history. Look at the philosophy and theology. We’ll look at the scientific data coming out of not only biology or astrophysics, but also theoretical physics. What is all this telling us? And look, it just so happens they’re pointing in a similar direction.” So, kind of a cumulative argument for the reality of a Creator God, but not just a Creator, but a Creator in whose image mankind is made.

Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm. What’s the name of the book again?
Melissa Cain Travis
Science and the Mind of the Maker.
Mikel Del Rosario
So, you have something for kids, and you have something for the parents as well.
Melissa Cain Travis
Right.
Mikel Del Rosario
Now, what would you say to the mom – let’s say the stay-at-home mom who is real interested in your book, is real interested in learning more about apologetics to get answers for themselves and then to share those answers with others, including their kids. But they, one, feel kind of intimidated by the whole thing or, two, they’re just swamped with all the duties of managing the home, or even for a woman who is in the workplace with all the stresses at work.
Melissa Cain Travis
I can confidently say to those moms that I know exactly where you’re coming from because I’ve been there, and in many ways I still am there. But I learned – I guess you could call it the fine art of reprioritizing, cutting out some unnecessary things to make at least a little bit of room for some self-study. And I started with entry-level books, introductory-level texts, and simple podcasts just to start getting the mental juices flowing again after taking those years off to parent infants and toddlers.

So, when I’m talking with the woman who says, “I just don’t know how you find the time; I don’t know how I would find the time,” I just kinda try to coach her, “Hey, let’s think about what it is you’re doing in the tiny little bit of free time you do have. What are you doing on that car ride to pick up the kids from school?” Or, “What are you doing during that commute to work?” Or, “What are you watching or listening to while you’re folding laundry or doing dishes or out for a jog?”

There are all sorts of ways we can actually incorporate learning activities that many people just haven’t stopped to consider. So, just time management and maximizing the time that we have. And thank the Lord that that has been made so much easier in our age of technology, when we can just, you know, stream a video or podcast and get some really good meat out of it rather than having to sit down and read 400-page books all the time.

Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah. Well, now, for the parents who are actually starting to do this, and they’re getting these great ideas they want to share with their kids, how can parents create an environment at home that’s open to these kinds of conversations?
Melissa Cain Travis
I think that the first step is always just having good conversations with your kids about things beyond the mundane. And, you know, my kids started asking me questions before I started asking them questions. But if that hasn’t been the case in your home, if maybe you still have preschoolers or kindergartens, I don’t think it’s ever too early to just start asking them what they think about things.

You know, ask them, “Well, what do you think about what you learned in Sunday school today? And what do you think about what the Bible says about God and creating all things?” And then as they get a little older, just keep conversations going.

I find that car rides with your kids are excellent times. You have a captive audience. Unless they’re gonna jump out of the car while it’s moving, you have a captive audience.

Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah. “Put away the phone.”
Melissa Cain Travis
I’ve often took advantage, and still continue to take advantage of that time with my kids. And bedtime is another prime time I have found when you’re together as a family. Maybe you’re doing bedtime prayers after getting ready for bed, and you can just discuss maybe a conversation that they’ve had with a classmate or with the next-door neighbor about one of the big questions. And just keep it alive.

And I think conversational learning is a very powerful thing. You don’t have to buy all this apologetics curricula, necessarily, in order to be able to start training your kids. They value their conversations with you, and I think that’s always the best starting point.

Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah. Now, if there are pastors who are listening to this broadcast, like there are actually a lot of pastors who listen to us, and they want to support parents who are trying to get these kinds of conversations happening in the home, what are some ways that we can incorporate more of this kind of material into Sunday schools, into camps, into other events for elementary and not just the – we think of youth groups all the time, I think, when we’re talking about apologetics. And many people think about preparing youth, but what about the Sunday schools?
Melissa Cain Travis
So, over the past few years, I’ve been very gratified to notice that some of the VBS curricula and Sunday school curricula that have been coming out are incorporating apologetics.

You mentioned the Phil Vischer series What’s in the Bible? The bonus features on those DVDs are particularly rich in apologetics content. And it’s so entertaining, I love watching them over and over, even without my kids – don’t tell ’em I told you that.

But the curricula is starting to come out, and if pastors and Sunday school teachers would just be mindful about incorporating it, at least some of the time, maybe make it the topic of the summer Sunday school study or the VBS; there’s even an Awana element that is pretty heavy in apologetics.

I just finished teaching some middle schoolers and high schoolers using that Awana youth ministry curriculum. It’s fantastic topical studies that bring it down to their level. So, we’re not without tools, and I would just encourage pastors and other teachers in the church to seek it out and start incorporating that as much as you can.

Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm. Is there a life lesson, Melissa, that you learned just going through the process of authoring these children’s books and even your most recent book for adults?
Melissa Cain Travis
I think my biggest lesson was to not underestimate the mind of a child. And I say my target age range for this series is somewhere between the ages of 7 and 11.
Mikel Del Rosario
Okay.
Melissa Cain Travis
And when I first started out, the idea of taking these arguments and breaking them down in a way that wouldn’t just flat out bore the child hearing the story or reading the story for themselves.

But what I learned was with my little test audiences who would read the manuscript before it was ever published is that sometimes we really sell these kids short. We underestimate their willingness to think harder about questions like this and their ability to grasp the logical steps of an argument.

And so, that was very encouraging to me, as the writer of these kinds of stories, but it was also encouraging to me as a parent speaking with other parents and helping motivate them to not be afraid to start talking about these bigger issues with their kids, and to not think, “Oh, they just aren’t ready for it. They don’t even know what the word ‘philosophy’ means,” or, “They’ve never studied logic,” or, “I don’t want them to develop a skepticism where there wasn’t any before.” I’ve heard that objection before.

And I say, “No, you have to be preemptive when it comes t these kinds of things, and your children will really appreciate having more confidence in what they believe.”

Mikel Del Rosario
What’s the number one takeaway you wish the kids would take away from each of these books?
Melissa Cain Travis
The reasonableness of the Christian faith, that it isn’t just about, “Well, my Sunday school teacher told me this is what’s true,” or, “The Bible says this is what’s true, and I don’t have a choice but to believe what it says.” And a lot of times, that’s fear driven. Unfortunately, there are churches out there who instill these ideas and reinforce them using fear tactics, which I think is tragic.

But I want kids to rejoice in the fact that we have great reasons to believe that the Bible’s completely reliable, and the things that it claims are true are, in many ways, evidenced through things that are outside of the Bible.

So, I want them to understand that reason and faith are not at the opposite end of the pole. You know what I’m saying?

Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah, yeah.
Melissa Cain Travis
So, yeah. So that as they grow in their academic knowledge and they go on and they go into higher education and then start careers, that they will see faith and reason in perfect harmony.
Mikel Del Rosario
That’s right, that’s right. Well, these are real questions that real children have, and it’s wonderful that we have a resource that cannot only help them understand, but can help parents be able to explain the reasons for faith so that kids cannot only understand the Christian worldview, but strengthen their faith in the truth of Scripture and in Jesus.

So, thank you so much, Melissa, for being with us. I appreciate the time you spent with us.

Melissa Cain Travis
Yes, thank you for having me.
Mikel Del Rosario
You’re so welcome.

And we hope that you will join us on the table once again, where we discuss issues of God and culture. We’ll see you next time.

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Melissa Travis
Melissa Travis is currently pursuing a PhD in humanities, focusing on the philosophy and theology related to scientific and mathematical thought in the Western tradition and contemporary thought. She has an active speaking and writing ministry, and blogs at www.melissatravis.com.
Mikel Del Rosario
Mikel Del Rosario is a doctoral student in New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, Project Manager for Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center, and Adjunct Professor of Apologetics and World Religion at William Jessup University. Mikel co-authors The Table Briefing articles for Bibliotheca Sacra, manages the Table Podcast, and helps Christians defend the faith with confidence though his apologetics ministry. He holds a Master of Theology (ThM) from DTS and an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University.
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