Nine year old science-loving child's struggles with an (Alpha) Eternal God

My 9 year old is a gifted, science-loving guy who is struggling with faith. Currently, it comes back to his inability to fathom that Triune God has always been. I have spoken with him about how God is not created so God couldn’t have been created and how the prevailing scientific theory of the creation of our world doesn’t preclude God creating the universe but that the particles present at the beginning of time in fact had to have been created. I think it’s a hard concept to wrap our brains around, so I can imagine how hard this is for a child, especially a scientifically minded child.

Over Easter weekend, he said that he didn’t believe that Jesus is God. Upon further exploration of his statement, he came back to his whole dilemma of struggling to believe that God can exist and always have been. So I guess his struggle is in believing in the existence of God because it seems like an unrealistic possibility to him. I have also told him that science can never completely prove that God exists but that this is where faith comes in. I’m looking for resources: articles, books, and websites he can read (he is in 3rd grade but at a much higher level) that entwine theology and science to help him on his faith journey. (My background is in chemistry and spiritual formation.) Thank you!

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This book is good for kids to just remind them some smart scientists are Christians and look at some of the questions from a kids perspective:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079S47HDK/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

I don’t know that I would push toward intellectual arguments around complicated theological questions though. I think I’d challenge my son to try to encounter God himself so he has experiential knowledge to fall back on. If Jesus is God and he hears our prayers and reveals himself to those who are seeking and allows them to experience his love and grace, then that promise is for your son too.

This book was helpful for my daughter in exploring the different ways people connect with God.

https://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Pathways-Discover-Your-Souls/dp/0310329884

I have a son who is also precocious in math and science and it was good for me to remember when he was 9 and 10 that even though he was very capable of understanding some mathematical and philosophical abstractions and had a very advanced reading level and vocabulary, his brain was still developing and he would sometimes be thinking much more concretely than I assumed. Also sometimes with gifted kids, they get used to being able to understand things if they try, and when they come across questions that are truly hard questions, it seems unfair to them that they just can’t wrap their minds around it. I think it’s important sometimes to just reassure kids that questions and doubts and bumping up against things that don’t seem to make sense are a normal part of Christian life. God doesn’t mind that we ask questions or struggle to believe or don’t have good answers for some things. It’s okay to say “I don’t know,” and have whole areas where you haven’t figured out what you think or believe yet. Sometimes it’s not the doubt that is really bothering kids it’s the stress of feeling like they can’t get the answers. So we can do what we can to normalize not understanding everything.

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Christy, thank you so much! Interestingly enough, the first book will be a perfect fit, including the namesake! “…precocious in math and science…” is a good way to phrase it. I agree about encounter. I took a spiritual direction with children class from a friend and teacher, and she is really big on this with children and so is the Institute with which I study. Another one of my friends and teachers in the Institute had a Jesuit spiritual director tell him: “Insight is second prize; encounter is first prize.” I have the Gary [edited to say, Thomas] book, but I guess I haven’t read it, so it would be good to read as a family. Since I have been studying spiritual formation, I also have some practices I suggest. You’re right, though, about questions being normal. It’s good encouragement that I need to normalize that for him and let him know that he’s not alone in his questions. Thank you.

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(Did you mean Gary Thomas?)

Sorry, yes. Gary Thomas.

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Here I thought @Dale was my personal editor but I see now it wasn’t exclusive. :wink:

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Aw, c’mon. :grin:

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Ha ha, Mark. The sad thing is that I am an editor. A science editor. I don’t think editors like to be edited…like we should be above making mistakes or something. :wink: Alas, I’m just as imperfect as the next person. And I did see that you can earn an editing badge… :grin:

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Well maybe I can enlist you in my prized stable of editors? The pay is thin but the opportunities almost boundless.

Seriously though I hope you stick around. I’m an agnostic who will cop to not believing that any God as a being apart from everything else who brings about the beginning of the cosmos exists. I nonetheless think there is something significant that gives rise to God belief that is deserving of our respect. I hope if your son continues on his present course he will come to realize this.

It might have something to do with actual encounters with the God who is.

Dont have any experience with kids but its important i think to maybe talk to them about God ,so im glad when parents do that.I hope you find what you need and do your best for your kid!! Take care!!!

Blessings in your teaching of your unusually thoughtful son. My kids have also expressed concerns about their belief in God. I, too, sometimes have difficulty dealing with questions of Deep Time. In similar discussions with my dad when I was young (I don’t think I was that perceptive that young, though!), he seemed to agree about mystery, but emphasize areas we could perhaps conceptualize more easily…not just the concept of God as originator, but more as of ultimate friend of the poor, lawgiver, hope of the downtrodden, parent, and a source of meaning.

Sometimes the Lewis books, like Space Trilogy, and George Macdonald’s children’s stories, help me in this way. “The Boyhood of Ranald Bannerman” explores some existential questions.

I also bought the “Science Geek Sam” book and my 13 year old has read portions of it. It has been good. I have read it twice to help me with communication.

My boys have struggled in particular with God’s existence (my eldest has Aspergers, and that often causes some difficulty with abstract concepts of God). At 13 and 10, it has been a blessing and a humbling experience to think over a discussion, and admit I don’t know the answer. It us sometimes more difficult as our church is YEC and very much uninterested in admitting those grey areas…not to blame them, but it’s a growing experience for all of us to explore honestly what we don’t understand. My dad, though very intelligent and well educated, was also very honest that he didn’t know many answers, however. I think that in the end, that helped my faith.

Austin Fischer’s quote,

Most doubts—like most monsters—are not that scary in the daylight. Most Christians can deal with inevitable doubts as long as there is room for doubt. But when a system is enforced that leaves no room for doubt, benign uncertainties can mutate into faith-destroying monsters

Is helpful…he also wrote that it is not doubt, but the perception that we are not allowed to doubt, that destroys faith.

Greg Boyd, in “Benefit of the Doubt,” wrote that the God who gave us minds to question, loves to see us use them and ask questions.

Thanks

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Eternity is the ultimate, neutral fact.

Hi @kglahoda! This is not just something 9 year olds are going to have trouble with. I have trouble with it sometimes! And I sense maybe that in struggling to answer for your son, you want something more solid for yourself. I’m with ya!

To answer your request, Natasha Crain has a great book, Talking with Your Kids About God. It’s really for parents, and “the existence of God” is the first section.

Please allow me, since I have struggled with this myself, to develop a bit the point I keep coming back to: “what is the alternative?”

@Klax is correct and I would go further! By our science we are now confronted with the inescapable fact of the Big Bang, and along with that there must be some kind of infinite (outside our universe), eternal (preceding our universe), immaterial (not made of quite the same stuff as our universe) source that gave rise to our universe. So if you dismiss God, the problem does not go away! Something IS out there which is beyond space, beyond time, and not made of our matter. The question remaining in light of the Big Bang is, “can we know anything more about the infinite, eternal, immaterial?” The Bible claims God has stepped into our reality to tell us about himself.

Part of what the Bible tells us are that God is intentional (He chose to create) and relational (trinity). You can point out that no other species on our planet has these qualities quite like we do (other species adapt to their environment, we adapt our environment to ourselves), and the Biblical claim that God endowed humans with some part of himself has a rational logical flow to it. Humans since time immemorial have believed these properties in us came from some kind of deity. This provides a much more sound ontological foundation for those properties in us than having them “emerge” from matter. If there is no god, they would ultimately be just illusions. So choices, love, truth, meaning, reason, friendship, etc. would be all mechanical extensions of matter that improve survival rates, neurons firing providing an illusion of these things with no knowable relationship to objective reality. In contrast, the testimony of our own inner being tells us “there is something real in these!” And this aligns beautifully with what the Bible says about God and us. This is like a CS Lewis quote (roughly), “I believe in God like I believe in the sun - it’s too bright to look at, but by it I see everything.”

Taking a step upward from this into philosophy, the more basic question is why anything exists at all. As Francis Schaeffer pointed out, what we’d expect is that nothing would exist and no one would exist to know that nothing exists. That’s what we’d expect! Existence itself is the truly big mystery. We’re stuck trying to figure out something useful when all categories of answer are impossible for us to truly fathom.

Well, these are a few late night musings. God bless you and your love for your son, to seek out more meaningful answers to his questions! I hope that something in the responses proves helpful for him, and maybe also for you.

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I am a Trinitarian Christian but I do not believe in a “Triune God.” I believe in an infinite God. The original formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity is that Father, Son, and Holy spirit are separate persons but only one God. The number three doesn’t really come into it, and is more a matter of our own limited understanding and experience of God rather than any limitations upon God Himself. Making this about the number three tends to modalism as people struggle to understand, why three? But it really isn’t about the number three.

That is indeed the essence of the doctrine of the Trinity. And even the Biblical evidence is far from convincing. What finally convinced me of this was Philippians 2:6. But then I wasn’t raised Christian – but rather in psychology, liberalism, and criticism of the Christian establishment. I gathered my beliefs by myself for my own reasons… very different from the usual ones.

Not an issue in the context of our understanding of time in modern science, where we don’t believe in the notion of absolute time anymore. Time is simply an ordering of a set of events and there is no reason to believe that all events must be ordered together. Even in the universe it is not ordered like in a motion picture film as a sequence of snapshots strung together – but in a Minkowsky conical way.

science cannot speak to the question of God’s existence at all.

Science is the easier topic frankly for someone who is intelligent and questioning. It is ok to focus on that for a while and revisit the question of religion later. Might want to explore the world of philosophy first too as I did. An objective approach which it sounds like he favors would also want to look at ALL religion first before focusing on just one.

Mine is a masters in physics and a masters of divinity.

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Mitchell, thanks for your response. Yes, modalism is a heresy. I thought that “triune” and “trinity” were synonyms. I certainly didn’t intend for modalism, and triune wasn’t a word I used with my son. I just wrote it on here to be clear that I meant three Persons, one God.

Marty, thank you for your thoughts. Yes, you’re right–certainly ontology points back to a creator. One thing I’ve been musing about, and maybe you can help me find links to articles on BioLogos or a discussion in the forum that speaks to how people are putting together we humans as being created in the image of God while having evolved from a common ancestor.

Klax, why do you say that eternity is a neutral fact? Can you give me a little more detail?

Randy, thank you for sharing and normalizing this for me. :slight_smile: I remember being around my son’s age and getting lost thinking about the other “end” of Eternity, that is to say, how could we possibly live with God forever and ever and ever… I think talking about the mystery and conceptualizing is a good point.

We love reading to them, and we’ve read both MacDonald’s Princess books. I hadn’t heard to The Boyhood of Ranald Bannerman, so thank you for that. I’ll look into it. We bought Science Geek Sam, and I plan on reading that to them. And I, personally, have been wanting to read Lewis’s Space Trilogy, so maybe we should just read that to them.

I agree–I think that it’s actually beneficial to admit that we don’t know something. If nothing else, it helps to model how not to be humility. Austin Fischer’s quote and Boyd’s concept…so good, thank you!

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Hi Kristy. It’s true of nature whether it’s in God or not. And it changes everything.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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