I have three children, ages 5, 3, and 9 months. I’m amazed by some of the questions about God that I get from the older two, and in all honesty, sometimes I’m left speechless! Here’s a sampling of some of their more memorable theological questions along with a brief answer for each.
At the dinner table our oldest, age four, asked: “Papa if God is one, then how can Jesus be in my heart, and in your heart, and in mama’s heart?”
Makes sense, right? Our son had been learning his numbers for some time, and he knew from church that we worship one God. He had also been taught that Jesus is God, and that Jesus lives in us. I told him that Jesus lives in us by the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. Of course, this raises other questions, but we’ve found that when it comes to explaining the Trinity to our children, it’s best to teach them the grammar of the faith without using the types of analogies that often lead to Trinitarian heresy (i.e. God is like an egg or a three-leaf clover). We worship the Trinity, one in Essence, and undivided, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
When Jesus explained to his disciples in his upper room discourse that he would be leaving them (John 13-17), he promised them, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (Jn 14:15-17). Jesus’ physical absence after his ascension paved the way for the Helper to come and live in us so that the presence of Jesus might be experienced by people throughout the world. Hence, I could say to my son that Jesus’ presence was with us by the power of the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus himself had promised.
The same child, while potty training, wondered aloud: “Papa, does God ever have to go poop?”
I must confess, as a pastor, this was a question I never thought I’d have to answer! The answer in one sense is no, but in another sense, it was yes! God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchanging. We have to poop because we depend on food, and our bodies must get rid of the waste from what we eat. In his essence, God doesn’t depend on anything: he’s self-existent. This is what theologians call “aseity,” meaning that God exists of himself and is not dependent on anyone or anything. Hence, God doesn’t have to poop because he doesn’t have to eat!
However, something wonderful happened during the course of redemptive history. The eternal Word of God took on human flesh (Jn 1:1; 1:14) and embraced our humanity. Since the second Person of the Trinity united true humanity to himself, it is proper to say that God experienced things like hunger, suffering, and…pooping. That may sound crass, but it gets at the reality of Jesus’ incarnation. Hence, we can say that God in himself is not dependent on anyone or anything and therefore doesn’t have to poop. In the mystery of the incarnation, however, God the Son subjected himself to humanity so that he might restore it, and that included experiencing things like suffering, death, and bowel movements.
During a car ride, our two-year-old daughter asked: “Papa, how come God don’t talk?”
This question brought tears to my eyes. In my daughter’s experience, we did a lot of talking to God, but he never seemed to say anything back. I am sure there are a lot of people who have the same question she did. Why does it seem like God is silent? Well, sometimes we don’t hear God because we’re not listening the right way. God doesn’t promise to speak to us from heaven with a booming audible voice (I suspect this was what she was waiting for), but he speaks through his creation and through his word.
The Psalmist said about God’s creation, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard” (Ps. 19:1-3). The world around us tells us something about God, and God uses it to testify to the fact that he’s real (Rom. 1:20). In creation God speaks to us and tells us that he is great and glorious. I told our daughter that in the world around us God is talking, and he is telling us how wonderful he is. The tasty foods we eat, the colors and smells we get to experience, all of them speak to God’s creativity and abundant generosity.
God didn’t just give us the starry heavens, though. He gave us a much clearer form of speech: his special revelation. God used men and women throughout redemptive history to speak to us about his plan to redeem us. The Apostle Paul said “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17).
The main message of Scripture, its substance, is Jesus Christ. Through Jesus God spoke to us, telling us how much he loved us: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, and through whom also he created the world” (Heb. 1:1-2).
In Jesus, God tells us the cost of our sin and the depth of his love. If we want to hear God speaking, we need to go to God’s word to be led to Jesus. The next time we walked to church, I told my daughter that God tells us how great he is through the trees we pass by, and that we would soon be hearing about his love in the preaching of his word. God actually has a lot to say!
What are some of the theological questions your children have asked?