Faith Enhancing Practice* # 7 – Difficult questions of life (Classroom)

*(We return to examining Faith Enhancing Practices – those practices that can be used effectively in a Christian school to encourage students in their faith development. For an explanation and definition of Faith Enhancing Practices see my post of February 3, 2007 entitled “What’s the difference between teachers?” It might be most helpful to begin reading forward from that point through FEP’s #1-6.)

There is no school better equipped to wrestle with students about the difficult questions of life than a Christian school. Difficult questions occur naturally and spontaneously in the lives of our youth and in our classrooms. When I use the term difficult questions I am referring to these kinds of questions:

  • Why doesn’t God show himself more clearly?
  • If God didn’t create evil, where did it come from?
  • How can Christians condemn homosexuals for being the way God made them?
  • If people want to die, isn’t it more merciful to let them commit suicide than to allow them to suffer?
  • If laws can’t make people good, why do we try to legislate morality?
  • How should I measure my success in life?
  • What happens to people who die without ever hearing about Christ? It doesn’t seem fair for them to go to hell.
  • Why does a good God allow the consequences of evil to continue? Why doesn’t he simply wipe out evil as soon as it appears on the scene?

In a Christian school we see all things cohering in Christ, and through his life, death, and resurrection we have an eternal hope. We have the twin revelations of creation and the Bible with which to guide our thinking. Difficult questions that students pose give us a terrific opportunity to deal with things that should be priorities for us in Christian education – matters of life and death and faith.

Yet many of the questions we get asked don’t have easy answers. It is important for us to demonstrate to students that we don’t have all the answers – we wonder about these things too and acknowledge that our human understanding is limited. When our students raise the problem of pain – why certain people get sick or die – we like Job have to realize that we cannot expect to have the same understanding level as our almighty God. Our questions allow us the avenue into deep and meaningful discussion about things that are engaging our students’ minds and hearts.

Are we, as people who are responsible to nurture faith in our youth, prepared to deal with the difficult questions that are posed to us? Are we addressing these kind of questions in our curriculum? A good exercise is to take Chuck Colson’s book, Answers to Your Kid’s Questions, which contains difficult questions (such as the ones listed above) sent in to his organization by youth and then to see where these questions are addressed in the course of your curriculum.


Filed under classroom, distinctively Christian

6 responses to “Faith Enhancing Practice* # 7 – Difficult questions of life (Classroom)

  1. Heather Page

    I think that most teachers would like to avoid the difficult questions ask above, because they don’t have a direct answer and that makes some teachers uneasy. However, I think that teachers should welcome the questions as a bonding exercise. As teachers we are always looking for a way to build on and learn about our student’s background knowledge. With the questions above the students are able to express how they feel with the reassurance that they can’t be wrong, because no one knows the right answer. Then with the question without a right answer, students will feel more willing to add in their ideas and maybe as a class they can come to an understanding that they all agree on. The teacher doesn’t need to have the all the answers, they just need to create an atmosphere where the students can collaborate and thinking together on the hard questions.

  2. Cassie Vande Kamp

    I appreciate the reminder from Dan Beerens as well as scripture (1 Peter 3:15 “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”) on the importance of preparing to wrestle with the tough questions in life. While I encourage reading books like Chuck Colson’s and others, I think more than the actual answer to these questions (that perhaps are beyond our understanding) is the reason behind the child’s question. I think it is a teacher’s responsibility to give the best answer possible and allow for class discussion (where better to ask deep questions than in school?) but also to personally follow up with the student who may need more of a listener than an answer man or woman. Turn these tough questions into conversations and explorations.

  3. Nichole Heyboer

    First of all, I do not think that there is no better place than a Christian school to answer such questions. I went to a public school my whole life, until college, and many of these same questions came up for me as well as several other peers. I think these difficult questions are asked no matter what school you are in, and they also need to be addressed no matter what school you are in. In the public school the teachers can only start talking about these issues if the student asks about them first, and then the teacher can only tell of their beliefs, not forcing the student to believe the same way. In a public school setting it is difficult to answer some of these questions, but these questions are sometimes most important. Beyond the curriculum there are life lessons that need to be taught to a variety of students with many different religions. If you think it is hard to answer these difficult questions to a room full of Christians, imagine a room full of several different religions. On the other hand, I have also experienced what it is like to go to a Christian College, and I do think it provides for open discussion about these types of issues in a way that is beneficial. I have loved being able to explore more into my faith, but I would not believe what I do now if my faith was not challenged throughout grade school. No matter what school you are in I think it is important to take time to answer these questions, or at least discuss them with an open mind.

  4. Charlie Russ

    These are all good points mentioned in the article because no one person alone can provide the answers for every question. Christian schools can help students develop their faith and hopefully shed some light on their concerns about life. This would seem to be a very appropriate place to have these kind of life discussions. Kids will probably be hesitant to ask their peers or parents personal questions they think are silly. Teaching about faith in schools can lead to open and honest discussions that will hopefully make kids feel closer to God.

  5. Mandi Horinga

    These are excellent questions/points. As important as it is to answer students questions, i also think that we should give them room to possible come up with their own answers sometimes, and as their teachers, we should give them guided help. If the students have all answers given to them, how will they ever be able to step out onto their own and make their faith their own.

  6. Vinnie Adams

    What I appreciate about Christian education so much is that we have the freedom to “counter” culure. One of the questions that was listed in this article was “How should I measure success in my life?” American society measures “success” on a different scale than what Christians should. Unfortunately, we have been sucked into that concept of success. It is true that Christians CAN be used anywhere, but I struggle with people who schedule God around their work. I have seen those who center work around God, and those are the people who are doing extraordinary work for the kingdom. I think this is the most important to make students aware of that. And, like I said, we have the freedom to let our students know about the greater kingdom that we are working for. Each answer we give our students will greatly affect their lives because these are the most important questions life has to offer.

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