A Question I Was Asked:

How Can I Make My Son Believe in God Again?

The Question:

My children have been raised Christian. I was pretty vocal in keeping them from many worldly influences. My son led his girlfriend to Christ and they married. He then read a book, studied through it, and decided that god does not exist, and the bible was written far later than it is claimed, and by Catholics. He says that the history of the world is written down earlier than what the bible states, by Egyptians and others. He insists that he will accept proof if that proof comes from a non-religious origin. I tried to start with Josephus, but he said that he was a Christian. I said I didn't think so, so Annals of the World would be a start. However, that's a large book. I got him 'Evidence That Demands a Verdict,' but it's from a Christian.

1. Where would I find such material as he wants?
2. Do you have any suggestions?
3. I'm beside myself in pro and con over where his eventual salvation shall lie. I trust God to bring him back to Christ, but my fear as a mother screams inside me. I can't bear him not in heaven.

UK Apologetics Reply:

I am sympathetic but this sort of thing happens and it is not uncommon. Maybe in the past you were too "vocal" (as you say) in keeping your son from worldly influences because it is not unusual for a later reaction to set in as a child matures into a young man/woman. My feeling here is that various factors in your son's life caused him to react against his upbringing/earlier way of life. I tend to doubt that cases like this were because somebody read one particular atheistic book; more likely your son was gradually withdrawing from his earlier influences and reading a particularly persuasive book at a crucial time was a final deciding factor. Yes, he believed the book, but I suspect that he wanted to believe it - very important!

With respect, there is confusion in some of your remarks, For example, you state that your son now believes, "...the bible was written far later than it is claimed, and by Catholics." Not even sure what that is supposed to mean. To look at the dating of the Old Testament books the Jews can be relied upon to be pretty accurate in such matters - and the traditional datings are indeed very accurate. You must remember that various scribes copied these texts over many hundreds of years. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 established the incredible accuracy which had been achieved because, with a difference of circa 1,000 years, no serious errors had occurred! You are possibly referring to so-called "higher" Bible critics back in the 19th century claiming that certain of the Old Testament prophecies were written later than claimed thus the 'prophesied' events would have already occurred; this argument has now been shown to be very weak because later discoveries have tended to confirm the earlier dating of Daniel, for instance. So this argument has now lost much credit (see link at page bottom).

With regard to the New Testament, no serious disputation has ever challenged the New Testament dating (apart from a few years either way). Re: 'catholic,' the early church soon became known as 'catholic' (universal) to separate itself from the heretics. 'Roman Catholic,' as a denomination, was a much later phenomenon.

You could indeed consult Usher's 'Annals of the World' (which can now be read online), but obviously Ussher was a Christian so would presumably not be acceptable to your son. Josephus, by the way, was a Jew - not a Christian.

Look, the main problem here cannot be solved by reading any book, this is a matter of faith. True, faith may be built up by reading Holy Scripture - but the attitude must be right. Your son once professed to be a man of faith, but was he? How much did he really understand? From looking carefully at what you have written, your son seems to be rebelling against God at present and may not be ready - or even able - to return to Him yet. Hopefully, he finally will, because the bottom line, as Paul the Apostle pointed out, is that people are without excuse in rejecting God:

18. The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
19. since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
20. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
21. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
22. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools
23. and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
24. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.
25. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator - who is forever praised. Amen.
26. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.
27. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28. Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.
29. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips,
30. slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents;
31. they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.
32. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:18-32).

It is too early to decide that your son will not be in heaven, a lot can happen yet. In my experience, if the teaching was good in the first place, children mostly do indeed return to it (though often after spending a few years rebelling against it).

Robin A. Brace. October 12th, 2012.

Our Dead Sea Scrolls article (very helpful to go through) is here: