8 reasons it’s essential to teach kids theology

October 29, 2020

Let’s play a word association game. What immediately comes to mind when you read the following words?

These are all words found in Scripture except, of course, the last one. We daresay the first nine produce warm, pleasant feelings—even rapturous joy!—as we consider all their gospel truth.

But what about theology? For many Christians, this word evokes a different response. A sigh of boredom, perhaps? A slight wince? A nervous tic? A spine-tingling shiver, as if the very notion of theology could inspire a thriller movie.

We jest, of course. But too often, Christians equate theology with tedious concepts best reserved for pastors, textbooks, and the erudite halls of higher academia. We think, I’ve got a job, monthly bills, a pile of laundry that has learned how to procreate, and my kid’s science fair project is about to destroy the last shred of my sanity. Why should I bother with a bunch of fancy preacher terms—or teach them to my child, for that matter? I just want to follow Jesus.

But here’s the undeniable truth: As R.C. Sproul often said, everyone’s a theologian. It’s just a matter of what you believe about God.

The word “theology” simply means, “the study of God and how he relates to the world.” Theology teaches us about who the triune God is and how he has powerfully worked to redeem his people. It helps us know how to live as devoted followers of Christ. Every believer should be pursuing theological maturity.

In Colossians 1:10, the apostle Paul encouraged the believers to be “bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Emphasis added; see also Prov. 9:10 and 2 Pet. 3:18). Clearly, theology matters. We are called to grow in this knowledge.

But perhaps you’re thinking, That’s fine for adults. But is it possible, or even appropriate, for me to teach theological concepts to my child? The answer is unequivocally, Yes!

Let’s briefly consider eight reasons why it’s essential for every Christian parent to teach their child about God’s nature, character, and how he relates to his creation:

1. Theology is part of every Christian parent’s God-given calling. 

When a Christian becomes a parent, the theological pursuit that should mark their life now expands into a teaching role. As you trust God for your child’s ultimate salvation, you also have the joy of raising them “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). 

As God was bringing Israel into the Promised Land, he gave his children the Shema, a foundational text in Jewish life:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deut. 6:4–7).

While 21st-century American parents live a far different life than that of the ancient Hebrews, our calling has not changed. We must worship the Lord with all our being and increase our knowledge about him in order to live faithfully, and teach our children to do the same.

2. God is a God of self-revelation.

Unlike many of the gods of ancient pagan myths, God is not an aloof deity, tucked away into the nether regions of the cosmos. He is transcendent yet immanent. Since creation, God has been revealing himself to humanity through his spoken and written word (2 Tim. 3:16–17; 2 Peter 1:20–21), his Spirit (1 Cor. 2:10), and creation itself (Rom. 1:20). Of course, God’s greatest self-revelation was through his Son, Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word (John 1:14).

This means God wants us to know him. As a relational God, he wants to be studied and comprehended. In Psalm 27:8, David writes, “You have said, “Seek my face.’ My heart says to you, ‘Your face, Lord, do I seek.’”

Of course, because of God’s transcendence, there are things he hasn’t revealed to us. But he expects us to worship him with what he has made known. As Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

So we must teach God’s amazing self-revelation to our children.

3. God’s plan calls for a generational legacy of gospel-centered theology.

Psalm 78:4 says, “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.”

What is this well-known verse if not a call for parents to pass along a spiritual heritage of knowing and loving God to their children? It’s generational theology at work.

In fact, if you look closely at verses 5–7, you’ll see four generations in view. The Ancient of Days wants us to spread his fame across centuries. But it begins with Christian parents lovingly instructing the current generation that is still potty training, playing tag, and learning fractions.

4. Laying a strong theological foundation for children encourages a lifetime of faith.

A child’s understanding of God ultimately will inform every aspect of their life. Consider these questions and corollaries:

If a child isn’t taught . . .

We could say much more here, but the point is clear: With a strong theological foundation, our children will grow up—by God’s grace—into well-built houses of faith that can withstand life’s tempests (Matt. 7:24–27).

5. Parents are a child’s primary spiritual caretaker.

Perhaps you think this goes without saying. But admit it: There are times when you’ve felt inadequate, disinterested, discouraged, or just plain too busy to lead your child spiritually.

“Ugh … another long day at the office, and I still have to make dinner. Gather ‘round, kids. Tonight’s family devotions are brought to you by VeggieTales!”

We’ve all been there.

Being a primary spiritual caretaker isn’t easy. But it is a God-given calling—and privilege—that should top every Christian parent’s daily priority list, as Scripture clearly attests (Deut. 6:4–7; Ps. 78:1–8; Ps. 145:4; Eph. 6:4).

Need help knowing how to do this?

There’s no one right way to help your child grow in loving and knowing God. Be consistent, be creative, and saturate everything in Scripture and prayer.

6. Children can understand more than we think.

When my youngest daughter was about 6 years old, we were reading about the fall in Genesis 3 during family devotions. At one point, she asked, “Daddy, if God knows everything and he knew what would happen when sin entered the world, why did he create Satan in the first place?”


“That’s a great question, Sweetie,” I responded. “I’m so glad you asked.” (Note the classic parental stall tactic.) We talked about it for a while, as my answer led to more questions. It was fantastic. We were swimming in the deep end of the theological pool, and a 1st grader threw us in.

With a strong theological foundation, our children will grow up—by God’s grace—into well-built houses of faith that can withstand life’s tempests (Matt. 7:24–27).

Don’t think your child can’t handle theology. Kids can understand far more than we give them credit for. And even if they don’t fully grasp every nuance of what you share, it’s important to allow them to ask questions, process big ideas, and grapple with important truths.

7. You will grow in your own faith.

No seminary degree? No sweat. Few parents have one. The Bible never mandates an M.Div. or Ph.D. in theology as a prerequisite for Christian parenting. You’re not a college professor in a massive lecture hall—you’re Mom or Dad. If your child stumps you with a question, don’t be ashamed to say, “I don’t know. Let’s figure it out together.”

All teachers learn more by teaching. Wherever you’re at in your knowledge of God, watch how much you grow as you lead your child down this path.

8. Theology and the gospel go hand-in-hand.

After Jesus’ ascension, his disciples transformed history as they proclaimed the gospel throughout the Greco-Roman world. But early on, their theology needed work. During the Last Supper, both Thomas and Philip expressed confusion when Jesus said he was leaving to prepare a place for them in his Father’s house.

“Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us,” Philip said.

Jesus responded, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:8-9).

The more your child starts “seeing” the Father, the more they will “see” the Son and understand the gospel. Then, as you delight in this good news with them, it will lead you into richer theology, which in turn, will point you and your child toward a deeper appreciation of your salvation. What a wonderful cycle for your family to be in.

Good news: No finish line in sight

As you lead your child on this remarkable spiritual journey, remember: This is not a finish-line achievement. No one will ever walk across the theological graduation platform of life, raise a diploma, and boast, “Now, I have full knowledge of the Almighty!” As David says in Psalm 145:3, “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.”

Theology is a beautiful, lifelong expedition of exploring and loving an amazing God whose goodness, power, and wisdom are infinite. Then one day, when we enter eternity, we will rejoice in the unveiled presence of God and bathe ourselves in his knowledge, love, and holiness forever.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12).


Joshua Cooley

Joshua Cooley is a New York Times bestselling author and a full-time children’s minister. His latest book is a 365-day youth devotional entitled, Creator, Father, King: A One Year Journey With God. His other books include The One Year Devotions With Jesus, the Heroes of the Bible Devotional, and The … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24