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How To Help Kids Discern The True Gospel From A False Gospel
We know it is important to equip our kids to navigate false worldviews - naturalism, new age, postmodernism.
But one counterfeit worldview that frequently slips through the cracks is that of a false gospel.
False gospels come cloaked in christian-sounding language, but they are built on false doctrines, rather than true realities outlined in Scripture. If we want to prepare our kids to faithfully navigate life, we must equip them to recognize false gospels from the one true gospel.
What Does False Doctrine Mean?
False doctrines are beliefs someone claims stem from the Christian worldview. Yet, upon closer evaluation, such beliefs do not align with Scripture.
What Is A False Gospel?
A false gospel is any message of salvation that excludes, alters, or replaces any of the key components of the gospel as outlined in Scripture.
The gospel is a compilation of several Christian doctrines that outline the good news of salvation through Jesus.
The Gospel In A Nutshell
In short the gospel is the teaching that humans are God's image bearers who have fallen into sin.
Human and Sin
This sin separates us from God, leaves us under just condemnation, and ultimately leads to death.
While we were still in this state, God the Son took on human flesh, lived a perfect life, bore God's wrath toward our sin in his death, and rose again to new life.
Now, all who turn from their sin and trust in Jesus are reconciled to God and have the hope of resurrection with him in the new heaven and new earth.
Help Kids Recognize A False Gospel
Our culture teems with false gospels.
So it is of utmost importance that we prepare our kids to spot and reject them. Here are a few examples of the most common false gospels our children will encounter.
1. A False Gospel Is Often Less About Jesus And More About Me
One popular false gospel swaps out the hero of the story, Jesus, and replaces him with us, fallen humans.
It Tells Us We Are Enough
This false gospel preaches that we are enough just as we are. And, sadly, it is found even in many books written for Christian kids.
We Can Ask Kids Who The Real Hero Is
An easy way to help our kids spot this false gospel is to read through Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John together. Throughout the reading, we can ask, "Who is the hero in this story?”
We should point out that the hero is always and only Jesus.
Then, whenever we consume different forms of Christian media with our children, we can ask, "Who is the hero in this story? "If it is anyone other than Jesus, we can point that out and help our kids recognize it as a false gospel.
2. A False Gospel Teaches That God Will Love You If You Are Good Enough
Another false gospel comes in the form of an altered solution.
It Teaches That God’s Favor Can Be Earned
Rather than portraying salvation as solely the result of God's grace, this gospel claims that God's favor can be earned.
Sadly, many times we unintentionally preach this false gospel to our children in the way we discipline them. We focus on how disappointed we are in their behavior and urge them to "try harder next time."
We Can Teach Confession and Forgiveness
A great way to address this false gospel is to read Arlo and the Great Brig Cover-Up. We can read through this story with our kids and ask, "Could Arlo do anything that would cover up his mistake?" We can then discuss how the only solution to Arlo's problem was to confess what he did and ask for forgiveness. We can then tie this back to the true gospel, as described in Ephesians 2:1-10
3. A False Gospel Looks Like The Surrounding Culture More Than The Bible
It is very popular these days to take contemporary social issues and label them as the gospel.
It Teaches That Social Justice Is The True Gospel
For example, as I write this post in 2021, many people are claiming that social justice is the gospel.
In years past, others have claimed that loving our LGBTQ + neighbors is the gospel.
Seeking justice and loving our neighbors stem from a life transformed by the gospel, but they are not identical with the gospel message.
We Can Teach Kids To Depict The Gospel With Pictures
An easy way to help our kids recognize this false gospel is to have them draw summary pictures that represent the true gospel.
Then we can read them statements like "Loving others is the gospel,” and ask, "Is that true? Is loving others the same thing as the gospel?"
4. A False Gospel Looks A Lot Like The True Gospel
I recently read a series of Christian picture books where every single sentence in the series was true. Yet, the overarching message was false.
It Can Teach Most But Not All Truth
The series set out to teach the gospel. But sin was only ever associated with Satan, never with humans.
This is an example of what Paul refers to in Galatians 1 as another gospel. It contains most of the true gospel, but leaves out a key component (like sin).
Or it contains the whole gospel, but adds something to it (like circumcision in the situation with the Galatians).
We Can Ask Our Kids - What’s Left Out?
A great way to help our children recognize this false gospel is to have them look at their summary pictures of the gospel. Then discuss parts of the gospel that some people leave out, such as human responsibility in sin, and things people add, Iike works we must do.
5. A False Gospel Is Essentially Any Other Religion
A final false gospel our children will encounter is the belief that all paths lead to God.
It Teaches That Opposing Truth Claims Can Both Be True
This may sound good. However, this gospel is claiming what is logically impossible - that opposing truth claims can both be true.
We Can Teach Kids The Law of Non-Contradiction
To help our kids spot this false gospel, we first must teach them the Law of Non-Contradiction which states that two opposing claims cannot both be true at the same time and in the same way. (For help teaching this concept, check out Unit 2 of Foundation Careful Thinking Curriculum).
We can then explain how some people claim that all roads lead to God and discuss several basic teachings of Islam and compare them with the teachings of Christianity.
Finally, we can ask our kids if both sets of claims can be true.
Teach Kids The Heart Of The Gospel
Obviously, if we want to equip our kids to recognize false gospels, they must also have a solid understanding of the true gospel.
Don’t Assume They Know
Many times we think our kids already know what the gospel is, but they don't. I recently asked a group of eight students from gospel-centered families to articulate the gospel, and only one of them could!
Walk Through The Gospel With Pictures
We must make sure our children are not only familiar with the term gospel, but that they know what the true gospel is.
Ephesians chapter 2 is one of the best places in which to take our children in order to help them grasp the gospel. We can read this passage together. discussing the key elements of the gospel and then summarizing those key elements in pictures.
If we really want to bring this home, we can even memorize the chapter together.
Give Kids The Tools To Discern Truth From Error
We cannot prepare our children in advance for every false gospel that they will encounter.
However, we can prepare them to encounter the prevalent ones in our culture. And then we can continue equipping them with the tools they need to discern truth from error in any and every circumstance.
Here at Foundation Worldview, we always encourage parents, teachers, and pastors to directly instruct children in the essentials of the biblical worldview, teach them the basic rules for thinking carefully, and then practice implementing those skills to evaluate every idea they come across at home, school, and church.
For tools that will equip you to do just this with your children, check out the Foundation Worldview Curriculums for ages 4-7, 8-12 and 10-14.
About Elizabeth Urbanowicz
Elizabeth Urbanowicz is a follower of Jesus who is passionate about equipping kids to understand the truth of the Christian worldview. Elizabeth holds a B.S. in Elementary Education from Gordon College, an M.S.Ed. in Education from Northern Illinois University, and an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Elizabeth spent the first decade of her professional career teaching elementary students at a Christian school. Elizabeth now works full time on developing comparative worldview and apologetics resources for children. Her goal is to prepare the next generation to be lifelong critical thinkers and, most importantly, lifelong disciples of Jesus.
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