Explaining Naturalism to Our Children
In a previous blog post, we explored what our children need to know about new spirituality. However, new spirituality is not the only worldview vying for the hearts and minds of our children. Naturalism, also known as materialism or scientism, is just as widespread. And it may be more difficult to detect. This is because naturalism’s messages aren’t loudly argued — they are quietly assumed. How can we prepare our children to unmask the naturalistic assumptions present in almost every area of our culture?
Expose the Idol of Naturalism
We have already seen that anytime we want our children to understand the teachings of another worldview, the first thing we must do is expose the idol. What person or object has this worldview substituted for God? In naturalism, that idol is matter.
The naturalistic worldview teaches that only the physical, or material, world is real. Naturalism claims that the spiritual, or metaphysical, the realm is imaginary. While Christians believe the spiritual realm exists, we often have trouble detecting naturalism’s idol of matter. From childhood, we were taught that anything we learn through science regarding the physical realm is a fact. While anything we learn about the spiritual realm is mere feeling or opinion. When we act as if the only things we can know as facts are physical things, we worship the idol of matter.
Contrast the Idol with Reality
Once we expose naturalism’s idol of matter, we need to help our children see how this idol contrasts what we find in reality. No one consistently lives as if only the physical world exists. Humans inherently know that certain non-physical principles are real. Take morality, for example. Morality is not physical. We cannot experiment on moral virtues in a laboratory. But we can know that certain actions are right, and certain actions are wrong. The idol of matter does not line up with what we find in reality.
Once we have helped our children think through the shortcomings of naturalism’s worship of matter, we must then contrast this idol with God. Scripture is clear that God is spirit (John 4:24, Col. 1:15). We cannot see God, but He is real, and He is the only one worthy of worship (Ex. 20:1-2, Is. 45:5, Ps. 86:10, Luke 4:8). Scripture also tells us that God created the physical world, and we can know Him through exploring it (Gen. 1, Rom. 1:20). But the physical realm is only one part of reality (Col. 1:16). When we exchange the worship of God for the worship of matter, we exchange the truth for a lie and live with half of the reality tied behind our back (Rom. 1:22-25).
Once we have exposed our children to naturalism’s idol of matter and contrasted it with reality, we can then help them see the connection between the worship of matter and other naturalistic assumptions in our society – such as those regarding truth, origins, and identity. For more information on preparing our children to navigate the influence of naturalism, check out Unit Two in Foundation Comparative Worldview Curriculum.
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.