By Chris Castaldo
Mike and Sarah D’Virgilio used to attend NCC before they moved to Florida nearly three and a half years ago. Mike has written a terrific book on how to equip our children for cultural apologetics—how to think and engage ideas of the day from a Christian perspective. It’s called The Persuasive Christian Parent: God’s Provision for Building an Enduring Faith in Your Children. Here’s a Q&A I did with Mike.
Why did you write a book about parenting, and specifically about being a persuasive Christian parent?
In 2015 I read an article about a young lady who grew up in a Christian home. She was deeply involved in her church, went away to college, and promptly abandoned her faith. My gut level response to this was, “This shouldn’t happen!” My wife and I have raised three children, the youngest recently started college, and I was convinced this could not happen to them. We read and hear stories of children from fine Christian homes who are raised in the faith, and then head off to college or life and abandon it. Many conclude from this that it can happen to any of our children no matter what we do, but I don’t believe that for one minute. Some Christians think such confidence is unwarranted, but I do not, which is why I wrote the book.
I’ve encountered Christians who think I’m saying that if you do parenting strategy x, y, and z, then you can guarantee that your kids will endure in the faith. But we can’t guarantee anything, nor are we in control of anything. Which is why we pray! Solomon in Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” This Psalm is specifically about building a household with children. We build because the Lord builds, and we must build as well as we can. These are not mutually exclusive; it’s not either/or, but both/and. As I’ve heard it said, work like it depends on you, and pray because it depends on God. Also, the book isn’t about parenting per se because I’ve never been a fan of such books, with dos and don’ts for raising successful children. It is rather about growing in our own knowledge and confidence in the faith, and then learning how to effectively teach and share that with our kids.
In your nine sections, you preface each by “It’s All About . . . .” Why do you do that?
When I started writing, my first chapter was going to be, “It’s All About Truth” because we live in a postmodern culture that denies objective truth outside of us even exists. So, we encounter the absurd notion of something being “true for you, but not for me.” We must fight for the very notion that truth exists and convince our children that is true! This is foundational to raising solid young disciples of Jesus in our postmodern age. Then as I was writing the next chapter on parents, arguing from a biblical and sociological perspective that parents are by far the most important influence on their children, I realized that was just as important as truth. It was the same when I wrote about epistemology, or how we know things, or plausibility, or culture, or gratitude; I realized they’re all equally important!
Why is this book so necessary at this time in history?
We live in a secular, post-Christian age, which only becomes more obvious and more post-Christian by the day. When we and our children go out into the world, whether that’s through a screen, a classroom, or any encounter with the culture, the messaging is either actively hostile to Christianity, or ignores it altogether. This is why I dedicate a section to writing about faith and plausibility, or what seems real to us. I’m confident that most young people abandon the faith not because they’ve been argued out of it, but because it no longer seems real to them, no longer plausible. Some other view of reality than Christianity becomes more plausible to them, usually some form of agnosticism and skepticism, which does not have to happen. Therefore, I spend another two chapters on a concept called explanatory power—or what best explains reality as we experience it. Nothing can come close to matching Christianity’s explanatory power. As I quote ex-atheist C.S. Lewis on the cover, “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.” Or as I argue in the book, life without Christ is just puzzle pieces, but with Him everything fits.
How did you come up with the sub-title, “God’s Provision for Building an Enduring Faith in Your Children”?
That question is critically important. As I referred to previously, some Christians have a problem with thinking we can have confidence in keeping our kids Christian. I wanted to make it clear that our confidence isn’t ultimately in us, but in God alone, and in what he’s provided to make that possible. The conclusion I came to after writing the book was the conviction I started with at the beginning: Christianity is so powerfully credible that my children should never, ever want to leave it, or even be slightly tempted to do so. God has revealed Himself in so many compelling ways that it is inconceivable that a secular Western culture would be more appealing to our children than Christianity. God has provided us an overabundance of resources to make the Christian faith winsome, appealing, attractive, and compelling to them. Thus, we should have every confidence that we can build an enduring faith in our children.