My eldest child is almost 14 years old. He is homeschooled, has never been to school. We live on an acreage, and he spends a lot of time outdoors and tinkering around. My problem is he has difficulty always doing as he is told (he listens better to his father, but still argues sometimes). He is self-centered and does not take initiative to do things that need doing, but must be asked. Compared to the average teenager, he is an angel – but by Biblical standards (and the first-time obedience we read and agree with in your books), he falls short.

We love him dearly. Generally he is a loving, happy boy, and is usually doing his best to please us. He has always been strong-willed, and we have had to be very consistent with training and discipline. His bad attitude seems to come with things like doing chores, schoolwork, or if he feels something is not “fair.” (We have never tried to be “fair” — it is simply selfishness). We want him to be voluntarily obedient, to seek to help others and generally serve God (and others) from his heart.

He has been struggling lately with the reality of God. Is He even real? How do we know the Bible is true? Why should I do what He says? Why does He never speak to me? These questions seem to come up when he is angry with me, and I think to some extent he is just saying it to somehow punish me. I try to encourage him to seek the Lord – without getting into an argument with him, or letting him think he has unsettled me. I think deep inside he knows God is real. But there is some confusion in his soul. Perhaps it is just the struggle for self-rule vs. giving God control of his life.

I wonder if these questions are a turning point for him, that once God becomes real to him, he will dedicate himself wholeheartedly into serving Him. But I do not want this searching to continue too long. I do not want rebellion to take hold in his heart. How would you advise us to proceed with him? Is he simply a normal teenager and our expectations are too high — if so, how do we deal with ourselves? Or can we expect him to do as he is told without arguing? Can we expect him to adopt a more mature attitude and actually seek the good of those around him? How do we address the questions he has about the reality of God?

Michael answers:

You have two issues which may overlap but should be viewed separately. The first is his obedience. It is normal for a teenager who has his own interest, as your son does, to balk at having to divert his energies to perform chores that produce no satisfaction. Stop concerning yourself with trying to get inside his soul and make him enjoy his duty. There are two words you need to remember — organize and manage. That is your part. I have written on the subject several times. Review the former material. To restate it briefly: It is your responsibility to organize the boy’s day so as to make mandatory certain chores. He will know that they are not arbitrary — designed to interrupt his schedule. They are essential to his day. They must be done satisfactorily before he eats the next meal. After clearly spelling out his duties, then you must mange the doing of them. No nagging, just oversight. He does them to your satisfaction and the day advances. Otherwise everything comes to a halt until he finishes. It is simple and without conflict if you think of yourself as the CEO and he the employee.

The second issue is his faith in God. He has been failed in several ways. He has been raised in a church that seems to be empty of God. He sees through the shallowness of religion. He knows that what he sees in church could just as well take place if there were no God.

Secondly, he has a deficiency of accurate Bible knowledge. Religious knowledge and Bible knowledge are two different things. He should have heard the old Bible stories a hundred times.

Thirdly, he should have been exposed to the conversion of real sinners. When one has seen a dope dealer converted to Christ and delivered from sin, or seen a prostitute or lesbian come to Christ and weep with the joy of deliverance, it is hard to doubt the existence of God.

Fourthly, I wonder if what he has seen at home is a true example of the love of God.

Fifthly, it is often the case that a young teenager who doubts the existence of God has been exposed to science fiction in movies or video games. If that is the case all we can say is that the best salesman won.

Sixthly, if young men have had access to the web, 99% of them will look at pornography. Porno freaks suffer such guilt and lust that they do not want God to exist. It is incontinent for a great sinner to be under moral law.

In short your sons needs to be exposed to a group of people whose religion goes deeper than their shout and whose lives demand an explanation that can only be answered with the existence of a living God. You could procure material by Josh McDowell. Evidence that Demands a Verdict is a good book for your son to read. My book
By Divine Design was written to give a defense of the philosophy of Christian belief.

– Michael Pearl