Tuesday, 24 May 2011

God on a Venn diagram

My youngest daughter had a burning question on her mind last week: are God and Jesus really the same?

She had been told that they were. But here was her response:

"If they're the same, that means that God died when Jesus died. How could God die? If God died, did God come back to life again too? And why was Jesus talking to God when he was on the cross if they're both just the same? He couldn't do that if he was really God."

It's hard to me to know how to answer these questions because I don't really know what I believe sometimes. I'll admit it: I'm a doubter at heart. I don't like pat answers. It's easier for me to explain what I DON'T believe. But who wants to pass on unbelief?

But I LOVE questions as a way to dig deeper, and it makes me happy to see questioning minds in my kids.

This God/Jesus research project involved asking several key adults what they thought about the question of Jesus and God being the same.

She brought it up again at supper one evening. Then my older daughter recommended putting it all into a Venn diagram to figure out if, in fact, God and Jesus were the same. This is what they came up with:

If it's hard to see, here it is:

Jesus - human (person), died, 12 disciples, made Easter, son of  God
Both - special, people pray to them/bow down, calm storms, loving, talked about everywhere (famous), heal people
God - created the earth, things grow, separated the Red sea, first spirit on earth, sent a flood

This is what I love to see: searching, questioning, asking different people for their opinion/belief, and trying to piece their own interpretation together. This is faith forming/building to me.


  1. What a great testimony to the kind of environment you are nurturing for your girls. I like that you allow them to voice faith questions. And not only that, but even more importantly, helping them to look for answers.
    I already knew you guys are good parents, but it certainly is fun and interesting to read about some specifics.
    Keep up the good work.

  2. This is one of the best Venn Diagrams ever. I'm glad to see the schools are imparting this sort of problem-solving to youngsters and that youngsters are applying it to such discussions!

    Rebecca I would like to see adults stop admitting (as if it's a bad thing) that they have doubts regarding certain issues of faith. It's not a bad thing, it's a good thing. It means you're paying attention.

    Along these lines here's a thought I had recently while mulling the 'ol "how did humans come to be" question. It seems we have been given (by those smarter than us) exactly two possibilities; a) an omnipotent, sometimes benevolent, invisible being created us and everything around us out of dust or b) millions of years ago a gigantic explosion of space dust set the microbes in motion which evolved over time to humans and all other life as we know it.

    Now please remove from your mind any religious or scientific knowledge or preconceptions and ask yourself which is more likely, a) or b)? My answer is they both equally unlikely, so now what do I do?

    If your girls need more Venn Diagram practice feel free to let them go at this one and please report their results!

    Pete Byer

  3. Barb - yes, questions are the answers to me - learning to ask deeper and different questions. I think that the more questions they ask, the better!

    Pete - I'll bring up the creation conundrum at our next family theological concerns meeting. I'll let you know what they come up with.

  4. and I agree that I should stop admitting I doubt - it may be more of an admission if one were to say "I never doubt". Right?

  5. To me that makes more sense - I wonder how we became conditioned to fear doubting or uncertainty (and is it restricted only to our religious beliefs)? Perhaps it goes back to our roots (for those of us who are Mennonites) where persecution was a real consequence of one's beliefs? If you are willing to suffer physically for your beliefs you had better be pretty darn certain of them.

  6. I remember being told by someone at church - not in my family or yours - that if I doubt, I'm not a real christian. I think you're right about the connection to persecution, and standing up for beliefs as part of our history. Doubting is a good thing in science, right? It leads to further experimentation and testing, a new hypothesis and new findings. Can't faith be the same? But some think that faith is beyond reason - and that our thinking brains can get in the way of faith and can lead to unbelief. But for me, doubt has led to faith. I'm a believer in doubt!

  7. Your girls ask some pretty amazing questions!! I love how our kids teach us through the things they say and do. One of the (many things!!) I've grown to love about parenting is the challenge to share my own faith and understandings - in a simple, straightforward way. Such good practice :).

  8. Yes, my kids are great teachers. I enjoy the challenge of their questions, but often my answer is "I wonder that too." or "hmmm."