Monday, March 26, 2007

Do not sanitize the Bible for Children

Here is a great little article by Dr. Russell Moore on teaching the Bible to kids. He exposes the tendency that many of us have to hide harder teachings from our kids. Once the Bible is divorced from its context it becomes a book of good morals. The Gospel is reduced to, "Just be a good little boy and God will love you."

If you are a parent, Sunday school teacher, or LifeWay curriculum writer you need to hear Dr. Moore's perspective. By the way, he is the Dean of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the father of young children. He knows what is at stake here.

And that is far more radical than we might think in an evangelical world that increasingly sees children's Sunday school as a platform for a syrupy moralism-and not much more. There is some great material available, but there is also a lot of evangelical curriculum and teaching theory in which children are thought to be too immature for "hard" concepts like sin and atonement; too tender for the "darker" aspects of the biblical storyline. So many evangelical children's Sunday school classes are translating biblical texts into a baptized version of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Jesus' calling of the twelve is about the fact that "Jesus had friends." Jesus' multiplication of the loaves and the fish is about the idea that "Jesus wants you to share." Noah's Ark is now about responsible care of pets. The children are then called on to emulate the biblical "characters" in being good boys and girls. Previous generations had a term for Bible study like this. It was called "Protestant liberalism." And, in case we don't remember, it didn't lead to anything good.


Jonathan said...

Great point. Our children are not being taught about God either. It seems like all Bible stories are turned into a lesson on what great thing someone accomplished for God. Our kids are rarely taught about the character of God or a lesson about God. The Bible stories always end up being stories about the main person in the story, not God.

Tony Kummer said...

Thanks for your comment. My first principle in teaching kids is to keep it God-centered. This is what I teach our people about family worship: Always ask the "Big God Questions" - what does this say about God?

That will usually lead to application but from the right theology. Too many times we want to build an relevant application but we skip the Big God Question. This leads only to moralism and will-power religion.