I was asked a question after a speaking engagement this last week that I have never been asked before: “What are your thoughts on children’s Bibles and the comic version of Biblical narratives? Do you think that trivializes the Scripture or does it help kids understand?” Like I said, I had never been asked that question before and to be honest, I’d never really given it much thought until last year.
I remember when Ken Ham and his apologetics ministry Answers in Genesis was opening their world class Ark Encounter that they put a heavy emphasis on their desire to move away from childish replicas and illustrations of the Biblical vessel. Doing so, they said, likened Biblical history to Aesop’s fables or works of mythology. When kids outgrew believing in silly tales like Medusa sporting snakes for hair, they simultaneously outgrow believing in the truth of the Red Sea parting for Moses.
Personally, my wife and I read from a children’s Bible to our young kids most every night. But we’ve set up a system to help delineate and distinguish between fiction and fact. Every night we read two stories. They know that the first one is their choice of silly fiction – Mickey, or Green Eggs, or Grover and Big Bird. That is followed by the reading of a true story, taken from their children’s Bible. I don’t know if that’s the best approach or not, but for believers raising kids in a hostile and increasingly scoffing culture, it’s an important thing for us to think about.
In a recent article called, “How Not to Teach Your Kids the Bible,” John Wells made the excellent point that if all our evening Bible reading is doing is teaching them tales of good morality, we are setting them up for failure. Elmo teaches about sharing; the Bubble Guppies teach about kindness; Spongebob Squarepants teaches about friendship. Children being raised by Christians should learn that the Bible is more than just duller versions of those more entertainer virtue teachers. The Bible conveys the truth that leads our souls to reconciliation with God. That’s a heck of a lot more significant than Bert sharing his sandwich with Ernie, and our kids should know that.
Wells offers some good thoughts:
Read and talk with your children about the Bible. Deuteronomy 6:4–9 says to teach our children about the Lord in our homes, when we are traveling, when we lie down at night, and when we get up in the morning. Conversations about God and his Word should be a constant part of our daily interaction with our children.
Don’t rely on children’s Bibles alone. Get your children in the Scriptures as much as possible. Even the best children’s Bibles are an inferior replacement for the real thing, so employ them only in a supplemental manner and choose only those that focus on the gospel. (Excellent options include The Big Picture Story Bible, The Jesus Storybook Bible, and The Biggest Story.)
Teach them to think through paragraphs in the Epistles. Since each paragraph contains a complete thought, read one at a time and help your child think it through. Depending on his or her age, you may need to stop after each sentence to ask questions. Older children may be able to handle two or three paragraphs together. The goal is to learn to comprehend what a biblical author is communicating.
Of course, it is distinctly possible that any correlation between kids who played with plastic Noahs in their bathtubs and the kids who have grown up to walk away from the church is pure coincidence. But I think my children are worth the extra caution, and if yours are too, let’s at least give this some thought.