Should Young Children Even Hear Old Testament Stories? (podcast)
Greg thinks about the Old Testament from the perspective of a 3 year old.
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Sarah wants to know this. She is reading the Old Testament and she’s just kind of taken
aback by a lot of the violence in the OT. She just wants to know, is this something we
should share with our kids? And she notes that all of the classic Sunday School stories,
they strike her as wildly misleading now that she is reading them to her 3-year-old. Like,
for instance, how do I tell the story of David and Goliath without implying that God
celebrated Goliath’s death? How do I condense your book, The Crucifixion of the
Warrior God, this two-book tome, how do I condense that into something that is
manageable for a 3 or 4 or 5-year old, to incorporate into their little toddler hermeneutic?
Or, she wonders, should these stories just be left for older kids.
I’ll start by saying some stories should be left for older kids. Some of the stories
are rated R, easily. Read Judges 19, for example—a gory story. A guy chops a gal up into
11 pieces and sends the pieces out to the four tribes of Israel. Some of these stories are
not actually in children’s Bibles. I can’t imagine that story in Judges 19 being in a
children’s Bible. So yes, some stories shouldn’t be [for younger kids]. You have to use
discretion. The Bible has to be used in an age-appropriate way.
Having said that, it’s a really good question. There was a person who was actually
working on a Cruciform children’s Bible, to tell the Bible stories from a Cross
perspective. And that’s really needed. But I don’t know if they’re still doing that. I think
it may have gone by the wayside.
But what I would say is that the most important thing—the most important
thing—when you sit down with the Bible with little Suzie or Johnny or whoever, that
they know—first of all get down the character of God that’s revealed in Jesus Christ.
That’s got to get down. And God’s very essence is other-oriented love. Getting that in
place, that beginning to give them the lens through which they’re going to see the world,
see themselves, and then see the Bible. And then, in age-appropriate ways, discuss how
the story reads from the center of the Cross, and tell the story that way. And then, in an
age-appropriate way, when it comes to then dealing with the story as it’s recorded in the
Old Testament, from the perspective of the Old Testament, show how they didn’t see all
the stuff that we can now see. So you have to teach this kind of double vision. You have
two things going on in Scripture. You’ve got God’s inspiration coming through, but you
also have God’s accommodation because God is not coercive. So you have to
say—Jeremiah, he credits God with all the violence that the Babylonians did. But notice,
it was the Babylonians that were violent, not God.
There’s a lot of work to be done on that. I wish there was a children’s writer out
there who got jazzed on the Cruciform hermeneutic and decided to write a Cruciform
Children’s Bible. There’s a market for it!