Over the last two weeks I’ve discussed 5 guidelines I want to follow as I teach Yosi about the Bible as she grows. I want to offer a paragraph from each here and encourage you to go back and read the full posts if you have time. I would love to hear from some parents about whether or not you think these are good guidelines, and any further suggestions you might have.
1. What the Bible actually says - “Still, at some point I will have to expose her even to that passage [Abraham offering Isaac], and the ones where God seems to encourage genocide and rape and slavery, and the ones that talk about Hell, and Romans 9-11, and a dozen others I would rather avoid. And somehow, in presenting texts that I don’t understand and in admitting as much, she will hopefully come to 1) know the Bible, 2) read the Bible without fear, 3) trust me to be honest about the Bible, and 4) reach adulthood with an open mind about the Bible rather than one I’ve programmed to my purposes.”
2. What we believe to be true - “I know I am wrong on some things when it comes to the Bible and faith. A lot of things, actually. And because of that I expect and even hope Yosi will reach adulthood with the freedom to disagree with me on any number of faith topics. But she’ll never learn how to formulate her beliefs and opinions if I don’t show her how I came to mine, and that means I have to show her what mine are. Actual, real answers and how I got them. There’s a time for withholding an opinion for the sake of allowing a pupil to work through some questions on their own, but at some point the opinion has to be shared for fair discussion to take place. So we share what we think is true, with humility, and we talk about it. And we try not to call any of the Old Testament Patriarchs bad names.”
3. The available, reasonable interpretations- “So, when my daughter comes to me at different points with questions I will owe it to her not only to share what I think is true on a particular issue, but also to disclose that other Christians disagree and how they disagree. I am not a Calvinist, but there will be points when I need to explain the Calvinist perspective, and assure her that a lot of good and loving people hold to it. Even though I am a theistic evolutionist, I owe it to her to explain that a lot of Christians believe young earth creationism to be true, and they are not (most of them) silly or unintelligent for doing so. There are a lot of ways to follow Jesus because there are a lot of different people who follow Jesus, and we’re all wrong about some things and we’re probably all right about some things.”
4. When we just don’t know the answer- “By admitting to our children that there are issues big and small in the Bible that we really don’t know the answers to we are actually helping them spiritually in a number of ways. We are helping them see that no one has everything figured out. We are building trust that we will always deal honestly with them on these matters. We are helping them see the complexity and ambiguity that often accompanies Bible reading. We are removing from them the burden of ever needing to have all the answers, and the illusion that they ever can. Perhaps most importantly, we are helping them love the Bible as something other than a textbook of doctrinal exam preparation.”
5. When there aren’t any good answers- “Doing that means I have to be honest when certain questions the Bible raises don’t have answers, and certain stories it tells don’t have positive messages, and certain pictures it paints of God are less than glorious. I don’t know what to do with those parts, but I’m not allowed to make up answers to soften the blow. When there is no good answer I will have to tell her so, and hold her hand through it, and all the while pray that the God who eschewed the violence of fire and cyclone for a whisper will tell her He is love, and that He too longs for the day when the foggy glass is removed and we see Him as He is.”
Feel free to suggest changes, additions, subtractions, or rant and rave about how far off base I am. If you’re a parent, what guidelines have you followed with your own kids? Parent or not, how was the Bible presented to you as a child and do you agree or disagree with that method?