I remember the first children’s Bible story books we were given when my kids were born—you know, the ones that teach the timeless lessons: Adam and Eve disobeyed God and messed everything up, so you should obey your mom and dad. Noah was the best man of his time, so God saved him. David slew Goliath and Zacchaeus got to have Jesus over for dinner because, well, you know—God loves small people, too.
Most of these children’s Bibles told great stories about heroic men and women who did what God said and everything worked out for them. And if you do what God says, it follows everything will work out for you, too. Right?Well, that’s the version many kids get from well-intentioned Christian teachers, videos and Sunday school curriculum. The problem is, it’s not the story of Scripture. It’s more like what sociologist Christian Smith once called “moralistic therapeutic deism,” or the idea that Christianity can be summed up as “God wants you to try a little harder to do a little better…just like those great people in the Bible.”
But when you read the Bible cover-to-cover you see just how mistaken this view is. The Bible is a book filled with accounts of broken, sinful, and sometimes downright thick people whom God still chose to use in His redemption plan. And it’s about how all of history ultimately leads up to Jesus Christ, God the Word who became flesh, dwelt among us, and began the re-creation of all things.
That’s why I was so excited to talk on “BreakPoint This Week” to two amazing writers for children, Sally Lloyd Jones, author of “The Jesus Storybook Bible,” and Phil Vischer, creator of “What’s in the Bible?” (and formerly, of course, "VeggieTales”).
These two have produced a goldmine of biblical instruction for children.
Jones says she grew up in a Christian home, but viewed the Bible as a rule book or full of commandments and moral heroes to imitate in order to earn God’s love.The inspiration behind her wonderful “Jesus Storybook Bible,” she says, hit when she realized that she’d misunderstood Scripture for most of her life.
“…the Bible is most of all a story,” she said, “And it’s the story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them…if I, as a child growing up in a Christian home…missed the whole point of what the Bible was about, I wondered how many other children were missing it.”
And that’s what her children’s books, especially her Christmas gem, “Song of the Stars,” are designed to prevent. Jones says she wants children not to look at Scripture as a collection of moral nuggets, but as a unified epic leading with ever greater clarity to the manger of Jesus Christ, where the only solution to sin and brokenness is found.
Phil Vischer’s journey covered much of the same ground, but he says he didn’t recognize his childhood gospel of moralistic therapeutic deism until well into adulthood. As I shared with you on BreakPoint last year, Vischer—himself the voice of Bob the Tomato—admits the message taught in many “VeggieTales” wasn’t fully ripe Christianity. In his own words, “You can say ‘hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so.’ But that isn’t Christianity.”
His latest work, especially the children’s puppet series “What’s in the Bible?” with Buck Denver, captures an entirely different message. Children learn about the unity of Scripture, how each piece fits together to form the great story about Jesus Christ, who came to save us from trying to please God ourselves.
And in the remarkable video “Why Do We Call It Christmas?” children can discover the origins of some of our most beloved Christian traditions, and how they each point back to the “upside down” story we celebrate this time of year: that the King of the Universe became a child, to rewrite our story, and make us all His children.
We’re using these incredible resources right now with our family to walk through Advent with our children. So come to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary to get them for your family too. And while you’re there, listen to our incredible interview.
This commentary originally aired Dec 20, 2013.
"BreakPoint This Week" is hosted by John Stonestreet, co-host of the BreakPoint daily radio commentary as well as The Point.
What’s in the Bible? video series
Phil Vischer | Jellyfish Labs
Cottages and Vegetables
John Stonestreet | BreakPoint.org | July 6, 2012
Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story
Sally Lloyd Jones | Zonderkidz | September 2011
The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name
Sally Lloyd Jones | Zonderkidz | March 2007
A Nation Divided: Why Do We Call It Christmas?
EMI-CMG Publisher | October 2011