Research shows that teaching the Bible as a collection of “stories” may be damaging children’s faith rather than building it. What is the problem, and what should we do?
The word story once meant an account of events. Today, the word has a different connotation. It often conjures up ideas of fiction or fairy tales. The Bible “stories” often taught at VBS and in Sunday school are presented in the same way that children’s bedtime stories are presented, which don’t usually reinforce to children that these accounts are true historical events. At your church’s VBS, try using the word “account” rather than “story” while still making the teaching fun with skits, enthusiasm, and fun illustrations. Your class will be so excited to learn what really happened in history and in God’s Word, how it relates to God’s plan of salvation for His people, and how to defend their faith.
Most children’s storybook Bibles don’t illustrate events as they are described in the Bible. For example, most depictions of Noah’s Ark portray happy animals in a small bathtub-sized boat with giraffe heads sticking out the top. Many people associate that image with the biblical Ark, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. When you read the account of Noah’s Ark in the Bible, and you know how long a biblical cubit is, you quickly realize the Ark is a much larger ship (like the picture shown above) rather than what is typically portrayed. The danger of images like these is that children tend to disbelieve the fairy-tale-like stories and illustrations they see and, in turn, disbelieve the Biblical account and the Bible as a whole. Encourage your church to find an apologetics-oriented VBS program, like Answers VBS, that takes care to present images from the Bible in historically and biblically accurate way.
When kids learn about God and the people in the Bible at church, they are often taught that these are “stories.” When students are taught evolution and millions of years in public school, they are taught that what they learn there is true history and true science. What they are often taught in school is not history or science at all, but man’s ideas about the past that exclude God’s work in creation. That is called naturalism. Public schools are not “religiously neutral.” They are teaching children naturalism, which is a form of atheism.
Plus, the schools are teaching the apologetics that defend this view. Students will compare what they hear in the classroom to what they have seen and heard in Sunday school and VBS, which could be very different from what the Bible actually says. Research has also shown that students are starting to doubt what they have been taught about God far earlier than most would think. Many children that have left the church began having doubts as early as elementary school. Be sure to use language that reinforces to the kids that what they’re learning during VBS is true, historical fact, and reaffirmed by the Bible. Help them understand what God’s Word says about the origin of the Earth, race, Creation Week, the Genesis Flood, and so on. Help them connect what they’re learning from the Bible lesson to what they’re learning in school. Equip yourself by exploring Answers in Genesis resources about Creation, evolution, the Flood, and more on the website.
God’s Word is infallible. This means that it is perfect and unfailing. We can trust what the Bible says cover to cover. New discoveries continue to show that what the Bible says about the past is true. So, we know that we can trust the history in the Bible, what it tells us about the gospel, and what it tells us about the future—that Jesus is coming back to judge the living and the dead. As you teach your kids the accounts in Scripture during Sunday school and VBS, and especially as you teach them about history found in Genesis, be sure to connect each point to the gospel. Learn more about how teaching a young Earth, Noah’s Ark, dinosaurs, and the tower of Babel can lead to conversations about the gospel in The New Answers Book 1.