Monday night, I attended a forum at a local Christian college on the inerrancy of the Bible. One speaker at the forum took the position that the Bible has errors of history and science because it was written by men who wrote from oral traditions and wrote in the context of their own lack of knowledge about history and science. For example, the gospels are contradictory because some of the writers had their facts wrong. Thus, the Bible is not historically or scientifically accurate but, as a literary book, its teachings are true and from God.
I can’t agree with this man’s teaching. Scripture, according to 2 Timothy 3:16 is God-breathed. God partnered with men to divinely orchestrate this book we call the Bible. God is the author of truth. If God is inaccurate in the area of science and history, then how can I trust Him on matters of theology? If I find errors in the Bible, must I immediately conclude that God has made a mistake? Or is it just a wee bit possible that I don’t understand all there is to understand? As the other speaker said, “Hermeneutics (study of biblical interpretation) is hard work.” If something in the Bible doesn’t make sense to us, we need to study and research so we do understand. As Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with your whole heart.”
To the secular ear, biblical accounts sound fantastical and impossible. There’s no way a world could be created in six 24-hour days. It’s not humanly possible for a virgin to have a baby. We all know how babies are made! But that’s just the point. It’s not humanly possible. It is God-possible.
So what does this have to do with teaching children? A popular trend in Christian education for the last thirty years has been to emphasize life application – making the stories of the Bible applicable and relevant to modern, everyday life. This has been a good trend. Children – and adults - can see that the Bible is not just some ancient book of laws; it has meaning for my life. Yet I think we’ve overdone it. In our eagerness to jump to the teaching within the story, we lose the drama and power behind those magnificent Bible stories. Perhaps our jump to life application reveals a bit of this prevailing belief about the Bible – the stories are good jumping off points to teach me how I can live an upright life. But am I really confident that the stories are true? When we jump too quickly to the life lesson, we are in danger of treating the Bible stories like Aesop’s fables: fictional stories created to teach a moral lesson.
It’s a temptation for all children’s workers to treat the biblical accounts as just stories. And one of my greatest fears as a teacher is that the children won’t catch that these stories aren’t just stories. They really, really did happen.
How can I communicate the historical accuracy and infallibility of the Bible to children? Even to the youngest age group, we need to emphasize that these are stories of history, not fictional stories. We can do this by holding the Bible in our lap and emphasizing that the story is from the Bible, God’s Word. It really happened. Even though it might sound like a fable or fairy tale, it did happen because our God is a powerful God and He can do things like this. As children grow older, we need to retell the stories in more detail and set the stories in a historical context for them. We need to continue teaching that God’s word is God-breathed and it, all of it, can be accepted as truth. After all, Jesus said, “I am the way, the TRUTH and the life,” and John 17:17 say, “ . . .your word is truth.”
When we don’t express our confidence that the Bible is historically, scientifically and theologically true, then we short-change our God. Psalm 28:2 tells us to “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name.” How God’s heart must break when He hears his children saying they believe the teachings of the Bible are true but the historical details are debatable. If we instill in our children that God’s word can be trusted for truth even though some things seem confusing or even contrary, perhaps they won’t buy into the mindset I heard at last night’s forum.