Tag Archives: Sunday School

The importance of teaching Sunday school lessons as history

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are going to take a look at the data
Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are going to take a look at the data

Lindsay has a post up about it at Lindsay’s Logic.

She writes:

Those of us who grew up in church have many fond and nostalgic memories of the Bible stories we were taught. We remember David and Goliath, Sampson and Delilah, Noah’s Ark, Jesus and the Feeding of the Five Thousand, Baby Moses in the Bulrushes, Zacchaeus the Wee Little Man, and many others. The problem is, we often have the same fond memories of many other childhood stories like Cinderella, The Frog Prince, Jack and the Beanstalk, and The Emperor’s New Clothes. Both sets of stories were short, entertaining, and had some moral lesson. They were often surprising or funny. They had kings and miracles. Their heroes did great and marvelous deeds. Unfortunately, we may not have understood that one set of stories was completely made up while the other is entirely true historically.

Now, many of us grew up and learned the difference between truth and fairy tales. We know that the Bible is true. We take it seriously now. But some children grow up and are told (often in school or in college) that the Bible is just a collection of myths. At best, it was a collection of tales passed down for many years and full of wishful thinking and primitive beliefs (or so they are told). And if those people haven’t learned better – if they have not been shown the historical evidence for the truth of the Bible – they often fall prey to this faulty view.

To help prevent this from happening, it is important to teach the Biblical account, not Bible stories. They aren’t “stories,” they’re true. There are several very serious problems with teaching the Biblical account as stories.

This is the one that rang true for me:

3. The Biblical account is not given its proper historical context

A big part of helping children (and others) to understand the historical nature of the Biblical account is including discussion of its historical context. Don’t just emphasize the moral lesson, talk about it as history. When children are taught about George Washington, Nero, Florence Nightingale, Genghis Khan, or any other historical figure, we talk about when they lived, their culture, their motivation, their language. In short, we put them in historical perspective and we talk about them as real people with real lives. Why don’t we do that with Biblical figures?

How often do you hear someone talk about what year the Flood happened? Whether dinosaurs were on the ark? Who Cain married? Why Eve didn’t freak out when a snake talked to her? Where the Garden of Eden was (there’s no way of knowing that, by the way)? Have you ever wondered why Jonathan didn’t hate David? Where the different races came from? Why God instituted animal sacrifice? Why Jesus came when He did? Why the particular 66 books of the Bible are Scripture and other ancient texts aren’t? These and many others are questions that today’s young people wrestle with. And they often are not getting answers.

If we neglect to talk about the Biblical account in realistic terms, we aren’t preparing our youth to answer the questions they will undoubtedly have. If they go long enough with unanswered questions, if they can’t figure out how what the Bible says can possibly make sense, many will start to wonder if it is really true. While we may not be able to answer every question definitively, we can at least have a serious discussion and offer reasonable possibilities for consideration. Without such reasonable discussion, why should they find it reasonable to believe it?

I never went to Sunday school, and that might explain why I never had this problem of outgrowing Christianity the way that kids outgrow fairy tales. Maybe it comes down to who is teaching in the Sunday school? Are the Sunday school teachers being selected because they are rational people with STEM degrees, STEM careers and some sort of practical outlook on life? Or are they very emotional, irrational, and desire-driven? Seems to me that we ought to be placing people who are more interested in the good old divisiveness of truth and facts in the Sunday school, and keeping out the people who are more interested in feelings and community stuff. I’ll never understand why the church seems to lack respect for practicality, and want to put in all these impractical touch-feely people to teach the young instead.

I remember when I was a teen, I served as a volunteer camp counselor with an older Catholic woman who was just starting her second year of college. She was raised in a very devout, sheltered Catholic family, and would not even say swear words like the s-word. She had this Sunday school, fairy tale view of Christianity. And she liked to tell me that God was a “she” and that Hell wasn’t real. After all, if religion is just about making up stories that make you feel good, then you can change it to be whatever you like best. She studied English in college and got into all kinds of radical feminism, anti-war, Marxism, and gay rights material. After a couple of graduate degrees that drove her further to the secular left, she eventually got a job teaching the young in a Catholic school. But her descent into secularism and leftism started with this super-nice, polite, fairy tale view of religion-as-niceness, rather than being about history and fact. She just had never been taught to make connections between the Bible and the real world, so her feelings were constantly allowed to override the truth claims of the Bible.

I think the bottom line is that the more we make Christianity about feelings, the more young people will leave it when they hit college and find out how the world works (not really) from their never-worked-in-the-private-sector liberal arts professors.

I was on vacation last week, and after bingeing on video games for 3 days (hello, Darkest Dungeon), I decided to spend the rest of my time studying JQuery, AngularJS and Bootstrap. I did this learning at the kitchen table, with training videos playing on the laptop, and me entering commands in the NetBeans IDE and seeing what the output was in the browser via the Chrome NetBeans Connector. At times, I would stop the video lecture, call my parents over and show them things that I was trying that were “off the beaten path” to find out how the components really worked. I also messaged JoeCoder with questions, since he is a client-side programmer, and I am primarily a server-side programmer. I was even able to put JQuery to work right away in my ad-blocker (uBlock Origin) which uses JQuery expressions to select elements to block. The point is that I was learning, and learning means being free to experiment and try things out. But always, it is about practice, not feelings. No one cares how you feel about code, they only care what you can use it to accomplish in the real world. The point of it is that teaching is not meant to make you feel good, or make students like you, or make people in think that you are really spiritual after all the drunken sex you had in college, hooking up with atheist guys. The point of teaching is to convey useful, accurate knowledge that can then be put into practice immediately to achieve good results. Sunday school should be more like learning how to program, not about singing, coloring, having fun, feeling good.

William Lane Craig’s Defenders class now live-streamed every Sunday at 11:30 AM Eastern

I saw this post up on Pastor Matt’s blog.

He writes:

William Lane Craig’s ministry has been grace upon grace to me.  He is one of the apologists whose work saved my faith from the relativistic emergent church fog in which I wandered for several years as a young Christian (you can more about that here).

However, it is not just Dr. Craig’s books and debates that have blessed my Christian life and ministry but his podcasts are also outstanding.  I subscribe to both his Reasonable Faith and Defenders podcast.  The former is conversational in style and often features Dr. Craig answering the questions of both believers and skeptics alike.  The latter is a regular Sunday school class Dr. Craig teaches on theology and apologetics.

Now the Defenders class is going to be live streamed from the church he attends every Sunday morning at 11:30 a.m. EST.  You can watch here.  The time may be bad for many of you on the east coast (I’ll be preaching tomorrow at that time) but perfect for those in Europe and the west coast.  Also, you can watch or listen to archived classes at Reasonable Faith.

There was a recent episode of the Reasonable Faith podcast in which Kevin Harris and William Lane Craig talked about the live-streaming of the Defenders class.


Every church should have a class like this! Dr. Craig’s ‘Defenders’ class gets to the meat of the Christian life and worldview. Now, there’s breaking news concerning the class!

Here’s a snip from the transcript that explains what Defenders is all about:

Dr. Craig: We believe strongly that every Christian believer needs to be exercising his spiritual gifts in the context of the local church. There are no lone rangers in Christianity. We are part of a local body. God has gifted the church in ways that we serve and help one another. So, having a gift in the area of teaching, it would be natural for me to teach an adult Sunday School class. I thought, “Well, what might I teach on?” I didn’t want to teach a course on straight apologetics. I think that would be spiritually unhealthy, just week after week to be dealing with apologetic arguments.

Kevin Harris: Why?

Dr. Craig: Because they would not be getting any biblical input or knowledge.

Kevin Harris: You mean directly from the Scriptures?

Dr. Craig: Exactly. There would not be biblical input and teaching. So it seemed to me that it would be better for my students if I were to teach a survey of Christian doctrine. What I discovered during my doctoral studies in Germany is that when you do a survey of the body of Christian doctrine there simply naturally arises at various points along the way issues of apologetic significance that can then be addressed in passing. So, for example, if you are talking about the Doctrine of God, naturally the question will arise, “What reason is there to believe that God exists?” So you can do a sort of excursus on arguments for the existence of God. Or if you are doing Doctrine of Creation, the question will naturally arise, “How does the Christian doctrine of creation comport with what contemporary biology tells us about the evolution of biological complexity on earth?” So that will be an area, again, that you will want to address with a view toward producing what I call a synoptic Christian theology; that is to say, a theology which is integrated with the best knowledge that secular disciplines have to tell us about the world. An integrated worldview that gives a Christian perspective on science, on the arts, on literature, on history, and so forth.

So based upon my studies in Germany, I developed this survey of the whole body of Christian doctrine, or systematic theology, starting with the Doctrine of Revelation (that is to say, how does God reveal himself to us) going right up through the Doctrine of the Last Things (that is to say, the return of Christ and the final state of man into eternity), and then in between the rest of basic Christian doctrine.

Kevin Harris: You’ve done a series on the Doctrine of the Trinity, the Doctrine of Christ, fascinating things. Probably one of the more popular ones you did was a whole series (12 to 15 sessions) of Creation and Evolution.

Dr. Craig: Yes, that was an excursus under the Doctrine of Creation. Having given a theological understanding of creation, then how does that integrate with what we learn about the created biosphere from science?

Kevin Harris: Just a personal aside, the times that I’ve been in the class, it is really fun because these are the people who don’t realize that you are “The WLC,” they just know you as the carpenter’s son who lives among them. [laughter] You are just Bill! But some do come to the class and seek you out because of your work, but then you’ve got a bunch of other people who . . .

Dr. Craig: What has happened, Kevin, is initially I just started teaching this adult Sunday School class, and we just had a handful of folks who would come. People who were interested in learning about Christian doctrine. But as Reasonable Faith developed, we began to record these classes and then to put them on the website so that they could be available as podcasts. That has been a great joy to see how people from all around the world are accessing these podcasts and listening to them.

Kevin Harris: Your class asks questions. You pass the microphone around so the questions could be heard.

Dr. Craig: That’s right. One of the things that we do in the class is provide ample time for discussion. We don’t have any schedule to get through. Whether we cover a lot of material in a lesson, or just a little bit of material, doesn’t matter because we just continue the next Sunday wherever we happen to leave off. So the pace at which we move will be very much dictated by the people in the class and the questions that they have.

One of the things that we do in the Defenders class is to encourage open exploration and questioning. So when I cover a subject, I will typically give a range of views that are present in Christian theology, very often associated with particular Christian confessions. For example, I’ll say, “Here is what Catholics believe about this doctrine. Here is the Lutheran perspective. Here is what Reformed theologians say. Here is what Baptist or Methodist theologians believe.” And we look at a range of options, and then give some word of assessment about them. I think folks appreciate not being put into a cage, but presented with a range of options and then being allowed to decide for themselves which one best represents the most coherent and biblically faithful view of the subject that we are discussing.

Kevin Harris: These podcasts of the Defenders class appear at ReasonableFaith.org every Monday. So people look forward to that time when they go on, along with the new Reasonable Faith podcast. So you get Defenders and the Reasonable Faith podcasts.

You can click here to listen to it. (20 minutes)

I like his survey of opinions approach. The best sermon I ever heard was on ordinances and sacraments, and the pastor did a survey of the different views and what reasons they had to hold it. My ears perked up – you never hear anything like that in church, usually. But in the Defenders class, you hear it every week.

Now the lady I am mentoring most listens to this podcast – she is listening fro the beginning because they are all online now. She is getting better at apologetics every day, and I suspect that the Defenders class has a lot to do with that. She is listening to the 20 podcasts from Series 1 of the Defenders podcast. They are now on Series 2. If you like your theology done with philosophical and historical rigor, you’ll find it here – this is theology you can talk to a non-Christian about.

I’m sure that some people who read my blog think that church is boring, impractical and irrelevant to the real work of being a Christian.  I have sympathy with you, because I used to be you – until my friend Dina encouraged me to attend church more regularly, and made me a cross-stitch (it took her a LONG time to make!) that I couldn’t refuse. Now I try to attend church and I do believe that it adds value to what I do as a Christian operator and agent, although my church does not know who I am and they do not use any of my skills. I think some of you were just like I used to be, and have had nothing but bad experiences in the church. I am not minimizing the bad experiences that serious people have in unserious churches, but eventually I do want you to go to a good church and learn something and share what you know with others. But if you still cannot bring yourself to go to church YET, then consider that this Defenders class is the corrective to the bad experiences you have had in church. You are not going to find any anti-intellectualism, feminization, postmodernism, moral relativism, etc. in this class. You will actually learn something useful in this class. Every week you are going to take home something useful that makes you better at know who God is and how to act on that knowledge in practical ways. Take a look and see for yourself what goes on!

Finally, here is a list with links to all my favorite podcasts.

What really goes on in William Lane Craig’s Sunday School class

For those of you who grew up outside the church, now you’ll find out what Christians secretly talk about!

The MP3 file is here. (36 minutes)

William Lane Craig introduces a new class that he is teaching at his home church in Atlanta. The first talk explains why theology matters in a relationship with God.

This talk is part of a podcast that updates every week. Here is the RSS feed.