How to explain the strange parts the Bible to your kids

Bible study that hits the spot
Bible study that hits the spot

The article I want to link to today is from super-mom Christian apologist Natasha Crain, who writes at Christian Mom Thoughts. She has lots of interesting ideas about how to introduce kids to apologetics, which is really important, especially the way things are going in the culture. Parents have to be watching out for the kids who has a plan for making sure that Christianity is presented to them intelligently and effectively. If both parents do this, it works much better.

Anyway, here is her topic:

With the start of the new school year, we’ve begun reading through the Bible together as a family again (see this post if you want to know more about what we’re doing).

One reason I love the children’s Bible we’re using is that it includes far more stories and much more detail than most children’s Bibles I’ve seen. That means we’ve had the opportunity to dig deeper into Genesis than our young kids have ever dug before. And there’s a running theme to what they’re noticing about these new stories:

There’s a lot of really strange stuff in the Bible.

For example, we’ve been reading stories like Abraham entertaining angels, angels striking a crowd with blindness, Lot’s wife turning into salt, God asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, and Jacob wrestling with God.

I hope you don’t think it’s irreverent to label these and many other Bible stories as strange. The definition of strange is “unusual or surprising in a way that is hard to understand; not previously visited, seen, or encountered; unfamiliar or alien.”

To acknowledge and discuss with our kids that the Bible is strange is not irreverent…it’s actually extremely important when preparing them to engage with a secular world. In this post, we’ll take a look at why that’s the case, and how to discuss biblical strangeness with your kids.

The rest of her post has a lot of strategies for explaining the strangeness in the Bible to your kids. It’s a long post, and it’s got a ton of useful advice.

On this blog, we believe in evidence, so this part of her post jumped out at me:

There are a lot of things in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament, that are strange because they recount historical events tied to an ancient culture far different than our own. For example, in Genesis 15:9-21, God reiterates the covenant he had with Abraham by having him cut a bunch of animals in half and leave a path in the middle for God to pass through (as a smoking fire pot and flaming torch).


When we read this story last week, I had no idea what it was about. Somehow I had always read right through it. So we researched it and learned that this was a type of ritual done in the ancient Near East to seal a covenant (see this article for more). It was meaningful to Abraham based on his cultural context, but is a completely foreign idea to us.

Stories with elements of cultural strangeness are a great opportunity to:

  • Research what the significance of something was in an ancient culture.
  • Emphasize that the Bible communicates real history across thousands of years, so we naturally read about people who lived very differently than we do.
  • Talk about why so many laws very strange to us today exist in the Bible (like what to do if your ox falls into a pit—Exodus 21:33).

With the Bible, what you read has to be connected with an investigation of material outside the Bible. The means connecting what the Bible says with the evidence from history and mainstream science as much as possible. Otherwise, the Bible just becomes like any other work of fiction, and kids will find it creepy that you believe it’s real, but never connect it with anything out there in the real world. Like someone who believes that Santa Claus is real, and talks about him a lot, but never feels the need to prove anything to anyone else using evidence that a normal person would accept.

The Bible is full of interesting things to investigate. For example, the moral rules. You can read studies to find out about things like divorce, homosexuality, fatherlessness, premarital sex, and so on. You can find out what what the cuddle hormone (oxytocin) is, you can find out whether cohabitation raises your risk of divorce, you can read about the demographic crisis in Europe, etc. You can go see the Dead Sea scrolls, you can look at gospel manuscript fragments, you can look at coins and inscriptions. You can look at the science of cosmic fine-tuning, you can look at Cambrian era fossils. Bible reading isn’t meant to be self-contained. The purpose of it is not to feel good and have community with others. You’re not supposed to talk about it in the abstract, you’re supposed to test it, and put it into practice. It’s supposed to change what you value, your beliefs about the way the world really is, and how much you let God into your decision-making.

A little bit more Natasha:

Every supernatural event in the Bible should be considered strange. Miracles are by definition not part of our everyday experience. Stories with supernatural strangeness are a great opportunity to:

  • Acknowledge that some people assume miracles aren’t possible, so they reject the Bible without consideration. If God exists, however, miracles are possible (this is why it’s so important that your kids understand the evidence for God’s existence—the entire plausibility of the resurrection miracle rests on whether or not God exists).

What I have found in my church is that basic beliefs like “a Creator and Designer exists” are never argued for, but everyone keeps talking about God and miracles without ever providing any evidence. Pastors and parents all assume that God exists and that the Bible is without error – just like that and no questions asked. No criticisms are raised, nothing is responded to using normal evidence from history or science. What a disaster. We gave away all our smartest kids because we thought that not talking about truth and evidence was somehow more pious than allowing questions and debates. Would you trust someone to sell you a car or fly you to Baltimore if they kept shushing your questions and urging you to just believe?

I never grew up in this Christian family bubble. I never sat in churches and listened to pastors assume that the foundations of the faith were true, and then talk about trivialities while ignoring all criticisms being raised in the culture. I grew up watching William Lane Craig debates… it was all about scientific evidence for a Creator/Designer, answers to philosophical objections, and which parts of the Bible were most or least historically evidenced. (And we both affirm inerrancy, but I’m talking about how to talk about the Bible with a non-Christian)The normal Christian home and the normal Christian church where everything is assumed is just weird to me. Like, who would waste time with parent-talk and pastor-talk? Let’s get on to the interesting evidence and debates instead.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s