Beyond Biblical Values

Posted: October 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

Veggie_Tales_FotorAs we read about the growth of the early church throughout the book of Acts, we see that it was met with what Pastor Ken recently described as resistance along the path. From outright persecution to political roadblocks, the spread of the gospel has always faced opposition… some of which has even come from within. This happens, for example, when we reduce the central message of Christianity to a list of do’s and don’ts.

Now to be certain, we are called to pursue holiness and cultivate biblical values such as honesty and charity. The problem comes when over time the gospel gradually gets reduced to sheer morality, creating yet another barrier to genuine growth. As Jerry Bridges explains in his book The Gospel in Real Life:

I believe that human morality, rather than flagrant sin, is the greatest obstacle to the gospel today. If you ask the average law-abiding person why he expects to go to heaven, the answer will be some form of “because I’ve been good.” The rich young ruler (see Matthew 19:16-20), the prodigal son’s older brother (see Luke 15:28-30), and the Pharisee praying in the temple (see Luke 18:9-12) all had this in common: They were confident of their own goodness. Their attitude is replicated throughout our society. And the more religious a person is, the more difficult it is for that person to realize his or her need for the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Now again, it is very important that we teach our children things like kindness and generosity. But when that becomes the central theme of what we communicate, then we have failed them because we have in essence replaced the gospel with morality. A good example of this can be seen in the hugely popular children’s series called VeggieTales. Listen to what the shows creator, Phil Vischer, had to say about this in a recent interview

I launched Bob and Larry back in 1993, and personally oversaw each video release and product until 2003, when a lawsuit forced the company into bankruptcy and out of my hands. God turned what seemed like a tremendous loss into a huge blessing, as I was given time and space to get off the VeggieTales “treadmill” and just focus on him. As my relationship with God grew deeper and my love of the Bible increased, a profound thought hit me: Had I just spent 10 years trying to get kids to behave “Christianly” without actually teaching them Christianity?

VeggieTales was (and is) a great format for retelling an individual Bible story or presenting a Christian value, but it wasn’t such a good format for explaining the entire arc of Scripture or unpacking tricky concepts like redemption or sanctification. I found myself with a blank piece of paper and all the time in the world. So I decided it was time to go beyond teaching biblical values to actually teaching the Bible.

Christian kids resources tend to fall into two camps: children’s Bibles and entertainment products like VeggieTales. Both have value, but both also have limitations. Very few children’s Bibles cover more than 5 percent to 10 percent of the Bible, and tend to focus on scenes that lend themselves to cute illustrations. Concepts like sin, judgment, propitiation, atonement, and sanctification are really hard to draw. If it doesn’t look good on a wallpaper border for a nursery, it probably isn’t going to make the cut. As a result, most children’s Bibles present a highly truncated gospel.

On the other hand, entertainment products typically follow the VeggieTales model: tell a story that illustrates a value, then wrap it up with a Bible verse to show the biblical basis for that value. We certainly need to teach kids biblical values, but biblical values aren’t the gospel. Introducing a child to “kindness” isn’t equal to introducing him or her to Jesus.

“I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” – Philippians 3:8-9 (ESV)

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Comments
  1. Noemi Romero says:

    I personally think that Veggie Tales and especially the new series “What’s in the Bible”, is a super brilliant way to teach children God’s word and ultimately point them to their Saviour Jesus Christ!” My boys love it!!! I recommend it to any parent and wouldn’t mind using it as curriculum for JR Church (hint hint). ~Noemi~

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