A Brief Thought About Bible "Stories"
How often do we refer to historical events in the Bible as “stories”? Almost always, right? Especially when speaking with our children. We love our “Jesus Storybook Bible” and celebrate all of the stories we learn in Sunday school with cartoon coloring pages. None of this is wrong or bad. The accounts compiled for us in the Bible are stories – they are true stories. When my kids ask me to tell them a story from my childhood they assume I will tell them a true story, so stories are not always grouped into the category of fiction but I think we need to be intentional in helping our kids make that distinction.
Research has found that many children who were raised in the church grow up believing the Bible is a book filled with moral analogies – something akin to Aesop’s fables. They might believe the lessons are worthwhile but that the stories are fictional. While there is no simple solution to raising kids who believe the Bible is the true, inerrant word of God, I think adjusting our verbiage may help. When I read our history textbooks aloud to my children, I don’t ever conclude the lesson with, “Wasn’t that a good story? Isn’t the civil rights movement an interesting story? Isn’t that a fun story about Abraham Lincoln?” Instead, we absorb the information as a true account which we further corroborate by looking at dates and maps and other eye-witness accounts. So…why don’t we do this with the Bible? What would it look like if we did?
With young kids it could be as simple as saying, “This is a true story that really happened” and point to a spot on a map or globe where it took place. With older kids it may be helpful to talk about eye-witness accounts and how we still rely on that witnesses in our justice system and why an eye-witness is so important. Or maybe we could research what secular history overlaps with the portion of the Bible we are currently teaching. For example, it may help them (and us) to know that Joshua (1451 BC) lived around the same time as King Tut (1333 BC) or that Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego (c. 500 BC) were alive at the same time as Buddha (c. 563 BC). (FYI, I found that information in Mystery of History which is a curriculum I’m going to use with our kids next year.)
There are many ways to help our kids treasure and place their faith in the word of God, and we can start by helping them to understand that the Bible is better than any fairy tale. It’s better because it’s TRUE.