It’s a scary situation. The idea of letting an adult with little time for the traditional understanding of Genesis teach Bible stories to a group of impressionable grade schoolers. Why not just boot them out of the minivan into the church parking lot with a note duct taped to their backside that reads “point me to the slaughterhouse”? I mean what parent in their right mind would allow some crazy who believes in evolution to teach sunday school? Or marry for that matter? But while keeping the size of the heretic herd down by discouraging procreation might seem well, productive, I suggest we try another approach.
I bring this up because I have “this friend” (really) an old testament scholar with letters, a Genesis genius by most standards, who is on pins and needles because he is about to wrap up the story of Noah’s Ark with his Sunday school class. Trouble is, his take on Noah is so well informed and foreign to most Christian parents that he’s conflicted about how to carry out the assigned task. He knows that the Hebrew version of the Ark story is mirrored in the histories of other ancient cultures. Older cultures. Babylon, where the Hebrews had spent several decades in exile, was one of those cultures.
My friend understands how vital it was that the Hebrews reframe that ancient story showing how Yahweh, Israel’s God was really in control. Their Babylonian neighbours only knew of a world with anaemic, impulsive gods who were incapable of accomplishing much. Israel knew better. So, whenever they retold the old story of the great flood to their children, Yahweh was given a central role. My friend is passionate about Biblical truth and kids and faith but telling that familiar Bible story as he understands it will freak out the parents. If he does this the wrong way he’s likely to get thrown under the sunday school bus.
As I write this, thousands of kids who’ve grown up in church and been taught that the earth is 10,000 years old and that Noah’s flood covered the entire planet are being introduced to Darwin’s little idea in a college lecture theatre not too far from home. They are hearing much of it for the first time and according to the statistics, they are mostly being taught by individuals opposed to Christianity.
Here’s the real problem: We have been telling our kids for decades that a career in the sciences might be dangerous to their faith. Why are we surprised that so few college faculty consider themselves believers. We did this to ourselves. In our efforts to keep one generation out of the frying pan of Godless scientific thought, we’ve unwittingly tossed the next generation into the bunsen burner. Today’s confrontations with unbelieving professors are happening because the only candidates qualified to fill those job postings years ago didn’t have a Christian worldview. And we were unqualified to apply for those jobs because we we’r wearing ourselves out running away from science.
It will take a decade to reverse this trend but we can do something about it. How’s this for a radical idea? Let’s introduce alternate ways of thinking about creation and the Genesis story IN our sunday schools. Let’s take the lead in an environment where we can thoughtfully and prayerfully discuss how faith, science and world history mesh. It might just result in more informed kids (and teachers) and a new generation of Jesus followers less afraid of “secular” learning and more prepared to enter the real world.
(Whenever I get the chance I refer people to biologos.org – a great site to discover resources for learning about faith and science. Have a look, and you’ll discover that this limb I am out on, is getting more crowded everyday.)