The chief biblical apologetic
Teaching your children how to read Scripture is one of the most important responsibilities when raising Godly children. But, intrinsic to understanding how to read Scripture is knowing how to trust it. To do that, it’s important to teach kids why they ought to trust it. But first, you must teach your children what Scripture is. It is the chief biblical apologetic of a discipling parent.
I’m convinced that one reason young adults leave the Church en masse is that they have an unhealthy understanding of what the Bible is.
Think about it. If the Bible is a magic book, it fails at almost every monumental test we apply. If children mistakenly learn at a young age that the Bible is merely God’s Word and it has some mystical power to protect them, then when trouble comes and they find that the Bible under the pillow method doesn’t work they lose any confidence that God’s Word is alive. In that case, they have rightly discerned that the Bible is a book written by men. They have mistakenly decided that God had nothing to do with it.
That brings up lesson one.
The Bible is God’s Word.
Of course, one of the first truths that ought to be communicated to children is the central truth about the Author. The Apostle Paul says it best in his 2nd letter to Timothy.
16 dAll Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that ethe man of God2 may be complete, fequipped gfor every good work.-2 Timothy 3:16
By the way, this is the same God who breathed out the universe and life into you and me. It is the same God who knows all, transcends all, and has power over all. He is holy.
In total, the Scripture is his story and every part that makes the whole are his words. For all practical purposes he is the Supreme Author of it.
That’s easy, right?
That brings up lesson two.
The Bible was written by men.
“for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:21, NET)
If we teach our children that the Bible is God’s Word and leave it at that, then we sell the Scriptures short.
God’s Word is written by men. There are over 40 different human authors of holy writ. Each one of them wrote exactly what God wanted and each one wrote exactly what they intended. There is a tension there and we ought to admit it. We have come up with words like “superintendence” to describe what happened, but the truth is that how God moved men to write his words in their words is somewhat of a mystery. That’s okay. It’s okay for Christianity. It’s alright for you. It ought to be alright for your children.
If you neglect to teach your children that the Bible is both God’s Word and written by men then they will figure it out on their own. When they do they may or may not ask you about it. If they ask then you’ll have a chance to explain yourself. If they don’t, they may lose their trust for you and the Bible.
I can assure you that this peculiar fact about Scripture will be overemphasized by a future college professor. They will make sure that your once innocent little child becomes acutely aware of the “true” authors of our precious book. If you have failed to talk about the dual authorship of the Bible by then, they will likely have some trouble sorting it all out.
The Bible is a collection of books.
Another foundational truth about the Scriptures is its nature as a collection of different books or writings. Children should learn this early.
When you read Scripture, it is good to announce the author, his audience, and their context. Doing so brings to light the purpose of the writing and places the reader or listener in a better understanding mode. It removes the mystical misunderstanding of biblical narcissism which always presumes that “this is about me.” It replaces that self-centered hermeneutic with a proper historical understanding of people, place and time.
For example, begin your reading by saying “this letter was written by Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, to the church at Corinth which was experiencing trouble due to misunderstandings about the Lord’s table.” Suddenly, if you do that, the hearer is transported to a context other than me, myself, and I.
By the way, if that’s the first time you’ve ever heard it, the Bible is not about you. And, if the Bible is not about you it’s hard to make it work that magic that it was never meant to conjure. The de-emphasis on the reader and the re-emphasis on the authorial intent destroys self-centered biblical interpretations.
Explain the various genres to your children. Allow them to read the Gospels as historical narratives. Show them the beauty of poetry in the Psalms or the wisdom of Proverbs. Give them the tools to attempt John’s apocalyptic literature of Revelation. Help them understand the differences.
Let the authors speak.
Another important feature of Scripture is the fact that real people using real language exist in its pages. All language is not meant to be understood literally.
Jesus uses parables to communicate important spiritual lessons. John uses symbolism to prophesy future events. Narrators use estimation when communicating numerical facts. Many instances of hyperbole exist in Scripture. Teach your children to recognize these and other literary tools and they will be equipped to read it and understand it properly.
Some things are meant to be taken literally. That’s a fact. But not everything. A literal literary misapplication of literalness can lead to legendary misappropriation, quite literally. That’s confusing. So is a magical Bible that only contains straightforward language.
Friends, God’s Word is real literature. The people in it are real people. The books were written by different authors, to different audiences, and for different reasons. It is all God’s Word and none of it was written to you or me…literally.
That leads us to the next point.
Resist the temptation to allegorize.
As parents, we want our children to learn lessons from God’s Word. It’s very tempting to misappropriate the biblical narrative. Much of the Bible is real history though and we ought to be careful not to allegorize it. To do so is a gross misapplication of God’s intention.
Furthermore, it’s disrespectful to the author to replace their meaning with yours. Respect God’s Word in a way that doesn’t violate it. A good maxim to keep in mind is this: the words never mean something other than what the author intended. Think about that and the implications of you inserting your own meaning.
It’s too easy to make Scripture about me in our individualistic culture. Your children will mistakenly do this on their own at times. They don’t need you to reinforce that behavior. It sells great at Lifeway and makes wonderful home décor, but allegory is usually best served by the author, not the reader.
Teach them the value of study.
Finally, understanding the message of the Gospel contained in the Bible testifies to the Scripture’s simplicity. But understanding the Bible in all its magnificence is not for those who persist in naïveté. Sometimes it takes a little work. It’s worth it.
Teach your children to expect something from God’s Word. Don’t teach them to expect it to come from some mystical transference because they reach a reading quota or even memorize it. That happens, but not usually.
God condescended to us when he communicated in language. But he’s not a boring creator. He is creative and imaginative. Teach them to expect that and they will be consistently astonished at the buried treasure of truth revealed over a lifetime of study.
The message you propel when you’re willing to discuss what Scripture is-is just that. It’s worth it. He who is worthy of our worship is worthy of our work to get to know him in his revelation of himself. In that sense, the Bible is for us.
An important first step toward protecting your children and teaching them how to read Scripture is to teach them what Scripture is. Do that and you as well as your children will be on your way to a deeper understanding of God’s Word.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version
Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.