5 Reasons to Teach Kids Biblical Theology
Biblical theology tells the story of God’s redemption throughout history, tracing themes that run from Genesis to Revelation. Most often, this is described in the overarching timeline of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation (or restoration). Leading children to read the Bible through a lens of Biblical Theology (or a redemptive-historical perspective) is important.
Biblical Theology can be a pretty scary term. It sounds a bit like another field of study reserved for the guys in the pulpit or the ones teaching at our seminary halls, but it’s much more than that. It’s important in the discipleship of our children.
What is Biblical Theology?
Reformed theologian Geerhardus Vos defines it this way: “Biblical Theology is that branch of Exegetical Theology which deals with the process of the self-revelation of God deposited in the Bible.”(1)
But . . . what does that mean? Focus on that word process.
Biblical theology tells the story of God’s redemption throughout history, tracing themes that run from Genesis to Revelation. Most often, this is described in the overarching timeline of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation (or restoration).
Leading children to read the Bible through a lens of Biblical Theology (or a redemptive-historical perspective) is important. It’s primarily important because it’s the way God reveals himself in Scripture, but there are also some other reasons worth noting.
5 Reasons to Teach Kids Biblical Theology:
- It gives them God-centered perspective.
The Bible isn’t me-centered; it’s Christ-centered. When we read the Bible, we need to know that it’s speaking firstly about God, his character, and his plan. For example, while the story of David may show children how to be brave or how to follow God, the bigger picture shows how God is faithful to preserve his people and how he offers himself as a perfect King.
- It gives them a firm foundation.
The Bible isn’t just a compilation of stories or laws; it’s a larger story of God at work. This truth helps them understand that God has been at work in the world, is at work in their lives, and will continue to work out his perfect plan. From that vantage point, the past has purpose and the future has hope.
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The Beginning of Things Tells You Stuff: Determining GenreBy Tommy Keene — 5 months ago
The Bible is an ancient book, and God speaks through it “in many ways” (Hebrews 1:1). As a result, it’s not always easy to determine genre…A good study bible or special introduction or commentary can go a long way to helping you bridge the gap, but the best way forward is to immerse yourself in the “many times and many ways” that God has spoken to us.
In the previous two posts of this series argued that one of the reasons we have trouble understanding the Bible is because we do not read it in the ordinary way that books are to be read.1 We assume that because the Bible is the Word of God (which it most definitely is), and because it is therefore inspired and inerrant, that it must consequently “break the rules” of ordinary human communication. I argued, by contrast, that the miracle of the Bible is that it speaks to us about extra-ordinary things (and with extra-ordinary accuracy) in a nevertheless ordinary way. We concluded, then, that one should read any biblical book, be it a letter or a narrative or a history or a compendium of wisdom or a doctrinal treatise, in the same way that you would read any other book of that type. Read any biblical discourse as if it were a particularly exemplary instance of other similar kinds of discourse, even though the ultimate author of this discourse is the One True God.
Which brings us to the present topic, because obviously the next question that arises is “what kind of discourse am I actually reading?” Let’s say you’re reading the “epistle” to the Hebrews and, following the advice above, you want to read it in the ordinary way similar discourses are read. Well, what is an epistle and how are epistles normally read? Do epistles have the same function 2000 years ago that they do today? And is Hebrews even an epistle?2 The answers to those kinds of questions are very important to our present thesis; one can’t read Hebrews (or any other book) in an “ordinary” way if one doesn’t really know the kind of thing that Hebrews is.
Which is why we have to talk about genre.
What is Genre?
What is genre? How might we define the term? One linguist describes it as “discourse type.”3 That is to say, genre is a description of the kind of “communicative event” that we are currently trying to interpret. Let’s say someone is speaking to you. What are they trying to tell you? Are they telling you a story? Are they giving you instructions? Are they asking you to do something? Maybe they are stating an opinion. Perhaps they are relating something that happened to them today so that you might offer them sympathy or council. Each of these represents a different type of discourse and determining the type of discourse that your currently hearing will, in turn, determine how you interpret it and react to it.
Scientists do the same with animals. Both cats and dogs have four legs—in that respect they are similar—but they differ in so far as dogs are awesome and cats are not, and that dissimilarity means they are classified differently. Similarity and dissimilarity is the key to identifying “type,” and genre is “discourse type.” Genre is classification; you are looking at a discourse and describing how it is similar to some discourses and dissimilar to others.
You have likely heard it said that interpretation requires context. Genre is “literary context.” Genre defines how a certain literary event fits within culturally adjacent literary events. To ask about a work’s “genre” is to ask “how is this work similar to other works, and how does that allow me to better interpret what it is trying to accomplish?” Furthermore, determining discourse type, or literary context, is key to interpreting what you are reading. Imagine you get it wrong. Imagine, for example, that you confuse fiction with non-fiction, or satire with genuine news, or the political stump speech with actual policy, or South Park with a child’s cartoon show. You’re likely in for some interpretive troubles. If you want to interpret any of these things correctly, you need to know how the genre works.
How Do I Determine Genre?
If all this sounds a bit too theoretical, here’s the good news: for the most part you identify the genre of a book intuitively and without issue. Most of us can’t help but be immersed in our surrounding culture, and as such we are constantly exposed to diverse types of “literary events,” each of which represent a different subset of literary genres. We thus learn about genre the same way we learn our native language: through constant exposure in natural settings. That’s why you don’t need to be told about the “rules” operative in fiction, or newspaper articles, or the op-ed, or sci-fi, or the latest rom-com.
Just Follow the ScienceBy Andy Wilson — 2 years ago
If politicians and public health officials want more people to trust them, they would do better to try to refute opposing arguments rather than arrogantly dismiss them as “misinformation.” In spite of concerted efforts by civil leaders, public health officials, big media, and big tech to silence dissent during this pandemic, there have been a number of scientists who have contended that the prolonged use of government-imposed NPIs in a pandemic does far more harm than good.
Framing Everything in Life as a Matter of Empirical Science Disregards the Immaterial and Transcendent Aspects of Human Existence, Succumbs to the Illusion of Control, Enthrones Experts, and Leads to Tyranny.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, one of the many repeated mantras has been that we need to “follow the science” when determining the public policy response to this highly infectious disease. While many have welcomed this assertion, it has not been without its critics. For example, one writer points out the danger to such an approach by noting the following:
As President Dwight Eisenhower said in his 1961 farewell address, public policy can ‘become the captive of a scientific-technological elite,’ which by nature lacks the temperament and broad thinking necessary to steer a democratic society. Instead, this elite’s conceptual blindspots and ignorance of broader human and spiritual concerns mean it is likely to steer us into the ditch of never-ending lockdown cycles to ‘slow the spread’ of a virus that is demonstrably uncontainable by governments and their edicts.
Similarly, former Bureau of Justice Statistics director Jeffrey Anderson argues that, while public health officials now play a prominent role in our governance, such people do not make for good rulers because “it is in the nature of their art to focus on the body in lieu of higher concerns,” and because they “are naturally enthusiastic about public health interventions.”
Their guiding light is the avoidance of risk — narrowly defined as the risk of becoming sick or dying. The risk of stifling, enervating, or devitalizing human society is not even part of their calculation. Under their influence, America has been conducting an experiment in mask-wearing based largely on unsupported scientific claims and an impoverished understanding of human existence.
(For data on mask-wearing, see this, this, this, this, this, and this. It is important to remember that the controversy over masks is not whether people should be able to wear them without being given a hard time. Of course they should. Rather, the controversy pertains to whether some people should be allowed to force other people to wear masks against their will.)
“Experiment” is the proper word to describe much of what has been done in response to this pandemic. One wonders why previous generations did not respond to their pandemics by employing the strategies that have been implemented during the COVID-19 outbreak. After all, it is not as though there is anything technologically advanced about non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) like stay at home orders, closures, compulsory mask-wearing, gathering restrictions, contact tracing, and physical distancing mandates. People had a basic knowledge of the way infectious diseases spread during the pandemics that took place in the late 1950s and late 1960s.
Why weren’t those pandemics dealt with in the way we have dealt with this one? What is it that has made so many people see the COVID response as reasonable even though the data has shown for some time that the virus is not deadly for the vast majority of those who contract it?
While there are surely a variety of factors that have contributed to what has happened with COVID-19, one of them may be connected with the fact that our society is significantly more secularized today than it was in earlier eras. That is, the widespread acceptance of prolonged, government-imposed NPIs that radically disrupt ordinary life and suppress civil and religious liberties is due in part to the waning influence of the notion that human life has a transcendent meaning, along with the increasing acceptance of a scientism that is focused entirely on controlling the material world.
C.S. Lewis had some important things to say about the threat of scientism. This does not mean that he was anti-science, though he knew that charge would be leveled against him. In a letter written in response to such criticism, he defined scientism as “the belief that the supreme moral end is the perpetuation of our own species, and this is to be pursued even if, in the process of being fitted for survival, our species has to be stripped of all those things for which we value it — of pity, of happiness, and of freedom.” One writer aptly summarizes Lewis’s concerns about scientism by saying that he “feared what might be done to all nature and especially to mankind if scientific knowledge were to be applied by the power of government without the restraints of traditional values.”
Lewis’s most focused treatments of scientism are found in his brief nonfiction work The Abolition of Man and in his fictional Space Trilogy. In the first volume of the trilogy, the scientist-villain (Weston) justifies his mistreatment of the hero (Ransom) by telling him:
I admit that we have had to infringe your rights. My only defense is that small claims must give way to great. As far as we know, we are doing what has never been done in the history of the universe… You cannot be so small-minded as to think that the rights or the life of an individual or of a million individuals are of the slightest importance in comparison with this.
In the last volume of the trilogy, the plot revolves around how an organization called the National Institute of Coordinated Experiments (NICE) “follows the science” in its social planning efforts, with ruthless disregard for both animal and human life. At one point in the story, the narrator makes this observation:
The physical sciences, good and innocent in themselves, had already, even in Ransom’s own time, begun to be warped, had been subtly maneuvered in a certain direction. Despair of objective truth had been increasingly insinuated into the scientists; indifference to it, and a concentration upon mere power, had been the result.
This is what Lewis sets his sights upon in The Abolition of Man, the main thesis of which is summed up in this quote: “When all that says ‘it is good’ has been debunked, what says ‘I want’ remains.” Michael Aeschliman unpacks this assertion as follows:
Without a doctrine of objective validity, only subjective, individual desire remains as a standard to determine action. In the hands of an empowered elite, the capacity to reorder society with the techniques of a vastly powerful and unchecked science is virtually limitless and, of course, open to monstrous misuses.
A Response to David Coffin Concerning Overtures 23 and 37—Part OneBy Tom Hervey — 1 year ago
One, it is not merely a local problem, for the church is one and what happens or is tolerated in one section soon infects the others. This statement is essentially a denial of Scripture’s teaching that the church is a lump leavened by the barest amount of leaven (1 Cor. 5:6-7; Gal. 5:9). It takes – as with C.A. Briggs in the PCUSA or Robertson Smith in the Free Church of Scotland – but one bad professor or minister in one seminary or presbytery to implicate the whole church in a sinful tolerance of evil, which, once tolerated, comes to infect the whole church. The church has, as such, a duty to not tolerate bad doctrine and practice, with any failure bringing the censure of her Lord (Rev. 2:14-16, 20-23).
By Faith, the official online magazine of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), recently published a two part series of articles concerning the proposed Overtures 23 and 37, which would seek to modify the PCA’s Book of Church Order (BCO) to forbid from office, amongst others, those that proclaim a homosexual identity. The article urging the rejection of the overtures was written by David Coffin, a member of the PCA’s Standing Judicial Commission.
In his introduction Coffin says that “a book of church order is not designed to settle all the questions or controversies that may come up in the life of the church.” This is true, but it misses the point. We have before us a controversy regarding the essential nature of office and of who is to be allowed to hold it, i.e., a constitutional question. As the BCO is our constitution it is both appropriate and reasonable to seek to amend it accordingly to bring about a satisfactory resolution to the present constitutional controversy. He says further that “changes in our organic law should only be proposed and adopted when our regular order is shown to be deficient or has failed in some way.” The present order has failed, clearly: current law has not kept proud sinners out of office and has rather taken their side. He continues with a little theoretical reflection, praising “stability of law” as an essential item that “should not be disturbed except under necessity.” Again, this is agreed, and again he misses the point. We are under great necessity at present. Also, effectiveness of law is essential in any good government, for a weak government that cannot (or will not) enforce its own laws is doomed for displacement by one that will, even if it be only the hard rule of utter chaos.
Coffin titles his first section “The Overtures Lack Mature Consideration,” in which we see his first broad reason for opposing them. Lay aside the somewhat uncharitable intimation that they were then the result of immature consideration and note what he says in his first sentence here: “Our General Assembly’s care for our Constitutional order, with the consent of the presbyteries, should not be used to satisfy the demands of social media.” What about the demands of justice and of fidelity to our Lord and his word? This is not merely a matter of people using contemporary platforms to espouse their opinions: those opinions, however expressed, are well-grounded in an understanding of our present case and of our sin and danger in allowing office to those that ought not to hold it. He goes on with a little more waxing eloquent as to our theory of polity and says that what he calls “mature consideration” “cannot come at first glance, or in the urgency created by allegations stirring popular fears.” I confess I do not know what he means. First glance? This thing has been going on for years now, the first Revoice conference having been in 2018. As for urgency being bad, what, one wonders, does the he make of something like this?
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. (1 Cor. 5:1-5, ESV)
That is an example of excommunication conducted in absentia via letter, without any proceedings, and without appeal. We are not apostles, granted, but is it too much to say that the principle of decisive urgency Paul embodies – and the Corinthian church with him, it being the immediate agent of excommunication – is one we ought to emulate rather than one we should casually deprecate as “immature?”
TE Coffin continues by saying that “to attempt to remedy what is in the first instance a local problem, by a Constitutional change, is a violation” of that mature order he so values. There is much misunderstanding of the situation here. One, it is not merely a local problem, for the church is one and what happens or is tolerated in one section soon infects the others. This statement is essentially a denial of Scripture’s teaching that the church is a lump leavened by the barest amount of leaven (1 Cor. 5:6-7; Gal. 5:9). It takes – as with C.A. Briggs in the PCUSA or Robertson Smith in the Free Church of Scotland – but one bad professor or minister in one seminary or presbytery to implicate the whole church in a sinful tolerance of evil, which, once tolerated, comes to infect the whole church. The church has, as such, a duty to not tolerate bad doctrine and practice, with any failure bringing the censure of her Lord (Rev. 2:14-16, 20-23).
Two, this is, again, a constitutional question affecting the practice of ordination/investiture of office of the whole denomination. Three, it is no violation of Presbyterian polity to adopt constitutional measures to defend against an offense as heinous as the desecration of office by allowing it to be held by those who have no business there. Our polity and constitution are meant to defend against the church becoming corrupt. We are Protestants, after all, and our church has come into being because of the corruption of the medieval church wherewith our ancestors were associated. Four, Coffin’s objection makes the processes more important than the end for which such processes are constituted. Coffin would have us value order –or better: the laborious, tedious inefficiency that he calls careful and mature order – above the end of holiness and fidelity to Christ for which our system of government has been erected.
In his next sentence he says that such a suggested change as the dual adoption of Overtures 23 and 37 “subjects our government to frequent change driven, not by necessity, but by ephemeral concerns of parties in the church.” It is doubtful that this issue is going away any time soon. Cultural acceptance of sexual sin will not change soon, and perhaps not for many generations (if ever before Christ’s return). In addition, if it be ephemeral it will only be because we will move on to the question of allowing the next sin. The momentum of increasing infidelity is not ceased by compromising with it or waving our hands and sneering, “Oh, but that is just how one party in the church feels. They’ll be over that sentiment soon enough.” Today the controversy is about celibate but attracted; who can doubt but that tomorrow it will be about the question of actively practicing individuals who desire office?
Farther along he says that “the proposals now before the presbyteries could not have been subject to serious reflection and careful deliberation in the Assembly.” A light rejoinder: could anything be as vigorously deliberated as it ought when we tried to do the whole denomination’s business in about 3 days, and that after we had canceled the previous General Assembly? This is not an objection to the measures, but to our present form and practice of General Assemblies.
He continues with this argument, saying that the overtures “were taken up by the Assembly after a very long day of deliberation and debate, late in the evening, with weary commissioners showing increasing signs of impatience with prolonged consideration” and thus he believes “the Assembly was clearly not at its best in the actions taken.” This objection is weak. When lawfully convened the actions of the General Assembly are themselves lawful and authoritative, regardless of the time of day they were decided or the physical and emotional state of the messengers. A meeting is to be assumed competent unless clearly proved otherwise. Coffin continues on this line, however, and says that “the actions on the Overtures appear to put the Assembly at odds with itself in its declaration that the Report of the Ad Interim Committee on Human Sexuality is biblically faithful.” This too is a rather weak objection. For a legislative body to be at odds with itself is unsurprising and it proves, not that the first act was right and the second wrong, but only that legislating and administering the affairs of a large denomination is hard for weak men wracked by the noetic effects of sin.
In his next statement the TE Coffin says, “It is instructive to note that the Ad Interim Committee could have recommended BCO changes, if any were deemed warranted.” Yes and the Assembly could have either accepted or ignored such recommendations, or, as has actually been the case now, taken action on its own without regard to the committee. Coffin seems to forget that the higher body constitutes the lesser, and that in constituting a committee an Assembly lays aside none of its rights and can do as it will with the committee and its recommendations and reports. When he then continues to say that the AIC “judged the BCO to be adequate with respect to the matters under consideration,” we can safely rejoin that the whole Assembly judged otherwise, as was its right.
Coffin further opines that “this attempt to amend the BCO is futile with respect to the controversies now troubling the PCA.” This will only be so if a) the measures do not pass; and b) future courts fail to apply the overtures rigorously and faithfully when they are adopted as part of the BCO. Coffin elaborates by saying that “it is unlikely anything in these amendments, had they been in the BCO before 2018, would have changed the ruling of the SJC in 2020-12 Speck v. Missouri.”
This is a deeply concerning statement. Suppose, as is eminently probable, that the overtures pass and charges are brought against an elder to divest him of office because he boasts of his celibate homosexual identity. Now one of the presbyters sitting to hear the case has read this article, as is also probable, and as he deliberates in his own mind he remembers this statement that the overtures are not likely to change the SJC’s opinion on such matters. So rather than vote in a way (guilty) that he thinks will lead to the accused elder appealing to the SJC, he alters his vote accordingly to put the matter to rest and save what seems to be needless hassle. In such a case what Coffin will have done by publishing this article is to have poisoned the well. He is guiltless of harm so long as his position wins out. But if it does not he may well be guilty of swaying the minds of others in how they vote in future matters related to the overtures and their application.
If we move from such hypothetical (but credible) scenarios to a more general consideration of his work, it strikes an observer as odd that someone who will probably have to judge cases arising because of the adoption of these overtures would be chosen to present the case against adopting them. A further consideration of this element of Coffin’s article will be considered in the next article in this series.
Tom Hervey is a member of Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Simpsonville, SC. The opinions expressed here are his own and do not necessarily represent those of the leadership or members of Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church.