Moralism and other Dangers

I really wanted to write a post on why I am picky about Bible curricula, whether it is for church or home. But I am swamped at the moment with my regular first-order priorities. So, here are some quotes that are very instructive. If you are like me, when you see long quotes on a post your eyes tend to glaze over and you skim through them. But I think these are worth taking the time to read and reflect on. The first comes from the note at the end of Grandpa’s Box, a book we are reading through with our young/middle children. So far it is excellent. The author, Starr Meade, has also written Training Hearts, Teaching Minds, a book based on the Westminster Catechism. Grandpa’s Box is suggested for ages 9-12, though it is working well for some younger than that here. Because it follows a (spiritual) warfare theme, it will have a particular appeal to boys.

(Another book we’ve recently read that I can highly recommend is Discovering Jesus in Exodus, the companion to the excellent Discovering Jesus in Genesis book I profiled a while back. Both are by Susan Hunt and her son, Richie Hunt. Mrs. Hunt is a PCA pastor’s wife and author of several books for women. Her son is a PCA Children’s Pastor. These books are written for ages 4-8, though again, these ages can be stretched in both directions.)

OK – here are the quotes, explaining some of the dangers we should be looking for as we evaluate Bible storybooks, SS materials, or anything we use to teach our children God’s word, which is: living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb. 4:12)

“Bible storytellers usually take one of three approaches. After they tell the story, they may draw a moral from it, much like Aesop did with his fables. Or they may focus on the human “hero” of the story (or, in some cases, the “villain”), encouraging children to follow (or avoid) the example that character sets. Or the teller of Bible stories may just present the story as a fact of Bible history and go on to the next one. I believe that God had the same primary intention in giving us Bible stories as he had in giving us the rest of his Word – he intended to reveal himself to us.”

From Note to Parents in Grandpa’s Box. (Subtitled: Retelling the Story of Redemption)

“Moralism, a seemingly harmless practice, is actually a noxious gas to a child’s understanding of God and truth. A favorite example is the misuse of John 6:1-15, the story of Jesus feeding the 5000. In a storybook that I read to our teachers in training, the authors focus on the precious little boy who willingly “shares” his lunch of five loaves and two fish with Jesus, who in turn feeds everyone. The book ends with the admonition, “Jesus loves us to share with others.

“So is there a problem in this teaching? Isn’t sharing taught here? The answers are a resounding yes and an emphatic no! Yes, there is great harm when the truth of a text is manipulated to force a lesson on the minds of children. This practice lacks integrity. No, sharing is not taught in this passage.

“But a greater harm than forcing a moral on a text can occur. Children are directed by the author to focus on human actions rather than on the power of Christ. In the long run, a diet of this type of “bread” produces a student who defines himself by what he does rather than who he is. Thus this millstone hinders a true understanding of the gospel. Even those stories that rightfully point out the goodness of a biblical or other literary character should be balanced by acknowledging that character’s frailty and need for God.”

- Bobby Scott, in When Children Love to Learn (Edited by Elaine Cooper)


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