Thursday Thoughts on February 8th, 2018 – The Unfortunate Sacrifice of Sound Theology and Doctrine In Return For a Good Children’s Book
In his book Spiritual Parenting, Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, wrote this in regard to ministering to children:
“You are not sowing, as some say, on virgin soil, for it has long been occupied by the devil. But you are sowing on a soil more fertile now than it ever will be again-soil that will produce rust now far better than it will do in later days. You are sowing on a young heart, and what you sow will be pretty sure to abide there, especially if you teach evil, for that will never be forgotten. You are beginning with the child. Take care of what you do with him.”
There is much that we can do to prepare our children for life, and one that is, I think, too oft overlooked is the spiritual preparation. So much time is spent on school, social events, reading, walking, and all those normal (and perfectly fine) milestones that children reach in their lives. Far too many Christian families fail to realize that they are neglecting one of the most important preparations they can make with their children: Spiritual Parenting.
No, this is not a review of Spurgeon’s book with that title, however, it is a great read and I think every Christian parent should own and read it! This is a broad-stroke critical review of the vast majority of Christian literature that is geared toward younger children.
I have a passion for working with children, young and old, and currently, I am what is called a “house parent”. Basically, my job is to help provide structure and stability in the guise of a familial environment to the 10-12 young children that live with my and my family at a private boarding school just outside of a major Midwest City. On top of that, I have four children of my own, ranging from 17 months to 9 years of age. Children’s books are a big deal to our family. And, on the side, I get to review books for a few Christian publishers, and I sometimes get to review children’s books (my wife loves it because, well, it gets us more books for the kids, not just for me!). And there is something that greatly perplexes me, and that is this: The unfortunate sacrifice of sound theology and doctrine in return for a good children’s book.
It pains me to read a children’s book that is touted to teach this or that with so much Scripture, and the reality pales in comparison to the description. And it fails in comparison to Scriptures. All too often do I see poor definitions of words, wonky theology, and, the most common err, a total lack or disregard of Scripture. There is one recent children’s book I reviewed that says, amongst other things, children will, “learn to connect them with short Scriptures.” Now, on paper, in a description on a product page, that sounds promising and great! I read that description and jumped on the chance. This book is a padded board book. Perfect for my family! When I got it, however, my wife all but refused to use it with our children. Why? Almost no Scripture. There is one, yes, one and only one Scripture in it, on the last page. We were expecting a Scripture per word, but were mistaken. For God’s Word, His Gospel, is His power unto Salvation (Romans 1:16), so, why not have more? The nineteen words that the book covers won’t save a child, or anyone. But God does through HIs revelation through Scripture.
In other children’s works that I have read over the years, the next biggest problem is bad theology/doctrine. Too many children’s books focus so much on God loving you and wanting the best for you. That’s great…if the kids are professing believers. Children are wretched sinners destined for Hell without the Gospel. From personal experience in working with my children, many foster children, and the children we serve now as house parents, I can tell you with great confidence that children learn right from wrong way earlier than we ever give them credit for. Children are much more intelligent and capable of learning and a much younger age than we think they are. I’ve seen it face-to-face numerous times. Though the years, especially with my children, I have seen toddlers sneak to get things, only to turn back when I or my wife caught them in the act. Or even drop an item and run when caught red-handed. And don’t get me started on how ornery my children can be! Because of that alone, I have called my parents multiple times over the years and apologized to them, seeking forgiveness, on how I know I acted as a kid.
What we need are more children’s books that deal with not just God’s love, but His justice as well. Not just that God wants to take care of His people, but what must come before they are one of His people. Topics such as sin and repentance, Heaven and Hell, must be taught to our children and we must be the primary teachers of this. Some two years ago, when my oldest two were 7 and 5 (they are 9 and 7 now), we were driving home from shopping at a local outdoor shopping mall (We lived in Florida at the time), and my 7-year-old daughter told her little brother that if he dies not a Christian, he is going to spend eternity suffering in torment in Hell. I don’t remember the exact wording of her sentence, but it had Hell, eternity, and suffering in it for sure. And my son completely understood what she was talking about. Never-mind the fact that I had never directly approached the subject with either of them so frankly before, but she picked it up somewhere in church, and relayed it clearly to her brother as she shared the gospel with him in the car that day. I had a hard time not crying as I drove home.
As for children’s books, there are plenty of wonderful, God-glorifying Biblically sound children’s book on the market. Some of my favorites are those penned by the late R. C. Sproul of Ligonier Ministries, which can be found here. I have a couple of them, and they are wonderful books. And I am sure that there are many more out there, such as The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible, which you can read about here. Parents need to be well informed, using the wisdom and discernment that God gives us in all areas of our lives, especially with our children.
In the end, we need authors to pen children’s books that don’t just entertain the mind but challenge the soul into hearing, comprehending, and Lord willing responding to the Gospel. We need children’s book that don’t just define love and Jesus, sin and repentance, but that also warn of the state of our eternal souls: Heaven and Hell. We also need to understand the face that children are much more intelligent and understanding than we realize. They hear more than we think they hear, and they understand more than we think they are capable of. To coddle our children is to invite folly not into our lives, but into theirs, causing them to have false senses of security or beliefs that are completely wrong. We owe our Children nothing less than the Truth, and that Truth is the Word of God, unadulterated and whole, the full counsel of the Living God (2 Timothy 3:16-17; John 1:1-2, 14).
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV)