googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: What Does Noah Have in Common with Barney?

Monday, May 19, 2014

What Does Noah Have in Common with Barney?

My daughter loved watching Barney the Dinosaur while she was growing up. I mean, she really loved it. She would dance, sing the songs, and be memorized the entire ½ hour the show was on. My wife and I didn't mind so much because barney was a decent show. It taught lessons like sharing, playing nice together, picking up after yourself, and other things kids need to learn. I guess a lot of parents felt the same way because Barney, at least at that time, was enormously popular.

So what does any of this have to do with Noah? I'll tell you. Have you ever been in a kids' Sunday school class where they told Bible stories about Noah, or Daniel, or David? They sometimes color pages with little cartoons of Bible characters. They sing songs and play Bible themed games. They hear life lessons about being nice to other people, obeying your parents, and worshiping God. These are all things that Christians parents should want their kids to learn. It's a lot like watching Barney.

My daughter is 21 now and doesn't watch Barney anymore.

I think Churches sometimes do a disservice to kids by teaching them from the Bible like it's a fairy tale. They might not say it's a fairy tale, but they teach it with the same trappings and trimmings as kids see on Barney. It has the music, the games, and it always seems to end with “a moral to the story.” In their little minds, I'm not really sure how kids can be expected to distinguish between Bible stories taught in this manner and other fairy tales like Barney, Mother Goose, or Aesop's Fables.

When these same kids start school, what might happen? Ask yourself this question: If I wanted to learn about science or dinosaurs or the universe, where might I look? Really. Think about it for a second. Name some places where you might learn about science. Next ask, If I wanted to learn about morality or religion where might I look? The answers seem obvious. Like it or not, if people want to learn about science or “facts,” the first places they think to look are schools or text books and if people want to learn about religion, only then would they look to the Bible or the Church. People tend to only think of the Bible as a book about religion. If they want to learn about the “real world,” then you have to go to school or turn to science.

We are telling kids that schools are important and will teach them things they need to know about the world. We believe it ourselves. So when these kids go to school and hear that dinosaurs lived millions of years ago, there really was no Flood, and men used to be apes, I think they're apt to believe it. Worse yet, these things directly contradict the “stories” they heard in Sunday school. On Sunday, they sing songs like, Oh God said to Noah, 'There's gonna be a floody floody....' Then they go to school on Monday and hear that there really was no Flood. Which do you think they'll believe? The nursery rhyme or the “facts” they learned in school?

Simply telling children that we don't believe in evolution isn't enough. Imagine a group of kids going to a museum and seeing the fossils of dinosaurs, seeing stone tools used by “ape-men,” and reading that these things lived hundreds of thousands or even millions of years ago. To them, these are “facts.” This is “evidence.” They might ask their Sunday school teacher about evolution or if dinosaurs really lived millions of years ago. The Sunday school teach might answer, “Oh, we don't believe that.” A curious child might ask, “No? Then what do we believe?” The teacher answers, “We believe that, 'God said to Noah there's gonna be a floody floody....' You can see how that's not convincing.

Christ called us first to preach the gospel. He then commanded us to make disciples. Preaching the word is only have the job; we also must be teachers. When we teach the Bible to children, I think we should approach the task in much the same way that kids learn in school. We don't just talk about a man named Noah. Instead, we explain that he was a person who lived in history. When they find a fossil (probably of a shell), it's evidence that this place was once under water – just like the account of Noah tells us. Instead of showing cartoons of Noah's Ark with Noah standing on the deck of the Ark in a raincoat surrounded by a menagerie poking out of every window, we need to show them to scale drawings of what the Ark might have looked like. When they ask us about fossils of dinosaurs or Neanderthals, we need to show them how these things are explained by the Bible.

Making lessons interesting and understandable to kids is fine. But above all else, we need to be sure that they understand that the “stories” from the Bible are real events that happened in history. David, Daniel, and Noah were real people just like their moms and dads are real. We need to explain that Barney is just a character like Sponge Bob.

Kids grow up and they stop believing in Barney.  We don't want them to grow up and stop believing the Bible.  Noah is really nothing like Barney.


Human Ape said...

People like you should be locked up so you don't infect innocent children with your disgusting mental illness.

Steven J. said...

Now that your daughter no longer watches Barney, has she stopped believing in dinosaurs? I'm not sure that the connection between jazzing up a presentation with bright colors, annoying songs, and childish caricatures, and having it rejected as non-factual, is as strong as you fear (if it were, wouldn't Schoolhouse Rock have led more children to doubt the reality of American history and the U.S. Constitution?

Perhaps I was born too soon (I was in eighth grade when the first Schoolhouse Rock videos aired). No one taught me in school that Genesis was wrong, although I borrowed books from the Bookmobile that did say that, nearly in so many words. Meanwhile, in church, people did dispute evolution and insist on the facticity of Adam and Eve and Noah's Ark.

I spent several years in a weird state, believing in an ancient Earth and even (if my memories can be trusted) in evolution on weekdays and in young-earth creationism on Sundays or when religion came up. Then, early in my high school years, I realized the impossibility of both being true, and made an effort to limit myself to creationist reading. This had the unfortunate effect of showing that creationists didn't understand what evolutionists were proposing, and frequently didn't understand basic chemistry and physics (the 2nd law of thermodynamics does not mean that order cannot increase locally).

Anyway, the problem is that if students encounter two separate sets of claims about human origins and the age of the Earth, some of them are going to go with the side that can present evidence for its views. And they're probably going to be suspicious of the side that argues that, ultimately, evidence doesn't matter, or that the facts don't speak for themselves -- that would be the side that finds the evidence contradicting their views.

Providing pictures of the Ark that more closely match the proportions specified in Genesis isn't going to help much when students learn that genetic evidence shows, variously, that humans spread out from Africa, not the middle east, and that chimpanzees (supposedly represented by at most one breeding pair aboard the Ark) have more genetic variety than humans (supposedly represented by three breeding pairs).

RKBentley said...

Human Ape,

As long as there are people like you out there, there is always a chance that people like me will be locked up because of our beliefs someday.

Note to Carvin: are you reading this? This liberal thinks I should be locked up. Is this the liberal idea of protecting individual rights you were telling me about?

RKBentley said...

Steven J,

Nice to hear from you. I was afraid you had stopped visiting after my hiatus.

It's not so much the use of songs and gimmicks - it's that many churches fail to balance it with real education of the Bible. It's like my example of kids at a museum. When kids see "evidence" for evolution and only hear Bible stories about Noah, they will tend toward the "evidence" as they mature.

Your own story is a case in point. You're a bright guy. If you had been given thoughtful and direct answers to your questions, you might have a very differentiated opinion today. Many objections to creation have little substance. For example, I often hear there's no way Noah could have fit all those animals on the Ark. Most critics who say that cannot answer how big was the Ark and how many animals were there. How then can they say they wouldn't fit? The problem is, neither can many creationists answer these questions. So if all kids ever see are cartoon depictions of the Ark with animals poking out everywhere, that criticism sounds plausible.

Thanks for your comments. God bless!


Carvin said...

I think it's a weak pot shot. But I wouldn't conclude this person is a liberal.

That said, there is a legit concern that teaching quasi science to children detracts from their critical thinking and ability to understand the scientific method.

Anyway, I had coloring books as a child that mnetioned dinosaurs living millions of years ago. I also watched shows that were geared towards kids that said the same. I don't think the format is the problem.

Honestly, a literal interpretation of Noah's flood is quite a suspension of disbelief. Kids can look back at the silly looking Noah pictures and go 'oh, yeah, that's what they did for kids to understand it'. You give a kid a 'realistic' picture of it and not only will they be bored, they are going to look at it and think 'well... this whole thing seems silly'. It's that paradox where you should never testify at your own trial because everyone sounds guilty when they try to defend themselves.

In the end, you can't escape Noah being viewed like a myth because the story is written like a myth. Deific intervention when people are bad, hero set apart from the rest, massive impact through nature, narrative of origin, and purpose assigned to natural phenomenon (rainbows) and a covenant between man and (the) god(s).

RKBentley said...


Liberals are both funny and dangerous. I'm absolutely certain that Human Ape is a liberal because conservative evolutionists, like Steven J, don't go around wanting people locked up for their beliefs. Left unfettered, liberals would have Christians in concentration camps where they would be taught to be tolerant.

That said, kids are able to learn facts. I think too many churches leave the teaching of history to schools while the church of presents the Bible to kids like it's Mother Goose.

But I'm repeating the same points of my post. God bless!


Carvin said...

I dunno. The conservatives haven't been controlled and slowly every minority is being put in prison. Conservatives are far more dangerous because they are proving it as we speak. Our budget is out of control, the internet is being threatened with corporate control, the sick and dying are left to suffer, women are having their agency taken from them, upward mobility is dead, the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, corporations have almost complete control of our government functions. Most liberals honestly don't care that much about Christians. They aren't a threat, they're obnoxious and a nuisance. Marriage is threatened by Christians, yes, as is the study of science. But liberals also know that Christians will never hold back marriage forever and eventually Christians will no more oppose evolution than they support flat earth or geocentric orbit.

That said, I do believe some Christians are capable of hurting their children through their belief. There was a story recently of a couple who refused to seek a doctor for a treatable condition their child had, relying on prayer instead. Now, this is a bit dramatic. An inability to understand the methods, purpose and works of science is not the same as death, but it still harms a child.

Anyway, everyone presents everything to children like its mother goose. Just look at how they teach things like the first thanksgiving, addition and spelling. Always cartoony. If you want kids interested, aim it at them.