Friday Parent Focus
Last Friday I spoke on dealing with the schools when they undermine the faith. There’s one more person involved that I didn’t mention: your child. What do you tell your child when teachers contradict Christianity?
Suppose your child were in a classroom where the teacher said the Bible is a book of fables. Suppose also the teacher retracted that statement, strictly on the grounds that it’s illegally discriminatory for him to say that in class. Your child would still wonder whether the Bible is a book of fables, wouldn’t she?
So far in this series I’ve dealt with relational aspects of dealing with your children and with schools. I trust you’ll keep that in the back of your mind and the forefront of your relationships. From this point on, though, I’m going to transition this series to the point of discussing specific questions.
Is the Bible a book of fables?
The Bible is a collection of books of varying genres, from poetry to wisdom literature, from laws to history and biography, from instruction on life to apocalyptic prophecy. There are some elements of fable in there: stories that are meant to serve as illustrations rather than as instruction in what really happened. But they are few.
What causes people to think the Bible is a book of fables, anyway? Its antiquity? Many documents from antiquity are considered reliable history. Lack of corroboration? The Bible is the most massively corroborated set of documents in all ancient history, through archaeology, other written sources, and the flow of history. Genre? Those who know literature know that the Bible doesn’t read like a fable; it reads like it’s intending to tell truth. Those who know ancient myths know that the Bible is not one of them.
There are some severe misconceptions out there, such as, “the Bible has been through so many versions and translations, you can’t know what it really started out to be.” This is simply false. We have so many early copies of the New Testament that scholars have no doubt at all about what it said, except in limited ways that make no difference to the meaning of the text, and which are footnoted in most good Bibles anyway.
Some people think the Bible is just one book among many; that there are lots and lots of conflicting books like it, and that they all contradict and undermine each other. Not so. The Bible is unique for placing its major claims squarely in history where they can be examined along with all other history. Take all the other religious books in the world and call them fables if you will; you still have to recognize that the Bible is very significantly different from them, in that it places its claims squarely in history. It’s not just philosophy or wisdom, it’s an historical account.
Frankly I think there are two things that drive most people’s conclusion that the Bible is a book of fables. The first is misinformation. Lots of people, teachers included, believe what they’ve been told without checking the facts. They’re stuck in the kinds of misconceptions I just mentioned.
And then there are those who jump to the “fable” conclusion because it’s a religious book that contains stories of miracles. Miracles are impossible, they think, therefore any book that tells about them must not be telling the truth. How do we know miracles are impossible? Because they never happen. How do we know they didn’t happen in the Bible as it claims? Because miracles are impossible, therefore any book that tells about them must not be telling the truth….
Parents, you could illustrate the circularity of this by handing your child a piece of paper that says “see other side,” on both sides.
To Respond in Class?
Chances are your child won’t have a chance to share any of this in class. I don’t recommend they try it unless they study it first, and study it deeply enough to hold their own in discussion with a teacher. Even then, that kind of debate probably wouldn’t be welcome, and students should respect that. It’s usually not their place to correct their teachers, and it’s very difficult to win.
There is a way, though, for students to help show that teachers’ claims about Christianity aren’t always based in fact. It just takes one simple question. I’ll share that next time.
Would you like to dig into this further? I’ve recommended Cold-Case Christianity more than once here, and this won’t be the last time I do. There’s more to be said than I can include in this blog post, and this book says it well.
Update: What about your student debating their teacher in class? Is that a good idea?