On Teaching My Son About Genesis

It is time.

I knew this day would come but I have been putting it off for about a year now. It is time to start teaching my children what the Byas family believes about God. But how do you teach your children about God when you have divorced the God of your youth and are in a very new, yet vibrant, if at times erratic and unpredictable, relationship with a newly found love?

Like a man with an embarrassing case of  Stockholm Syndrome, when it comes to teaching my children about God I sometimes want to return to the safety and comfort of the God of my youth. I want to revert to simple systems, simple answers to simple questions, a God of a black-and-white world where it’s easy to tell who is in and who is out, where guilt will guide you, and gray simply does not, cannot, exist.

But there are subtle hints in my memory that perhaps I am waxing too nostalgic. He loved us so much that he sent Jesus to be our friend but he would get angry at us if we misbehaved or said four-letter words. I remember that he was a very old white European Jewish man but he was also, at the same time, a very young white European Jewish man named Jesus. He created the heavens and the earth…and the dinosaurs? He gave us a rainbow but he killed the entire human race to do it. There are many reasons why this God was confusing to me but a lot of it reflected the confusion I had about the Bible. What was it and how did it relate to my life as an 8 year old?

Did “believing in the Bible” mean that I would have to dress up as Joseph/Moses/James/Paul/Jesus (all biblical costumes look the same so you can just wear the same thing each year and just change your name) each year for Halloween the Fall Festival?

Did it mean I would never get to watch Disney movies because they supported “godless gays”?

Did it mean that I could never enjoy dinosaurs or watch Jurassic Park?

Did it mean that I had to get stoned for disobeying my parents? Oh, no? But I do have to honor my parents? But why that verse and not that…Questions like that show that you don’t “believe in the Bible.” Really? Sorry, I didn’t know.

No. I simply cannot teach my kids about such a God. But I have learned that if I do not, then I cannot teach them about such a Bible.

And so I begin the humbling journey of teaching my children about a book that tells us the most true story we will ever hear…because it tells about a God who has shown up in a nobody Jewish man named Jesus who calls us to the uncomfortable lives of building for his kingdom, always with enough information to give us hope,  but never with enough to give us certainty.

13 responses to “On Teaching My Son About Genesis

  1. They’re going to love your kids in Sunday School! 🙂

    Somehow I suspect the average teacher there will not be familiar with the Epic of Gilgamesh.

  2. Jared ~

    Thank you, thank you for this! It brought tears to my eyes. Wish we had time to discuss this over coffee. I have more to ask, but no time to ask it now. If you knew how much this hit home for me, you might be surprised. Take care and send my love to Sarah and the kids.

    • I am honored that it “hit home” for you. I will certainly pass on the love. Thank you for letting me look into your life that past few years. Thank you for your courage.

  3. Are you familiar with Pete Enns’ cirriculum for teaching children about the Bible? It’s definitely a step in the right direction! There is a guide book and the first year of material out already, the second year is coming soon I think. http://www.amazon.com/Telling-Gods-Story-Parents-Teaching/dp/1933339462/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1319605007&sr=8-1

    I saw this the other day and thought it look interesting too – it’s a christocentric children’s Bible! Still have some issues with it but it’s the best idea I’ve seen in awhile… http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Storybook-Bible-Every-Whispers/dp/0310708257/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1319605124&sr=1-1

    • Hey Jen – I am! Pete & I are actually friends (he was my professor in seminary) so my wife and I have bought all of it so far. I also highly recommend the Jesus Storybook Bible. I think some of it is “hokey” but by far the best children’s Bible I’ve seen around. Thanks Jen! I would love to hear more of your thoughts on teaching the Bible to your kids.

  4. Pingback: Peter Enns on Teaching Kids the Gospel | Jared Byas

  5. i’m with ya on this one, Jared! i have a 6 year-old, 5 year-old, and 6 month-old. yesterday my middle son asked me why they didn’t celebrate Christmas in the OT, and i explained that Jesus hadn’t been born yet. my insightful boy looked at me quizzically and said, “but he created the heavens and the earth. how come he wasn’t around with King David?” ok, yeah, let’s bring the pre-incarnate Christ down to the preschool level!

    i’m with you on the commitment to not back down and give the pat answers, but to try to begin building a nuanced view of the Bible (as you and Peter Enns said in your interview post). if nothing else, it makes a father a better student of the Bible!

    on the rainbow comment, see Tim Hawkins – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVxRddVYYig

  6. (1) Tim Hawkins is hilarious – good call!
    (2) Your kid is way too bright – theologian in training already, wow!
    (3) Good for you on the nuanced view thing. I don’t think people gives kids enough credit for the amount they are able to understand and how much they subtly pick-up through bad “pat answers” and typical Sunday School rhetoric.

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