I’ve been focusing my study in the past few months on Biblical Theology (as opposed to Systematic Theology) also known as the “Redemptive-Historical approach” to theology. Part of doing this has been challenging myself (and my ever-patient wife) to be able to summarize the entirety of the bible and its main redemptive-historical themes in under 5 minutes.
I stumbled across this YouTube video of Davis, a nine-year old boy recapping the entirety of the bible (entirely from memory!) in front of his church after participating in their 2010 read-the-bible-in-a-year church program.
Wow. How many 19, 29, 39, 49, 59, or 69 year olds do you know that could do that? I wager most of us could count them on one hand.
A few thoughts related to this video:
1. Let’s not forget that children are made in the image of the eternal and infinite God.
Today when nearly everything marketed towards children has bright colors, simple safely-rounded shapes, giant letters, simplistic repetitive catch-phrases, and/or loud “funny” sounds it is easy to forget that children are made in the very image of the thinking, teaching, all-comprehending God.
We underestimate children’s capacity for memorization (many of us even discount the very value of memorization) and also for their capacity for comprehension.
This little boy’s succinct, yet detailed recapping of the bible and his demonstration of his grasp of the over-arching narrative flow really crystallizes what is at stake in condescending to our children in regards to our teaching of the bible.
2. Let’s not forget that the Bible is a single story.
The bible is often implicitly taught to children (and adults) as if it were a loose collection of independent, encapsulated moral episodes featuring various exemplary characters who exist for our emulation.
Even the way the stories are titled betrays this thinking:
“Noah’s ark and the flood”
“David and Goliath”
“Jonah and the Whale”
“Joseph and his coat of many colors”
“Moses and the parting of the Red Sea”
“The Tower of Babel”
The bible is often presented as a series of stories about ancient people and their deeds rather than one continuous story about one character and His deeds: God.
Little Davis obviously grasps that.
3. Let’s not forget that the Gospel is for everyone.
There are hard truths in the bible. Oftentimes we try to shield our children from those hard truths by either skipping them entirely or by focusing on the upbeat aspects of bible stories. Another way we do this is by making the source of unpleasantness (sin) generic “wicked people” and the target of the consequences (God’s righteous divine wrath) the same generic “wicked people.” We implicitly reinforce the instinctive attitude in our children to think that the problems of the world come from other people and not themselves.
My wife and I recently were browsing on the Desiring God children’s ministry website (ChildrenDesiringGod.org) where we were surprised then impressed to read this opening line on a teacher’s curriculum for kindergarten children.
“You are a helpless sinner who deserves to die!” Too often we have tried to shield children from this important truth. When we hear those words, we often worry about hurting a child’s self-esteem. Why not wait until children are older and can accept hard realities better? The reality is that children are helpless sinners who deserve God’s wrath just like all of us. That is their biggest problem. Children need to hear the truth so they, like us, can turn to the remedy – Jesus the Savior!
Jesus, What a Savior!
Davis recounts and explains the meaning of some of the hard truths he’s encountered in the bible. He displays familiarity with the depth of depravity capable by man (having read the entirety of the bible can do that!) and even at nine realizes that God’s love and justice, His mercy and His wrath are not incompatible or incomprehensible and that to emphasize one against the other is to make a caricature of God.
Bravo for this young man. I, for one, am humbled and encouraged by his example.
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
1 Timothy 4:12