Flannel Board Theology

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Over the last few years I’ve increasingly become concerned about the trend in which kids raised in Christian homes grow up, go away to college and lose their faith. This is probably because I have four kids, one of which will head off to college next year.

I believe that for American Christians, much of the reason for this is the way we treat and read biblical texts. It’s certainly not the only reason, but I think it plays a large role. For some kids that is the cause.

I am in no way questioning the validity of Scripture, nevertheless, what I’m about to say might concern some of you, and some will flat reject it. But at least give it some thought, prayer and study before you do so.

For those of us raised in the church, I wonder how much of our theology has never moved beyond what was formed at the feet of a Sunday school teacher with a flannel board.

You know, stories about Noah’s ark, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Adam and Eve, creation, all brought to life through pieces of felt shaped like people and animals.

Don’t get me wrong. A lot of good is taught that way and some concepts are hard to teach to children, so we just do the best we can. Many a Sunday school teacher has been the hands and feet of Jesus to kids who may not otherwise experience Him.

But sometimes we have missed the point. Just take Noah’s Ark for example. We’ve turned something that would have been horrible to experience, into a cute nursery theme. Yes, we see covenant and promise in the Biblical account, but we also see terrible judgment. Now we’re left with cute animals going two by two.

Anyway…

The specific text I want to focus on as an example is the account of the beginning found in Genesis. My concern is that we only understand it in a one dimensional way, much like the flat felt characters we use to tell the story.

Here’s the thing: Genesis isn’t a science text. It isn’t meant to tell in a step by step literal way, how God made stuff. That’s not the point.

It’s a theological text which tells us that God created all things, that what He made was good, that sin entered by man’s choice and as a result we must contend with the fallen nature of a world that isn’t currently functioning according to its created function and blueprint.

I’m not a theologian so I might have just hacked it up in trying to summarize it. Others can go really deep and do it justice.

My main point is to say that to read Genesis and become dogmatic or arrogant about the timeline and methods of creation is to miss the forest for the trees and set our kids up for confusion and struggle.

Very often it appears that science opposes Scripture, so our kids arrive in high school or college classrooms with dogmatic views that science and philosophy teachers sometimes love to rip apart. I would suggest that it’s primarily our interpretation of Scripture (which is uniquely American) that is in opposition, not the actual substance of Scripture.

This need not be. I personally don’t believe in the evolutionary process, as it is commonly taught. I would have no problem believing God could create the earth in six days. However, I also don’t have to believe that all things were created in a literal six days. The bible is full of numerical symbolism. It’s full of symbols and metaphors, in general.

Take Jesus, for example. Most of His teaching was done through parables. Stories. Fictional characters, fictional scenarios, but they taught spiritual truth. Nobody had an issue with this, nobody took literally that there was a prodigal son, a father an a self-centered older brother. But the truth He taught was literal.

The ancients understood this. It’s our enlightened, western thinking that gets in our way.

The bottom line, for me, is that all things exist by, and are held together by, God.

Back to evolution – just look at the human body. There is no way this miracle evolved unguided from the outside. There are so many processes going on all the time, that it is impossible for me to believe it’s accidental.

I don’t subscribe to the notion that the universe is one big happy Bob Ross accident. It’s not mistake. It’s a happy universe!

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But I also don’t hold fast to the idea that I know exactly what happened and when. That is beside the point. There is a good deal of arrogance among both the science community and avid six-day creationists alike.

I think we need to be comfortable with the mystery. I believe God is the creator and sustainer of life. No evolutionary thought or scientific discovery can shake that.

I believe we need to teach our kids how to think, as much as what to think. They need to see the big picture, so that they aren’t shaken by some angry professor and his beliefs about how the universe was formed.

Faith and science can cohabitate. There are many wonderful Christians who are also scientists. Modern science was born of Christianity and the desire to discover what God has made.

Oh, and regarding the Big Bang Theory. Stop arguing about that. Don’t you think if God spoke the universe into existence out of nothing, that would be a pretty big bang?

Just saying.

*Thoughts and opinions expressed on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of my family or friends šŸ™‚

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