Sunday, November 17, 2013

Book Club: Telling God's Story

I'm part of a group reading through the book Telling God's Story (by Peter Enns), in effort to gain some insight around how to teach our kids about our faith in a way that (we hope) avoids some of the misconceptions we grew up with.  If you are interested in following along, you can find the group Facebook page here, and you can find links to some of the other members' thoughts here.  I didn't write anything about chapter one, but I finished chapter two this weekend, and below are my thoughts. 

Recently Luke was filling out an activity-book survey.  He asked each of us if we believe in ghosts, then tallied our answers: I don't. Ryan and Luke aren't sure. Owen does. He looked at the page for a few minutes, before saying that the dog probably believes in ghosts, so his mark would be with Owen. Owen responded, "And if he does, then mom loses! Two, against two, against one."

I know it was an innocent comment, but I still questioned his statement that just because more people think something, that makes it right. We discussed it and agreed that the only way I would really "lose" in that scenario is if we had a way to prove that ghosts exist. And if we could prove that, then yes, I would lose because I would be wrong. Conversely, if we could prove ghosts do not exist, but then he and the dog would "lose," and I would "win," even though a larger group thought the wrong thing.

And don't many of us often make that type of mistake, thinking we must be right when more people agree with us? We look around at the people we interact with and when we discover areas where we agree, we feel like we win, and we feel like those who disagree with us lose.

Even though, realistically, we know that being in the majority doesn't automatically make a person right.

When I was growing up in the midst of Conservative, Evangelical, Homeschooling families, I saw this "majority is right" thinking often. Whatever was the new darling book or speaker or conference or curriculum, seemed to work its way through most of the families -- the families who were "right."  And while some of those things may have been right for some of those people, I now think that some of those things were wrong, or at least wrong for some of us.

This probably contributes to why I am so very skeptical of bandwagons.

So when I found myself rather enthusiastically agreeing to join a book study on teaching the Bible to one's children, I started questioning myself. Even when the book arrived and I started reading the introduction, I couldn't quite shake the anxious feeling that I was treading a little too close to that line of joining in with other like-minded people and jumping on a bandwagon.  And despite that I appreciated the first chapter, I still had my doubts -- not specifically because of the content, but because I was concerned about following a majority of people I respect and setting aside any reservations I had about doing so.

Then I got to the second chapter and read this:
The Bible is not a book on how to invest your money, which political party to join, whether to homeschool, where to go to college, whom to marry, where to live, whether you should buy that car, America as God's chosen people, or a blueprint for present-day world events. It is not, in other words, a "Christian owner's manual." Too many Christians assume that the Bible is the guidebook to address all of life's questions. But that is not what the Bible is designed to do.... 
In this light, I want to introduce what I think is the single most important biblical concept for living a Christian life, not only today, but during any era: wisdom.
When we get down to it, much of our lives as Christians requires us... to "wing it." I don't mean that the Christian life is haphazard with no guidance. I mean that many of the decisions we are called to upon to make every day we make, not because of a verse here or there, but because of the wisdom we have accumulated over the years. That wisdom is acquired through the study of Scripture, prayer, life in a Christian community (not just "going to church"), and plain old life experiences...
And there it is. Wisdom. That is what I want my kids to see in the Bible, to see in Jesus, to see in my faith, and learn for their own lives. Peter Enns is not advocating in this book a blanket set of moral codes or a checklist of behaviors. He even acknowledges that what wisdom might allow for one child or family, it may not for another.

This is so refreshing.

Enns is not asking me to jump on a bandwagon, but rather to use the means available to me to do the reading, research, living, asking, observing, and praying necessary to understand my faith, and then to apply all of those in my interactions with my children as I strive to share God's story with them.  This doesn't mean that I will simply go along with whatever I hear from a popular speaker or automatically go wherever the majority is headed.

I must use wisdom to determine what to do for my own life, majority or not, and I must use wisdom to teach my kids wisdom and discernment for their own lives.

I'm still overwhelmed at the thought of being primarily responsible for teaching my children about God and the Bible.  I still have so many questions and I still ask myself all the time if I'm getting things wrong.  Most of this stuff cannot be proven, only lived and experienced for ourselves, so there are no clear winners or losers when it comes to all the ways Christians can disagree over the Bible.

In light of this, I'm thankful for this book and this group and I'm looking forward to what other insights I can glean from it in the coming chapters and from the others who are reading them.  We may not entirely agree, but we are seeking to gain and share wisdom.

That's really the best any of us can do.

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