(aka, Famous Sunday School Mishaps)

I’ve mentioned before how I first got in trouble in a Sunday School class for adding bloating bodies to the flannelgraph of our lesson on Noah’s Ark.  It’s not a story I shared with my boys, as many of my antics, let’s just say I 1) didn’t want to give them any ideas and 2) want to have room to provide context and talk through to use my many, many failures as teachable moments.  Hadn’t gotten around to that one yet.

Apparently, the boys were going over the flood story in their Sunday School class this past Sunday.  They ended up drawing pictures depicting the story.  Both boys became enraptured with the phrase “drowned like stones”.  So they both ended up drawing dead bodies floating on top of the water.  And began to regale me with tales they found in the Bible.

This book is awesome!  As my youngest told me he found a scene where there was a beheading.

This book is awesome!  Did you know there were parts where folks were eating each other?  My oldest informed me.  (Yes, that’s a person on a spit in the lower right corner.)

Uh … yeah, this is going to come back to haunt me.  (I can already hear my wife saying “they’re your sons”—they always become MY sons after something like this—“so you handle it.”)

I was talking to a friend and he mentioned that he was disconcerted about how we sanitize and present the story of Noah and the flood as some cute tale of a guy saving some animals.  It’s rare that we confront the horror of what we have encountered.  Here it is, the God we say we worship and he’s wiped out nearly all of creation, saving essentially one family.  That’s a lot of men, women, and children now dead.  How do we reconcile that with the image of a loving Father who knows the numbers of the hairs on our heads and wants us to pursue a relationship with him in love and without fear?

Just like we forget that there are other aspects to God than just love.  We forget that God is also holy. And, like Aslan, the lion from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, we need the occasional reminder that there is a (righteous) fearful element to holiness. “Make sure you stay alert to these qualities of gentle kindness and ruthless severity that exist side by side in God” (Romans 11:22a, The Message version). This idea isn’t comfortable, but it’s good to wrestle with.  You may spend a lifetime of journeying wrestling with many parts of this awesome book which seem incongruous or contradictory.  But don’t let words like “inerrancy” keep you from loving people or pursuing knowing God.

After one VBS lesson (again, on the Flood), the boys came back with the idea that every time it rained, God was mad at someone.  We have to be balanced and careful with our depictions of God, especially if we act like we understand Him perfectly.  Eric Seibert in his book Disturbing Divine Behavior: Troubling Old Testament Images of God about the God depicted in the Bible:

1. The God who really is and the God who is sketched in the Bible, that is, the Textual God vs. the Actual God, must be distinguished. And here he is saying that the Bible’s depictions of God are from a human point of view and reflect Ancient Near Eastern views of God that are not modified.

2. The God of the Bible, he says, must be judged by God in Jesus or Jesus as God so that what conforms to Jesus is the Actual God and what doesn’t may be the Textual God.

3. And he argues that the Bible’s inspiration is “general” instead of “comprehensive.” He doesn’t care for accommodation theories and finds the traditional evangelical view of plenary inspiration too problematic so he concludes that inspiration is general instead of comprehensive.

All of which would be lost on an eight and nine year old.  So I’m left with yeah, the book is awesome.  Yeah, there’s a lot of cool stuff in it.  Some of it is descriptive, telling us what happened and what folks did; and not prescriptive, that we shouldn’t imitate everything that everyone does in it.  Words have meaning and power and stories often leave us with questions.  There are stories which disturb us and stories that uplift us.   There are things in there we like to pretend/wish weren’t in there and hope that no one notices.

Apparently not while the Broaddus clan is on the case.