Thinking Out Loud

March 11, 2017

New Zondervan Childrens’ Bible May Undermine Faith

If I could spend five minutes in the board rooms of some of the publishers in the Christian book industry, my message would be, “Anticipate your critics.” Why release products that simply feed those who think their agenda is to actually undermine the Christian faith?

A few months ago I had a visit from someone far more trained in apologetics than I. We got talking about the various things published about Noah’s Ark and how few of them would be considered theologically accurate, either in terms of the text or the illustrations. 

He also said that we have to really avoid the temptation to talk about Bible stories. In a child’s mind, a story may or may not be real. Ditto the word tale. While it’s a bit above some kids’ pay grade, the term he liked is narrative. In other words, ‘Here’s how it happened…’

Any English speaker knows that “Once Upon a Time…” is simply code for “It didn’t really happen; but let’s pretend.” If you’re talking about the parables, then by all means. Jesus begins his parables with “A certain man…” which amounts to the same thing. But the parables are only a small percentage of the whole of scripture. “Once upon a time…” consigns the whole Bible to realm of fiction. It puts it on a par with fairy tales.

So that’s why this particular NIrV Bible, releasing this month from Zonderkidz, has me very, very concerned. Did they anticipate their critics? I don’t think so.


  1. Although all I know about this is what I just read, I wouldn’t be too quick to jump on them for this. Presenting Noah’s Ark as a story is probably more helpful in the long run. If you present it as “here is exactly how it happened” you will run into a whole lot of problems once kids are old enough to see all of the factual inconsistencies in the account in Genesis. Then they say “they lied to me about Noah and Jonah, so the whole thing must be a lie” or they double down and turn into Ken Ham. Kids learn differently than adults. Let them have stories while they are young because that is they way they process reality. I think the important part is that as they grow older we need to teach in age specific ways. We need to allow them to question things and be ready with honest answers as they become more aware of the nuances and intricacies of how a divine creator works to communicate through an ancient text.

    Comment by jeff — March 11, 2017 @ 8:46 am

    • The narratives teach us the ways of God, for sure. Noah’s Ark is a rather thorny example because of the differing opinions on it, even in evangelicalism.
      However, I want to clarify, the comment about “story” and “tale” was a subsequent conversation which was only partially connected. I used Noah by way of introduction but could have left it out.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — March 11, 2017 @ 10:22 am

      • I would have left this comment over at the “shack” post you sent up this morning but I completely understand why you closed comments on that one. Its all good though because it really relates to this post. Michael Spencer is saying a lot of things that I think are applicable to the way in which we approach Old Testament “stories”. It is this idea that the story can convey the message better than a textbook – even though it is not 100% factual or 100% theologian approved – because it hits us on the human experience level of our minds and souls. Sort of the way Jesus helps us relate to or understand God. We understand his story.

        Comment by jeff — March 12, 2017 @ 9:45 am

    • Quote: “Presenting Noah’s Ark as a story is probably more helpful in the long run. If you present it as “here is exactly how it happened” you will run into a whole lot of problems once kids are old enough to see all of the factual inconsistencies in the account in Genesis.”

      Oh, now which factual inconsistencies would those be sir? Like ‘How can God have created light on the first day when the Sun and moon were created on the fourth day?’ (Revelation 22:5 answers that nicely, if you ponder it through). C’mon man, it’s not THAT whack-a-doodleish, the accounts in book 1 of 66.

      Now while I am NOT a inerrancy-inclined bible believer, I do think Paul is in the right here to impugn the reasoning of Zondervan to ‘Tale’ us with the Bible.

      (Gotta say, it’s akin to that same inner war I have when I think of parents telling their kids about Santa Clause. One day he’s real, responsible for the miraculous and then the next day, after a ‘wee talk’ the kids find out it’s really family doing all the goodie-giving, not some magic-man. Part of me says it’s cute and endearing, the other part of me says, ‘What a perfectly satanic set-up for non-belief in the supernatural’.)

      The bible is mysterious, but it is historical. Not EVERY single element is necessarily unquestionable, but we don’t throw babies out with the bathwater. The OVER-ARCHING message of the bible is IN ITS STORY-LINES and we, as Christians, would like to assert that most of the stories are based on factual events – something history and continuing archaeological discoveries are proving, thank God (and the hard-working men and women in the field).

      You may be riding that slippery, Santa-y slope, my friend, in my never-as-humble-as-I’d-like-to-think-I-am opinion. God bless your discerning skill-set. (Glad I don’t have kids, can I just say? Don’t envy any parent these days trying to bring up their youngins in this post-truth society!!)

      Comment by Flagrant Regard — March 15, 2017 @ 1:29 pm

  2. I hadn’t heard of this edition of the NIrV yet. I fully agree with you. I’m very careful to identify the accounts in the Bible as history rather than stories. I feel that poor portrayals of the Biblical accounts may lead to doubt later in life. An undersized, overstuffed boat may believable to a child for a little while, but why not wow them with the true dimensions of the ark? Some of the illustrations in children’s Bibles make it seem that they are poorly researched or relying on popular belief. It is possible to make child-friendly illustrations that are Biblically accurate, and I wish more publishers did it.

    Comment by Tina Clark — March 13, 2017 @ 9:48 pm

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