Heavy Theology for Light-Weight Kids, Part 3


This lesson, taken from Romans 5, uses modern terms to explain original sin.  This is an important concept which, unfortunately, is often omitted from children’s curricula.
We know that we are all sinners and that this is the reason Jesus came to die for us.  Remember that the wages, or payment, for sin is death.  But where did sin come from?  Romans says, “sin entered the world through one man.”  Does it seem fair that Adam’s sin makes us all sinners?  But that’s exactly what happened.  Think of sin as a genetic disease.  What are “genes”?  Our genes make us what we are.  We get them from our parents, and they tell our bodies what color our skin should be and what shape our eyes should be and what kind of hair we have, and how tall we should grow. They tell us what we will be good at and what we will not be so good at.  Did anyone ever tell you that you look like your mom or like your dad? People might even see your grandparents or aunts or uncles in you. All the good things that you like about yourself you inherited from your parents.  Also, all the bad things that you don’t like so much came from your parents!  I inherited allergies and a genetic condition called Celiac disease from my parents. There are many conditions and diseases you can inherit from your parents.  The most deadly genetic disease that everyone gets from their parents is SIN!
Think about it.  You inherited your genes from your parents, but those genes didn’t start with your parents, did they?  They inherited their genes from your grandparents.  Your grandparents inherited their genes from your great-grandparents.  You can trace all genetic material right back to Adam.  Even Eve got her genes from Adam, since she was made from Adam’s rib.  So the truth is, all the genes in your body came directly from Adam.  You could even say that you were there, inside Adam’s body, when he sinned in the Garden of Eden.  So was I, and so was everyone who has ever been born.  And that’s why we are all sinners.  Because we are all part of Adam.
That could sound pretty hopeless, couldn’t it?  You can’t change who you are, no matter how hard you try.  You could dye your hair a different color, but your hair would grow back out the color you were meant to have.  You could cover your blue eyes up with contact lenses that make them look brown, but underneath your eyes would still be blue.  You can refuse to sing, but if you have a beautiful voice it will still be beautiful whether you use it or not.  I can avoid eating the things that make me sick, but I can’t stop having Celiac disease.  And we can’t stop being sinners, no matter how hard we try to be good.
But Paul did not write this letter to the Romans to make them feel sad!  Here is what he says: “For if the many died by the sin of the one man, (Adam)  how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many.”  In other words, Adam’s sin brought death to the whole world, but Jesus’ death brought life to the whole world.  Here’s another thing Paul says: “Just as the result of one sin was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.  Just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of  the one man the many will be made righteous.”   Adam’s sin made us all sinners, but Jesus’ death paid for all the sins ever committed by anyone, from Adam until the end of time.  He took our sin upon Himself on the cross, and He gives us His very own righteousness.  Not a very even trade, is it?  But He makes this trade with us because He loves us.  So, what do we have to do to trade our sin for Jesus’ righteousness?  Just believe in Him.  It really is that easy.
So, if it’s really that easy, why isn’t everyone a Christian?  Because here’s the catch, kids: Jesus doesn’t force us to accept this trade.  If we want to continue to live in our sins, He lets us.  If we don’t want to live with Him forever, He doesn’t make us.  He promised us free will when He created Adam and Eve, and He doesn’t break His promise.  If you don’t want anything to do with God, He lets you make that decision.  He will do all He can to try to change your mind, but He lets you decide.  That’s why not everyone is saved.  That’s why we need to try to help people understand what being a Christian really is all about.  We want to help them make the right decision.
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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Heavy Theology for Light-Weight Kids, Part 3

  1. John Dillinger

    ML,

    I read through most of this one and the first one you posted, skipping part 2. I have always had this issue with child theology…I personally don’t really like it and don’t know what to do with it. As you stated in an earlier one, children are in the stage where its most important to build their values and such. It’s also easiest for them to learn new things (languages, concepts, etc etc). But I struggle with the idea of indoctrination. I can sit around and tell kids that I have a meatloaf tree that I tend to in the middle of Asia, and they’ll believe me. Santa Claus is a common thing that I’ve seen kids believe all the way up to like the 6th grade, because their parents tell them the stories, hype it up at Christmas and other sorts of things. *I* know that God is different than Santa Claus, but I think you see my point. I am not entirely comfortable with telling kids beliefs at an age where they are just going to believe me and not question me. I want them to have their own knowledge. I know that in growing up, it would be important to have morals there for them. Just like kids that are like 6 and 7 that “become Christians”, I always have a problem with that. They don’t read the Bible. They might have it read to them, but they’re generally distracted and just pull out the very basic concepts, they might pray, but it’s just something they’ve been taught. Psychologically, there are different stages of development which will house different stages of religion, and it’s possible to have a religious experience in any of those stages…but I always have problems with it. And when I was younger, this was one of the exact reasons I hated church, was because I felt like they caught susceptible minds and told them who to be.

    How do you look at this? I know you have a really big passion for children and would like to know what your view is. I would also be interested in others’ input.

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  2. Dear Johnny,

    Thanks for your response. It’s nice to know someone’s reading this and thinking about it! I understand what you’re saying. However, I have absolutely no problem teaching children the truth. I never taught my kids to believe in Santa Claus or the tooth fairy because I wanted to be able to tell them that I’ve never lied to them. If they asked me questions I didn’t know the answer to, I would be honest and tell them I don’t know. But I feel very strongly about letting children know the truth at an early age, and not just about theology. I teach them history, math, English, science. Is it indoctrination to tell them that George Washington was the first president of the United States? Shouldn’t I allow them to discover this truth on their own? How would they ever learn if no one teaches them? Is it indoctrination to teach them about gravity? Or should I let them jump off the roof in order to experience this truth for themselves?

    I would totally agree with you if I had any doubt about the truth of the scriptures. Forcing lies on children is despicable. But telling them the truth is giving them life. “Let the little children come to Me and forbid them not,” Jesus told His followers. He wants them to know Him, and He IS the truth.

    I’m with you, Johnny–I hope others jump into this discussion. I would like to ask you to go back to my first two entries in this blog and read the history of teaching the scriptures to children. I did years of research on this subject and also drew on my own (years and years of) experience before forming my philosophy for teaching theology to children. I’m sorry you had a bad experience in the church as a child. It isn’t the church’s business to tell children who to be. But it’s definitely the business of the church to teach the truth to everyone, young and old.

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  3. John Dillinger

    I see what you are saying there and that is the only way I can possibly see it. That it’s factual, so you tell them in the full confidence that every bit of it is just as true as George Washington’s presidency. However, George Washington being president is a very concrete fact. Within God, there is a whole world of things that people don’t agree on and whatnot, he’s a very abstract “fact”. But I suppose being like “God created the universe, and Jesus was his son and was crucified for our sins so that God could accept us into His kingdom.” is a very basic foundation that would be acceptable across any belief system. But beyond that, we have different experiences or conclusions about things. Know what I mean? Also, I think that Bible verse you pointed out sort of helps the situation. I guess when/if I have kids, I will just really pray about how to bring them up! I’m sure I will need it….

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  4. Hey, Johnny! I really think God would object to being called “abstract”. I also am amazed that He didn’t strike you with lightning when you put “fact” in quotes in relation to His reality. The “fact” is, God is more real than any of His creation. Paul’s letters and the book of Hebrews makes it plain that the things of this earth are merely shadows of the spiritual realities they represent. God is “more real”, or more concrete, than George Washington by virtue of the fact that God created George. How can the creator be abstract and His creation concrete? That is faulty logic.

    Anyway, I do agree with you that there are areas of belief in which there are different interpretations, given the fact that the we are human and of limited understanding. I am not arrogant enough to try to claim that my conclusions in the gray areas areas are always correct. I am not speaking, of course, of the basic tenets of our faith, the foundational beliefs that we must hold in order to call ourselves Christians. Here is how I handle teaching the less clear, less fundamental areas of belief when teaching them to children: First, I read them what the Scriptures say about it. Let’s say it’s baptism. I will read to them what the Bible itself says about baptism. Then I tell them honestly about the different interpretations of these scriptures: for example, immersion vs. sprinkling; infant baptism vs. adult baptism. I then tell them what I believe is true and why I believe it, but I will also give examples of other people who hold different beliefs and why they believe the way they do. I then give the children time to ask questions of their own and answer them as best I can. If they ask something I cannot answer, I tell them I will try to find someone who can answer their questions and get back to them. Like I said, Johnny, being honest with children and telling them nothing more or less than the truth is what teaching is all about. They deserve to know truth and it’s our responsibility to give it to them.

    Teaching children spiritual truths, above all, is about introducing them to God Himself. He IS the truth and He wants them to know Him. Here’s what Jesus Himself said in Mark 10:14-15: “Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Childhood is the perfect time to teach spiritual truths because children can understand them so much more easily than adults can! They are created that way. When we teach them scripture, we are participating in God’s plan for them. If we wait to teach people until they are older, they will have already accepted lies and deceits and formed habits of thought that will be hard for them to overcome. It’s difficult, as an adult, to remember how to “receive the kingdom of God like a little child.” But kids do it as naturally and easily as they learn to talk and read.

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    • Jayme

      Interesting conversation, MariLynn. I had a few thoughts to throw in.

      One, the word ‘indoctrination’ has such a negative meaning. And, honestly, if God were not truth than I guess I would be indoctrinating my children. But He is.

      While I do read the Bible with the kids and work to teach them God’s heart, I think it’s more important how I live out my life in front of them. Kids are excellent people watchers. I am convicted that the way I live my life will teach them ore about who God is than the words spoken from my mouth. It’s terribly frightening and humbling – I mess up all the time. But that’s also a part of teaching them – teaching them repentance and forgiveness and how God loves me even when I’m a mess. Which is most of the time. 😀

      If my children learn to know God’s voice and desire His will in their lives, then they can walk out whatever flavor of Christianity they like. And, yes, it is telling them who to be in the best way possible – to be the men/women God made them to be. But they have to seek for themselves exactly who that is.

      I also cringe a bit when I hear people talking about a young child from a Christian family ‘becoming a Christian.’ I think that a young child they fall under their parent’s umbrella, for want of a better term. Yes, they need to accept Christ for themselves and, yes, they can choose to walk away. But I think there is a unique place for children of faithful parents when they are young. I love the idea of confirmation – but that’s another discussion.

      I was baptized when I was 12. When I was 16 I wanted to be re-baptized because I realized how little I knew about what I was doing at 12. A wise minister counseled me out of that. He told me something I have found to be true. Every moment I live I learn more about what it means to be a Christian – and yet, at 39 I am still humbled by how much I still just don’t get. I think it’s a lifelong learning process. All God is looking for is a heart that is open to Him and willing to say ‘yes.’

      About God being a fact – I’m not sure that I think he is. He’s a mystery. He’s reality. He’s the creator. He’s truth. He’s love – but I don’t know that I think of Him as a fact. There’s no way I can wrap my mind around who/what He is exactly – I don’t think any of us can in this life. It’s a part of this being in the ‘shadowlands’ if you will. We simply don’t have the ability to see Him clearly. I think of facts as being things that are concrete and self-evident. In my walk, God has not been that.

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      • John Dillinger

        Jayme,

        Yeah, ‘indoctrination’ does have a negative meaning, I meant for it to. I am typically a really analytical person. In Meyers Briggs terms, I am an INTP. I think rather than feel and make decisions based on what evidences I can lay out and see rather than how I feel. Even when I was very young, like 3-4, I analyzed the possibility of everything and quickly demystified the little kid myths such as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, etc with the logical impossibilities. I then told these to my parents in an argument that I didn’t have to go to bed early, because there was no Santa Claus. Haha..now you see what that grew into…

        However, the view you hold of the fact is the same one I see. If God were a fact, it would completely eliminate the entire existence of Christianity and erase our free will. God could have proven Himself a fact at several different times and chose not to. Certainly he could do that today, when our knowledge of science and such is supposedly transcending the need for a God. This is evident by looking at arguments that are so common like “There is no scientific evidence for God.” or archaeologists who try to find proof of Moses and such, they cannot. However, they can find evidence of things that tiptoe around the supposed life of Moses and such, so nor can they say “Well the Bible is obviously fictional, because our research just doesn’t match up.” And I think that is how it’s supposed to be. Never a fact, but never dismissed either.

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  5. Oxford English Dictionary definition of the word “fact”: “Something that exists or is known to be true.” If God exists, He is a fact. If He does not exist, nothing matters. Our faith is useless and our lives are worthless. If God is truth, He is a fact. He Himself claims to be truth. If He is not true, our faith is a lie and we are deceiving ourselves. I am not talking about Moses or baptism or other disputable, debatable things, but God Himself as a Person. We don’t have to understand Him to know He exists. “Faith is the evidence of things not seen.” We don’t have to see Him to know He is true. We just have to believe what He says.

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  6. Jayme

    Ah, but faith and fact just don’t go together for me, MariLynn. 😀

    Can I prove God exists? No. Do I believe He does? Yes. Can I prove He’s true? No. Do I believe He is? Yes. As you quoted, faith is the evidence of things not seen. I am in no way denying the reality of God or His existence or Jesus’ birth, death or resurrection. I’m just arguing with your terminology. Facts are concrete truths that cannot be disputed and to me, He has not chosen to reveal Himself in that way.

    I agree with JD that there is just no scientific proof that He exists – from an objective standpoint. However, to a person of faith, so much of science explains this amazing world He built and shows His fingerprints all over it if you have the lenses of faith to see them. If God wanted to make himself concretely known, He could. I think He has intentionally left opening for doubt.

    And goodness knows I have struggled with doubt of and on throughout my life. I don’t know if it’s because when I was young I was taught many things about Christianity to be fact that as an adult I do not accept. If those ‘facts’ are not true, is any of it? Or because I allowed some of the painful events in my life to drive me to question His love for me. And if He doesn’t love me, how can He be who He says He is? I often hungered for some sort of proof of His existence – but He never gave that. He called me to accept Him by faith – and I did. And He has made Himself known to me – but not in ways that I could point out and say, There He is! Well, yes I can and I do, but to an unbeliever it would not make sense.

    Isn’t that what Paul says? That as Christians we have an understanding of the Spirit and God and that unbelievers cannot understand?

    And back to indoctrination – yes, I realized you used that word intentionally. That’s why I wanted to challenge it. If a person is indoctrinating children, he/she is teaching them things that are harmful to that child. Knowing God and what He has done in my life and in history would not fall under things that are harmful to a child – unless you are an atheist. I can respect that position – not agree with it, but respect it.

    I know there are, well, interpretations of the Bible that are taught in some places that are harmful. That’s why the Bible speaks so clearly about the responsibility put on those who teach – that there would be dire consequences to those who mislead God’s children. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t to teach at all! That makes no sense! It just means we have to be extra careful and prayerful that we are teaching our children truth. My dad is an atheist – well, he says atheist, but I think he’s really agnostic. I think his problem isn’t believing there is a God, but with the legalistic, grace-less church he grew up in. And he can’t separate the two.

    Even if a parent chose to not explicitly teach any theology, they would be fooling themselves if they thought their children were not learning a faith or value system from them. We live out what we hold or believe to be important and true. If we care about something, it will influence how we live and spend our time. Our kids see that – a little too clearly at times for my comfort. Children are naturally inquisitive and watch the adults in their lives to help them interpret the world around them. Hopefully, my children are seeing my love for God, the peace He brings and my utter dependence on Him and are being led to desire to know Him better. I think it was Francis of Assisi who said, Preach constantly, if necessary, use words.

    Which me brings back to the question of God being fact – I think God’s transformative power in our lives is the clearest proof of His existence and the truth of His redemption to those who don’t know God. As much of a mess as I am and as messy as life can be, the only explanation for my ability to give and receive love, to my ability to give and receive forgiveness, for the peace in my life that transcends all understanding is God living in me.

    And for the record, I am familiar with the analytical personality – intimately. I married one. Logical reasoning is a great thing, but there is a need to recognize that some things simply can not be understood by logic – they simply are not logical. But they are true. Unlike Santa Claus. 😀

    Sorry I wrote another book – I’m really enjoying chewing on these this.

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    • One may not be able to prove God’s existence scientifically, but science is a man-made discipline and therefore flawed. But God seems to think His existence can be proven. He has Paul write in Romans chapter one that “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–His eternal power and divine nature– have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” God seems to believe that all the evidence we need as to His existence has been provided to us through His creation. He goes on to explain that those who refuse to see the evidence of His glory in nature have been given over the the depravity of their own minds. That’s pretty much where science stands in the world today–refusing to see the truth, it is depraved and filled with error.

      But we are also warned in scripture not to quibble over details, and disagreement over the definition of a four-letter-word, I think, qualifies as a mere detail! I love you, Jayme. Thanks for commenting. It’s no fun having a blog if no one ever comments or disagrees over what I write.

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  7. Jayme

    I love you, too, MariLynn, and I hope you’ve ‘heard’ the friendly tone I’ve written in here. Well, that I intended to write in, anyway.

    I agree about the warning over quibbling over details. I have no desire to quibble or be in disagreement over this particular four-letter word. I hope we’ve been having a friendly conversation. I know I can sound much more strident and forceful than I intend to when I’m talking/writing about something I’m passionate about – and God would fall in that category. 😀 It’s something I’m working on.

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  8. Hey, I didn’t think you sounded strident. If you can’t be passionate about God, what CAN you be passionate about? I love getting feedback on my blog and it makes me sad when days go by and no one comments. It’s a lot more fun to share ideas than just to ramble on about my own. Thanks for wading in and responding to my efforts here. 🙂

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