VeggieTales creator repents of moralism

More on our continuing series on Christianity & the Arts, how the Christianity part has to include not just law but gospel. . .

Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales, went bankrupt in 2003, sold the franchise, and turned to other ventures.  In an interview with World Magazine, he says how he realized that the “Christian” message of those talking vegetables was not Christianity at all.  (This is from last Fall, but I appreciate Norm Fisher, via some other folks, for bringing it to my attention.)

I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, “Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,” or “Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!” But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality. . . .

And that was such a huge shift for me from the American Christian ideal. We’re drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore. Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true. It’s the Oprah god. So I had to peel that apart. I realized I’m not supposed to be pursuing impact, I’m supposed to be pursuing God. And when I pursue God I will have exactly as much impact as He wants me to have.

via WORLDmag.com | Not about the dream | Megan Basham | Sep 24, 11.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    While I’m glad that Mr. Vischer has officially renounced moralism, I worry that he makes “pursuing God” a moralistic endeavor in and of itself. Our pursuit of God is the byproduct of the gospel, not the gospel itself.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    While I’m glad that Mr. Vischer has officially renounced moralism, I worry that he makes “pursuing God” a moralistic endeavor in and of itself. Our pursuit of God is the byproduct of the gospel, not the gospel itself.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    I wish moralism were the worst thing we had on kids (or any) TV.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    I wish moralism were the worst thing we had on kids (or any) TV.

  • Pete

    “And when I pursue God I will have exactly as much impact as He wants me to have.”

    And, interestingly, per the Matthew 25 “sheep/goats” passage, it seems that we (the sheep) won’t even be aware of having had any impact.

  • Pete

    “And when I pursue God I will have exactly as much impact as He wants me to have.”

    And, interestingly, per the Matthew 25 “sheep/goats” passage, it seems that we (the sheep) won’t even be aware of having had any impact.

  • Fws

    j dean @ 1

    We can’t pursue God, I am sure you agree. He pursues us. Babies are commanded by Christ our Lord to be baptized after all. We all flee from God and his judgement.

    What is God’s judgement upon ALL we can see and do and think? It is that ALL our best christians works are only carnal fleshly righeousness full of evil lusts and coveting in the heart.

    All we can do , especially, especially! …..in church and in marriage God calls carnal fleshly righteousness because it is full of lust and coveteousness in the heart. Those works all merit eternal punishments. Yet God does indeed demand that we do this carnal fleshly righeousness for the good of our neighbor. So he extortes these works out of us.

    He uses marriage to do this. Examples: Marriage is about our death. Marriage is about nothing more than our death! nothing. more. So is all we can do in church, such as the Holy Liturgy and administration of word and the sacraments and the demand for adherance to sound doctrines.

    There is no transformative power in marriage for example. It is about OUR death for the creaturely, fleshly, carnal goodness of OTHERS. It is about making YOU , in your Old Adam , into a white washed sepulcher so that you become a source of good works that better the carnal lives of others.

    The main way we flee from God is by working very hard at becoming Righteous by doing something. What is it that is ALL we can possibly do? All we can ever do in our thoughts words and deeds is carnal righeousness. It is the very very best we can do. And romans 8 says that this will all perish with the earth along with all who trust in it for transformation (ie for Life).

    We come to believe that now that we are Christians , what we do is no longer carnal righeousness, the righeousness of the carnal flesh and is full of lust and coveteousness. Why not? We see that God does indeed demand this carnal righteousness of us that is totally of the flesh and not of the Spirit. And so even when we manage to do it impecably, what happens? The Law still accuses us. It accuses what is still going on in our hearts. Honesty says that if it weren’t for God’s demands, we would want to do otherwise.

    The only Spiritual Righteousness that will not damn us can alone be found in that Righeousness that is , alone, the Works of Another. We are to be terrified at all we can do, since it is all carnal righteousness of the flesh that will perish. And we are then to know that we must hide all our carnal righeousness inside the Works of Another.
    So it is invisible faith alone that is Spiritual Righeousness. This is a passive righeousness that is not about anything at all we can do. And this is alone, how we can do the Righeousness that God demands in the first commandment.

  • Fws

    j dean @ 1

    We can’t pursue God, I am sure you agree. He pursues us. Babies are commanded by Christ our Lord to be baptized after all. We all flee from God and his judgement.

    What is God’s judgement upon ALL we can see and do and think? It is that ALL our best christians works are only carnal fleshly righeousness full of evil lusts and coveting in the heart.

    All we can do , especially, especially! …..in church and in marriage God calls carnal fleshly righteousness because it is full of lust and coveteousness in the heart. Those works all merit eternal punishments. Yet God does indeed demand that we do this carnal fleshly righeousness for the good of our neighbor. So he extortes these works out of us.

    He uses marriage to do this. Examples: Marriage is about our death. Marriage is about nothing more than our death! nothing. more. So is all we can do in church, such as the Holy Liturgy and administration of word and the sacraments and the demand for adherance to sound doctrines.

    There is no transformative power in marriage for example. It is about OUR death for the creaturely, fleshly, carnal goodness of OTHERS. It is about making YOU , in your Old Adam , into a white washed sepulcher so that you become a source of good works that better the carnal lives of others.

    The main way we flee from God is by working very hard at becoming Righteous by doing something. What is it that is ALL we can possibly do? All we can ever do in our thoughts words and deeds is carnal righeousness. It is the very very best we can do. And romans 8 says that this will all perish with the earth along with all who trust in it for transformation (ie for Life).

    We come to believe that now that we are Christians , what we do is no longer carnal righeousness, the righeousness of the carnal flesh and is full of lust and coveteousness. Why not? We see that God does indeed demand this carnal righteousness of us that is totally of the flesh and not of the Spirit. And so even when we manage to do it impecably, what happens? The Law still accuses us. It accuses what is still going on in our hearts. Honesty says that if it weren’t for God’s demands, we would want to do otherwise.

    The only Spiritual Righteousness that will not damn us can alone be found in that Righeousness that is , alone, the Works of Another. We are to be terrified at all we can do, since it is all carnal righteousness of the flesh that will perish. And we are then to know that we must hide all our carnal righeousness inside the Works of Another.
    So it is invisible faith alone that is Spiritual Righeousness. This is a passive righeousness that is not about anything at all we can do. And this is alone, how we can do the Righeousness that God demands in the first commandment.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    FWS,

    Well said.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    FWS,

    Well said.

  • Fws

    sg @ 2

    amen!

    Luther advises that we are to constantly find stories in the Bible that show our children that God will reward our good works because he demands them of us, and that he will certainly punish those who refuse to do the good works that he demands! Luther translated Aesops Fables to read to his children just for this.

    We Christians, here on earth, are to actively seek to conduct and control our behavior in exactly the same way pagans do it. Our Confessions praise the Ethics of Aristotle saying that as to morality, nothing at all can be demanded beyond them! And Aristotle advises what? We practice doing what a virtuous person would do until it becomes a habit. There is no mystery to this. There is only discipline and hard work!

    Further: NO Christ or the Holy Spirit is necessary for a Christian to become a truly virtuous and moral person. Period. Morality is about the same self denial, self sacrifice, self discipline and also the Golden Rule that is generous and forgiving to others that any virtuous pagan can become a model for.
    Therefore: Christ is not needed as Example.

    Christ is desperately needed as Savior for only he can be that.

  • Fws

    sg @ 2

    amen!

    Luther advises that we are to constantly find stories in the Bible that show our children that God will reward our good works because he demands them of us, and that he will certainly punish those who refuse to do the good works that he demands! Luther translated Aesops Fables to read to his children just for this.

    We Christians, here on earth, are to actively seek to conduct and control our behavior in exactly the same way pagans do it. Our Confessions praise the Ethics of Aristotle saying that as to morality, nothing at all can be demanded beyond them! And Aristotle advises what? We practice doing what a virtuous person would do until it becomes a habit. There is no mystery to this. There is only discipline and hard work!

    Further: NO Christ or the Holy Spirit is necessary for a Christian to become a truly virtuous and moral person. Period. Morality is about the same self denial, self sacrifice, self discipline and also the Golden Rule that is generous and forgiving to others that any virtuous pagan can become a model for.
    Therefore: Christ is not needed as Example.

    Christ is desperately needed as Savior for only he can be that.

  • Sam

    I have little, if any, problem with the VeggieTales approach. It teaches moralism? Oh, please! It teaches behavior to children on a level that children can understand.

    When you taught your child how to tie his shoes or make her bed or throw a baseball, did you start with the development of knot tying in the navy, or the reason why the hospital corner is so prevalent, or the history and theory of baseball? No, you taught them to do this with the shoestring, do that with the bedsheet, and to not get hit in the head by the ball.

    We teach children WHAT to do first. Eventually we begin to include the why and the reasons, so that they develop a solid foundation for continuing to do it this way. But the natures of the gospel and relationship with God are just a wee bit beyond the conceptual ability of the average 4-year-old.

  • Sam

    I have little, if any, problem with the VeggieTales approach. It teaches moralism? Oh, please! It teaches behavior to children on a level that children can understand.

    When you taught your child how to tie his shoes or make her bed or throw a baseball, did you start with the development of knot tying in the navy, or the reason why the hospital corner is so prevalent, or the history and theory of baseball? No, you taught them to do this with the shoestring, do that with the bedsheet, and to not get hit in the head by the ball.

    We teach children WHAT to do first. Eventually we begin to include the why and the reasons, so that they develop a solid foundation for continuing to do it this way. But the natures of the gospel and relationship with God are just a wee bit beyond the conceptual ability of the average 4-year-old.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Sam@6,

    Mr. Vischer’s apparent(*) realization concerning moralism is not that teaching morality is bad; I don’t think ANYBODY would say that. Certainly teaching moral lessons is important, and even an atheist will agree to that.

    But there is a difference between teaching morality as morality vs. teaching morality as the gospel. The gospel is not morality. Yes, the gospel leads to regeneration, which in turn leads to a mortification of sin, which in turn leads to morality (albeit imperfect morality), but teaching children to “be more forgiving” is not the gospel.

    Mr. Vischer’s point is that he wants people (and children in particular) to know Christianity over moralism, and that means not just teaching “good moral lessons,” as good as those may be. It means teaching kids the uncomfortable truth that they are sinners, that they cannot be good enough to save themselves, and that they must look to Christ and His work on the cross in faith for salvation. It means dividing law and gospel properly, with teaching the law in its full sternness for the sinner, and the gospel in its full sweetness to the person crying out “What must I do to be saved?” I believe… and hope.. that this is Mr.Vischer’s point.

    (*) Again, I use the asterisk above because Mr. Vischer made the point about “pursuing God,” and this too can become a form of moralism if one is not careful. The Pharisees believed they were pursuing God. So did the Judaizers. So did the Roman Catholic monks in the Middle Ages. Yet each of these groups did so according to their own works-righteousness attempts rather than through the cross of Christ, and it’s very easy to fall into this trap even while professing an aversion to moralism.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Sam@6,

    Mr. Vischer’s apparent(*) realization concerning moralism is not that teaching morality is bad; I don’t think ANYBODY would say that. Certainly teaching moral lessons is important, and even an atheist will agree to that.

    But there is a difference between teaching morality as morality vs. teaching morality as the gospel. The gospel is not morality. Yes, the gospel leads to regeneration, which in turn leads to a mortification of sin, which in turn leads to morality (albeit imperfect morality), but teaching children to “be more forgiving” is not the gospel.

    Mr. Vischer’s point is that he wants people (and children in particular) to know Christianity over moralism, and that means not just teaching “good moral lessons,” as good as those may be. It means teaching kids the uncomfortable truth that they are sinners, that they cannot be good enough to save themselves, and that they must look to Christ and His work on the cross in faith for salvation. It means dividing law and gospel properly, with teaching the law in its full sternness for the sinner, and the gospel in its full sweetness to the person crying out “What must I do to be saved?” I believe… and hope.. that this is Mr.Vischer’s point.

    (*) Again, I use the asterisk above because Mr. Vischer made the point about “pursuing God,” and this too can become a form of moralism if one is not careful. The Pharisees believed they were pursuing God. So did the Judaizers. So did the Roman Catholic monks in the Middle Ages. Yet each of these groups did so according to their own works-righteousness attempts rather than through the cross of Christ, and it’s very easy to fall into this trap even while professing an aversion to moralism.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Really, Sam? Children don’t need to hear about the Gospel and a relationship with God? Why wouldn’t they?

    Of course children need to be taught morality. So do adults. That, as FWS says, is not necessarily a “Christian” endeavor but can be taught with Aesop’s fables and funny vegetables. (I’m not criticizing Veggie Tales at all. I like them.) And certainly by Bible stories.

    But have you noticed that nearly all “Christian” material for children is virtually nothing but moralism, with Christ and the Gospel often never even mentioned. Look in the children’s section of your local Christian bookstore. In fact, look at the SUNDAY SCHOOL curriculum of most Christian publishers, with CPH being the dramatic exception. (When I was on the board of Concordia Publishing House, I did that comparison.) Mostly children, all the way up to “youth,” are hit over the head again and again with law, law, law.

    Of course we want the little monsters to do what we tell them to do. But they also need forgiveness for their monsterness.

    A lot of this, I think, comes from churches that believe in an “age of accountability,” denying that young children can even be Christians. (This flows too from a denial of infant baptism, though even churches that baptize children, strangely, have picked up the notion that moralism is for children, but the gospel is for later in life.)

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Really, Sam? Children don’t need to hear about the Gospel and a relationship with God? Why wouldn’t they?

    Of course children need to be taught morality. So do adults. That, as FWS says, is not necessarily a “Christian” endeavor but can be taught with Aesop’s fables and funny vegetables. (I’m not criticizing Veggie Tales at all. I like them.) And certainly by Bible stories.

    But have you noticed that nearly all “Christian” material for children is virtually nothing but moralism, with Christ and the Gospel often never even mentioned. Look in the children’s section of your local Christian bookstore. In fact, look at the SUNDAY SCHOOL curriculum of most Christian publishers, with CPH being the dramatic exception. (When I was on the board of Concordia Publishing House, I did that comparison.) Mostly children, all the way up to “youth,” are hit over the head again and again with law, law, law.

    Of course we want the little monsters to do what we tell them to do. But they also need forgiveness for their monsterness.

    A lot of this, I think, comes from churches that believe in an “age of accountability,” denying that young children can even be Christians. (This flows too from a denial of infant baptism, though even churches that baptize children, strangely, have picked up the notion that moralism is for children, but the gospel is for later in life.)

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I’m with J. Dean. When I read that pursuing God bit I was let down. It screams “I still don’t get ot!” I suppose though there is a start there. I cringe even more reading some of the comments here. Children do meed the Gospel and the Gospel isn’t about giving us a reason to be moral. It does that, but that is not its purpose. And to that end morlaism might just be the most insidious thing we have on t.v. It certainly inflames our old Adam with passion much more so than the sexual
    licientousness of hbo series.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I’m with J. Dean. When I read that pursuing God bit I was let down. It screams “I still don’t get ot!” I suppose though there is a start there. I cringe even more reading some of the comments here. Children do meed the Gospel and the Gospel isn’t about giving us a reason to be moral. It does that, but that is not its purpose. And to that end morlaism might just be the most insidious thing we have on t.v. It certainly inflames our old Adam with passion much more so than the sexual
    licientousness of hbo series.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @#7 “But the natures of the gospel and relationship with God are just a wee bit beyond the conceptual ability of the average 4-year-old.”

    Would you like to explain that to my 3 yo who gets the Gospel that Jesus died in her place?

    The Gospel isn’t some abstract construction. Neither is new obedience. It is pretty concrete in fact and not to mention something that isn’t really a matter of intellectual understanding. You know that faith thing.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @#7 “But the natures of the gospel and relationship with God are just a wee bit beyond the conceptual ability of the average 4-year-old.”

    Would you like to explain that to my 3 yo who gets the Gospel that Jesus died in her place?

    The Gospel isn’t some abstract construction. Neither is new obedience. It is pretty concrete in fact and not to mention something that isn’t really a matter of intellectual understanding. You know that faith thing.

  • Craig

    I have a 3 year old daughter. She enjoys the Veggietales movies, but we also follow it up with our own instruction. There are great resources out there for children, helpful resources as well, but they have to be hand in hand (if not even more focused on) with the parents teaching, modeling and helping them to learn. The idea that a 4 year old doesn’t understand the Gospel, or the nature of God is ludicrous. They may not be able to expound on all of the finer points of Law and Gospel, but my daughter knows that God loves her, forgives her, and that God is in her heart. To me, that’s the most important things she needs to know. That didn’t come from Veggietales. That came from my wife and I teaching and modeling love, forgiveness and the Gospel. We’re not perfect at it, but who is?

  • Craig

    I have a 3 year old daughter. She enjoys the Veggietales movies, but we also follow it up with our own instruction. There are great resources out there for children, helpful resources as well, but they have to be hand in hand (if not even more focused on) with the parents teaching, modeling and helping them to learn. The idea that a 4 year old doesn’t understand the Gospel, or the nature of God is ludicrous. They may not be able to expound on all of the finer points of Law and Gospel, but my daughter knows that God loves her, forgives her, and that God is in her heart. To me, that’s the most important things she needs to know. That didn’t come from Veggietales. That came from my wife and I teaching and modeling love, forgiveness and the Gospel. We’re not perfect at it, but who is?

  • http://www.whenisayrunrun.blogspot.com Andrew

    I like Veggietales at face value, because there is some creativity and humor. Never would I let that show or any show be the end of it. The sad thing is Veggietales could have been so much more than what it is.

  • http://www.whenisayrunrun.blogspot.com Andrew

    I like Veggietales at face value, because there is some creativity and humor. Never would I let that show or any show be the end of it. The sad thing is Veggietales could have been so much more than what it is.

  • Guillaume

    When my youngest daughter’s (who was 2 at time) crucifix fell off the wall, she came and told me her bible had fallen. 6 months latter it fell off the wall again (I think she’s jumping in her crib) she told me the gospel had fallen off the wall. I think babes understand the gospel just fine. Probably better than most adults.

  • Guillaume

    When my youngest daughter’s (who was 2 at time) crucifix fell off the wall, she came and told me her bible had fallen. 6 months latter it fell off the wall again (I think she’s jumping in her crib) she told me the gospel had fallen off the wall. I think babes understand the gospel just fine. Probably better than most adults.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    When my kids first started watching Veggie Tales, it occurred to me that most of the Biblical references were from the Old Testament, and that the show could just as easily be shown in Jewish homes. So, yeah, no Christian Gospel.

    I always thought the shows were great entertainment, though. But you had to be already familiar with the Bible to “get” a lot of it. Like the Rack, Shack and Benny show with Mr. Nezzzer’s chocloate bunny factory. Then the “Silly Songs with Larry” segments that didn’t usually have anything to do with the Bible at all. Just entertainment. The Cebu song was one of my favorites.

    Phil Vischer gave a talk at last year’s National Bible Bee in Nashville. He didn’t seem like a mere moralist at that time, so maybe we will see some good things coming from him in the future that pay attention to both Law and Gospel.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    When my kids first started watching Veggie Tales, it occurred to me that most of the Biblical references were from the Old Testament, and that the show could just as easily be shown in Jewish homes. So, yeah, no Christian Gospel.

    I always thought the shows were great entertainment, though. But you had to be already familiar with the Bible to “get” a lot of it. Like the Rack, Shack and Benny show with Mr. Nezzzer’s chocloate bunny factory. Then the “Silly Songs with Larry” segments that didn’t usually have anything to do with the Bible at all. Just entertainment. The Cebu song was one of my favorites.

    Phil Vischer gave a talk at last year’s National Bible Bee in Nashville. He didn’t seem like a mere moralist at that time, so maybe we will see some good things coming from him in the future that pay attention to both Law and Gospel.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I told my son when he was barely 4 that I loved him more than anyone in the whole world. He was very offended. He told me, “Dad you don’t love me more than Jesus does, and he is in the world. You should know that, you’r a pastor.” So tell me again that a four year old can’t understand the gospel?

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I told my son when he was barely 4 that I loved him more than anyone in the whole world. He was very offended. He told me, “Dad you don’t love me more than Jesus does, and he is in the world. You should know that, you’r a pastor.” So tell me again that a four year old can’t understand the gospel?

  • Fws

    guillaume @ 14 and bror @ 16

    whoa.

  • Fws

    guillaume @ 14 and bror @ 16

    whoa.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    I agree with with Frank @17.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    I agree with with Frank @17.

  • Bear

    I personally doubt Sam meant not to teach children the gospel, but I also agree that it’s never too early to start. As with anything else raising children, each will reach their individual age of understanding at a different point, and withholding information from them could do more harm than good. On the subject of Old Testament lessons, I see the point that it lacks the good news of Jesus’s life, death and resurrection, but I would also never want to omit the history, the first part of the story, from the overall picture. After all, what is the tale of a victory without context? I was brought up on the whole picture, and without my understanding of the OT law and lessons, I doubt I could ever grasp the concept of Grace or the sacrifice Jesus made.

  • Bear

    I personally doubt Sam meant not to teach children the gospel, but I also agree that it’s never too early to start. As with anything else raising children, each will reach their individual age of understanding at a different point, and withholding information from them could do more harm than good. On the subject of Old Testament lessons, I see the point that it lacks the good news of Jesus’s life, death and resurrection, but I would also never want to omit the history, the first part of the story, from the overall picture. After all, what is the tale of a victory without context? I was brought up on the whole picture, and without my understanding of the OT law and lessons, I doubt I could ever grasp the concept of Grace or the sacrifice Jesus made.

  • DonS

    Vischer probably has trouble seeing much of anything good that came out of the VeggieTales property, given the way he and his company mismanaged the whole thing.

    Children need the Gospel, just like everyone else. They need to be catechised as to the whole Gospel, and the entire story of God’s plan of salvation, from Adam & Eve to John on the Isle of Patmos. I didn’t have any objection to my kids watching VeggieTales, because catechising was my job, not Vischer’s.

  • DonS

    Vischer probably has trouble seeing much of anything good that came out of the VeggieTales property, given the way he and his company mismanaged the whole thing.

    Children need the Gospel, just like everyone else. They need to be catechised as to the whole Gospel, and the entire story of God’s plan of salvation, from Adam & Eve to John on the Isle of Patmos. I didn’t have any objection to my kids watching VeggieTales, because catechising was my job, not Vischer’s.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    I’ve heard quite a few such confessions of faith by very young children, including with our own and now with our grandchildren. I’m not saying they are necessary or definitive or anything like that. But our grandson John is only a year and a half. He doesn’t know many words at all, but ask him, “Who is the Lord?” he will brighten up and yell out “Jesus!” Now according to 1 Corinthians 12:3, you can’t do that without the Holy Spirit! :-)

    And three-year-old Mary can tell you all about how Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again. And 5-year-old Sam, who sometimes will start singing the liturgy and who plays Communion with his stuffed animals (I worry whether they belong to the right synod), says when he puts his money in the offering plate, “Thank you, Jesus!”

    Were they taught? Of course, though I haven’t seen them coached in any kind of rote performance way. This comes from their bed-time prayers and devotions, having the Bible and good CPH books read to them, and going to church. Though their specific reactions–such as what Sam says at the offering and the enthusiasm shown by John–are not just taught. All of this is testimony to their baptism and to Luther’s point that infants too can have faith, trusting in Christ just as they can trust in their parents.

    But our subject is whether the gospel is too hard for little kids to learn as compared with the law. I would argue that learning “facts,” as of Jesus and what He did, is EASIER for young children to comprehend than the “shoulds” of moral principles. The former is concrete; the latter is not just abstract but conditional.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    I’ve heard quite a few such confessions of faith by very young children, including with our own and now with our grandchildren. I’m not saying they are necessary or definitive or anything like that. But our grandson John is only a year and a half. He doesn’t know many words at all, but ask him, “Who is the Lord?” he will brighten up and yell out “Jesus!” Now according to 1 Corinthians 12:3, you can’t do that without the Holy Spirit! :-)

    And three-year-old Mary can tell you all about how Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again. And 5-year-old Sam, who sometimes will start singing the liturgy and who plays Communion with his stuffed animals (I worry whether they belong to the right synod), says when he puts his money in the offering plate, “Thank you, Jesus!”

    Were they taught? Of course, though I haven’t seen them coached in any kind of rote performance way. This comes from their bed-time prayers and devotions, having the Bible and good CPH books read to them, and going to church. Though their specific reactions–such as what Sam says at the offering and the enthusiasm shown by John–are not just taught. All of this is testimony to their baptism and to Luther’s point that infants too can have faith, trusting in Christ just as they can trust in their parents.

    But our subject is whether the gospel is too hard for little kids to learn as compared with the law. I would argue that learning “facts,” as of Jesus and what He did, is EASIER for young children to comprehend than the “shoulds” of moral principles. The former is concrete; the latter is not just abstract but conditional.

  • Fws

    We adults don’t like the Idea that the Image of God and Original Righeousness was alone in Adam, is for us, and will be for both Adam and us, faith in the works of Another as all we need to be taken care of and happy.

    And what does that have to do with this post? It is this:

    We all really desperately want something “more”.  That more can be “spiritual” or “concrete”.  And in all that we want something we can do, following natural law, to be “transformative”. “Transformation ” is the buzzword. It makes Creator out of creature is why Old Adam loves that lie.

    And what Old Adam doesn’t like is this fact: ALL we can ever find ourselves doing IS transformative! It is to transform Old Adam into a whitewashed sepulcher where Old Adam is instead hoping to find Life in his moral “transformation”. Natural Law or any other carnal Law is always about that. And the Law in the hands of mankind, even Divine Law is… truly… carnal law. Old Adam can only die. No Army of Moses , or falanx of Saint Thomas Natural Law Transformers can remake or transform this brutal fact.

    This project of Old Adam is always  the false inversion of concretezizing the spiritual or spiritualizing the concrete. In both he imagines that he is the Creator. Puny God that.  We only succeed in rearranging the deck chairs on the Titannic.  And God demands we do that rearranging actually. God uses it to occupy us until he returns.

    This is all way simpler than we need to make it isn’t it?

    For little children this stuff is all very simple. They know when they are bad. This does not really need to be taught. And they know what “good” looks like too. When they want something out of us, they show us that they really do know… not just monsters as vieth says. We learn to manipulate others to get our way at an incredibly early age.

    But , with their Baptism infant believers in Jesus Christ get this: They are absolutely certain that their Fatherly God, in Jesus, will love them, for the rest of their lives. No matter what. They are at rest in the certainty of the Love of Jesus.

    Whatever darkness we find those baptized babies in in their adulthood, our task is to remind them of that Love they received in their Baptism. Our task is to tenderly invite them to climb back into the boat. That invitation, made to me in the depths of my darkness is why I am here among you today by the way.

    Thank you all for continuing to remind me of that in your words and examples here.

  • Fws

    We adults don’t like the Idea that the Image of God and Original Righeousness was alone in Adam, is for us, and will be for both Adam and us, faith in the works of Another as all we need to be taken care of and happy.

    And what does that have to do with this post? It is this:

    We all really desperately want something “more”.  That more can be “spiritual” or “concrete”.  And in all that we want something we can do, following natural law, to be “transformative”. “Transformation ” is the buzzword. It makes Creator out of creature is why Old Adam loves that lie.

    And what Old Adam doesn’t like is this fact: ALL we can ever find ourselves doing IS transformative! It is to transform Old Adam into a whitewashed sepulcher where Old Adam is instead hoping to find Life in his moral “transformation”. Natural Law or any other carnal Law is always about that. And the Law in the hands of mankind, even Divine Law is… truly… carnal law. Old Adam can only die. No Army of Moses , or falanx of Saint Thomas Natural Law Transformers can remake or transform this brutal fact.

    This project of Old Adam is always  the false inversion of concretezizing the spiritual or spiritualizing the concrete. In both he imagines that he is the Creator. Puny God that.  We only succeed in rearranging the deck chairs on the Titannic.  And God demands we do that rearranging actually. God uses it to occupy us until he returns.

    This is all way simpler than we need to make it isn’t it?

    For little children this stuff is all very simple. They know when they are bad. This does not really need to be taught. And they know what “good” looks like too. When they want something out of us, they show us that they really do know… not just monsters as vieth says. We learn to manipulate others to get our way at an incredibly early age.

    But , with their Baptism infant believers in Jesus Christ get this: They are absolutely certain that their Fatherly God, in Jesus, will love them, for the rest of their lives. No matter what. They are at rest in the certainty of the Love of Jesus.

    Whatever darkness we find those baptized babies in in their adulthood, our task is to remind them of that Love they received in their Baptism. Our task is to tenderly invite them to climb back into the boat. That invitation, made to me in the depths of my darkness is why I am here among you today by the way.

    Thank you all for continuing to remind me of that in your words and examples here.

  • Jeannine Liebmann

    I am not a trained theologian, but I am married to a Lutheran pastor. I too was pleased to read Phil Vischer’s comments several months ago when he realized VT was not preaching the gospel but morality instead, and I agree with his statement above @ intertwining the American dream, the Protestant work ethic, and the gospel. But I fear you take his comment about pursuing God a bit further than perhaps it was intended. Pursuing God, to me, means pursuing a relationship with God, much as I pursue a relationship with my spouse or my children. I’m not so concerned about doing the right things – ie. turning the pursuit into yet another moral act – as I am about doing things that strengthen the relationship. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, and in fact, I believe this is ultimately what God desires from us – to be in a growing, deepening relationship with Him.

  • Jeannine Liebmann

    I am not a trained theologian, but I am married to a Lutheran pastor. I too was pleased to read Phil Vischer’s comments several months ago when he realized VT was not preaching the gospel but morality instead, and I agree with his statement above @ intertwining the American dream, the Protestant work ethic, and the gospel. But I fear you take his comment about pursuing God a bit further than perhaps it was intended. Pursuing God, to me, means pursuing a relationship with God, much as I pursue a relationship with my spouse or my children. I’m not so concerned about doing the right things – ie. turning the pursuit into yet another moral act – as I am about doing things that strengthen the relationship. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, and in fact, I believe this is ultimately what God desires from us – to be in a growing, deepening relationship with Him.

  • Bob

    This is really cool. Thanks for posting, Dr. Veith.

    Does anyone remember “Davey and Goliath” pixelatted cartoon from the 1960s? I never quite figured out how that came under a Lutheran rubric. Wasn’t D&G all about, well, moralism?

    I wish it would’ve been more gospel centered. Or, really, any gospel centered!

    I watched it as a kid, not a Lutheran, and always thought Davey was pretty much a goody goody, Mama’s boy.
    :)

  • Bob

    This is really cool. Thanks for posting, Dr. Veith.

    Does anyone remember “Davey and Goliath” pixelatted cartoon from the 1960s? I never quite figured out how that came under a Lutheran rubric. Wasn’t D&G all about, well, moralism?

    I wish it would’ve been more gospel centered. Or, really, any gospel centered!

    I watched it as a kid, not a Lutheran, and always thought Davey was pretty much a goody goody, Mama’s boy.
    :)

  • Fws

    jeannine liebman @ 23

    That’s a great post Jeannine for an untrained theologian. What is it you believe are the things we can do to strenthen our relationship with God? What is it you believe that a growing deepening relationship with God might look like to an observer?

  • Fws

    jeannine liebman @ 23

    That’s a great post Jeannine for an untrained theologian. What is it you believe are the things we can do to strenthen our relationship with God? What is it you believe that a growing deepening relationship with God might look like to an observer?

  • SKPeterson

    Bob – you dare to desecrate the memory of Davey and Goliath? Such thoughts reek of rank heathenism.

  • SKPeterson

    Bob – you dare to desecrate the memory of Davey and Goliath? Such thoughts reek of rank heathenism.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    SKP, don’t be so hard on Bob, SKP.
    Davey and Goliath is an ELCA property.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    SKP, don’t be so hard on Bob, SKP.
    Davey and Goliath is an ELCA property.

  • Bob

    Mike,
    :)

    D&G was on before ELCA was formed.

  • Bob

    Mike,
    :)

    D&G was on before ELCA was formed.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Jeannine @ 23,

    If that’s what Vischer means, then that’s fine. I’m just saying that it can be a very subtle error in trading one form of moralism for another if one is not careful.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Jeannine @ 23,

    If that’s what Vischer means, then that’s fine. I’m just saying that it can be a very subtle error in trading one form of moralism for another if one is not careful.

  • Fws

    mike @ 27.

    I think d & g was actually “Lutheran Publicity Bureau”.

    I think that group was mostly ALC affiliated, but independent. They did some good work back in the day…. do you know anything about them?

  • Fws

    mike @ 27.

    I think d & g was actually “Lutheran Publicity Bureau”.

    I think that group was mostly ALC affiliated, but independent. They did some good work back in the day…. do you know anything about them?

  • Pamela Nees

    Kids get it that they sin. And that’s why they can understand the gospel from a VERY young age. And moralism or acting good never can replace forgiveness.

  • Pamela Nees

    Kids get it that they sin. And that’s why they can understand the gospel from a VERY young age. And moralism or acting good never can replace forgiveness.

  • Kim

    Phil Vischer’s latest project, the What’s In the Bible series, is excellent, in my opinion. While I do still appreciate VeggieTales (as mentioned by someone above, it’s our job to teach our kids the gospel, not Phil Vischer’s), I do find this new series a helpful tool. It has lots of clear explanation of the gospel, and teaches complex concepts like justification and redemption at a level children can understand. It teaches some church history and tackles common questions like how we received the canon of Scripture, and why it was not at all unjust for God to order the destruction of the Canaanites during the conquest. I’ve only seen the first four videos, but I’m thankful to have them as one of the many tools we use in teaching our children.

  • Kim

    Phil Vischer’s latest project, the What’s In the Bible series, is excellent, in my opinion. While I do still appreciate VeggieTales (as mentioned by someone above, it’s our job to teach our kids the gospel, not Phil Vischer’s), I do find this new series a helpful tool. It has lots of clear explanation of the gospel, and teaches complex concepts like justification and redemption at a level children can understand. It teaches some church history and tackles common questions like how we received the canon of Scripture, and why it was not at all unjust for God to order the destruction of the Canaanites during the conquest. I’ve only seen the first four videos, but I’m thankful to have them as one of the many tools we use in teaching our children.

  • lms

    FWS, I’ve read the entire Bible several times and never saw a verse wherein we are told to baptize infants. Where did you find that teaching? I’ve read that when people heard and believed and repented, they were baptized. How could infants do that?

  • lms

    FWS, I’ve read the entire Bible several times and never saw a verse wherein we are told to baptize infants. Where did you find that teaching? I’ve read that when people heard and believed and repented, they were baptized. How could infants do that?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    lms – scan through the archives here. We could go on and on about that question, but we have dealt with it many times before here.

    Also, reading something, including Scriptures, doesn’t mean you understand it, or its implications. Yes, I said it. Now hate me.. :)

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    lms – scan through the archives here. We could go on and on about that question, but we have dealt with it many times before here.

    Also, reading something, including Scriptures, doesn’t mean you understand it, or its implications. Yes, I said it. Now hate me.. :)

  • http://www.anthonyprince.com Anthony Prince

    On infant baptism (from the archives):
    http://www.geneveith.com/2011/06/09/on-baptizing-infants/

  • http://www.anthonyprince.com Anthony Prince

    On infant baptism (from the archives):
    http://www.geneveith.com/2011/06/09/on-baptizing-infants/

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Okay Bob & Frank, I stand corrected that the ELCA inheirited the D&G show. I remember watching D&G occasionally when I was a kid, but only when I was sick and stayed home from school. (My parents wouldn’t let me DVR it…)

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Okay Bob & Frank, I stand corrected that the ELCA inheirited the D&G show. I remember watching D&G occasionally when I was a kid, but only when I was sick and stayed home from school. (My parents wouldn’t let me DVR it…)

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    My kids have all come to know the Gospel at about age 4, so a hearty “Amen” to those who note the same for their children and grandchildren.

    My hope here–having cringed at some of the “shoehorning” Veggie Tales has done to get their story to fit a Biblical moral narrative while loving the beauty of what Veggie Tales was prior to their bankruptcy–is that Vischer and Nawrocki will get back together and see if they can get some of that old VT mojo around a Gospel-centered video. It’s sorely lacking in kids entertainment today–I watched one newer video recently and thought “it must have been by someone who forgot their Ritalin.” It was really bad, moralistic and with an attention span of about 30 seconds.

    Closest thing I can think of to Gospel-centered in VT is “Esther.”

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    My kids have all come to know the Gospel at about age 4, so a hearty “Amen” to those who note the same for their children and grandchildren.

    My hope here–having cringed at some of the “shoehorning” Veggie Tales has done to get their story to fit a Biblical moral narrative while loving the beauty of what Veggie Tales was prior to their bankruptcy–is that Vischer and Nawrocki will get back together and see if they can get some of that old VT mojo around a Gospel-centered video. It’s sorely lacking in kids entertainment today–I watched one newer video recently and thought “it must have been by someone who forgot their Ritalin.” It was really bad, moralistic and with an attention span of about 30 seconds.

    Closest thing I can think of to Gospel-centered in VT is “Esther.”

  • Bob Hatch

    Moralism …. mysticism …. the message is infinitely more than our attempts to “clarify” it in the name of “purifying” it. If God found a donkey a worthy prophet, then I have little problem with a tomato.

  • Bob Hatch

    Moralism …. mysticism …. the message is infinitely more than our attempts to “clarify” it in the name of “purifying” it. If God found a donkey a worthy prophet, then I have little problem with a tomato.

  • Caity

    For those who preach to the choir with no regard for the pithiness of their remarks, Lord have mercy.

  • Caity

    For those who preach to the choir with no regard for the pithiness of their remarks, Lord have mercy.

  • Jamie

    After reading most of these comments, I’m thinking that some may have missed the intent of Vischer’s words.

    “I realized I’m not supposed to be pursuing impact, I’m supposed to be pursuing God. And when I pursue God I will have exactly as much impact as He wants me to have.”

    It looks to me as if he was trying to make it clear that your focus as a Christian should not be on how big your impact is; rather you should be concerned about your heart motivation for doing the things. By extension, if you are measuring your actions by the size of the impact, then you are pursuing moralism. If you are concerned about being holy and obedient, then you can see God glorified in the results regardless of the impact because you recognize the outcome is in his control not simply a result of your effort.

  • Jamie

    After reading most of these comments, I’m thinking that some may have missed the intent of Vischer’s words.

    “I realized I’m not supposed to be pursuing impact, I’m supposed to be pursuing God. And when I pursue God I will have exactly as much impact as He wants me to have.”

    It looks to me as if he was trying to make it clear that your focus as a Christian should not be on how big your impact is; rather you should be concerned about your heart motivation for doing the things. By extension, if you are measuring your actions by the size of the impact, then you are pursuing moralism. If you are concerned about being holy and obedient, then you can see God glorified in the results regardless of the impact because you recognize the outcome is in his control not simply a result of your effort.

  • Jamie

    –After reading most of these comments, I’m thinking that some may have missed the intent of Vischer’s words.

    “I realized I’m not supposed to be pursuing impact, I’m supposed to be pursuing God. And when I pursue God I will have exactly as much impact as He wants me to have.”

    It looks to me as if he was trying to make it clear that your focus as a Christian should not be on how big your impact is; rather you should be concerned about your heart motivation for doing the things. By extension, if you are measuring your actions by the size of the impact, then you are pursuing moralism. If you are concerned about being holy and obedient, then you can see God glorified in the results regardless of the impact because you recognize the outcome is in his control not simply a result of your effort.

  • Jamie

    –After reading most of these comments, I’m thinking that some may have missed the intent of Vischer’s words.

    “I realized I’m not supposed to be pursuing impact, I’m supposed to be pursuing God. And when I pursue God I will have exactly as much impact as He wants me to have.”

    It looks to me as if he was trying to make it clear that your focus as a Christian should not be on how big your impact is; rather you should be concerned about your heart motivation for doing the things. By extension, if you are measuring your actions by the size of the impact, then you are pursuing moralism. If you are concerned about being holy and obedient, then you can see God glorified in the results regardless of the impact because you recognize the outcome is in his control not simply a result of your effort.

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  • John Z

    The problem with what FWS is saying is not that infants should be baptized but he is saying that we have Scriptural evidence that Jesus commanded it explicitly. I am a paedobaptist myself and believe strongly in infant baptism, and that it is biblical. But there is no such direct teaching from Jesus on the subject. “Let the little children come to me”, though germane, does not count.

    FWS is just embodying the caricature of paedobaptists that many other Christians have in their heads. If we do love the Scriptures as much as we say we do we should not trivialize their interpretation by making them say something explicitly when they don’t, even if it is true.

  • John Z

    The problem with what FWS is saying is not that infants should be baptized but he is saying that we have Scriptural evidence that Jesus commanded it explicitly. I am a paedobaptist myself and believe strongly in infant baptism, and that it is biblical. But there is no such direct teaching from Jesus on the subject. “Let the little children come to me”, though germane, does not count.

    FWS is just embodying the caricature of paedobaptists that many other Christians have in their heads. If we do love the Scriptures as much as we say we do we should not trivialize their interpretation by making them say something explicitly when they don’t, even if it is true.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    John Z (@42), we also have no explicit command from Jesus that women should ever be baptized.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    John Z (@42), we also have no explicit command from Jesus that women should ever be baptized.

  • John Z

    tODD, despite the fact that I repeatedly referred to myself as a paedobaptist (which means I believe in infant baptism), your reply implies that I do not believe in it, or believe that it is biblical. I do. I just don’t think we should say Jesus explicitly taught it. Of course it can still be true and biblical, which I believe it is.

    FWS is setting up a perfect straw man for a baptist to come knock down and say we who believe in infant baptism are clearly not biblical.

    However, I see that the point I was trying to make was missed entirely.

  • John Z

    tODD, despite the fact that I repeatedly referred to myself as a paedobaptist (which means I believe in infant baptism), your reply implies that I do not believe in it, or believe that it is biblical. I do. I just don’t think we should say Jesus explicitly taught it. Of course it can still be true and biblical, which I believe it is.

    FWS is setting up a perfect straw man for a baptist to come knock down and say we who believe in infant baptism are clearly not biblical.

    However, I see that the point I was trying to make was missed entirely.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    John Z (@44), no, I got that, thanks. I’m just no more worried about some hypothetical Baptist attack along those lines than I am concerned about the hypothetical attack about baptizing women.
    You seem to take this possible attack very seriously when it deals with infant baptism, but (and here I’m reading between the lines a bit) not so much when it comes to baptizing women. I, on the other hand, am equally not-worried about both.

    So my question to you: why do you treat the two equally valid hypothetical attacks so differently?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    John Z (@44), no, I got that, thanks. I’m just no more worried about some hypothetical Baptist attack along those lines than I am concerned about the hypothetical attack about baptizing women.
    You seem to take this possible attack very seriously when it deals with infant baptism, but (and here I’m reading between the lines a bit) not so much when it comes to baptizing women. I, on the other hand, am equally not-worried about both.

    So my question to you: why do you treat the two equally valid hypothetical attacks so differently?

  • John Z

    Because what I am talking about is not hypothetical in the slightest. This is precisely the same theological dialogue that I see happening between those who practice infant baptism and those who don’t (i have spent most of my life surrounded by family and friends that disagreed with me). We Lutherans often talk as if our reading of the Scriptures is so self-evident that those who don’t agree either must not be reading the Bible carefully or they must be willfully denying it. I believe infant baptism is true, but only because I see the detailed Scriptural arguments that show that baptism is not about something that we choose to do but what God does. However, it is not self-evident that it is true. Few things are; that’s what catechesis is for. FWS’s statement seems to suggest it is self-evident.

    I’m just asking that we try to not be sloppy about what the Scripture teaches and how explicit it does so. Far too often we Lutherans are so stuck inside our own bubble we fail to see the importance of not only knowing what we believe but why we believe it.

    Or maybe we just don’t care about talking with other Christians or what they think (seems to be the case often, at least in my experience).

  • John Z

    Because what I am talking about is not hypothetical in the slightest. This is precisely the same theological dialogue that I see happening between those who practice infant baptism and those who don’t (i have spent most of my life surrounded by family and friends that disagreed with me). We Lutherans often talk as if our reading of the Scriptures is so self-evident that those who don’t agree either must not be reading the Bible carefully or they must be willfully denying it. I believe infant baptism is true, but only because I see the detailed Scriptural arguments that show that baptism is not about something that we choose to do but what God does. However, it is not self-evident that it is true. Few things are; that’s what catechesis is for. FWS’s statement seems to suggest it is self-evident.

    I’m just asking that we try to not be sloppy about what the Scripture teaches and how explicit it does so. Far too often we Lutherans are so stuck inside our own bubble we fail to see the importance of not only knowing what we believe but why we believe it.

    Or maybe we just don’t care about talking with other Christians or what they think (seems to be the case often, at least in my experience).

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    John Z (@46), I guess it seems to me that you’re more animated by whatever personal experiences you have in this area than by anything in particular FWS said.

    I’m not even sure at this point what particular comment of FWS’s you’re reacting so strongly against. Did he say something like “This is the sum total of the Lutheran understanding on infant baptism, which is explicitly found in thus-and-so passage”? That’s how you’re acting.

    Or maybe we just don’t care about talking with other Christians or what they think (seems to be the case often, at least in my experience).

    Yowza. That appears to be quite a lot of luggage you’re schlepping there. Need a hand?

    I’m married to a (former) Southern Baptist, and I have several Southern Baptist in-laws. I’m not unfamiliar with such conversations.

    But, criminy, are you even replying to FWS, or is this all actually about some conversation you had with someone else?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    John Z (@46), I guess it seems to me that you’re more animated by whatever personal experiences you have in this area than by anything in particular FWS said.

    I’m not even sure at this point what particular comment of FWS’s you’re reacting so strongly against. Did he say something like “This is the sum total of the Lutheran understanding on infant baptism, which is explicitly found in thus-and-so passage”? That’s how you’re acting.

    Or maybe we just don’t care about talking with other Christians or what they think (seems to be the case often, at least in my experience).

    Yowza. That appears to be quite a lot of luggage you’re schlepping there. Need a hand?

    I’m married to a (former) Southern Baptist, and I have several Southern Baptist in-laws. I’m not unfamiliar with such conversations.

    But, criminy, are you even replying to FWS, or is this all actually about some conversation you had with someone else?

  • Randy Kain

    If you do NOT understand what “a-gap-ay” love is, you cannot keep God’s two greatest commandments correctly; if you do NOT understand the specificity of God’s ten commandments, you cannot keep them correctly; & if you do NOT understand the difference between the three kinds of commandments, you will make up excuses for your disobedience.

  • Randy Kain

    If you do NOT understand what “a-gap-ay” love is, you cannot keep God’s two greatest commandments correctly; if you do NOT understand the specificity of God’s ten commandments, you cannot keep them correctly; & if you do NOT understand the difference between the three kinds of commandments, you will make up excuses for your disobedience.

  • Fws

    John Z @ 42

    Heck naw John Z. I have baptists clearly in mind with all I say. Along with our Roman and Orthodox and Presbyterian brothers in Christ. Along with those I meet at Starbucks who need to be tenderly invited to step back into their baptisms.

    So I start by doing something Lutherans need to do. Because it is Confessional. I agree with them that the reason we Baptize is because Christ has commanded us to Baptize. So first I discuss Baptism as the Law of Christ that it is. It is a work that WE do. And why do we do it? We are commanded to do it. And so there are rules. We are to use water. We are to invoke the name of the Most Holy and Blessed Trinity as part of the act. Who are we to baptize? “All Nations”. That specifically includes whom? Only adults?

    Ah. But we can’t teach babies. In that case must we not exegete this command to say: “Baptize and teach only those who have arrived at the age of accountability”? That is really how they are thinking. It is not obviously wrong to think this way. Until we go to the next question….

    Ok. So what about babies? Are they sinners? Yes. So how do we bring those babies to Jesus? Don’t they need to be forgiven in Christ? well.. yes and no….Age of accountability. We dedicate them. …. Presbyterians say baptism=circumcision. So nothing really happens in baptism,but babies are brought “into the covenant.” But it ends up looking like baptist theology in practice. The proof is that conservative presbyterians cozy up to baptists all the time.

    Ok. So now we can have a Lutheran conversation about Law and Gospel with a Baptist. We are talking now about original sin and how Christ gets personally applied. “I made a decision for Christ.” How do babies do that? Where are we commanded to bring anyone to Christ by “dedicating them”? Where is THAT ordinance? That is being obedient to who or what?

    Lutherans usually get caught up in “Baptism is GOD’s work!” Baptist: “no it is a first act of obedience”. And so the frame is wrong. Everything from there ends up being two persons just talking past each other. Why? Lutherans are not explaining first, all that they need to explain before we can arrive at the formula that “Baptism is God’s act”. This IS true. But it is also true that it is a Good Work we do. Lutherans are saying that there are Good Works that save us! We need to fess up to that! But to just jump to that will confuse a Baptist. It looks like work’s righteousness. And they are right to be confused I say.

  • Fws

    John Z @ 42

    Heck naw John Z. I have baptists clearly in mind with all I say. Along with our Roman and Orthodox and Presbyterian brothers in Christ. Along with those I meet at Starbucks who need to be tenderly invited to step back into their baptisms.

    So I start by doing something Lutherans need to do. Because it is Confessional. I agree with them that the reason we Baptize is because Christ has commanded us to Baptize. So first I discuss Baptism as the Law of Christ that it is. It is a work that WE do. And why do we do it? We are commanded to do it. And so there are rules. We are to use water. We are to invoke the name of the Most Holy and Blessed Trinity as part of the act. Who are we to baptize? “All Nations”. That specifically includes whom? Only adults?

    Ah. But we can’t teach babies. In that case must we not exegete this command to say: “Baptize and teach only those who have arrived at the age of accountability”? That is really how they are thinking. It is not obviously wrong to think this way. Until we go to the next question….

    Ok. So what about babies? Are they sinners? Yes. So how do we bring those babies to Jesus? Don’t they need to be forgiven in Christ? well.. yes and no….Age of accountability. We dedicate them. …. Presbyterians say baptism=circumcision. So nothing really happens in baptism,but babies are brought “into the covenant.” But it ends up looking like baptist theology in practice. The proof is that conservative presbyterians cozy up to baptists all the time.

    Ok. So now we can have a Lutheran conversation about Law and Gospel with a Baptist. We are talking now about original sin and how Christ gets personally applied. “I made a decision for Christ.” How do babies do that? Where are we commanded to bring anyone to Christ by “dedicating them”? Where is THAT ordinance? That is being obedient to who or what?

    Lutherans usually get caught up in “Baptism is GOD’s work!” Baptist: “no it is a first act of obedience”. And so the frame is wrong. Everything from there ends up being two persons just talking past each other. Why? Lutherans are not explaining first, all that they need to explain before we can arrive at the formula that “Baptism is God’s act”. This IS true. But it is also true that it is a Good Work we do. Lutherans are saying that there are Good Works that save us! We need to fess up to that! But to just jump to that will confuse a Baptist. It looks like work’s righteousness. And they are right to be confused I say.

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  • Mark

    We have a three year old daughter and we do not normally put Veggie Tales on for her, for the same issue that Vischer regrets. Simply put, they are not Christian. Being based on Bible stories doesn’t make something Christian any more than a Jew is a Christian. Christianity is a saving faith in the finished work of Christ. Veggie Tales (and indeed 95% of other “Christian” kids programming) do not teach this. They teach biblical morals, which are good. When moral teaching alone masquerades as “Christian”, it has then become a false gospel because it claims to represent what Christianity is without pointing at the cross. We teach our three year old about the gospel even though she doesn’t understand it yet. At this age, we simply teach her the Bible stories (accurately) and give a brief overview of what it means. It’s not “what should we do” but “what does this say about God”. Sometimes it is a moral teaching, but you can use moral teachings to show kids the high demands of Christ and to show them how because we fail, we need Christ to be our savior.

  • Mark

    We have a three year old daughter and we do not normally put Veggie Tales on for her, for the same issue that Vischer regrets. Simply put, they are not Christian. Being based on Bible stories doesn’t make something Christian any more than a Jew is a Christian. Christianity is a saving faith in the finished work of Christ. Veggie Tales (and indeed 95% of other “Christian” kids programming) do not teach this. They teach biblical morals, which are good. When moral teaching alone masquerades as “Christian”, it has then become a false gospel because it claims to represent what Christianity is without pointing at the cross. We teach our three year old about the gospel even though she doesn’t understand it yet. At this age, we simply teach her the Bible stories (accurately) and give a brief overview of what it means. It’s not “what should we do” but “what does this say about God”. Sometimes it is a moral teaching, but you can use moral teachings to show kids the high demands of Christ and to show them how because we fail, we need Christ to be our savior.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Nowhere explicitly commanded to baptize our children? Perhaps depending on what you view as a command. But we are explicitly promised that it is for them. ACTS 2:38-39. The only question then remaining is: when do your children become your children?
    That is when you should baptize them then.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Nowhere explicitly commanded to baptize our children? Perhaps depending on what you view as a command. But we are explicitly promised that it is for them. ACTS 2:38-39. The only question then remaining is: when do your children become your children?
    That is when you should baptize them then.

  • Dave

    oh man, there goes my appreciation for the “Cheeseburger song”.

  • Dave

    oh man, there goes my appreciation for the “Cheeseburger song”.

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  • http://www.justinsingleton.com Justin Singleton

    I can appreciate his idea. I have recently been thinking about the difference between Biblical Christianity and American Christianity, and there is a difference. All of us tend to slowly adapt ourselves to our local surroundings, no matter who we are. Just like the early Israelites messed up by adapting Ba’alism in their worship of God, so we Americans tend to adopt Americanism and adapt it to our Christian worldview. We can’t be both American and Christian, but we have to be Christians who live in America (I am a war vet, so I feel that I have the right to say that). I wrote an article on this: http://www.holinessheartbeat.org/Articles/Blog/Entries/2010/12/28_Israeli_and_American_Folk_Religion.html.

  • http://www.justinsingleton.com Justin Singleton

    I can appreciate his idea. I have recently been thinking about the difference between Biblical Christianity and American Christianity, and there is a difference. All of us tend to slowly adapt ourselves to our local surroundings, no matter who we are. Just like the early Israelites messed up by adapting Ba’alism in their worship of God, so we Americans tend to adopt Americanism and adapt it to our Christian worldview. We can’t be both American and Christian, but we have to be Christians who live in America (I am a war vet, so I feel that I have the right to say that). I wrote an article on this: http://www.holinessheartbeat.org/Articles/Blog/Entries/2010/12/28_Israeli_and_American_Folk_Religion.html.

  • http://www.justinsingleton.com Justin Singleton

    Also … the “bad” songs are just way too catchy! I tend to go around the house singing the “bunny” song … and that is what we were trying to teach the kids not to do!! lol

  • http://www.justinsingleton.com Justin Singleton

    Also … the “bad” songs are just way too catchy! I tend to go around the house singing the “bunny” song … and that is what we were trying to teach the kids not to do!! lol

  • Fagel Brooks

    Jumping in here a tad late, but wanted to note that when our college-age son brought the first Veggie Tale home for our toddler — we were hooked. Phil Vischer had the knack (as all good children’s literature does) for embedding humor that would only be understood by the adults watching. But clever and funny as they all were, we said from the get-go that they were theistic, NOT Christian. That didn’t stop us from buying or watching. After all, our home devotions and our church that faithfully represented the whole truth of Scripture was our little one’s source of the knowledge of God and his Messiah. Considering the humanist brainwashing of some of the PBS programing, we were thrilled to have an alternative — imperfect as it was. However, I AM glad to hear that Phil Vischer sees and is humble enough to say that his work was flawed. This is in the spirit of Augustine’s Retractions, and it speaks well of the man. P.S. I happen to know that Ed Veith has the cutest grandchildren in the WORLD. :)

  • Fagel Brooks

    Jumping in here a tad late, but wanted to note that when our college-age son brought the first Veggie Tale home for our toddler — we were hooked. Phil Vischer had the knack (as all good children’s literature does) for embedding humor that would only be understood by the adults watching. But clever and funny as they all were, we said from the get-go that they were theistic, NOT Christian. That didn’t stop us from buying or watching. After all, our home devotions and our church that faithfully represented the whole truth of Scripture was our little one’s source of the knowledge of God and his Messiah. Considering the humanist brainwashing of some of the PBS programing, we were thrilled to have an alternative — imperfect as it was. However, I AM glad to hear that Phil Vischer sees and is humble enough to say that his work was flawed. This is in the spirit of Augustine’s Retractions, and it speaks well of the man. P.S. I happen to know that Ed Veith has the cutest grandchildren in the WORLD. :)

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Yes, Fagel, on all accounts, especially the last sentence! I didn’t mean to imply that the Veggie Tales aren’t good to watch. Or that we shouldn’t teach children morality. There is a difference between morality and moralISM. But Phil Vischer was realizing that he wasn’t teaching Christianity in teaching morality. Not everything has to teach Christianity, as such. The problem is that Christians, tragically, confuse the two, particularly when they are teaching their children.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Yes, Fagel, on all accounts, especially the last sentence! I didn’t mean to imply that the Veggie Tales aren’t good to watch. Or that we shouldn’t teach children morality. There is a difference between morality and moralISM. But Phil Vischer was realizing that he wasn’t teaching Christianity in teaching morality. Not everything has to teach Christianity, as such. The problem is that Christians, tragically, confuse the two, particularly when they are teaching their children.

  • Fws

    Dr Veith @ 56

    +1

    Dr Luther translated Aesops Fables to read to his children. He was no moralist. Luther also advises, in the prefaces to the Catechisms, that we should present to children stories from the Bible where God rewards good behavior and punishes bad behavior.

    The think to remember, as Dr Veith points out, is that we are not to think that this earthly morality, that God demands and both promises rewards and punishments has anything at all to do with being a Christian.

    The lifelong and most dificult task of any Christian, and what makes him a Christian, is to learn to become terrified at the very best we are able to see and do, especially our churchly virtue. Only then will we know that we must hide all that in the Works of Another.

    It is that hiding our own works in the Works of Another that alone makes one a christian.

    Christians are to practice ethics and morality and achieve virtue in the same way a pagan is to achieve it. It is to do the hard work that Aristiotle excellently outlines. We practice doing what a virtuous person would do especially when our heart is not in it, until that practice becomes a habit. This is really, really hard work and no one does it sufficiently. Sometimes pagans do it better than any christian could. Lord have mercy.

  • Fws

    Dr Veith @ 56

    +1

    Dr Luther translated Aesops Fables to read to his children. He was no moralist. Luther also advises, in the prefaces to the Catechisms, that we should present to children stories from the Bible where God rewards good behavior and punishes bad behavior.

    The think to remember, as Dr Veith points out, is that we are not to think that this earthly morality, that God demands and both promises rewards and punishments has anything at all to do with being a Christian.

    The lifelong and most dificult task of any Christian, and what makes him a Christian, is to learn to become terrified at the very best we are able to see and do, especially our churchly virtue. Only then will we know that we must hide all that in the Works of Another.

    It is that hiding our own works in the Works of Another that alone makes one a christian.

    Christians are to practice ethics and morality and achieve virtue in the same way a pagan is to achieve it. It is to do the hard work that Aristiotle excellently outlines. We practice doing what a virtuous person would do especially when our heart is not in it, until that practice becomes a habit. This is really, really hard work and no one does it sufficiently. Sometimes pagans do it better than any christian could. Lord have mercy.

  • Martha

    The comments following this article are deep. I too, am frustrated with my tendency to offer people moralism instead of the gospel. And like Vischer in a small way, I have attempted to do something great for God and had it end in disaster. Over the years I keep revisiting the decisions I made trying to learn where I went wrong. Don’t you think that is what Vischer is doing?

  • Martha

    The comments following this article are deep. I too, am frustrated with my tendency to offer people moralism instead of the gospel. And like Vischer in a small way, I have attempted to do something great for God and had it end in disaster. Over the years I keep revisiting the decisions I made trying to learn where I went wrong. Don’t you think that is what Vischer is doing?

  • fws

    martha @ 58

    Yes Martha.

    Try this: Serve yourself the most strict morality that you can do. And then do some more. Till it feels like it is killing you to do it.

    Then …. look for ways and opportunities to give others the opposite of what they deserve from their actions. Give them mercy. Ignore their behavior and treat them like you would Jesus.

    You will find alot of surprises.

    Let God send others to discipline those others unless it is your own calling to be their parent or judge.

  • fws

    martha @ 58

    Yes Martha.

    Try this: Serve yourself the most strict morality that you can do. And then do some more. Till it feels like it is killing you to do it.

    Then …. look for ways and opportunities to give others the opposite of what they deserve from their actions. Give them mercy. Ignore their behavior and treat them like you would Jesus.

    You will find alot of surprises.

    Let God send others to discipline those others unless it is your own calling to be their parent or judge.

  • Martha

    fws,
    Surprising answer. Was I being judgmental? I will consider your advice. It sounds like you are suggesting another way to do great things for God. Others already say I am hard on myself and that I readily give mercy but I am sure I have room for improvement. I remember trying to pray without ceasing and my old self was in agony. I am sorry to say I gave up and now just pray when I feel like I need to do so.

  • Martha

    fws,
    Surprising answer. Was I being judgmental? I will consider your advice. It sounds like you are suggesting another way to do great things for God. Others already say I am hard on myself and that I readily give mercy but I am sure I have room for improvement. I remember trying to pray without ceasing and my old self was in agony. I am sorry to say I gave up and now just pray when I feel like I need to do so.

  • fws

    martha @ 60

    I don’t know if you are Lutheran or not, but this is what we Lutherans think the Christian Life looks like:

    “the faith of which we speak exists in repentance, i.e., it is conceived in the terrors of conscience, which feels the wrath of God against our sins,and seeks the remission of sins, and to be freed from sin. And in such terrors and other afflictions this faith ought to grow and be strengthened. ”

    Why is that? It teaches us not to focus in our relationship with God on anything we can do, but rather hide ALL we can do in the Works of Another before God.

  • fws

    martha @ 60

    I don’t know if you are Lutheran or not, but this is what we Lutherans think the Christian Life looks like:

    “the faith of which we speak exists in repentance, i.e., it is conceived in the terrors of conscience, which feels the wrath of God against our sins,and seeks the remission of sins, and to be freed from sin. And in such terrors and other afflictions this faith ought to grow and be strengthened. ”

    Why is that? It teaches us not to focus in our relationship with God on anything we can do, but rather hide ALL we can do in the Works of Another before God.

  • lvl

    This response is not aimed at any one of the previous posts but more as a general observation of the subject matter. I believe absolutely that children can understand the Bible and God’s teaching at an earlier age than most people believe they can, but I also realize that understanding comes at different ages for different children. I don’t believe that when my children were 3 months old that they were able to comprehend the message or Bible readings they heard. However, they were entertained and would watch VeggieTales while I did housework etc. VT was like an oasis of peace in a world of crazy in children’s programming. And yes I did also purchase the complete seasons of Davey and Goliath as well! With all this being said, the point I feel that is important to.make is that saying that Veggietales was disappointing because it was teaching morality and not the Word is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Clearly it was never touted by its creators as the complete program to raise your children as Christians and not ever have to do anything else to ensure their salvation. VT was just another tool for parents to use and for children to watch and learn and to be entertained. I say you can’t have Christianity without morality (you know what I mean, it wont keep you out of heaven but will completely ruin your witness and walk) and there are many lessons in the Bible concerning the importance of morality and ethics etc. I believe there is too much over-thinking about Veggietales. It needs to be taken for what it is and not for what it could have been. It is to my way of thinking someone saying, “Thanks for taking care of my kids while I was in the hospital

  • lvl

    This response is not aimed at any one of the previous posts but more as a general observation of the subject matter. I believe absolutely that children can understand the Bible and God’s teaching at an earlier age than most people believe they can, but I also realize that understanding comes at different ages for different children. I don’t believe that when my children were 3 months old that they were able to comprehend the message or Bible readings they heard. However, they were entertained and would watch VeggieTales while I did housework etc. VT was like an oasis of peace in a world of crazy in children’s programming. And yes I did also purchase the complete seasons of Davey and Goliath as well! With all this being said, the point I feel that is important to.make is that saying that Veggietales was disappointing because it was teaching morality and not the Word is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Clearly it was never touted by its creators as the complete program to raise your children as Christians and not ever have to do anything else to ensure their salvation. VT was just another tool for parents to use and for children to watch and learn and to be entertained. I say you can’t have Christianity without morality (you know what I mean, it wont keep you out of heaven but will completely ruin your witness and walk) and there are many lessons in the Bible concerning the importance of morality and ethics etc. I believe there is too much over-thinking about Veggietales. It needs to be taken for what it is and not for what it could have been. It is to my way of thinking someone saying, “Thanks for taking care of my kids while I was in the hospital

  • lvl

    (continued) but why didnt you go clean my house and mow my lawn?” VeggieTales may not be the definitive all-encompassing Bible teaching guide for life, but it is still an excellent tool for teaching young children, opening the door for discussion of the Bible verses it features as well as the books the stories reference and offering entertainment that a parent doesnt have to worry about their kids watching. Morality set within Christian guidelines is essential. It is not correct to say that teaching about salvation should replace morals and ethics; rather the two must go hand in hand. There are many crooked Christians who are in business today that have done much to harm the general publics opinion of Christianity. I have read many verses in the Bible that were stressing the importance of morality. I know He wouldnt have included it if He didnt think it was important.

  • lvl

    (continued) but why didnt you go clean my house and mow my lawn?” VeggieTales may not be the definitive all-encompassing Bible teaching guide for life, but it is still an excellent tool for teaching young children, opening the door for discussion of the Bible verses it features as well as the books the stories reference and offering entertainment that a parent doesnt have to worry about their kids watching. Morality set within Christian guidelines is essential. It is not correct to say that teaching about salvation should replace morals and ethics; rather the two must go hand in hand. There are many crooked Christians who are in business today that have done much to harm the general publics opinion of Christianity. I have read many verses in the Bible that were stressing the importance of morality. I know He wouldnt have included it if He didnt think it was important.

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  • Guy Stricker

    blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (God’s righteousness, not ours)

    Fear God and keep his commandments. that is the whole duty of man

  • Guy Stricker

    blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (God’s righteousness, not ours)

    Fear God and keep his commandments. that is the whole duty of man

  • Reina

    amen! i fully agree! and while he’s at it, i recommend Mr. Vischer look into orthodox Christianity. :-)

  • Reina

    amen! i fully agree! and while he’s at it, i recommend Mr. Vischer look into orthodox Christianity. :-)

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