Reading the Bible Versus Reading Edited Biblical Stories: What’s Better?

Over at the BibleMesh blog, Thesis, John Starke has a thought-provoking piece up entitled “Danville, Illinois and the Eschatology of a Five Year Old” about family devotions and the use of Christian books versus the Bible.  Starke raises the question of whether our family devotions should include more Bible and less (helpful and well-intentioned) condensed and edited retellings of biblical stories.

Here’s a bit to whet your appetite:

The story leads me to consider the new peculiar (cruel and unusual?) practice we’ve started at our home, where our three children range from the age of just about 2 to 6— two girls and one boy. We are the normal, young reformed family that has jumped on the story book Bible craze. The steady diet of The Jesus Story Book Bible and The Big Picture Story Bible have brought much fruit and color to our family devotions. But I have to say, with some disappointment, that many of our lessons have never ended with questions. I don’t mean “discussion questions” usually included at the end of study guide chapters, but the curiosity of a four or five year old, who wonders, “Why would Jesus say that?” or, even, “What does circumcision mean?”

Our devotions usually ended with the attitude of, “That’s great, dad! Jesus sure is swell!” We didn’t always feel a sense of tension, confusion, or wonder. Now, don’t hear me wrongly, these story books are so helpful in putting the whole story of the Bible together for young children, in a way that just plugging through the Old and New Testament struggles to capture. We should read and re-read them.

The whole article is worth considering.  I like using books like those John mentioned, but there is no substitute for the actual Word of God.  It’s kind of like keeping your little ones in church.  It can be hard, and there’s some extra work you have to do, but in the end, it seems well worth the effort.

I happen to think that the books in question can be a big help to parents, especially as they’re putting together the pieces for a Christocentric reading of the Scripture.  In our home, we use both books John mentioned.  But as my children age, I am looking forward to digging into the Bible with them.  That will take some hard work, a good bit of explaining, and some patience, but it will be eminently worth it.  Resources to understand the Bible are great.  There is no substitute, however, for the God-breathed Bible.  None.  It’s what we need, it’s what our children need, it’s what our churches need, and it’s what our world needs.
(This is cross-posted from the blog of Vitamin Z
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