A reader writes:
I wonder if you have ever seen this question addressed well, or if you would be willing to take a crack at it on your blog:
My seven year old daughter is asking questions about Adam and Eve. Her naive literalism (de facto, never explicitly taught by us) is not going to serve her well much longer. One wants to protect and honor her wonder at creation and the earnestness of her faith. But also, how to help her see, with as little rupture as possible, that there are different genres in the Bible, different ways of reading, that things can be true without being literally/historically true? I am fishing for ways to speak at the 7 year old level: good analogies, helpful ways to frame or turn a key phrase, recommendations for her to read, etc.
I wouldn’t worry about it too much just yet. But when it comes up, remember the old medieval proverb: That which is received is received according to the mode of the receiver. So keep things at her level when she asks. You might talk about the ways Jesus sometimes tells once upon a time stories that didn’t happen in real life but still show us the truth about things. You can then apply that to the creation narrative. You can also talk about how sometimes people will talk about *real* things in non-literal language. So when Dr. Seuss wanted to talk about Hitler he told the story called “Yertyl the Turtle”. When Nathan the prophet confronted David about stealing Uriah’s wife and killing Uriah, he told a story about a rich man who stole a poor man’s lamb–and David got the point. In the same way, there was a first human family and they did sin and lose the life of God for the human race, but the story is told in mythic form so that it’s easy to understand. That will probably do the trick for the most part. My book Making Senses Out of Scripture might help give you some background in case you want to go deeper. Also, Walking With God by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins has a good look at the creation narrative that you might find helpful. You can get them both from me here.
What we might do is sit and read Genesis 1 and 2 with her. Draw a picture of what happens on each day, and show how the Bible itself foregrounds two different creation accounts. Maybe that’s the way to go, but there’s a tinge of something in that approach that feels a bit too plodding.
It may be overkill for a seven year old. But I love that you are so dedicated to your little girl’s formation. She’ll be fine with you as a parent. 🙂
Many many thanks for considering this.
PS We have a mutual friend in Ron Belgau. He and I have worked together on the “Gay in Christ” project at Notre Dame.
I love that guy! 🙂
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!