Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hermeneutical Sophistication

A few weeks ago Debra and I - along with the estimable Nathan Bierma and his wife, Andrea -- visited our friend Nick Overduin and the wonderful people at 1st CRC in Toronto. They've made use of Deb's books and Nathan's in their small groups, and so wanted to meet and chat with them. Meanwhile, I came along to give Nick a week off from his pulpit duties. We had an enjoyable ride up on Saturday, and a lovely evening eating some fabulous Ethiopian food (our fave).

The worship service and other events on Sunday were very satisfying, but I was entranced by a display in the church's narthex.

It is the product of a children's Bible study of the story of Noah. Next to idealized Bible school pictures of an ark full of elephants and giraffes and so forth are comments the students made, like these:
  • "The water could not have been this calm."
  • "The animals could not have been this familiar to us."
  • "They must have taken animals on the ark to be eaten, not saved,"
and my favorite:
Instead of fostering a childish view of scripture (not childlike), whoever was in charge of this study encouraged the children to read their Bibles with their brains turned on, working alongside their faithful trust in Scripture's trustworthiness.

To paraphrase someone I admire a great deal, I've not seen such hermeneutical sophistication in all of... well, in a lot of places I would expect to find it. Children taught this way are much less likely to fall into biblicist patterns of thinking about inspiration, or have their faith shaken to the core when they learn, for example, in their Religion 101 classes, of the documentary hypothesis.

Mark it up as one more thing 1st CRC in Toronto is doing well.

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