Our Sunday School Theology

Getting to Know Jesus in the 21st Century is, in part, a creative response to our (all too typical) Sunday School Theology which can be outlined as follows:

  • Outcasts from the Garden of GodWe often speak of an all powerful, all knowing, all loving God…
    • …who chooses to create a world which he knows will fall into sin…
    • …and who knows that the result of that sin will be:
      • …untold generations of natural suffering in a fallen creation
      • …untold generations of human suffering throughout history
      • …and the eternal, conscious torment of untold numbers of human souls in hell.
  • We also (often) say that this is due to the sin of our original parents…
    • …who are often understood as two, historical human beings living approximately 6000 years ago in a literal garden of Eden…
    • …whose sin resulted in our being born into sin so that…
      • …because of their choice, we had no choice…
      • …and, as a result, we are condemned already.
  • subdeath2Against this backdrop, we often teach that:
    • God in his mercy sent Jesus in the middle of human history…
      • Our perfect/penal substitute…
      • Who died a substitutionary death…
      • Thus paying our sin debt…
      • So that, because he died, we don’t have to…
    • And that whoever hears and receives this good news will go to heaven when they die (instead of hell).
    • However, we also often teach that those who live(d) and die(d) without accepting the Judeo-Christian revelation cannot be saved…
      •  …whether or not they have been exposed to the gospel…
      • …or may have heard and rejected a misrepresentation of it…
      • …it seems that God has provided enough light to condemn everyone, but not enough light to save everyone…
      • …thus it is our responsibility to go into all the world and preach the gospel…
  • for the bible tells me soMoreover, in order to preserve our preferred standards of Christian behavior and our preferred modes of Christian discourse, we often teach our children to believe that:
    • …the library of 66+ ancient texts written over 1000 year period (which we refer to as The Holy Bible) are basically free of errors and internally consistent and coherent with one another.  This is true, we may say…
      • …not only when it comes to matters of faith/salvation…
      • …but also when it comes to any claims that might seem to have a bearing on science or history
    • As such, we often teach our children
      • …to disregard the theory of evolution and interpret Genesis literally…
      • …that they should never question the historicity of any of the other Biblical narratives…
      • …that they must accept Christ as their penal substitute…
      • …and that so doing, they will be saved–along with all the others who “accept Christ” in this way.
      • …while everyone else will suffer eternal, conscious torment…
  • indoctrinationBy persuading our children of this at a young age and by limiting insofar as possible their exposure to alternative points of view, we desire to:
    • Preserve our tradition and to…
    • Create the optimal conditions for the salvation of our children’s souls…

What’s wrong with this picture!?  Does this really do justice to the depths and the riches of our knowledge of Christ?  While this Sunday School Theology may work after a fashion as a kind of initial instruction for children, it comes across as logically incoherent and/or morally repugnant when understood and promulgated among adults in a rigid and simplistic way.  Moreover, because the moral and intellectual horizon of those Christians who never out-grow this understanding of the gospel tends to be rather limited,  they are often low-hanging fruit for demagogues of various kinds.  We can do better than this…

–> Reading the Bible in the 21st Century

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