A question from a third grader after reviewing the biblical story of Adam and Eve’s sin in eating of the one tree…
“Mrs. Nelson, why did God put the tree in the garden in the first place?”
Thinking to myself: That’s a really good question! When did third graders get so smart? I wish I had Dr. Wayne Grudem on speed-dial. How can I stall while I try to think this through?
These days there is a lot of emphasis on teaching children through narrative and story. And while it is true that many parts of the Bible are written in narrative form (as in the case of Genesis 3), and good story-telling can be an effective means of teaching children, the fact remains that we also need to ground our children in sound doctrine. What is doctrine? Well, you could say that it is basically looking at what the whole Bible teaches about different topics—God, creation, man, Jesus, redemption, the church, etc.
But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. (Titus 2:1 ESV)
Take for example, that question from the third grader. The narrative in Genesis 3 makes for great story-telling. But the “story” itself does not answer the third grader’s question, does it? Nor does the story answer the question of why God was so angry because of “one seemingly little act of disobedience.” However, as you look through the whole Bible, you will see that much is revealed about the character of God—who He is and what He is like. And these truths are “collected,” as it were, in order to form the doctrine of God. For example, God is holy and righteous and is committed to His glory. God is also omniscient, wise, sovereign, almighty, merciful, loving, and good. This type of doctrinal framework can now help answer that third grader’s question, because the whole Bible has revealed to us important things about God’s character and purposes.
Therefore, teaching doctrine is vitally important because it informs us of core biblical truths of the Christian faith. It guards us from error, serves as a standard by which to test all things, and is extremely practical and applicable to daily living.
Do you have an intentional plan for presenting doctrine to the children of your church? Have you thought about these questions?
- What essential truths of the Christian faith do our children need to know?
- How should these doctrines be explained accurately at various ages?
- Do the tools we now use provide our children with solid doctrine that is increasingly comprehensive in scope and depth as the children mature?
- If we are using story-based materials, are we being careful to evaluate their doctrinal integrity?
If you haven’t done so already, it may be time to review and evaluate your teaching materials to see if your children are receiving a solid doctrinal foundation. Because, whether we know it or not, we are always teaching doctrine to children. They will create categories in their minds by what we teach them. So let’s keep it sound!
What does a solid doctrinal foundation look like? Here are two great resources for adults:
So how would you answer that third grader’s question, “Why did God put the tree in the garden in the first place?” Email us your answers. We will highlight our two favorite responses in a future post, and the winners will each receive a copy of Dr. Bruce A. Ware’s Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God.
- Topic: Share your answer to the question: “Why did God put the tree in the garden in the first place?”
- Submit your answer to us via email at email@example.com
- Deadline: Wednesday March 27th, at 11:59pm
- Prize: One of two Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God by Dr. Bruce A. Ware
- We will randomly select two people who submit testimonies.
- You may submit multiple answers, but only one counts as an entry.
- We will notify you by email when you’ve won to receive your shipping information.
- Winners will be announced on Tuesday, April 2nd.
Come and hear Dr. Bruce Ware, Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, at our National Conference. He will be one of our plenary speakers and will also be leading a seminar titled, “Teaching Children to Know and Love God by Knowing and Loving Theology.” For more information click here.