Imagine a preschool Sunday school curriculum that presents 64 chronological Bible stories from the Old Testament…all of them focusing on the character of God. Is there something wrong with this? Something missing? Doesn’t the whole Bible point to Jesus? Shouldn’t we make clear that every story points to Jesus?
Before you respond to these important and valid questions, I would ask you to carefully read and ponder this quote from J. Gresham Machen:
…when men say that we know God only as He is revealed in Jesus, they are denying all real knowledge of God whatever. For unless there be some idea of God independent of Jesus, the ascription of deity to Jesus has no meaning. To say, “Jesus is God,” is meaningless unless the word “God” has an antecedent meaning attached to it…We are not forgetting the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” But these words do not mean that if a man had never known what the word “God” means, he could come to attach an idea to that word merely by his knowledge of Jesus’ character. On the contrary, the disciples to whom Jesus was speaking had already a very definite conception of God: a knowledge of the one supreme Person was presupposed in all that Jesus said. But the disciples desired not only a knowledge of God but also intimate, personal contact. And that came through their intercourse with Jesus. Jesus revealed, in a wonderfully intimate way, the character of God, but such revelation obtained its true significance only on the basis both of the Old Testament heritage and of Jesus’ own teaching. Rational theism, the knowledge of one Supreme Person, Maker and active Ruler of the world, is at the very root of Christianity.
(“Christianity and Liberalism,” copyright©2009, pages 48-49)
Could it be that, especially for preschoolers, it is crucial that we first focus on giving them a concept of God as revealed in the Old Testament? By introducing them to key truths regarding who God is and what He is like, are we not preparing young children to better understand the significance of what it means that “Jesus is God”?
As much as it is truthful to say that the whole Bible points to Jesus and the Gospel, we must not dismiss or minimize Dr. Machen’s point. Our children need to be taught a robust doctrine of God. They need to see “God” as He has revealed Himself throughout the Old Testament—His power, love, mercy, sovereign rule, holiness, goodness, faithfulness, etc. These are the antecedents that give meaning to the New Testament’s assertion that “Jesus is God,” and they provide the necessary foundation for understanding the message of the Gospel.