Postmodernism is the culture we live in, and the prevailing thought of postmodernism is that religious truth is highly individualistic, subjective, and resides within the individual. What that means is that each individual determines what truth really is for themselves. If you doubt that, the next time you have a serious conversation with someone, don’t be surprised when you hear them reference the default statement of all postmodern spiritual truth thinking, when they say, “That’s just your opinion”. How that affects children is that after we have taught them the Bible, the culture will tell them the Bible is totally irrelevant. From there, it may not be long until their faith is the big casualty.
So, the question is, “Is there anything we can do to prepare children to face a culture that dismisses biblical truth and rational thought with personal opinion?” My answer is, “Yes!” Helping children face this new culture, may be one of the greatest challenges and opportunities we have. One of the early reasons for establishing Sunday School in the late 1700s was to teach children to read. It was a problem that needed to be addressed. Postmodernism may be the new problem.
In order to understand some adjustments we might need to make, it would be helpful to understand some components that go into a postmodern worldview. Among those components are science, emotion, and personal liberty that makes each individual the ultimate authority. Science, because truth is relegated to only those things that can be seen and demonstrated in the natural world, emotion because many decisions are based primarily on what I feel, and personal liberty because it allows me to do what I want and do what I think will be best for me in the here and now.
The way then that postmodernism can be attacked is to take on these pillars, and we can do that by keeping three simple thoughts in front of us: “What I See”, “What I Feel”, and “What I Think”.
“What I See” combats the postmodern pillar of science.
Rather than avoid science, maybe it is time to embrace it. Make science your friend. Bring it into the Sunday school classroom, or take the classroom to the science. We do that by planning lessons that showcase the intricate and complex nature of God’s design. Take your third graders outside to plant a community garden, and in the process teach about the complexity of seeds and how they grow. Many of those same third graders may have planted a garden at school, but they haven’t planted one with this kind of input! Now the public school is reinforcing what is being taught at church.
Maybe there is someone in your church or community who has special knowledge in the area of botany or biology, and can teach with a biblical worldview. Maybe someone is really good at simplifying how electricity works. It’s time to resource them. When we are talking about Noah’s ark, and all the animals, take special care to draw attention to how the animals are unique. The possibilities are endless, and the goal is that children begin to see God’s grand design and complexity in all the world about them. The Bible is good science.
“What I Feel” takes on the pillar of emotion.
Look for all the different emotions found in the biblical characters we study and draw attention to them. Children may not be able to put words like “fear, anxiety, worry, insignificance, anger, neglect, discouragement, abuse, or unloved” to what they feel, but they experience them just the same. They experience them when they are picked last for the softball game, when dad doesn’t make it to the big event, when everyone else is smarter or faster than they are, when mom and dad don’t live in the same house, when a tragic event has happened, when they have failed, when the future seems uncertain, or when they feel like they don’t know what to do next.
When they see characters in the Bible experience the same things they are experiencing, and when they see how a loving God responds, it draws them closer to God and reinforces the validity of the Bible. It teaches them that there is a God who understands everything about them and He can be trusted. “Jesus Loves Me” will always be the greatest lesson they can learn. Good Bible teaching takes listeners and places them in the story. They feel it. The Bible is not only good science, it is the best psychology book that has ever been written.
“What I Think” handles the pillar of personal liberty.
What do I really think about my own personal freedom and the character and authority of God? Children are born with a sense of knowing that loving authority is a good thing. Having a mom and dad who love you and know more than you is good. They know that eating every Cheerio in the box may not be the best choice. They also know that there are certain innate moral laws. It is wrong for someone to take your toy or say something mean. It is just as wrong when you are the one being mean or stealing the toy. Children get it. We once again reinforce the validity of the Bible when they discover that God put the ten commandments and all the other applicable moral laws in the Bible for our benefit and for His glory.
When teaching, be sure to highlight what happened when biblical characters went their own way. Then be sure to highlight how God responded to them. God knows what is best. He also knows that we can’t keep all those laws, and He provided for that through Jesus’ death on the cross. “What I Think” draws attention to the struggle of wanting to go our own way against the character and authority of God. The Bible reveals this God to a people who have left Him.
“What I See”, “What I Feel”, “What I Think.” These simple statements can help us confront the challenge of postmodernism. When they reinforce the validity of the Bible and the loving God behind it, then they will have served as a useful tool for the salvation of children and the glory of God.
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