James McGrath writes a post which starts out humorously as he relates a story about a misreading of a passage from the Book of Revelation in his Sunday school class:
We continued our study of Revelation in my Sunday school class, and while we had some serious discussion of the issues facing the churches mentioned in chapter 2, the main thing that seemed worth blogging about was a misreading. One of the attendees said that at first glance they thought that two of the churches were having problems with the Nicotines.
Since I suspect that our church is supportive of Indiana's new no smoking law, presumably we are more like the church in Ephesus than that in Pergamum.
But then he turns to a more serious matter of a misreading of Scripture in a Sunday school class for children:
We also had mention of another issue that comes up in Revelation 2, as it was misread in a Sunday school class for children, namely "sexual immortality." It sounds like an interesting topic, and yet I still kind of hope we won’t come back to it.
And then James raises this very important issue:
But the very fact that such a misreading apparently came up in another Sunday school class, one for young children, makes me wonder once again what people are thinking, giving Bibles to the very young. Presumably it is a bad idea to do so unless one is prepared, and considers it appropriate, to talk with them about all the sorts of contents the Bible has. Otherwise, just give them a collection of excerpts, or perhaps give the Bible as a collection an R rating and leave the reading and discussing of it until people are mature enough to deal with all its contents.
It seems to me that there has been wisdom displayed in publishing Bible story books for children that can filter out or strain through certain matters of a more adult nature. But, at what point are children ready to tackle the whole of Scripture, that is filled with, not only many wonderful stories and deep things to ponder, but also the many dysfunctions of its characters and the morally troubling narratives as well. There are Christian parents who monitor closely what their children watch on TV sheltering from violent and sexual themes only to have them wade through portions of Scripure filled with violent and sexual themes.
The fifth century bishop, St. Augustine, wrote a letter to a mother offering advice on teaching the Bible to her children. Augustine counseled against exposing them to the Song of Solomon given the overt sexual themes, but thought nothing of her children maneuvering through all the violence in the Books of Joshua and Judges.
So when are children ready to tackle the whole of the Bible? What are your thoughts?