Reading Genesis to our Kids in a Scientific Age: Interview with @OneAnglican (part 2)

NOTE: This is part 2 of my interview with Jon Parker, an Anglican clergyman and former student minister working on his PhD in Old Testament at Durham University. For part one, see HERE.
BigBible:  You have four kids. How do you read Genesis to children growing up in a post-Enlightenment culture that would dismiss the account of Creation in Genesis 1-2?

Jon: I think my kids hear the sounds of an atheistic-scientistic culture around them and say,’That’s not true, God is real. You can’t explain everything with science.’  I don’t think they need much more than that when dealing with the culture. I want them engaging with their world and with science in a kind of classical way, like Kepler said, ‘Science is thinking God’s thoughts after him.’  There is a kind of humility that comes from studying the actual facts of science that you don’t get in a culture which tries to build a society and complete belief system around it’s conclusions (which is a big part of what I mean by “scientism”).

From a Bible-reading side, I try to let them explore the story for themselves, ask questions appropriate to their age, and answer in ways which take the text as seriously as possible but also won’t set them up for confusion later.  So, when my seven-year-old asks if the seven days of creation are seven ‘real’ days, I start by asking him what he thinks.  We look at the first day and the creation of light/day and darkness/night and ask how that relates to the fourth day with sun and moon to rule and govern the day and night.  (‘How can you have the one before the other?’)


BigBible: What about dinosaurs? That’s a question my kids have definitely posed with interest!

Jon: Yes, we talk a lot about dinosaurs and why God made them—”I don’t know,” I say, “…maybe to make us wonder about things?”  I usually tell them how a lot of the first geologists were clergy who were just curious about their world (e.g. Wm. Buckland).’
Here’s my main concern: Sometimes questions of history can really stop people from seeing the truth of the Old Testament on its own terms: It’s historical but in a different way than we’re used to.  I was reading the story of the garden to my five-year old just the other day and he said, ‘Is that what really happened?’ My response was, ‘Well, it’s like what really happened, and it’s the best way for us to think about it.’  Then he said, ‘They [Adam and Eve] really caused us all the problems, didn’t they?’  (Don’t you love kids’ questions!)  I said, ‘Well, the point of the story is to say how we all have problems.  Each of us has sin in our own hearts.’  That’s the way I teach it to my kids.  It works with Romans 5 (even more than a literal-historical reading which might result in some Christians blaming Adam for their sin rather than looking into their own heart) and it’s not something they will ever get from the Post-Enlightenment culture around them.  For the Bible, there is no point in talking about the origins of humanity if you’re not also talking about the very real depth of human sin in the very same breath.
NOTE: Some readers will recognize Jon’s references above to the debate about whether or not Adam is historical. For more on this, Jon recommends looking here and here. The 3rd and final part of the interview will deal with how we read Genesis Christologically.
Editor’s Note: David Wilkinson, who makes references to dinosaurs, is speaking on Saturday about ‘Genesis in an age dominated by science‘, you can join us online!

About AndyByers

I serve as the Chaplain for St Mary's College at Durham University while working on a PhD in the Department of Theology. CODEC has also taken me on to work as a theological consultant of sorts for the BigBible blog. My first book is about cynicism toward the church and disillusionment with God—'Faith Without Illusions: Following Jesus as a Cynic-Saint' (IVP Likewise, 2011). My latest is ‘TheoMedia: The Media of God in the Digital Age’ (Cascade Books, 2013).