By Kathryn Libel
My eight-year-old has always been a deep thinker, so I’ve answered a lot of tough questions. Because of particular learning needs, he’s been attending a fundamentalist Christian school which leads to even more questions. So the day he asked me, “Mama, is the Bible really true?” I wasn’t really surprised. This was a question I’d been anticipating.
“Why do you ask, son?”
“Well, the dinosaur books, for one thing. My books from National Geographic and Smithsonian agree about dinosaurs and evolution, but at school, they say that’s not real science.”
“And what do you think?”
“I think that none of its real science because in order to prove a theory using the scientific method, you have to create an experiment that’s repeatable. If evolutionists or creationists could make life happen in an experiment, then it would be science.”
Jaw drops. Insert sputtering here.
“Besides that, we were reading Genesis 1 in class the other day, and I finished faster and so I read Genesis 2, and it sounds like God made people twice. And did everyone get killed in the flood? That seems unlikely. And how would vegetation grow after everything had been underwater for so long? And the sea creatures wouldn’t die, so did they not count as living things? And the geologic record SHOWS there was an asteroid and an ice age, but the Bible doesn’t talk about it. Those things seem kind of important.”
More spluttering. Maybe I’m not as prepared for this one as I thought…
“Let’s back up a little bit. Why do we have the Bible?”
“Because it’s God’s Holy Words.”
Thank you, Christian school. Catechism answers.
“Why did God want us to read it?”
“Umm… so we could know about Jesus?”
“Sure! Let’s go with that. What did Jesus talk about when he was here?”
“He talked about loving our neighbors and not worrying and that God is love.”
“Yes!! And he says that God loves us and wants to be near to us. Would you say that God’s love is the whole point of the story of the Bible?”
“I guess so.”
Oh, good. If he argued this one, this would have been a long day…
“When we want to answer a question about science or history or spelling, do we look in the Bible for an answer?
“No. We ask Google or Alexa.”
Eye roll. Does it even matter if they know how to use a dictionary anymore? Yes. Yes, it MUST!
“If we were going to look in a book about science or history or spelling…” I prompt.
“Dictionary or encyclopedia,” he replies with zero enthusiasm.
“Exactly!! When we want to know about God, where can we look?”
Another canned answer.
“When you write your persuasive paragraphs at school, you have to choose one main thing to argue for, right?”
“It’s called a topic, Mom.”
“Yes. A topic. Do you think that God ever meant one of the topics of the Bible to be science?”
“Maybe. God says that nature tells about Him.”
“But is the Bible there to explain nature?”
“Oh. No. It’s there to explain God.”
Hmmm… maybe. I think I’ll just go with that one.
“Do you believe that what the Bible tells us about God’s love is true?”
“Yeah, mom. I feel it in my stomach that God loves me.”
“Do you think that God is responsible for creating and maintaining life?”
“I guess he has to be since scientists can’t do it.”
Sheesh, I love this kid!
“Do you think that the statement, ‘God created’ can be true, even if what the Bible says about creation may not be scientifically accurate?”
“Sure. Besides, my teacher said that Moses probably wrote down Genesis, and I was thinking that even though the Egyptians were pretty advanced, they still didn’t understand about space or molecules or anything like that, so he couldn’t have explained mutations.”
My brain is starting to hurt. I think I need coffee…
“So, can we say that the Bible is true (meaning, it tells the truth about what it was written about: God and his relationship with people), even if it isn’t necessarily accurate in science or history or spelling?”
He thinks, with his head cocked to one side and those beautiful thinking wrinkles in his forehead.
“Yes. I can say I love you with all my heart, but that isn’t accurate. My heart holds blood, not love. But it’s still true.”
Where did this kid come from?
“Mom? I think I won’t write all that on my Bible test on Friday. I’ll get it wrong.”
“Well, maybe you can just write, ‘yes, the Bible is true and know in your heart that you mean something a little different than the test does with the word ‘true.’”
“Yeah. I can do that. It’s not lying, just different definitions… hey, Mom? Can I watch Wild Kratts?”
I wander into the kitchen and start more coffee, and my thoughts swirl. Catechism answers are so much easier. Complete confidence in the inerrancy of Scripture was a pillar of my early life. Am I pushing him too hard, asking him to think too abstractly for his age? Heh, no. Not this kid.
In the not too distant past, I could always fall back on my good reformed theology to explain away the mystery of God and make him understandable for me. Now, I realize that a God defined and explained cannot truly be God. We have made ourselves God when we begin to define him.
Do I believe the Bible is inerrant? No.
Do I believe it is the only way to know God? No.
Do I believe it is true? Absolutely. And I want my son to have the confidence to turn to it when he needs guidance or assurance… just as I do.
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Kathryn Libel is a Midwestern single mom to a boy who loves books and a girl who loves dirt. Words, big thoughts, coffee, and good food really turn her crank! If she isn’t busy navigating big thoughts and big feelings with her kiddos, she is usually reading, writing, or eating something delicious!