16 September, 2011

Palagianism 101, Children's Edition

Recently I took my children to the Los Angeles County Fair just outside of LA. It had all of the normal fair-experiences that people look for when attending a county fair. There were fattened animals, giant pumpkins, tilt-o-whirls, carnies, and even deep fried you-name-its. The whole experience was there.

As we walked past the vendors of tacky hats and marshmallow shooters, we heard a vendor asking the pedestrians, “Have you ever heard of the book with no words?” I had heard the story because my father’s parents were evangelical Christians and were quite happy to share Bible stories and children’s tracts with us when we were kids. I said that I had and he invited my children into the tent.

A very cheerful older lady met the kids at the door and there was one other little boy in the tent ready to hear the story. The narrator told of GOLD streets in Heaven and held up the wordless book to show the page that was all gold. Next she told of how little children must be washed of their sin and turned the page to an all BLACK page. The next page was RED as she proceeded to tell of the blood of the Lord Jesus needing to be shed. This Gospel message went on to say that we can be WHITE as snow as she turned to a bright white page. The final page was GREEN as she told the children that they must grow every day.

Now that’s cute. It was also nostalgic because I remember my grandfather using similar messages. But here’s what got me...

She told my children (and the other little boy) that they must do these things: 

1. Go to Sunday School.
2. Read you Bible every day.
3. Pray.

Those are all good things, right? Yep. They are great. But here’s the line that I keep ruminating on, “...and you will learn to love Jesus.”

Is that true? If little children go to Sunday School, read their Bible everyday, and pray they will learn to love Jesus? I am struggling a bit with that message. It does not sound like the Gospel of free grace, but a call to work your way into the favor of God. To me it sounds like the little children of Los Angeles County were hearing that if they do certain things than GOLD streets would theirs. It sounded more like Pelagius telling children stories than Augustine telling them.

Am I word brat?
Am I being too hard on little old ladies with good intentions?
Am I being... a jerk?

I don’t mean to be any of those things but I wonder if there is Augustinian version of this book. I wonder if children’s messages, videos, sermons, and books with the message of “be nice and don’t hit your sister” do more harm than good. We need to point our children to a crucified Jesus who died because little kids cannot be nice and cannot but hit their sisters. What are we teaching our children? What’s the Gospel that you are sharing with His little ones?