This week, we've been reviewing Phil Vischer's latest release, "What's In The Bible?" After the disaster of Big Idea Productions, he decided to get back to what he wanted to do all along: to help parents by providing resources that will teach children about the Bible. He's created a new cast of puppet characters to tell the story, led by one of his old standbys, Buck Denver, Man of News. There's also "Pastor Paul" (who looks like Stephen Baldwin in a clerical collar) and "Cap'n Pete" who teaches `A Pirate's Guide To Church History' (from Jesus Christ to Billy Graham). There's "Sunday School Lady" with her friend "Magic Flannelgraph" and "Clive and Ian," two British adventurers. There's "Chuck Wagon," a country and western music singer who's smarter than he looks (his answer to the question, `What is sin?' - "sin is when we tell God we are going to do things our way instead of his way"), and a couple of ladies modeled on Statler and Waldorf from The Muppets. Some hit me stronger than others (I didn't like Pastor Paul very much; he makes preachers seem even more boring than kids already think they are), but most are laugh-out-loud funny, and some are just brilliant (I love the Fabulous Bentley Brothers)!
In Episode One, In The Beginning, the characters tackle three questions:
What is the Bible?
Who wrote the Bible?
What's Genesis about?
Each of these questions is taken very seriously - what impresses me most about this series is Vischer's deep respect for the intellectual capacity of children, their vast ability to consume and retain information, and their voracious curiosity. They CAN learn and understand big concepts, if we'd stop being afraid to teach them! While there is a "Magic Flannelboard", this is not a cartoon to keep the kids quiet. This is a powerful learning tool, where children are exposed to orthodox narrative theology, Christian history, and some of the challenging questions of faith. How many kids' resources have you encountered that try to explain why different Bibles have different numbers of books???
Yes, that's how seriously they take answering the question, "What is the Bible?" Their answer: "The Bible tells the story of God, and what He's done for us." But the depth with which they answer the question, introducing the concept of Christian history and explaining why different Old Testaments have different numbers of books, establishes a modus operandi for the rest of the series - that they're going to give real answers and not avoid difficult issues.
After talking about how many different authors we believe wrote the Bible, Buck Denver notices that we don't have any idea who wrote some of the books. He asks, "How can we trust them if we don't know who wrote them?"
Phil answers, "We don't trust the books of the Bible because we know exactly who wrote each one; we trust them because they're in the Bible. God not only inspired the authors who wrote these books; we also believe he inspired the process that picked which ones should be in the Bible and which one's shouldn't."
What's Genesis about?
Primeval History and Patriarchal History, of course! (the big words are defined by Pastor Paul) And they don't dodge the volatile Genesis question of, "When did God make the world?" which introduces the segment, "Tricky Bits with Phil!" Phil discusses the different potential interpretations of the word "day," as well as the idea that Christians don't agree on everything, and that sometimes, it is okay to say, "I don't know." He's doing narrative theology here, and he's got one of the best responses I've heard so far.
"So which is it? Which is right? We don't know - and sometimes, that's okay. You see, the book of Genesis wasn't written to tell us the how of Creation. It was written to tell us the who of Creation. `In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.'"