June 14, 2008

The Dangers of Vacation Bible School

Here in Northern Alabama its that time of the year where as you drive up and down the roads you can't help but see all the signs for Vacation Bible School (VBS). Any church here in the South worth its weight in gold will most definitely have a VBS program. Most churches around here have similar themes - this year its "Power Lab" or "Outrigger Island" (all apparently SBC or Lifeway developed programs). Our son, who is 6yrs old, has really enjoyed going to these for the past couple of years. Even though we home church, I see no harm in sending him to a VBS program. I typically have seen these as positive opportunities for him to play and interact with other children his age, and get some exposure to bible stories and how to treat and love others. I figured at his age how much harm could happen to him at this age?

However, that all seemed to change this week when he went to VBS at a church just down the road from where we live. The other day my wife went to pick him up from VBS when one of the teachers approached her. She began to explain to my wife that our son had been asking a lot of questions about Jesus and about asking "Jesus into his heart". First, my wife was taken back by this comment as we have a hard enough time keeping him focused on saying his prayers at nighttime and at the dinner table, let alone he is now looking to be "saved". So to say this comment sort of took her by surprise was maybe an understatement. The teacher apparently went on to say that she was excited about this prospect and wanted to let my wife know as this is a very important decision in such a young boys life and that we needed to talk to him about making this decision.

Well later that evening after dinner my wife began to inform me of this conversation she had earlier that day with the VBS teacher. In general I have no problem with Vacation Bible Schools. I think these are great opportunities to expose kids to the bible and to teach them about God's moral laws and his loving kindness. However, where I seem to draw the line is in how flippant they seem to treat salvation and the depth of the gospel message. I realize that for some traditionalist Christians, my comments might seem harsh or even heretical, but let's look at the proposition the VBS teacher was putting forth theologically about my son's much needed redemption.

First, the bible clearly tells us that the gospel is specifically for the redemption and reconciliation of sinners! A sinner is defined as one who has morally sinned against the good laws of God. Sin is defined as a violation of God's known laws. Therefore, in order for my son to be a sinner, he must first be able to recognize what sin is and must be able to recognize when he has sinned in order to be held accountable by God. Second, one needs to look at what it takes to be reconciled unto God and what that process entails.

The bible clearly says that the gospel is for the lost and for those who are in rebellion against God as a result of their sins. If this is indeed true, then this church was putting forth the idea that not only my 6 year son is a sinner, but better yet, that if he were to die he would be sent to hell as a result of his sinfulness. I have a real hard time thinking that God sees my son as a rebellious sinner let alone he would deserve the wrath of God and the eternal torment of hell. Jesus clearly says that children are innocent beings and that if we cause an innocent child to sin, it would be better for that person to have a stone tied around their neck and thrown into the sea! Children are innocent until the age of accountability and if they do perish they will automatically be with him.

Granted, there will come a time when my son will sin, but at 6yrs old he has a hard enough time tying his shoe laces, let alone committing immoral acts! At this point in my son's life , he has a hard enough time understanding how to work our Wii console, let alone understanding the vicarious atonement of Jesus Christ.

For me this is such a sad state when our churches feel it is necessary to bring 5-11 year children to salvation. What do they need to be saved from? Innocence?? Does a child at this age really understand what sin truly is? Again, this is another sign of just how theologically inept most if not all of our churches really are! When churches treat the gospel with such flippancy it really does more harm than good. As a friend of mine once said, "When we make salvation easier than getting a library card, we have done such damage and injustice to the cross". I agree. To take this a step further, couple this idea of "saving" a 5 or 6 year old and then couple that with the theology of "Once Saved Always Saved" then really what you have created is a monster. A monster that when they do to get to an age of accountability and really do begin to sin, that we now have a theology within the mind of this individual that they are still "eternally secure" and yet can continue to act and behave carnally and still get to heaven. For me this is why I entitled this post - "The Dangers of VBS". My concern is not so much with my son, as we will make sure he truly understands what sin is and how one comes to be reconcile unto God. But its the other children who have been duped by the church into thinking that have been saved at such an early age and then told they are "Eternally Secured". For me this is such an injustice not only to those children, but really to the gospel and ultimately Christ and the sacrifice he made for us.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Psalm 51:5

"Lord, I am no good. I was born in iniquity, and going back even farther, I was conceived in sin. In saying this I don’t mean to cast any shame on my mother, or even to extenuate my own guilt. What I mean is that not only have I committed sins but that I am sinful in my very nature."
Believer's Bible Commentary

"David... acknowledged that he was morally impotent. He was born a sinner, that is, at no time in his life was he without sin."
The Bible Knowledge Commentary

"The Bible clearly teaches that children are sinners. They are not born innocent and only later become sinners. Children, too, need God’s salvation."
The Reformation Study Bible

Preston N said...

Anonymous, I think your reading way too much into that verse.
Psalm 51:5 - "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." (KJV) Note that this does not say David IS sinful at birth, but that he was simply conceived IN sin. Try reading it without a filter.

Here is what William P. Murray, Jr says in his article "A Perspective on Psalms 51":

"This is a Hebrew poetic parallelism, with the second line of the verse saying the same thing as the first line in a slightly different way. The first verb, of which David is the subject, is in the Pulal tense (as is "made" in # Job 15:7 ), which is an idiom used to refer to creation or origins, and is the 'passive' form of Polel ("formed": # Ps 90:2 Pro
26:10 ). TWOT, #623, 1:270.

The subject of this verse is NOT the state or constitution of David's nature as a sinner
at, or before, his birth. The subject is, as the verse clearly states, the `circumstances' of
his conception- the sexual union which produced him was an act of sin, and addresses the unrighteousness of his mother's act, not anything (such as a sin nature) inherent within himself. (The NIV's version of this verse is an INTERPRETATION, not a translation: "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.")

David had two half-sisters (Zeruiah, Abigail).....:
1CHR 2:13-16 13 “And Jesse begat his firstborn Eliab, and Abinadab the second, and Shimma the third, 14 Nethaneel the fourth, Raddai the fifth, 15 Ozem the sixth, David
the seventh: 16 Whose sisters were Zeruiah, and Abigail. And the sons of Zeruiah; Abishai, and Joab, and Asahel, three. 17 And Abigail bare Amasa: and the father of Amasa was Jether the Ishmeelite.”

....and the father of David's half-sisters was not Jesse, but Nahash: 2Sam 17:25 “And Absalom made Amasa captain of the host instead of Joab: which Amasa was a man's son, whose name was Ithra an Israelite, that went in to Abigail the daughter of Nahash, sister to Zeruiah Joab's mother.”

Nahash, the father of Zeruiah and Abigal, David's half-sisters, was an Ammonite King:

1Sam 11:1 “Then Nahash the Ammonite came up, and encamped against Jabeshgilead: and all the men of Jabesh said unto Nahash, Make a covenant with us, and we will serve thee.”

1Sam 12:12 “And when ye saw that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon came against you, ye said unto me, Nay; but a king shall reign over us: when the LORD
your God was your king.”

David's father was Jesse, not Nahash. Zeruiah and Abigal were David's half-sisters through his mother's previous marriage to Nahash. This would also help explain why Nahash showed kindness to David, perhaps out of respect for David's mother,Nahash’s former wife and the mother of two of Nahash's children.

2Sam 10:2 “Then said David, I will shew kindness unto Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father shewed kindness unto me. And David sent to comfort him by the hand of his
servants for his father. And David's servants came into the land of the children of Ammon.”

David's mother was most likely the second wife of Jesse, the first wife being the mother of David's half-brothers. Jesse’s first wife's standing before the 'righteousness
of the law', (her not having been married to, or the concubine of, a heathen king, as was David’s mother), would have been superior to that of David's mother, and
explains why David's half-brothers, Jesse's other sons, would have felt they were superior to David, and why he would be accused of being prideful, for thinking he was as good as them....

1Sam 17:28-30 28 “And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab's anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy
pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle. 29 And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause? 30 And he turned from him toward another, and spake after the same manner: and the people answered him again after the former manner.”

...and why David was not considered, by his father Jesse, as `true' a son as his half-brothers.

Samuel had called Jesse and his sons, and thus expected `all' his sons, to the sacrifice (1Sam 16:5,11). Jesse, having been told to bring `his sons' by a prophet
of the Lord everyone feared (1Sam 16:4), was confident he had obeyed the prophet, even knowing he did not bring David..

1Sam 16:11 “And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep. And Samuel said
unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither.”

....which would be consistent with God's sometimes choosing that which men esteemed as worthless (the `least') to be the greatest:

(Gideon- Jud 6:15; King Saul-
1Sam 9:21; Jesus- Mt 2:6, Lk 9:48)
David's mother was apparently a Jewish woman, because `no Ammonite shall enter the congregation of the Lord to the 10th generation’ (Deu 23:3), and yet in PS 86:16 and
PS 116:16, David refers to himself as "the son of thy handmaid", which would seem to testify to his mother's relationship with the Lord. David's mother was, in the eyes of Jewish law, considered `defiled' by her previous relationship to an Ammonite.

Nu 25:1,2; De 7:3,4; 1ki 11:2-4, Ezr 9:2; Ne 13:23,25; 2Co 6:14-17

Again, Regardless of what ever "commentary" you use to support your position these are nothing more than interpretations and not translations. When one plainly reads these verses in their original context it is plain to see these verses do not support at all the position your submitting here.

Chris said...

Preston,

You are teaching Pelagianism here, a doctrine that has been rejected numerous times throughout church history as heretical, and although I do agree with you that VBS is a dangerous thing (for somewhat different reasons, however)what you are teaching here contradicts what the Bible has to say about the nature of man, and what the church has accepted as truth throughout its history.

Chris

Preston N said...

Chris

To be honest I could care less about "Church History" or the Westminster Confessional or any other counsel for that matter. I put my faith not in that of men, but in God's word. Over the centuries Church "history" have gotten many things wrong. If I use church "history" as my theological basis I would have to believe in the following:

- Salvation through works
- Indulgences for the dead
- Eucharist is the literal blood and body of Christ
- Papal inerrancy
- Immaculate conception
- Ascension of Mary
- Purgatory / Limbo

Remember, countless martyrs died over these beliefs. I wonder is it YOUR "history" that is supposedly correct? Remember, on Judgment Day you will not be able to point to Calvin and Luther as the basis of what you believed, but what you did with God's Word and not Church "history".

You see Chris I don't base my theology on "history or tradition, but on what the word of God clearly states.

As for the nature of man, are you really putting forth that children are born "sinful"? Just what sins has a newborn committed?

If Calvinism is indeed true and every child that is born is sinful, then I would put forth that abortion is a good thing as it is decreasing the level of immorality of the world. Clearly, if babies are nothing more than future sinful creatures that have no freewill and ability to make future moral choices then abortion is actually contributing to decreasing sin in the world.

I say this in jest, to make my point at how ludicrous Calvinsim is and where it takes you if you take it to its logical conclusion.

As for me being a Pelagian heretic - well then I am in good company. For the record I would consider myself a Semi-pelagian. :)

Chris said...

Preston,

You know that I do not base my theology on history, I was merely pointing out that this teaching has been rejected numerous times as heretical. And is has been rejected because it contradicts what Scripture teaches.

You asked: "As for the nature of man, are you really putting forth that children are born "sinful"?"

Yes, I am. We are not sinners because we sin, we sin BECAUSE we are sinners. This is clearly seen in Paul's letter to the Romans, especially chapter 5.

Let me ask you this, you have a six year old son, has he ever told a lie? Has he ever disobeyed you? Did you have to teach him these things? Why not? It is because we are ALL born sinners and just because a child cannot understand the requirements of a Holy God does not make them an less a sinner.

Do I believe that when A child who has not reached the "age" where they can comprehend this dies that they go to Hell, of course not!!! This would completely go against the nature of God. But that does not in any way change that we are all sinners, or that we are born that way.

You say that Calvinist's don't follow their theology to its logical conclusion, but I would contend that if you followed what you are teaching to its logical conclusion you would see that what you are saying is that if one never CHOOSES to commit a sin then they would never die since physical death is a result of Adam's sin. And if someone would choose not to sin and then still died then God is unjust and unfair. But, if we are all born with a sin nature (as the Bible teaches) then it makes perfect sense that every one of us will die, because we have ALL sinned (Romans 3:10-18, 23).

If sin was a moral choice and not an inherited condition, wouldn't someone, at some time, in the whole history of the world, chosen not to ever commit a sin?

And if even one person had (or could) make that choice, Christ died for nothing.

Chris

Preston N said...

Chris said: "Do I believe that when A child who has not reached the "age" where they can comprehend this dies that they go to Hell, of course not!!! This would completely go against the nature of God. But that does not in any way change that we are all sinners, or that we are born that way.

But the two (Original Sin and Age of Accountability) cannot exist together because the doctrine of original sin forbids that children wait until they reach a certain age before they become accountable. According to original sin, we are accountable and guilty for Adam's sin at birth! This leaves no room for a child to come to the "age of accountability" because he is already accountable, guilty, and under the wrath of God from birth!! In other words, he has reached the "age of accountability" when he is only an innocent little baby.

The idea of an "age of accountability" is completely inconsistent with the doctrine of original sin. Those who have the idea of the one must give up the idea of the other. The two cannot consist together.

But most Calvinist will not give up the idea of an "age of accountability." Why? Because of their irresistible convictions of justice - your own conscience bothers you over such a thought! The conviction that a child cannot be accountable for his actions until he knows the difference between right and wrong is the universal judgment of all men, and this judgment repudiates the doctrine of original sin, which teaches that babies are accountable, guilty, and under the wrath of God from birth.

As how to explain my son supposedly "sinning" - I would say again you have contradicted yourself Chris because you put forth that children are not held accountable (age of accountability) and yet they are still sinners - which is it? You seem conflicted here??

Children are not sinful as clearly stated in the bible. Guilt can only be prescribed to the one that knows to do better than what he does, to the one who “knoweth to do right” but “doeth it not,” to him “it is sin” (Jas. 4:17). Moral ignorance would,in fact, be moral innocence, as the moral condition of Adam and Eve was innocent,though they were naked, before the opening of their eyes when they knew right from wrong. What is tolerated because of ignorance is never tolerated when there is
knowledge.

One can be guilty or praiseworthy of nothing except for that which is intentionally committed,and nothing can be intentionally committed that was not knowingly committed, that which was known to be right or wrong.

The bible states the following as to whether children are guilty or innocent:

“Your children, which......had no knowledge between good and evil” (Deut. 1:39);

“For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good” (Isa. 7:16);

“For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil” (Rom. 9:11)

“To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (Jas 4:17).

Faith Williams said...

Preston,

I agree with you, children are not sinners until they can account for their actions and they know right from wrong.

But I have a question for you Preston. You know my background, and I have been reading some of your posts, my question for you, do you feel like you live above sin and that those who like Joel Olstens messages etc... are not "Christians".

Preston N said...

Faith

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for your question! It's been a while since I have seen or spoken to you or Scott. I hope you guys are doing well and let's get together for dinner sometime.

I would answer that yes, we are morally capable of living above sin. Jesus clearly says that those who love Him will keep his commandments. The key word here is "Love". One can not obey God if one does not live for Him out of total devotion and Love - as "love can cover a multitude of sins". Just as we love our spouse or our children, we do things motivated out of love for them. The only way man can ever truly come to a point of being broken over their sins and come to loving Christ fully is through recognizing what Christ accomplished for us through the cross (atonement) - as this is accomplished through the gospel and the conviction of the holy spirit.

This is not to be confused with legalism as some Calvinist will claim that is what I am preaching. God only requires us to live to the current amount of moral knowledge we presently have at this very moment. So I am not saying we must live at the same level of holiness as God lives at. Since God is all knowing and has infinite knowledge he also infinitly holy as a result of that knowledge. The same applies to us - God will only hold us accountable to the present amount of moral "light" or moral knowledge we presently have. It is also important to understand that as Christians we are required to constantly grow in the "knowledge of God" and as we grow so does our level of holiness.

As for pastors like Joel Olsteen all I would say is that it is my opinion that they are not teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ for a couple of reasons. First, they do not teach repentance over sin. The central message of Jesus (aka the gospel) is the message of repentance over sin (Mark 1:14). Repentance must come before salvation (Acts 3:19, 2 Cor 7:10-12). Christ will not forgive unless one has repented and turned from their sins (Mk 4:12) and entered back into a reconciled relationship with God. Since Joel does not preach this fundamental element of the gospel, then I would say he is not preaching the gospel. Joel also preaches what I would call easy-believism and that is a person just says a simple prayer and they are saved. Clearly the bible says we must be broken (heart broken) over our sins and through being heart broken this will lead to repentance or to turn from sin (or change our will) (See 2 Cor 2:10-12)

As for if Joel is a genuine Christian I can not answer that as only God knows his heart, but we can only examine the fruit he is putting forth. So far from what I have seen it is not "good fruit".

I hope I have answered your question in this short amount of space. If you would like to talk some more please feel free to email me further.

God Bless!

mkshmily said...

I have great fear in my heart for you and for others who contend that children are without sin. Not only does this contradict the teaching of scripture but one who contends their 6-11 year old child is innocent of sin and does not understand it must be blind both spiritual and physically. I observe my two year old and even without a Christian heritage I see the rebellion and disobedience pouring from that child. From the time a child is born, they know how to sin and know what it means to rebel against authority, specifically the authority of God. It really does not matter what we think, want to think, or can imagine God thinking or doing. What matters is what God's revealed Word tells us about it. Romans 3 is clear that not a single living person, aside from Christ Himself, is free of sin. Not a single living person has done good, is capable of doing good, or even the desire to do good. Apart from God's work in us and changing us, we cannot do good.

Romans 5:12 says that sin entered the world through one man and death through that sin and that death spread to all men because ALL men have sinned. Children are still considered part of mankind. They are still living and breathing human beings who are included in this word. To think that your child does not have sin is to ignore scriptural teaching in order to make yourself feel better and/or it is to say that your child is not a living being yet. Because if he is a living being, he is accountable NOW to God.

I know that I still do not yet know where I stand with the age of accountability, but I do know that i believe in total depravity and that man, on his own, cannot and will not seek God. God is the only seeker there is and He is seeking us. He has to change our nature and give us faith in order that we might believe on Him. With that said, I am not sure that I can believe in the age of accountability because the age of accountability says that God will not hold sins against a someone until such time as they can understand and choose God. Yet, I know that left to themselves, they will NEVER choose God. And it goes against everything God IS AND HAS DONE for Him to merely overlook and allow sinners into Heaven. He cannot do so or else He would not be perfectly righteous and just.

I caution you, dear friend, to consider your stance on this issue. You are doing your child no favors by excusing his sin and by believing that he is safe. I assure you that he understands sin and will be held accountable for it TODAY if he should die. Please, I plead with you, study scripture for yourself and get God's view on this, not merely what you think or imagine God doing on this issue.

With Godly love and compassion,
Your brother in Christ

Preston N said...

Micheal - well thanks for your concern, but I am more concerned for you that you're the one who sadly is ignorant of scripture. So I'll cut this short. You apparently believe in sin nature, total depravity and all the other tenets of Calvinism. Yet sin is the most UNNATURAL thing a human being can do. Mankind has been made for the throb of holiness not for sin as you say. Also, I deny sin nature on the basis of scripture not on what you seem to be parroting here.

You deny the ability to obey God's commands but here is what the scriptures say:

Duet 4:1 "Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I am teaching you to perform, so that you may live and go in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you.


"See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it.

Duet 4:6 6"So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.'

Ps 1: 1-41Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful 2But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

Ps 119:34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.

Prov 29:18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

Luke 1:5-6 5In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.

I could keep on going but this shows that KNOWLEDGE of the law is conditional as to be held accountable to the law. So therefore children are ignorant of the law and know not yet what is MORALLY right and wrong.

Let's also not forget to mention that Jesus was like us in EVERYWAY. So to say we have a different nature than Jesus or vice-versa is to deny those scriptures:

Heb 2:17-19 17Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.

Heb 4:15-16 15For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

Hmmmm....according to your theology we are presented with three big problems here:

1. Jesus was not really like us in ALL things, so therefore these verses are false.

2. Jesus did in fact have a sin nature and these verses are once again false.

3. Man does not have a sin nature and Christ was born without a sin nature just like mankind and therefore when this verse say Jesus was born exactly like the rest of mankind.

I would not dare say 1 & 2 are true, so therefore your theology is false.

BTW - As according to your post here, I hope none of your kids die anytime soon as end up in Hell - but you're the one that will have to contend with that and not me. As Jesus clearly stated in scripture my kids are still innocent and are not held accountable by God until they have knowledge of right and wrong.
Also, if you use the typical scapegoat excuse that God doesn't sin babies to hell even though they are sinners p I have yet to see a Calvinist provide scripture basis for any of this type of theology.

God Bless and I hope you start learning the bible for yourself rather than simply parroting what others tell you. Know the the Truth for yourself, rather than parrot what others have taught you.