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.