Monday, 18 April 2011

Don't Moralise - Enjoy the Story

In the preface to A House For My Name: A Survey of the Old Testament, Peter Leithart makes the following comments that I found helpful:

Christians teaching the Old Testament are constantly tempted to treat it as a collection of moral fables. Abram "lies" to Pharaoh in Genesis 12, and we draw the conclusion that Abram's faith was not sufficiently strong, and that lying is a bad thing. But the story ends with Abram being treated well by Pharaoh and receiving all manner of livestock (Gen.12:16). How such an ending discourages lying is not exactly clear: Abram does not just get away scot free, he is richly rewarded for his "lack of faith." To make this work, the moraliser has to say that the riches Abram receives are "deceptive riches" rather than the true riches received by faith. Moral piles on moral, all obscuring the passage they are supposed to illuminate. If we cut through the layers of moralising, we realise that the story is not well designed as a warning against lying. Why does Abram have to go to Egypt to lie? Why this lie? Why is he rewarded? One must simply say that there is more going on in Genesis 12, something that a moralistic reading of the Bible does not even hint at.
This book is designed to be read aloud at the dinner table during family devotions, and I have tried to write in such a way that even very young children will begin to grasp the sweep and beauty of the Bible...
I encourage parents not to underestimate what children can learn about the Bible. Unlike many books of theology, the content of the Bible is fairly easy to grasp. Even (especially?) a two-year old can understand what happens when someone's head is bashed with a tent peg (Judges 4:21). If trained to read the Bible properly, children can begin to see how parts of the Bible are connected to each other as one big story. I have been teaching the Bible to my children for many years, and many years ago they began to teach me by noticing wonders in the Scriptures that I had never noticed.

So what was going on with Gen 12 and the Abram lying thing? See here for more.

Just as Abram led his bride out of Egypt with the spoils of the king. So the "Angel of the LORD" (Ex.14:19, Jude 5) led his bride out of Egypt with the spoils of the Egyptian Empire.

He will do it again at the end of the age, when he hakes his people out of the world. (2Pet.2:9)

Why not buy it and use it for family devotions. Happy to lend out my copy when done.


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