DVD Review - What's in the Bible?

Image of In the Beginning
by
Tyndale Kids 2010
DVD

In the Beginning

DVD
Tyndale Kids

My dad recently came home from a writers’ conference where he picked up a book and a new DVD for us to proof for our children. The book was entitled Me, Myself, and Bob: A True Story About Dreams, God, and Talking Vegetables by the creator of Veggie Tales, Phil Vischer (more commonly known as the voice of Bob the Tomato). Before reading the book, I looked at the DVD case which was entitled . While I was cautiously excited that Phil Vischer had created a new company called Jelly Fish Labs, I was also concerned. It looked as if the series was going to be a really low-budget, thrown together show. Instead of computer animated characters It featured puppets that didn’t look especially engaging—at least to an adult. That wasn’t my only concern, however.

I confess that, more often than not, I am a Veggie Tales fan. I’ll even admit that I’ve watched Veggie Tales video without children present and have actually enjoyed the experience immensely. However, nobody has to see many episodes to realize that Veggie Tales is a bit lacking in spiritual depth. The show teaches good biblical principles to children in a creative, funny, and clean way that’s entertaining for everyone—so I am not complaining. I own many of the Veggie Tales stories and frequently hum some of Larry’s Silly Songs. Plus, Veggie Tales DVDs reinforce the values and principles that my wife and I are teaching our children—and our children really enjoy them. But, honestly, how much insight into Scripture could my kids really glean from a Bible-overview from the Veggie guy?

I should have known better. I started to read Phil’s book and soon found myself immersed in a phenomenal autobiography about the rise, fall, bankruptcy, and sale of Phil’s company, “Big Idea.” The book detailed the lessons that Phil learned about business, leadership, and most importantly, his walk with the Lord through the whole experience. I’ll avoid giving too much attention to the book here and just say that I found myself eager to watch the DVD. So, my wife, two boys, and I all sat down as a family to watch this promising new show together. Wow! In the words of Larry the Cucumber, “I laughed! I cried! It moved me, Bob!” What my wife and I found was an engaging, biblically educational overview of the Bible put together in such a way that even I, as an adult, was enthralled. It was lighthearted and humorous, yet respectful and serious. Oh, and did I mention that the kids loved it too?

This new series will be broken up into a thirteen DVD overview of Scripture, two half hour episodes per DVD, with three DVDs already available for sale for about the same price as Veggie Tales DVDs. We used Christmas and our son’s birthday as an excuse to get the latest two. The fourth one will be released in September, and we are eagerly awaiting its arrival. The first DVD includes the series introduction and covers creation and most of Genesis. The second DVD covers the end of Genesis through the book of Exodus. The third DVD covers Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The soon to be released DVD will be an overview of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth.

Practically everything in the show is put together by Phil. He does all the voices and performance of the puppets including the main character, Buck Denver (Man of news), explorers Clive and Ian, Sunday School Lady (and of course, her flannel graph), Pastor Paul, the cowboy Chuck Wagon, a kid named Michael in a car seat who is riding to his grandma’s house, and several others who all help us understand each section of the Bible. Phil also writes the script and much of the show’s very catchy music. What can I say? All those unsaved people who are so talented that you think, “If only they’d get saved, they could sure do a lot of good for the Lord with those gifts!”—Phil Vischer is one of those guys. He is a brilliantly gifted storyteller who is using his gifts for the glory of God.

The educational depth of the show surprised me as well. It’s not just an overview but gives biblical answers to great questions that kids frequently ask. What is a Bible anyway? Why is it important? Who wrote it? What are the different sections of the Bible (like poetry, history, epistles)? Even more impressive was the fact that the series deals with more in depth information about the Bible than I thought it would attempt to tackle. I mean, how many young kids do you know who have been exposed to biblical issues concerning why the Apocrypha isn’t included in the Bible, what the Pentateuch is, what the differences were between ritual and ethical laws in the Mosaic Law, when the Council of Nicaea occurred and what it was about, how we identified the canon, what the Septuagint was, and why the Dead Sea Scrolls were important? I was blown away that these deeper issues were addressed in such a way that elementary school children are able to pick them up. Most of these subjects also have catchy songs that work with them to reinforce what is being talked about. I, for one, can’t remember ever hearing a song when I was a kid about the difference between the ritual and ethical commands in the book of Leviticus.

One aspect I really appreciated was that the DVD introduced the subject of substitutionary atonement and “God’s big rescue plan” from our sin and rebellion against God. It explains the need for salvation (from the account of Adam and Eve), shows how we’re all infected by sin, and then how God began His rescue plan through Abraham, and subsequently through the children of Israel. It illustrates how God’s big rescue saves believers from the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and will one day save us from the presence of sin. The series traces the overarching story of redemption through the Old Testament, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they culminate it in the Gospels.

Not all aspects of the show are positive, and I certainly wouldn’t advocate using this series as the sole means of biblical education for your children! While I think it is a great educational tool far superior to anything Veggie Tales has ever put out, there are a couple of things that left me disappointed. In dealing with creation, Phil explains both the young earth view and the day age view and gives both of them equal weight. I understand why he does this, but I would have much preferred to see him refute the “millions of years” as false (he does explain both positions fairly). The way the issue was presented wasn’t a deal breaker for me in enjoying the series, but I did stop to explain to my children which view I believed to be correct and why.

The DVD also mentions that God inspired the writers’ thoughts and told them what to write, but allowed them to choose the words. It wasn’t clear if he holds to the ‘verbal plenary’ inspiration of Scripture, or if only the thoughts are inspired. One other note of caution is that Pastor Paul’s Protestant backwards collar may confuse some kids, though that wasn’t a problem for our family. One other point I was originally concerned about was that Phil would take a covenant theology view of the Old Testament. But the show doesn’t delve quite that deeply into that area of theology and identifies the old covenant simply as God’s promise to Israel—so, no worries there yet.

To sum up, What’s in the Bible is an engaging, witty, light hearted, entertaining, and very welcome addition to our DVD collection that I’m happy to let my children watch. It is a great springboard for family discussions that facilitate biblical instruction. I’m thankful that Phil Vischer is undertaking this work to help children understand the Bible.


Joe Leavell recently moved to Phoenix after serving as a senior pastor of a church in northern California for three years. He is pursuing a master’s degree in biblical counseling and is carefully and prayerfully considering the Lord’s leading for his family. He is the husband of Rebekah and the father of three children: Philip (7), Caleb (4), and Sophia (10 months).

6587 reads

There are 25 Comments

KevinM's picture

During the presentation on the books of the Bible, Sunday School Lady (a puppet) teaches children that “the Old Testament has 39 books in Protestant Bibles, 46 books in Catholic Bibles, and 50 books in orthodox Bibles!”

Perhaps children in upper elementary grades will be able to grasp this idea—if it would have been accompanied by a brief lesson on the authority of the 66 canonical books. Maybe.

Instead, Vischer offers us an answer from “a pirate who knows a lot about church history,” another puppet who explains about Jerome’s plan in 400 AD to translate a new Latin Bible. The explanation quickly becomes overly technical for young children—even rambles—ending with a non-specific conclusion that smacks of generic church talk.

“Eventually most Protestant Bible s dropped those books altogether, but some of the books are still in Catholic and Orthodox Bibles, hence the different numbers of books,” says the pirate.

That's it. A neutrally-worded report that raises (but never resolves) important questions about biblical authority.

“Well, you learn something every day, concludes puppet host Buck Denver.

I didn’t, and I don’t think our children will, either.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Personally, I'm not fond of fluff and twaddle, which is how I view talking vegetables. I think Bible study is serious business, and my dh and I teach our kids that Scripture is serious and that reverence is needful. Enjoyable? Yes. Entertaining? No.

I appreciate the effort, and God bless you if you like this stuff, but VeggieTales is just not our flavor of Bible learning at all.

KevinM's picture

In the second DVD of this series, a child puppet introduces a segment called "Who Picks the Books" by saying, “We’re only halfway through Genesis, so we have 65-and-a-half books to go!” Good.

Then the Sunday School Lady teaches a brief flannelgraph lesson on canonicity, again mixing children’s cartoon visuals with overly technical language that will fly right over the heads of younger children. On the surface, parents will be pleased that Sunday School Lady defines the Old Testament canon as “the official list of books that were accepted as God’s inspired Word.”

But she cleverly avoids telling us how many books are in the Old Testament. From the first video, we know it could be 39. Or 46, or 50. Whichever.

This is followed by another segment of The Pirate’s Guide to Church History, explaining the New Testament canon and assuring children that the only orthodox position affirms 27 books in the New Testament.

Whoops. Anybody catch that math? Vischer offers children a definition of canonicity that specifies 27 (and only 27 books) in the New Testament, but never specifies an answer for the Old Testament.

JobK's picture

That was the main problem with Veggie Tales ... their aversion to mentions of Jesus Christ. As best I recall, Jesus Christ was only BRIEFLY mentioned during their THREE Christmas episodes (two of which seemed to more prominently mention Santa Claus) and their ONE Easter episode (which incidentally was the only Veggie Tales that made any reference at all to the issue of eternal damnation, and even that was only because their modeling the episode after "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens "made it OK".) If you read his interviews with Christianity Today, Vischer made it clear that he avoided explicit references to Jesus Christ - and to actual Christianity - because he wanted to sell as many videos as possible. He internally justified this stance by stating that it wasn't to make more money for HIMSELF, but rather for his "ministry" to reach as many kids as possible, and that the vast majority of the profits that were earned were reinvested back into the company to reach even more kids. But instead of reaching kids with the gospel, or even with Old Testament Bible stories that make up most Sunday School lessons, Vischer went for the James Dobson "family values" thing. As if theologically liberal Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Mormons, Catholics and atheists can't exhibit "good values", indeed better "values" than Bible believing Christians in many areas. I own a lot of Veggie Tales videos myself, but I view them as "secular." For instance, the old "Peanuts" (Charlie Brown) specials are every bit as Christian (and their original Christmas episode even more so!) as anything produced by VeggieTales that I have seen. When my wife and I watch VeggieTales with our kids, we have to do the job of explaining to my kids how the episode actually relates to Jesus Christ (assuming that it does at all ... a lot of their videos really don't, or at least no more than does your average Pixar movie, and also they even excise the actual spiritual messages that are in their VERY LOOSE adaptations of Bible stories in order to turn it into some family values moralism exercise). Which works fine for our family because we have the background to do such a thing, but what about the ones who don't?

It would be one thing if Vischer didn't refer to VeggieTales as "a ministry" and didn't promote his product as Christian. But since he does, how many children and parents have gotten the false impression that Christianity is "family values moralism" and little else, and that the purpose of the Bible is to teach us not to tell lies or disobey our parents, and not to reveal God to us through His Son? And thanks to the success of Veggie Tales, the folks who have come after him and been influenced by him have also had the conviction that we need to give kids "values", not the gospel of Jesus Christ and discipleship. Well, if you want values, you can get that from Peanuts and Pixar, with much more talented artists and far better production values to boot. Vischer did the Veggie Tales thing for over a decade while avoiding actual Christianity like the plague. (Also, Vischer is no fundamentalist. Quite the contrary, the guy is very ecumenical. I found this out when I bought one of his "gospel CDs" for my kid, and there was this track on it that advocated Catholics, oneness pentecostals, Episcopals, Baptists etc. casting aside their differences and worshiping together. Well, if you are going to include Catholics and oneness pentecostals, why exclude Mormons?) Now again, I was OK with still getting the VeggieTales episodes, because I classified them as secular. But now that he is overtly, explicitly dealing with scripture instead of finding a way to tie silly cartoons to Bible verses, that means passing onto my children whatever doctrinal system of his that makes his going 15 years of withholding the gospel from children (or of passing off "family values" as the gospel) and demanding that Christians worship with papists and patripassianist modalists OK. Therefore, on this new direction from Vischer, who claims that he lost his original company because he was trying to be "the Christian Walt Disney" I shall pass.

Bibleman, despite all its flaws, is far better, especially the original one series Bu even the new Bibleman series, despite sadly being more in line with the Thomas Nelson corporate machine, is far closer to the gospel than any VeggieTales episode (except MAYBE their "Easter Carol" one, which Vischer to his credit acknowledges as being his favorite).

Solo Christo, Soli Deo Gloria, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura
http://healtheland.wordpress.com

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I think an area that really needs some study is the role of fun (or fluff and twaddle as Susan put it) in Christian Ed. After a week of VBS last week, I find myself reflecting on that alot.
I wonder if anybody's aware of a study on the pros and cons, issues and factors involved. Does learning serious truth in a fun way confuse kids into thinking the serious truth is not serious? Does it encourage shallow commitments and consumeristic attitudes toward church? Do the alternatives encourage kids to view Bible truth as something just for grown ups?
I've heard many opinions on all sides, but haven't seen a thoughtful study or some strong evidence one way or the other.

All I have is my own experience. We had a fair amount of fun learning while growing up. Doesn't seem to have made me less serious. But what does that prove, really? Not a thing beyond the fact that mixing fun with learning doesn't always produce a flippant attitude toward the things of God.

As for the DVD, we all know that Vischer & co. want to get the product as widely distributed as possible and so they're going to kind of go "mumble mumble mumble" on some points to try to make the product widely appealing.

I have not seen any of this series but it sounds to me like it's a step up from your usual Veggie Tales fun but still no substitute for good old fashioned "book learnin'"

As an analogy, I like to think of the "stimulating multimedia stuff" in general as the junk food of Christian Ed. It is pretty harmless as a once in a while thing in a healthy diet. But you shouldn't try to live on it.

With Veggie Tales I often found myself thinking, "How about if we quit trying to teach something and just have the good clean fun?" I've often enjoyed the humor and I don't think anybody needs to apologize for offering consumers good clean fun. Sure don't have too much of that these days! ... I've taken a similar tack in our VBS the last several years. I found that funny skits and puppet things kind of would suddenly go CLUNK when a serious point snuck in. Sometimes the clunk just felt completely wrong. So we just use the skits for fun and when they have a "point" to communicate at all it's stuff like "Hey, bring your friends to VBS!" or a point exposing the foolishness of human nature ("you're not going to find the treasures of the deep if you're just floating on the surface"). I think the latter works pretty well in a humorous skit, but teaching the gospel in a skit where "Dr.SKUBA" does something absurd--this is just not fitting.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Aaron- I agree that there is too much in Christian Ed that goes 'clunk'. I have no objection to 'having fun'- but the attempt to marry serious Bible doctrine with singing cucumbers... well, I have to just nod and smile because I can't wrap my mind around it.

Our expectations of our children (in general) are much too low, and I think that is a major error in our thinking. In my experience, kids can take pleasure in learning and don't need bunny rabbits and superheroes and Larry, Moe, and Curly teaching in order to enjoy the process. One of the primary differences IMO is how we define the words 'enjoy' and 'entertain'- I look for ways to help my kids find enjoyment in life, while I never look for ways to entertain them. Parables, analogies, and illustrations need to have a purposeful, meaningful goal in mind.

I am a firm believer in the idea that the medium affects the message, and audio-visual media has an actual physical affect on everyone, but especially children. Studies show that-

Quote:
Higher levels of television viewing correlate with lowered academic performance, especially reading scores. This may be because television substitutes for reading practice, partially because the compellingly visual nature of the stimulus blocks development of left-hemisphere language circuitry. A young brain manipulated by jazzy visual effects cannot divide attention to listen carefully to language. Moreover, the "two-minute mind" easily becomes impatient with any material requiring depth of processing.

The nature of the stimulus may predispose some children to attention problems. Even aside from violent or overly stimulating sexual content, the fast-paced, attention-grabbing "features" of children's programming (e.g., rapid zooms and pans, flashes of color, quick movement in the peripheral visual field, sudden loud noises) were modeled after advertising research, which determined that this technique is the best way to engage the brain's attention involuntarily. Such experiences deprive the child of practice in using his own brain independently, as in games, hobbies, social interaction, or just "fussing around." I have talked to many parents of children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder who found the difficulty markedly improved after they took away television viewing privileges.

The brain's executive control system, or pre-frontal cortex, is responsible for planning, organizing and sequencing behavior for self-control, moral judgment and attention. These centers develop throughout childhood and adolescence, but some research has suggested that "mindless" television or video games may idle this particular part of the brain and impoverish its development. Until we know more about the interaction of environmental stimulation and the stages of pre-frontal development, it seems a grave error to expose children to a stimulus that may short-change this critical system.

http://www.amazon.com/Endangered-Minds-Children-Think-About/dp/068485620... ]Jane Healy , American academy of Pediatrics, May 1998

So IMO it isn't just about the personification of fruits and vegetables, but the dependence of teachers and parents on a medium that in itself may inhibit true learning.

DJ Lowrance's picture

I appreciate most where Joe finishes the article by stating that these videos are great SPRINGBOARDS into family discussions. The problem in most homes, is yes these entertainment models of biblical truth are not discussed, but modes for parents to keep the kids quiet for a while. In a strong christian home like Joe's (whom I consider a good personal friend and great brother in the Lord) I know there are discussions with his children about the positive and negatives to all that is viewed, not only teaching his children truth, but teaching them much need discernment even at a young age. The problem IMHO is not with the entertainment medium having theological mistakes or too much fun or entertainment, it is with families not practicing Deuteronomy 6. Even non-biblical modes of entertainment or news should done in this same light teaching our children to discern biblically all that is around them. FWIW, i dont watch veggie tales and other things in our home just cause they honestly annoy me and so my kids dont either, but I would have no problem sitting down with my children and discussing the biblical merit and the problems that may arise from them to better help them, "Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Thanks for the article Joe, and for being a parent who is truly training his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself also in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Greg Long's picture

KevinM wrote:
In the second DVD of this series, a child puppet introduces a segment called "Who Picks the Books" by saying, “We’re only halfway through Genesis, so we have 65-and-a-half books to go!” Good.

Then the Sunday School Lady teaches a brief flannelgraph lesson on canonicity, again mixing children’s cartoon visuals with overly technical language that will fly right over the heads of younger children. On the surface, parents will be pleased that Sunday School Lady defines the Old Testament canon as “the official list of books that were accepted as God’s inspired Word.”

But she cleverly avoids telling us how many books are in the Old Testament. From the first video, we know it could be 39. Or 46, or 50. Whichever.

This is followed by another segment of The Pirate’s Guide to Church History, explaining the New Testament canon and assuring children that the only orthodox position affirms 27 books in the New Testament.

Whoops. Anybody catch that math? Vischer offers children a definition of canonicity that specifies 27 (and only 27 books) in the New Testament, but never specifies an answer for the Old Testament.

Kevin, I was never very good at math, but if the video says there are 66 books in the Bible and 27 books in the NT, shouldn't that leave 39 in the OT?

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Scott Aniol's picture

Do we realize how, exactly, our children are influenced and what is influencing them?

It is my fear that most Christian parents do not recognize that before a child can even comprehend facts, his affections and imagination are already being shaped. In fact, I would suggest that most Christian parents never really even consider the moral imaginations of their children. Sure, we say we are targeting their hearts, and by teaching them biblical truth their hearts are certainly influenced.

But do we realize that a child’s heart is shaped far before he or she has the capacity to comprehend truth?

In other words, far before a child can comprehend his need to love the one true and living God, far before he or she can comprehend the concept of a god at all, the child learns how to love.

Far before a child can comprehend his need to fear and reverence God, the child learns how to fear and reverence.

Far before a child can comprehend his purpose to worship God, the child learns how to worship.

And far before a child can comprehend the authority of Scripture, the canonicity, or God's revelation, the child learns how to view God's Holy Word.

What happens with most parents, though, who see only the need to teach their child’s head, is that in order to teach such truths, they are willing to use almost whatever means necessary to do so.

So they use puppets to teach Bible stories, never realizing that their children are learning to view biblical truth as something light and trivial.

Or they use cartoons to teach moral lessons, never realizing that their children are learning to view morality as something silly or “adventurous.”

This problem is seen most acutely with children’s music. Christian parents, educators, and publishers have the noble goal of teaching their children about God, his Word, and how to obey him rightly, but they set such truth to irreverent, trivial, or even downright banal music, forgetting that far before their children learn these truths, they must learn how to express themselves rightly toward those truths.

I do not question the noble motives of these people for an instant. But I do question their understanding of how children are taught to worship.

Children learn to worship God primarily through participating in rightly ordered worship.

Children learn to love God by first learning how to love.

Children learn to reverence God by first learning how to reverence.

Children learn to fear God by first learning how to fear.

And children learn the need to submit to the authority of Scripture by learning how we should view God's Holy Word.

Scott Aniol 
Executive Director Religious Affections Ministries
Instructor of Worship, Southwestern Baptist

KevinM's picture

KevinM wrote:
But she cleverly avoids telling us how many books are in the Old Testament. From the first video, we know it could be 39. Or 46, or 50. Whichever.
Talked to Phil on the phone this morning. He clarified that it was not his intention to suggest that the Catholic or Orthodox Apocrypha should be considered part of the biblical canon. His intention was to raise the issue so that upper elementary children would understood that other faiths considered these books part of the Bible. I'm satisfied with his explanation.

Personally, I'm not sure I would have raised the issue of 39, 46, or 50 with this age group. It could be confusing (at least to dull adults like me) as to which position he is taking.

But Phil feels strongly that older children should be prepared/equipped for faith challenging moments when they encounter views outside their own experience in Sunday School.

Greg Long's picture

KevinM wrote:
KevinM wrote:
But she cleverly avoids telling us how many books are in the Old Testament. From the first video, we know it could be 39. Or 46, or 50. Whichever.
Talked to Phil on the phone this morning. He clarified that it was not his intention to suggest that the Catholic or Orthodox Apocrypha should be considered part of the biblical canon. His intention was to raise the issue so that upper elementary children would understood that other faiths considered these books part of the Bible. I'm satisfied with his explanation.

Personally, I'm not sure I would have raised the issue of 39, 46, or 50 with this age group. It could be confusing (at least to dull adults like me) as to which position he is taking.

But Phil feels strongly that older children should be prepared/equipped for faith challenging moments when they encounter views outside their own experience in Sunday School.

Thank you, Kevin. That is helpful to explain his motivations, but perhaps, as you say, the video could have been stronger about why we do not believe these books are canonical/inspired.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Joseph Leavell's picture

Thanks everyone for your comments! Thanks DJ for your kind words!

A few things to address here, I believe.

Please keep in mind that there are no talking vegetables or singing cucumbers in this series. Phil started a brand new company and now does limited work with Big Idea to help with storylines and character's voices. Actually, Big Idea actually HAS gone secular as it was bought out by Classic Media (who owns Lassie and Popeye) and I would agree is by and large, secular. It has moral and clean lessons that kids can enjoy without their parents having to be worried about content but it will never be much more than that.

Phil explains in his book about why he choose vegetables and why he didn't do much in talking about Christ. The vegetables were chosen because it was about the only thing he could animate at the time as limbs and arms would have been impossible. He was going to do candy bars but his wife told him that health conscience moms probably wouldn't appreciate it. So, vegetables were a good idea. Smile Also, the company vowed never to portray Jesus as a vegetable (which I'm thankful for) so it rather limited what they could do from the New Testament. Beyond that, Phil also explained his desire to be more depth with the videos but had made the mistake of allowing others do the hiring who looked for animation abilities rather than agreeing with the vision of Big Idea (like being a born again Christian). So, he had saved and unsaved people working for him and he made the mistake in choosing to make his people happy rather than make the quality of videos he desired. He realized his error and in the new company has made the necessary changes to not sacrifice content.

Regarding the Apocrypha, Keven, that's cool that you actually called him about it... and that he actually answered someone out of the blue! Sweet! I will only be concerned if there is a DVD dedicated to explaining the contents of the apocrypha, which would be equal billing. Not cool. If not, I'm personally ok with his explanation since he did explain in the video that the apocrypha was never a part of the canon but was included by some as history. My children never asked me to get them a copy after the episode though I'll probably have them read it in high school for educational purposes.

My seven year old is a sharp kid. Though he is only seven, he is already in fourth grade. We home school him and this year are using a computer based program. Right now he reviewing vocabulary words and he is playing a game designed to help him remember the words. Educators understand that entertainment can be a great form of memorization and learning and they utilize it in the classroom. One of my four year olds favorite games is the memory flash cards game (that and War). His mind is learning though he just thinks he's playing a game. I think we do ourselves a disservice by regulating the Word of God to the realms of serious, somber, and intellectual pursuits. The problem usually comes when morality is used for the purpose of entertainment rather than entertainment used to instruct. When entertainment is the goal, the Bible and morality take a supporting role. This isn't the case in What's in the Bible but rather it uses the medium of songs and humor to educate children in an overview of the Bible. Major difference between this series and Veggie Tales. What's in the Bible was mainly review for my kids, but they did learn a lot of new things that they hadn't heard - like Deuteronomy being speaches from Moses before he died for example. It reinforces what my wife and I are teaching them in a way that solidifies it so they won't forget it. As I said in the review, parents should not use this series as their only source of Biblical instruction. For us, it's been the start to many helpful discussions on the Bible.

Scott - sometimes morality really IS funny, even the subject of worship is funny. Consider Elijah on Mt. Carmel in his mocking of the prophets of Baal. Come on, that's just hilarious! Consider Isaiah for mocking those who make gods who burn one end of the log in the fire and the other end they make a god. What if they burned the wrong end? That's funny! Smile Remember Proverbs 17:22, "A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones." When my children learn Scripture, I want to be careful that my instruction of Scripture is not just dry like bones, but that it's ok to laugh sometimes, even when learning Scripture. If not, for shame on any pastor who has ever told a joke during his sermon to illustrate his point!

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

There are underlying philosophical differences that I feel may have us speaking past each other until we reach glory. For instance, I don't see all forms of humor as entertainment, nor is all entertainment humorous. Scripture was not written to entertain, even the parts that are ironic or satirical. I believe that the Word of God is mostly serious and somber. No one is Hell is laughing at the moment.

What we miss is that we have the ability to trained our children's appetites, which is what Bro. Aniol has explained so well. One can't assume that kids are going to think that unless learning is breathtakingly hilarious and exciting that they will think it's dry bones. My kids have been reared without much television, and I'm allergic to twaddle, so they simply have little appetite for anything frivolous. Physically they've been fed lots of fruits and vegetables and lean meats and very little junk food, so they have little tolerance for candy and cakes and doughnuts. It follows that after a few minutes of goofy and cartoony they've had enough. They love documentaries and nonfiction as much as most kids love comic books and Spongebob Squarepants.

Joseph Leavell's picture

Hey Susan,

You're probably right that we are talking past each other. As is usually helpful in these types of things, perhaps more questions should be asked than statements in order to understand where the other is coming from. For example, I hope people understand that I am not advocating frivolity and humor is always approriate or even necessary to make a point. And I fear I
got the point across that the series revolved around just jokes, one liners, and making fun of serious themes in the Bible. To be sure, there is a lot of humor, but usually the more serious tidbits are passed off to Phil himself in the show. He then addresses more serious themes such as sin directly and without humor. While many here might still believe he crosses their line way too much, he at least is not trying to be disrespectful to Scripture by making light of it.

Also, while I really appreciate your (Susan) testimony about how you are rearing your children, it would be highly idealistic to expect that to be the world (even in Christianity) that we live in today. Perhaps if more children and families looked like yours then things would look far different, but that's just not the case. So, someone like Phil can complain that children won't sit through the series if resembles a PBS documentary, or he can help parents engage children where they are at with the purpose of exposing them to the truth, authority, and content of God's Word. One of the most effective ways to do so is the use of humor and ingenuity and this series uses those mediums for instruction, not using the Bible for the sake of entertainment (by the way, I like your thoughts on the differences between entertainment and enjoyment. That would make a good discussion on a thread). While I don't believe humor is all bad but rather a gift from God when used to glorify Him, it more than certainly has become a dominant characteristic in our entertainment driven culture. But for me personally, I'm not an all or nothing type guy. I'm not going to wholeheartedly endorse everything Phil Vischer nor am I going to off handedly reject his stuff because I don't agree 100%. Instead, I personally plan on using the series as a tool to assist in giving my children an overarching big picture of what's in the Bible.

One other note of clarfication is that I wouldn't advocate this being used for children's church or Sunday School. I wouldn't leave a church that uses clips of it to back up what is already being taught in the class, but as a pastor I wouldn't be out there advocating it. As a parent, I see it has good limited use and for my own personal rearing of my children when we have a free hour. I respect parents who choose to do something different with their family time.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I appreciate your review, Bro. Leavell, and the clarifications you've made. I understand that a review doesn't mean a wholesale recommendation across the board. I'm voicing my concerns about the trends I see in edutainment- especially Christian edutainment- more than I'm objecting to VeggieTales or Phil Vischer's ministry specifically, so as you say- that premise would make a thread of its own.

I truly don't expect every family to live in accordance with my own ideals, and I'm realistic about the challenges of teaching children the Word of God- I've spent this whole week in VBS teaching kids whose only knowledge of Noah is from Evan Almighty. Oy vey.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I do think there is one way to mix frivolity/humor with "serious doctrine." As I've been thinking about what goes "clunk" in our VBS and what doesn't, I've seen something of a pattern. Humor works well as a tool for exposing the flaws in human nature... our foolishness, etc. It's true that sometimes humor can make serious flaws look unserious/unimportant so that category isn't a no brainer either, but I've often found that a silly skit in which a character does something goofy that illustrates something true about the way people are doesn't seem out of character or like a forced wedding between incompatible things.

Still struggling with ways to communicate this. But gettin' there maybe.

Also, there is a difference between serious/unserious and important/unimportant. That is, we do not necessarily communicate that something is unimportant when we depict it in a humorous way. The long and glorious tradition (hmmm....Princess Bride) of parody kind of backs that up.
And sometimes laughter is such a powerful tool for getting folks to lower their defenses and consider a truth they would otherwise bristle at.

But I consistently find that it does not work at all to put Jesus suffering and death in a skit with whimsical fictional characters. It seems to either insult Jesus' ordeal or make it seem unreal... or, if it properly honors Jesus' suffering and death it immediately makes the fiction/humor in the thing evaporate. Some things are just too big to mix with things that are little.
But human foibles... they really are funny while often being tragic at the same time.

One example: I've only seen it maybe twice and don't remember much detail, but the Veggie Tales vid about the Blueberry who has all the stuff she could possibly want but is miserable... it's funny but sad at the same time. I think it works. It's not a Bible story, so I like that about the vid, too... no risk of making a true story look like a fictional one.

Scott Aniole wrote:
So they use puppets to teach Bible stories, never realizing that their children are learning to view biblical truth as something light and trivial.
Scott, I get what you're saying and I think the idea that we are going for the mind at exactly the time we should be going for the affections is worth some serious reflection.
But I wonder if it's so easy to tell what kids are learning. I grew up on this kind of stuff and I did not learn to "view biblical truth as something light an trivial." Rather, I think that at least some of the time, the puppets--for example--were serious to me. What I see when I watch kids watch skits and things is that they suspend disbelief to a degree we adults are just not capable of. The puppet show becomes reality for them for a while.
So I often wonder if what goes "clunk" for me doesn't work just fine for them after all. It's not easy to sort out.

Shaynus's picture

It's hilarious and one of the best tools I've ever read to read the Old Testament always pointing to Jesus. Sally lloyd Jones makes the book funny to adults as you read them to kids (and funny to kids too).

I read the story of Joseph this past week to the kids at my church. I don't think I'll ever read the story the same way again. She concluded by saying that another Prince would come to save his own family, and other people as well. This Prince would be punished for things he didn't do too, and save his people from all the bad stuff they do against God. I mean wow!

Sally and Phil should really get together.

I do enjoy Veggie Tales. Sometimes a three year old needs to be reminded that God is bigger than the boogie man, Godzilla or the Monsters on TV. When thinking about entertainment choices for kids I think: 1) does it do harm? 2) does it teach lessons of general help?

DavidO's picture

Quote:
Veggie Tales is a bit lacking in spiritual depth. The show teaches good biblical principles to children in a creative, funny, and clean way that’s entertaining for everyone—so I am not complaining.

What would any of us say about a Preacher or Sunday School cirriculum who's teaching lacked spriritual depth but taught good principals. Good principals divorced from spritual depth equals mere moralism, no?

Quote:
Don't forget the Jesus Storybook Bible It's hilarious and one of the best tools I've ever read to read the Old Testament always pointing to Jesus.

How well can a book that's a barrel of laughs truly help us understand a portion of scripture that generally isn't one.

As to the VBS quandary, last night I sat in the opener section of our churchs VBS. Pirates dashed around the room collecting the worship of offerings which were then weighed on a scale to see who had given the most (in pounds and ounces anyway). All the while The William Tell Overture was being played on the piano. It is probably no coincidence that many parents of those children (and perhaps some parents here) don't really know what Scott means above when he uses the terms "affections" and "moral imagination". I had no idea myself until after reading alot of Bauder's articles on imagination some of Scott's work at Religious Affections. I confess I have yet to tackle the Jonathan Edwards work of the same title, but already my wife and I are rethinking things we and our church do.

To the point of humor and revealing human foibles, I agree humor can function that way. Even that can backfire, though. I sat through a workshop by a fairly famous Biblical counseling author (who can be hilarious) at a conference a few months ago. He used a couple very funny anecdotes to points up our sin problem. Then he attempted to help us reach a more serious conclusion, and everyone burst out laughing. He stopped and said, "You know its not really funny." He was right, it wasn't, but he kept wrenching us between comedy and theology. It wasn't entirely the audiences fault.

Maybe this sounds like a screed. I hope not. But its something I've become very concerned with over the past few months.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I don't personally think it's possible for a regenerate person to receive mere moralism. Any time you teach a Spirit indwelt, reborn, adopted child of God (who is in the process of being remade in Christ's image) right from wrong, you help him forward. How deep does "You shouldn't lie" need to be?
But if we understand what DVD's can never be (a complete spiritual diet), we can make good use of them as "dessert."

Greg Long's picture

Shaynus wrote:
Don't forget the Jesus Storybook Bible It's hilarious and one of the best tools I've ever read to read the Old Testament always pointing to Jesus.

DavidO wrote:
How well can a book that's a barrel of laughs truly help us understand a portion of scripture that generally isn't one.
David, the Jesus Storybook Bible is not intended to be funny at all. It's a serious storybook Bible. Shaynus thinks it's "hilarious" that every story in the OT points to Jesus.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

DavidO's picture

Quote:
How deep does "You shouldn't lie" need to be?

Deep enough to foster the understanding that all moral imperatives are based in the character of God. A child of three can begin to grasp that God tells us not to lie not because life will work better for us and others if we don't, but because truth is a part of His nature.

Greg,

Thanks. Not familiar with that work, so I didn't "get it".

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Joseph Leavell wrote:
...One of the most effective ways to do so is the use of humor and ingenuity and this series uses those mediums for instruction, not using the Bible for the sake of entertainment (by the way, I like your thoughts on the differences between entertainment and enjoyment. That would make a good discussion on a thread). While I don't believe humor is all bad but rather a gift from God when used to glorify Him, it more than certainly has become a dominant characteristic in our entertainment driven culture.

I decided to create a new thread to further pursue the topic of Christian 'edutainment'- you'll find it http://sharperiron.org/forum/thread-christian-edutainment ]here . That way this thread can be preserved to discuss Phil Vischer's series specifically.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
Deep enough to foster the understanding that all moral imperatives are based in the character of God. A child of three can begin to grasp that God tells us not to lie not because life will work better for us and others if we don't, but because truth is a part of His nature.
Fair enough. I'm pretty sure that point comes across in a couple of the Veggie vids I've seen. It's a very easy one to make... though probably without the phrase "moral imperatives" Smile
But I'm pretty sure the "life will work better" point is biblical as well.
Prov. 12.19
Prov. 21.6
Prov. 20:17

Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.