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).