Noah for GrownUps

So my friend Josh Graves posted this on his blog recently. It’s a quote from Fredrich Buechner on why the Flood is so wildly popular with Children. It’s a disturbing quote, here’s what Buechner says:

Not, I suspect, because children particularly want to read it, but more because their elders particularly do not want to read it, or at least do not want to read it for what it actually says and so make it instead a fairy tale, which no one has to take seriously—just the way we make black jokes about disease and death so that we can laugh instead of weep at them; just the way we translate murder and lust into sixth-rate television melodramas, which is to reduce them to a size that anybody can cope with; just the way we take the nightmares of our age, the sinister, brutal forces that dwell in the human heart threatening always to overwhelm us and present them as the Addams family or monster dolls, which we give, again, to children . . . Noah’s ark is to something-or-other else, so it becomes a toy with a roof that comes off so you can take the little animals out. This is one way of dealing with the harsher realities of our existence, and since the alternative is, by facing them head on, to risk adding more to our burden of anxiety than we are able to bear, it may not be such a bad way at that. But for all our stratagems . . . it is perhaps more dangerous to evade then to comfort.

The Children’s minister at Highland was talking a few weeks ago about her observations on the way we teach kids to read Scripture. She observed that we like to moralize the Bible for kids. That is we tell them that these stories are really about nuggets of nicety. Don’t lie, don’t hit your siblings, be kind to new people that you meet. And while I’m not against my kids doing those things, I doubt those are the primary objectives of these stories.

Instead, she said, these are ways of producing really nice grown-ups, with a really domesticated view of what God is actually up too.

N.T. Wright says that we think the story of the Flood is Child-friendly because it sounds like a floating Zoo, but have you ever considered what this story really is about? The closest word that you could find to describe it would be Genocide.

But that fails to understand a deeper bit of this story. Because Hebrews were scared to death of the sea. A lot of Hebrew people didn’t even know how to swim. The Ocean was a place of mystery and power, it was chaos and untamable. (Which leads us to consider again how much faith it took for the Israelites to walk through the Sea that God had parted in Exodus.)

I don’t know about you but the Flood is hard for me to wrap my mind around. I mean, everything is the Gospels make me think that God isn’t like this. And so it’s hard for me to grasp this story. And maybe that’s a good thing. I don’t think God likes us thinking we’ve got every part of Him figured out.

But what if this story isn’t about God just destroying the entire world’s population? If the sea is evil, and if God is the one who holds the Sea back (think about what God tells Job) what if Genesis 6 is really a story of God just giving people their wish. Genesis tells us that they thought of nothing but evil all the time, so what if this is God allowing the Hell that life is descending into to fully come, if only for 40 days and 40 nights.

Genesis opens with the Spirit of God hovering over the waters, that God is sovereign over the waters. And Revelation ends with the New Heaven and New Earth, a New Creation in which there is no more sea.

And it all hinges around Noah.

It’s not just a story of kids, in fact, it probably shouldn’t be. Maybe it should be like the Song of Solomon,( a book that Orthodox Jews made people wait till they were 30 to read.) Because Noah’s story has got a lot of hope, but it’s also got a dark side. It’s a story about the human condition and a wounded God. It’s simultaneously about a Creation that is good and a world that is broken.

It’s about a God who gives second chances but takes his world very seriously. Ultimately, serious enough to enter it.

Which is a bit more than a boat with a zoo.

About jonathanstorment

My family and I love reading, traveling, daddy/daughter dates, playing hide and seek, good music, and long meals with friends. We still miss LOST, and all four of us have Superman uniforms. We are passionate about bringing Heaven to Earth and want to follow Jesus while repainting discipleship for those around us. We are followers of Jesus and I preach at the Highland Church of Christ. We participate in something called A Restoration Movement, and we've come to realize that might be larger than we thought.

5 thoughts on “Noah for GrownUps

  1. Noah’s Ark is a story that kids love and adults love to tell to kids because:

    1. It’s visual and easy to illustrate.
    2. It’s about God’s power.
    3. Kids love animals.
    4. It is adventurous.

    As for telling the hard parts to kids, that’s not such a good idea.

    I agree that we do tend to tell kids the stories that teach morality tales. That’s good. Kids need to grow up into responsible adults. Those lessons are appropriate for kids. Where we fail is when we don’t teach the hard parts to adults, and to older kids and teens as they become ready for them.

    The Bible as a whole is a book for grownups. (Remember what C.S. Lewis said about people who think Heaven is just floating on clouds playing harps: “People who can’t understand books for grownups shouldn’t read them”) The Bible is full of murder, adultery, idolatry, betrayal, liars, war, and blood. It’s also full of love, forgiveness, faithfulness, self-sacrifice, duty, and beauty. It portrays real life as a way of showing God to us. Certainly those things need to be taught carefully to kids, and to be edited so as to be age-appropriate. But we musn’t continue to teach it like that to adults.

    Try to find a picture of Jesus where he’s not glowing, white, and holding a lamb. Yet this is the same Jesus who railed against the Pharisees. You don’t get crucified for being like Mr. Rogers. (Yes, Mr. Rogers was a great guy and a true Christian gentleman. And he didn’t get crucified. Case closed.) You get crucified because you’re dangerous.

    So keep teaching the little ones about Noah’s Ark. And don’t stress the people (and animals) who died in the flood. But when they get older, they need to hear the real story with all its horor, including the horror the Jews had of the water. Maybe the biggest point of the story is that God wins over the waters.

  2. Pingback: Administrator
  3. Pingback: Administrator
  4. Oh this is too cool! I watched the end of Evan Almighty on TV a couple hours ago, and then read this! Love how God works!!
    Yeah, I agree with you. I think the movie “Evan Almighty” definitely gives Noah’s Ark a more comtemporary look that America is more comfortable with. And although you could argue about the crudeness and maybe some parts being incorrect, you have to give them a hand for realizing that “Noah’s Ark” is more than a children’s story. The movie is about changing the world!!! Changing the world, one Act of Random Kindness at a time. A.R.K- Ark.
    Rather than a story about God’s wrath it’s a story about sticking with your family. If I was Noah’s child I would probably have my doubts…
    And I think to me, personally, I never really liked the story of Noah’s Ark as a little kid, it was too pushed upon us. I mean, that story makes for a ton of art projects, snacks, decorations, props etc. And I think because of that, I’m not likely to go pick up my bible and start reading about Noah. I guess I feel like I know everything there is to know because almost every bible school teacher has taught about him. But clearly there is so much more to the story when you start to think about it! I think I may go read it for myself.
    Thanks for the blog, Jonathan!

  5. Hey Bro. Danny, I don’t think we’d disagree there for the most part. The point that our Children’s minister was making with the moralization of the Bible stories is that we underestimate our children’s ability to understand them. We explain the way we think they should understand them, when in fact we could learn a lot from them about the Bible. I don’t want Eden to deal with this stuff yet, but I agree with your point: We must not teach the Bible like that to adults. This isn’t a story to be domesticated. Hope everything is going well with you guys!

    Carlee! Good to hear from you! Leslie watched that movie last week too. Glad that this got you re-interested in that story. It’s a tough one. Great to hear from you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *