Cross and Caduceus

My wife used to be an administrator at a small Catholic college in the Midwest. She found it a very nourishing, very pleasant environment. The priests and nuns were tender to her, and mentored her in her job. She would often slip off to chapel in the quiet of the day to reflect on problems. (I was a resident physician, gone all the time. I can honestly say that I was one of her problems!)

Edwin Leap

However, as she grew to know and love the students, one of the things she realized was that they simply did not know their Bibles. They were shocked into disbelief when she was able to name the 12 sons of Jacob, as her students were discussing them for a class. Don’t misunderstand. These were nice students, from good families. But their study of Scripture had been inadequate. It had been replaced, in large part, by ritual and human tradition.

Fast forward to the present. Lots of Christian kids, lots of Baptist kids, are in the same boat. When asked about their faith, they are silent. When asked particular questions about biblical events, or about what they believe and why, they stare at the floor or ceiling.

It would be easy to point a finger at the church and at pastors. However, the foundations of biblical teaching must be set at home. Moses said as much in Deuteronomy 11:18-19: “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” He never said, “Make sure the priest and other people teach your kids about the law, because, after all, you’re busy collecting manna and pitching tents and stuff.”

Our lives are filled with distractions. We make time for video games, hobbies, athletic events and Facebook. We know all of the characters on reality programs that we would never invite Jesus to watch with us. But we do a poor job teaching the Bible to our kids, and taking the time to explore and answer the very difficult questions that they are capable of asking – especially when they’re teens.

The Internet and modern publishing have provided us with endless resources to be used at home. The homeschool movement is evidence of this. In like manner, it doesn’t take a preacher to teach the Bible. It does take devotion and commitment. Love of God and love of our children.

Having said that, there is one biblical edict our kids know: Evangelize! They are taught to spread the gospel, and many do a fantastic job. But author John Eldredge once said, “We’re warehousing Christians for heaven.” What he meant was, we gather, but we don’t teach. And in the case of our kids, we don’t even teach our gatherers. What they need is depth. Discipleship. And they need to know the vast, eternal and temporal implications and reasons for the gospel they’re spreading. They can’t do that if they barely know the Bible itself.

In my work as a physician, I’d say more than half of the problems that present to any emergency department are, at their core, spiritual. Bad lifestyle choices, promiscuity, depression, guilt, substance abuse, broken families, all of these have components which might have been prevented by, or could be rehabilitated through, the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

Teaching the kids the depth of the Word and the facts of their doctrine is a kind of vaccination! The world will assault them and attack them; it will chip at their faith, as it does at their minds, hearts and bodies. If all they know is “spread the gospel” without knowing what the gospel really means, they’ll be susceptible to all the diseases – that is, sins and attendant troubles – that afflict every human soul.

So as we strive to evangelize, let’s not forget to teach. A good solid catechism would be a nice beginning. Even old Chuck Spurgeon wrote one, so don’t think it’s an exclusively Catholic or Episcopal concept.

Our faith is a glorious thing. Let’s treat it as such. And let’s teach the Bible in all its wonder and glory, so that when our young people go out into the world, they spread the gospel themselves. Not because they’re supposed to, but because they’re so knowledgeable and so in love with truth that they couldn’t possibly keep it quiet.