I was recently visiting a new church and the pastor’s sermon illustration came from the book of 1 Samuel. The pastor was using the account of David and Goliath to illustrate a point he was making. But he began to tell the account of David and Goliath with “Once upon a time…” Immediately I assumed he was telling a fictional account or a fairytale. To my surprise he launched into an account from the pages of Scripture.
Studies have shown that two-thirds of our young people will leave the church, and often the Christian faith, when they go to college. But we aren’t losing these students in college. Many of these young people are “already gone” in high school—often even in middle school. Part of the reason is a lack of apologetics training. Students are simply not taught to defend their faith. However, apologetics requires a firm foundation from which to start on. It’s not enough to simply teach students how to defend their faith—they first must believe that what they are reading is real history and understand how it connects with real life.
It is vitally important to ground the characters and events in the Bible in real history! When people, especially young people and children, hear a biblical account introduced with “once upon a time…” they immediately associate the story with fiction. This puts the Bible on the same plane as fairytales and children’s stories. This doesn’t inspire confidence in God’s Word or encourage them to put their trust in Scripture’s trustworthiness.
That’s why creation apologetics are so necessary. Creation apologetics ground Genesis in real history and provide a timeline through which to view the rest of Scripture and secular history. When students realize that God’s Word can be trusted from the very beginning, they are much more likely to trust all of God’s Word and to understand that the accounts contained in the Bible really happened. They are not just “stories” but are real historical events, well grounded in real history.
How much more effective would the pastor’s sermon have been if he’d begun his illustration with “In around 1040 BC, during the reign of King Saul of Israel, lived a young man named David. During this time in history, many people groups, including many Israelites, were semi-nomadic shepherds who cared for flocks and herds, travelling around…” This grounds the account of David in real history and gives the impression that the account really happened—which it did! This inspires trust in all of God’s Word, from the very beginning.
Yes. I found myself becoming quite frustrated over the past couple of decades as more and more pastors & well-known Christian leaders began referring to personalities in Scripture as ‘Bible characters’.
The term ‘character’ immediately sets the tone for the reference to a work of fiction. It is little wonder that, when real historical individual are treated as storybook ‘characters’ from the pulpit, our children see them as such from the pews – and beyond.
In Christ’s Love,
Dr. Jack L. Burton