The Bible and the Education of Children: Lessons from Alexander Campbell, RQ article by Samjung Kang-Hamilton

…most of the prior literature has ignored his [AC] understanding of the education of children in the Bible.  This essay will begin to close that gap and suggest ways in which an understanding of Campbell would help strengthen children’s ministry in Churches of Christ today.  The following sections will examine Campbell’s views on (1) the Bible and children, (2) childhood, (3) the nature of education, (4) its purposes; (5) and its methods and  contexts.  his work helps us get past the current practice of treating the Bible as a set of morality tales.

So ends her opening section. Kang-Hamilton lays out a thesis that Campbell’s notions on the education of children offers to the contemporary church a resource for (re)thinking children’s ministry and the teaching of the Bible to and for children.  I’m already favorably impressed, as a researcher who sees many such gaps, as a teacher and a ministry leader in a congregational education ministry, and, not least of all, as a parent.  I will over the next few days post short summaries and excerpt’s from each section of her article. Come back to see what she discovers from AC and what she makes of it for our situation.

Samjung Kang-Hamilton, “The Bible and the Education of Children: Lessons from Alexander Campbell” Restoration Quarterly 52:3 third Quarter 2010, 130-143.  For more about RQ, click here.

The Sayings of the Fathers on reading Scripture

The nature of water is soft, that of a rock is hard. But if a narrow-necked bottle is hung above a stone, drop by drop the water wears away the rock. So it is with the word of God: it is soft and our heart is hard. But when a person hears the word of God, often then his heart is opened to the fear of God.

The Apophthegmata Patrum (the Sayings of the Fathers) is a collection of proverbs and quotes from 4th-5th c. monks.   This quote is from Everett Ferguson, Inheriting Wisdom, Readings for Today from Ancient Christian Writers. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004, page 229.

Word-Alone Doctrine by R. H. Boll: A Voice from 1917

WORD-ALONE DOCTRINE.

There is a well-defined tendency among Christians to dissociate God from his word. It comes to the point that God himself is not needed or directly involved in the matter of our salvation.  The word is all.  As a writer in a certain paper some years ago illustrated it: “the only way the governor does a condemned criminal any good is by means of a writ of pardon.”  And then with rather a coarse comparison: “The presence of the governor himself would do the prisoner no more good than the presence of a mule.”  This principles leaves us, indeed, with a scheme of salvation, a law, a set of precepts, but God is no longer in it.  The word will do good as the intelligence conveyed in my letter will do my friend good the while I am absent and otherwise occupied, or [207] like a prescription helps the patient the while the doctor is gone.  The final outcome of such a position is a sight of intellectual study, dry discussions, argumentations, hairsplittings, formalism, hypocrisy, and spiritual death.  The word is good, and nothing too great and lofty can be said about it; but the word is not honored by putting it in a false place, making a false claim for it, and attributing virtue to it apart from God.  For whether is greater–the word, or he that backs it and gives it power?  Have ye never yet understood that the word is not an end in itself, but a means to an end–even the means of bringing us into, and keeping is in contact and union with God himself and with Christ, that so we may be in him and he in us?

R. H. Boll, Truth and Grace. F. L. Rowe: Cincinnati, 1917, pages 206-207.

Gregory the Great on reading Scripture

Holy Scripture is presented to the mind’s eye as a kind of mirror so that our inner appearance can be seen in it. In this mirror we recognize both the ugliness and the beauty of our soul. We can tell what progress we are making, or see our utter lack of progress…The virtues of people in the Bible may support our hope, and their faults may clothe us with the protection of humility. The former, through the joy they cause, give our spirits wings; the latter, by causing fear, put a check on our actions. By listening to Scripture the soul learns both the confidence of hope and the humility of fear.

Gregory, a moral theologian, was Bishop of Rome from 590-604. This quote is from Everett Ferguson, Inheriting Wisdom, Readings for Today from Ancient Christian Writers. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004, page 229.

Basil of Caesarea on reading Scripture

The best way to discover our duty is to study the divinely inspired Scriptures, for in them we find both instructions about conduct and the lives of blessed men, delivered in writing. They are laid before us like having images of the godly life for the imitation of their good works. When we devote ourselves to the imitation of what is offered there, we find the appropriate medicine for whatever deficiency or illness we feel we have, as from a pharmacy.

Basil was Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia from 370-379. This quote is from Everett Ferguson, Inheriting Wisdom, Readings for Today from Ancient Christian Writers. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004, pages 228-229.

Origen on reading Scripture

You then, my true son, give primary attention to reading the divine Scriptures. Be attentive: for we must be attentive when reading the things of God, so that we not say or think anything too reckless about them…Being attentive to divine reading, seek correctly and with unwavering faith in God the meaning of the divine Scriptures that is hidden to the many. Never cease knocking and seeking, for prayer is indispensable in understanding divine things.

Origen was a teacher and writer in Alexandria, Egypt ca. 185-250. This quote is from Everett Ferguson, Inheriting Wisdom, Readings for Today from Ancient Christian Writers. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004, page 228.

Theonas on reading Scripture

Let no day pass by without reading–at a suitable time–some portion of the sacred lessons, allowing time for meditation.  And never cast off the practice of reading the sacred Scriptures; for nothing feeds the soul and enriches the mind as much as those sacred lessons do.

Theonas was Bishop of Alexandria, Egypt ca. 281-300.  This quote is from Everett Ferguson, Inheriting Wisdom, Readings for Today from Ancient Christian Writers. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004, page 228.