Tuesday, January 20, 2009

TCITB: Chpt 3 That the Children May Know

from Chapter 3
That the Children May Know: Children in Deuteronomy
Patrick D. Miller

This brief post doesn't do justice to this chapter. Mr. Miller tells us that children are important in Deuteronomy, what and how they are taught is important in Deuteronomy, and teaching the content of Deuteronomy is an important component of this. (TCITB p. 45) As constitution (rules for society and government) and as catechism (questions and answers about faith), Deuteronomy tells the people of God how to live in the context of family and community and it speaks of God's redemptive work on our behalf. (TCITB p. 47)

Mr. Miller answers the questions:
"Who are the children?" (TCITB p. 47) Young? Teens? Adults?
"What is to be learned?" (TCITB p. 48)

He explores "The aims of instruction" (TCITB p. 53)
"The components of teaching and learning" (TCITB p. 54)

He challenges our understanding of "honoring the parents and punishing the children. . ." (TCITB p. 58)

How often have you heard someone read through the book of Deuteronomy to your congregation? (or any book of scripture) I'm not talking about sermons, teaching, Bible studies. I'm just talking about someone reading out loud and everyone listening. I never have. If we did, would we include the children? Would we include a way to answer their questions?

God designed yearly community festivals around times to hear the stories and commands of scripture - times when we would be forced to remember what God expects of us when we live before God in the land. These were also times to remember what God did for His people. Even the children who didn't see those things happen were among those who listened.

He said, when children asked "why do we do this?" grown-ups used that opportunity to answer their questions - an opportunity to teach "the story behind the rules." - Every answer was a piece of God's redemptive story. (TCITB p. 50) "The children do not only learn the rules. They learn the story behind the rules." They learn the story "out of which they come and on which they are grounded." (TCITB p. 50)

He tells us "these teaching moments" came in "question and answer in form; they arise, as do so many things in a child's education, from the child's 'why' question. . . the education of the child responds to the child's curiosity and even waits for [that] strategic moment, the receptivity implied in the question. Further, instruction of the child is not simply in the classroom. It is highly contextual, growing out of context and practice." These questions are stimulated by regular community traditions. (TCITB p. 51) The thought of living in such a way that those answers are on the tip of my tongue and my whole life reinforces those redemptive answers is something to strive for.

Mr. Miller says, "'the catechism that will teach the next generation will be one that takes them back again to the question of who they are and what it is that God has done for them." (TCITB p. 51) Wouldn't you love to raise (or teach) children who know who they are and how they fit into the world they live in as they live before God?

I thought this was interesting: Miller says "It is worth noting that, aside from the fact that the children do not know yet, there really is no difference between the teaching of the child and the teaching of the adult. . . The first and primary aim of this teaching - child and adult- is that they may learn to fear the Lord. " (TCITB p. 53)

First, this implies that including children in our community worship gatherings doesn't mean dumbing down a service. Neither does it mean ignoring the children.

Second, when did you last hear anyone say that the goal of Christian education for adult and child is to learn to fear the Lord?

He says, "Obedience is the goal of the law but also the means by which the proper relation to the Lord is developed. Precisely in the nurture of the child, faith and obedience are so intricately tied together that it is not possible to set them in a chronological order."(TCITB p. 53) This touches on the hearing, doing, learning, growing faith and all it's components being dependent on one another and intertwined.

". . . one must not miss the utilitarian aim of learning to fear by observing. It is also so that the people may find, individually and corporately, the good and abundant life, that they may live long and well in the place God has provided for them. " (TCITB p. 53)

What he's saying seems to reinforce the understanding that learning to fear God and growing faith and keeping God's commands and pondering His stories are interdependent. This isn't linear. I'm thinking that it all happens in varying degrees at the same time. The outcome? To fear (revere) God and live long and well in the land He gives us. An interesting chapter.

Just things that jumped out at me. Just my impressions.

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