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Is Sunday School Destroying Our Kids? How Moralism Suffocates Grace: A Brief Review

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I happened upon Samuel Williamson’s blog, Beliefs of the Heart several months ago. I don’t read every entry, but I can say the ones I have read have been well-written, thought-provoking and Biblically-sound.

Williamson recently published a book. I generally stick to reading books published by traditional publishers, because I figure if a reputable publishing house is willing to put their name and some of their money behind it, chances are it’s an okay book. But because Williamson had proven himself to me through his website, I knew Is Sunday School Destroying Our Kids? would be worth a read.

Though the title is very catchy, the subtitle of the book, How Moralism Suffocates Grace, definitely more accurately describes most of the contents of the 80-page piece. If you are looking for a lot of insight into the culture of Sunday School; specific examples of it’s failures, stats from generations of Sunday School attenders, a step-by-step plan for how to best teach Sunday School, you will not find it here. Though he does delve into the issue of moralism and Sunday School in the beginning pages of the book.

The things he says we often leave out when teaching our children Bible stories resonated with me. Essentially we often tell  our kids to be brave, to be faith-filled, and to be obedient to God as the patriarchs were, but we neglect to show them how badly those chosen ones of God screwed up.

I remember studying Genesis in a women’s study a number of years ago, and feeling such a sense of relief over the failings of the fathers of the faith. Most of them messed up big-time at some point in their lives. And God still loved them. And God still pursued them. Now that is grace. I agree with Williamson that when we fail to tell the whole story, we err on the side of moralism and we begin to lose grace all together. And when we lose grace, we lose our kids to the world because they “can’t distinguish it from mere morality.”

Willamson says, (and I love love love this quote) “The wonder of the gospel is not the love of the beautiful; it’s that the Beauty kisses the Beast. The Beast isn’t loved because he has changed; the Beast is changed when he is loved. Joy doesn’t come when he is loved for his beauty; joy overwhelms him when he is loved in his hideousness.”

Much of the book is focused on what happens when we “assume the gospel.” Willamson quotes Mack Stiles from Marks of the Messenger on how the gospel is lost.

1. The gospel is accepted.

2. The gospel is assumed.

3. The gospel is confused.

4. The gospel is lost.

Williamsons says, “Strong moral behavior apart from the gospel can lead us – ever so slowly- to feel good about ourselves, which can lead us – ever so slowly – to self-righteousness. Which is the enemy of the gospel.”

Many interesting points are made in this book. Some I readily agreed with. Some I’m not sure about and I’m still chewing on. But it is worth putting on your reading list. Plus it’s short, about the size of a novella, so even if it’s not your favorite, you’ll get through it quickly. 😉

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