Echoes of Eden: Traces of God and Truth in Children’s Literature

This summer, elementary Crossing Kids is doing something slightly different on Sunday mornings. Instead of studying the same Bible Story or topic for five weeks like we normally do during the school year, we’re using children’s literature to help us see how the Gospel helps us to make sense of all of life–including art. Each week we’re enjoying a new picture book, searching for places where the beauty of the Gospel intersects and points to the greatest story of all, and discovering how to engage with our culture in winsome ways. This curriculum was inspired by the work of Jerram Barrs who wrote, “All great art will contain this element of being an echo of Eden: Eden in its original glory, Eden that is lost to us, and Eden restored.”

Throughout our time together, we’re hopeful that children will learn:

  • That all great art contains an echo of Eden—memories of a good creation, the tragedy of our current condition, and a longing for redemption and restoration.
  • How to use quality literature to notice Gospel themes, find common ground with others, and discuss these truths in winsome ways.
  • To enjoy literature, engage in culture, and understand what it means to be created in the image of a creative God.
  • To learn how to “hunt and gather truth” in a variety of contexts.
  • The Gospel is not just for saving souls, but reaching and redeeming all of creation.

We live in a broken, fallen world. As a result, nothing is or works the way that it is supposed to. Literature reflects this sense of loss. Creation is tainted, people are often destructive, and even the best things in life are flawed. We are a glorious ruin; most literature reflects this and includes some type of problem to be solved.

Just as most stories acknowledge this brokenness, they also reflect a longing for redemption and restoration. Dragons are slayed, problems are solved, battles are won. Yet, even the most compelling of resolutions pales in comparison to the greatest story ever told. Human solutions are incomplete. Heroes are flawed. Utopia cannot be found this side of heaven. We need a Savior who can rescue and redeem in ways that we simply cannot. As Tolkein and Lewis tell us, our myths contain echoes of the true story of who we are and God’s redeeming work, but the Gospel is the one true myth where pain and evil are banished completely and eternally.

We also live in a world where life is often segmented and compartmentalized. We view some things as spiritual while other things are secular. Some things are “good” while other things are “bad.” According to Genesis 1, a human being is the only being on earth whose essence related both to the physical and spiritual world. We’re fully both. God’s original purpose for humanity was to image God by ruling over, working in, and developing God’s created world. This includes art and culture. We’re excited to help some of our church’s youngest members learn how to do this together.

If you have an elementary child, consider taking a closer look at the books we’re reading this summer at the library or a book store.

June 4–The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodsen (Ephesians 2:14-15a)
June 11–Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox (Psalm 22:27)
June 18–The Best Cat in the World by Leslea Newman (Psalm 34:18)
June 25–The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant (Isaiah 40:6-8)
July 2–Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes (Phillippians 4:6-7)

 

 

 

 

 

July 9–Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli (Mark 12:30-31)
July 16–What Do You Do With A Tail Like This? by Steve Jenkins (Psalm 8)
July 23–The Great Fuzz Frenzy by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel (Romans 1:25)
July 30–Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth (Romans 8)
August 6–Whoever You Are by Mem Fox (Philippians 2:1-11)

“We get them both—the gold leaf and the gold bar. So we must ask more challenging questions: How do we rightly handle the gold leaf (man’s literature) now that we have the gold bar (God’s Bible)? Does the bar decrease the value of the leaf? Does the bar render the leaf worthless? Or does the bar increase the value of the leaf?”
Tony Reinke, Lit!

“Calvin understood that God created human beings to hunt and gather truth, and that, as a matter of fact, the capacity for doing so amounts to one feature of the image of God in them (Col. 3:10).  So Calvin fed on knowledge as gladly as a deer on sweet corn…And why not?  The Holy Spirit authors all truth, as Calvin wrote, and we should therefore embrace it no matter where it shows up.”
Cornelius Plantinga, Engaging in God’s World

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