Are Biblical Stories Helpful or Harmful To Children?

Done with Religion
4 min readFeb 16, 2024

By Mike Edwards

Most are familiar with Bible stories including David and Goliath and Jonah shallowed by a whale. What motivated me to write this post was becoming even more aware of disturbing divine behaviors in the older testament. See here. You may not want to advise your children to read the entire Older Testament. Stay with me until we get to below stories of Noah/Flood and Jonah.

Don’t read these Bible passages to children!

We have every right to question if biblical writers/editors always understood God perfectly. There are many disturbing portrayals of God in the Bible. Exodus 20:1 says God spoke: “anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death” (Ex 21:17). I would be dead! God didn’t dictate words to the writers. “God said” is recording hundreds of times in the Bible. This is likely a figure of speech expressing inner impressions or understandings about God written down — right or wrong.

God supposedly even commanded the genocide of all Amalekites, including women, children, infants, and animals (I Sam 15:2–3). God kills Uzzah for putting his hand out to balance the Ark from falling (2 Sam 6:7), yet God is silent when Mighty King David committed adultery and had Bathsheba’s husband killed (2 Sam 11:14). You better hope God is having a good day!

Did God control the thoughts of biblical writers?

You can’t prove and it’s doubtful a loving God controlled the mental impressions of writers’ words recorded. Controlling love is an oxymoron. God doesn’t control our world views. The Israelites thought God controlled the natural world causing famines to punish or giving victory or defeat in battle. Today most don’t think God causes tsunamis and other natural disasters. Jesus didn’t blame tragedies by God as rewarding the righteous and punishing the unfaithful (Lk 13:1–5). So, we are okay to question if certain stories accurately portray God. It is not heresy to challenge if the writers’ understandings of God are contradictory of a loving God according to our moral intuitions. We were surely created to love the way the Creator loves.

Noah, the Flood, and God drowning practically the entire human race

I admit I love David kicking bully Goliath’s ass. But you may wonder why God drowned the entire human race except Noah and family, including children and infants (Gen. 7:23). Keep in mind Genesis talks about a magical tree of good and evil and talking snakes. A Global Flood could be a literary device to illustrate the destructiveness of human versus God’s ways. Maybe the writers used an analogy of a Flood and drowning because their world view including God controlling the natural world. I might not read the Flood story to young children but wait to explain the above that maybe God didn’t really drown practically the entire human race. Personally, I wouldn’t use a drowning analogy to portray God’s character.

Did a whale really swallow Jonah?

I suppose most kids won’t avoid water or the ocean when reading this story. Nevertheless, how might you explain such a story to younger children if they ask. Certain evidence suggests Jonah wasn’t really shallowed by a whale. The gullet of a whale is too small to swallow an adult. The gastric juices and lack of oxygen would not sustain human life for days such as Jonah writing a poem while inside the whale (Eric Seibert ). Ninevah was a real city but this story maybe wasn’t meant to be taken literally. Read the full story. It may be trying to illustrate God had a right to show compassion. Jonah’s enthusiasm for the destruction of his enemies was misguided.

So, how do I read the Older Testament to my children?

It’s understandable choosing to not share many of the Bible stories with children. Young children aren’t always equipped to understand when stories aren’t meant to be taken literally. The Bible is God’s story beginning with Israel and culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in any other document. God may have inspired the writers to write but didn’t necessarily approve of everything written about God. When reading the Bible, question and contemplate what a loving God is really like. Enjoy what God is trying to reveal to you about your Creator and how to treat others. Interpretations about God’s love toward others, that don’t match how you know you ought to love your neighbor, may be amiss. A Book must not replace our relationship with God and common moral sense.

Are Biblical Stories Helpful Or Harmful To Children?

Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. He couldn’t find enough people to discuss God openly so he started blogging years ago. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like He can be contacted by email at: medwar2@gmail.com

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Done with Religion

Done with religion does not mean done with God, but done with religious traditions. We post articles weekly about living for God outside the walls of religion.