We talk a lot amongst ourselves and with you guys, our friends, about how to discuss the issues of Oneism and Twoism in everyday life. A big topic for me and the friends in my life stage, specifically, is how to talk to our little ones about Biblical truth and doctrine.
So often when I think about how to talk to my children about theology, I imagine these high-minded, lengthy and mature conversations that are free of the every day distractions of real life. In my fantasy theology lessons my children mysteriously know what “eschatology” and “hermeneutic” mean, I never mispronounce words like “antithesis” or Iraneus’ name, and my son never, ever responds to one of my profound statements with, “Uh . Mom, can I play video games today?” (I’ll have to tell you about the imaginary perfectly balanced and nutritious lunches I pack them in another article…But trust me. They’re delicious!)
I hope you know, however, that reality is FAR different from fantasy in my house. I have to grab the chances I’m given, as brief as they may be, and make the best of them. And, though I often envy my coworkers their amazing vocabularies, I find that the simpler I am with my kids, the more they understand and the longer they’re willing to listen.
One day on the walk home from school my son’s 7-year-old buddy said, “Miss Mary — WHY do people call animals ‘creatures’? I just think that’s so rude. I think it’s mean to animals to call them creatures.” I wasn’t quite sure where this thought had come from. Up until that point the boys had been chatting about antics on the playground and a fort they were building in the bushes behind our condo. But he was intense with his delivery and I had a sense that somehow this topic mattered.
“Jo…what do you think ‘creature’ means?” I asked.
“Well it just seems like it’s not nice to animals. Like that it means they are stupid or something. And animals are not stupid. They’re just like us.” I was immediately flustered between what felt like conflicting desires: to maintain his love for animals, while also wanting to clarify for him that, no, other animals are not just like us. But wonderfully, the Bible doesn’t cause these two ideas to conflict at all. In fact, if we understand all of creation in terms of our roles as determined by our gracious, loving Creator, they go beautifully hand-in-hand.
“Jo, do you believe that God made everything?” I asked, knowing that our friend was from a church-going family.
“Well, yeah!” came the reply.
“So you have heard God called the Creator, right? And that’s where the word ‘creature’ come from, too. It is talking about the fact that animals were created by the Creator…they’re creatures! And that’s not a bad thing…it’s good! And we are created, too. God made us AND the other creatures, right?” Jo agreed that this was true. We then talked about how, though we were all created by the same Creator God, animals were not ‘just like us’ because God created only one thing in His image, and that was human beings. We talked about the privilege of being able to love, and create, and imagine, and have relationships; we talked about the responsibility that we were given as God’s image bearers to take care of all the other creatures in the world.
At some point the conversation turned back to Legos and, if memory serves correctly, my breaking up a tussle with a certain little sister who’d made away with some toy or other the boys had been playing with. But it’s stuck in my head for some time — the simplicity of the conversation, the beauty and rightness of God’s ordained order in the world. The ideas that Jo had tumbling around in his mind were based in the Oneist ideology that there really is no distinction between man and animal — that essentially we are inherently no different than the animals around us. If all is One, then eventually all is the same and any idea of difference is simply an illusion. But the truth is that we are different from the animals. We alone bear the image of the Creator God who Himself is entirely distinct and different from His creation. The very fact of our difference tells us something about who He is, and tells us the truth that really All is Two. God and his creation, never ever one and the same.
In a time when so much emphasis is put on erasing the distinctions God has set in place — between God and man, male and female, human and animal — it is important and, dare I say it, sometimes very simple to affirm and clarify those very categories with our children in whatever conversation the Lord graciously brings our way. One or Two? They really do make a world of difference.
We pray that these conversations will come about for you and your family and friends often, and that the Lord would equip you well to respond with simple, clear, beautifully Biblical truth.