Ethos Education

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn: Why do Christians read the Bible?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Awareness of how the Bible was written.
  • Awareness of how the books of the Bible were chosen.
  • Awareness of different Christian beliefs about the authority, inspiration and interpretation of the Bible.
  • Awareness of how different Christians base their lives on the teaching of the Bible.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect upon the reasons for reading different types of writing, and the benefit of doing so.
  • Analyse specific excerpts from the Bible to identify reasons given for reading them.
  • Reflect upon other reasons why Christians might want to read the Bible.
  • Analyse whether there is grounds for regarding the Bible as an authoritative source of information.

STARTER:

Ask the students what the point of reading is – why do people read books, magazines, newspapers, etc? Brainstorm a list of reasons for reading and write up the suggestions as they are made.

Now start grouping the reasons. We would suggest that most if not all suggestions can be put into one of the following three categories: information; entertainment, the stimulation of thought.

Read out the following list of publications and ask the students, working in pairs or small groups, to decide which of the three categories is most likely to be the main reason why someone would choose to read it. Make it clear that although many publications will legitimately fall into more than one category, it is likely that there is one which more obviously applies. Each title comes with a brief description, just in case you haven’t heard of them, although for some of the titles the brief description will not be necessary for either you or your students.

Publications:

  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (a novel, telling the story of a futuristic world where young people are chosen to fight to the death to win food for their villages).
  • The Radio Times (a TV listing magazine).
  • Dark Matter: A thinking fan’s guide to Philip Pullman by Tony Watkins (a book about Philip Pullman’s acclaimed His Dark Materials trilogy. Dark Matter was published by Damaris Publishing September 2004 – (click here to order a copy online).
  • Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss (a best-selling book about punctuation).
  • May I Have Your Attention, Please? by James Corden (autobiography of the actor/writer and star of Gavin and Stacey).
  • The Battle For Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 by Antony Beevor (historical account of the 20th Century hostilities).
  • An Agony Aunt column in teen magazine.
  • Annabel Karmel’s New Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner by Annabel Karmel (recipes and tips for babies and young children).
  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey (self-help book).

The presence of these books on our list shouldn’t be taken as an endorsement, although we are very happy to affirm that we think Tony Watkins’ book on Philip Pullman is very good indeed.

Explain that the Bible is a very important book for Christians, and that in this lesson you are going to be thinking about some of the reasons why Christians think that reading the Bible is so important.

MAIN ACTIVITIES:

Introduce the clip from The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (Paramount, 2011, certificate PG). Click here to buy the DVD online.

Explain that Tintin and his friend Captain Haddock are adrift on the ocean in a lifeboat. While Tintin was asleep, Haddock has found a whisky bottle stashed in the boat. Ask the students to pay particular attention to Tintin’s approach to the final stage of their escape.

  • Start time:       0.46.04
  • End time:         0.49.23
  • Clip length:      3 minutes and 19 seconds

The clip starts with Tintin asleep and Haddock saying, ‘Tintin, Tintin, come and warm yourself up, laddy.’ It ends with Tintin asking, ‘Which way to North Africa?’

Ask the students what reasons Tintin had for believing that he could fly them out of trouble. Two possible answers are that he once interviewed a pilot and that he had an instruction manual. Which of those two provide the greater grounds for confidence in Tintin’s ability to pilot the plane? How much confidence would either give the students if they, rather than Captain Haddock, were the passengers for the flight?

Explain that one way of thinking about the Bible that some Christians use is to describe it as ‘God’s instruction manual’. That only reflects one facet of how Christians see the Bible, but it is a helpful illustration for that one facet.

Ask the students to keep Tintin’s crash course in flying in mind as they look at the following Bible passages. In pairs or small groups, ask the students to see what each of the following has to say about why people should read the Bible. Ask them to particularly identify any parallels between these answers and Tintin’s experience in the clip.

Luke 1:1-4 (says that it was written so that people could be certain of the events of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection).

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (says that the Bible is useful for telling people how to live).

John 20:30-31 (says that it was written so that people would believe in Jesus and have life in his name).

Take feedback from some of the small groups, and ask the class to reflect on what other reasons there might be for Christians to spend time reading the Bible.

Explain that Christians place great importance on the contents of the Bible. Point out that the wisdom of this depends entirely on whether the source of those words is an authoritative one or not. Give out the Bible factsheets and read through them with the class. Ask if there is anything on the factsheet that surprises them.

Read the following quotation to the class:

‘It is sometimes claimed that historians simply as historians regard Old and New Testament history as unreliable on some independent historical grounds. But… many events which are regarded as firmly established historically have far less documentary evidence than many biblical events, and the documents on which historians rely for much secular history are written much longer after the event than many records of biblical events. Furthermore, we have many more copies of biblical narratives than of secular histories; and the surviving copies are much earlier than of secular histories; and the surviving copies are much earlier than those on which our evidence for secular history is based.’

(Richard Purtill, Thinking About Religion. Quoted in Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli. Monarch books 1995).

According to this argument, the circumstances in which the Bible was written (particularly the number of copies that have been found and the relatively short period of time between the events described and the earliest surviving document) point to the Bible being, historically at least, a very reliable document.

But many Christians believe the Bible’s authority to be more than just historical. Ask the students to read through the following Bible passages, and to summarise what each of them says about the authority of the Bible (this could be done individually or in pairs): Luke 1:1-4; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Revelation 22:18-19. Once the students have had time to complete this task, take feedback on their findings.

Luke 1:1-4 suggests that the human writers of the Bible took trouble to ensure that they got their facts straight.

1 Corinthians 15:3-8 suggests that the events described had a number of witnesses, many of whom would still have been in a position to dispute them if the biblical accounts had been falsified.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 suggests that there was also a supernatural element in the authority of the Bible – that although it was physically written by humans at a particular period in history, those human writers were inspired by God and were writing what he wanted them to write.

Revelation 22:18-19 suggests that God takes his word seriously, and that the consequences of anyone changing it for their own purposes are very great.

The points raised by the first two passages provide an objective argument for accepting a certain amount of authority for the Bible, regardless of whether the reader is a Christian or even believes in any kind of supernatural world. The last two points are only persuasive if the reader accepts the notion of the Christian God. However, if such a notion is accepted, they elevate the Bible onto a level of authority all of its own.

SUMMARY AND ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING:

Ask the students to write and plan a television advert for the Bible. The advert should present, from a Christian point of view, reasons why someone might consider reading the Bible on a regular basis. 

YOU WILL NEED:

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