Well, you know the answer to that! What’s in the Bible? A whole lot of amazing, inspiring, weird stuff. But today I’m talking about the new kids’ video series What’s in the Bible?, brought to us by Phil Vischer, best known as the creator of Veggie Tales.
The video trailer above gives a pretty good overview of what the series is like, although it leaves out what I think is the most genius character and feature of the whole series: Captain Pete with “A Pirate’s Guide to Church History.” Kids need to know more about church history, and getting it from a pirate puppet with a Scots accent can’t possibly hurt.
Like many Christian parents of my generation, my children’s growing-up years were defined by Veggie Tales, and so far, none of us in the house has outgrown them. I was also deeply impressed by Phil Vischer’s memoir, Me, Myself and Bob, released a few years ago, which I described when I reviewed it as the best book I’ve ever read about failure and Christianity — even taking into account that that’s not a very crowded field, because as Christians we don’t talk nearly enough about our failures. Long story short: the Veggie Tales/Big Idea empire grew to the point of financial collapse, and although Veggie Tales videos are still being made, Phil doesn’t own the company anymore. He’s moved on to other things, and now that the first four What’s in the Bible DVDs are out, we have some idea what those other things are. And I’m really impressed.
What’s in the Bible is an ambitious project: a series of DVDs that will give kids a broad overview of the Bible — what’s in it, how it’s organized, how it came down to us as a sacred text (Captain Pete has some confusion, as you might imagine, with the difference between “canon” and “cannon,” but I’m pleased that my kids now know what we mean when we talk about the Scriptural canon. Also, they can now say “Septuagint,” although they invariably say “Bless you!” afterwards, because they sneeze it more than say it).
The series is actually geared at kids a little younger than our 10 and 12-year-olds, but like all good kids’ entertainment, there is plenty of humour here that can be enjoyed by all ages. (This is pretty much my yardstick for kids’ entertainment: if it’s funny only to kids, then it’s no good. The good stuff — Pixar movies, Sesame Street, Veggie Tales — is fun for everyone in the house, though possibly for different reasons. Parents can watch these shows — unlike, say, Barney — along with their kids, without quietly knotting their neckties into nooses in a futile hope of ending the torture). What’s in the Bible? balances a lot of serious teaching and heavy information — like the names of all twelve judges in the book of Judges, which even I didn’t know — with entertaining delivery. Bible facts and stories are presented by a cast of Muppet-like puppets — including Sunday School Lady, newsman Buck Denver, the aforementioned Captain Pete, and others — with a few human hosts as well, including the Fabulous Bentley Brothers and of course Phil Vischer himself.
Phil introduces and wraps up topics, and also gets to handle little segments called “Tricky Bits With Phil.” These are the parts of the Bible than raise difficult and controversial questions, and initially they’re called “Tricky Bits with Buck,” but Buck Denver (wisely) hides under his desk and refuses to touch these topics, so they’re left to the avuncular voice of Phil Vischer. I particularly admire how the series handles these issues, refusing to gloss over, even for an audience of children, the fact that the Bible does have some “tricky bits” and that it raises difficult questions. More conservative parents might be disappointed that the “Tricky Bit” relating to the first chapters of Genesis does not come down more firmly on the side of young-earth creationism, but I appreciated the fact that the series acknowledges that Christians have different views on this. I personally would have handled the “Tricky Bit” about all the war and killing in Judges differently, but the important thing is that these topics are addressed, and of course the ideal is that parents will go on to discuss them with their children.
(Parenthetical note: today in Sabbath School the pastor sat in on our teen class, and one of the students asked a difficult question about Sabbath observance, which I lobbed over to the pastor to answer. My kids immediately said, “Oh, it’s ‘Tricky Bits with Pastor Eric!'” They also started calling me Sabbath School Lady, which I guess I have probably earned).
Although the series, especially in the early DVDs relating to the canon of Scripture, attempts to give an overview of how Scripture is used in different Christian traditions, What’s in the Bible? generally comes from a conservative/evangelical (but not fundamentalist) Protestant perspective, treating Scripture as authoritative and literally true, and viewing everything through the lens of redemption and the eventual coming of Jesus (though that’s several DVDs down the line yet). Parents who are comfortable with this perspective and want their kids to have a better knowledge of the Bible (and who don’t mind information being imparted by singing puppets) will want to get hold of these DVDs. Even if you don’t agree with everything here, there’ll be lots of rich ground for discussion in your house, and whatever discussion you do have about the Bible from here on in will at least have a firm foundation of information to support it.
So far our family has watched volumes 1, 2 and 4 of the series, covering Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, Judges and Ruth. For reasons unclear to me, Volume 3 (Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) never arrived at our local Christian bookstore, so I’ll have to order it online, because we definitely want to own the whole series and make it part of our (vast) library of Christian family videos. I am a huge fan of Biblical literacy for kids and a huge fan of pretty much anything Phil Vischer produces, so it’s no surprise that our entire household gives eight thumbs up (two from each of us) to What’s in the Bible?