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Finding and Following: Talking with Children about God – Helen Oppenheimer

October 9, 2015

FAF TWCAGThe author doesn’t believe that RE teachers should be neutral. In this, she is very out of touch with pedagogical theory and practice.

She does slightly better when she suggests that many of the religious stories told to children have to be unlearned in later life.

She confuses ‘grace’ with providence’

It might be of some help to adults trying to work out what they believe but there are many other books which do this much better.

All in all, this is a most unhelpful book with no practical examples and little else to commend itself.


“The new conviction that children have the right to happiness is superimposed on the old conviction that children must depend on their elders. The upshot is the belief that the elders can and should filter the facts which children are told, and even the experiences which they are allowed to have, through a mesh of suitability.”

From God’s point of view creeds are baby-talk.

People who have reached the point of saying I believe’ may still say it tentatively. To accept a creed provision­ally, as a working hypothesis, hoping for further illumination, is neither self-contradictory nor irreverent. It was St Anse1m, not a twentieth-century liberal, who said, ‘I believe in order that I may understand.’

Belief is a word with a range of meanings along a spectrum: from the almost agnostic plea for help of the father of the epileptic boy, ‘I believe; help my unbelief’;’ by way of the caution of St Thomas who made a condition, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails . . . I will not believe’; to the assurance attained by the Beloved Disciple who saw and believed. ‘I believe’ means ‘Here I put my faith,’ or even, ‘Here I take sides.’

`I believe’ and ‘I know’ are not synonyms,

For some Christians, faith in Jesus Christ answers the questions they find they have to ask, and brings belief in God to earth. They say that he is the way, the truth and the life,” not to keep others out but to keep themselves in. Their neighbour may be a liberal, or perhaps a Muslim, who honours Jesus as holy and inspired. They naturally want to ask, like Peter at the end of the Fourth Gospel asking what would happen to John,’ ‘Lord, what about this man?’ The reply given to Peter is, ‘What is that to you? Follow me!’

The picture of a Christian as a secretary taking dictation is hopeless. Whether for grown-ups or children, the picture of a bird-watcher sitting quiet and still to see what will appear is far more promising.

Our bodies will be naturally and slowly dispersed into the physical world when we die. In the end Jour tombs will be empty. Suppose the tomb of Jesus was empty already on the third day, not because the body in it was miraculously resuscitated, but because the body in it was miraculously and quickly dispersed into the physical world? In that case the tomb was indeed empty and the holy one did not ‘see corruption’; but not because, unlike us, he kept his earthly body and took it to heaven with him. He was raised in a spiritual body, like the spiritual bodies we hope to have one day. So it makes sense to say that his rising was truly the pledge of our rising. It took a miracle to raise Jesus up, because he was really dead, and it will take a mighty work each to raise us up once we are really dead. The rising of Jesus has shown that mighty works can be done.

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