By Samantha Bronson (CUC’s Youth and Children’s Ministries Director)
Many parents have asked for recommendations for Children’s Bibles, specifically with a progressive viewpoint. So, with the values and beliefs of CUC in mind, I am on the hunt for the best resources available!
As I read and evaluate each of the Children’s Bibles I come into contact with, I will let you know the Bibles’ positives and negatives, as well as how your family can use them. Please keep in mind that these are my opinions!
- The Jesus Storybook Bible
Overall, I really like this children’s Bible. The illustrations are simple and beautiful. The stories are told in a way that addresses the hard aspects of life and the biblical narrative (death and brokenness) but consistently offer hope. I appreciate most of the author’s interpretations of the stories. She paints them in a way that always circles back to God’s love rather than about moral teachings.
Some of the negatives are strictly from a progressive point of view. First, God is always referred to as he. Second, Satan is regarded as a literal figure, whereas my interpretation of Satan is figurative. Third, the author did choose to use sin language and a traditional view of the atonement. God’s love ultimately prevails as the main theme as opposed to atonement as the main theme. Finally, as could be assumed from the title, each of the Old Testament stories is told through the lens of the New Testament (AKA Jesus). This can be helpful, but only as long as we realize that these stories can and many times should stand alone from the New Testament.
Overall, I would recommend this Bible to families as long as they understood its limitations. My recommendation would be to first read this all the way through with your children, then to revisit favorite or interesting stories!
2. The Whirl Story Bible
I truly enjoyed this Bible. It was easy to read with informative pictures, and geared towards new readers. Some of the positives: First, the book always referred to God as God, meaning that God was never gendered except for the few times Jesus called God “Father.” Second, it allows the Old Testament stories to stand on their own without interpretations from the New Testament. Third, in each story, there is a question designed to create conversation or thoughts around one aspect of the story. Finally, I love how when they go through the letters Paul wrote, they explain them as letters!
Some of the negatives: First, there are little characters that give comments at the bottom of the page for each story. They are tied to a DVD series that can accompany the Bible. Sometimes these characters add valuable insights, at other times, they can be distracting. Second, the authors took liberties in interpreting the parables and what the Holy Spirit is. My preference is to allow those stories and the mysteries of faith to stand alone.
Overall, I give the Whirl Story Bible 4.5 out of 5 stars! It was easy to read, covered many stories, and for the most part, allows for your family to draw interpretation for yourselves. If this is the Bible you choose, I would recommend going through familiar stories and following up with others. You can read it from front to back, but it is not necessary to understand the stories. There is also a free parent guide online that could help you engage with your family!
3. The Beginner’s Bible
Overall this is a comprehensive Children’s Bible that would be great for emerging readers, so long as it was supplemented with more resources.
The negatives are few but major. First, God is always referred to in the masculine. Second, it does explicitly talk about only Christians going to heaven. Depending on your views, this could be problematic. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the pictures in the book are severely lacking in diversity. The authors occasionally add a person of color in the illustrations, but they are mostly minor characters.
The positives: I really appreciate that the authors stay true to the biblical narrative by only adding in a few interpretations. The common issue with Children’s Bibles is that authors feel like they have to interpret every story for children, which ultimately sends the message that you must reach a certain age or education level to understand it. This, of course, is not true! The Beginner’s Bible mostly gets this element right.
My final rating of this resource is 3 stars out of 5. It would be a fine addition to any family’s collection of children’s Bibles, but should not serve as your family’s primary resource. It would make the most sense to read this Bible in the order it is written and then revisit favorite or interesting stories.
4. Children of God Storybook Bible
I LOVE this Bible. It is a beautiful piece of art that will shape and influence your family’s faith. The illustrations are absolutely amazing full of diversity from artists around the world and beautifully retells even some difficult stories.
The negatives: I wish there were more stories especially of the Old Testament and New Testament letters. The author does use only “he” to describe God when he could have used just “God”. Lastly, there are a few times where the author interprets Jesus back into the Old Testament, whereas I prefer these stories to stand alone.
The positives: The art is incredible. I found myself revisiting the pictures and noticing different theological elements that enhance the stories. Not only is the art beautiful, but it is also diverse in the representation of different people groups and artistic styles. Tutu also includes short prayers after each story that shows his interpretation for application without being founded only on a good set of morals.
I highly recommend this Children’s Bible for all the families at CUC, even if you don’t have children, the art is stunning. I found it was easy to read from beginning to end, but you can just as easily visit individual stories. I hope you enjoy this Bible as much as I did.
5. Spark Story Bible
Spark Story Bible was a great read. It is deeply theology and easily accessible. I give this Bible a 5/5 star recommendation for families. The thing I appreciate the most about this Bible is the dedication to gender inclusion, especially in the use of God (only one story in the Psalms section genders God as he.) The pictures are cute and funny, without being too distracting. Additionally, there is a cute little worm that appears in every illustration showing, in a child-friendly manner, that all of these stories are connected without making the connections themselves.
As with all of the Bible’s I have reviewed so far, I would prefer if the interpreters stuck to a “bare-bones” method of storytelling, but where they do not follow this, the stories are enhanced in meaningful ways. The artwork is not my favorite, but it is good and will be engaging for your children.
I highly recommend this Bible to your family. The stories can stand alone or you can read them all the way through and revisit favorites!
6. Growing in God’s Love: A Story Bible
Growing in God’s Love: A Story Bible offers fresh and contemporary perspectives and art to timeless Bible stories. Overall, I give this Bible a 4.5/5 rating! This Bible is by far the most progressive I have seen on the market. They actively use gender-neutral pronouns for God. They also emphasize the importance of women in Scripture along with characters who may be not as well known. I appreciate the editors adding art from many different cultures and artists, it emphasizes diversity.
The negatives: I prefer the Bibles to not offer interpretations, but I cannot complain about the interpretations offered here. They are highly scholastic (in a child’s voice, though) and contemporary. The only other negative is that the stories are not in order of Scripture, but in order of a theme.
I love this Bible! I will definitely be going back to these stories over and over again– even as an adult. This Children’s Bible was like a fresh of breath air spreading the message of God’s abounding love.