Are the Lessons from Superbook Biblical?

November 30, 2023

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Are the lessons from the kids' show Superbook biblical? In this episode, Elizabeth Urbanowicz reviews the popular children's cartoon series, Superbook, which is watched in many homes and even in churches. Learn how to critically evaluate the show as Elizabeth breaks down an episode of Superbook, looking for the good and the error in the lesson that is presented to children.


Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello friends, and welcome to another episode of the "Foundation Worldview Podcast," where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the children that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter, and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm thrilled that you've joined me for another episode today. Today's question says, "What do you think about 'Superbook?' Some people at my church love this TV program for children, but I think the children learn lessons which are not biblical." So interesting question about my thoughts on "Superbook." And actually, to be honest, before receiving this question, I did not know very much about "Superbook," I had heard of it, I had heard of people watching it, but I had never seen any episodes. So to do research for this podcast, I looked all around the "Superbook" website and I created an account so that I could actually watch an episode. So we're gonna talk about "Superbook" and what my thoughts are and whether or not we should include our kids in watching this TV program.

And speaking of books, I hope that most of you who are listening already know that at Foundation Worldview, we have our first picture book called "What Is Truth?" And I'm so excited about this book because as I've shared before, reading picture books to my students when I was a teacher was one of my favorite things to do because picture books can be really engaging and they can be a really fun way to teach children deep truths, and that's exactly what we do in this book, "What Is Truth?" We have two fun characters, Sebastian and Greg, who take children just on this adventure of exploring what is truth, so that they can realize how to discern truth from error. So if you'd like more information about how you can get a copy or multiple copies of that book, you can go to our website, for more information.

Now, as we think about something like "Superbook" or really any kind of Christian programming, one thing I think we need to be aware of is, as Christians, it can be really easy for us to be nitpicky and, you know, super critical of anything that is coming from other Christians. So my encouragement is anytime we're evaluating something, that we always want to seek to be charitable, that we want to treat the work of others as we would want our work to be treated. So when evaluating "Superbook" or any, you know, other kids programming, I would really encourage us, you know, first of all, to look for the good. Is there any good in this? Are there any things that we can agree with? Make sure that we're seeking to be charitable and looking for ways that we can use this as a tool to train our children to discern truth from error. Because we want to equip our kids to be good thinkers, we don't want them ever to just swallow something, to ingest something, you know, some idea without critically evaluating, no matter what the source is, we want them to always be critically evaluating every idea that they encounter.

Now, as I watched an episode of "Superbook," it was about Daniel in the lion's den, and I thought, as I watched it, you know, this could be a fun form of entertainment to engage our kids in different Bible stories that I thought it was created in a way that was developmentally appropriate for kids, I thought that it was, you know, fun how they included different characters that were involved in the story, and you know, when compared to other forms of media that are available for our kids, I thought that this could be, you know, an appropriate and fun way to engage our children in different biblical narratives. Now, from the one episode that I did watch, I do agree with this questioner's assessment, that the lessons that were highlighted in this episode that I watched, they did not align with what was revealed in the biblical text.

So as I mentioned, I watched the episode on Daniel in the lion's Den, and the main point in this episode was teaching kids to stand up for what they believe is right. And now did Daniel stand up for what was right for worshiping God? He did, but we're gonna look at, okay, is that really what this text, what the author was trying to communicate in this text? Now, some of the specific quotes from the episode that I pulled out is when the two kids and the robot, I didn't catch all their names, I'm sorry, but there's two main characters who are kids and then there's a robot, and Superbook comes alive every once in a while and takes them to different times in Bible history. And so what Superbook said as it was transporting the kids and the robot is it said, "I am taking you to see a man who stood up for what he believed in, even when it was the dangerous choice." Okay, so, "I'm taking you to see a man who stood up for what he believed in, even when it was the dangerous choice." And then as the kids were watching Daniel, and they saw him, you know, continue to pray to the true God, even when that was outlawed, one of the kids said, "Daniel did what he believed was right regardless of the consequences, and it's time that we did the same." So they were learning from Daniel, you know, he did what he believed was right, didn't think about the consequences, we should do the same. And then the boy who's learning this lesson in the end, he says, "If Daniel can do the right thing, so can I." And the situation that took place in the actual modern world was these kids saw another little boy at the skateboard park getting bullied by someone. And this one boy who saw him being bullied was like, "Oh, let's just go." He wanted to avoid the situation, where when they get transported back to the modern world, this is what he says, "If Daniel can do the right thing, so can I," and he stands up to the bully.

Now, a few things that I think about this that are not correct. First of all, if you notice the language, I'll read these quotes again, the language is very subjective. It's not about what's objectively right and wrong, but it's very personal and subjective. So Superbook says, "I am taking you to see a man who stood up for what he believed in, even when it was the dangerous choice." So it put it all on Daniel, what he believed in, rather than saying, "I'm taking you a man who stood up for what was right," he said "What he believed was right." And then the character said, "Daniel did what he believed was right, regardless of the consequences." And so again, it's personal and subjective, what he personally believed. And so this language is used a lot and I've seen this even in books that come out from Christian publishing houses that a few years ago I was looking at a book that was talking to kids about the life of Martin Luther. And I love biography books for kids, but as I was reading the book, I ended up returning it to the company that I bought it from because of the language. In it at the end, it said, "Martin Luther stood up for what he believed in, even when nobody else would stand with him." And I was like, "It's not about Martin Luther standing up for what he believed in, it was about Martin Luther calling people back to the truth of what the Bible said," that we don't wanna put this subjective focus on, "It's what we believe in, it's what we think it's right, it's what we think is important," it's like, no, it's either right or it's wrong. And so I think a lot of the language that was used in this was focused more subjectively and also it was focused on Daniel standing up for what he believes in as if the purpose of Daniel 6 is to teach us to stand up for what we believe in.

So what I'm gonna walk us through now is something that we go through at Foundation Worldview in our Studying the Bible Curriculum in training children how to soundly read, interpret, and apply Scripture. So one of the things that we do for several lessons in our Studying the Bible Curriculum, is we train kids to discern the difference between a text in the Bible that is descriptive and a text that is prescriptive. And what we have them do is first we have them draw a picture of their grandma and describe her, and we talk about descriptive passages are passages that give us details about people, places, things, and events. Then we have kids draw a picture of a prescription that the doctor once wrote for them, and we talk about what is a prescription when the doctor prescribes it for you. It's something that the doctor is telling you you need to take in order to get well, and we talk about how a prescriptive text is a text that is commanding us either to do or to not do things.

And so in the Studying the Bible Curriculum, what we would do when going through this passage is say, "Okay, let's read through Daniel 6." Is Daniel 6, a descriptive text or a prescriptive text? It's descriptive, it's telling us, it's revealing truths about what happened in that time in history about Daniel while he was in Babylon. It's not prescriptive in that it's not a list of commands where God is commanding us to do or to not do something. And so what we tell the kids is we don't wanna squeeze out some lesson from a descriptive text that's not there, that we don't wanna take Daniel in the lion's den and say, "Oh, Daniel in the lion's den is all about standing up for what we believe is right." Instead, what we train kids to do is anytime they're reading a descriptive text to ask them, okay, what truths does this passage reveal about who God is? What truths does this passage reveal about who humans are? And then what truths does this passage reveal about God's big rescue plan?

So if you were watching this Daniel in the lion's den "Superbook" episode with your kids, what I'd recommend that you would do is that you would watch this episode together, you know, you've let them have fun, you let them enjoy it, you know, it's a 26 minute brain break. And then later come back and say, "Okay, so earlier we watched this 'Superbook' episode. What we're gonna do now is we're gonna look at the actual passage in the Bible." So read through Daniel six together, it's a short chapter, and then say, "Okay, what we're gonna look is what truths are revealed in this passage about God, humans, and God's big plan?" Well, what we see is about God is that God is faithful, that God kept His covenant with His people, that He promised that when they would love and trust and obey Him, He would protect them, and Daniel obeyed God and God protected Him. We see that God has power over kings, He has power over the mouths of lions, He has power over all, we see that God is sovereign. Well, what do we learn about humans? Well, we learned that humans can rebel against God, that the other leaders in Babylon, what were they doing? They were purposely trying to trap Daniel, and so they were rebelling against the God of the universe. We also see that humans can obey God, that Daniel chose to obey God even when there were dire consequences. What does this reveal about God's big rescue plan?

Well, in order to understand that, your kids would have to understand the whole story of the Bible, which again, is something that we train students to understand in our Studying the Bible Curriculum. But they have to understand that this takes place during the time of the Babylonian exile. And so God's people were kicked out of His land because they had rebelled against them. And God is eventually, He's bringing them back, He's going to bring them back to His land, but they're there because they broke His covenant. And so this is pointing us to the fact that we as humans can not perfectly keep God's law, that rather than being covenant keepers, we are covenant breakers, and this pattern is setting up what we're gonna see for the Messiah, that Jesus is the one man who perfectly kept God's law, because He is God the Son and He kept that law for us, He died in our place, He rose again to new life so that we can be forgiven of our sins so that God can give us a new heart so that we actually desire to honor Him, so that we are capable of keeping His law.

And so if we do this with our kids, if we say, "Okay, let's read through Daniel 6, let's look for these truths revealed," then we can say, "Okay, how is this what we learned, what truths were revealed about God, humans, and God's rescue plan, how is this similar to or different than the focus in the 'Superbook' video?" And then we can talk about, well, the "Superbook" video did make clear that God was faithful, it did make clear that the men were, you know, the other leaders in Babylon were rebelling against God, that Daniel was faithfully following God, so it did reveal some of those things, but God's rescue plan, the main focus of this narrative in Daniel 6 is all about God's faithfulness and His plan for the nation of Israel, where the main focus in the "Superbook" video, it was on us being brave and standing up for what is right. That's really not what this text is about. Could we learn that lesson? Yeah, we could, but that's not the main focus of this text. And so if we use this method of watching one of the "Superbook" videos, then reading the corresponding narrative in Scripture, looking for those truths revealed about God, humans, and God's rescue plan, and then comparing and contrasting that with "Superbook," we're enabling our kids to engage in the material and to enjoy it while also teaching them a sound, biblical hermeneutic and equipping them to critically evaluate every idea that comes across their path in the media, whether it's from a Christian source or a secular source.

So that would be my recommendation, that if you're gonna engage in the "Superbook" content, it can be fun content for your kids to engage in. What you wanna do is make sure that after you have watched an episode, that then, you read the corresponding narrative in Scripture and go through those questions.

Now, for those of you who are watching or listening who have also watched or listened to my podcast on the Orange Curriculum and why that is a harmful curriculum, you may be thinking, "Well, Elizabeth, what Orange does is kind of similar to what you just said 'Superbook' did. Why are you so critical of Orange and you're kind of being less critical of 'Superbook?'" That's a really good question, and it's an important one. The reason why I directly and explicitly tell people that they should not be using Orange, and that if their church is going to stick with Orange, you should not be sending your kids to a kid's ministry, in Orange, I'm sorry, that's using Orange, is because Orange is a curriculum, it is designed to teach kids the Bible in a Sunday school or in a church setting, "Superbook" is a form of entertainment. So there's a difference between something that's entertainment and something that's specifically trying to teach. If we're looking at this faulty hermeneutic in a teaching session, we should absolutely not use it.

So if you're saying your church is thinking of using "Superbook" as a Sunday school or children's church curriculum, I would say absolutely not because it has that same faulty hermeneutic as Orange. If you're telling me that you're considering letting your kids watch a few episodes of "Superbook" each week at home, I'm saying absolutely engage in it, it can be a fun form of media so long as you follow up with teaching them to compare and contrast what is taught in the "Superbook" episode versus actually what is revealed in Scripture. So if you're talking about using "Superbook" in a Sunday school classroom, absolutely not. That has the same faulty hermeneutic that Orange does, and we don't want to be using it as a teaching tool to tell our kids, this is how we study the Bible.

However, if you're wanting to engage in it as a form of entertainment, sure do that because it's helpful to teach our kids how to carefully evaluate every kind of entertainment that they are engaging in. So that's why there's a difference in the way that I reviewed Orange and the way that I reviewed this. And if you are thinking, or your church is thinking of using "Superbook" as the basis for your instruction during kids' ministry, I would say absolutely not. This is a faulty hermeneutic, we don't want to teach this to our children.

Well, I hope that this content has been helpful for you in thinking whether you're thinking through "Superbook" or any other form of, you know, Christian entertainment. If you found the content of this podcast beneficial, make sure to like and subscribe so you don't miss any future episodes, and also ask that you would invest the short amount of time it takes to review this content because what it does is it helps us reach a wider audience when you do that.

As we leave our time together, my prayer for you is the same as always, that no matter the situation in which you and the children God has placed in your care find yourselves, that you would trust that God is working all things together for your good by using all things to conform you more into the image of His Son. I'll see you next time.

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