Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street…in a Christian Worldview
by Eric Venable
So I've had two widely divergent thoughts swirling around my neurotic head lately..the apologetics of Cornelius Van Til and Sesame Street….Let me try to explain. A few months ago I read Christian Apologetics by one of the great minds of the Reformed faith, a dead guy named Corelius Van Til. Van Til was famous for his apologetics, his defense of a particular way that God calls Christians to think about the world and also defend their faith. Van Til was one of the church's greatest proponents of a form of apologetics called “presuppositional apologetics.” Don't be intimidated by nerdy theological words like these. His main idea is pretty simple but very profound I think–that everybody on earth makes a faith claim of some sort, even staunch atheists who are adamant that there is no God. Everybody at some point is forced into making assumptions, unprovable assertions about the nature of the universe, the nature of human beings, the existence of God, etc. Everyone's “facts” about God, him/herself, the world, rests upon assertions that cannot be put to the test of any scientific method. Van Til asserts that the Christian worldview has the only faith claim that make sense and that all other worldviews, faith claims and assumptions about human life in the end break down into meaninglessness. He writes, “He [the Christian] must say to the unbeliever that unless he will accept the presuppositions and with them the interpretation of Christianity, there is no coherence in human experience…unless one accept the Bible for what true Protestantism says it is, as the authoritative interpretation of human life and experience as a whole, it will be impossible to find meaning in anything” (Christian Apologetics, 197).
Now to the really important stuff…Sesame Street. For at least the last year, my house has been under the tyranny of Elmo and his merry cohorts. You definitely know you're a parent when beside your first four seasons of The Office you see gripping titles like Elmo goes to the doctor, Elmo's ABC Preschool and Big Bird's Big Wish.
But Mr. Van Til has really got me to thinking about the worldview of Sesame Street…seriously.
Sesame Street has taught my kid some valuable things so far. Sharing is good. The alphabet song. You don't have to be afraid of the dark when you go to bed at night. Going to the doctor can be fun. Using an adult potty is as cool as cool gets. But I'm increasingly struck by just how incomplete and ultimately meaningless the knowledge that is given to my daughter from Sesame Street. Don't get me wrong, I don't want my little girl to scream her head off in terror every time we go to the doctor. I'm thankful she now thinks singing the ABCs is fun and hip (thanks to the help of professional recording artist India Arie on Sesame Street). But apart from a Christian worldview all of these things are really meaningless. Sesame Street can help our children sleep through the night without being afraid, but it cannot give them a reason to get out of bed the next day and live life. Elmo and pals can teach the alphabet effectively, but they cannot give our children the real reason why God gave us language—in order to help us better understand God's revelation of himself in his Word. Apart from a Christian worldview, the world can only teach me a lot of what's, but never any coherent why's behind any of the what's.
Now I'd imagine most people would think I'm a little nuts for looking for the answers to life's deeper questions in Sesame Street, and I in a way, I would agree. The makers of Sesame Street are too smart to risk losing mass amounts of customers by answering controversial why questions behind the simple ideas that it attempts to teach children. However, I'm convinced more and more that we do our children in the Christian community no favors by living as if God's authoritative interpretation of all the facts of the universe can or should be divorced from any realm of knowledge, whether that's language, history, science or what makes for good manners. A God-centered worldview is one that sees God as the source of all knowledge and the person who should get the glory for all the wonders of his vast universe, even the lesser glories of red-haired puppets with a maniacal laugh. The what of knowledge matters, but it's God's why behind everything on earth that should be the glue that holds together a worldview with God at its center.