Dramatized Bible Stories for Kids

Andy Naselli —  March 19, 2012 — 19 Comments

Several months ago I learned about audio resources for children from “Your Story Hour.”

I can’t speak for their other products yet, but we’ve enjoyed listening to “The Bible Comes Alive Series,” 120 dramatized Bible stories for kids (2.1 days worth of audio):

About the stories:

  1. They follow the Bible’s storyline from creation to the book of Acts.
  2. Their average length is about 25 or 26 minutes.
  3. They were originally intended for radio broadcasts, and they are still being broadcast in English, Spanish, and Russian on approximately 4,000 radio stations around the world.
  4. They sound like “old time” radio. (You can listen to samples using the links above.) The Old Testament stories were recorded from the late 1950’s to the mid 1960’s and the New Testament stories from the 1970’s to the early 1980’s. They’re not as high quality as Focus on the Family Radio Theatre, but they’re not low-quality either.
  5. They are written by various authors who are now deceased. Virgil Isles wrote most of the Old Testament stories, and Robert Nutiuk wrote the stories about Jesus. (I don’t know anything about either person.)
  6. Their theology seems to match a broad, generic evangelicalism.*
  7. Their strength is not in relating all the stories to the one big story (like this and this) or in accurately presenting every detail (like this!) but in engaging the imagination. Listening to them is like watching a play or film based on a Bible story: they take a lot of artistic license. That artistic license occasionally raises your eyebrows and usually distorts the contours of the Bible’s narrative (as almost every play and film does), but it helps you think about those stories in fresh ways.

*Update 1 (3/19/2012). I learned this morning that “Your Story Hour” has ties to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. I asked the president of “Your Story Hour” about this, and she explained that

  1. They are not supported by any one church.
  2. They don’t teach any distinctively Seventh-Day Adventist church doctrines.
  3. While their founder was a Seventh-Day Adventist, he desired to operate “Your Story Hour” as a non-denominational ministry, and they continue to operate that same way today.

Here’s what Gerald Bray says about Seventh-Day Adventists in his recent systematic theology:

SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS

Once regarded as a cult, Seventh-day Adventists are now more widely recognized as a genuinely Christian denomination, though there are still points of controversy concerning their beliefs that have not been fully resolved. The church began in mid-nineteenth-century America and was undoubtedly more extreme and eccentric than it is now. Over the years its edges have softened and it has become more like a conservative Protestant church, though one with special emphases of its own, such as the foot-washing ceremony which is an integral part of their celebration of Communion. [Fn: Other churches sometimes do this, particularly on Maundy Thursday, when the Last Supper is recalled in a special way, but it is not an integral part of the Communion service as such.] The main barrier to their full acceptance as a Christian denomination is their insistence on Saturday as their day of worship. For Adventists this is not a matter of indifference, but an essential part of their faith, which they claim brings them particularly close to the love of Christ. Most Christians do not worry too much about which day is set aside for worship, although Sunday has been all but universal since ancient times and it seems odd to change it deliberately, particularly when it means falling out of step with the rest of the Christian world. The deeper objection to Saturday worship is not to the observance but to the significance attached to it, particularly because this was evidently a problem in the early church, when Jewish Christians tried to insist on keeping the law of Moses even when it had been superseded by the coming of Christ [Fn: Gal. 4:10; Rom 14:5–6]. Paul mentioned the Sabbath specifically as something that was not to be imposed on Christians [Fn: Col. 2:16]. Seventh-day Adventists have made a minor issue primary and a mark of their identity, and for this reason other Christians hesitate to accept them as fully orthodox.

In recent years there has been a tendency among some Adventists to move into mainstream Protestant evangelicalism, but other members of the church remain more closely wedded to its legalistic origins. Which of these two will triumph, or whether there will be a split, is not yet clear, but it seems safe to say that the closer the church moves toward other Christians, the less likely it is to stress or even to practice the distinctive traits that brought it into being in the first place. (pp. 451–52)

Update 2 (3/20/2012). Some former Seventh-day Adventists comment on SDA and Your Story Hour in the comments below.

Related:

  1. Theology for Kids
  2. Jesus Storybook Bible Deluxe Edition
  3. Bible Memory for Young Children
  4. A Good Bible-Story Book with Thousands of Pictures

19 responses to Dramatized Bible Stories for Kids

  1. My interest in this product is because of my background in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I was raised SDA and attended SDA schools for most of my education, as did my husband. I grew up listening to these story tapes (yeah, they were on cassette tapes when I was a kid). About 3-4 years ago, however, we studied our way out of SDAism into evangelical Christianity, and Joe and I now run a small website ministry to reach SDAs with the gospel.

    It frustrates me that the SDA Church does not reveal its identity when marketing this product, but that is the way this church operates. Most of the extra-biblical details in these stories come from the “visions” of the false prophetess of the SDA Church, Ellen G. White. To this day, I still find myself wondering about certain details: “Is that in the Bible or did Ellen White write that?” You see, when you grow up in the SDA Church, you believe that Ellen White’s writings are just as inspired as the Bible, so you just accept all of her theology and the details she supplies as on par with the Bible…. It takes many of us former-SDAs years to separate the Ellen White “truths” from what is actually written in God’s inspired Word.

    Anyway, I really respect you, Dr. Naselli, and that’s why I took the time to write and let you know about who is actually behind the Your Story Hour CDs. As much as I enjoyed listening to them as a kid, I cannot now promote them because I know that the “inspiration” behind them is, in large part, the false prophet of the SDA Church, Ellen White.

    If you’re ever interested, you might like to check out the resources on the “Adventism 101″ page of our website, http://sabbatismos.com

    Also, here’s a quiz that a friend of mine made that will illustrate for you many of the distortions by EGW. When former-SDAs take this quiz, they generally do very poorly because they tend to give EGW answers instead of biblical answers.

    Gerald Bray is right about the Sabbath being the biggest deal in Adventism. SDAs believe (due to EGW’s teaching) that “apostate Protestantism” will unite with the Catholic Church at the end of times to enact a world-wide Sunday law, mandating all people to go to church on Sunday. The SDAs will be persecuted, hunted-down, and taken to prison for remaining true to the 7th-day Sabbath (which is the seal of God in SDA teaching). Here are pictures taken at an SDA summer camp last summer in Michigan (my husband attended this camp as a kid and later worked there as a counselor). This is their “pre-enactment” of the end-time events EGW said would take place, particularly in her famous book The Great Controversy. BTW, I grew up reading SDA-authored books depicting this kind of end-time scenario of persecution by “Sunday-keeping” Christians.

    EGW’s prophetic status (her writings as inspired as those in the Bible) is another big distinctive of SDA theology. Her writings are a “continuing and authoritative source of truth” according to SDA Fundamental Belief #18. As more and more evidence comes out as to the problems in EGW’s writings, however, SDA leaders/Seminary professors tear down the Bible and Bible writers in order to “save” EGW’s prophetic status.You can find more of the big differences between SDAism and evangelicalism on our site, sabbatismos.com. The “Investigative Judgment” is another big difference.

    In my opinion, SDA and non-denominational cannot mix (although the president of Your Story Hour would argue otherwise). This is just, by definition, impossible. Period. This is just another way in which SDAs are trying to be perceived as mainstream evangelicals so that they can work under the radar in their proselytizing efforts. :(

    Here’s an official SDA site that your readers might be interested in: the SDA Church is working to get their prophetess’s most-famous book into the homes of millions of people worldwide—a book that depicts those who go to church on Sunday as apostate Christians.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Jennifer Rector

    • Thanks, Jennifer. I certainly disagree with the Seventh-Day Adventist Church’s position on the Sabbath. (See my previous posts here and here.)

      Are there specific ways that the “The Bible Comes Alive Series” teaches doctrines that are distinctive to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church?

  2. Here is the testimony of a former-SDA that my husband just found online. The fourth paragraph down illustrates my point.

    It’s been decades since I’ve personally listened to SDA story tapes like “Your Story Hour,” so I don’t remember any specifics at the moment, but I’ll do some more research and post again with specifics. Thanks for listening.

    In Christ,
    Jennifer

    • Thanks again, Jennifer.

      I think that could be said of most retold Bible stories, though to different degrees. That is, people might be confused about what in the story comes explicitly from the Bible and what is added (for whatever reason). What concerns me most is if the added material explicitly contradicts the Bible.

  3. Hi, Andy,

    I second everything that Jennifer said. She sent me your blog post and asked that I chime in because of my personal interest in Adventist indoctrination. I too, am a Former SDA who is now a Christian. I have scores of examples of the deliberate indoctrination that SDAs employ, but I will focus on Your Story Hour.

    First, it is very interesting that Your Story Hour is billing itself as generic. It is very Adventist, and Adventists proudly view the radio show as part of their heritage and what they want to pass on to future generations. I am sure we could both speculate on the reasons they are so deliberate about shielding their true identity and attempt to pass off their products as “interfaith.”

    You noted in your post that, “ they take a lot of artistic license . . . [which] usually distorts the contours of the Bible’s narrative.” I’m encouraged that you were able to spot the ways that the storylines veer from the Bible, but let me assure you that this is not “artistic license.” If it were, you would not find that in different publications, written by different people and various times in the last 100 years, the storyline veers from the Bible in the exact same way. It should be noted that the storyline meshes perfectly with the version that the Adventist prophet, Ellen G. White, wrote.

    I should note that I did not grow up listening to these broadcast, though I know many who did, including my husband who can recite the Your Story Hour address stated at the end of each broadcast, perfectly, by memory). Because I was not personally familiar with the broadcast, it took me a minute to come up with the example that you requested. I downloaded the podcast “The Man Who Believed What God Said” and also bought the dramatized versions from their website (you owe me $4 *wink*).

    In this story, as he is building the ark, Noah is pleading with the people, telling them to repent and enter the ark: “I plead with you … accept God’s last call of mercy. He loves you. He has provided a way of escape. Is there not one who will enter the ark of safety now, while the door is still open?”

    You will note that in the Genesis account, God tells Noah from the very beginning that the ark is for him and his family and the animals. There is no indication that others can repent and be saved from the flood by entering the ark.

    This “enter the ark of safety” storyline can be found in Patriarchs and Prophets, a book written by Ellen G. White (read the relevant chapter here).

    Here are four examples of how this same variation of the story is used in other Adventist children’s literature (By the way, I created a PDF for you with examples scanned from these materials so you can see what I’m talking about)

    1. My Bible Friends, by Etta B. Degering (1963): “Said God to Noah, ‘Build an ark for the saving of all that will come into it.’”

    “When all of the birds and animals were in the ark, Noah came to the door and invited the people, “Come into the ark and be saved.”

    2. Family Bible Story, by Ruth Redding Brand (2005): “Noah sensed that people might at this time be ready to listen. He pleaded with them. ‘Please, dear friends, turn your backs on sin and enter the ark while there is still time. You see that while there is still time. You see that the animals are entering even as we speak. God wants to do the same for you, but He will not force you to enter! Won’t you come in and be saved?’ Tears filled Noah’s eyes as he pleaded.”

    3. Sabbath School Lesson (equivalent to a Sunday School curriculum): “The flood is coming! Come into the ark,” he begged. “God wants so much to save you!” . . . “This is your last chance,” Noah pleaded. “Please come inside and be safe.”

    4. Finally, this same storyline is used in Adventist evangelism to express to potential converts that the Seventh-day Adventist church is the one true church and in order to be saved in the end, one must enter (i.e., become a member) the “ark of safety.” Check out the statements from this lesson in Revelation Seminars:

    “In Noah’s day those who were to be saved had to enter the ark. Believing was not enough! In Jesus’ day those who were to be saved had to enter Jesus’ fold. After being called out of Babylon, what must we enter today if we would be saved?”

    “IT IS JUST AS NECESSARY FOR A PERSON TO ENTER GOD’S TRUE CHURCH TODAY AS IT WAS FOR PEOPLE TO ENTER THE ARK IN NOAH’S DAY.”

    “In Noah’s day only eight people entered the ark which God lovingly provided for their salvation. The rest of mankind needlessly perished. IN OUR DAY, God gives us the church as the ARK OF SAFETY, which He LOVES and PROTECTS. But only a few will enter. The MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION we have today is “Will you and I, and our families, BE IN THIS ARK OF SAFETY?”’

    As you can see, learning this story in this way is a stepping stone—a gateway drug—into other aberrant Adventist doctrines. This is only one example of how distinctive Adventist doctrines are inserted into the Bible narrative (Seventh-day Adventists believe that they are the Remnant church [Fundamental Belief #13]). But rest assured that the rest of their unique teachings show up in children’s literature as well. These books are sold online and in Adventist bookstores, but they are also promoted in doctor’s offices and sold door-to-door by what they call “literature evangelists.” It’s not unusual for these literature evangelists not to identify their denominational affiliation in order to surreptitiously feed Adventist beliefs to unsuspecting parents and children.

    If parents are serious and intentional about wanting to raise biblically literate children, then I would suggest steering clear from Your Story Hour and other children’s materials produced by Seventh-day Adventists affiliated ministries and Seventh-day Adventist publishing houses (Review & Herald Publishing Association and Pacific Press Publishing Association).

    I hope this answers your question for specific examples, and I would be happy to answer any others you might have.

    Best regards,
    Delina Pryce McPhaull

  4. Your Story Hour is produced by Seventh-day Adventists. They are one of Adventism’s “front line” evangelism tools used to pull in interested Christians and then, when the person is “hooked” on the product, they take them to the next step and begin introducing the Adventist lifestyle, Bible studies, and using the money they receive for their products to fund Adventist missions.

    Moreover, because it is an independent organization (not owned by the Adventist organization), it claims it is “inter-denominational” and not Adventist, even though it is Adventist founded, owned, and operated. Your Story Hour is a member of Adventist-Layman’s Services & Industries, an organization of independent Adventist businesses and ministries that raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Adventist missions every year.

    My husband, Richard, and I produce Proclamation! magazine published by Life Assurance Ministries and are former third- and-fourth-generation Adventists. We also lead a weekly Bible study at Trinity Evangelical Free Church in Redlands, California, for former Adventists and have been doing so for thirteen years under the umbrella of senior pastor Gary Inrig, who is a founding member of The Gospel Coalition. In other words, we are committed to being accountable and biblically sound, and we can state absolutely: Adventism is not a Christian denomination.

    Even though some Adventists claim to have more nearly evangelical beliefs, at the core they all share the same worldview, which includes a diminished Jesus who did not complete the atonement at the cross, a nature of man that does not include a spirit that exists after death (they teach that man is a physical being; “spirit” is their literal breath, or life-force, like electricity: it’s there while you breathe; it’s gone when you die.). Their worldview also includes Sunday worship as the end-time mark of the beast and Satan as the scapegoat who bears the sins of the saved into the lake of fire. Their Fundamental Belief #18 identifies Ellen White as “a continuing and authoritative SOURCE of truth” (emphasis mine). The problem with Adventism is not primarily “legalism.” It is the warping of the Trinity resulting from its Arian foundation, its unbiblical nature of man, which means they have no understanding of the new birth, its belief that Jesus and Satan continue in a controversy in which humans vindicate God’s character and help Jesus win the battle, an incomplete atonement that is being finished currently in heaven as Jesus “applies His blood,” and the central value of all creatures’ (including Satan’s) “free will,” which God is obligated to protect and defend.

    In order to get a more complete understanding of Adventism, its deceptive “evangelical front,” the organization’s deliberate deception of Walter Martin in 1955, please check out these two articles from past issues of Proclamation:

    http://www.lifeassuranceministries.org/proclamation/2010/3/waltermartin.html
    http://www.lifeassuranceministries.org/proclamation/2011/2/greatcontroversy.html

    For further input regarding Adventism, you may also read Dr. Louis Talbot’s article responding to Barnhouse’s publication in Eternity magazine of Walter Martin’s declaration that Adventism was Christian. Talbot published his three-part article in The Kings’ Business in 1957. Proclamation! reprinted it with permission from Biola University, and you can download the entire piece as a PDF here.

    Also, check out these websites:

    http://www.LifeAssuranceMinistries.org
    http://www.FormerAdventist.com
    http://www.Seventh-dayCult.com

  5. Thanks, Delina and Colleen, for sharing. I’ve learned more about Seventh-day Adventism in the last 24 hours than I have in my whole life (which is to say that I simply don’t know much about it!).

    And thanks, Delina, for sharing that specific example.

  6. Andy,

    When our kids were little, they loved the Your Story Hour tapes, but—and just like everything else—there were some that were great and some that were not so great. For instance, in some of the stories the people hear God audibly, and it is looked on as normal: “God told me to do this random thing . . .” so here I go (Sojourner Truth, Joan of Ark, and a few others.) There will be a couple that you say “What?” but beside that, the history tapes are wonderful, and my kids learned a ton of neat history that way when they were young.

    I am having a Bible study right now with a girl who is from a SDA-ish chuch that morphed into a cult-like church, and the ladies above are right. Worshiping on Saturday is not just key with them; they believe that in the end times it is the test of who is the remnant and who is not. Worshiping on Sunday is akin to taking the mark of the beast, and those who are truly “saved” will uphold the traditional Jewish Saturday Sabbath. (In this girl’s instance, we are talking about a full-fledged Saturday-sundown-Sabbath observance.)

    Peter and I used them. Pray for discernment, but the tapes were not anything that we felt were so loaded with error that we couldn’t use them. I actually found them really helpful.

    • Thanks, Sarah. Helpful.

      (For other readers: Sarah and her husband, Peter, led the youth group at the church my family attended when I was in 10th and 11th grade. Good memories. Grateful for them.)

  7. Sam Hendrickson March 20, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Andy, my experience in the denomination (1962–1983) has led me to think of them in much harsher terms than Bray or Walter Martin. What I saw was a sabbatarianism and OT Law legalism (in the “earning my way” sense and odd, inconsistent adherence to OT food laws) and an Arminianism that was (maybe) semi-Pelagian when not Pelagian. Whatever the official statement of faith may have said, “down in the trenches” I saw a lot of the above. Additionally, the reliance on E. G. White was and is heretical IMO (they spoke of her in similarly slippery ways that some KJVO types speak of the KJV—i.e. not the same inspiration as Scripture but without error and fully trustworthy), with the addition that she was not to be peer-reviewed as any other commentator would be. Her statements were read in services like Scripture, and her writings were exegeted for sermons as though Scripture. There can be believers among them, but I personally still find their theology and practice to be a dog’s breakfast, confusing and dangerous.

  8. Sam Hendrickson March 20, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    Andy,
    I forgot…I once had some published info on why Martin described SDA as “an enigma” rather than using more harsh terms. Although I cannot say for sure, but what I recall was that there may have been pressure from the denomination to have him soften his critique of them. (You are the more experienced researcher…)

  9. Sam, speaking of Walter Martin, there are some old John Ankerberg shows that feature him and SDA William Johnson that are very informative. For those who haven’t already seen them, I recommend these programs—esp. for Evangelicals who are wanting to learn more about Walter Martin’s influence in getting SDAism off the “cults” list in the 1950s. You can view all five segments of the show here (or on YouTube); just scroll about half-way down the page to find #1. http://www.exadventist.com/Home/Video/tabid/502/Default.aspx

  10. This book review of SDA-authored “A Fork in the Road” gives the behind-the-scenes picture of the Walter Martin-SDA dialogues of the 1950s. http://sabbatismos.com/reviews-of-sda-publications-1/a-fork-in-the-road-by-herbert-douglass/

  11. I want to comment on one of Sarah’s phrases—that the girl she’s studied with attends an Adventist church that has morphed into a cult-like church. That perception, that SDA churches in general are truly Christian and some conservative ones have “morphed” into cult-like ones—is exactly the impression the Adventist organization intends to convey to the evangelical world.

    Some Adventist churches do not emphasize the core doctrines heavily, and members find “congregational freedom” to wear some jewelry and drink coffee (or even wine!); they may eat out after church and reinterpret Sabbath observance as “family time”—a day to do what makes us feel good rather than work. Nevertheless, even these more liberal-appearing churches retain the ONE doctrinal statement of Adventism. As long as the pastor is receiving his paycheck from the SDA organization (and if it is a Seventh-day Adventist church, no matter what “flavor,” he is being paid by the church), it holds exactly the same doctrines as the most cult-like.

    Adventists all share a particular worldview; because of this view (that Sabbath is the final dividing line between the saved and the lost, that humans have no immaterial spirit other than “breath,” that Jesus was fallible and might have split up the Trinity by sinning but succeeded as an example, that we, too, can keep the law, and a complete lack of understanding of the new birth)—because of this worldview, people who find Adventism too difficult or confusing to observe well are conditioned never to darken the door of any other Christian church. Even though they reject the “Adventism” they were taught, they still believe that going to church on Sunday is the mark of the beast. They believe Adventism is Truth, and if Truth is impossible to live with, certainly “apostate Protestantism” is not an option.

    It is a miracle when any Adventist actually comes to know Jesus and realizes that his or her sins have been completely cleansed by Jesus’ blood. Such a person cannot continue to be Adventist because Adventism does not embrace the gospel. Such people lose family, friends, jobs, social contacts—it’s like a divorce. It’s like leaving Mormonism or Jehovah’s Witnesses—and yes, they are shunned, although the avoidance is never called “shunning.”

    Your Story Hour may be innocuous on the surface, but as Delina explains above, it is deliberate and crafty—and make no mistake: the money Your Story Hour makes in a year from its sales of stories is used in part to fund Adventist mission work through Adventist-Layman’s Services & Industries.

    This is the question we all must ask when considering using Adventist materials or teaming up with Adventists to do community service: Would I use Mormon materials? Would I publicly partner with a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall?

    If your answer is No, then NO should be your answer regarding the Adventists and their materials. Adventism puts people in bondage and veils the light of the glory of the God in the face of the Lord Jesus. Adventists have a different Jesus.

  12. Then can someone please make some good stories for our children. I think I would rather correct some of the inaccuracies in the YSH material than in the Veggie tales Jonah video. That bordered on sacrilegious. If anyone knows some good children audio series please post. Thx

  13. Delina McPhaull recently made this video about SDA children’s literature/media. I hope all who read this thread will take 11 minutes to watch what she produced. http://vimeo.com/74338016

  14. This thread is older, but I was reminded of it with someone’s FB comment today. The other issue as to why the SDA denomination should be viewed with a gimlet eye is the person and writings of Ellen G. White. Her influence is pervasive–however it is the SDA statement of faith reads about Scripture, and that position has weakened over the years, her writings are taken to be peerless commentary given by the Holy Spirit of God. When I was in Adventism, criticism of her ideas was not allowed, and could lead to excommunication and defrocking (Desmond Ford and his disagreement with the unbiblical notion of “the Investigative Judgment.”) As recently as in the last decade, I attended an SDA service where her writings were treated with the same respect and authority as Scripture–the sermon expounded her, not the Word. Reformed churches expound and teach their confessions/catechisms during worship services, but there is always the understanding that should these differ from the Word, then the Word is the authority. I have yet to see that truly work out among Adventists re: White.

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