When a family brings a baby home, they do not come with a user manual, or so we think! Mothers are tossed here and there by the advice of the midwife, the internet, the local daycare, and so on. In Sweden and in this age, we are encouraged to not push our values on this small blank slate, and rather let the child come to their own conclusions when it comes to beliefs and morals. I sometimes joke that children around the world are good at saying, “no!” but in Scandinavia that “no!” often carries more weight than the parents’ own response. The child knows best.
At one point in the history of the Nordic countries, children were expected to learn the catechism outright as well as many foundational Bible verses that provided a direction and moral foundation for their lives and culture. Sometimes this was the only teaching they received. Many times education was provided by a mother, simply leaning hard upon the Scriptures and a catechism ABC book. Ask your “Nordic grandma,” or elderly neighbor and they will agree that they learned Scripture and Biblical doctrine without thinking twice about it in school. This, of course, had its pros and cons.
A new movie just hit the Swedish theatres, called “Barfota Rop,” where a group of children from the 1800s are taught basic Christianity in school, have a living faith in God, and are hungry to know more. They end up causing a bit of a revolution for society. They “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8), and their faith shake a nation. Can you imagine your children one day changing the direction of Scandinavia spiritually? Are you building into that foundation now?
Can you imagine your children one day changing the direction of Scandinavia spiritually?
On the other hand, without genuine faith in Christ, just reciting God’s Word and doctrine can create a pharisee of works, and children who believe their salvation depends on following the rules are even more spiritually lost. We have all seen the downside of a Scandinavian society where infants are baptized and promised passports to heaven, without genuine faith or repentance. Mamas, are you remembering to regularly point out sin and speak to your children of their need of a Savior, in the midst of teaching them the basics of Christianity?
Scandinavians can tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater when they cast out traditional catechism and doctrinal teaching for children as a failed example of the past. The ironic thing is that all children receive systematic teaching about how they should view the world, but in the Nordic countries we are allowing the state to take most of that role. Ask any Scandinavian child about the importance of recycling, the value of “everyone’s right to love who they want,” or how to do “norm criticism,” and they will quickly be able to list off this generation’s worldly catechism.
Ask any Scandinavian child about the importance of recycling, the value of “everyone’s right to love who they want,” or how to do “norm criticism,” and they will quickly be able to list off this generation’s worldly catechism.
Laying the foundation
Children mimic those around them in learning to walk, to talk, and to live. If we give them a steady Biblical foundation at a young age, they will be able to think back on that when the world attempts to draw them away. “You can be like God,” says the world, and yet the child who has been taught will be able to quickly respond, “no, there is only one true God,” and “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” Who is teaching your child, mama? Is it you, or is it the world? Ever since the original sin of Adam and Eve, Satan has been trying to destroy the blessings of a home and family that glorifies God. But we do indeed have the truth, the truth that will set us free—let us then boldly share that truth and bless our families.
Ever since the original sin of Adam and Eve, Satan has been trying to destroy the blessings of a home and family that glorifies God.
Take a peek in any Christian bookstore in the Nordics: children can find a lot of feel good messages, but little in the way of strong and true doctrine that will carry them through the hard times in life. Our children can handle hearing about sin (every child can relate to sin when they have a toy stolen from them by another child, or they are the thief themselves!), God and his forgiveness, God’s wrath (every toddler can relate to being wrathful!), and so on. Mamas, let us dare to teach the depths of God’s Word and doctrine to our children.
Teaching with the help of music
Today, children are encouraged in our Nordic society to make their own decisions based on their own thoughts, desires, and feelings from a very early age. Is that what God tells us in Scripture to do? Let us “Lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul,” and “teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 11:18-19). Let me be honest, mama, my five kids have learned and leaned into these truths with the help of music.
In English, there are several valuable artists teaching Bible through song, such as Songs for Saplings (soon in Swedish), The New City Catechism, and one of our favorites, Slugs and Bugs (don’t let the name put you off). Oh, that all of these were available in Swedish! Many times at church or Bible study, our family will break out in big smiles and hum along in our mind to a Bible verse or doctrine that is read or mentioned, all learned from these many helpful songs.
These truths will not only guide a child as they learn about God and the world around them but will sit fast in their thoughts for the long term to prepare them as they grow up to face the world with an eternal perspective. Mama, are you loving your kids enough to teach them both that “Jesus loves me this I know,” and “There is no God apart from Me, turn to Me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God?”
- The Nordic Languages, An International Handbook of the History of the Northern Germanic Languages, by Walter de Gruyter, 2005.
- TGC course from Songs for Saplings in English: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/course/creation/#what-were-adam-and-eve-like-when-god-made-them
- Lies Women Believe, by Nancy DeMossWolgermuth, 2018.
- Landet som Glömde Gud, by Per Ewert, 2022.
- Barfota Rop film trailer: https://youtu.be/I7qaczgM68M
- Westminister Smaller Catechism, Question and Answer 5.
- Swedish publication of Songs for Saplings: Go in and hear some samples of the Swedish Songs for Saplings album on Facebook and Instagram by searching for “Songs for Saplings Sweden” and enjoy the full English CDs at Songsforsaplings.com