Television is a communal experience in my house. Everyone has a like, a dislike, a question to pose. If you wanted to watch something in peace and quiet, you’ll notice you’ve come to the wrong lounge room even before the opening titles have finished rolling. Consequently I’m always on the lookout for programs I’m happy for my boys to share with me, and The Boffin, The Builder And The Bombardier fits the bill.
This series is a cross between a high school history lesson and an episode of Mythbusters. The ten-minute dramas are built around three invented characters: John ‘The Boffin’, Will ‘The Builder’ and Tony ‘The Bombardier’. Together they investigate a collection of historical accounts in a style that the professionals refer to as ‘reconstructive archaeology’. It involves our technicians seeing if they can prove or disprove the accuracy of a historical record by successfully recreating past technology. The upshot is a lot of mucking around with guns, bombs, rockets and other bits of historical paraphernalia. Episode one sees them reconstruct the telescopic rifles ANZACS used in the trenches at Gallipoli to see if they really were accurate to 300 metres. Episode two has them trying their hand at oriental explosives to discover if ancient Chinese rockets really were effective weapons. And so on…
Teaching kids the importance of historical research
As a Christian, I’m especially in favour of my kids taking a hands on approach to history. To begin with, Christianity is the only world religion that founds its faith squarely on dateable events. Gospel writer Luke looks to history to date the year that Jesus was born, when “…Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.”
Again, that same stickler for details, marks the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry, and so the ministry of Jesus,
“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene…”
And so it goes on throughout the Gospels with historical references marking out Jesus’ ministry, his death, and the spread of the good news from Jerusalem to the rest of the Greco-Roman world. This is why anyone who reads the Upanishads of Hinduism, the teachings of the Buddha or the Quran of Mohammad and then the Gospels is struck by a distinct difference – the Christian writers believe they are recording not legend or moral teachings, but something that actually happened.
As a Christian dad, I’d also like my sons to take an approach that is at least as robust as The Boffin, The Builder And The Bombardier. John, Will and Tony are exacting in their detail as they examine the probability of various historical accounts. Not everything in the Bible can be tested by the scientific method, certainly not the resurrection. However, its veracity can still be tested even if it can’t be replicated in a laboratory, or on one of this show’s lavish sets. With regard to the resurrection, I’m impressed by the razor sharp mind of law professor Sir Norman Anderson, as paraphrased by Ross Clifford:
“Firstly, one must prove that Jesus Christ was dead – beyond resuscitation – at point A. Secondly, it must be shown that he was alive at point B. There is no need to establish what caused the resurrection. If someone is dead then alive, the only reasonable inference is resurrection.”
Critical thinking is a great thing to encourage in kids, and the explosions and buffoonery The Boffin, The Builder And The Bombardier include aren’t bad steps towards more serious conclusion. Of course only God can help my boys accept a conclusion the human heart is dead set against. But it’s good to know that good history won’t take them away from God – and it just might bring them closer!
Watching The Boffin, The Builder And The Bombardier with your kids
This is a fun ten minutes that can teach an historical approach that Christians are more than able to take advantage of. I’d consider playing one of the following games:
- If you were making up the story of Jesus, what sort of bits might you leave out?
- What sort of evidence points to the disciples telling the truth about Jesus?
- What would you expect history to record if someone rose from the dead?