Throughout the years, many people, including myself, have fallen in love with Bob the tomato and Larry the cucumber. These two memorable vegetables join a host of other produce for Christian television programs of reenacted Bible stories, most of which are from the Old Testament. The original creator of VeggieTales, Phil Vischer, owned the popular series until 2003, when he sold it and moved on to other ventures.

VeggieTales has received criticism from multiple sources, for teaching children moralism rather than the gospel. Moralism is the practice of doing “good” or obedience.

Moralism is dangerous because it teaches children to do “good,” rather than to trust the One who is good. It teaches them to act good, rather than the biblical view that there is no one good but God alone (Mark 10:18). The problem with solely teaching moralism is that it does not show the true message of the Bible– that we are sinners, who in fact cannot do “good,” and are in need of a Savior to be seen as righteous before God.

In 2010, radio commentator, Todd Friel, referenced Ken Ham (Answers in Genesis) and addressed the issue of moralism in VeggieTales. While I may not agree with his negative opinions on using “vegetables” to tell the biblical stories, he makes several valid arguments concerning the moralism issue. Listen to his comments in the video below. It’s definitely worth the brief amount of time.

In 2011, Phil Vischer, himself, explained in an interview with World Magazine that he had come to realize that he had been teaching moralism in VeggieTales, instead of the gospel.

“I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, ‘Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,’ or ‘Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!’ But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality. . . .

And that was such a huge shift for me from the American Christian ideal. We’re drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore. Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true. It’s the Oprah god. So I had to peel that apart. I realized I’m not supposed to be pursuing impact, I’m supposed to be pursuing God. And when I pursue God I will have exactly as much impact as He wants me to have.”

First, I want to say that I highly commend Mr. Vischer on his decision to move in a different direction with his latest children’s programming, What’s in the Bible? What God is using him to do with that program is truly amazing. Also, it takes a genuinely humble person to repent of something such as this, especially to do so in the public eye.

That being said, episodes of VeggieTales are still widespread in Christian bookstores, church libraries, and on streaming services such as Netflix.

So where does this leave us, regarding VeggieTales? I personally watched VeggieTales as a child, and I honestly do not believe that the show distorted my view of the gospel. However, I have intentionally left out my thoughts on this issue. I want to hear your opinion in the comment section, below.

Do you think that kids should watch VeggieTales, and if so should they be able to watch them stand-alone? Should someone explain how each VeggieTales story fits into the big picture of the gospel as kids watch them? How can we be on the lookout for other children’s ministry resources that mistakingly teach moralism?

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GJ Farmer is a husband, a dad, the founder of ChildrensMinistryBlog.com, and is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church in Somerset, Kentucky. He has completed a Bachelor’s degree in Church Ministries and a Master’s degree in Children’s Ministry. He has also been fortunate to lead and teach groups at children’s ministry conferences and to have had some of his writing published. Apart from working with kids, he enjoys reading, performing magic tricks, playing video games, and University of Kentucky basketball.

9 COMMENTS

  1. I think the problem comes in separating “being good” from the Gospel. Certainly our salvation is not about being good, or doing good. It is vitally important that kids (heck, ALL people) understand that. But, we also need to understand that LIVING out the gospel is not easy. Let’s remember that we are encouraged to “not grow weary of doing good.” As pastors we are called to “equip God’s people for works of good service.” While Jesus summed up the 10 commandments with Love God and love your neighbor, He also elevated the measure of what sin is from simply what we DO to even what we think about.

    Doing good and being good is NOT the gospel. It is not the answer for salvation, eternal life or getting to heaven, but doing good is part of the Gospel. Not so that we can be saved, but because we have been.

    • I love your last statement, “Doing good and being good is NOT the gospel. It is not the answer for salvation, eternal life or getting to heaven, but doing good is part of the Gospel. Not so that we can be saved, but because we have been.”

  2. Yes, I agree with what is said above. Obviously if the Holy Spirit is convicting Mr. Vischer of not preaching the gospel more, then he needs to address that. However, much fruit has come from these videos. It has been a great way to catch the attention of the child to teach them biblical principals. But to throw the baby out with the bath water is ridiculous. As Christians we tend to fight a lot over petty things, and with nothing else teaching children on morals on TV, praise God for VT! We also have to remember, it is the job of parents and children’s workers to teach the gospel- way more than a TV show.

    • I remember watching VeggieTales as a kid and do not feel that I was confused on the message of the gospel because of it. I think you might be on to something.

      • I agree. My own kids now love to watch TV and shows streaming on Netflix. And I much prefer Veggietales to a lot of what’s out there vying for our kid’s attention. I agree that we should be teaching the gospel, not moralism. But Veggietales should never be a stand alone, or the only representation of Christ a child hears. So I love Veggietales- as a great supplement to parent/children’s pastor Bible teaching!

  3. There are a couple of issues here. I agree with the author and this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. However we need to realize that veggie tales, like our morning cereal, is only meant to be part of a balanced breakfast. The message veggie tales teaches is definitely moralism, however it bridges a gap that few do. I know many non christian families who also enjoy veggie tales since it doesn’t shove religion down the throat. It’s important that we are patient with people in introducing Christianity and also realize that veggie tales alone should not be our gospel. It should be a tool used with good sound doctrine and explanation to reveal the character and purpose of Jesus Christ.

  4. I take my Children’s Ministry very seriously. I have felt for some time that Children’s Ministry has gotten off track in its presentation. If Barna is discovering that the reason young people leave the church after high school because they don’t know the Bible; they don’t know what it says, then we have failed our little ones by not clearly teaching them that Jesus loves them, He came to the earth to die for their sins and rose from the dead, and they need to ask Him to forgive them of their sins and come into their hearts. We need to be very intentional in presenting this to the kids so they will absolutely know what they need to do to be saved.
    I know many Children’s Ministries leaders will not agree with what I’m about to say – but I have gotten away from the flashiness and methods of teaching kids that I see being used today. Wow, the games, the fun, the excitment! But we don’t spend the short time we have with them adequately presenting the gospel. That is far more important, especially looking at our whole program from the viewpoint of eternity. Maybe I am becoming a stuffed shirt as I get older, but guess what…..my kids love Children’s Church and can’t wait to be released from the big service. They love the Bible stories and the crafts I have them do. They love me too, so I guess I am doing something right.

    • Well said Margaret. I too have moved away from flashiness and gimmicks that don’t deliver a true gospel. I only get so much time with the kids and I don’t want to fill it up with things that take away the time they could be learning more about Christ.

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