I don't know about you, but I am excited to begin a new series today that I have been wanting to do for some time: Silly Things To Say. Here I will periodically showcase various sayings, clichés, proverbs, memes, etc. that people--Christians and skeptics alike--throw around like they were things worth saying. Regrettably, the idea for such a series is not original to me; I borrowed it from a similar one over at Parchment and Pen called "...and Other Stupid Statements." I recommend checking it out. I also plan to start a closely related series soon called "Questions That Don't Make Sense." Stay tuned.
"But I just want a childlike faith..." Ever hear anybody use that one? Usually it comes in response to a challenge to educate oneself about his faith in a way that would require more than just reading the Bible straight through. When he discovers that this will require (gasp) work, the recourse seems to often be to this 'childlike faith' stuff.
As best I can tell, this dangerous idea is taken from Mark 10:13-15:
"People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.'" (NIV)
It sure seems like Jesus is advocating a childlike faith here, doesn't it? Unfortunately, when most people use this line, they don't mean that they want a childlike faith in this sense. What they really mean is that they want a childish faith. Suffixes can make all the difference.
A childlike faith says, "I trust you even though I don't understand." A childish faith says, "I don't want to understand." A childlike faith says, "I'll depend totally on You for my sustenance." A childish faith says, "What I already think I know is enough." A childlike faith says, "I will worship You in spirit and in truth." A childish faith says, "Bring out the snakes." A childlike faith says, "I believe your love will bring me through my sanctification." A childish faith says, "What's sanctification?"
Paul says it this way:
"Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature." 1
A truly childlike faith will be interested in learning more about the Father and in going deeper in our understanding of His word. It will see challenges as an opportunity for this. A childish faith is content merely with what feels good or seems right, seeing no use for things like education, theology, hermeneutics, or apologetics. A childlike faith will allow one to receive the kingdom of God. A childish faith will only gain rebukes like the following:
"...though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." 2
I am reminded of Luke's story of the young Jesus: "After three days they [his parents] found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers." 3
Moral of the story: Jesus didn't want a childish faith. Neither should we.
Let's grow up.
1 1 Cor. 14:20 (NASB)
2 Hebrews 5:12-14 (NIV)
3 Luke 2:46-47 (NIV)