Thursday, March 4, 2010

Silly Things to Say..."I just want to have a childlike faith."

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, clich├ęs, 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)


  1. Keeping people ignorant is the church's best method of obtaining large numbers of followers. "Strength in numbers" is meaningless and dangerous to the educated citizen. "Indoctrinate them while they're young, and we'll have them forever by our side." Nevermind if they are defenseless to those outside their faith. An army of 100 retards on your side is still an army of 100 retards.

  2. Childlike faith deals with the innocence and purity in a Godly faith. It is interesting that Jesus was telling other people not to keep the children away from Him in Luke 2 not there own minds as the phrase is suggested as saying by some. Things try to taint our faith but a Godly faith is a faith that cannot be tainted by temptations or circumstances. Childish faith can be viewed as being selfishly limited in your aproach to God. When you do not want something new and living from God, but something "drummed up" or constant in your worship it is childish faith.Childlike faith is pure whereas childish faith is tainted by the selfish desires of the human nature to view God the way they would have Him to be.

  3. Paul: Agreed. You say, "When you do not want something new and living from God, but something "drummed up" or constant in your worship it is childish faith." I would add that this type of faith (or lack thereof) also manifests itself in the other extreme: always seeking some new revelation or the next sign or dramatic experience, rather than being content with what God has already revealed and seeking to understand it better. Thanks for the comments!

  4. For what it's worth, this is your best article yet. Keep up the good work!

  5. Well writ!
    I've come to notice that "I just want to have a childlike faith" tends to be a statement made by those who don't really want to have faith (which requires devotion and growth) but instead they want something to identify with loosely. They want something which requires no real commitment while giving them a quick answer for when they're asked to describe themselves or state their opinions. I've also noticed that this seems to accompany those who claim a 'relationship' with Jesus that's about as deep as a Facebook friendship with that guy you met at that conference one time.
    A real relationship requires commitment and will make you desire to know more about the other person and the various aspects of their life.
    I'm sad to say that this developmental apathy appears to extend everywhere. I've seen in my own students a complete lack of curiosity about the world around them or anything beyond a flashcard answer.
    Personally, I have a natural curiosity about everything but I especially feel a sense of necessity to learn about the various aspects of what I call my beliefs and my faith.
    A natural curiosity seems to indicate that one is considered with things that extend beyond themselves while the lack thereof seems to indicate a self-centered worldview.

    Before I close this, I'd like to point to the Mark 10 passage and how Jesus is talking about RECEIVING the kingdom with childlike faith, that you initially come to Him as a child but He never says you will remain as such.