Children and God6:05 AM
Caroline holds a Bible study with Cotton Candy and Brown Baby and introduces the newest hit in toddler orthodoxy.
In the theological think tanks in which I do not swim, there is discussion about shaking up how Christians do seminary. Since I have no idea what the discussion centers upon, I feel my opinion is valid. I think that all seminary students should be required, before graduation, to go to a local school and explain the Gospel to a six- or seven-year-old. If he cannot do that, if he cannot parry the logic of a first grader or put into plain language the thing that children are supposed to understand better than anybody else, then he obviously has no strong grasp of the Gospel.
I'm not a seminary student, but I did go over the Gospel with several young-ish people the other day. They were more or less unchurched young-ish people who didn't know the Christian lingo. One didn't know the story of Moses.
That presented a challenge to me, the Big Word Guru, the self-proclaimed Theology Nut. I used the words justification, Gospel, grace and sin -- but I had to explain it in stories and words they could use. I couldn't rely on "Just ask Jesus into your heart" or "Accept Him" or "Believe that Jesus died for you." When I used a Christian lingo word that I couldn't explain, they would look at me curiously, reproachfully, and change the subject to puppies.
During morning devotions at camp, we girls (the girls who couldn't or wouldn't read the devotion on their own) got into a discussion on justification. I tried to drive home that justification perfected us in the sight of God even while we were yet sinners. The girls parried that we were all sinners -- no way were we perfect.
"Yes," I said, "but God doesn't see us as sinners once we're justified."
"But we are sinners!" they insisted.
They were all very serious about sin and would not let me give the slightest excuse for it, not even justification. It made for an interesting conversation.
I think children are sharper than we give them credit for -- sharp enough to grasp essential Gospel truths like we're all sinners, we're all sinners, we're all sinners. They're sharp enough to discuss what the Bible says about bikinis at four in the morning (strangest thing I've woken up to in a long time). They're sharp, I say. One girl and I had repeated conversations on Catholicism and Mary and why God didn't seem to answer her prayers. Campers weren't supposed to start asking those questions until junior high week.
Or not. Perhaps it makes more sense for the younger kids to ask those questions, the younger kids who chatter on about God as if He were important and real and central to their lives, the younger kids who aren't distracted by boys, clothes and maturity.
Still, there's often something like manipulation of that same innocence in evangelical circles. We threaten children with hell and then ask, "So would you like to go to heaven?" We run circles around them with the Gospel and then cry, "What's stopping you from becoming a Christian? Let's do it now!" Without meaning to, we can pressure a child into "accepting Jesus" without him knowing what on earth we're talking about.
That happened to one of my girls. I was told she was a Christian -- she'd come to camp twice before -- and so I asked her how she knew she was going to heaven. She could not explain anything about the Gospel -- not even the empty Christian lingo. It upset me, knowing that people had told her she was saved without making sure she understood what that even meant. That's so damaging to a child's faith and so insulting to his intelligence.
Some may say that children cannot fully understand the Gospel, much less explain it back to their counselor, but I don't think that's true. I had a heart-to-heart talk with a tiny sister in the faith who explained perfectly what the Gospel was and the process she went through to examine her heart and decide whether Jesus was worth following. She decided He was.
Most girls my age cannot do that.
So if you want a stimulating conversation, encouragement (or a good laugh), ask a child about God. She may teach you a thing or two.