The Faith of a Child

Some time last week I saw someone mention that they had “Just led __ to the Lord”. After noticing the comments of this post I gathered that this was the persons child that had been “led to the Lord” so I decided to inquire as to the age of this child…which got me thinking about faith and children. This man’s daughter was six.

I was “Saved” at the ripe old age of 6. That’s right, at 6 years old someone believed that I was at an appropriate time in my life to decide the fate of my own mortal soul and to ask forgiveness for the plethora of sins I was guilty of. This, of course, was not true…the “gospel” was something I could nary understand at the time and I didn’t really grasp the cardinal doctrines of Christianity until I was around 14, when I became more serious about my faith. Until then I didn’t understand that the God of the Bible required sacrificial scapegoats  to atone for the sin of man or that Jesus was supposed to be the end all be all of sacrificial lambs. I simply knew that the Bible was supposed to be true and that I felt an emotional “tug” at my heart when this whole Jesus thing was presented to me…so I said a prayer and I cried and I spoke in tongues etc.

Mar 10:15

Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

According to Mark 10:15 believers are to accept Christ with the faith of a child. When I think of childlike faith however, I don’t think  about it in a good light. Children believe in Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny which are all things that most adults will reject outright because there is no evidence for them. It conjures up thoughts of parents lying to their kids about how Santa Clause is watching them constantly in order to provide their just rewards upon Christmas Day rather than believing in something because it is true.Is this what the God of the Bible truly wants from Christians?

Childlike faith means ignorance…it means to accept things as fact simply because someone told you that it was. It means not investigating and even denying overwhelming evidence to the contrary of the claim being made. Childlike faith means to sit down, shut up, and eat your vegetables because if you don’t God will punish you forever. So God essentially says that He wants you to accept the claims of his lordship without question and without evidence, a position I find to be unfair at best.

My challenge here for my Christian readers is to consider the ramifications of ignorant faith, consider what god is asking of you. Is it fair or reasonable for one to believe in Extraterrestrial life forms without some form of proof for them? Why shouldn’t we hold god to the same standard of evidence?

Going even further I’d like to ask all my readers  whether or not they find it reasonable to coax children into belief in Christ (or any other religious belief for that matter) if they cannot understand the ramifications behind it? If you can justify it at what age does this make sense? Is there a point at which this sort of thing can be considered emotional abuse?

Please comment, I’d really like some feedback on this, I want to do a part two of this.

  • Jen

    You bring up an interesting topic. I’m very undecided on the whole religion as a child thing. The topic recently came up with my Mother, and I don’t know how I feel about it. She’s Catholic, I’m agnostic-leaning towards atheist. She wants to start taking my almost 4 year old to church and thinks I should send her to CCD, regardless of the fact that I think it’s ridiculous. She says “She should be exposed to it and be allowed to decide for herself”. But Catechism classes seem to be more than just exposure, it’s outright indoctrination. What do you think?

  • Alexis Morris

    Well, think on this…Treat others the way you would like be treated…When you were a child, would you have liked to have Jesus in your life as a hero, as the one watching over you to make sure you were naughty or nice, to be the one you could go to when all else failed or to go to an "imaginary friend?" Look back, as you are now, and ask yourself what you would have liked to be done….Would things be different?

  • Nina

    Hey Matt,

    I actaually agree with you in that some people do allow their children to come to the Lord at a very young age. I was 9 or 10 when I thought I was first saved, but in reality it was just an emotional experience. I felt pressured and I honestly thought that getting saved was walking down the isle, telling the pastor I wanted to join the church , cry a lot and then everyone come pray for me. It was years later (after high school actually) until I actually came to realize what being a Christian is all about. I understand you had quite the opposite experience, but for me it was such a relief to know that church was much more than just “hell, fire and brimstone”. I learned about an actual, tangible, REAL reletionship with Jesus. You may not can picture that, but there are no other words to explain it.

    My husband and I are very careful not push being “saved” on our kids. To us it is a personal relationship with Him and we want them to actually understand it before they jump into it. Because if they don’t understand what they are doing then what is the point.
    I have always felt uncomfortable telling my kids about Santa Clause, Easter Bunny, etc. In fact I have never really emphasized it. I haven’t completely excluded it either. I know you may ask why I would not emphasize Santa Clause but really emphasize Jesus Christ (which I do) since there is not “confirmed evidence” of either. Well, I guess that is where our faith comes in. You can look at having “faith of a child” as having ignorant faith, and to a point it is. I believe the difference is that, yes as children we do not always fully understand things. Our brains are not developed. But as adults we do (or should) understand more and I believe God wants us to revert back to our childhood ability to have that undoubtable faith in Him. Wheither it was in Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny we didn’t need proof because we just had faith they were real. Adults have the ability to reason things out. It is very easy to do, especially for me because I have been exposed to the “science world.” But the problem is that we can’t explain God. I have met several science professors who are very educated. Of course many of them are agnostic/athiest, but many of them also understand how complex llife is and they admit that it must be a greater power who created it all (referring to God). These are people without Christian backgrounds. I wish I could give you a definate answer Matt. I certainly cannot answer many things. But I guess I have to just do what I feel is right. I hope this wasn’t too confusing to read and this was the type of response you wanted. 🙂

  • Personally, I dont believe that verse is saying we should believe things ignorantly without question. I think when people try to defend a perfect allegory on child like faith(which requires no evidence or support) they are taking the verse possibly farther than Jesus intended. I think Jesus was merely saying that faith should have a sense of simplicity and peace about it. Children dont constantly worry, they typically have a care-free spirit about them, and are unburdened by many of the stresses of life that we find as we get older. In the same way our faith should have a peaceful and simple aspect about it. It doesnt mean that it is compeltley unfounded belief, or that you dont question things…no I somehow doubt thats the case, since the bible also tells us to “test all things” (1 thes 5:21)

  • Yes, if child-like faith means simply swallowing what others say, then it's not for me.

    Perhaps God did say that one must have child-like faith in him, but he did not say you should have child-like faith in the pastor, priest, imam or whoever claims to represent him.

    When God decides to talk to me directly, maybe then I'll have child-like faith.

  • I was baptized in the Presbyterian USA church as an infant. My parents both came from good, Baptist stock, but there was no pressure to become “saved”. We went to church and in my tweens I attended conformation classes and then was confirmed. I clearly remember being totally confused about all the doctrine I was supposed to believe, I understood it, but wasn’t sure what I believed about it. Fortunately that was the end of it, confirmation was the last biblically intense thing required of us. It wasn’t until I was 18 or 19 that I really came to terms with what it all meant and really embraced my faith. Then another nearly 20 years to stop sensing anything I recognized as God and become an atheistic agnostic.

  • Maryann

    Read “Parenting Beyond Belief”. They also have a FB app. This book helps parents understand that children cannot make critical thinking decisions regarding religious beliefs if indoctrinated into one faith at an early age. It’s an awesome book that helps you raise your children with these essential skills so that they CAN decide for themselves when their brains, experience, knowledge and intelligence are ready.

  • Sorry Raging Rev… I love your thought provoking posts… But where does it say anything about ignorance? Are we adding something to it? Or maybe there is a better verse to support your argument?

    If anything, children can be the most inquisitive, answer seeking people I know. They can ask so many questions about “Why…” that it will drive any parent nearly insane. Why is the sky blue? Why does the sun rise? Why? Why? Why?

    And to question your surroundings is a good thing. How else can you learn about things if you do not question everything? But when you approach anything with a preconceived notion, you are not truly looking for answers to questions. You are looking for answers that support your preconceptions.

    But back to the passage being talked about… I don’t like to quote the Bible on an atheist blog, but this is relevant

    Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16 NKJV)

    These children were trying to see Jesus. Those in control, adults and disciples were trying to keep the back, yet they still tried. The verse just before the one you quoted says explicitly, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.”

  • TheRevRuss

    I see the point you’re trying to make, Matt but honestly, I’ve never really seen it that way. Was I frustrated sometimes when my dad would “make” me go to church? Sure. Was I frustrated when he’d make me eat my vegetables? When he’d make me do my homework? When he encouraged me to go to college? Yes to all. But he always did so in a firm, yet loving way and looking back, I’m glad he did in all those cases because I’ve seen positive benefits from them all.

    The truth is, if faith could actually be forced on anyone, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. Really it comes down to, as someone else alluded, your presuppositions. If Christianity is something I believe to be true, of course I’m going to lead my children toward it. I can’t force them to accept it nor would I try. But I’m also not going to sit back and say “well, if it’s natural, they’d just gravitate toward it.” To do so undermines the whole concept of original sin that states by nature, we are opposed to God – again, that assumes your starting with a Biblical worldview. Furthermore, the “natural” argument fails on a whole range of other topics: children wouldn’t be able to survive infant-hood if it weren’t for their parents “leading” them to food – they wouldn’t find it by nature; many children probably wouldn’t obtain a high school education if not “led” to do so because it’s not in their “nature”. Also, isn’t there some aspect of hypocrisy here – if you were to ever have children, I’m assuming you would see to it that they avoid all religion. Not because you can conclusively prove that it’s false, but because you believe it to be false and you find it in their best interest to avoid it. Again, I’m not promoting universalism here or a “just let them decide for themselves” stance – I’m just trying to make a point. Bottom line again is, I cannot force them to believe. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink; even to counter what you said on facebook about nearly drowning them in the process of trying to make them drink – you still can’t force them to take a single sip. Just because you lead a child in the faith, encourage them, teach them what you believe to be true – doesn’t mean they’ll believe it to be true for themselves, even if they happen to say so. In other words, what good is an empty confession just to please one’s parents?

    End of ramble – hope that made some sense.

  • theres nothing wrong with trying to bring up your children in your religion or belief(or lack there of). I think the real problem comes, when parents treatment of their children, depend on whether or not they hold to that belief. Like in some countries, parents will disavow their children if they turn away from their religion. That is just wrong in so many ways.

  • I personally think it’s wrong to push ANY religion on children. Things like hell will scare a child and end up stuck in the back of their mind for the rest of their life. It’s impossible for a child to think for themselves when there is something to be afraid of.

    My son is seven and I have raised him agnostic. I didn’t plan on putting anything about religion into his head negative or positive. I wanted him to be able to chose on his own when he was older. His Dad’s family ruined that however. His Dad moved to cali and became Mormon. And His Dad’s grandmother ( who’s super christian ) decided to give Ryan a picture of Jesus for Christmas when he was four. And tell him all about the Lord. I was infuriated! That led him to ask my Dad ( who grew up catholic ) about religion and my Dad ended up telling him that if you don’t believe in god and if you’re bad you go to hell. Ryan was so scared that when we watched the Southpark where kenny goes to hell he started crying..

    I was so mad that I straight up explained to him that Christianity was purely fake. And that he had nothing to be afraid of. Luckily he was smart enough to understand.

    I didn’t tell him that there is no god, though. I told him that if there is we don’t know anything about them. After that I started teaching him religion in a historical sense. He loves to learn about Greek and Norse gods and mythology, etc. I figure if I teach him about all religions that way then he’ll still be able to look at all of them subjectively and someday make his own decision on what he believes.

  • Aimey: “After that I started teaching him religion in a historical sense. He loves to learn about Greek and Norse gods and mythology, etc. I figure if I teach him about all religions that way then he’ll still be able to look at all of them subjectively and someday make his own decision on what he believes.”

    You’re raising an atheist 🙂 It’s difficult to study religion as an academic pursuit and maintain “faith,” at least in the strictest sense of the word.

    I had some similar experiences raising my daughter (she’s 18 now), letting her attend church with relatives and having to “talk her down” after Sunday school with the fundy cousin. 6 year olds should not be urging 4 year olds to be “washed in the blood of Jesus,” EVER. At that age they’re too young to separate fact from fantasy on their own, and people are telling them the Bible is fact while feeding them stories of demons and Hell from that book of “facts.” It’s cruel.

  • cynikole

    Some of the Christians’ comments make adequate points regarding “faith like a child” and the validity sharing their faith in love to their children, so I will not restate what they said.

    As I sit here thinking about what to further write, I realize all that i can say to prove to you that Christianity is authentic and that there are authentic Christians in this world who truly get that life and faith do not exist on simply a two-dimensional plane, I run the risk of sounding as though I am just another silly Christian who doesn’t get the atheist/agnostic struggle with Christianity. All the arguments for and against Christianity seem so played out as if they come right out of a handbook for the atheist and Christian. no one really seems to prove much of anything to anyone- especially those who have already made up their minds. So what I want to do is suggest some reading material that really gave voice to my thoughts at a time when I felt that everything was just a little to two-dimensional for my taste.

    Soren Kierkegaard-passionate Christian and father of existentialism. His philosophy really makes sense to me.

    Fyodor Dostoevesky -particularly The Brothers Karamazov. He also contributed to the development of the philosophy through his literature and also was a Christian.

    Tolstoy is also another writer who has impeccable understanding of humanity and spirituality. Anna Karenina is awesome.

  • My very first exposure to Christianity was when I was 7 years old. I was in the hospital with a rather serious kidney infection.

    I can’t remember all the details but I can remember that a woman was telling a story about someone wanting baby Jesus dead and sending soldiers out to kill all the male babies.

    I thought it was very real and very now. I was in a state of panic thinking that the sick baby boy they had sharing the hospital room with me was in danger. I thought that at any moment soldiers were going to burst into the hospital room and kill him.

    I couldn’t sleep at night. I stayed away as long as possible keeping watch, ready to scream for a nurse to help the baby, should those soldiers arrive.

    They ended up having to remove the baby from the room so I could get some much needed rest. They had to reassure me daily that he was ok.

    This is the kind of stuff that can happen when you tell the child of an atheist a bible story.

    From what I understand from quite a few former Christians, when you do it to the child of a Christian it is even more traumatizing because it’s not just a single story that gets misunderstood…it’s repetitive and the fear is piled on top of more fear. They can’t sleep at night because they think Jesus is going to come back at any moment and that they are going to burn in hell for being such a screw-up. When they see a loved one doing something that they were taught is a sin, they have thoughts that the people they love will burn in Hell.

    How many Christian children have lost sleep over this? How many live in fear that grandpa is going to burn in hell for swearing that time he hit his thumb with a hammer? How many worry about themselves burning in Hell?

    You try to reassure your kids that there is no boogie man hiding under the bead and there are no monsters in the closet that are going to get them…then you tell them this kind of stuff, about a zombie god that can show up at any time and will get them, if they aren’t good little kids.

    It’s abusive and cruel.

  • cynikole

    Matt,
    To add to what I said the other day, I would say in response to your questions to readers that some children are very capable of understanding God/Jesus. I was a kid who, at a very early age, had what some might call very philosophical thoughts on God (and death) . A parent who cares about the well-being of their child should strive to sense this in their children so that they are not giving them more than they can handle. I also am not a fan of “indocternization”. This implies constant exposure via rote memorization of bible verses and bible stories or other means of incessant exposure that does not consider that the individual must confront these truths on their own terms in their own time. Damage can very well be done in these circumstances, but I would say that it is human error and misunderstanding that is responsible rather than an error regarding the existence or truth of the the Christian God. It is at the hands of humans and human imagination that we suffer the most, not God’s (and, yes, I have read the difficult book of Job- Kierkegaard has interesting things to say about this).

    You nor I want to see spiritual “balloon boys” running around this world.

    Thanks for the opportunity to share!

  • Adolescent Residential Treatment

    Your child could be one with the Christian world and also share the words of God. Christianity is not based upon evidence…but it is backed by evidence. Apparently anyone could “claim” to be God. The difference with Jesus is that His life completely backed those claims. Check out the history, check out the claims – it’s an absolutely phenomenal study.

  • Mrcranman

    I beleive the verse is being twisted it’s not talking about “beleiving”, but actaully “receiving” as a child. There is a big difference between these two. Receiving like a child is freelying taking something no matter what shape we are in. Too many times as Adults we feel like we have to get everything in order, fix things in our life, before we receive something…kids come freely just like they are to receive a gift.

  • Jason Rodowicz

    I believe there is a difference between ignorant faith, and the childlike faith described in Mark 10:15.
    I have noticed in my own church that at times, the adults often put petty disagreements before Christian love. When there is division in the church, I look down at the children, who are ignorant of what is going on above them. I can’t help but hope that someday we can all have faith like children. I realize that they aren’t making the conscious decision to avoid this conflict. But I think God wants us to be the same way, just consciously.

    As for spreading the word to 6-year-olds, I’m against it highly. I believe you should raise your child with a Christian influence, but when they are old enough, they may choose Christ on their own. I was 16 when I chose to get baptized. I’m glad no one convinced me that I was a Christian before I could make the decision on my own.

  • Kelsey

    I must agree. I have grown up in an atheist house hold and am enjoying finding my own beliefes without having them shoved on me by my parents. Children are extreamly impressionable and will believe pretty much anything you tell them. They do not believe it because it is what they truly believe, they believe it because it has been forced upon them.

  • Alyssa

    I was raised a believer, I fell, yet I came back to my faith in God, and am stronger than ever. you people get lost to much in the world and earthly possessions, yet how does that matter? you're going to die eventually why not have an eternal life in heaven? and honestly you may not think there is proof that God exists, but your looking with blinded eyes. I have seen with my own eyes healing in a matter of seconds, a kids ankle completely broken, prayed for an healed the kid was running after that, my younger brother with autism prayed for and completely healed of every symptom of it over night! if that's not proof enough idk what is.
    I'm sorry if the church has ever judged you in the past or it forced down your throat, because guess what that is not the way of God and the way the church is intended to be. a "church" is the gathering 1 or more people in the name of God, and the church is the "bride" of Christ. so called Christians who do not act Christ-like (the meaning of the word christian) are not walking in the way of the Lord, and if they have judged you or put you down in anyway that is not Christ-like. did you know Jesus went out and helped even the drug addict, slave, whore, etc…? did you know God sent his only son to die for you so that you could be free? maybe try reading the bible with an open mind.

    thanks you and God Bless!

  • This is so true. When I was around 15 years old I allso starded to understand what about is Christianity, and started to be more serious about my faith. But I never had childlike faith. I can't accept things because someone told me something. Sometimes I have deep down inside a feeling that I must check it on my own… And I think that coaxing childrien into belief in Christ is bad idea because they are too young for it

  • I feel like teaching your child about Christ and why you are a Christ follower is very important. It sets great ground for them to choose to be a Christ follower when they are ready to decide for themselves. I found Christ as a child. I also had time to question whether or not I wanted to remain a Christian. I feel as though you would be doing your child a disservice if you did not introduce him to the path to Heaven.

  • Matt, you bring up a very important question, which is not often discussed. Since I became a Christian, 12 years ago, I have seen used, "The Roman Road Of Salvation" This method uses the book of Romans to bring someone to the point of decision. The first point is the sinfulness of man and the righteousness of God. The next point is we deserve to be punished for our sins against God. The next point is God sent His son to take the punishment for all who will believe in and rely upon for salvation. And finally, the time of decision. WILL YOU ACCEPT THIS AND GO TO HEAVEN OR REJECT IT AND GO TO HELL? Lets pray THE PRAYER! NOW, what kid in their right mind would not reject this and BURN forever?

    The truths found in this method are solid Bible teaching on salvation; however, I take issue with the pressure often attached with it. I have seen people pray to be saved and never come to Church and rarely begin to change; therefore, I do not pressure my son to accept Christ nor be baptized. I do, however, train my son in the faith and practice on the Bible. as fathers have instructed to do. It is my purpose to deposit within his mind and soul the blessed truths which will in time sprout up and become what he needs in order to make a conscious decision to profess Christ as his savior. If you push them, you are in danger of forcing a false conversion that could lead them into a life of false security. What are we doing with the souls of people? Are they merely tools you use to further your own glory and kingdom, or are they beautiful souls for whom Christ died? If your answer is the latter, than you are very rare in our day. You take the gospel to these beautiful, yet lost in sin, souls WITH TREMBLING HANDS understanding the responsibility you have been given to bring God's honest truth to people and offer a decision, yet there should not pressure conversions or else you will sound like you're selling an used car. Overall, Dads need to teach their children the faith of the family, while providing then with the opportunity to make that faith more personal by embracing it themselves. Some children latch on to this concept quickly, while others take a little longer to determine their choice. A good father and children's working will understand this distinction and act accordingly…

  • Matt, you bring up a very important question, which is not often discussed. Since I became a Christian, 12 years ago, I have seen used, "The Roman Road Of Salvation" This method uses the book of Romans to bring someone to the point of decision. The first point is the sinfulness of man and the righteousness of God. The next point is we deserve to be punished for our sins against God. The next point is God sent His son to take the punishment for all who will believe in and rely upon for salvation. And finally, the time of decision. WILL YOU ACCEPT THIS AND GO TO HEAVEN OR REJECT IT AND GO TO HELL? Lets pray THE PRAYER! NOW, what kid in their right mind would not reject this and BURN forever?