Monthly Archives: February 2008

Simple Childlike Faith

Blind Faith (No. 9, 2008)

A child’s vantage point often can be instructive. Adults may
tend to over-complicate situations, over-think solutions, and thus overlook
what is immediately evident in a child’s wondrous blend of rational
humility and certainty.

My cousin, a school teacher in the Mississippi Delta, sent me
the following essay. Children’s Bible in a Nutshell is claimed to
be a book report on the whole Bible, written by a child:

In the beginning, which occurred near the start,
there was nothing but God, darkness, and some gas. The Bible says, “The
Lord thy God is one,” but I think He must be a lot older than that. Anyway,
God said, “Give me a light!” and someone did. Then God made the
world.

He split the Adam and made Eve. Adam and Eve were
naked, but they weren’t embarrassed because mirrors hadn’t been invented
yet. Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating one bad apple, so they were
driven from the Garden of Eden. Not sure what they were driven in though,
because they didn’t have cars.

Adam and Eve had a son, Cain, who hated his brother
as long as he was Abel. Pretty soon all of the early people died off,
except for Methuselah, who lived to be like a million or
something.

One of the next important people was Noah, who was a
good guy, but one of his kids was kind of a Ham. Noah built a large boat
and put his family and some animals on it. He asked some other people to
join him, but they said they would have to take a rain
check.

After Noah came Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob was
more famous than his brother, Esau, because Esau sold Jacob his birthmark
in exchange for some pot roast. Jacob had a son named Joseph who wore a
really loud sports coat.

Another important Bible guy is Moses, whose real name
was Charlton Heston. Moses led the Israel Lights out of Egypt and away from
the evil Pharaoh after God sent ten plagues on Pharaoh’s people. These
plagues included frogs, mice, lice, bowels, and no cable. God fed the
Israel Lights every day with manicotti. Then he gave them His Top Ten
Commandments. These include: don’t lie, cheat, smoke, dance, or covet your
neighbor’s stuff. Oh, yeah, I just thought of one more: Humor thy father
and thy mother.

One of Moses’ best helpers was Joshua who was the
first Bible guy to use spies. Joshua fought the battle of Geritol and the
fence fell over on the town.

After Joshua came David. He got to be king by killing
a giant with a slingshot. He had a son named Solomon who had about 300
wives and 500 porcupines. My teacher says he was wise, but that doesn’t
sound very wise to me.

After Solomon there were a bunch of major league
prophets. One of these was Jonah, who was swallowed by a big whale and then
barfed upon the shore. There were also some minor league prophets, but I
guess we don’t have to worry about them.

After the Old Testament came the New Testament. Jesus
is the star of the New Testament. He was born in Bethlehem in a barn. (I
wish I had been born in a barn, too, because my mom is always saying to me,
“Close the door! Were you born in a barn?” It would be nice to say,
“Yes!”)

During His life, Jesus had many arguments with
sinners like the Pharisees and the Republicans. Jesus also had twelve
opossums. The worst one was Judas Asparagus. Judas was so evil that they
named a terrible vegetable after him.

Jesus was a great man. He healed many leopards and
even preached to some Germans on the Mount. But the Republicans and all
those guys put Jesus on trial before Pontius the Pilot. Pilot didn’t stick
up for Jesus. He just washed his hands instead.

Any way’s, Jesus died for our sins, then came back to
life again. He went up to Heaven but will be back at the end of the
Aluminum. His return is foretold in the book of
Revolution.

The puns are too rich for me to believe that a child is truly
the author of the Bible summary. Although the events and characters of the
Bible may be difficult for a child to master, even a child can understand
that “Jesus died for our sins, then came back to life again.” Honest,
genuine, simple childlike faith continues through all ages to be the solid
foundation for every follower of Jesus.

Jesus, himself, taught that pure childlike faith is necessary
for even the most educated adults to serve God authentically. When his
followers were entangled with highly critical religious leaders regarding
access to the Kingdom of God, ” Jesus called for the children, saying, ‘Let
the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God
belongs to people who are like these children. {17} I tell you the truth,
you must accept the kingdom of God as if you were a child, or you will
never enter it.'” (Luke 18:16-17 NCV) As criticism of Jesus grew more
severe in the months leading up to his final Passover and crucifixion,
children continued to respond to his love and grace, and to sing his
praises. About four months prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, he attended the
Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. The children’s simple faith and
exuberant acceptance of Jesus as he taught in the Temple was not shared by
many influential adults: ” When the chief priests and the scribes saw the
amazing miracles Jesus performed and the children shouting in the temple
courtyard, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ they were irritated. (Matthew
21:15 GWT)

By the time Passover arrived, irritation had calcified into
outright rejection and a firm plot by the religious leaders to kill Jesus.
They were blinded by pretentious pride in their own education. They fumed
at his teaching: ” The Jewish leaders were surprised when they heard Jesus.
‘How does he know so much when he hasn’t studied everything we’ve studied?’
they asked.” (John 7:15 NLT) Enraged by Jesus’ acceptance by ordinary,
simple people, they sent guards to seize him, but the guards returned
without Jesus. The religious leaders persisted in their rejection of Jesus
and their condemnation of the simple faith of the people. They berated the
guards: “‘Have you been led astray, too?’ the Pharisees mocked. {48} ‘Is
there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him? {49}
These ignorant crowds do, but what do they know about it? A curse on them
anyway!'” (John 7:47-49 NLT) The inability of the religious leaders to get
beyond their self-assumed rational superiority and sophistication to accept
Jesus’ simple offer of love and grace led to their decision to crucify
him.

But Jesus, himself, said that the starting point for a saving
relationship with him is simple, childlike faith. Following Jesus does not
require any advanced theological training, or a specified IQ score, or
advanced cognitive process. Just as a child may get the fine distinctions
of a story a little mangled, but still have vital trust and relationship
with someone who loves her, adults who follow Jesus do so genuinely out of
simple trust and faith, not some esoteric knowledge. Certainly, growing up
into greater knowledge and clearer understanding is anticipated for our
faith, just as much as it is for a child’s experience of the world.
Starting with simple, childlike faith, we are to grow up into increasing
Christlikeness: ” God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell
it in love- like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is
the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His
very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow
up healthy in God, robust in love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16, The
Message
)

As Easter approaches, with remembrance of Jesus’ crucifixion
looming, are you mired in rationalized roadblocks to your relationship with
Christ? Do you sometimes feel that you have an inadequate mastery of the
facts of Jesus’ life and teachings, and the Bible in general to have
vibrant faith? You may, indeed, have much left to learn, even if you can
do better than the child’s summary of the Bible. What you can do, though,
is to cultivate simple, humble, childlike trust in Jesus. It’s what he
expects from you.

J. Edward Culpepper, Ph.D.