Faith Like a Child

Children's spirituality has been getting increased academic attention, with implications for our churches.

It is time to seriously consider the faith experiences and spirituality of children. These topics have been neglected by theologians and theoreticians for far too long. But—especially in the past five years—scholars and researchers have begun to produce work that paints a rich and full picture of children's spirituality that is informed by church history, grounded in theology, and motivated by an increasing understanding of children.

Two new books contribute to this growing field. When Children Became People: The Birth of Childhood in Early Christianity by O. M. Bakke (Fortress Press) and Paedofaith: A Primer on the Mystery of Infant Salvation and a Handbook for Covenant Parents by Rich Lusk (Athanasius Press), both published in 2005, consider the faith of infants and children using biblical texts and sources of church history, implicitly raising sociological and anthropological questions for the reader.

Bakke, a church historian in Norway, begins his examination of children and childhood in the early church and continues through the patristic writings. He uses data from both Christian and non-Christian sources from A.D. 100-500 to draw attention to the fact that Christians, from the time of Jesus on, apparently viewed and treated children differently than did the surrounding dominant cultures. He explores the difference Christianity made in the view and treatment of children in that era.

On the other hand, Lusk is a Presbyterian pastor in Birmingham, Alabama, writing to today's "covenant" parents. He seeks to encourage them to be vigilant and faithful in their covenantal parenting task, because "the promises of God to our children apply even from the point of conception," and to clarify the issue of "whether or ...

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