Being a naturally conservative person I always tread warily when I come across new (or in the following case, renewed) ideas. But a movement that has piqued my interest is the “Child Theology” movement. Once again, it was my wife, a natural advocate of children, who brought this to my attention. The Child Theology movement is a relatively new movement that gathers together ideas and concerns that have been present for centuries.
It resonated with me because, for a long time, I have had the nagging feeling that we have not acknowledged the place, function and meaning of children in Scripture. I have always been struck by how many children God used (Josiah, Jeremiah, David, Samuel, Mary etc.) in proclaiming and delivering His Word and too often we have treated this fleetingly. Child Theology takes this one step further. It actually asks how children can develop and deepen our understanding of theology.
Let me quote from a website: (http://www.childtheology.org)
Jesus put a child in the centre of the disciples when they were having a theological argument about greatness in the kingdom of God. It is plain that Jesus thought the child’s presence would give the disciples a clue to the essential truth they were missing.
Occasionally over the centuries, the child has disturbed theologians at work, but has not been in a position to shape theology consistently.
In Child Theology, we are invited to take good note of the child in the midst as we think about, for, to, from and with God in Christ. As we do that, we expect our theology to change for the better. In Child Theology, we embark afresh on the journey with Christ into the open secret of God in the world.
One of the movement’s most articulate proponents is Marcia Bunge: Professor of Theology and Humanities at Christ College, Valparaiso University( a Lutheran University in the US). She has edited two key books in this area:
1. The Child in Christian Thought and Practice explores how churches and theologians have touched on this topic over 2000 years.
2. The Child in the Bible uses the writings of a number of theologians to survey the place and function of children throughout Scripture.
This movement is not child centred but God centred. Children come into the picture as a valid and valuable means of strengthening our understanding of His Word. His people, of course, are both young and old.
Pastors, parents and the Christian community in general will be the poorer if we do not hear what our friends in Child Theology have to say.