Seeing theology through the eyes of children (2 of 3)


Through the Eyes of a Child: New Insights in Theology from a Child’s Perspective part A

Last week I gave you a glimpse into the thoughtful reflection and analysis of children’s understanding of the first five major doctrinal issues it covers. However this book also includes questions and activities to engage across the generations on each of these topics. While this definitely adds to the practical value of the book, it’s an aspect you’ll have to check out for yourselves. Here are some peeks into the issue essays on sin, forgiveness, grace and salvation.


“Sin” –Emma Percy

This fascinating essay reports on the results of interviewing local children, many of whom are part of families that worship regularly. While recognizing the limitations of such a sample, Percy’s predominant thoughts about children’s understanding of ‘sin’ are as follows:

               “Children are more comfortable in talking about sin than adults are about discussing the idea of children and sin…They expressed interesting ideas about how we learn from the wrong we do, and how repeated suffering can lead to more sin and suffering….They were deeply reassured of God’s love and forgiveness, but were almost too blasé about God’s ability to dismiss sin….The children interviewed clearly live in a world where right and wrong are regularly articulated. But those who work with them…may need to relearn a more robust language of sinfulness—to help them to explore the darker aspects of life as imperfect humans in a fallen world.” (p.144-5)

“Forgiveness”—Sandra Millar

               “Child theology names wrongdoing in various ways: as the experience of being harmed and harming others and as the causing of unhappiness to others; yet child theology also questions some definitions of sin, stopping us in our tracks and making us question our boundaries…. the defining of forgiveness also begins with relationship:

·        You have to say sorry.

·        You have to play with them again…

·        If you do something bad, do a good thing to undo it. (aged 10) (p. 152)

·        There is a diamond star in the sky that people see – this is the sign of God’s forgiveness for them. They see it and are forgiven. (aged 5) (p.159)

·        If you don’t you get trapped. If you do pray you will be free. (aged 9) (p.160)

“Grace” – Angela Shier-Jones

               “God does not ignore us until we become adults.”  (p.165)

               “The way in which children pray and talk about God is very revealing of the particular understanding of Grace as God’s ability to cut through the ‘law’ to make, repair and restore relationships:

Our minister told us one day in a church sermon that Jesus knew what it is to feel left out and when he said that, I thought of how you can feel in school – you’re alone, and no one gives a damn (that’s how my father talks). When he died he knew the score here, and he must remember that— how he felt – while he’s in heaven. (Charlie, aged 10) (FN38)” (p. 182)

“We are cut loose from the womb to enter the world as children, weak and helpless, vulnerable and dependent. But, above all this, by grace, we also enter life with the potential to grow, to become more than we once were – to become community.” (p. 183)

“Salvation” – John Pridmore

               “A theology of childhood and of salvation is not to be constructed, line by line, from propositions. It rests on the works of God on the soil of Palestine. It is not a metaphor in the midst of them, but a flesh and blood child that stuns the disciples into silence. Jesus does not identify himself with the image of the child but with the real child.” (p. 193)

               “As we shall see, a theology of salvation that remains agnostic about the status of children is not only incompatible with the teaching of Christ. It is incompatible too with what we say we believe about the incarnation of Christ. (p. 194)

               “Salvation means wholeness. For the child, living only in the moment, that salvation, that wholeness, must be understood as salvation now. That said, images of the heaven we hope for, visions of the age when a little child shall lead us, help us to speak of the salvation we seek for the child in the here and now [the essay contains a lot about the suffering of the world’s children]. Horace Bushnell directs us to the prophetic vision. ‘the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets’ (Zechariah 8:5). Bushnell saw play as the expression and the symbol of the liberty of the children of God.” (p.199)

               “Salvation for the child – as for all of us, for children we must all become – is to be caught up into the joy of our playful God.” (p. 200)

I hope I’ve tantalized your theological taste buds with these representative snippets. Next week’s topics are death, judgment, angels, heaven and hell. But for now ponder on and revel in the joy of summer and our playful God.


About Elsie Hannah Ruth Rempel

As a young senior whose life could easily have ended in a nasty car crash in 2012 I live with an extra dose of gratitude to God, humanity, and the wonders of our human bodies. I am a passionate advocate for ministry WITH children and seniors in the life and ministry of the church. I started working in Faith Formation with Mennonite Church Canada in 2002. Thinking and writing about faith helps me see God at work in all kinds of surprising places. I'd like to be remembered as one who encourages others to live into God's good dream for our world. My book, Please Pass the Faith: The Spiritual Art of Grandparenting, is one big way I'm trying to share that encouragement with my peers. This blog is another way I'd like to engage people who care about growing in faith across the generations.
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