Seeing theology through the eyes of children (1 of3)


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

by Anne Richards; Peter Privett

– See more at:


After being inspired by Anne Richard’s newest book, Children in the Bible: A fresh approach, which I reviewed two weeks ago, I was willing to tackle the thicker volume she edited with Peter Privett: Through the Eyes of a Child. And I’m really glad I did. The book is the fruit of the work of a band of people who promote the theology of childhood and try to do greater justice to childhood than traditional perceptions of childhood as being both innocent and depraved.

However, it is summer, and even if the 14 key theological themes are considered from the perspectives of children, 14 is a lot, so I’ve read five of the essays this week, and they’ve given me lots to ponder. I’ll give you a peek into the other chapters in my next two blogs.

Through the approach of honouring Jesus’ command to place the child at the centre, the contributors to this book have been privileged and humbled by the theological insights of children who grapple with the big questions of life and faith. In the process, they take both academics and child practitioners from their respective comfort zones to look afresh at topics such as nakedness and vulnerability, creation, spirituality, word, play, and more. Those are the topics of first five and here are a few of the quotable gems I’ve marked from those essays.

“Nakedness and Vulnerability” — Anne Richards:

“The naked child at the moment of birth…confronts all of us with the evidence of who we are and how we live: whether it be spoiled, pampered luxury, or desperate poverty, yet theologians do not necessarily spend time on what the significance of the moment of birth adds to our understanding of what it means to be human.” (p.22)

            “So the child can teach us something we may never have considered before—about new life, love, creation, mystery suddenly made real….[and] about our own birth, that we were once just as naked and vulnerable.”(p.23)

“Creation”– Keith White

            “And if we ask what connects the origins of creation with its fulfillment and final realization at the end of the age, we could argue that it is ‘God’s way of doing things’…[which] is my preferred dynamic equivalent for ‘the kingdom of heaven’.  In and through the natural world, and throughout human history, enfolding the whole universe, God the creator continues his loving and gracious purposes in drawing all things to their full potential in him. And the chosen symbol of this loving process is the child placed beside Jesus.” (p.61)

“Spirituality”— Rebecca Nye

“The current climate of  excitement surrounding the ‘discovery’ that children’s spirituality may be a rich, challenging, and possibly radically transforming for the Churches seems  to fit exactly this pattern—coming from the margins and refreshing those parts of traditional thought that have begun to feel stale or neglected…. The seismic changes in the view of children’s spirituality as something valid, to pay attention to, suggests we may be in the midst of an emerging new spiritual movement or force. (p.82)

“Looking through the eyes of a child is not the same as copying children or mimicking them. Children’s spirituality is no more uniform than anyone else’s…” (p.83)

“Word” –Joanna Collicut

            “ [P]sychological change and development can and do take place in adults, especially if they are able  by temperament or training to keep the open mind and alertness to anomaly that is characteristic of creative artists, research scientists or children. (This perhaps sheds some light on Mark 10:15.) These are characteristics that allow the biblical text to be appropriated as an open living story of God’s dealings with his people rather than as a closed summary statement of theological orthodoxy.”

“Play” –Peter Privett

            “Most adults when they come into contact with children often bring their own needs and desires and agenda. Most children quickly learn that the priorities of adults rule the day. Insights from the Marches Chronicles, a project that charted the lives of children and adults in the borderlands of Hereford and Shropshire at the beginning of the twenty-first century, offers a litany that was unsolicited and repeated by every child with which we entered into conversation:
Adults never listen

            or take us seriously.

               If they do listen, then they usually laugh. (FN20)

The breaking of this pattern is often noticed and appreciated…” (p.111)

And a final quote of Privett (p. 112) quoting Jensen, an American practitioner of Child theology,

            “By becoming vulnerable with children in our midst, we not only stake a claim with their lives, we understand more fully what it means to be created in God’s image and what it means to be church.” (David Jensen, Graced Vulnerability: A Theology of Childhood, Pilgrim Press, 2005)

I liked that quote well enough to add it to my email signature. I hope this peek has encouraged you to check out this book as well. More next week.



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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