The Importance of Childlike Faith

The Importance of Childlike Faith

The Importance of Childlike Faith

“Let the little children come to me [Jesus], and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”[1] This story, which occurs in three out of the four Gospels, is famous in Christianity for good reason. It reveals Jesus’s heart in that He, the greatest teacher and most penetrating philosopher to have ever lived, was willing to spend His valuable time with children. It also reveals what Jesus expects of His followers: That we would come to faith as if they were little children. In other words, as Christians, we are to have childlike faith. So important is this requirement that Jesus says we will enter the kingdom of God only if we have childlike faith.

What Is Childlike Faith?

To see what exactly childlike faith is, we’ll have to consider its two parts: childlike and faith. Let’s start with faith: What exactly is faith? In the modern world, the standard definition is that faith is either belief without evidence or, in more radical circles, belief in spite of evidence. Either definition would make Christians ignominious company indeed. Christians, however, do not accept, or at least should not accept, either of these definitions; for, both understandings fly in the face of a biblical definition of faith.

Here’s how I would define faith: Faith is a state of trust in God’s character which is informed by evidence. In practical terms, I have faith in God because I have evidence of His character in Scripture and through personal experience; given this evidence, I believe Him to be trustworthy and thus have faith in Him. I do the same sort of thing with my car all of the time: I don’t have all the answers about how my car works; that concession notwithstanding, I trust it to get me from point A to point B because I have reason to trust its reliability. Similarly, I am far from knowing everything about God and about Christianity—indeed, one valuable lesson I’ve learned in seminary is how little I actually know—I do, however, know what God’s character is like. For this reason, I trust Him; for this reason, I have faith.

Robust, biblical faith is not antithetical to evidence by any means; robust, biblical faith is bolstered by and built upon evidence. After all, if God wanted us to believe in His existence without evidence, He wouldn’t have given us so much evidence in nature, human morality, and special revelation. Leaving aside the arguments for God’s existence (which I’ve mentioned here, here, here, and here), God left His fingerprints throughout nature and within human beings. Superior to this general revelation, God inspired about 40 human beings to write down certain ideas that He wanted to communicate to us. You have this inspired communication in your Bible. In fact, John wrote the Gospel that bears his name—his eyewitness account of what Jesus said, did, and was like—so that we would read it, see the evidence, and “believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.”[2] In other words, John wanted you to have a reason for believing in Jesus and receiving “life in his (Jesus’s) name.”[3]

Thus, a biblical definition of faith is a trust in God built upon our experience of God primarily through revelation, but also through experience.

According to Jesus, our faith is to have at least one defining characteristic: Our faith is to be childlike. Perhaps the best way to understand the notion of childlike would be through an analogy: Faith in God is a lot like a child’s trust in a good parent. Faith is trust in a God whom we have reason to believe is trustworthy, though we don’t comprehensively understand Him. Similarly, children trust their parents because they have reason to believe them to be trustworthy, though the child doesn’t understand everything the parent does. Given these similarities, our relationship to God should mirror a child’s relationship with a loving parent.

Given the analogy, how would childlike faith look? Well, children are dependent upon their parents. Perhaps Jesus meant that His followers ought to depend upon Him in their daily lives. Further, children are trusting. Perhaps Jesus had in mind a level of trust on our behalf. Nevertheless, though children are trusting, they are also quite inquisitive. Perhaps Jesus had in mind that we would ask questions and seek to understand things about our faith, even the perplexing parts. Nowhere in the Bible are we dissuaded from asking questions. Another potentially relevant characteristic is honesty: Children, especially young children, are brutally honest with their parents. Perhaps Jesus meant that we shouldn’t try to hide things from Him. All of these tendencies are biblically sound and could be contained in the notion of childlike.

In any case, we ought to relate to God like a child relates to a loving parent. We have faith because we know what God is like and believe He is trustworthy. We should seek to understand all we can while knowing that God has the answers. We ought daily to trust Him and depend on Him. We must never attempt to hide things from Him.

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Notes & Sources

[1] Luke 18.16b-17, all quotations are NIV.

[2] John 20.31

[3] John 20.31

Image courtesy of motion worship.