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Theology for Children

William L. Hendricks

Broadman Press Nashville, Tennessee



I am one of those adults who stand in awe, if not fear, of children. Their direct gaze and pointed questions have transfixed and disconcerted me. Recently I have come to the desirable but difficult place of treating them as equals. In this work I have used the games, learning experiences, and larger dimensions of the imaginative world of children as a setting for a theology written on their behalf. As I perceive it, the substance of theology is given primarily in Scripture. The classical formation of theological insight is a part of our larger, shared Christian heritage. The specific language and idiom in which a given theology is expressed depends on the purpose of the author. In this volume I chose to address a theology for children to those who work with children for the sake of our children. The perceptive reader will want to read chapter 2 first, for it contains the presuppositions for this theology. All of the major doctrines are covered in the book. Children are not second-class citizens; they need a full expression of the Christian faith. But they need it in ways and words in which they can understand it. This book is for those who work with childrenparents, teachers, pastors, and all other ministers. Your responsibility will be to make further specific translation of these insights into the particular circumstances of the children whom you know and love. This book is written out of the love of Christ who loved and called children to himself. My hope is that it will be an instrument in helping to call children to him.


1. Setting the Stage....................................... 11 2. Four Questions ........................................ 21 3. The Curtain Opens..................................... 39 4. What's God Like?...................................... 63 5. I Have a Friend........................................ 86 6. It's Blowing in the Wind................................. 109 7. It Takes Three to Play .................................. 123 8. Start with a Capital and Continue in the Lines .............. 131 9. Looking in the Mirror................................... 147 10. Choose a Body......................................... 162 11. BuildingaLife ........................................ 190 12. Finishing?.! ........................................... 208 Appendix A: Theology and Children: Remarks on Relationships Between Christian Theology and Childhood Developmental Psychology ..................... 225 Appendix B: The Age of Accountability ................... 238 Appendix C: Spiritual Gifts.............................. 252
Appendix D: A Theology for Children..................... 262

Setting the Stage A Special Need

How do you speak to a child about God? Very simply and very kindly. You must speak simply so the child can understand. You must speak kindly so the child will want to understand. Good theology is an act or a word in which deep reality is easily demonstrated or understood. When Jesus opened his arms and invited children to come to himself, he demonstrated an important fact about God. Jesus spoke a commentary about God when he described faith in God as childlike trust (Mark 10:14-15). Theology is an act-speech event about God. Acts and words must be welded together in any theology. This is especially so in a theology for children. Of course, no special theology for children exists. However, special ways of talking to children about God do exist. Why should you speak to a child about God? Because the "God question" is inevitable. It is the question about meaning in life. Children are quick to push through to ultimates. Their persistent "whys" bother us. This is because often we do not know the answers to their questions. A child's ultimate questions are also troublesome because we don't know how to express our inherited theological vocabulary in terms a child can understand. Most adults use an inherited holy language when speaking about God. This language about God needs to be passed on to the child. In order to pass on our theology to our children, we must explain our holy talk. That is not easy. Unless we translate our inherited language about God into act-word language which the child can grasp, we are not helping the child toward understanding. This translation gap is a serious problem in the Christian community's religious education of children. This problem cannot be ignored, for the question of life's meaning cannot be ignored. We have handled this problem of talking to children about God in some very unsatisfying ways. One unsatisfactory way to do the religious education of children is to postpone their religious training until they are old enough to under11



stand theological abstractions. This approach is unsatisfactory because children's patterns of learning and the stages at which they learn are interwoven in such a way that children use their earliest learning experiences as models for later learning experiences. 1 Resources for answering the questions of meaning and value should not be put off until late in the child's development. The highly controversial study of modern math deals with this learning problem in children. The argument for modern math suggests that children learn elemental principles in their formative years which they can relate to and build on when they come to "higher math." This will enable the child to use both elemental and sophisticated forms of mathematics all through life. I certainly don't want to tie theology to mathematics. But the principal argument for the study of "modern math" seems also to apply to theology. Many adolescents have resisted both algebra and religious instruction because they had little previous exposure to those studies and saw no need for them. Delaying the religious education of a child is perilous. So is forcing the child to express and acknowledge religious concepts which are meaningless either in his experience or comprehension. Memorization is most easily done in early childhood. But mere memorization without relationship is not the best form of educationreligious or otherwise. Children can learn theological vocabulary. Children reared in a Christian environment will learn Christian vocabulary. But the words should be accompanied with Christlike acts and attitude. Childhood is, indeed, a time of storing up mental skills for the rest of life. But religious educators can place too much emphasis on what is memorized and not give enough attention to explaining and applying it. As I see the problem, effective religious education includes the passing on of traditional Christian vocabulary. This passing on of the vocabulary must be done with an attitude that embodies Christian experience. Good religious education gives attention to the learner, as well as to what is being learned. Above all, what is passed on must be elemental and true. Relearning theology is as bad as relearning to play the piano. There is not one musical scale for children and another for adults. There is only one basic musical scale, and it must be mastered first in
1. See John J. Gleason Jr.'s Crowing Up to God. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1975), pp. 17 and 21.

SETTING THE STAGE 13 simple terms before it can be used in complicated patterns. It is wrong to teach children only certain desirable features of theology and then to insert all of the demands and obligations of Christian commitment later. Children will want to know about God's beginning the world and his caring for it (creation and providence). They will want also to know about his making it right and concluding it (redemption and the last things). They should be given some explanation as to what Christian commitment means to them in terms of both gift and giving. The task we face is to talk to children simply and kindly about God. As Christians see it, without this act-word there are no answers to life's final questions. Childhood inquisitiveness will not let this talk be postponed. It is naturally a part of the very fabric of a child's learning experience. Talk about God must also be translated into terms and experiences the child can grasp. Such talk will deal with a basic Christian theology in understandable ways. Good learning will require that all that is necessary is included. All of this adds up to a special need for some simple, practical helps for people who talk to children about God. This book is designed to meet this special need.

Where Are the Bases? (Basics)

Not much equipment is needed to play sandlot baseball, just a ball, a bat, and an agreement as to where the bases are. When talking about God there have to be bases too. The variety of religions, different views about God in the Christian faith, the numerous denominations, churches, and sectseach with some varying views about Godall tend to make us feel that no bases exist in our talking about God. This is not so; where there are no guidelines, no game can be played. In a later chapter we will talk about the central core of beliefs of the Christian faith. At this point we mention some bases from which all Christian communities start. The first base is that God has acted in human history to reveal himself. God's handiwork is a part of God's act. The world is the living stage hi God's drama of redemption. Special people and special acts which show God's purpose spell out the story of what God is doing. We know that story and we see God's purpose in his special book, the Bible. All Christian theology begins with Scripture. That is the first base. The second base is heritage. Each Christian community has understood Scripture in the light of the community's own needs and ways of



interpreting the Bible. Those who place tradition above Scripture or put a new revelation alongside Scripture are bending the rules of the game. Baptists feel that to place tradition too close to first base is also to rearrange the game. However, some Baptists often skip second base and go directly to third. That, too, is breaking the rules. All current Christian theology has come through some tradition. Baptists have an honorable heritage, and there is no reason we should sidestep second base. Third base is Christian experience. By this I mean an awareness of other Christian traditions, as well as the way our own churches have appropriated and understood God through Scripture. Also included as a part of third base is the way in which denominations, individual congregations, and even families express and act out their experiences with God. Some people have a tendency to go for home base and miss third base. This also is breaking the rules. The experience and reflections of how others perceive and interact with God is an essential part of the Christian game. Home base is the individual appropriation of God through Scripture. Home base is reached by some tradition (second base) and by reflecting on the experience and acts of other Christians (third base). Reaching home base is the whole purpose of playing the game. Players who insist on dealing only with the Bible and their own experiences are playing catch, not baseball. Another important rule of the game is to define the terms you use. This is like deciding on which ball park to play at. I want to define my terms very clearly so that there will be no mistaking where the game is. When I speak of theology I mean speech and acts about God. By God I mean the God and Father revealed by Jesus Christ and actualized by the Holy Spirit. This is Christian theology. For me, second base is Baptist heritage which has shaped and channeled the way I have grasped and interpreted Scripture. Third base is the awareness of the heritage of other groups in the Christian community and the sameness and variety of their Christian experience. Home base is my personal appropriation of faith and my individual experience with God. These are the bases for me. I'm writing a Christian theology based on Scripture, from the stance of a Baptist heritage, with an awareness of classical Christian beliefs and experiences, out of my own reflections and insights. A second term in defining the ball park is children. By children I mean the normal human young from approximately age six to adolescence. Physically we define adolescence as beginning with puberty.

SETTING THE STAGE 15 Educationally we are coming to define the beginning of adolescence at about grade six. Ideologically adolescence begins when children question their inherited cultural structures in order to discover for themselves the world of their own individuality. Adolescence is more than biology and chronology. Children have adolescent traits before reaching adolescence. Adolescents have childish traits before and after reaching young adulthood. No generalized division of childhood will fit every child. Basically I want to help children from age six to twelve or thirteen years of age by giving those who work with them some elemental and workable theological insights. That's the ball park in which this book will be played.

An In-House Problem
Every Christian community has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Usually religious people take great pains in stressing their own advantages and pointing out the disadvantages of others. To me a better way is to concentrate first on our own views from both the points of advantages and disadvantages. When we have touched second base, we can go on to third. Baptists have a conversionist type of theology. By this I mean that, as Baptists see Christianity, the usual way of being Christian is to become a Christian by conversion. There is a tune when a child is not consciously a Christian. There is a tune when the child, enabled by God's grace, becomes a Christian. Conversionist theology puts a large premium on grace, personal faith, believer's baptism, and the individual conscience. Conversionist theology assumes an awareness of alienation from God, a recognition of God's provision for our salvation in Jesus Christ, and the cooperation of the human will with the divine will in effecting a conversion. Distinct from conversionist theology is sacramental theology. Sacramental theology also involves a conversionist principle. However, the conversionist principle in sacramental theology is gradual. Sacramental theology stresses grace, infant baptism as a means of receiving grace, the corporate religious experience, and the rites of church tradition as further means of extending grace. In sacramental theology, a child may be alienated from God by virtue of being born. But this alienation is overcome by infant baptism which places the child in grace. I will not enter here on a discussion as to all the advantages and disadvantages of each type. I have already acknowledged that I stand



within a conversionistic theology. Essentially I feel that conversionist theology does firmly touch the biblical base hi its insistence of individual decision and an intentional turning toward God. But conversionist theology does have an in-house problem in regard to children. That problem is parental anxiety as to when a child is "ready for conversion." In a conversionist theology, we have a problem pertaining to childhood religious education that a sacramental theology does not share. The problem of anxiety about the tune of conversion and the individual child's readiness for it is compounded by the fear of the status of a child who dies before conversion. This problem has been handled by conversionist church groups in two ways. One way is to assign an arbitrary but fixed time when children may join the church or are made intensely aware of their spiritual obligations. This solution was used extensively among Baptists hi the nineteenth century. Its gradual decline may be attributed to a stress on the individual child and the faster maturation process attributed to children today. A second way conversionist theology has met the dilemma of individual conversion is to place adult requirement for conversion upon children before the children are able to appropriate or understand them. Anxiety about the time of conversion of the child and about the status of an unconverted child has led others to push for childhood conversion. Most ministers, religious educators, and parents have wrestled both with the full theological requirements for conversion and the individualized need and stage of the child. But they have had little formal help from Baptist theology in dealing with this in-house problem. Professional "children's evangelists" have tried to uphold the need for conversion. But, as I have seen their work, it has stressed too little the full theological elements for salvation or has brought about a false or premature sense of guilt and alienation on the part of the child. Excessive stress on childhood evangelism has emphasized the rewards of conversion but not its responsibilities. There has been among child evangelists too little explaining of theological terms and too little understanding as to how children learn and at what stages children can appropriate general and abstract ideas.* In order to bring help to anxious pastors, children's workers, and
2. CF. See Appendix A, "Childhood and Conversion" Also see Childhood and Conversion edited by Clifford Ingle. (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1970).



parents and in order to add a corrective word to what I see as the excesses of child evangelism, I want to suggest a third approach. A third approach to the in-house problem of a conversionist theology in the religious education of children has two suggestions. One, define very clearly and carefully the status of children. Two, provide an elemental and balanced theology which can lead children toward conversion and be used as a basis for their "adult" theology as well. I feel a great compassion for Baptist parents who are approached from two directions. The subtle appeal of sacramental theology stresses that by the sacrament of infant baptism the child is placed in a position of grace which makes his position secure. Therefore, the problem of conversion may be handled in a prescribed sacramental way. On the other hand child evangelists seek to secure an early conversion of the child even at the risk of spiritual stillbirth. I would define spiritual stillbirth as "undergoing the prescribed forms of conversionist theology without meaningful understanding or the vital experience that genuine conversion requires." Sacramental theology would have a child grow in saving grace and subsequently learn its meaning. Inauthentic childhood evangelism would have a child grow with an assurance of grace which he may not have undergone and whose demands he does not understand. I want to propose a theology in which a child can grow toward grace, cooperate with God in an experience of saving grace, and then grow in the grace in which he is grounded. Overzealous childhood evangelism grows, consciously or unconsciously, out of the question, What happens to the child if he should die? This question must be faced, and it will be discussed in its appropriate place in this book. Meanwhile an adequate Christian theology for children must be based on the supposition that children will live. The question, Why was I born? must precede the question, What happens when I die? The question of what happens after death needs to be worked out in a realistic response in life. What happens after history must firmly and definitely be answered in history. This is certainly true of the history of God revealed in Jesus Christ. I propose to face the conversionist theology in-house problem about children and conversion on the assumption that a child is going to live. The alternative is possible, but due to modern medicine it is no longer normal. God is the Lord of life and death. The weight of his Word



comes down on the side of life. And that is the accent which a Christian theology should stress.

ChildrenFront and Center

The time is right to talk about children and theology. The time is right theologically because of formal renewed interest in religion. In a wider sense, the time is always right to speak theologically since that is the ultimate question. One speaks of God because one must.5 The time is also right to talk about children. Everybody's doing it. There has never been a time in Western civilization when the human young have been so much in the spotlight. Today children are both seen and heard. They are studied, programmed, and exploited. The commercial value of parental pride is well-known to every photographer. Dr. Spock is a household name. Pediatrics is a flourishing branch of medicine. Education of the young is big business. The Pied Pipers of all these areas have brought children marching out to the front and center of the consciousness of our civilization. Nothing is too good for our children. Unfortunately, some of their religious education is certainly not too good for our children. God and children are here to stay; now is a very appropriate time to say something about both of them.

Steps and Stages

There is an old saying that children grow by "leaps and bounds." It really isn't true. They grow gradually in steps and stages. Modern psychological studies have made us sensitive to the steps and stages of children's developmentperhaps too sensitive. A rigid view of developmental stages seems to me to be a kind of scientific predestination which indicates that a child "should" be able to perform certain skills at certain stages. The implication is that if a child is not "performing according to grade level" he is retarded. Yet, it is helpful to know from the experimental psychologists how children can and do learn. It is not fair for Christian theology to acknowledge the advances medicine and similar education have brought to childhood due to psychological research
3. CF. Dibs, In Search of Self, the story of a child who had no formal religious instruction. Yet the God question was raised by him because of the external presence of a church building and because of his own internal quest for meaning. Virginia M. Axline, Dibs: In Search of Self (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1964). This is also available in paperback (New York: Ballantine Books, 1969).

SETTING THE STAGE 19 but insist there is nothing theology can learn from such studies. 4 Good science sticks to a description of what children can do. Good theology, in defining what children are expected to do, should pay attention to what scientific description says they can do. An adequate theology for children will need to take account of the steps and stages of childhood.5 It will need to adjust its vocabulary, examples, and teaching techniques to the stage of childhood it is addressing. An ideal theology for children would give specific examples and teaching techniques for all doctrines to all steps and stages of childhood development. It would require the lifetime of a team of technicians to produce such an encyclopedia. This book is more modest; it will attempt only to make suggestions about essential doctrines and their application to various agesusually the ages six through twelve. Full recognition is given to the steps and stages of childhood. Persons interested in a theology for children are advised to look also into the psychology and physiology of children, for they all are interpretations of a larger whole. They all are reading from the book of life. The theologian's special attention to the written Book of life should not blind him to the fact that the Author of life has written many volumes. Children grow in steps and stages and their theological pilgrimage must be aware of that fact.

Making Music
Theology is speech about God. Vocal music is sung speech. A children's theology can and ought to have a musical quality about it. This is true because music, like theology, is a universal idiom. I bring up the subject of music here because I want to use a musical illustration showing what a children's theology may do. The musical scale comprises the essential elements for making music. The various notes are the building blocks for all musical composition. In theology certain topics are like the notes of a musical scale. These
4. See Appendix A. 5. See the works of Jean Piaget, especially The Construction of Reality in the Child, Trans. by Margaret Cook. (New York: Ballantine Books, 1954); and as an introduction to Piaget, Hugh Rosen's Pathway to Piaget (Cherry Hill, New Jersey: Postgraduate International Inc., 1977), especially the bibliography of Piaget's works pp. 295-97; and for the views of Erik Erikson applied to theology and childhood see John J. Gleason, Jr. Crowing Up to God.



topics are the building blocks of theology. These topics are: revelation, God, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit, creation, providence, man, sin, church, Christian life, and last things. To be complete, a theology must use these notes. These topics and their satellite areas will be the major topics used in this book. Notes should fit together in a harmonious and satisfactory way. In musical terms this is theory. In practical musical composition a symphony is composed of all the elemental notes played in various and harmonious ways. The theory of theology is an awareness of logic, classical Christian thinking, and the composition of one's own tradition. A symphony is how music is put together. Theology must be put together so that everything fits. Theology is not just religious terms and tradition but a total outlook on all of life and how it goes together. This is theological theory, and we must pay attention to it. Children are quick to pick up sour notes, discordant opinions, and ideas that don't fit. In addition to notes and theory is an individual melody line. In an orchestra each instrument uses the notes and theory to play its own melody. A melody line is essential in theology too. The melody line in theology is the way each individual appropriates God's grace and contributes his own distinctive composition within the framework of the whole. Good theology must allow for variation and creativity within the guidelines of a theory which uses the essential notes. Those who work with children scarcely need to be told that each child has his own melody line. God's Spirit in redemption fits his gifts to the gifts of God's Spirit in creation. Theology must have all these musical elementsthe notes, the theory, and the melody line. It's time to put together a theological musicale which will combine the given, the guidelines, and the individual comprehension. A theology for children may start softly and at a very elemental level. If the notes and theory are there, the individual can use them to make great and beautiful music. Theology is speech about God. It can also be sung speech to the glory of God, and I feel it ought to be.

Four Questions

Learning requires good questions. Teaching requires good answers. Sooner or later the growing child will ask about reality, value, knowing, and expressing. Children do not mind asking questions. Asking questions is a way to learn. It is also a way to irritate and exasperate. Asking questions is a way of drawing attention to the self. It is a subtle way of challenging authority. It is an indirect way of pointing out the mistakes of others. Bothersome sometimes are the children who are always asking questions. Blessed are the people who will patiently answer children's questions. Four questions provide the right foundations for theology. They are questions which philosophers have debated and which children inevitably ask.

Different Levels of Reality

The first stages of a child's learning depend on certain elemental recognitions. What is real is what provides our needs: the need for food, the need for shelter, the need for being touched. These needs cannot be met all the time, so we learn anticipation. Anticipation is the expected reappearance of the one who meets our needs. We also learn the physical properties of what meets our needs. Bottles are more readily reached for by babies than are church books. Children move from distinguishing only desired objects to an exploration of all objects. In this process they become self-conscious of themselves as one object among many. They and we begin to reflect on the fact that we can reflect. For example, an awareness of geography is extended by trips, by a study of maps, and by reading. Learning involves an awareness of different types of reality: there is the three-dimensional reality of people and things and the twodimensional reality of books, pictures, and television. There is the interior dimension of reality which is illustrated by daydreaming and night dreaming. There is the constructed dimension of reality which is 21



fostered by imagination and built by extension of previous experiences to the not yet physically experienced.1 I mention these ways of knowing and these dimensions of reality because building bridges from these to theological knowledge is important. Reinforce all dimensions of a child's experience as being real. Name, describe, and illustrate different kinds of reality. Do not label physical objects as real and mental images as unreal. If anything, give priority to the mental, the imaginative, the nonphysical aspects of reality. The importance of recognizing and affirming all levels of reality came home to a friend of mine who was an exasperated grandmother. She was caring for her young grandson who was at the imaginary playmate stage. She was a very no-nonsense kind of person and warned him sternly against any further talks about Herman, his imaginary playmate. Then she called the grandson to lunch, bowed her head, and asked the blessing. The grandchild's question was a classic, "Grandma, who were you talking to?" The point is well-taken. We cannot expect to teach children about a spiritual realm if we regard as "real" only that which is physical. One reason fairy stories and comic books appeal so much to children is because these works contain personifications of abstract characteristics in believable forms. Children may never have seen any of childhood literature's celebrated little folk; but they can conceptualize a whole force of realities working for justice, to bring delight, to help children out of difficult places. Not even fathers are supermen. But to imagine that someone is not bound to our ordinary way of doing things is important. Justice requires a helper who can catch the crooks and do the extraordinary in making everything right. A scientific society will be all too quick to deny the reality of spirit1. Much has been written about the reality and privacy of the imagination. Laurens Van Der Post, in Jung and the Story of Our Time says: "Dreams from the beginning meant something to me that they did not to the grown-up. . . . They would pass sentence on one's dreaming process with a phrase that filled me with dismay: 'But my dear boy, it was only a dream.' . . . Growing up . . . began to look not so much like a process of growth as a dangerous reduction to a 'but only' state, and made me fear it accordingly . . . the fear is still with me" (New York: Random House, 1975). Rousseau said "The first speech was all in poetry; reasoning was thought of only long afterwards." in "Essai sur iorigne des langues." Quoted from Edmund Leach, Claude Levi-Strauss, Penguin Modern Masters (New York: Penguin Books, 1970), p. 37.



ually and mentally constructed patterns of reality. Those forms of education which prize exclusively physical experiments and stress the concrete to the exclusion of the abstract are hazards to a child's theological development. A danger exists in recognizing the imaginative and intellectual constructions as real. Critics, both sophisticated and otherwise, point out that we have tied God to the imagination. In fact, as Freud said, God is a product of our imaginationa cosmic need filler. Surely, Bible stories must not be presented in the same classification as fairy tales and fables. Theology must unite the best of both worlds. Since a child's learning apparatus is inevitably tied to the physical world, we must offer some definitive manifestations of God. Since the abstract and the imagination are parts of reality, they also must be involved in a description of God, the deepest reality. Physical manifestations of God and his work do exist. The physical world around us is the most observable. Make plaster handprints of your children. Ask the question, Where is God's handprint? Using the extension of a map or globe, indicate that all the world is God's handprint. The physical manifestations of God in the Old Testament are preliminary ways of preparing for the highest physical manifestation of God. The point at which God is most physical is in the coming of Jesus Christ. Do not portray Jesus as an otherworldly spirit. When you do this you are undermining that key concrete instance in which God manifested himself physically. Stress also the anticipated active role of God in the end when he changes the world he first made into a new world of his design. God's physical activity in the beginning, at the end, and especially in the decisive middle of human history is very physical. We call this the immanent-incarnational principle. Do not be afraid to stress these tangible acts of God in physical reality. God is also spirit, and spirit is more akin to the abstract, the mental, and logical constructions of existence. Therefore, God is not bound to the physical. He has given physical manifestations of himself. But he cannot be permanently captured in or by the physical. Children will not expect to see him physically now. The physical evidences of his being are real indicators of his deeper reality as spirit. Poetry, music, and the imaginative are good ways of expressing the spiritual God. Do not hesitate to express and stress the real realm of spirit, mind, and imagination in portraying God. These different ways of learning and looking at reality set the stage for the first question, the question about reality.



A THEOLOGY FOR CHILDREN The Question of Reality

What is real? All we can see is real. What else is real? All we can envision and imagine is also real. What is the highest expression of reality? God who enters the physical but is not bound to it is the highest reality. God who can be described in terms of the abstract and the imaginative is the highest reality. God is the highest reality, for he can enter the physical; but he is not bound by it. God is the highest reality, for he can be described by the imaginative realm of spirit; but he has likewise demonstrated himself physically. What makes theology different from physics is that God is not just physical. What makes God's story different from imaginative stories is that God can be described in spiritual terms, but he has also entered our physical, historical existence. If we exclude the spiritual, the mental, the logical, and the imaginary as being real, we will have cut off any means of describing the spiritual dimensions of God. All forms of materalism, ideological or commercial, have done just that. On the other hand, if we describe God only in terms of abstract qualities, we have excluded him from the world and have done away with the incarnation, his coming to be with us in Jesus Christ. In response to the child's question, What is real? be sure that both the physical and the spiritual dimensions of reality are explained and acknowledged as real. God perfectly embodies both of these dimensions. The physical and the spiritual are two classifications of what is real. The one example of uniting and illustrating both of these dimensions of reality is God.

The Reality of Spiritual Beings Angels are examples of spiritual existence, and we will discuss them later. But we will have no way of discussing any spiritual reality with children if we have not stressed the reality of a dimension beyond the physical. Ordinarily we do not associate physical properties with the angels. Nevertheless, we give them some visual descriptions, for children cannot think in pure abstractions. The question may be raised as to whether adults can either. When angels, as the messengers of God, enter our physical world, they are given some type of physical appearance. However, their message or their deeds are always stressed and seldom their appearance. Angels are examples of spiritual beings.



The Reality of People People are made in the image of God, and they have both a physical dimension and a spiritual dimension. But people do not perfectly combine these two dimensions. For people are bound in their physical dimension, and they are open to error and serious mistakes in their spiritual dimension. We are correct when we say that boys and girls have a physical makeup. They have a social and psychological makeup, and they have a spiritual makeup which should give purpose and harmony to the whole of life. Whatever ways you use to demonstrate the theology of who people are, try not to divide them into too easily separated parts because people are meant to fit together as whole persons. The Reality of Animals Animals are also real, and they are a part of God's creation. To stress the place animals have served in the created order is right. Animals have a physical dimension and a psychological and social dimension. Animals are essentially different from persons because they do not have the ultimate, spiritual dimension which people have. The place and purpose of animals and their destiny will be discussed later. At this point I bring them in to acknowledge that they too are real, a part of the created order. They, too, are the creatures of God. Any discussion of what is real could not exclude the animals. The Reality of Matter The physical matter of life is also real. This would include rocks, trees, flowers, and food. It includes also all of the things out of which people make things. Making things is an important way to talk about God because it gives children a chance to imitate the creative arts of God. Making things also gives an opportunity to discuss who provides the material out of which all things are made. In a manufacturingfabricating society, an important task is to lead children directly back to the source of even our manufactured goods. When asked who made the paper a child is using to make something, a bright child might reply a paper company. A wise teacher could use the opportunity to trace the paper beyond the manufacturer to its ultimate Creator. As we depend more and more on manufactured products, we will tend to exclude God from the process unless we intentionally trace the stuff of manufactured



goods back to its ultimate possibility and origin in God. What is real? Everything that is is real. Everything includes God who is fully real. Angels are examples of spiritual reality. People are both physically and spiritually real. Animals are physically and psychologically real. And material things are physically real. There are many ways to describe all of reality. These ways include both experimentation and imagination. God is the only one who guarantees reality and gives all reality meaning.

The Question of Value

The first question in any adequate and basic theology is the question of being. The second question is the question of value. The question about value asks, What is good? Everything should be good because God made it, and God is good. But everything is not good. Everything can be good. And, eventually, God will secure the goodness of his creation by shutting away all that which is bad. Meanwhile children know very well that everything is not good. Adults know very well that even good things can become bad. So we live with this contradiction of labels. The good and the bad are both real. Both labels are necessary to explain the other. But Christian faith insists that good is the prior and more important and more enduring label. Labels and categories are necessary. They ought to be correct and helpful. Children learn very quickly what to call things and people. They learn from us. Our senses tell us that things are one thing and not another. We feel what is cold and what is hot. We smell what is unpleasant and what is pleasant. We taste what is sweet and what is sour. We hear what is loud and what is soft. We see what is red and what is green. Categories and our value judgments are, at first, passed on to the child by parents and by the culture. We do not say we touch good and bad. Good and bad are not terms that apply to the senses; they are value judgments about worth and desirability. Having categories and labels, such as good and bad, is essential to a child's self-preservation and development. What is important is that these labels be used carefully and correctly. Both children and adults need to withhold their judgments about people, ideas, and things until they have explored them carefully before labeling them. Theology provides guidelines for these labels, and children learn their theology from parents and church workers who do not always reflect



before they classify. That is not good. It is bad. Bad is as real as good. Children will come to be aware of this. We make a mistake in teaching children when we talk only about the good and the positive. We are correct to stress the good and the positive because that reflects the intention of God. But bad must have its share of the conversation. The devil will have his due, but no more than he is due, please. Evil is real, and an adequate theology for children will provide a reflective base for recognizing, avoiding (when possible), and knowing what to do with evil. The question of good leads to the question of the best. And that is my concern in this section. In teaching children about values, we need to give them some handles and tools, some categories for looking at and deciding about good and bad. The history of thought has suggested several of these categories. I would like to translate them in a very elementary way, so that we can help children in using them. Being. Being is good. It is better than not being. But being is an abstraction. In reality, we already are something. We divide being into many fragments. We are girls or boys. We are rich or poor. We are happy or sad. We are Americans or British. We are black or red. This statement may sound like Dr. Seuss, but it is very profound: Without being we would not be. Much of our being is simply given to us; we did not choose it. Help children to see that what is given to us is not necessarily good or bad. It is different. Not everything must be described in moral terms. Only those things which persons can choose should be classified as good or bad in a moral sense. To be a boy or a girl is neither morally good nor morally bad. It is a fact of existence. To be black or red is neither good nor bad. It is a matter of skin pigment. Being is important. We did not choose many of the things we are. Being is a helpful way to describe what things are. Decisions about becoming something good or bad may be labeled good or bad decisions. Help the children keep good and bad in the realm of decisions that lead to becoming. Help boys and girls affirm that people participate hi some forms of being which are neither good nor bad. They are just different. Having. Having is another category which can help us in our labeling of good and bad. Workers with children should not stress that having is bad. Having more than we need is bad. Having things we have gotten dishonestly is bad. Having things for the sake of having things is bad. Having things which enrich life is good. Having things we need to sur-



vive is good. Having things in order to share is particularly good. If we are to be, we must have. What we choose to be and how we use what we have may be good or bad. Knowing. Knowing is another way to determine values. You will be helping children to know. Knowing implies discernment and ability to grasp. Knowing is a way to goodness. It is also a path to evil. But more than knowing must be involved if the good is to be realized. There are different ways of knowing, and you will recognize this as you work with children. An ability to memorize, to retain facts to give right answers, is called head knowledge. Knowing based on experience and trust is called heart knowledge. Another kind of knowing acts on the basis of what it "knows." All of these are a part of faith. As you work with children you will have opportunities to bring their good knowing into good doing. Doing. Doing is another of those general terms useful in describing good and bad. Acts and deeds are as capable of being good and bad as are what we are, what we have, and what we know. The letter of James places a priority on doing as a way of determining good and bad. A strong case could be made that doing primarily determines good and bad. But be reminded that doing for doing's sake can become mere activism. Just doing things can be neutral. The purpose and intent of our doing determines if the deed is good or bad. Children know that sometimes just doing nothing is important. This is a lesson adults could learn from children. Which then is the realm of deciding good and bad? Is it being? Or having? Or knowing? Or doing? Obviously it is all of these and putting all of these together that helps us be able to talk about good and bad. Relating. Relating is the term I would use as a way of putting life together. Relating is an arena for categorizing good and evil. What we are is demonstrated by how we relate to what we have, what we know, what we do. I prefer to use relationship as the most desirable category useful in describing good. This is because I feel that God's goodness to the world is best described in terms of a relationship called grace. Our good or evil is determined by our relationship to God. And our relationship to him is demonstrated in our relationship to ourselves and to one another. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God . . . and . . . thy neighbor as thy self (Matt. 22:37-39, KJV). Love may be described as the exercise of a nourishing and healthy relationship. Loving is a life-giving process toward self and others.



The terms being, having, knowing, doing, and relating give us an arena for determining good and bad. They do not provide the standard for what is good or bad. A person's life does not consist in what he possesses. But it does consist in how he relates to God, the ground of all being; to all other human beings; to the self with its possessions, its knowledge, and its actions. What you may help your children understand is that relationships are the fabric of life. And the way in which you relate to children may have a very important influence on how they perceive God's relationship to them. What you are trying to do, both for yourself and them, is to help bring about a relationship of grace with God. That makes possible right relationships in every other area of life. This is good.

The Question of Knowing

The third basic question essential to theology is the question about knowing. An easy and good answer to the question of how we know about God is found in a favorite children's song: "Jesus loves me! this I know,/For the Bible tells me so." Children do receive much of their knowledge by formal instruction. This involves hearing, memorizing, repeating. Children usually believe what they are told by people they trust and respect. Those who work with children in religious education should be the kinds of people whom children can trust and believe. The basic authority figures in a theological education of children are parents, teachers at church, and ministers. Children know by hearing and believing what adults say. The weight of that responsibility should not be taken lightly. Modern psychologists and educators suggest that the attitude of the teacher and learning activity are equally as important in the child's learning as the material he is taught. This means that context and motivation for knowing are integral to the process of knowing. The knowledge of God cannot be placed in a vacuum. Bound up with the question of how a child knows God is the related question of how a child knows anything. The technical aspects of learning are well described by such scientists of learning as Jean Piaget.2 Ways of thinking are important, for if we apply wrong models of thinking, we will
2. The Construction of Reality in the Child talks about the wider question as to how children learn and think.



come up with wrong questions and answers in the theological training of the child. Experimenting. Experimenting is a way of thinking that knows because it works things out. This experimental way of knowing is the most highly prized in modern scientific society. The basic method of this working out kind of knowledge is experiment. It is a very convincing way to know, and one can "prove" this kind of knowing by seeing the practical results. For example, take your children into a room with several doors and let them experiment in finding their way to various places. Medical research finds out what will work to relieve pain or to cure a disease by experiment. Knowing by experimenting is very convincing. It can also be very expensive. I do not mean only financially expensive but expensive in other ways as well. If one has to know that fire will burn only by being burned, that's a high price to pay for knowledge. Experimenting with drugs is appropriate in biological laboratories. It can be very expensive for children and adolescents. There can and ought to be experimenting and experiencing in learning spiritual and theological truths. For example, various methods of prayer and Bible study can and should be used to see which is most effective. We are not wrong to speak about experiments in prayer. But we would be incorrect to use the experimental method to try to prove theology along the models of chemistry, medicine, and modern scientific research. Some years ago one of my students was greatly disappointed because scientists did not find evidence of God through the new, magnified lens in the telescope at Mount Palomar. He was assuming that God could be seen by scientific technology. In our age of space exploration, children have problems in their knowledge about God if they are taught that God "lives in heaven" only in a spatial sense. The best way for children to know theological truth by experience is for them to see it working in the lives of those who are teaching them theological truth. Ethics, the way we act, is the best experimental truth of theology, what we believe. As I indicated earlier, good theology is both belief and action. Our generation places an almost exclusive emphasis on knowing by experiment. Several important theological ideas cannot be known by experience. We cannot know what being God is like because we are not God. We cannot experiment with being fully divine and fully human because we are not Christ. We cannot experiment with being unhin-

dered by our physical makeup because we are not completely spirit. Experience and experiment can help us know many things. But we need to know that we cannot know everything by experiment. Reflecting. A second way of knowing is by working things out in our minds. This way of knowing is called logical knowing. Even good experimental knowing also involves a logical knowing. Use again the example of children in a room with many doors. They will reflect on the doors before they try them. If windows are in the west wall, but none in the east, the children will probably go west to get outside. This conclusion is based on previous experience of going outside through doors near windows which show the outside. But more than previous experience is at work in the decision. Deduction, the logical thought process, is also at work. People are intellectually different from all other forms of physical life because they can apply this logical thinking to very involved and abstract problems. Mathematics is one advanced form of logical thinking. Philosophy and theology are other forms of a logical way of knowing. There are at least two kinds of logical thinking. I will call them straight-line thinking and back-and-forth thinking. Straight-line thinking excludes all possibilities so it can grasp the one correct answer. Straight-line thinking is essential in basic arithmetic. One plus one plus one can only equal three. A great deal of certainty and counter proving is done in straight-line thinking. Straight-line thinking is helpful when thinking about God also. For example, God is great, and God is good. If great means being able to do what one wants to do, then God can do anything. If what God wants is the standard of good, then what God does not want is not good. This is elemental thinking, and much theology is built on it. Just as experimental thinking cannot help us in all theological truths, straight-line thinking also cannot express everything we want to say about God. Much of what we say about God will use the back-and-forth pattern of logical thinking. The back-and-forth pattern of thinking sees both sides of everything. It moves to an expression of truth by saying both yes and no and deals very cautiously before it speaks. This back-and-forth method of logical knowing is willing to acknowledge seeming contradictions. It does not have the certainty of straight-line mathematical knowledge, but it has an assurance that is willing to take risks. For example, one plus one plus one does equal three in mathematics. It does



not when we are talking about the threefoldness of God. In straight-line thinking, God is not man and man is not God. But back-and-forth thinking permits an exception where there is one mysterious instance of one being both God and man, namely Jesus. I am making these very involved distinctions here because I must confess a fondness for the back-and-forth kind of thought. I feel it answers the child's questions about God better than a purely straight-line approach to thinking about God. You may want to reread these sections about knowing, for I will often refer to these terms throughout the book. For example, is God a God of love or a'God of wrath? Straight-line thinking would make these terms opposite, and therefore, God could not be both. But back-andforth thinking will define these terms so that God is both, without contradiction. You and your children will be helped if both you and they know that all knowledge is not drawn from experiments, and all knowledge does not have to fit a mathematical straight-line pattern of thinking. A way of knowing that allows for exceptions and mystery is the backand-forth way of knowing. A third way of knowing is called hunch knowing. The technical word for hunch knowing is intuition. Intuition cannot be described in formal language because it doesn't follow uniform rules. Our grandparents may have used the expression "I feel it in my bones." Trusting lovers have exclaimed, "I don't know how I know, I just know." Perhaps the great hunch thinker Pascal said it best: "The heart has its reasons that reason knows not of." Anyone who works with children will come to respect hunch knowing. Hunch knowing can be very dangerous as a basis for asserting theological truths. But hunch knowing can also be very valuable in setting us toward the right question in theology. We can use again the example of the children in the room with many doors. If the child is blindfolded and cannot see the west wall, he still may go to it by intuition. Even scientists should not despise hunch knowing, for almost every major step forward in Western scientific studies has come on the basis of a hunch. Perhaps the best-known example of this is Newton's hunch about gravity, based on the experience of the falling apple.' You cannot prove hunches. But they can set you to thinking in
3. A great philosopher of science has written a book about the development of science according to hunches. Thomas Kiihn, Structures of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1970).



such a way that you can demonstrate your hunches are correct. Which way of knowing shall we choose for theological thinking? All of them. God cannot be demonstrated like chemical formulas. But the results of what God can do with human lives can and has been demonstrated. Knowing by experimenting is important in theology, even if it cannot be used as the only way of knowing about theology. Thinking about God and applying reason to the revelation of God is essential to our talking about God. Straight-line thinking will help us exclude undesirable and illogical elements in our theological teachings. Backand-forth thinking will permit us to have mystery, exceptions, and humility in our discussions about God. Hunch thinking can lead us to ask questions about God which can then be confirmed and demonstrated by our first two ways of thinking. But how can we teach children to think about thinking? Here are a few suggestions. To help increase experimental thinking use drama, life-situation role playing, theologically correct learning situations. Experiment yourself with teaching methods and activities which show both the goodness of God and the responsive appreciation of your children. Give a play about the good Samaritan in modern terms and modern dress. Let the children tell you how this demonstrates what God would do. To illustrate logical thinking use some of the following. For straightline thinking, use problem-solving situations (For example, if you have six sheep and four goats, how many animals do you have?), use map reading of both Bible lands and modern places, or use some of the confrontations of Jesus with those opposed to him and ask the student to figure out a good response. For back-and-forth thinking, use riddles and leading questions which have multiple answers. As an example, ask if a short man can be tall. In telling the story of Zacchaeus you can use backand-forth thinking and illustrate the need to think about different kinds of reality. Many of the teachings of Jesus and his parables are useful to demonstrate back-and-forth thinking. The rich man went away poor. The poor man is rich (Luke 15). The last is first and the first is last in a parable about the attitudes of pride and humility. The only way I know to promote intuition or hunch knowledge is to listen to and encourage children's creative thoughts. From these thoughts build by reflection and experiment toward solid theological insights. If a child tries frivolous and distracting acts and stories to



own. Today we are far enough removed from the religious persecution our forefathers endured that we should join other Christian communities in the use of Christian signs and symbols that are compatible with our theology. Surely the cross is the central fact of the Christian faith, and we should show and tell our children about the cross. Another nonverbal way of teaching theology is called body language. There are a number of books that call attention to how people stand, sit, and use their bodies. Body language is a fascinating subject because there are cultural and ethnic uses of the body as well as each individual's own posture.4 Since Christian theology has at its center an incarnational principle, the care of and attention to the body is a vital corollary of Christian teaching. The posture, appearance, and health of a children's worker all say something about one's understanding of God and the self. Games can be used to teach theology. Much adult life today is being studied under the principle that adult life is lived by playing roles and games.5 Studies of childhood games reveal children are "saying" something in their play that they feel very deeply but do not want to express in more serious ways.6 A good idea is to plan theological games. When one saves theology only for serious conversation, a tenseness about agreement/disagreement, orthodoxy/heresy develops which prevents free expression. Children can and do tell us many things about God when they act out roles and play games. Do not always provide the script or setting for this kind of theological learning. Let the children provide their scripts and then relate their ideas to the "scripts" of Scripture and theological ideas. Sometimes theological language can pass the barriers posed by formal theological learning. At such a time "(the) play is the thing." Verbal ways of communicating theology are also important in the theological education of children. Words are part of the essential fabric of human life. When children begin to speak and correctly identify people and objects, we know they have begun the rational process of
4. One example is Manwatching by Desmond Morris. This book is particularly significant for those who teach mixed ethnic and racial groups in helping them understand the posture of other people. (New York: Abrams, 1977). 5. Cf. Eric Beme, Games People Play (New York: Grove Press, 1964) and subsequent works written from that perspective. 6. See One Potato, Two Potato, by Mary and Herbert Knapp (New York: Norton Press, 1972).



own. Today we are far enough removed from the religious persecution our forefathers endured that we should join other Christian communities in the use of Christian signs and symbols that are compatible with our theology. Surely the cross is the central fact of the Christian faith, and we should show and tell our children about the cross. Another nonverbal way of teaching theology is called body language. There are a number of books that call attention to how people stand, sit, and use their bodies. Body language is a fascinating subject because there are cultural and ethnic uses of the body as well as each individual's own posture.4 Since Christian theology has at its center an incarnational principle, the care of and attention to the body is a vital corollary of Christian teaching. The posture, appearance, and health of a children's worker all say something about one's understanding of God and the self. Games can be used to teach theology. Much adult life today is being studied under the principle that adult life is lived by playing roles and games.5 Studies of childhood games reveal children are "saying" something in their play that they feel very deeply but do not want to express in more serious ways.6 A good idea is to plan theological games. When one saves theology only for serious conversation, a tenseness about agreement/disagreement, orthodoxy/heresy develops which prevents free expression. Children can and do tell us many things about God when they act out roles and play games. Do not always provide the script or setting for this kind of theological learning. Let the children provide their scripts and then relate their ideas to the "scripts" of Scripture and theological ideas. Sometimes theological language can pass the barriers posed by formal theological learning. At such a time "(the) play is the thing." Verbal ways of communicating theology are also important in the theological education of children. Words are part of the essential fabric of human life. When children begin to speak and correctly identify people and objects, we know they have begun the rational process of
4. One example is Manwatching by Desmond Morris. This book is particularly significant for those who teach mixed ethnic and racial groups in helping them understand the posture of other people. (New York: Abrams, 1977). 5. Cf. Eric Beme, Games People Play (New York: Grove Press, 1964) and subsequent works written from that perspective. 6. See One Potato, Two Potato, by Mary and Herbert Knapp (New York: Norton Press, 1972).



thought. This beginning grows into a very complicated web of communication. With children we should use simple words. This means we will have to break down, illustrate, and find simple synonyms for our theological vocabulary. I will try in this book to give examples of simplification and translation of theological terms. That is a demanding task and a never-ending one for all who work with children. We also need to say a few words about words themselves. To me all words are symbols. A verbal symbol is a term which describes reality and participates in the reality of what is described, but a symbol cannot exhaust reality. Three classes of verbal symbols are: common symbols, technical symbols, and poetic symbols. If you help children understand that all words are symbols, you will give them better tools for describing all types of reality. Many adults make the distinction of literal and symbolic when they interpret the Bible. This is unfortunate because literal is then played off against symbolic and literal is said to be better and more real than symbolic. This distinction places too much of a premium on physical reality and too little emphasis on spiritual reality. One way to avoid this literal versus symbolic meaning in Scripture is to realize that all words are symbolic. Let me illustrate the different types of verbal symbols. The term water is a common symbol to all people who speak English. People thirst. People have thirst quenched by drinking water. The five letter word w-a-t-e-r is not actually water. But it is a symbol for an actual and understood experience. Most of the Bible is written in common symbols: life, death, marriage, happiness, hot days, rain, and good food. All of these symbols have an apparent and an easily understood meaning. Explain common symbols to the child and ask him to name several common objects which everyone knows about. Theology also involves technical symbols. Every profession and special study has its own supply of technical verbal symbols. HtO is a technical symbol chemists use for water. One of the most difficult parts of any type of education is breaking into the new jargon of that area of study. Ask a child whose father is a mechanic to share some of the technical terms his father uses in his work. Be aware that theology also is a technical subject. Never take for granted that your children understand even the most frequently used holy words. You might well ask yourself what all of the terms mean in the hymns you sing in next Sunday's church service. All of us have sung the phrase "here I raise mine Ebe-



nezer" in the hymn "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing." What does it mean to raise an "Ebenezer"? People can be familiar with words and even use them in acceptable ways. But I am convinced that until we can define our technical words in more than a technical way we do not understand those words as well as we should. Ask your children to define a list of theological terms. Their explanations may not be technical. But they are often very profound. Technical, verbal symbols are the working tools of every study. This is also true of theology. One mistake of modern education is to assume that children are smarter, more competent, or even betterin the sense of preferableif they know and master technical symbols. This is an unfortunate prejudice. Neither common or technical symbols are better or worse. They are different ways of expressing reality. Those who guide the theological development of children need to know that children can learn the technical verbal symbols of theology and use all of the proper terms and still not be able to apply or define those terms to everyday life. And I would venture that children are not the only ones who do this. A third kind of verbal symbol is the poetic symbol. Much of life's deepest meaning is expressed in poetic symbols. Many parts of the Bible are written in poetic symbolism. "Water of life" is a poetic symbol. Children and others will need much help in translating poetic symbols into common symbols and experience. We must give children this help ii they are to value much of the Bible and if they are to maintain a poetic vision in life that will appreciate the full range of what is real. Do not leave the impression that common symbols are better, preferred, or more real than poetic symbols. Once again we need to remind ourselves that they are different ways of looking at reality. Use the Gospel of John and pick out many of the common words which are used to express poetic symbols and deep spiritual truths. Consider, for example, the terms bread, light, life, door, and shepherd. If you are fortunate enough to have bilingual students in your group, ask them to translate a simple conversation into their second language. Then do some theological translating from common words to technical words to poetic words. This will increase more than your children's vocabulary. It will help the children experience life in different keys. A skilled musician can translate (transpose) music from one key to another. A skilled children's worker will leam to be an effective translater.



We show and tell what we know in nonverbal and in verbal ways. Both are needed to get the message across. We have stressed that reality is of different kinds. In deciding how to put together what we value, we interwove being, having, knowing, and doing on the loom of relating. Just as these are differing types of reality these are different ways of knowing what is real. An effective knowledge of theology will include all of our ways of knowing. These are the four broad bases that are the markers for the game. Whether explicitly or implicitly your children will ask, What is real? What is good? How do I know? How do I show and tell? These questions and their answers are something to think about so that we can think about God better.

The Curtain Opens

An infant can easily get in touch with its mother. The baby cries, calls, or expresses a need. The growing child gets in touch with friends by being with them at play. Even absent grandparents can be reached by phone. Leaders of government and sports heroes who shape the news are photographed and appear on television. Where, then, is God? How does a child get in touch with God? A child may suppose that God is only a historical figure like George Washington or Napoleon. Since people from the past are known primarily through books and it is, indeed, a book which tells us about God, a natural assumption would be that God lived long ago and far away. Thinking of God as living only in the past is one of the early mistakes of a "child's theology" which must later be corrected. This mistake can be avoided in two ways. One way to make the past be present is to represent the past so that it lives again. Both baptism and the Lord's Supper are re-presenting the past by visual symbols. Historical dramas and pageants are secular ways of re-presenting the past. 1 One effective means of making Bible stories come alive is to act them out. The best and most effective way of testing the truths of Jesus' teachings is to act them out in everyday life. A second way to stress the significance of the past is to give it better public relations. History is suffering from a bad press image. We need to find ways of demonstrating to our children that the past is as important as the present. Use, for example, a child's blocks to build a tower. Demonstrate what happens when the lower blocks are pulled out. This is a vivid illustration that the present is built on the past. We do not exist without the past. Illustrate that fact with the obvious relationship of parents and children. We have our present existence because of the past. God is not only in the past but also in the
1. Christianity could learn much about historical representation and the effectiveness of presenting faith through festivals from Judaism. See especially, The Jewish Encyclopedia in loco.




present. The child must see living representations of God's actions in the present to be convinced of this.

The Drama of Redemption

The acts of God can be portrayed as a drama. Role playing and dramas are helpful ways to view human life. Drama is a useful tool because it lets us be objective about the actions. We are able to observe, agree with, sympathize, and resist what others do. If we watch carefully, we catch the plot and see the outcome. Mimes do drama without words. A skillful mime can illustrate his play in nonverbal ways. The drama of redemption includes both words and acts. In order to understand the play, one must see all the acts. In order to know how God works, one must cooperate with God in presenting, and re-presenting, and anticipating what he does.

Come to the Play Intentional drama requires a cast, a plot, a place to present it, and an audience. Children will want to come to the play. But they have to know where the play takes place. God's theater is an open-air theaterthe world. We will expect to find his drama taking place in our world. A theater has its own function and importance. It should be well-constructed to accomplish its purpose. Visit the sanctuary of your church. You or the parents of some of your children may know the architect or builders of the church. You are particularly fortunate if you worship in a church which the congregation has helped build. Suggest to the children that the sanctuary is where the drama of worship takes place. Here the participants tell the drama of redemption. However, God does not live in church buildings. God's theater is a larger one. It is the entire created order. When you stress the world as the theater of redemption, you help the child see the world as a special place where something important happens. By highlighting the beauty of the building, you can illustrate the care and planning that God has given. Acknowledging that there are many things about the building that are neither beautiful nor useful is equally important. We will explore later where these aspects of the building came from. The world in which a child lives is the world God made. In that theater the drama of life is taking place. But there is a central stage where the drama that


gives meaning to all of life takes place. This is the area of God's plan and special story. In order to recognize this special drama, it needs to be distinguished from all of the other dramas in life and to be related to them. Making a distinction between two wordsdiscovery and revelationwill be helpful. Discovery is what persons do in everyday life. God has planted the possibility of every invention. People discover, develop, and bring to usefulness the possibilities God has planted. God has provided the props for the drama of life. Every advance in science, medicine, and technology is a discovery of what God has made possible in the theater of life. Mankind must live with its discoveries. We may use them for good or bad. It is both a painful and a pleasurable part of life that we have to live with our inventions and discoveries. The other word is revelation. The word actually means drawing back the curtain. When the term is used in theology, it means that God draws back the curtain. He draws back the curtain to reveal the central plot of the drama of life's meaning. God reveals himself and truths about himself which cannot otherwise be known. I entitled this chapter "The Curtain Opens" because this is a chapter about God's revelation. That title conveys something of the excitement and mystery of the divine drama. A child needs to know that mankind can discover many things. But mankind cannot completely discover God. God must reveal himself. The central drama of the meaning of life is directed from his side. The stage in which all life is played is God's buildinghis creation. To know about God, a child will need to be aware that the central drama comes from God in a distinctive way. This script cannot be discovered. It must be revealed. The drama unfolds. God opens the curtain. There are three acts in the divine drama.

Act ^Manifestation
Act 1 describes God's actions in entering our history. It tells the reason he came into our world. It names the means he used to tell his story. Act 1 also identifies the chief character in the divine drama. In the concluding scenes of this act, clues are given as to how we as Christians can best make our distinctive claims and how we can look at the religious beliefs different from our own. The name of act 1 is manifestation. Manifestation means that God acted and spoke in one normative



scenario which reveals his meaning and purpose for all actions in the theater of creation. Act 1 is primarily in the past. It is unknowable and incomprehensible without acts 2 and 3.

The Purpose of the Play God is greater than mankind. He is related to everything that exists because he is not bound by physical limits. He wrote the play and built the theater. It is a kind and good act that the author and architect steps into his theater and brings us his own drama. Explain to children that grace is God's act in coming into his own world to tell us the meaning and purpose of his world. God's acts come in history. His cast appeared in our kind of time and space. We can help children by telling them about Bible lands. The excellent pictures, slides, films, and filmstrips available are tools to help make these places where God's definitive drama unfolded become real. The basic purpose in teaching biblical geography to the child is to stress that God really acted in human history and in particular places on earth. Without this dimension of historical action, the Christian message would be only timeless truth. It occurred in history. History is an act and an interpretation. We will be as concerned with the interpretation of God's acts as we are with the acts themselves. The whole purpose of God's act in manifesting himself in history is to bring about a redemptive relationship between himself and his creation. Avoid using God as an argument settler or as one who gives holy information about all his secrets to his people so they can satisfy their curiosity. Knowing about God is not intended so much to make us smart as to make us good. God's first act was entering history for purposes of establishing a redemptive relationship with his creation. A redemptive relationship is one which accomplishes what God wants to do. Avoid leaving the impression that what God wants is selfish and autocratic. What God wants for his creation is what is best for his creation. And this is often an expensive and painful thing. God himself bears much of this expense and pain. The Actors God chooses many ways to enter history. In fact, at one time or another, God used all of the kinds of things he created to reveal himself.



He used angels. He used visions of animal forms. He used stars, bushes, seas, wind, and clouds. He used people, men and women, boys and girls. He used the conscious state of people and the unconscious state of people (dreams, visions, etc.) to reveal himself. List categories of things God has made. In the course of Bible study, list, under its proper category, things God used to reveal himself. For example: Angels.Appeared to Abraham at Mamre; appeared to shepherds at Jesus' birth. People.Moses; David; Joseph; Isaiah; Paul. Animals. Baalam's ass; sheep as models of God's concern for men; the symbols of animals in Revelation to illustrate both good and evil. Things.The burning bush; loaves and fishes. Children need to know that God revealed himself through all kinds of people. God especially chose people whom we would not ordinarily expect to be used as religious leaders. He spoke psalms through a shepherd boy, David. He taught us about the need for missionaries to all people through his disobedient missionary, Jonah. He gave the major part of the drama of the early church to Paul, a man who had even persecuted the church. The expectation of our society that only superstars are successful is not a part of Christian theology. Ordinary children will be helped to know that God used ordinary people to act out the first part of his drama of redemption.

The Leading Role In every play there is a leading role. Jesus Christ, God's Son, has the leading role in the drama of God. You have told the children that the whole world is God's theater and that all life is a part of the creative drama. Even in his special drama of redemption, God has used some of each kind of his created order to open the curtain and reveal himself. The necessity of the divine drama would be very unclear if there were not one central character who brings into focus the fullest meaning and purpose of God. Christian theology is Christian theology because it affirms that Jesus is the fullest meaning, expression, and word (Logos) about God. Everyone who talks about God begins out of the assumption that God is. This is, ironically, true even of atheists who could not make a protest against God (theos) unless some people believed that God is. We should not hesitate to acknowledge to children that some people do not believe



in God. Children will discover this for themselves. And they will need sympathetic understanding in knowing how to accept the fact that some people do not believe in him whom we assert is the Center and Giver of all meaning. Our primary assumption is that God is. This assumption can be demonstrated in life better than it can be argued in abstractions. The first assumption of Christian theology is the assumption that God is. The second assumption of Christian theology is that Jesus gives us the clearest and best picture of who God is. Everyone lives out of his assumptions. Even in mathematics one does not prove his first assumptions, he demonstrates them. We are not required to prove that Jesus is the clearest picture of God. However, one is required to believe this if he is to be a Christian. Demonstrating and imitating God's creative and redemptive acts is one way of affirming our belief in God. Acting out the teachings of Jesus is more effective than arguing them. Perhaps you and the children you teach will enjoy the story of Nathan the Wise as an illustration that results are better than argument in affirming our faith. The story goes like this. There was a king who had a gold ring that would make people good, happy, and all that they should be. This king had three sons. He had two other rings made, but, although they looked like the magic ring, they did not possess its powers. He gave a ring to each son. The sons squabbled over who had the right ring. Only when one ceased to argue and began to live out of the power of his ring would he be able to demonstrate its magic. This is a helpful story for children who, following some of their elders, would rather argue about their faith than live by it. We shall see later how Jesus' claims and God's purpose form a powerful logical argument for Christian faith. Meanwhile children will need to know that living out their faith is better than arguing, in the popular sense of arguing, about religion.

The Critic's Review In a nonbelieving and religiously pluralistic society, even young children become aware that there are nonbelievers and people who believe differently from themselves and their parents. In most large cities several world religions are represented. I would like to give four attitudes people have taken in regard to the faith of others. I have a decided preference for one of them. These attitudes to other religions are not so much formal elements of what you will teach children as they are out-



looks and feelings you will share by the way you respond to other religions. This part of act 1 can be caught better than it can be taught. One view toward other religions is called the "they-are-of-the-devil" view. This attitude is often based on Old Testament passages hi which Israelite faith had to fight the gods of the other nations to survive. Modern Judaism does not continue with this attitude. Christians may blame the devil for other world religions, insisting that Christian mission efforts are harder because of other faiths. In reality, placing other world religions in the camp of the demonic is the poorest base for conducting the Christian mission. In world religions other than Christianity worthwhile humanitarian impulses exist. Christians will need to assign all good to God, who alone is good. It is better to see the humanitarian and valuable elements of other religions as oblique and more diffused insights which God has given than to assign outright all of their activities and insights to the evil one. A second attitude which some people share is what I call the stair-step approach. This attitude makes value judgments about other religions and places them on a scale of more valuable and less valuable. This is also called the comparative religion approach. People who use it ordinarily rank primitive religions very low and intellectual and sophisticated religious beliefs very high. The one who is building the stairstep inevitably reserves the top step for his own religious philosophy. Christians will believe that their faith is best. But that does not mean that they have to evaluate other religions on a scale of more or less desirable. When Jesus was faced by the focus of religious comparisons, he called attention to the practical outcome of faith and away from formal religious arguments about faith. Recall for example, the woman at the well (John 4) and the good Samaritan (Luke 10). Jesus' example is a worthy one. He never hesitated to express his own beliefs. To the prideful leaders of his human forefather's religion, he brought condemnation because of their attitude and misunderstanding of Judaism. Christianity was born on the roots of Israel's belief in God, as expressed hi the Old Testament. Jesus was not anti-Jewish. He was forcefully opposed to the pride of religious leaders who had distorted Jewish theology. In teaching children about the life of Jesus, do not leave the implication that all Jews were and are Pharisees. Pharisaism is a religious outlook that grows out of pride. Pharisaism fossilizes its beliefs to such an extent that no fresh interpretation is possible. Pharisaism resists and



resents all dissenting opinions. Pharisaism makes its own theological system into a legal network that resists fresh and creative acts and interpretationseven those which come from God. Christian history also has had its share of Pharisaism. Comparing faith by observing its fruit is better than judging faith by building ladders with rungs of comparison. A third way of looking at the religions of the world is very popular today. I call it the stew-pot method. Its formal name is eclecticism. Eclecticism is a philosophy which picks and chooses elements from all systems in order to build a super-religious system of its own. If making comparisons about other religions is not wise, supposing that they are all equally good or saying the same thing is not smart. Eclecticism is one of the most popular forms of dealing with various religious beliefs today. We want to be nice. We want to grant other people their beliefs too. And so we should. But this does not mean that we can construct a super religion from the best of all religions. This is a mistake in two directions. On the one hand, what each world religion considers to be its distinctive does not logically agree with what other religions consider as important in their faith. For example Buddhism feels that people can and must cleanse themselves of all desires. Christianity feels that sins are forgiven by God's gracious act to us in Jesus Christ and that God's forgiveness gives us the power to channel our desires in the right direction. One cannot bring together these logically opposite views into a supersystem, unless he wants a patchwork quilt which is not stitched together by the thread of consistency. On the other hand, this eclectic system denies the claim of world religions that they are revealed. If the God behind revelation does not unite belief into a common system, how can men expect to do so? We seem to have painted ourselves into a corner. On the one hand we believe God revealed our faith in a central act. Yet, on the other hand, there seem to be many such acts. If we judge the others on a comparative scale, we are using our arguments to establish ourselves as being on the top of the ladder. But if we do not make comparisons and try to stitch together a patchwork quilt from pieces of what is best in every religion, how can we approach the problem of religious pluralism? A fourth attitude is called listening love. It is the one I prefer and recommend. Listening love requires two things: (1) the ability to listen to others and to demonstrate your own faith as being the most significant thing in your life; (2) a willingness to leave the ultimate resolution



of the dilemma to God while giving loyalty to Christian commitment. This requires the back-and-forth kind of thinking I described earlier. Straight-line thinking on a mathematical model requires an immediate, precise answer to the problem of having several religious faiths. But love and faith, as demonstrated among loved ones and faithful friends, do not press for mathematical models in relationships. Theology is more of a relationship than it is a math problem. Listening love can combine an exclusive faith in God, as revealed in Christ, with a willingness to hear what others say. The way of listening love earns its right to express its commitment in ways which are more marked by sharing than by evaluating. Most of all, listening love waits for God to vindicate its commitment. Elijah on Mount Carmel had to be content to let God answer by fire. Jesus on the cross was content to let God vindicate his death by resurrection. The Christian community puts forth its claims, knowing that those claims can ultimately be "proved" only by God himself. Attitudes toward world religions are vital lessons in the curriculum of a Christian theology for children. But these attitudes are best brought to actuality by being lived out in the lives of those teaching children when the circumstance arises. When children are older, they will want to know the theory about dealing with world religions. Meanwhile they need to see an adequate theory put to satisfactory practice. I recommend the way of listening love. Act 1 is about God manifesting himself in a normative sequence of events which can be used as the touchstone for God's purpose and intentions. In this manifestation of himself, God used all species of the created order to act out the central drama of redemption in the theater of his creation. The main character, in whom the purpose and plan of God is manifested, is Jesus Christ. The proof that these normative acts and this central character are the heart of the drama is demonstrated by their results. The reality of faith is finally vindicated by God himself. Act 1 of God's drama tells us what God has done for us in the past.

Act 2: Inspiration
Act 2 of the drama of redemption describes God's actions in recording and passing on the normative meaning manifested in act 1. Act 2 speaks of the Bible as the act and speech of God. In act 2 I will describe some models for looking at Scripture. Act 2 plays out the dramatic way



in which the Bible came into being and was preserved. One part of this act suggests ways in which the Bible can be interpreted. Act 2 is called inspiration. Inspiration is the ability God gave certain persons to record and pass on the Bible, the script of his normative acts and words, which we saw in act 1. Act 1 required a central drama and a main character to provide meaning and purpose in the drama of life. Act 2 requires a correct copy of this drama so that it can be rehearsed and read in all later scenes of life. Moses saw the burning bush. Jesus loved children. But later generations would not know about Moses and Jesus if an accurate script were not available. This accurate script of the divine drama is the Bible. Because of the Bible we are able to see the story of purpose and meaning which God acts out and speaks to his world. The central plot happened once in historyin the actual theater of creation. This plot is preserved by the script which tells about it. Therefore, this script is also a part of the drama of redemption. To put it theologically, inspiration is as much a part of God's revelation as is his manifestation. In the script of Scripture, we see the plot or plan of God in his world.

Making Models Children need to have adequate models by which to understand Scripture. The way in which the parent, children's worker, or teacher regards the Bible often becomes the model a child adopts in looking at the Bible. Several models have been used by the Christian community. One of them seems preferable to me, and I would commend it to you as a good model for looking at Scripture. Model 1a Love Letter. The preferred model for looking at the Bible is the model of a letter from a loved one. Letters from people we know and love are prized. Receiving mail is exciting. We are disappointed when we receive only junk mail. Junk mail is commercial advertisements or "come ons" which promise us many things. Its basis is commerce. The sender does not know us. He only wants our business. Junk mail is not bad, but it is not ordinarily very useful. It usually winds up in the trash. But letters from friends and loved ones are addressed to us by someone who knows us and cares for us. Like good drama, letters are exciting and important. They include things we need and want to know. They have all kinds of news and instructions. They reinforce pleasant experiences of the past. They reassure us that we are known and cared



for by the sender, and they help us to make plans for the future. The technology of the telephone age threatens our letter-writing ability. But the model of telephone conversation is more misleading than helpful to children. Too many adults act out of claims that they have a one-way, direct line to God. The way to reinforce the letter model is to stress letter writing. A generation which uses only instant and direct contacts has no way of getting into the past. Writings and other records can bring the past into the present. They can also make the past real in the present. Both of these things are necessary in Christian theology. Use the model of a letter from a friend or loved one in conveying excitement and value about the Bible to children. The objection arises, to be sure, that the child has never seen or "actually" known God, as he has grandparents or friends. This is true. In this example, the area of the spiritual and the unseen must be considered as real and important as the areas of the seen and the physically known. The Bible as a love letter is a model which conveys warmth and assurance. I find it very helpful. Model 2a Rule Book. Less helpful is the model of the Bible as a rule book. Rule books are necessary. Stage directions must be written into the drama. But books that contain only laws and rules can be and are used to reinforce the self-righteousness of some people and to find legal ways to discriminate against others. The Bible contains laws, rules, guidelines for human action. But if these elements are given undue stress, without the idea or setting of a loving relationship, a distorted view of God will result. If God is seen exclusively or primarily as an absentee writer of rules, the child will obey until he feels that he can disobey. In fact, stern legal sanctions without a loving knowledge of their framer or reasons why they are given invite disobedience. Models of lawmaking and law enforcing are in trouble in our time. One way to correct this is by a concept of caring and personal relationships. The model of the Bible as a rule book leads to the picture of God as celestial lawgiver and enforcer. The element of rules, laws, and stage directions is important and necessary. But these elements are designed to make the drama possible; they are not supposed to run the show. Model 3a Crystal Ball. A third model for seeing the Bible is the crystal ball model. This model is drawn from the realm of superstitious



magic. In magic there are no rules. In crystal balls one may see the future in detail. Children soon learn that people involved in magic are either entertainers or commercial charlatans. Magicians hold forth an element of mystery and promise; that is their strength. But magicians seldom produce results that are useful in everyday life. Magic is fun for entertainment. It is bad business in religion. Magic is very harmful to children as a model for viewing Scripture. Instances of using the magic model as a way of seeing Scripture occur when miracles are stressed without fitting them into the larger story of the divine drama. Some children are taught about prophecy in such a way that the crystal ball, magic model of Scripture is used. Later chapters will deal with both miracles and prophecy. The important point to remember is that it is harmful to teach children to use Scripture as a magic wand to achieve their personal desires. It is a very incomplete and unsatisfactory model of viewing the Bible to see the Scripture as a crystal ball, telling certain mediums all about the future. Any view of the Bible that does not include both miracles and prophecy as an important element of Scripture is incomplete. But any view that stresses miracles and prophecy in isolation from their proper definition and appropriate use in the overall pattern of Scripture is a harmful distortion. Having a good model is important to building anything. Having a good model for Scripture is vital for a proper use of the Bible. Witnessing and Writing Act 1 told about God pulling back the curtain and producing, in acts and words, a central drama of his purpose and meaning for life. In act 2 we need to speak about those who acted in, witnessed, and wrote the account of this drama. The theological word which describes the vital role the Bible plays in the drama of redemption is inspiration. Literally, that word means to breathe into. When the Bible is spoken of as inspired, the Christian community means that these words and accounts are accurate and a necessary copy of the script which tells the drama of redemption. This idea is found in the Bible itself. Many times the Old Testament speaks of God doing special acts and speaking a message to people he has chosen. One example of God's message in words and deeds is the account of



Noah. The drama of the ark has a vital part in God's concern for and the saving of his creation. The ark account demonstrates that the bad will be done away with, the good will survive. We do not know who handed the story down to the time of Moses. After the time of Moses there were written records and accurate oral accounts of the event of Noah's day and what that event meant. Later we have prophets such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel writing messages and giving meaning to experiences in their history which came from God. A shepherd boy, David, wrote poetry and interpreted God's actions in his own life in such a remarkable way that these psalms were recognized by Israel and others as having the stamp and marks of divine power and purpose in them. Israel knew the records and wisdom of other cultures in the Near Eastern world. They often used and reshaped these accounts under the direction of God, and in the light of their own history, to describe God's action and purpose. Court historians kept the records of the kings of Israel and Judah and wove them into a meaningful whole. The ability to do this came from God. The fact that they did it well, in an inspired way, is seen in the fact that the many elements fit into the larger drama of redemption. An awareness of God's direction and guidance throughout this lengthy process is expressed in the script itself. When the main character of the drama, Jesus Christ, comes to the stage, he shows a distinctive awareness of being in the guidance and purpose of God. Friends he called to help him were responsible for the first oral accounts of his life, death, and resurrection. These friends themselves or friends of theirs actually wrote and brought together their witness and interpretation of the events in Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. After his resurrection Jesus appeared to Paul. By the guidance of God, Paul wrote letters to churches, giving advice and teachings that are still the best advice and teachings for modern churches. Two specific references about the inspiration of the Bible are found in the New Testament. One is 2 Timothy 3:16 and the other is 2 Peter 1:20-21. The script itself gives evidence that God is at work not only in the drama but also in the recording of the drama. Christian theologians have written volumes about inspiration. And there have been serious arguments about this in Christian history. Basically, the idea of inspiration is a logical necessity drawn from the Christian presuppositions that God exists and that he has revealed himself freely in Jesus Christ. Since these two ideas are true, a reliable and



accurate record of what God, through Christ, intends for his creation must exist. As we have already said, the Scripture speaks internally of its own inspiration. And if normative acts in the drama of redemption are to be known, they must have some reliable means of being passed on from one generation to another. Strictly speaking, the inspiration of Scriptures cannot be proved to unbelievers any more than God himself is proved. The Christian community, knowing the necessity of a reliable record, has wisely made the inspiration of Scripture a central ankle of faith. Children do not have to be taught about the logical necessity of a doctrine of inspiration. What they should be taught is a reverential and delightful attitude toward the Bible that will lead them to read it and to value its contents. Workers with children will need to know what inspiration does not mean. Inspiration does not mean a certain method of giving divine truth that does not relate to history or the experience of the original authors. The Bible gives no theory as to how inspiration was brought about. But if God's act in giving us the Bible is related to the rest of his acts, the Bible came in history. It is not a product of magic. Inspiration does not mean that the Bible is to be used as an authority hi matters other than faith. Second Timothy 3:16 clearly states that Scripture is useful in matters of faith and ethics. Do not use Scripture as a book of science or math or other nonreligious subjects with your children. Wisely avoid these supposed conflicts of science and religion. Children may ask questions about the relation of the Bible to the modern world. A wise teacher will point out the distinctive contributions of Scripture and affirm the right of authorities in other areas to express opinions in their areas. In teaching children about the Bible, a wise teacher will not use the Bible either to prove or disprove areas other than that which the Bible itself plainly claims authority for itself. This is the area of faith and relationship with God, the self, and others. Inspiration should provide confidence and assurance in the Bible. Inspiration should not be used as a cover-all word for arguing about every field of human knowledge and affirming one's own opinions under the authority of divine inspiration. To be useful, the Bible needs to be read and to be believed. To use the Bible as a basis for argumentation or justifying one's own views is to misuse it. When children are taught to love and respect the Bible, they



will have a working awareness of its inspiration and its importance. Act 2 describes the story of the recording of God's plot of the drama of creation. This story includes many remarkable and interesting stories about the bringing together and the preservation of the various parts of the Bible. An adequate view of inspiration will also include information as to how the bible (a collection of sixty-six books) came to be the Bible (a religious book with a unifying story woven into its various parts). Workers with children should know enough about the stories behind each book to be able to tell a child in simple but accurate ways how we got our Bible. In theology this is called the study of the canon. You can find help on this subject of the canon in most of the religious encyclopedias and dictionaries of theology. God was as active in preserving the drama of redemption, as he was in portraying it.

Reading and Interpreting Differences in the Christian community have most often arisen about the interpretation of the Bible. Some people who argue about the Inspiration of the Bible are really trying to secure their own interpretation of the Bible. A wise teacher will always make a distinction between the value and authority of the Bible and all human interpretations of the Bible. This point should be emphasized with children, who are often confused when they hear respected religious figures, such as their ministers and teachers, offering differing interpretations of Scriptures. Tell your children that there are different ways of interpreting the Bible. Human interpretation of the Bible is subject to error. Children should learn to recognize that differences in matters of interpretation among Christians need not be occasions for alienation and a breach of fellowship. Adults need to model this valuable lesson. There are some helpful guidelines which will aid workers with children and children themselves to recognize good biblical interpretation. Good biblical interpretation is aware of the original language of the Bible and knows where to find elementary helps in translating these languages. If you work with school-age children, ask your pastor or some Christian who has studied Greek or Hebrew to bring a display of Bibles in the original, as well as other, languages. A child should not grow up thinking that all Bibles are the same. For example, modern paraphrases may make the language of the Bible easier to understand. However, these paraphrases should not be used to establish points of



interpretation, especially when they do not correspond too carefully to the most reliable biblical manuscripts we have. Another guideline in good biblical interpretation is to pay attention to the whole passage and its setting from which a Bible verse or few verses may be taken. Anyone may take isolated verses of Scripture out of their setting or context and prove all kinds of strange things. Letters from friends are not read in bits and pieces, neither are letters read apart from some awareness of the circumstances they are talking about. We need this kind of knowledge in reading the Bible too. A third guideline about good biblical interpretation is that it will relate all of Scripture to its central figure, Jesus Christ, and his life and teachings and the message about him. For example, there are Old Testament events (such as the death of Achan, Josh. 7) which do not compare favorably with the full demands of Christian ethics and the highest expectations of God expressed in the teachings of Jesus. Help children understand that the Old Testament was growing toward the fullness of God in Jesus Christ and that all of the Bible itself is to be explored and interpreted in the light of Christ, the central character in God's drama of redemption. Children who are carefully taught the events and stories of Scripture will be able to recognize and practice good biblical interpretation. As an exercise in interpreting the Bible, use a good and a less convincing interpretation of a Bible passage and ask the children which is better and why. Use, for example, the Gospel story of Jesus saving Peter from drowning (Matt. 14:22-33). Interpret the central truth of the passage to be that Jesus always pulls his friends out of scrapes. Then give the interpretation that Jesus was teaching Peter (and us) a lesson about faith and keeping his eyes on Jesus. The children will recognize that the second interpretation is a better way of explaining and applying the Scripture than is the first. Act 2 of the drama of redemption is important. Its central feature is the Bible. This act unites the past and the present. Positive and helpful models will provide children with a foundation on which to build their confidence in Scripture. Positive expressions about inspiration are best given by our own confidence in and living out of Scripture. We can find ways to express the uniqueness of biblical inspiration. We also need to help children understand what inspiration is not. The Bible is about God's special history. The Bible itself has come through a remarkable history. The Bible can be interpreted to help us find meaning and a



redemptive relationship with God in our history. Our children should know why they sing the lovely phrase of the hymn: "Holy Bible, Book divine,/Precious treasure, thou art mine." Act 2 tells about God's preserving a reliable script for his divine drama.

Act 3: Illumination
The drama of redemption is like a well-written play. The action progresses and builds upon the previous acts. God entered history in normative acts (act 1: manifestation). God has brought about a reliable account of his central plot (act 2: inspiration). In act 3 God makes himself vital to people today (illumination). Act 3 tells the story of bringing the written words of the drama into living experience today. Act 3 describes how various Christian communities have seen this enlightening process. Act 3 makes some suggestions about distinguishing between the central focus of God's actions and other acts in the drama of life. One experiment in drama is called live drama. This means that the audience is invited to participate in the play. In every generation the drama of redemption is a live drama and we, the audience, are asked to participate. That is exciting.

Extending the Stage In our image of revelation as a drama of redemption, I used the entire world of creation as the theater in which the drama takes place. Certain portions of that world (the ancient Near East) and certain people in the theater (prophets, apostles, etc.) were used as actors in the cast supporting the main character (Jesus Christ). All plots and acts in life have significance because they take place in the theater of life, which is God's first gift to his creation. But the sum of all actions in life add up to too many different stories to be able to grasp a central plot. Therefore, God has acted out his drama of redemption on a particular stage and has involved himself in the person of his Son, Jesus, as the main character. The script of the central plot of the drama of redemption is found in the Bible. God's drama of redemption is not for entertainment. It is for enrichment and the making right of what is wrong. In order for the drama to be effective, it needs a larger stage. What happens to bring about a larger stage, an extended stage, is the exciting story of act 3. We and our children are taken up in the drama and are made participants in the drama of redemption. This is refresh-



ing in a generation where spectator sports and entertainment have seriously curtailed the action of ordinary people, especially boys and girls. Help children to sense their involvement in the drama. The involvement comes like this. He who is God, the builder of the theater and the author of the drama, brings to life the script of his drama, the Bible, in every age and in every place where it is read. The complete interpretation of the script is his possession. But to all who read or hear or see enacted this drama in their world, he grants enough interpretation of the story that they may understand and may participate in it. In theological language we call this, "God the Holy Spirit bearing witness to the word of God in Scripture." There is in this living witness of God the Holy Spirit, sufficient knowledge and understanding available for anyone who hears, reads, or sees the re-presentation of the story to accept and live out his part in the drama. The heart of God's drama is a sacrificial, winsome love which does for others what they cannot do for themselves. People can be caught up in the drama who have not studied its composition (theology). In fact, most persons begin to act in the drama before they formally study or understand it. Certainly this is true of children. The priority is on hearing, reading, or seeing the drama. The next step in extending the stage is to participate in the drama. The third step is to understand the drama more fully. In Christian experience this means the proclamation of the Bible in word or act, the acceptance of its central plan of redemption, and the study of its meaning. In church language this is evangelism, salvation, religious education. In all of these processes God, the author, is active. He invites us to the play. Another essential action is the embodying of the message ourselves, as we become actual participants. In defining the steps of participation, we would not be correct to say that the steps always come in strict chronological order. We are not fully aware of the dynamics of the drama if we suppose that as mere observers we hear it all first, then we accept it, then we are educated in the meaning, and then we embody it. In the experience of a child these steps in extending the stage are mixed together. The child sees and hears of Christian love from his parents and begins to respond and act like that. The child begins to understand and accept before the moment of crucial acceptance comes in his conversion. There has been much misunderstanding about how we should help



God in extending the stage. If we compartmentalize and put a rigid chronology of stages on evangelism, conversion, education, and service, we have reached a hopeless impasse in helping our children. A rigid chronology of steps would mean that the child must first hear all of the story, accept it, be taught its meaning, and then embody it. That is a theoretical construction, and life is not lived like that. Life is lived by seeing and doing, having embodied and accepting, demonstrating and learning. Marking off particular moments and appropriate actions for each of these stages can be helpful. For example, a time should come when conversion is sought and acknowledged. This time will have been preceded by other times of preliminary acceptance and initial embodiment of Christian commitment. A child need not study theology before participation in the drama of redemption, but there are certain essential features of the story he will have to comprehend before conversion is possible. My advice is to keep the steps in broad, general perspective and to see an extension of participation and growth in every child who hears, reads, or sees the drama. A later chapter will deal with the basic beliefs which are essential before the decisive conversion experience. Let the stage be extended to each child for participation in the growth process which includes evangelism, conversion, education, and embodiment. The actual invitation to participate in the drama of redemption is at the initiative of the Author. All we contemporary participants can and should do for children is to embody, speak, read, and explain the drama in ways that they can understand and in such a manner that they will want to participate. There is a sense of the dramatic and the momentous in being caught up in the drama as participant. The story of act 1 (God's normative acts, manifestation) and act 2 (the recording of his acts and their meaning, inspiration) required human, historical involvement. So does act 3 (the bringing to life of the drama today, illumination). There have been three models in Christian history as to how contemporary and past participants in the drama of redemption should play then- part in the drama. I will discuss these models in the next section.

The Role of the Supporting Cast In act 3 all persons are invited to participate in the drama. Act 1 defines the drama. Act 2 describes it. Act 3 is our involvement in the



drama of redemption. Children become involved in the drama by the efforts and actions of those older persons who are themselves participants in the drama. These older participants and the still older participants who helped them participate are the supporting actors in the cast. And the children, who will participate, in their turn will become supporting actors for others. This chain of participation is called tradition. The Christian community has had three views about the use of tradition the supporting castin the drama of redemption. One view gives a very strong role to the supporting cast. This strong role model feels that the history of all supporting casts, the whole line of tradition, must be consulted and in substantial agreement in order for new actors to be added. The articles of strong agreement are called creeds. This strong role model feels that children should be taught and asked to accept tradition on a basis almost equal with Scripture. This strong agreement model is represented, for example, by Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Episcopal communities. There is much value in listening to the past so that we may hear its well-defined arguments and avoid the problems it struggled with. There is a blind spot in dealing too much with tradition. That blind spot is the missing of fresh and creative meanings of the original script. Sometimes the blind spot becomes a cataract which limits vision of the original script so that one can see only what the limitations of tradition allow. A second view of the use of past and present supporting casts in extending the stage for the drama of redemption is the weak view of tradition. This view stresses its own experience with God in the present and feels little need to deal with the problems of history and tradition. A direct approach to Scripture is done in the light of one's own experience and in the light of human reason. This view depends on its own contemporary ability to think and experience. It does not feel the need to be obstructed by what others have thought or experienced. This weak-viewof-tradition viewpoint is represented by groups that stress reason. It is also represented by groups that stress experience. This view is strong in finding new meaning and various forms for its experience. It is strong because it thinks for itself and often sees meaning in the original script which strong-tradition views do not. The weak-view-of-tradition group has some blind spots also. One of the blind spots is failing to recognize that this view becomes very attached to and defensive about its own recent traditions. It is ironic, but seemingly inevitable, that as these



groups grow older they become very much like the strong-tradition view. The most dangerous blind spot of the weak-tradition view is that, in its newness and dependence on individual experience, it will shade off into cults and sects which do not give sufficient attention to the Bible, the original script. Many times modern heresies (a heresy is a split-off opinion that contradicts orthodoxy, which is a consensus based on general acceptance) are reruns of older heresies that have acted out abortive scenes on the fringes of the stage of the drama of redemption. A closer attention to tradition would have saved cult groups a great deal of trouble. A third view of the rise of tradition as the supporting cast in the drama of redemption is the bifocal view. The bifocal figure is drawn from the world of eyeglasses. Bifocals are eyeglasses which enable us to see at a distance and to see close at hand as well. The bifocal view of tradition explores the broad sweeps of Christian history and discovers its advantages and its pitfalls. This view accepts what it can confirm with the strong and magnified part of the lens which represents the Bible. In this model each part of the lens serves its own purpose. For the purpose of reading and detailed work, the stronger lens representing Scripture is more important. We use the weaker lens to see out into tradition and our present experience. This bifocal view can get either part of the lens out of focus. Its advantage is that it places strong emphasis on the original script and finds there the norms in the drama of redemption. This view also appreciates and explores with gratitude all of those past and present who have been members of the supporting cast in the divine drama. Obviously, from the way I have constructed the cast, I prefer the bifocal view. Distinguishing the Original A distinction needs to be made between the original script (the Bible) and the supporting cast (tradition). All of life is the theater for the drama of redemption. All Christian communities participate on the extended center stage. The props contemporary Christians use to perform their parts are drawn from their own cultures and their own social settings. The Bible, the original script, also came in a given cultural setting and social circumstance. Today's participants sometimes have a problem distinguishing what are



props and what is the essential substance of the divine drama. Such a distinction is not always easy to make. There are various patterns in Christian community for handling this dilemma.8 Workers with children will be particularly interested in these patterns. In distinguishing these patterns, one can teach children to avoid making their own culture essential to the drama of redemption or making every part of their culture hindrances to the drama. The first pattern in looking at props is to consider all of them as equally important. In this pattern Jesus is just like us. God approves our social and economic policies and status. He is "our kind of folk." Christian missionary efforts have often been accused of following this pattern when they bring the gospel in a cultural container and try to teach that the gospel and culture are inseparable. In this pattern our contemporary culture equals the essence of the drama. This is an easy pattern for persons who have never been outside their culture to adopt. Some interpreters also apply the principle that all props are equally important to the Bible and insist that the culture of the ancient Near East is an essential part of Scripture. When this is carried out, ancient patterns of polygamy, slavery, the subservience of woman, and the low value of childhood are embarrassments to explain away. If we teach our children to identify either biblical or modern culture with God's essential purpose in the drama, we have tied God's redemptive story to the props with which it is played out. The opposite pattern is to see all of our culture and social structures as hindrances to the essence of the drama of redemption. This is bare-stage drama. Those who adopt this pattern often deny the goodness in mankind's discoveries. The anticultural pattern fails to recognize the possibilities given in creation, the theater of redemption. In theology we call this splitting up nature and grace, creation and redemption. This has unfortunate consequences. When carried to the extreme, it denies mankind's natural impulses. It refuses to acknowledge any form of government. It describes most contemporary forms of entertainment and leisure as sinful. This anticultural pattern often prefers some previous cultural pattern
2. I am indebted to the classic work of H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture (New York: Harper and Row, 1951) where the reader may find a fuller development of these patterns and of two other variations.



drawn from several generations ago. In doing this it is not escaping culture. It is opting for another culture. To opt for another time or culture other than the one in which a person is living is to deny one's given place on the extended stage of the drama of redemption. To deny that the drama needs or uses any props is to ask for a bare stage. The Bible does not describe bare-stage drama. This pattern short-circuits creation. The third pattern of how we can view the props of culture in the drama is a critical-constructive pattern. This pattern grows out of backand-forth thinking. This kind of thinking specializes in being critical. The phrase "being critical" is usually a negative one. I do not use it in a negative sense but in its original sense. Being critical means making decisions about what is good and what is bad. Perhaps a better word is discriminating, but that term is getting a bad press image also. The constructive part of this pattern grows out of and complements the critical part. No construction begins without preliminary decisions to include some things and to exclude others. The critical-constructive pattern of looking at the props will see that some of the props have been taken up so distinctively into the divine drama that they become indispensable to the play. For example, the birth of Jesus as a human child is indispensable to the incarnational principle of Christianity. The death by crucifixion became so interwoven with the Christian gospel that Paul used the term cross to imply the essential story about God's redemptive act in Christ. Christian history has adopted a cross as the indispensable sign of the Christian faith. The fact that Jesus called fishermen, whereas today he might call businessmen, illustrates nonessential or changing props. Essential props are symbols. Nonessential props are signs which can and do change from culture to culture. This application of essential principle rather than nonessential prop is important in teaching children how to make distinctions between culture and the central message. Several customs and individual habits in Bible days differed widely from our own time. A good essential rule is to apply the biblical principle that one's body is the temple of God. Whatever breaks down that temple is contrary to God. This criticalconstructive pattern requires much time and observation and thought. It will not tell a child that all of his culture is approved by God. Nor will it tell a child that none of his culture is approved by God. The critical-



constructive pattern allows grace to reshape nature. It permits redemption to save nature. It is also called the conversionist pattern. This pattern looks critically at all of our culture. It finds bridges in our culture that are good avenues for conveying the drama of redemption. It hopes for the eventual conversion of all the area of culture in the theater of creation. And this pattern works in that direction.

Come to the play. You have the Author's invitation. A central drama of redemption is being played out in history, the theater of creation. This original production is God's normative manifestation, act 1. The accurate and essential script is the product of inspiration, act 2. The coming alive of the drama in our lives and our participation comes as a result of illumination, act 3. The entire production is God pulling back the curtain and revealing himself and truths about himself which could not otherwise be known. That is revelation, the drama of redemption. Don't miss any of the acts. Do find ways to help children see, hear, and participate in the drama. I hope the analogy of a play helps you to understand revelation. It is an accurate analogy. It may prove to be an exciting one to the children you teach.

What's God Like?

It is natural that children should ask what God is like. People they love and respect speak with reverence and importance about God. But the child has never seen God, and children won't settle easily for abstractions. Children have lively imaginative powers. However, when they learn from the adult world that imagination and the realm of the nonvisible is not highly regarded, children begin to lose the concept of the reality of the unseen. We impoverish our children when we do not encourage imaginative insights. We also make the task of theology much more difficult. Children and wise men ask the hardest questions. What's God like? is a very hard question. To answer the question wisely, we need a handle that fits.

A Handle that Fits

Preschoolers develop their perceptual and manual skills by fitting blocks and pegs into forms and holes. Miniature golf is an enjoyable family leisure activity because children can compete with adults on somewhat even terms. Every practical miniature golfer knows the advantage of choosing a good club. One way to determine a good club is to see if it fits the hand that is going to use it. If we are to answer a child's question about God satisfactorily, we need to find a handle that will fit both the revelation God has given of himself and a child's ability to perceive that revelation.

A Greek Handle The Greeks had two handles for describing their gods. One handle was to describe the gods in terms that made them seem like men without restrictions. A popular view of Greek gods painted the gods as men "writ large." The difference between man and the gods was one of degree not one of kind. This view of the gods as oversized men gave too much attention to the desires of men and gave no provision for making a real differ-




ence between the gods and men. Sometimes popular Christian piety tries to portray God as a very large man. Visual representations of God used with children need some aura of mystery. A wise teacher will accompany pictures of God with the verbal qualification that no picture can accurately or completely describe God. A second way in which the Greeks tried to find a handle to describe God was the way of logical abstraction. This way later became very popular in classical Christian thought. Many Christian theologians still use the way of logical abstraction to define God. The logical abstraction method uses the device of straight-line thinking. For example, God is perfect. A perfect being must have all knowledge. Therefore, since God is a perfect being, he must have all knowledge. The abstraction of the allknowingness of God, which theologians call omniscience, is true to the biblical picture of God. But not every straight-line way of perceiving God is correct. For example, God is perfect. A perfect being cannot suffer. Therefore, God does not suffer. That is good logic, but it is bad theology. It is incorrect theology because it disagrees with the biblical idea of God. God does suffer with his creation. This straight-line way of looking at God grows out of a Greek-static (stationary) view of perfection. Biblical faith does permit us to speak about God in human terms. How else can people talk? But an idea of God drawn from the script of his drama of redemption does not allow us to make God in our own image. Biblical faith is often in agreement with the abstract logic of straight-line thinking. But there are tunes when it is not. A description of God based on logical abstractions appeals to those who have been trained to think that way. My conclusion is that the Greek handles for describing God are more problematic than helpful. A Latin Handle It is no accident that scientific technology grew in Latin-Western cultures. The Latin question is how does a thing work? What makes it tick? Latin questions are questions of methodology and, later, questions of experiment. All modern people can be grateful for advances brought about by scientific discovery. All of us use modern inventions in our daily lives, and life is made easier because of technological expertise. But there can be no mystery about technology. People must know how things work so they can operate them. Specialists must know how all of



the parts of mechanical things fit together so that they can build and repair them. Latin thinking is the father of the experimental way of knowing described in chapter 2. If we were to apply a rigorous Latin handle to God, we would lose all mystery and faith. We would be able to discover God; we would not need to wait for his revelation. In the last analysis, we would be able to fabricate or produce God and miracles to explain faith in a mechanistic way. Then we would have no need of God, miracle, or faith. Mankind would have become God. The Latin handle, with its questions of methodology and experimentation, is not a good handle for describing God.

A Hebraic Handle The Hebraic way of looking at reality is a functional way. It does not seek to describe, to make abstractions, or to tell how things work. The Hebraic view asks what a thing does and if it accomplishes its purpose. In short, a Hebraic way of looking at things describes things according to what they do. To me, this Hebraic functional handle best fits the biblical way of knowing God. God is known by what he does. When we read of his actions, we can find words these actions represent. A good way to fit a handle to a thing is to know what it does. A,gQ0d._way_to describe: God is.byjvhat^e has done and is^dping. In trying to talk about God with children, I definitely prefer the Hebraic functional handle that begins by saying what God does. This is a handle that moves from deeds to words.

From Deeds to Words

The first act or deed of God was creation. Many different kinds of things are in the created order, and God made them all. A charming, older English hymn expresses the work of God in creation beautifully. AH things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small, All things wise and wonderful: The Lord God made them all. The first work of God, creation, and the first gift of God, life, are natural places to start in explaining to children what God has done. Every example of the good, the true, the beautiful can be used as a positive reinforcement of what God is like, according to what he has done.



The work of God in creation and the gift of God, our life with its possibilities, are to be savored and enjoyed. The God who redeems the world is the same God who created the world and vice versa. All of the points of beauty, the grandeur, and majesty of creation can be and should be happily described as the handiwork of God. However, the picture of God seen from his handiwork in nature can become a confusing and a seemingly contradictory view. All things are not bright and beautiful. Harmful and dark things exist in the world also. These things must not be attributed directly to God. Yet we dare not pretend that the bad, the false, and the ugly do not exist. The Christian instruction of children should take care to point out the beautiful aspects of creation. Furthermore, the Christian community has a special stake in striving vigorously to keep the world beautiful. For in the beginning, in the end, and even in this confusing time between the beginning and the end this is our Father's world. We must also put beauty and creativity into our fabricated and manufactured world. We should stress that these man-made items of loveliness and convenience are due to the gracious gifts of God. Yet technology and nature both contain much that is ungodly. We must, therefore, let nature and the creative work of our hands be seen realistically. We have often stressed the good side of the world to young children to such an extent that they eventually get the impression that the church has no awareness of the bad and the evil in the world. Small children suffer theological schizophrenia when their earliest childhood training speaks only of the good and their latter childhood training dwells on sin and evil. The church cannot afford to play Pollyanna to very young children and Elmer Gantry to those approaching adolescence. The first work of God, creation, is an ambiguous picture. The distinctive drama of redemption, played in the theater of creation, provides a more complete and less ambiguous description of what God has done, is doing, and will ultimately do. I would like to look at several events in God's revelatory acts which will help us describe what God is like. His First Move In checkers, chess, and most other games, having the first move has some advantage. It gives the player an opportunity to put his plan into operation. If we remember the distinction made earlier between discovery and revelation, we will not be surprised that God makes the first



move toward us. Children, in strange situations, always wait for someone's first move because that move shows whether the person is friendly or hostile and what can be expected. First moves are important. Two biblical incidents which tell about God's first move to us are the call of Abraham (Gen. 12) and the commissioning of Moses (Ex. 3). We do not know how God appeared to Abraham. The indications are that he appeared as a voice from heaven. God appeared to Moses through a burning bush and by words which came from the bush and the angel of the Lord. How God appeared or spoke is a Latin question, and I have determined to leave these kinds of questions aside for the sake of a larger concern. Why did God come to Abraham and Moses? What was the purpose of his manifestation and the content of his message? Abraham was asked to begin a new people in a new place. His was a venture in faith. Moses was asked to deliver a people from bondage. His was a calling to help. Children will be quick to see that these incidents give a sharper picture of Abraham and Moses than they do of God. One of the most valuable things a child can know about God is that when God moves toward us, he helps us know more about ourselves through our relationship with him. This is what a great theologian, John Calvin, meant when he said the knowledge of God and the knowledge of mankind is bound up together. In coming to meet us and in taking the first step, God helps us explore ourselves. His purpose in coming to us is to help us and to help others through us. Faith and service are the human responses of God's coming to Abraham and Moses. Something else is revealed about God in these incidents. God is person. The Bible contains no word for person. That is hard for us, with our modern cults of personalities, to believe. The way in which we know God as person is through speech, through a meaningful message, through a plan and a purpose. We would be incorrect to assume that God is a person bound to the physical dimension. But God, whose personhood differs from ours in some ways, is able to speak, to think, to plan. Theologians may use the abstractions of ultimate truth or infinite intelligence. Children will understand the idea that God is person. He can and does move to us first. His first move requires our faith, and his speech directs us to serve and help. Awe and mystery are in the first move God makes to mankind. Plan and purpose are also present. Likewise a promise of his presence and the assurance that he will help us in the service he asks of us are inherent in God's first move.



A child is greatly relieved to know that God's first move to us is a friendly and reassuring one. God's first move toward us is surrounded hi mystery and awe. But his speech is in our language. We know that he is person and that he both gives us his presence and asks for our faithful service. The one word which we will use to express God's coming to us is person. This word will be given its fullest meaning when God comes completely into his creation in the person of his Son, Jesus.

Being ThereEverywhere A second set of God's actions which can help children understand what God is like is found in these examples: the rainbow (Gen. 9:13-17); the description of God's presence found in Psalm 139; the name of Jesus, which means God with us ("Emmanuel," Matt. 1:23); and the sending of the Spirit to extend God's presence (John 14:15-21). This group of God's actions are promises which tell us that God is here. God is being thereeverywhere. Both physical and nonphysical evidences of his presence exist. God saw that evil persons were destroying the good creation he had made. Because of his kindness and concern he wanted to salvage what he could. A man and his family shared God's concern about his creation. This man's name was Noah. Noah and his family, at God's instructions, built an ark to be safe from a flood that would cleanse the earth. God was going to use the cleansed earth and Noah's family to begin again a group of people who would reflect God's good purpose for his world. The concern of God was extended even to the animals. All of the kinds of creatures which God made he also wanted to save. After the Flood, God used the beauty of a rainbow to confirm his intention to make his world good. The rainbow has a physical explanation. In fact, you might want to show a prism to your children and illustrate the beauty of the rainbow. But the theological meaning of the rainbow reminds us of many things. The rainbow reminds us that God will never again destroy the earth by water. The rainbow reminds us that God provided and still provides in a deeper, spiritual way an ark of safety for all persons who trust in him and share in his will to make his world good. The rainbow is a good example of a poetic symbol. Most of all, the rainbow reminds us of the presence of God in concern and kindness to the world he has made. When Moses and his helpers had led the children of Israel safely out


of Egypt, they made a tabernacle in which to worship God. This tabernacle or tent was placed in the middle of the camp of Israel. The tabernacle itself was a symbol of God's presence. This symbol reoccurs in Revelation 21:1-4 where the tabernacle in the New Jerusalem is also a symbol of God's presence. (I mention this reoccurence of themes and symbols in Scripture so that you can use this as an additional guideline for helping children look for and learn to distinguish patterns of God's purpose in the Bible.) When Israel had built the tabernacle, God gave a special manifestation of his presencea great light. This light guided Israel all through the wilderness. In fact, light itself becomes a special religious symbol associated with God's presence. A good way to reinforce a child's awareness of the presence of God is to associate God's presence with light. Look for the many examples of this in the Bible. Have a display of various kinds of light and implements used to give light. Be sure to tie the symbolism closely with the protective, guiding presence of God. Psalm 139 is a general description of the presence of God. One important element is added. The psalmist cannot get away from God's presence. God's presence is everywhere. He is with us, even when we may wish he were not. God's presence is comforting; it is also convicting. It is a one-sided view of God's presence to claim he is with us only in good times or when we do good. The full story is that God is with us all the time. Reflection on God's presence keeps us from loneliness. Reflections on God's presence may keep us from doing things we should not. Reflections on God's presence can help us to be sorry for what we have done wrong and to be grateful for his forgiveness and understanding. One of the names which Christ is called is Emmanuel. This is a Hebrew term which means God with us. The clearest evidence of God's presence is in Jesus. The highest demonstration that God is person came at Bethlehem. This important incarnational principle in theology will be discussed in chapter 6. The birth of Jesus is a very personal, very tangible evidence of the physical presence of God in his world. Workers with children should stress the incarnational principle of God's presence throughout the year. Christmas is a time of special celebration of God's presence in the birth of his Son. The incarnation is necessary to explain and make God's reality known at all times. The birth of Jesus in time and history helps children have some tangible way of knowing how God comes to us. Jesus' presence among us is the most complete expression of



God's presence. And the purpose of Jesus' presence was entirely for our good. Jesus' presence in our time and space is a visible evidence of God's presence. But the fact of Jesus' visibility in our time and space raises the problem as to how he can be everywhere. John 14:15-21 helps to solve this problem. When Jesus returned to God, he sent the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit enables us to have an everywhere-awareness of the presence of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the fullest example of both the special and the general presence of God. In order to express fully the presence of God, all three manifestations or persons of God are involved. The threefoldness of God will be discussed after we have talked about God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Christian theology will, from its first expressions about God, need to be building toward its fullest expression about God. The general presence of God is in creation. A special presence of God is in the drama of redemption. The clearest presence of God is in Jesus. A combination of the general and the special presence of God is in the Holy Spirit. Theologians speak of the omnipresence of God. Children can understand with both soberness and delight that God is there everywhere. The one word we will use to express God's being there is presence. He Knows and He Knows Children are inherently inquisitive. It is a trait necessary for survival. Children naturally want to know. They don't always want to know what we want them to know. In fact they resist knowledge that is too technical and unrelated to life. Intellectual knowledge is one kind of knowledge. Relational knowledge is another kind of knowledge. The Bible represents God as having both kinds of knowledge. However, the stress of Scripture is on knowledge as relationship. The German language and the Romance languages have two different words for these two different kinds of knowledge. Unfortunately, English has only one. The difference between intellectual knowledge and relational knowledge is easy to illustrate. Ask who knows the presidents of the United States. Then ask how many presidents the children have known personally. The "known personally" is a relational knowledge. God has both kinds of knowledge. Job 3839 is a delightful catalog,


phrased in poetic images, of what God knows. Children are impressed with knowledge, and they tend to believe what people who know what they are talking about say. Yet mere stockpiles of knowledge are available in computers today. This shift in knowing as an exclusive human and/or divine ability to think to the capacity of computers to store knowledge and solve problems has taken some of the edge off head knowledge or intellectual knowledge. Furthermore, we tend to speak of persons "who know everything" in disparaging ways. Associating with genuises, who know more than most people, is irritating. We are particularly irritated when we associate with genuises who know more than others and never let others forget that. Paul contrasted this kind of knowledge with a knowledge that is based on love and relationships (1 Cor. 8:1-3). We need not disparage intellectual knowledge with children. Too many others will do this. God does know everything in general (Job 38 41) and in particular (Psalm 139). But the emphasis in the Bible is that God's knowing means relating. Amos 3:2 says that God had only known Israel among the people of earth. This obviously means that he had entered into a special relationship with Israel (theologians call this a covenant). A beautiful expression about God's knowing is found in the teachings of Jesus (Matt. 10:29-33). Jesus said that God knows all about the sparrows and that the hairs of our heads are numbered. Then he gave the importance of that knowledge. It is a knowledge which knows in order to care for, to protect, to love. This is a good example of bringing the two kinds of knowing together. We cannot be irritated by the knowledge of God because his knowing is for our benefit. Knowledge can be judged by its usefulness. Useful knowledge is knowledge that uses its knowing in helping. That is God's knowing. Theologians call the all knowing of God omniscience. Children will understand better that God knows (intellectual knowledge) and he knows (relational knowledge). Where is the act of God in knowing? It is not in his mental operation. What person could describe that? The act of God's knowledge is seen in the use to which he puts his knowledge. He puts his knowledge to the task of relating to his world in order to secure its goodness. This is useful knowledge indeed! The word which we will use to express God's purpose in knowing is relating.



My Father Is Stronger
Little boys everywhere like to boast, "My dad is stronger than your dad." Physical power and strength have an enormous appeal. Many dads are embarrassed and many boys are disappointed by the boast. There is always the disenchantment of growing up. Dads get smaller. Sons get larger. The grim realization that one's father is not superhuman or super strong is a part of growing up. What if there were a father who was as strong and stronger than our expectations? The Christian answer to children is that there is a Father who embodies all strength. We need to be careful in presenting this idea. The psychologist Freud theorized that the very notion of God came from just such wishful thinking of men who had been disappointed in human fathers and projected a heavenly figure to fulfill their expectations. The best response to Freud is to see the full range of God's strength and how he uses it. Children can grasp that all things have a source. The source of all power, energy, and force is God. God is the one who gives the possibility of all power. Even the power and possibility of evil are permitted by God. To posit any source of power independent of God is incorrect. One might try to solve the problem of evil by attributing an independent source of power to the evil one. This answer does not solve the power of evil. It only distorts theology by making two gods. There is no source of any form of power other than God. Even the power to contradict God comes from God. One idea of strength is the notion of physical force, sheer power. The forceful strength of God is most plainly revealed in nature. Psalm 8 is a biblical expression of wonder at this kind of power. God's response to Job (ch. 38) reminds the man Job of the majesty and power of God. Another form of power is what we call miracles or the mighty works of God. The Bible speaks of many instances in which God's power is displayed in unusual ways. Judges of Israel, such as Samson and Deborah, were helped by the special power of God. The young teenager David was confident in his victory over Goliath because of God's help (1 Sam. 17). Jesus' life was full of the examples of the extraordinary mighty works done in the power of God. Chapter 5 will explore in more detail how we may best interpret to children God's special acts of power. Miracles are brought in at this point because they are one form of God's power. A



word of caution is in order. Children should not believe that God's power is at work only in the miraculous. God's power in nature and the created order is equally the power of God. This idea is important to stress. Religion that sees God's power only in miracles splits nature and grace. The miracle-only kind of power can lead to spectacular religion. Not to see the power of God in the ordinary is a tragedy. A third idea of power in Scripture is the idea of a quiet authority that knows whereof it speaks and can calmly, but firmly, endure opposition. This is the most underestimated kind of power. It is perhaps a deeper kind of power than either of the others. In the midst of very noisy and harsh opposition, Jesus demonstrated this power to his opponents (John 8). The final and highest moment of this kind of power was demonstrated by Jesus in his death on the cross. The power of calm confidence always disturbs people who want to win by force or by special forms of power. Jesus used God's power of authority in the power of suffering love. Help children to understand that patient suffering love is the highest and most godly form of power. It is this form of power that answers Freud's notion that our ideas of God arose from our own desires for a superman kind of God. Even the most vivid imagination would not have thought up a God whose highest power was demonstrated in suffering love. The authority of God demonstrated in suffering love has a permanent quality. God is strong enough even to allow mankind's eternal contradiction of God. The power of God's force is able to confine evil. The power of God's authority of suffering love is also able to endure evil and to suffer the consequences of the divine determination to give people freedom. Keep a biblical balance among these types of God's power. All power comes from God. Theologians call this omnipotence. Children will understand the phrase "my Father is stronger." Be sure they understand the full dimensions and the different types of the power of God. The warm and forceful word we remember from the acts of God's power is strong. Different, Really Different A perennial problem of childhood is boredom. Advertisements of children's toys are both amusing and appalling in their claims. Today's accelerated childhood pushes many adult experiences down onto chil-



dren so that there is nothing left to anticipate when they become adults. Sameness can be very reassuring. It can also be quite depressing. A religious word describes the delightful, mysterious character of God. That word is holy. To help children comprehend the holiness of God is to open them to the idea that God is different. He is really different. The term holy means to be cut off, to be separate, to be different from everything else. At first glance this notion seems to make God remote. This definition seems to place God outside of our world and our experience. In a measure this is true. A back-and-forth way of thinking will help us know that to be effective, God has to be different from us as well as like us. If God were only like us, he would have to be bound by evil and death, even as we are. If God were only like us, he could not help us. God is, of necessity, different from us. Biblical awareness of God's holiness came in places where God manifested himself to his followers. They in turn responded to his manifestation with awe. Holiness calls forth awe and designates mystery. For there to be something in life which people can neither manufacture nor manipulate is important. Isaiah experienced God's holiness in the Temple (Isa. 6). John, the revelator, responded to God's holiness with a beautiful hymn (Rev. 45). Holy is the special word we use to refer to the distinctiveness of God, which is different from everything else. We are mistaken if we teach children that holiness applies only to the moral realm. Saints are supposed, by some, to be special holy people who do not do certain immoral things. This is a popular misunderstanding. In the Bible many things are called holy. The sabbath day is called holy. Jerusalem is called the Holy City. People who are set aside to God are called holy or saints (in the biblical languages the terms holy, saint, sanctify, and sanctification are all from the same stem). God's holiness does mean that he is morally perfect. All other ideas of holy are derivative and secondary. That is, all things that are called holy are holy primarily because they are set aside to God not because they are morally perfect. God's holiness is unique and absolute. Any other expression of holiness is derived from a relationship to God. This distinction will help children understand why we call the Bible a holy book, why we refer to Sunday as a special holy day, and why we refer to church as a holy place. Where there is no mystery and difference in life, the light has gone out. Without holiness there is neither black or white.


There is only gray. Unless children are taught the vital idea of God's holiness, they will lose the thrill of genuine worship and the awareness of something really different from the ordinary experiences of life. The holiness of God provides a great gift to people. That gift is the possibility of things being other than they are. Even boys and girls become depressed and frustrated when they see no way out of difficult circumstances. If there really were no possibility of change in the world, it would be a dismal place indeed. God's holiness offers a genuine possibility that things can be different. Theologians call this dimension of difference and otherness of God his transcendence. Children will be glad to know that God is different. He is really different. The one word which best captures the idea of holiness and the hope of things being other than they are is different.

Who Is Right? Certain words are essential in any language. Right is one of those words. Right is a direction to turn. Right is one hand on the human body, usually the stronger hand. Remember the age old motto, "Might makes right." The right size is important hi fitting shoes and clothes. Having the right answer or the correct letters is essential in math and spelling. Did I get it right? is a question children ask after a quiz. In formal dining, to know the right fork to use is important. Feeling all right is important to health. Knowing the right tune is necessary to keep appointments. The list is endless. Let the children help you finish it. You will need to know that the Bible words right, righteous, righteousness, just, justify, and justification are all built on the same stem. Right is as an important word in the Bible as it is in everyday life. All questions about right infer a standard. That is, you have to have one clock which sets the standard for all clocks. That clock is in Greenwich, England. Being right in math problems and in chemical experiments is a precise job. That is because these areas deal with straight-line thinking only. The engineers who build our bridges had better be right. In the area of relationships right seems more relative. That is because there are many more factors to consider. Back-and-forth thinking should enter in when we make moral and relational judgments. In all areas of human activity and relationships, a standard of what is right must be used. There must be a final court of appeals. Human justice is at stake in the matter of who is right. The Bible speaks out against the



unrighteousness of some rich and powerful persons who use their wealth and influence to secure their own brand of justice. There simply has to be someone who will decide on matters of right and wrong. Who is right enough to do it? Some people want to make all the decisions for everyone. They are playing God. Some people refuse to make any decisions. They are not exercising their full humanity. True personhood requires that we assume the responsibility of making some decisions about right and wrong. Sensitive people always know a risk is involved in making decisions. One of the major responsibilities of parenthood is having to make decisions that affect the lives of children. One of mankind's greatest needs for God and a revelation of God is that we might have some guidance beyond our own resources as to decisions about right and wrong. God is right. That is a relief! That is also a responsibility. That God is right is a relief because we do not have to bear that burden. That God is right is a responsibility in that we are obliged to find out what God is doing and what he considers to be right. There are many Bible references which assert that God is right (Ps. 7:9; 19:9; 119:7). Isaiah 45:21 states very clearly that God is righteous. Jeremiah 33:15 tells of a hope that righteous will be extended by a righteous branch like a tree is extended from its roots. And James 4:12 refers to God in Christ as a righteous Judge. Christians claim that Jesus Christ is the extension and complete expression of God's Tightness. Just as someone who knows it all can be very irritating and someone who is all powerful can be greatly feared, someone who is always right can be very smug. The lovely part about God's knowledge, his power, and his rightness is that he uses them all for the good of his creation. What God wants is right. If the final decision between good and evil, between justice and injustice, is to be made (and it must be made if there is such a thing as good/evil, justice/injustice), then it is best that God decide. To say that God alone is ultimately right sounds very authoritative and even severe. Yet the alternative is that if God is not right, who is? Christians need to remember that they have help in determining what is right and wrong, what is good and bad. That help is found in Scripture and in the interpretation of Scripture which the presence of God the Holy Spirit helps us to have. You will remember that I warned against feeling that we have a perfect interpretation of Scripture. Right-



ness breaks down when we do not fully understand God's Tightness expressed in Scripture, when we distort what Scripture is saying, or when we do not do what Scripture says is right. We learn to live with the fact that we are not always right. We have to have faith in the affirmation that God is always right. God's Tightness provides the perfect standard. We are less than perfect. We are both convicted and comforted when we see God as right. We are convicted because we are not right. We are comforted because he accepts us as we are and gives us the promise that he will finally make everything right. Children need to know that they can and will make mistakes; everyone does. Children need to know that God is absolutely right. They will be encouraged to hear that his Tightness is accompanied by his mercy and kindness. That makes a great difference. Explain Psalm 89:14 and have the children memorize it as a very important way of describing God. Righteousness and justice are the
foundation of thy throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before thee.

Theologians speak of the righteousness of God because it is essential that there be some final standard. Children will ask the question, Who's right? The only adequate answer is, God is right. Right is the word to remember from this description of what God is doing.

Father Father is a very idealized word. A father in human experience is a male parent. Children's workers have sometimes read the character of God from an idealized character of human fatherhood. Do not begin with human fatherhood to establish what God the Father is like. Begin with the biblical teachings and especially the relationship of God the Father with his Son, Jesus Christ. This is important because even the best of human fathers are weak and fail in some areas of a child's expectations. Many modern children do not know their fathers. This is true because of illegitimacy, divorce, death, or overly busy schedules. A crime that is increasing in the twentieth century is the violence of parents toward their children. We would like to be able to say to a child, God is just like your father. Yet, neither realistically nor theologically is



this true. Remember that God is holy and that his holiness makes him distinct and different from even the best of human fathers. God does embody the best of what human fathers should be. The Bible says that God loved Israel like a son and lovingly guided Israel out of bondage in Egypt. A well-known verse in Psalms says: "As a father pities his children,/so the Lord pities those who fear him" (Ps. 103:13). In the relationship of Jesus, who is God the Son, we see the clearest picture of God the Father. God the Father sustained, guided, and gave power and confidence to God the Son. God the Father raised Jesus the Son from the dead. The dependent and loving relationship shared between the Father and the Son is a model of Christian community and an ideal for human fatherhood. The hardest thing for children to understand about the Father-Son relationship of God and Jesus is the suffering and death of Jesus. This is a part of the larger question of evil explored in chapter 8. However, provisional answers must be given here because the question inevitably arises at this point. If God could keep Jesus from dying, why didn't he? Would a father who loved a son actually send him to die? Much theology has risen or fallen on how it answers these questions. The best answers will include the following insights. The Father was suffering with the Son (2 Cor. 5:19). The Son accepted, agreed, and even volunteered for the suffering and death. Apparently only in the Father's suffering and the Son's suffering and death could the task of making things right in the world be accomplished. As to the question of God's pain, review the above idea of God's deepest display of strength as the strength of suffering love. Christ's suffering and death were a joint effort with the Father to help us. Seen in this light, both the Father and the Son are heroes of faith. If children are taught that God the Father is an angry tyrant punishing the Son, they will perhaps come to love Jesus but never feel comfortable with the Father. To split the Trinity in this way is to invite theological schizophrenia. The further act of God in raising the Son and the acts of the Son in doing the Father's will and turning the kingdom to God (1 Cor. 15) are expressions about the mutual independence and dependence of the Father and the Son. When telling children about God the Father, give them the full story. Some distorted notions of the fatherhood of God grew up in Christian history which we should avoid in teaching children about God as


Father. One model of God as Father was drawn from the stern fatherking figures popular in the ancient Near East. Such father-kings were to be greatly reverenced and feared, but knowing or loving them was hard. These kings were remote from their people and their own children. They dispensed a stern, rigorous justice, and there was no appeal from their harsh decisions. When early Christian culture read the idea of God after this pattern, the idea of divine displeasure and a mistaken notion of wrath occurred. An opposite and equally faulty view of God as Father is that God is a celestial grandfather pampering and indulging favorite grandchildren. Where this notion of God as Father prevails there is more sentiment than satisfaction. If God only indulges and reinforces what people or certain people do, then he is playing favorites and there is no justice. A third inadequate notion of fatherhood is the overstressed view of the masculinity of God. Strictly speaking, God is beyond sexuality. He embodies the best features of what are sometimes caricatured as masculine and feminine. God is strong and courageous and fearless. He is also gentle and loving and patient. We use the masculine pronoun and the term Father in relation to God because that is the way Scripture designates God. I have not found alternative symbols for describing Father equally satisfying. Nevertheless, little girls should not feel an alienation or a slight because of an overt masculinization of God. Be certain that you mention often the women of the Bible who were used by God. Do not let your Bible stories be only about boys. Stress that God is above the petty disputes about whether boys or girls are better. God the Father loves daughters as much as he loves sons. God as Father may become our ideal model for human fatherhood. Turning the models around is disastrous. What human Christian fathers may do is to express the best traits of God's fatherhood with their children. In this way children will have approximate models of God's fatherhood. This is equally true of Christian mothers. Sometimes their task is greater when they are obliged to provide the model alone. An infant's first reflections and responses help to condition all of his learning. Parents acting out the role of godly strength and patience are a pleasure. Parents playing the role of God are a pain. The term holy as a description for God stresses his difference, his otherness, his thereness. The theological term for this is transcendence. The term Father as a description for God stresses his likeness to us, his



being with us, his nearness. The term for this is immanence. Good theology requires a description of God that has both thereness and hereness. If God is too remote, we cannot reach him. If he is too much like us, we do not need him. In Jesus' prayer in John 17, there is a beautiful combination of these terms. He refers to God as holy Father. This is my favorite biblical phrase about God. It keeps both his transcendence and his immanence together. God is Father. That is a description both theologians and children use. It is a term made familiar by the model prayer "Our Father who art in heaven" (Matt. 5:9).

Does God Wear Fur-Lined Boots? The title of this section may seem frivolous at first glance. It is not intended to be so. Nor am I confusing God and Santa Claus. The metaphor of fur-lined boots is very appropriate to describe a very difficult but necessary element in our understanding of God. Fur-lined boots are no joke to those who live in cold climates. Where there is bitter cold and much rain, people need a strong, weather resistant, outside covering for their feet. At the same time soft fur provides a warmth and comfort for the inside of the boot, next to the foot. Eskimos have worn fur-lined boots for many years. Of course, God does not wear fur-lined boots. But our full understanding of God requires that we see an evil-resistant, external part of God's nature which is of the same piece with a warm and comforting interior. I am using this important metaphor to describe the love and wrath of God. Everyone wants to tell children about God's love. Seldom does anyone speak about wrath. Yet both terms and their related ideas have a very prominent place in Scripture. Both terms have dominated certain periods of Christian thinking about God. In the Middle Ages and in some Puritan literature, wrath received the greater stress. Among the mystics and in modern times, love has been emphasized. Both the terms love and wrath need to be carefully defined before we go any further. The love of God is both liberating and binding. God's love is not a sentimental attachment that changes with every new object of his affection. His love is a consistent and persistent reaching out for the good of the other. God's love does not ask what is in the relationship for him; neither does it ask about the worth of the object. This is why we can say that God loves sinners and the unlovely. God loves those whom no one



else loves. He loves his creation for no other reason than that he loves it. The desired result of God's love is the good and the fulfillment of those he loves. God loves everyone and everything. The verse which we most frequently associate with God's love, and rightly so, is John 3:16. The one great act of God which perfectly demonstrates his love to us is the death of his Son, Jesus. John's statement is at the heart of Christian theology. But is it not strange that a supreme act of love should be the death of a beloved Son? As long as we explain God's love only as tender feelings and sentiment, we will not be able to relate his love expressed supremely in Jesus' death to our understanding of love. The warmth and comforting elements of God's love are genuine, and all Christians have experienced them. But there must be another side of God's love to give full explanation to the tragedy of the cross. I wish there were another word to use instead of wrath. Wrath is so emotionally overloaded with ideas of anger, hostility, and hatred. These are not really what wrath is about. Wrath is the firmness required to exclude evil. Wrath is a settled opposition to what will destroy God's good creation. Those ideas about God getting angry with people, like some petty tyrant, are not what the Bible means by wrath. Wrath means willingness to do what has to be done in order to make things right. Wrath means being able to exclude whatever is not for the good of the ones loved. Wrath means suffering the consequences of what is wrong. I hope by now that you are seeing that wrath sounds very much like God's love. If you do see that, you are quite right. Love and wrath are not opposites. They are two sides of the same coin. In fact, it is sometimes difficult to interpret what events are love and what are wrath. For example, we might suppose that material wealth and an untroubled life is a sign of God's love. Certainly it can be. But we can make such use of wealth and carefree existence that we forget to take God seriously and refuse to use our wealth wisely. Then we live in wrath. Many examples of this dual love/wrath are in nature. Gravity is good. It holds us all down to earth. But when we fall off a ladder that same gravity has painful consequences for us. All of the "laws of nature" have the same neutral possibility. They can be tokens of love and/or of wrath. Love can be very demanding. To be loved so intensely by God is to be placed under deep obligations and responsibilities. Wrath can be redemptive. To sense the displeasure of one we love and to find our-



selves in difficulties because we have disobeyed God's laws often leads to reflection and return. If the fur-lined boot is to function, it must have both parts: the external strength to exclude what will harm and the internal warmth that provides security and comfort. You may feel that you cannot find an effective way of presenting the ancient word wrath to children. The dilemma involved here is that children will discover the word or idea for themselves in Scripture and in life. Whether or not you choose to use the word wrath, you need to include in your description of God the idea of something which restricts evil, secures justice, and makes necessary the suffering occasioned by sin. Love/wrath are two sides of the same coin or two parts of the same boot. Love is regulative of wrath. By this I mean that the redemptive purpose of God is more readily perceived in the idea of love. Stress love with children. But define God's love for children in such a way that it has both penalty and pain connected with it when it is ignored. Theologians speak of love and wrath. Perhaps children can learn from the metaphor of the fur-lined boots. God's care for us as seen in the cross can best be explained by God's determination to warm and comfort us by that same means in which he resists evil and even suffers with his Son to exclude it from conquering us. If you want a phrase associated only with love, use responsible love. This will include the notion that we need to respond to God's love and to assume our responsibility to the demands of love and even to the suffering which love requires. God doesn't literally wear furlined boots, but in our relationship to him we need to experience both the toughness and durability which keeps harm out and the warmth of love which comforts us. Both the inside and the outside are necessary. From Words to Worship A beautiful expression comes from a Presbyterian catechism used to teach children. The essence of it is that the chief end of man (mankind) is to know God and to enjoy him forever. That is well stated. In knowing about God, we discover ourselves also. The most desirable way of expressing what we know about God is to describe him according to what he has done. Our overview, based on Scripture, of what God has done has provided ten words (there are many more). These ten words stand for very significant ideas about God. Use these words, defined earlier in this chapter, to help children enjoy God.



Every religion has three parts. Doctrine is the heart of religion. The customs of the devotional life, such as prayer, Bible study, and religious education, are another part. The ethical actions and desirable deeds give practical expression to religion. The ethics could be called the feet and the hands of religion. Together these three parts fit to make up the total body of religion. Religion is best expressed in worship. Worship is not just knowing about God or doing churchly duties or performing ethical acts. Worship is all of these. Worship is the fullest expression of our relationship with God. Here are some tips for children's worship based on these expressions about God. 1. Remember to emphasize both God and all his works in worship. For example, hymns for children's worship should include as many thys, thees, and thines (that is, references to God) as mys, mes, and mines (that is, references to the boys and girls). Also included should be references to angels, animals, plants, the world of nature, and the world of manufactured things. 2. Finding a handle that fits includes not only a way of understanding God but also using a vocabulary, illustrations, and analogies children can understand. For example, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence are important ideas, but they need to be put in a way a child can understand them. They also need to be kept in the wider context of God's redemptive purpose of relationships with his world rather than used as theological abstractions. Learn from the children. Let them express why God's knowing everything is good and why his use of power is not to be feared. 3. We moved in our discussion from God's deeds to words about God. Lead children to take the final step of moving from words about God to good acts for God. For example, let children's worship include not only a collection of offering but also an expenditure of time and effort outside the walls usually marked off for worship. Visit those who cannot visit the church. Learn about all kinds of boys and girls since all of them are equally loved by God. Let nature be a part of worship. Bring God's world into God's worship. 4. God makes the first move toward his creation. Help children to be outgoing and friendly to all others. Find activities that will make new friendships, and practice the Godlike trait of approaching others with a concern for their well-being. For example, to convey that warm rela-



tionships can be established from written letters, study the letters of the Bible. Then ask children to establish and consolidate friendships and give evidence of concern by their own written expressions in the form of letters and notes to others. 5. God is everywhere. We cannot be. But we can be places where we can learn about God, and we can be places where people would be happy about our being there. These suggestions are more than church attendance campaign boosters and finding somewhere for children to go. Pastoral theologians speak of visiting and being with persons who need us as a "theology of presence." I think the phrase is a very happy one. It certainly reflects one of God's ways of relating to his world. 6. Give a great deal of attention to knowing about God. The reason for knowing is to improve our being, and this needs to find expression in our doing. Children can readily and easily learn and memorize many things that will be useful in formal worship now and all through their lives. They should be encouraged to do this. The love of learning is a good thing. The practice of what we have learned is the best thing. 7. As you stress the power of God, help children see the forms erf power which they and their society share. God uses his limitless power for good. People often use their power for personal reasons only. For example, money is a form of power. Use the idea of sharing money as a form of sharing power. Children need to have an awareness of stewardship and sharing so that when they are grown they will not misuse the powers (physical, mental, social, and economic) which God has given to them. 8. The holiness of God requires elements of awe and mystery in worship. Let children see this reverence in the way we participate in worship. Take children through your worship facilities and explain the symbolism and purpose of each item of worship. Let the explanation reflect awe, as well as information. 9. Children have a kind of built-in feeling for justice and a keen sense of injustice. Use this sensitivity of the child to discuss current events drawn from the world of politics, sports, and even criminology so prevalent in the newspapers and in their world. Build from these specific cases of justice or injustice an awareness for the need of one who is right, who can bring justice, and who is able to judge. 10. Fatherhood is a normal human experience. The fatherhood of God is a unique kind of experience. Use the idea of God's fatherhood as



a participation in suffering love to help children understand the death of Jesus the Son. Give children a chance to say how they feel their fathers are like God and are different from God. Give fathers a chance to deal with the same question. 11. Responsible love is a two-sided term. Love must be tough enough to resist evil. Have children look for examples of tough love in every area of their world, from playground to parental discipline. An element of warmth and suffering must also be found in love. Help girls and boys express this warmth without embarrassment. Prolong as long as possible that trusting love of childhood that dares to extend itself, even to the point of hurt and disappointment. You may well be thinking that, in order to do all of these things, you would have to feel the pulse beat of God and be in touch with the total life of the child. That is what it is like to know about God and to care about children. His works can be expressed in words about what God is like. And those words in turn can be expressed in worship. Worship is our way of being before God. Why else should we know him but to enjoy him? When we know what God is like, we can enjoy him. There is a delight of childhood in enjoying God, our holy Father.

I Have a Friend

A lovely, young son of missionaries living in a foreign culture said to me happily: "I have a friend. He's away on vacation now. But he is coming home next week." It's very important to have a friend. A friend is someone with whom you share things and do things. A friend understands. A friend stands by you and keeps you from being alone. Little wonder that one of the favorite gospel songs in English-speaking Christendom is "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." A large picture of Jesus blessing the children hangs in the National Gallery of Art in London. It was painted by a Dutch artist in the seventeenth century. Jesus, a strong yet gentle figure, is dressed like a man of the first century. But the children he is blessing are dressed like seventeenth-century Dutch children. The picture is a visual commentary on a favorite children's hymn. Jesus loves the little children, All the children of the world; Red and yellow, black and white, They are precious in His sight; Jesus loves the little children of the world. To convey this love to all children is important. In order to do this we too have to paint a picture of Jesus that applies to "all the children of the world" dressed in modern clothes. Our portrait will be largely verbal. Our best portraits are those that visualize Jesus through our actions. To tell children they have a Friend is a solemn and lovely task. The Greeks would have described Jesus according to what he looked like. A Hebraic, functional view of Jesus draws a picture of who he is based on what he did and does.

A Child of Promise
Hope and expectation are important experiences to all people. They are especially exciting to children. In order to bring the Old Testament




and the New Testament together for a child, we can use the hope and promise idea. Theologically, this binding together of the Old Testament and the New Testament is very important. The God of creation is the God of redemption. The God who made the world and saw it go on the wrong course is the Father of Jesus Christ, whom he sent to bring the world back to himself. The most convincing way in which the Old and the New Testaments are tied together is through Jesus, a Child of promise. The theological term for a promise from God about the future is prophecy. School-age children will have heard the term prophecy. Unfortunately, they may have heard it only in connection with bizarre and threatening ideas about the final coming of Christ. This view of prophecy is very misleading. Help your children understand that God who knows the future gives people reassuring promises about the future. Biblical prophecy came in times of trouble, and it was given for comfort and hope. Prophecy also includes the words of God in judgment on our own times. In the Old Testament, the words of God in judgment were usually concluded with the words of God in promise and hope. Seen this way, prophecy is a very important way in which God helps his people. He warns and judges. He promises and brings about what he promises. In looking for models to describe prophecy to children, avoid the road-map approach. The road-map approach to prophecy is a rigid view which claims to be able to tell just how many miles we are away from the end of the map. This view is used either to turn the church into a holy, I've-got-a-secret club or to attempt to frighten people into loving God. This is not a good model, and it does not take its roots from a biblical understanding of prophecy. A better model to help children understand prophecy is the promisefulfillment pattern of everyday life. For example, the parent or children's worker needs to tell a child what the consequences of actions are. If you do not brush your teeth, you will have cavities. It is also appropriate to offer help when the child has reached the limit of his resources. "Do as many math problems as you can. Then we will work together on the hard ones." In biblical prophecy about Jesus' birth, this is the way things worked out. God promised Eve that, although she must suffer the consequences of disobedience, a child would come who could overcome all the evil consequences of sin (Gen. 3:15). This is the first prophecy about a child



of promise. Isaiah specifically speaks of a child who will be a Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6-7). The promises of God are multifaceted. They provided meaning to the people who first received them. They provide comfort for all who believe them. And when they are completely fulfilled, they are signs of reassurance in God's promises. The prophecies of God may have several preliminary fulfillments. But they also have a final fulfillment. The people who live in the time of the fulfillment recognize the completeness of God's plan, and they are grateful for it. Those who live before the final fulfillment hold the promise as a matter of hope as to what God will do. Little evidence is presented in the Bible that people in Bible days spent much time and energy trying to find out when God was going to fulfill his promise. This is certainly the pattern of prophecy and its fulfillment for the first coming of Jesus. And I am explaining the situation so fully here because I feel that this is also the best way to approach the second coming of Jesus. If we use the promiseand-fulfillment model of prophecy with children, we will avoid using prophetic scare tactics with children about the second coming of Christ. Let the first coming of Christ, its fulfillment and its reality and comfort, be the example you use to explain prophecy to children. Jesus was a child of promise. The Old Testament looked forward to the birth of someone in human history who could begin to make sense of that history and could begin to make right what was wrong with it. God made a promise. He obviously had someone in mind. That someone was Jesus. Christian theology stresses that Jesus was in the beginning with God. The theological term for this is preexistence. To build a good theological base for children, suggest that God and Jesus were making these promises in a mutual way. What is important is to provide some base for a child to see that the Son did not completely come into being at Bethlehem. At Bethlehem he entered history in a new way and took our humanity upon himself. Obviously if both the Father and the Son gave the promise of a redeemer, God the Son existed before Bethlehem. The reasons for speaking about the Son's preexistence are to tie the New Testament to the Old, to hold together nature and grace, and to provide a base for the divine nature of Jesus. When you teach children that Jesus is the Child of promise, you bring together many important theological ideas. You reinforce God's purpose to bring his world back to himself. You define prophecy as a promise-fulfillment model which expresses God's faithfulness and pro-



vides comfort and assurance to people who are in need. You lay the groundwork for a way of looking at the promise of Christ's final coming. You provide a base for the consistent thread of God's redemptive plan that stitches together both the Old and the New Testament. A base is given for understanding the divine nature of Christ. There is also that obvious and desirable advantage that children live very much in hope. They will relate to and be glad to hear about a Child of promise.

Once, It All Came Together

In a Special Birth Fragments disturb us. We long for wholeness and a completed picture. I think this desire for the full picture is both inherent and acquired. It is inherent because without knowing how things worked we would not survive. Without this longing there is no sense of adventure or exploration and, therefore, no achievement. The desire to see the whole picture is acquired because we teach our children to develop and reinforce this innate desirable gift. That is why puzzles are good ways of teaching children coordination of their motor actions, their color perceptions, their sense of proportion, and appropriateness. We get a sense of achievement and satisfaction in working a puzzle because it gives us a sense of accomplishment. We see a completed picture when all the pieces are in place. Things that were meant to fit together do fit, and we like for it all to come together. The birth of Jesus was the completion of a puzzle, the answer to a riddle. The original picture shows things all together in a completed purpose. But what we are left with is a series of unconnected pieces. All creation is supposed to fit. But even a child can see that something is wrong in our world. Each of the orders of existence should play a part in making the whole complete. The riddle is, How can God, who is different from everything else, really relate to the historical existence of his creation? These are the pieces of the puzzle and the posing of a riddle which Christmas brings together. First the riddle. How can God, who is different from us, be known by us? The riddle is solved by the incarnational principle I have talked about in previous chapters. Incarnation is a term that means to be made flesh. Theologically, we use this term to mean that God took the initiative in the person of his Son and entered our human historical conditions. The special event which accompanied this entering of the Son



into human history is called the virgin birth. A better term would be virginal conception, for it was the conception of Jesus without human male participation that was distinctive about Jesus coming to be with us. The earliest Christians wisely saw this as the complete fulfillment of Isaiah's promise (Isa. 7). The theological significance of the virgin birth is that it is a way of describing God the Son's entering history so as to celebrate the divine nature. The birth itself, in very poor and difficult circumstances, celebrates the real humanness of Jesus. These ideas do not solve the Latin question as to how, that is, What were the means by which God actually performed this special work? But they do solve the functional riddle as to how God can fully understand mankind and enter our scene. The riddle may be stated like this, When is God other than God while still being God? The answer is when, in the person of the Son, he becomes both God and man. What are the signs that he is both God and man? He comes into our creation in a special way that tells of his godness. He is born in historical conditions which show his humanness. The Annunciation refers to God's announcement to Mary, by the angel Gabriel, that she would be the human mother of Jesus. The biblical basis for the Annunciation is Luke 1. There are always three figures in the annunciation scene. There is Mary, there is the angel Gabriel, and there is the Spirit which often is represented in Christian art as a dove. The symbol of a dove is used in Christian art to represent the Holy Spirit primarily because this is the description given of the Spirit at Jesus' baptism. Children need to know these biblical bases for Christian art. They also need good Christian art to help them image the biblical events. Christian education of young children will stress the theological meaning and significance of the virgin birth. Older school children can be helped by relating the biological meaning of the virgin birth to their larger understanding of human biology and to a world view which can acknowledge the extraordinary example of a child born differently from the usual way of human propagation. Above all, stress the theological meaning of Christ's birth with all children. It gives an answer to how God comes to us. The birth of Jesus in human time and place shows us how much God loves us. Jesus' birth as a human person gives meaning and worth to all persons. This is the incarnational principle. Children often press on to further questions. Why did God choose to

I HAVE A FRIEND 91 come to us this way? Why does a strong God come in such a weak and helpless way? One answer is that God, who defines what is right and what is good, also defines what is strength. One part of his definition of strength, perhaps the deepest part, is that strength is found in what seems to us to be the weakness of suffering love. Back-and-forth thinking will remind a child that our definitions and ideas need to be broadened by what God does for us in Jesus Christ. We have no completely satisfying response to the question, Why did God come to us this way? That is why ancient churchmen referred to Jesus' birth as one of the great mysteries of faith. Children will be very glad that Christ was born in Bethlehem as a baby. In Jesus' birth they have a Friendthe Child of promise.

Involving All the World

Jesus' birth involves the riddle of how God can relate to us. It also involves a puzzle. This is the puzzle. How do the pieces of existence all fit in the accounts of Jesus' birth and infancy? What about all types of creationangels, people, animals, things? Is evil also a part of the picture? Are all people included? Do different social classes of people hear the news? These are a few of the pieces to be fitted into the Christmas story. As you know, the account of Jesus' birth is given most fully in Matthew 12 and in Luke 12. You should not overlook John's account of the meaning of Jesus' birth (John 1). When we put these accounts together, they form a lovely and complete picture. Luke's account of Jesus' birth especially brings together all of the types or orders of God's creation. The angels announced the news. The shepherds heard the news. By inference, animals, whose manger Jesus used as a crib, were present. The hay in which the infant was cradled and the flax which was woven into linen for his garments represent the plant world. When we add Matthew's account, there was the star representing the world of things and the camels required by the Magi and their retinue. The Wise Men themselves brought additional tokens from the created world as gifts. Many pictures are available to illustrate that all the creation was represented at Bethlehem. Discover and use some of these pictures. Look especially for pictures which represent Jesus and Mary and Joseph in various racial and historical settings. Children will feel the universal implications of Bethlehem more if we use a variety of artistic interpretations of the birth. Those who prefer to use only a few



familiar pictures of the birth of Jesus should be aware that many of these pictures are painted in the Romantic style of the nineteenth century and ordinarily do not represent the types of clothes average working people, such as Joseph and Mary, would be wearing. Even evil has its representation at the birth of Jesus. The expression, "There was no room for them in the inn" is full of human pathos. The crowded condition itself was due to the census taxation of a political system that needed money for war. Possibly Mary and Joseph were excluded because of their poverty, but this idea has no biblical basis. The innkeeper, whom tradition has assigned the name Boniface, has been the subject of endless fiction and plays. He can be viewed as either hero (because he gave them the stable) or villain (because he excluded them from the inn). Certainly Herod's rage and the killing of young children at his command are the most explicit expressions of evil that accompanied the birth and infancy of Jesus. All kinds of people figure into the birth and infancy accounts. The shepherds were poor. The Wise Men were rich. It is interesting to note that later Christian interpreters suggested there were three Wise Men based on the number of their gifts. They were given the names Melchior, Balthasar, and Caspar. Each was represented as being of a different ethnic strain. In this way, all people came to the young Christ. A more biblical way of illustrating that this was a "babe for all people" is to explore the geneological accounts of Jesus' birth. Both Jews and Gentiles are included. Matthew emphasizes the Jewish antecedents of Jesus including four women, two of whom were not Jewish. Luke emphasizes that Jesus is the son of Adam, and is, therefore, related to all people. Luke's friend Paul would later refer to Jesus as the last or second Adam. Through drama, music, and art the children may learn that all the world is represented at Bethlehem. All the pieces of the puzzle fit. Yet Bethlehem was only the beginning. There was a mirrored piece at Bethlehem that shows the story was expected to go further. That mirrored piece, which reflects the future, is the cautious phrase in Luke about Mary reflecting on the meaning of all of this. Later she was to taste the apparent tragedy of Jesus' death, as she was then enjoying the triumph of his birth. Jesus' swaddling clothes were garments used both to wrap newborn infants and dead men. These mirrored pieces let us know there is more to the picture than Bethlehem. But the birth of Jesus reminds us that God's drama of redemp-

tion has actually come into our history. Children will enjoy knowing that once it all came together.


Good Days and Bad

A friend is someone who understands. And in order to understand thoroughly, someone has to go through the experiences his friends do. It is trite but true that we all have good days and bad days. The bad days often seem to follow the good. Children too have their ups and downs. Children and adults can be encouraged by knowing that this was true of Jesus also. One of his good days was the day he was baptized. Some of his bad days were those just after his baptism when he was tempted. Children will be involved with both baptism and temptation, and these experiences of the Friend, Jesus, can help bring understanding to their experiences. Sometimes we use Jesus' baptism by John as an example story of what Christians also should do. This is a good way to use the story, but it is far from the whole story. Jesus' baptism has some very special features which we need to think about. When Jesus was baptized, John the baptizer realized that Jesus did not need baptism because he had done nothing he needed to repent of. Why, then, was Jesus baptized? He was baptized in order to stand with us, all of us who have done things to repent of. I like to tell children the story of Jesus' life and death in terms of the old children's game May-I? In that game the players try to reach a goal by taking certain kinds of steps. Each group of steps must be preceded by the question, "May I?" There are all kinds of steps: baby steps, alligator steps, scissor steps, and so forth. The best step, because it enables you to reach to the goal more quickly, is a giant step. Jesus' coming to be with us and identifying himself with us is a series of giant steps. The first historical giant step Jesus took to come to us was Bethlehem. Baptism is a second giant step. In baptism Jesus, who did not need to repent, crossed a line to stand with us who do. Baptism of believing Christians can well be represented as a giant step we take to stand with Jesus, the Friend who came to stand with us. The Holy Spirit came as a dove at Jesus' baptism and God's voice spoke from heaven. The voice from heaven brought together two Old Testament passages. "Thou art my beloved Son" (Ps. 2:7) is from a psalm where the king is given great honor. "In whom my soul de-



lighteth" (Isa. 42:1) is from a prophetic poem where a servant suffers for others. The heavenly voice brought together these two contrasting ideas: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17). In them Jesus recognized that he was to be the exalted Son by way of service and suffering. Jesus' understanding and dedication to his task, which began at his baptism, was to lead him, eventually, to the cross. A distinctive element at his baptism is his task as Messiah. We cannot share his particular task of being the Messiah. Nevertheless, there is a sense in which our baptism can and does speak of our dedication to the will of God for us and to the service of God on behalf of others. This note of dedication and responsibility should be very much a part of a believers prebaptismal teaching. The baptism of Jesus was a good day. Just after his baptism Jesus came to a time of temptation. His great temptation was to be some other kind of messiah than a servant messiah who had to suffer to accomplish his mission. The evil one suggested that Jesus be a "bread messiah" by using his power from God merely to satisfy people's physical needs. Jesus resisted. The evil one suggested that Jesus be a spectacular messiah by jumping off the Temple and asking angels to save him from harm. Jesus resisted. The evil one suggested a compromise in which he and Jesus would join forces to rule the world. Jesus resisted. Jesus' main temptation was to do God's will, to be the Messiah, in the devil's wayany way except the way of suffering and the cross. The bad days of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness were only one phase of his temptations. Just like us, he faced temptations until the end of his life. One New Testament writer saw the importance of Jesus' temptations for his friends, for us. "For we have not a high priest [a friend to stand before God on our behalf] who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning" (Heb. 4:15). It helps to have a friend who has been through the same experiences we have. Jesus' example gives us courage and his presence gives us strength. He had his good days and his bad ones. So do we.

He Went About Doing Good

One of the loveliest descriptions of Jesus is the expression in Acts 10:38 that he was approved of God and that he went about doing good. This is a relational, functional way of saying who Jesus was by describing what he did.



The good which Jesus did was not "do-goodism." Pollyanna's aunt was always doing good because it was her "beholden duty." Jesus did good because it was his nature. Children are quick to detect the difference. Teachings. One type of good which Jesus did is embodied in his teachings. Much of the content of his teachings is to be found in the Old Testament and in Judaism. For example, the expression "Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you" is found in the teachings of the rabbis. Jesus changed truths carried over from the Old Testament and Judaism in two ways. He brought them from the negative to the positive. And he pointed out the deeper meaning inherent in these teachings. For example, Moses said do not do certain acts, but Jesus said do not harbor the thoughts that bring these acts into being. The two fresh notes which we discover in Jesus' teaching that make them so distinctive are the notes of grace and authority. Grace and authority are mingled in a practical way. Jesus told about workers who received a minimum wage no matter when they signed on to work. Economically that doesn't make sense, and his hearers resented it. But Jesus drove home his point by the unanswerable assertion that grace is God's gift, and he can bestow it on whomever he wants to. Jesus showed a freedom and authority in his teaching that is resented by all traditionalists. He spoke of God as Father and spoke from the experience of their relationship. He dared to deepen Moses' laws by requiring a more radical and complete understanding of their purpose. Proud people did not like Jesus' teachings. Children were often the center of his illustrations and an eager audience to his insights. One reason for his popularity among everyday kinds of people was the way Jesus taught. He began with something people knew about: "a sower went forth to sow"; a "man had a vineyard"; a "woman had ten coins"; a "shepherd had a hundred sheep." Since Jesus used the language of his day, that language related to farm life and commerce in the first century. We may have a difficult time realizing that children today in an urban, technological world do not understand some of the illustrations Jesus used. We need to find some way to visualize and explain them. I am thinking of a group of boys and girls in one of our largest cities who had seen sheep only in a livestock display in a museum. For children like these, translate the circumstances in which Jesus' teachings were expressed into today's language and experience. It



is equally important not to lose the meaning and the impact of the teaching in the translation. Many modern parables are appropriate to the teaching about the good Samaritan. The daily newspapers are full of the crimes of violence where some help but many don't. Do not water down the sharpness of a parable's meaning by applying bland circumstances to a traumatic situation. The parable of the good Samaritan, when given its full weight, has something to say about the fact that some religious people can neglect their duties while some from racial minorities, even as the Samaritan was, have done some very helpful things. Jesus' teachings were simple and direct. They placed his hearers in a position of having to make decisions, of having to do something. He puts all who hear his teachings under the requirement of the radical obedience of love. Mighty works. A second focus of Jesus' doing good is his miracles or mighty works. Because he was "approved of God" and he was himself a manifestation of the fullness of God, he had extraordinary power. God, the source of all power, never misuses power. That is not true of people to whom he has entrusted certain kinds of power. The power Jesus had was used during his life on earth to help others and to illustrate truths about God. Jesus was not a sensational miracle monger. He did not charge for his services. He saw human need and filled it with deeds made possible by his power. The mighty works of Jesus fall into four basic categories: those mighty works which healed people; those which raised the dead; those which drove out and bound the power of evil; and those which showed control over the forces of nature. Jesus' mighty works were for a larger purpose rather than mere personal self-gain. The purpose of Jesus' mighty works was to give previews of what God ultimately desires to tell us. Jesus' mighty works assure us that, finally, God will do away with all sickness, the power of evil, and even death itself. God will transform even the natural world in such a way that it can no longer threaten people. Some modern faith healers try to make all people well now. Some people try to deny death. The more we manipulate nature, the more her forces seem to respond in different and unusual patterns. The lesson Jesus' mighty works teaches us is that he who made the world will at last re-create it. Jesus' mighty works were also an evidence of his compassion and concern for people in need. We are fortunate to have a Friend who has power and who uses it for good. Jesus' teachings and his mighty works fit



together as two hinges of a door which opens into a room which is good for God's world. It's a room where his purpose of doing good for his world in his world here and now has begun. And it is a room which speaks of a larger place yet to come. Neither his words nor his special deeds should be used merely for personal knowledge or favored treatment. We hear his words and sometimes feel the power of his mighty works in order to apply them and to share them.

But He Died!
Death is no stranger to children. The story of the early life of Gautama Buddha says that his father, a wealthy prince, tried to shield Gautama from poverty, pain, misery, and death. That plan did not work. It never does. Children live in a real world. The most predictable thing about all living things in our real world is that they will die. Children say sadly and simply, "I had a pet; he died." "My aunt died." "My grandfather is very sick, and Daddy says he is going to die." Death can be very solemn and matter-of-fact with them. The brave exterior sometimes hides the haunting question, "Will I also die?" The answer is yes, and that answer should be given candidly and courageously, with a word of hope. What is the source of hope, if the source of power in the person of Jesus, our Friend, dies? The source of hope can be spelled out in due time. Good Friday and Christ's death must be lived through and worked out before Easter and Christ's resurrection can bring a meaningful hope. Death must be seen as an actual enemy before resurrection can be viewed as the actual victory. For Jesus, the Friend, dying was not merely a matter of death. It was a matter of violent death, a matter of killing. And that is a more awesome matter. Jesus' death involved crime and its motives. Killing involves victims and their attitudes. Since Jesus was who he was, both divine and human, since he is the leading character in the divine drama of redemption, his death was a cosmic event. A cosmic event is one which affects all of creation. What happens to the Lord of creation has implications for all creation. What shall we tell children about the death of this Friend who also represents the ultimate power of good and is, at the same time, the Son of God? We must first confess that Jesus' death happened. His death, no less than his birth, took place in human history. One ancient statement of



belief takes up this historical strain with a great precision. It says, he was crucified under Pontius Pilate. The Gospels all make this historical act very specific. As a matter of fact, larger portions of the Gospels are given over to his last week and death than to any single event in Jesus' life. We cannot ignore the tragedy of the end when telling children about Jesus. Second, we need to point out the complicated strands and layers of responsibility for Jesus' death. In one sense the religious leaders of Jesus' day were responsible for his death. We are giving an inappropriate explanation if we blame all Jews of all time with the sole guilt of Jesus' death. Anti-Semitism is ultimately defeating to the Christian community, for Jesus himself was a Jew. Pilate and the Roman government had a part in Jesus' death. Washing one's hands of the affair, as Pilate tried to do, is impossible. But that cosmic, that universal, wider responsibility for Jesus death exists. The central figure of world history is the victim of all world history. Wherever mistakes are made they multiply and are carried on until someone gets hurt. For example, when a car is faulty and someone is killed because of a mechanical failure, who is to blame? Is it the designer of the car without whose design the car would never have been made? Is it the maker of the faulty part, the person on the assembly line who put it together, the inspector whose job it was to catch mistakes, the salesman who sold the car, or the driver, who should have examined more carefully what he bought and how he drove it so that his innocent passenger would not have been killed? In this involved way all have some responsibility. This is an example of collective guilt. Each contributed his part in the tragedy. In the cosmic event of the death of Jesus all people have a part. They have a part in that death because they all have individually contributed to and entered into the circumstances which occasioned Jesus' death. Jesus died to make things right in God's creation. Everything must be made right because all things and all people are less than they should be. To be wrong, to be less than we should be, is called sinthis is what Paul, one of the earliest people who tried to understand the enormous consequences of Jesus' death, meant when he said "Christ died for our sins" (1 Cor. 15:3). This cosmic event should be presented in its general plan. The particular awareness of each individual child's own part in this collective guilt must be permitted to grow until the child himself is aware of the



wrongness in his own life and sees the relationship between that individual wrongness and the reason for Christ's death. A fervor without sensitivity which unloads on an impressionable child a full, direct, individual responsibility for the death of Jesus is asking for deep trouble psychologically and theologically. Fostering guilt among those who are sensitive, but not comprehending, in order to convey cheap grace produces at worst spiritual stillbirths and at best leaves spiritual birth defects and abnormalities which occasion much pain in later Christian experience. Christ died to make people right with God. People were not right because of sin. All people participate in sin and in what is wrong. Therefore, all people have a share in the reason for Christ's death. But the remarkable outcome of Christ's death is that all who have caused it may be forgiven for all they have done that is wrong. In this way God and Jesus begin to make things right. This is the rationale of the gospel. Every child needs the help of understanding parents and/or Christian children's workers as the child comes to hear, understand, accept, and live out of God's way of making things right. A third thing which needs to be explained to a child about the death of Jesus, the Friend, is the interrelation of Jesus, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit in Jesus' death. To say that God made Jesus die and that God was punishing Jesus by his death is to lay the groundwork for theological schizophrenia. The child would then learn to sing, "What a friend we have in Jesus" and to think, "What a cruel tyrant we have in God the Father." The fullness of God is involved in Jesus' death and in the purpose for it and the plan it effects. Jesus did not want to die. He enjoyed life. Yet in a deeper sense he saw the purpose of his death and gladly consented to it. The Father sent the willing Son to die and in Jesus' death the Father also suffered. God assumed responsibility for the world he had made and he also assumed the pain and price in making it right. By the Holy Spirit the earthly Jesus was born. By the Spirit Jesus was sustained in temptation and strengthened to do his mighty works. The power of the Holy Spirit was also at work in sustaining Jesus in his death. The strange cry of Jesus from the cross, "My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46) and the metaphor that God turned his back upon the scene needs explanation. The cry of loneliness is a human response in the midst of great pain. The pain was not merely physical



it was psychic and spiritual as well. The words themselves are found first in Psalm 22:1 which concludes with a deep affirmation of faith. Like Job, the psalmist, and all believers who suffer, Jesus cried out his feelings in the context of faith. His final word was the committing of his spirit into the hands of God. God's turning of the back is a metaphor of the tenderness of God at the suffering of others and the dismay of a holy God hi the presence of the consequences of sin. God was in no way deserting Jesus. They suffered together. Children need to see that the death of a Friend, Jesus, is part of a larger plan, a plan in which they too have a part and a promise. They will want to know that all of God was working in and suffering through that death. It is a sad but necessary thing to say "I had a Friend, Jesus, but he died." But that is not the end of the matter.

Oh, Look, a Butterfly!

One of the remarkable feats of nature is the changing of the lowly caterpillar through its cocoon stage into a beautiful butterfly. We can understand why butterflies were adopted very early by the Christian community as a symbol of the resurrection. There is something breathtaking about butterflies which are very much a part of earth and heaven at the same time. They dart about at will, seemingly independent of gravity. Their fragile wings and beauty are deceptive, for one finds that they migrate even across great stretches of water with surprising endurance. A cry of delight, "Oh, look, a butterfly!" signals a change from the ordinary. The resurrection of Jesus is the one completely different experience since creation. Weak parallels to it are found in the dying and rising of nature with the change of seasons. There are stronger parallels in the miracles of the Gospels in which Jesus raised the dead. But these raising-ofpeople-from-the-dead miracles are only signs pointing to Jesus' resurrection and the resurrection of all persons on the last day. For instance, Lazarus was brought back into our dimension of time and space. But he was still bound by human, historical conditions; and he did die again at the end of his earthly life. Jesus' resurrection was a new act of creation. God broke into our world to give us the assurance and evidence of the reality of his world. The empty tomb became a lifeline through which God pumps the air of his eternal world into the enclosed capsule of our own world.

I HAVE A FRIEND 101 When teaching children about the resurrection, concentrate first on the resurrection of Jesus. This emphasis should not be given only at Easter. Every Sunday is a reminder of the resurrection, and every death is an occasion for remembering it. Children have very tenacious minds. They want to know what happened to their Friend who died. We can tell them joyously that he was resurrected. The first news the children need to know about Jesus after his death is that this same Jesus was resurrected. You will want to be careful to guard the term resurrected as the special term we use only for this occasion and for what will happen to all persons at the end of history. Wake up, came back to life, and other more natural expressions do not, it seems to me, bring out the distinctive quality of resurrection. Part of the distinctiveness of the resurrection is that it was the resurrection of Jesus. That Jesus was the one person to embody this distinctive new act of creation is evidence that he is the central figure in the drama of redemption. The second important point about the resurrection is that God, the Father, used his creative-redemptive power to resurrect Jesus. The significance of this is that God and Jesus were working together along with the power of the Spirit to bring lifea kind of life that lasts to their creation that had been threatened by death. Children are delighted to hear that God the Father used his power to bring a victory to his Son and through him to all the world. A third note in the irrepressible melody of the resurrectionwhich is like a lovely tune one can't get out of the mindis the unusual way in which Jesus appeared and the things he did after his resurrection. Jesus came to those who were his friends. He did those same things he had done while he was with them. He called them by name (Mary in the garden). He invited them to believe (the disciples in the upper room). He gave them opportunity to overcome their doubts (Thomas in the upper room). He taught them about the purpose of God (the disciples on the Emmaus road). He did mighty works for them (the miraculous catch of fish). He even rebuked them when they needed it (Peter at the seashore). He was the same Jesus as before. But he was also different. He came through closed doors. He appeared in various places. He disappeared at will. Nothing could hold him. This same Jesus was no longer bound by the conditions of history and human finitude, as he had been before. He came to Bethlehem from the spiritual world of God's existence into the physical world of our



lives. He now had joined those two worlds together by the opening of the tomb. That is the highest act of his historical drama. Jesus' resurrection is of the same power and importance as the final act of God's drama. In that final act God will reach into the world by the power of the risen Christ to change it into a new world where everything is right. The resurrection of Christ is the highest act in the historical drama of God. It is to be placed on a par with God's original act of creating the world and God's final act of changing the world. The resurrection is, therefore, the middle point of God's purpose. It is the pole that holds up the tent in which God performs his mighty acts. Behind this pole lies the ring of creation. In front of it lies the ring of the final consummation. This "end of the story of Jesus" is important. First, because it tells us that he won. Second, it assures us that the Father helped the Son and works with him. Third, it illustrates the one moment in history when time and eternity coupled together. Four, the victory of Jesus is a victory he will share with all of his creation. Jesus' resurrection gives us a final word about how we should look at death, our death and the death of all whom we love. (We shall explore this more fully in chapter 12.) There is a delightful natural analogy in the death and resurrection of Jesus and the sight of a butterfly. This analogy will help to interpret the resurrection to children. Keep a caterpillar through its cocoon stage to its emergence as a butterfly. Do not, for obvious reasons, use dead butterflies to illustrate the resurrection. Butterfly collections can be used as a demonstration of the beauty of God's world but not as an expression of the resurrection. If you have clever electricians at your disposal, rig up a magic-eye display and view the opening of a door as the mysterious effect which Christ's passing through death has in opening God's eternal world to us. If you are outside, demonstrate the necessity of fastening a water hose to a sprinkler if water is to reach from its source to the dry grass which needs it. In every event emphasize that natural illustrations cannot capture or explain this decisive mighty act of God. The resurrection of Jesus makes possible the present tenseI have a Friend.

Where Is He Now?
Children usually have only one tensethe present tense. If we affirm that Jesus is their Friend, they want to know where he is. We reply that

I HAVE A FRIEND 103 he is in heaven, but he was here at one time on our earth in our history. They have other questions. "Where is he now?" "He went back to heaven!" "When did he go there?" "After his resurrection. But he is still with us." "How is he with us?" "By his Holy Spirit and his written Word which promises that he will finally come again." "Oh!" Oh! is what children say when they reach a temporary stop in the process of question asking. These logical and natural questions illustrate the theological meaning of the ascension, the coming of the Spirit, and the final coming of Christ. Children need to know about the now time in the drama. The now time extends from New Testament days to the end of time. It is our time. The resurrected Jesus embodied two characteristics. He demonstrated the presence of a first-century carpenter-teacher and he embodied the presence of eternal God. His resurrected presence as a first-century person was essential to the understanding of the disciples that it was the same Jesus who died that was resurrected. If he had remained on earth in that way, his appearance would have become obsolete with the passing of the years. His ascension to heaven removed that first-century appearance from the world of human history. The ascension of Christ also gives a logical place for the coming of the Spirit and provides room for the promise of an ultimate coming of Christ to his creation. Before saying a word about the coming of the Spirit and the promise of his final coming, two other theological ideas need to be explored. They are the ideas of Christ's mediatorship in heaven and his continuing humanity. The Christ whom God brought to life is still alive. The Bible speaks of his being at the right hand of God. That is an expression which describes a place of honor for a job well-done. The symbolism is more than its physical signs denoted. To leave in children's minds an idea that Jesus is an inactive figure who has remained seated for two thousand years is to immobilize their Friend. They have difficulty sitting through one day of school! Images of age, senility, and inactivity are bound to



accompany any materialistic interpretation of Jesus seated at the right hand of God. The image does mean that the Father and the Son are together. The Father is pleased with what the Son did in their world. Together the Father and the Son are still doing things to make the world right. Theologians call this current heavenly activity of Christ his mediatorship. Children will understand better if you say that Jesus, who is one of us, is sharing with God how it actually is with us. But if God knows all things, why does the Father need the explanation of the Son? Apparently God has limited himself so that his experiential/relational knowledge of the world can be fully known only as he enters into that world. He fully knew humanity in the relational way when he became a particular human being in the person of the Son. Only in this way can we make sense of the entire Christ event. If God's intellectual knowledge is sufficient to save us, he could have arranged things all from heaven. Apparently his will is to have the knowledge of experience only by undergoing that experience. For us this puts an added dimension of reality to God and provides a great deal of understanding about his understanding of us. The incarnation of Jesus adds a dimension of experienced relations to God himself. People who think of either perfection or God in static, Greek abstractions have difficulty with Jesus' mediatorship. We are committed to saying what God is like by what he has done and by spelling out the consequences of what this means. Every friendship and relationship enriches. The relationship of God with his world is as much a delight to him as it is a help to us. Our friendship is not a one-sided affair, and that is what the present mediatorship of the risen Christ says to us. Jesus' presence in God's dimension requires some way of extending himself in our world. The way in which Jesus' presence is made real to our world is by the Holy Spirit, who enlightens the story of Jesus hi Scripture and opens our awareness of Christ's actual presence in heaven. The Bible is the book which describes the normative acts of God and his supreme drama through Jesus Christ. In order for Scripture to be more than history, the Spirit of God enables us to become a part of God's redemptive drama and to interact with God through Christ. Just as our discussion of the Father requires a full historical manifestation of God in Christ, even so our discussion of Christ requires a spiritual extension of Christ's presence. The threads of theology are as


closely woven as the threads of a piece of material. Theological doctrines are stitched together to form the whole cloth of our understanding of God. It is necessary to mention the work of the Son to give a full understanding of our view of God, and it is necessary to mention the Spirit when talking about the presence of Christ. A fuller discussion of his Spirit is found in chapter 6. We noticed that God's revelation in history takes the rhythm of promise and fulfillment. With the giving of each promise there is a subsequent fulfillment. We have come to expect and to identify this promise-fulfillment rhythm as a mark of God's revelation. The promises of God for a messiah were fulfilled in the coming of Jesus. With the coming of Jesus, additional promises were made about a final coming and presence of God in Christ. The New Testament continues the rhythm and pattern of the Old. With Christ's first coming God began to make things right in his world. With Christ's final coming he will finish making things right in his world. The discussion of what this means is found in chapter 12. The promise of Christ's final coming certainly needs to be mentioned here in order to complete our story of the friend. A child is never lonely who can say at the deepest level, "I have a Friend." This Friend is a Child of promise in whom all meaning came together. He went about doing good. But he died a sad death. His Father raised him up. They are together now making things right for us. He will come to us when his plan is complete. That sounds like an everyday conversation. It is the story of an eternal friendship.

What Others Think

We sometimes tell children, "Never mind what other people think." This is only partly true. We should mind what friends, parents, and those who are interested in our welfare think. Christian tradition is thinking about Jesus Christ. The thoughts that other Christians have had about Christ help us to clarify and understand our own thinking about him.

Who He Is The first impression that Christians, following New Testament days, had about Jesus was that he was very different from the rest of us. Without denying that he was very much like us, they choose, in the face of those who wanted to make Jesus only like us, to assert Jesus' unique



relationship to God. The early Christians felt that Jesus' distinction lay in his unique relationship to God. Their affirmation was that Jesus was divine. They said Jesus had a divine nature. A nature is a way of being. The nature of anything expresses what the thing is. That the ancient Christian community saw and affirmed that Jesus was like God is important. A brief time later the friends of Jesus saw the need to use back-andforth kind of thinking. They reasoned that Jesus is divine. But if he is only divine, he cannot fully understand and sympathize with us. A second and balancing idea was put forth. Jesus is also human. The two ideas were placed side by side, the human nature of Jesus and the divine nature of Jesus. It is not fully possible to state how these two natures are related, so it is essential to talk about both Jesus' divinity and his humanity so that he can truly represent both God and mankind. Person is a strange word, and it has had an interesting history. Today person means an individual in a separate body with that intangible thing called personality. When friends of Jesus in the fifth century after his birth used the term, it meant something very different. A person was one who sounded through a wax mask in presenting a drama. In those days an actor played several different roles in a drama. To do this he talked through a different mask for each part. Jesus had two roles, the divine and the human; but he was only one person. Some people suggested that Jesus was really two people since he had a divine nature and a human nature. Fortunately, wiser people prevailed and Jesus was confessed as one person. In the fifth century after Jesus, a group of his friends described him as having a divine nature and a human nature, as being one person, and as letting his two full natures act in his one unified person. All of this kind of talk would be very confusing to children. But it has been important in Christian community because it has been accepted for over fifteen hundred years as the basic expression about who Jesus is. Put in our functional terms it means several important things. (1) Jesus came from God and gives us the clearest picture of God. As the Son he is also God. (2) Jesus' birth, life, and human history demonstrates that he is also human. Jesus is like us. He understands us and therefore he can help us. (3) Jesus was and is a complete and whole being. We cannot say how he united godness and humanness in one person in history. But his actions show a consistency of purpose and a wholeness of being. (4) Telling



children that Jesus did certain things because he was divine and others because he was human leads to a kind of Jekyll and Hyde view of Christ. It is better to say that we cannot express how he was both divine and human. Since he is both, he can bring God and man into a saving relationship. His friends felt they read these things about Jesus out of his story in the New Testament. They expressed what they felt about Jesus in terms of their own day and time. We do not have to use their philosophy or terms. Yet the majority of Christians have felt that what they said was very important, and we have agreed with them. Jesus is what God is like. Jesus is also what we should be like. Even when we are not fully what we should be, Jesus assures us of God's love. He did something for us as an evidence of God's love.

What Did He Do? Jesus did something to demonstrate that he is our Friend. He did not do things for us we could do for ourselves. God expects us to do for ourselves what we can. Jesus did something for us which we could not do for ourselves. Many friends of Jesus have tried to describe what he did for us. Their descriptions are grand attempts to describe what Jesus did for us that we cannot do for ourselves. Yet the Christian community has never settled on any one interpretation as being able to describe fully what Jesus did for us. The decisive act of Jesus for us was his death on the cross. Let me share with you some of the ways which friends of Jesus have used to describe the cross. The phrase "the cross" is what Paul, one of the earliest friends of Jesus, used to describe Jesus' death and all that Jesus did for us. Some ancient Christians suggested that people are away from God because they do not know him. Nor do they know a way to him. Jesus comes to tell us about God and to show us a way to him. Another version of this idea is that Jesus comes and demonstrates God to us in a great act of suffering love. We then are drawn to God out of gratitude for the demonstration of this love. There are many variations of these ideas. I express the main importance of these ideas by saying that Jesus, by his death, brings to us a sense of ultimate worth from God's viewpoint, which we could not otherwise have had. We are reassured knowing that the one who makes us also loves us deeply enough to express that love. Another group of descriptions about what Jesus' death does for us



centers around the defeat of our greatest enemies. There is a personalized enemy who desires the bad and brokenness for God's good creation. That is the devil. There is a persistent idea of people that they can save themselves by being good to other people and being obedient to all the laws they know. But every attempt to save ourselves by doing things frustrates us because we find that we cannot do all of those things which we should and often do things we should not. One term used for our attempts to make ourselves right is law. Christ overcomes this "law" by being one who does all he should and doing nothing that he should not. The final enemy of people is death. Death deprives us of God's first gift, life. Before Jesus no person was able to cope with death. Everyone went into what the psalmist called the valley of the shadow of death. But Jesus came out alive. And he promised that he would bring us through death also. I like to say that Jesus conquered all our worst enemies. Those enemies are our own worst selves, the evil one, and death itself. Children can relate to a strong Friend who overcomes the strong enemies which they cannot defeat by themselves. A third group of interpretations about Jesus' death have pointed out that something had gone wrong with the world that had to be made right. The religious word which we use for things being not right is sin. Sin is breaking God's laws. There can be no justice if, when people break laws, there is not a making right. When parents get parking tickets, they pay fines. But sin and all the wrongs which come from it are not minor infractions. The cost of sin is very high. Only God himself could pay this cost. The payment was the suffering of God and the death of Jesus. Because there has been a making right and God in Christ has borne the cost, we are the happy recipients of God's acceptance. In and through Jesus Christ, God says that we, who cannot pay our fare because the price is too great, can come to his feast. We are his guests. He has accepted us. This group of interpretations about Jesus' death tell us that we are accepted by God. All of these ideas can be expressed to children. Children relate to the heroism of others who demonstrate their love by loving deeds. They need a strong Friend who defeats enemies they cannot. They need the extravagant acceptance of one who pays a fine we cannot pay. All of this adds up to good newsgood news about a Friend. You are privileged to be one of those friends of children who tells them about their special Friend.

It's Blowing in the Wind

Word association games are good ways to find out what children are thinking. There are also ways of learning from children. The term spirit is one of those ever-used, never-defined terms. Spirit is a good term to use in a word association game. Spirit is a term vital to a Christian understanding of God, and we dare not leave it undefined. The older English word Ghost is used in some translations of the Bible and in the well-known "Doxology" widely used in Christian worship. The term ghost clouds the meaning of Spirit. It is better not to use the expression Holy Ghost-with children. The adult world has used the term spirit in a variety of ways. To be in "low spirits" means to be discouraged. To be in the "Christmas spirit" means to have a certain expected attitude at a specific time of year. To share in "the spirit of an age" is to belong to a certain cultural pattern of a particular era. Philosophers have even more refined definitions. The distilled essence of a thing is properly called its spirit or its central core. To grasp the essence or spirit of an argument is to understand what the issue is all about. With all of these diverse meanings, it is little wonder that children are confused about God as Spirit and God the Holy Spirit. It is interesting to hear the word associations made by children of the term spirit. Primitive people affirm that behind or within everything that exists there is a further power, the central core, the essence of that thing's being. They may be closer to the reality of existence than those persons who disect and bisect the physical parts of everything until all is reduced to cause and effect and can be manipulated. In pure physicalism there is no room for spirit. Children still know about a world in which things do not have to be photographed to be believed. I stressed earlier the need to maintain the childlike capacity of imaginativeness. God, who is not physical, is the basis for all reality. This thought is essential to the classical Christian view. I would like to define Spirit as "God's way of




being." God's way of being can be described by his actions and what they effect, but it cannot be reduced to physical terms with their inexorable chain of cause and effect. If it could, we could create God in our test tubes or, even worse, produce him as an invention of our own minds. I am not very convinced about the value of "proving" God. I am very sure that demonstrating God is better. Spirit is God's way of being, and therefore, his being (or Spirit) can be observed; but it cannot be produced. God takes the initiative in revealing himself. God also takes the initiative in being himself and breathing his breath upon the world. The idea of breathing and breath is particularly apt in describing Spirit because the Bible words for Spirit mean breath, life force, wind, power. Jesus gave our best analogy for understanding Spirit. He said God's Spirit is like the wind blowing where it wants. We only see its effects. We do not physically grasp it by sight (John 3). That is something children can understand. I venture that in a word association game where you mention the term spirit one of the ideas children come up with is wind. I would want to start an exploration of the term Spirit with the idea of wind if I were you.

A Strong Wind
How do we explain to a child that God upholds the world? One way is to blow up a balloon, hold it by the tip then let it go. As the air leaves the balloon, the balloon becomes flat and without buoyancy. This is a physical analogy of what the world would be like without God's presence. He breathes into the world his life-giving force. Therefore, he animates (makes lively, gives life to) all that exists. This life-giving presence of God is present in all of his creation. Without the breath of God there is no life. This is what Genesis means about the Spirit of God brooding on the waters. The picture is comparable to an animated cartoon into which a powerful and good wind puts everything in its place. The sun, moon, and stars in heaven; the waters in the seas; the dry lands on the continents were put in their places by the Spirit of God. And finally, in a special and gentle way, God's Spirit blew life into man. The idea of a strong wind blowing a breath that fills the world with life is a way of expressing God's work in creation. Theologians speak of this as the cosmic work of the Spirit. Children will grasp the idea from a tree branch blowing in the wind, an animated cartoon where things are whisked into place, and a balloon full of air.



There is one thing you will want to avoid in presenting this "mighty wind" cosmic work of the Spirit. Avoid identifying all of God with the life he has given to the world. This would mean that when you added up all life it would equal God. If the sum of all life as we know it equals God, no room is left for God beyond the world. The formal name for the view that all life equals God is pantheism, that is, everything is God. There is a problem with this view. If God were the life in everything, we would have no way of knowing what is distinctively of God. God's Spirit in creation gives us the clue to God's presence, and it is God's Spirit in his special redemptive acts that gives us the key to his purpose. God's Spirit is in all things to give them life. That is the best explanation to give children of one way in which God's Spirit works.

A Special Breeze
Spirit is God's way of being. We know God's special way of being primarily through the Bible, which confirms his way of being in his creation. In addition to the Spirit's wind in the act of creation, the special breeze of God's redemptive purpose is present. This gentle wind brought angels to Abraham and visions to Isaiah and Ezekiel. This special breeze blew meaning into the tears of Hosea's sadness. It blew a whole line of purpose and promise through a group of people who were captive in Egypt. And the wind parted the waters of the Red Sea so that the Hebrews would be secure and live to announce the presence and purpose of the gentle wind. This breeze became a forceful reminder of God's presence in the Temple. When necessary the special breeze became a whirlwind out of which God spoke to Job. You will rightly recognize this special breeze as the redemptive work of God's Spirit in the Old Testament. In those particular manifestations of his Spirit to the covenant community, God began to show his special purpose. To the everywhere presence of God the Spirit in his world is added the redemptive purpose of his Spirit working through a special people in order to bring light to all the nations. The danger of identifying all of God with his Spirit in the created world has already been identified. Another danger is to recognize God's Spirit as belonging only to one redemptive group. This second danger would lead us to separate the God of creation and the God of redemption. They are one and the same. There is only one God. He is both creator and redeemer. If children learn to associate God only with Israel, with their denomination,



their church, they will tend to mark off the other ways in which God is present in his creation. We need to reflect on the reason for the special breeze to Israel. It was to bear witness to all people as to what God wants for his world. There is also a more personal way in which the Old Testament reflects about God's Spirit.

An Inner Breath
The Psalms were Israel's hymnbook. They also became the hymnbook for many parts of the Christian community. All of the Christian community uses these songs to praise God and to express their feelings about him. The Psalms are songs that were written by David and others. We do not know the details of the lives of other psalmists, but we can read from the Psalms much about the reflections of David, whose life we do know from the historical books of the Old Testament. In these songs we see a special inner breath of the Spirit of God giving an interpretation of human life and a poetic expression of the divine nature. We need to remember that these songs are understood and used by larger communities. David's experiences and inspired poetic interpretations strike a chord with all people because they express so well what we are like and what God is like. Many of the psalms were born out of Israel's life as a whole. Some reflect her military triumphs and defeats. Others were used when her kings were crowned or when the Israelites went up to Jerusalem for the great festivals of faith. In addition to the Psalms, the poetry of the Bible which reflects a special inner breath from God, there are the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. These works and others like them, that share their perception of the human condition, are called Wisdom Literature. Not everything in these works grew out of Israel's or Solomon's experiences only. These insights reflect ancient and well-known observations about our world. These observations are taken up by Solomon and others and brought into the redemptive word of what man thinks about God and what God thinks about man. These, too, are inspired works. They come from the source of human wisdom and are approved by God as important reflections of mankind. The lovely lesson of the Wisdom Literature is that God applauds our own best observation about ourselves. Divine revelation sanctions human wisdom. It does not stifle it. The words to the prophets came "downward" from God in the midst of human circumstances. The words of wisdom bubble upward from keen observa-


tion of human experience. God has secured the importance of both by including them in the Bible. Both the psalmists and the writers of wisdom express a kind of inner breath which is a personal work of the Spirit. This personal focus on the Spirit as an inner breath from God needs to be joined to the mighty wind of creation and the special breeze of redemptive purpose. The idea of the personal work of the Spirit can be misleading if it is seen only as a special blessing and insight which some individuals have for their own use. Some people today claim a special breath of God and use those insights to gain something for themselves. The Old Testament spoke of those kinds of claims upon God's Spirit as false prophecy. There is a description of life so deep that it touches the wellsprings of human experience and so high that it perceives God. That experience is to be shared in the purposive line of God's special redemptive purpose for all of his creation. The various ways the wind blows, as described in the Old Testament, are all combined to lead God's world toward him.

When the Wind Brought It Together

I described Christmas as the time when the pieces of the puzzle of God's purpose fit. God works from all directions. He sometimes works behind the scenes to make possible what is happening from the front side, the side we see in human history. The Spirit of God was like a wind blowing together the threads of God's purpose in Jesus Christ. The special breeze of God's redemptive purpose brought promises to a chosen people about the Child of promise. A special manifestation of God's Spirit was worked through Mary in Jesus' birth. Jesus' life, ministry, teachings, and mighty works were all done in an awareness of the special power of God's Spirit. Jesus was especially aware that God's presence and power were with him. The Spirit worked in Jesus in all of the various ways I have described. In the unusual creative act of giving life to the infant Jesus, born in human time and space, the Spirit did a creative work. In the special breeze of redemptive purpose the Spirit, in the form of a dove, came to Jesus at his baptism. In the power of the Spirit, Christ did his mighty works to show God's redemptive purpose. In the inner life of Jesus through prayer, and as reflected in his teachings and perspectives about God, we can see that inner breath of God's Spirit working through Jesus. The plan of God's redemptive drama is fully spelled out in the central



character of Jesus Christ. The power of that plan is brought together by the Spirit of God in Jesus. When you tell children that God's power was bringing God's purpose together in Jesus, two ideas need to be stressed. (1) There is a unique relation between Jesus and the Spirit, just like the unique relation between Jesus and God the Father. (2) Jesus brings to historical fullness what God plans for his world. All of the redemptive work of the Spirit after Jesus' life and death takes on a personalized witness to his life and death. Another way of expressing this is to say that Jesus sends the Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus depended on the power of the Spirit for his way of being in the world, even so the Holy Spirit depends on the historical manifestation of Jesus as the content of the Holy Spirit's witness to the world. The Spirit of God worked to bring together the historical life of Jesus. And the historical life of Jesus, the entire Christ event, became the means by which the Holy Spirit now bears his special message to the world. This is the closest kind of relationship. This relationship between Jesus and the Spirit provides a way of extending Jesus in our history. It gives a historical content to the Holy Spirit's redemptive witness so that people cannot use the Spirit to proclaim their own desires. The relationship between the Spirit and Jesus will help us in discussing the closeness of the relationship of the threefoldness of God. This explanation also keeps before children that the power of God's Spirit is one power at work in both creation and redemption. In Jesus the wind of God's Spirit blows it all together.

When the Wind Blows Far and Wide

Fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus, there was a new historical birth of the Spirit of God. We call this festival Pentecost. The Holy Spirit was not bom at Pentecost. The Spirit of God, who had been directing and making effective the plan of God, was revealed as the Holy Spirit, in the full Christian meaning of that term, at Pentecost. Since Pentecost, God the Holy Spirit has been like a wind blowing the purpose of God far and wide. God the Father worked through the Spirit to bring into focus the historical Jesus. God the Father works through the focus of the incarnation of Jesus through the Holy Spirit to sweep the broadening beam of his redemptive purpose. The Spirit brought it all together, so that what he brought together might then be scattered abroad. A part of the rhythm of the divine plan is to work toward a special event in order that he may accomplish his wider, universal pur-

IT'S BLOWING IN THE WIND 115 pose. Pentecost, which comes seven Sundays after Easter, is an important day in the Christian community. Pentecost was also an important day in the Jewish community. It was the time of the celebration of the barley harvest. It was a joyous rather than a somber festival. The Jewish rabbis taught that the law had been given to Moses at Pentecost. Jewish people from all parts of the earth came to Jerusalem for the Passover (the time when Jesus died) and had remained for Pentecost. Acts 2 gives the account of Pentecost. One hundred and twenty of the followers of Jesus were awaiting the fulfillment of his promises. Three unusual things happened. The house where they were meeting shook with the roar of a mighty wind. This is a symbol of power. From a central tongue of fire each believer received a portion of fire. This was a symbol of cleansing. This symbol gives the Christian community the flame as another visual symbol of the Holy Spirit, in addition to the dove. Usually we represent it like a flickering candle flame with a cleavage at the top. The third unusual thing that happened at Pentecost was the miracle of tongues and languages. Both the ecstasy of tongues and the hearing of the gospel in all the representative languages of that time are symbols of the gospel breaking down all barriers and uniting all people in a common language of the Spirit. The languages phase of Pentecost is like Babel (Gen. 11) in reverse. At Babel men sought to build a way to God. The confusion of languages resulted. At Pentecost representatives from all of earth's language heard the speaking of one gospel. God opened the way to himself at Pentecost. He invited all men to come in. At Pentecost God united all tongues in one common language of the Spirit. The wind of the Spirit blew open a door to God through Christ. There was a remarkable openness about Pentecost. God had channeled his redemptive purpose through Jesus Christ and he is now scattering his purpose far and wide in the power of the Holy Spirit. Work especially hard to help your children see this rhythm of God's narrowing of the focus so that he can then widen that central picture of himself in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit to all the world. The story of the scattering abroad by the wind of the Holy Spirit is the story of the Christian mission. The story includes the restating of God's redemptive purpose by a young man, Stephen, who was stoned. It also includes the conversion of another young man who watched Stephen being stoned, Saul, who became Paul. Children need to know that the



spread of the Christian mission requires heroic acts. They also need to know that the suffering love of God and the sustaining power of the Spirit accompany the hardships Christian missionaries endure. By using the dramatic and heroic stories of Christian missionaries, you can help children see how the Spirit of God is scattering God's message far and wide even today. This historical sweep of God's continuing activity by the power of the Holy Spirit is also a way of reinforcing his presence through history. When you use examples of contemporary missionaries whom the children know, a current embodiment of God's acts brings the gospel alive to children and keeps the work of the Spirit from being only a historical action.

The Wind and the Word

The Spirit of God helped to bring the redemptive purpose of God all together. The Holy Spirit of God helps to spread the news of redemption far and wide.1 God, the Holy Spirit, accomplishes this task primarily by bearing witness to the Word of God. The phrase Word of God has a variety of meanings. The primary Word of God is Jesus Christ, the living Word. The way in which the living Word of God reaches us is through the written Word of God hi Scripture. Throughout history there has been a proclamation of Jesus, the Word, as found in the words of Scripture. There is a third link in the chain, the telling and explaining the Word. This third link is what we call preaching the Word. The Holy
1. The Spirit of God and the Holy Spirit are, of course, the same. It helps me keep the time line of the drama of redemption moving on its forward course to use the term the Holy Spirit for the fullest manifestation of Spirit that comes after Jesus' earthly ministry. The term "spirit" in the biblical languages is neuter, but the redemptive work of the Holy Spirit is personalized, since this work relates so intimately to Jesus. Therefore I use the neuter pronoun "it" for the cosmic and preparatory work of God's spirit and the personal pronoun "he," for the Holy Spirit. The masculine is used because the Greek references are masculine and because of the relationship to Jesus. You may choose not to make this kind of distinction at all. I feel it helps to avoid three problems: (1) the problem of reading back into the Old Testament all of the later Christian understanding of the Holy Spirit. Revelation does progress through history, and it is not correct to ascribe to Old Testament authors the full knowledge of what would happen during Christ's life. (2) The problem of keeping the idea of Spirit from being too diffuse and intangible is solved by assigning personal functions to the Holy Spirit who does bear witness to the person Jesus and who works with us in personal ways. (3) This verbal distinction between God as Spirit and God the Holy Spirit allows God as Spirit to be everywhere present in the creative role and allows the manifestation of God the Holy Spirit to be especially present in bearing witness to the Word, the redemptive role. If this kind of distinction is not made, then God's presence in his created order would automatically redeem it.


Spirit helped to bring the Bible, the written Word into being. The central focus of the written Word is the living Word, Jesus, the central character in God's redemptive drama. When the written Word about the living Word is proclaimed, the Holy Spirit enlightens the words of Scripture and opens the hearts of persons so that a redemptive relationship may happen. This process is what I mean by the phrase, "the Wind and the Word." As we shall see in the next section, there have been four channels through which the Christian community has learned to be grasped by the Holy Spirit. In all of these models, the Wind is blowing through the Word. Some people feel a tension in tying the Holy Spirit too closely to the Bible and its proclamation. This tension is present because of the feeling that there are other words about God found in world religions, culture and human experience, and literature that seem to be ignored. I am deeply aware of this problem and very sympathetic with it. I recognize these valid insights about God present in many places. But I prefer the specific side of the tension of relating the Holy Spirit through the Word of redemption as found in Scripture rather than the general focus. The reasons I prefer to see the Holy Spirit as working redemptively primarily through Scripture is that I feel a more objective basis is given in this view for recognizing the truth of God wherever it occurs. To begin with a general notion of "the truth about God" means that one still has to find some standard for saying what is true about God and what is not true. My preference is to start with the revelation of God hi the Bible and use that as a criterion for discerning these other words about God in history, culture, literature, general human experience, and so forth. The point is that we have to have a touchstone somewhere for discerning what is and is not of God. I find this touchstone in the work of the Holy Spirit in the Bible. I feel that you will give children a more readily grasped criterion for determining how God speaks to them ii you work with this model. The opposite extreme position of claiming everyone's own individual experience and what he thinks about God as the normative way in which the Holy Spirit works is to invite a whirlwind of subjectivity that destroys any unified voice as to what God is doing in his world. This is a rather involved argument. Reread it for the sake of the children so that you will understand the issues. The issues are: (1)



Where does God the Holy Spirit primarily speak about God's redemptive purpose? (2) What standard do we use to recognize true words about God wherever they occur? (3) By what means does God, who created the world and is redeeming it through Jesus Christ, effect a redemptive relationship with people? Let me, for the sake of clarity, answer these issues briefly as a resume of the above section. (1) God the Holy Spirit speaks primarily about God's redemptive purpose in Scripture. (2) The Bible is the standard we use for verifying other words of truth about God in history, literature, culture, and general human experience. (3) God, who created the world and who is redeeming it through Jesus Christ, effects a redemptive relationship with persons by the Holy Spirit bringing to life the words of Scripture. God opens the life of individuals so that the word about God becomes a relationship with God. It is important that the "Wind and the Word" be held together. There is a holding together of the Wind and the Word in your work with children. Children need to know that when they read and are taught the Bible this lively process of God speaking takes place. You need to know that your teaching and training is a part of the process of the Wind blowing to life the written Word. The desired result is that the living Word, Jesus, will become a person with whom a living relationship is possible and desirable. Pastors and those who minister to children are involved in this process of making to come alive the interaction between "Wind and Word." Do not be dismayed at the weight of your own responsibility in this drama of redemption. Do remember that the living God, through the Holy Spirit, takes the initiative in and makes possible the redemptive relationship. Do remind yourself and tell the children that those who teach the Word and preach the Word do not always fully understand the Word. Even these can and do make mistakes about interpreting. This reminder will help children separate the authority of Scripture itself and the imperfections of all who teach and preach it. Children will have a difficult time at best separating the notion of the authority of Scripture and the various understandings of that truth taught and preached by persons they admire. You may want to review what was said in chapter 4 about the necessity to distinguish between the authority of Scripture and the various interpretations of Scripture. I have spent a great deal of time defining what is meant by the term


the wind of the Spirit. A definition of the term word may be helpful at this point. Children in school may well have mixed feelings about the term word, depending on their last grade in spelling. What do we mean when we say that Jesus is the Word and the Bible is the Word of God? We do not mean that Jesus is a term made up of letters which have to be spelled properly for a good grade. Children who are in the stages of learning to read, write, and spell may not have the same warm response to the idea of Jesus and the Bible as the Word of God that we have. The Greek term for word is Logos. Logos is a meaningful expression about something. We use the term logo today in art and advertising to mean a picture or symbol which identifies a company or a product. We are supposed to recognize and relate to that group or product by virtue of recognizing their symbol and realizing what it stands for. Understood this way, the term takes on new meaning and significance. The cross is a logo of Christianity. Jesus is a meaningful expression about God. The Bible is an account of the divine drama of redemption. These are appropriate ways of explaining the term word to children. This kind of patient translation is a part of the Wind blowing the Word into living relationships.

Four Ways of Channeling the Wind

Various parts of the Christian community have used at least four models to express how the wind of the Holy Spirit has effected a redemptive relationship with God. I mention all of these models, which need not be mutually exclusive. Baptists have a decided preference for one of these models. Workers with children will want to know about all of the models, for children will be familiar with them through their friends. One model in which the Christian community has expressed the channeling of the Holy Spirit is the sacramental model. In this model the formal rites of the church, called sacraments because they are vehicles of saving grace, are the primary means whereby the Holy Spirit works. Sacraments are designed for all of the crucial times of life. The sacrament of baptism comes shortly after birth. Baptism is especially associated with the gift of the Spirit. A time of training (called catechism) takes place before the second sacrament. After catechism is confirmation, when a child is asked to confirm his personal acceptance of Christ's sacrifice on his behalf. Baptists would tend to say that



sacramentalists become believers and fully Christian, in our understanding of these terms, at confirmation rather than at infant baptism. The second sacrament is penance. Penance is designed to ask for the forgiveness of sins. The third sacrament is the Eucharist, which we would call the Lord's Supper. The Eucharist in sacramental churches is designed to convey saving grace. Marriage is a sacrament. So are orders, that is ordination to the priesthood. The final sacrament is extreme unction. Extreme unction is the anointing of the dying to prepare them for the journey into God's dimension of being. Sacramentalists believe that at each of the important steps of life there should be a special church ritual and that the Holy Spirit is active and effective in these rituals. Protestants and Evangelicals usually insist that somewhere in the process of church rituals there needs to be a confrontation and personal relationship with God made possible by the individual's acceptance of the gift of salvation because of Christ's death on behalf of all persons. Children will ask about the sacramental model. You will want to be able to explain it to them in relation to the model of Protestant and Evangelical churches. A second model used by some in the Christian community to express how we are grasped by the Spirit is the mystical model. I mention the mystical model for the sake of completeness. Children are not likely to hear or ask about the mystical model. In the mystical model, one is caught up by the Spirit into God's own dimension. At least the one experiencing the mystical model feels that after long and arduous study, prayer and sacrificial living he is united with God in a special moment of experience. Mystics often appeal to Paul's expression in 2 Corinthians 12:2 about being caught up into the third heaven to explain their experience. Classical Christian mystics have also been very active in Christian service, sacrificial living, and concern for the poor. Mystics themselves would be the first to declare that the mystical model of the work of the Holy Spirit is not the model everyone should use or could use in being grasped by God. Nonmystics do not readily understand what mystical experience is like. It would however be presumptuous of us to say that these kinds of religious experiences are impossible. It is correct to say that mysticism is not the ordinary or universal way in which God's Spirit brings about a redemptive relationship. A third model used in Christian community to describe how the Holy

IT'S BLOWING IN THE WIND 121 Spirit makes real the redemptive presence of God is the ecstatic model. Ecstasy literally means to stand outside of oneself. All religions have ecstatic expressions. Some of the more frequently used ecstatic expressions are shouting, clapping, dancing, frenzied movements, speaking in tongues, and great emotional fervor. Baptists have used some forms of ecstasy in their services, and they have been critical of others. Elements in ecstasy which are helpful to Christian experience are joy and celebration. A problem about ecstasy is its assumption that God, the Holy Spirit, is present only in special moments of ecstasy. Children often take clues from their teachers and worship leaders as to the approval or disapproval of ecstatic expressions of a relationship of the Holy Spirit.2 The fourth model in the Christian community's understanding as to how the Holy Spirit effects a redemptive relationship is the Spiritbearing-witness-to-the-Word model. I described this model in the previous section. I affirm this as a model which can most fully bring together the past actions of God's drama of redemption, their record in Scripture, and their coming to life in Christian conversion. Let me say again that in principle all of those who choose the other three models would also want to acknowledge the truth of the "Wind and the Word" model, even if they do not give it priority. As we explore biblical faith and the experience of the Christian community, three marks of the Holy Spirit are evident. (1) The Holy Spirit of God is indeed like the wind. He is free to do what he wants to do (John 3). (2) The Holy Spirit bears witness to Jesus (John 1:4-14). (3) The Holy Spirit gives gifts. The primary gift of the Holy Spirit is the bringing about of a redemptive relationship between God and all persons (Gal. 4). The special gifts of the Spirit are given to individuals who have faith in Jesus for the upbuilding of the entire Christian community (1 Cor. 12-14). Children can be taught about the dynamic force of God's Spirit blowing through all creation collecting the story of God's redemptive history, working with Jesus the central character, bearing witness to Jesus and to Scripture. Children can experience a redemptive relationship brought about by the Wind of God bearing witness to the Word.
2. See Appendix C for a fuller discussion of spiritual gifts which may help you to understand the biblical and historical views on this model. See also my chapter on ecstasy in Watson E. Mills' Speaking in Tongues: Let's Talk About It (Waco: Word Books, 1973). pp. 48-60.

It Takes Three to Play

The first half of the book concludes with this chapter. The issues have been: the assumptions we bring to belief, the way in which God reveals himself, and the threefold description of who God is drawn from what he does. The apex of the Christian expression about God is that he is threefold. No other conclusion has been considered correct by the Christian community. Yet the apex, while firmly held as doctrine, is least ably explained to simple believers, both children and others. The traditional name for the threefoldness of God is Trinity. The major dilemma about the threefoldness of God is how to explain it so as to preserve both the unity and the variety of God's manifestations. The title of this chapter is "It Takes Three to Play." That terminology is drawn from the world of games. Good games are designed to teach and guide, as well as for enjoyment and pleasure. Children understand that games have rules. Furthermore, some games are so constructed that only a certain number can play. The reason that a certain number of players is required is because only so many pieces of equipment are available or only so many functions of the game can be carried out. The inventor of the game determines the rules as he sets up the game. I believe this analogy of a game constructed so that three players are required may be helpful to children in an explanation of the Trinity. The groundwork for this chapter is found in all of the previous chapters. Christians did not start with the doctrine of the Trinity. They perceived it after a long time as the pattern and the rules by which God was constructing the "game," the crucial game of bringing the world back to himself. The Trinity is the last word about God, not the first. The idea of God acting out his redeeming plan in history is serious business. So are games. Games are fun. But they have serious consequences, depending on their outcomes. Our metaphor of a game is designed to express both the delight and pleasure of God in revealing himself to


mankind in order to redeem it and the sober aspect of play which can better express a more serious purpose than mere logical abstractions can. Children will be helped to know that God plays. To say that God is just playing is not correct. In fact, to refer to the shaping, growing activity of children as "just playing" is not good. Play is very serious business.1

Each Player Has His Field

In every game each player has his own field, his area of responsibility, his side of the board. Doing what one should in his assigned place is essential to teamwork. Nothing is so dismal as playing volleyball with a superstar who plays all over his side of the net. Yet it is rare to find a team where each player is equally competent and where all work together in a totally unselfish way. There is a unity on God's field of purpose that is like that. Each player does his part, in the joint effort, in a totally unselfish way. This field is the effort of God on behalf of his world. This effort involves the tasks of creating, upholding, redeeming, and bringing to a satisfactory end all that is. God is known by what he does. The work of God is seen in all of creation. The redemptive drama of God is seen in biblical faith. The book of Scripture gives us a focus and a handle for viewing all reality through the eyes of faith. In this double track of creation and redemption, we deal with one God. Christians worship one God. Three distinct manifestations of God accomplish the tasks of creating, sustaining, redeeming, and completing the universe. It is a cosmic game and all are involved, both the divine participants and the human ones. The purpose of the game is to make all things fulfill the function for which they were made. The problem in the game is that a competing player who doesn't follow the rules leads people to get off the track. Every small boy knows the frustrations of having a toy train jump the track each tune around because a bad piece of track is in the circle. The tendency of small, impatient boys is to discard that track or to quit the
1. Sec Appendix C in which the leisure and play of God are equated with his work and vice versa. For a more formal and academic treatment of the subject see Jurgen Moltmann, Theology and Joy (London: SCM Press, 1973).



game. The parallel can be profound. God works with the track he made even though at the turn the trains get off the track. His patience and his eventual resolution of the problem are a comforting and reassuring story. That story includes the full extension of himself in all of his fullness. God the Father is called the Creator, but the supposition that the Son and Spirit were not also involved in the beginning would be wrong. God sustains, his sustaining breath is the Spirit. The presence of the Son extended by the Holy Spirit makes God's presence real. On the last day Christ will come again, but he will hand over the kingdom to the Father. At every point of the game all players appear to be involved. In this close but distinctive interworking among the manifestations of God, we see the task of each. The well-coordinated scrimmage and the careful passing of the ball hi a football game supplies one analogy for the divine interaction. God the Father sends God the Son. By his strength and power, the Father hi heaven sustained the Son on earth. By his strength the Father raised the Son from the dead. God the Son came into our human history at Bethlehem, lived on earth, died on the cross, sits at God's right hand. Jesus interprets our humanity to the Father and comes to conclude the age. The Spirit of God is God's breath which extends the presence of God hi his world. The Spirit worked to bring into being the earthly Jesus. The Holy Spirit is sent by Jesus to enlighten our understanding of the Bible and to open the lives of people toward God. Christian theology has and needs to continue affirming these distinctive tasks. Theologians called these separate functions of God the offices of the Trinity. Office in this sense is not a place to work but a function to be fulfilled. Children can grasp better the idea that God shows himself hi three areas of play in order that all the necessary requirements are met. A rhythm is required if the entire production is to be accomplished. God must be other than his creationthe Father in heaven. Yet he must be present to his creationthe Spirit infusing the world. The generalized presence of God is everywherethe sustaining Spirit. Yet there has to be a specific and localized presence of God by which all of his other manifestations are interpretedthe Son in the incarnation. The incarnation gives particular, historical embodiment to God. Yet, in order to reach all people of all ages, there must be a universal presence



interpreting Christthat presence is the Holy Spirit. Back-and-forth thinking sees very well that God's thereness and his hereness, his universal being and his particular being, work in a rhythm that requires a threefoldness. Christian theology has discerned this rhythm in God's movement in his world. The grandeur of creation is made personal in the intimacy of God's caring. Universal love requires specific justice. A heavenly plan needs historical implementation. These functions of God and the logical necessity of them give the rules for describing God as Trinity. These separate rules, areas of playing out the divine plan, require that we say something about the threefold fullness of God. Person was the word the ancient Christian community used to express the different roles or playing positions of God. Person did not, in those days, mean separate individuals who each had his own way and acted independently of the other. If we overstress the idea of persons with its modern individualistic ideas, we leave the notion with children that we believe in three Gods. This breaks up the unity of the game and does not give adequate attention to the other rule of playing. That other rule is that all players have the same object.

All Players Have the Same Object

The object of the game is to win. This is especially important in the cosmic contest of good and evil. The idea of players having a separate field for playing points out the threeness of God. The idea of the unified effort of the common goal stresses the oneness of God. Occasionally sportsmen come together with such a unity of purpose in winning a game that individuality seems lost in the larger purpose. Always with God, the intended goal is so prominent that the individual manifestations of God are seen in the unity of purpose. Theologians call this unity of purpose the divine nature or the substance of godness. Children can grasp the idea of a team inseparably united in the common goal of winning an all-important game. Point out to children the unselfish love and mutual helping that are illustrated in the involvement of the three manifestations of God uniting in a single purpose. The Father sent the Son. He was pleased with the Son. He approved of the Son at baptism and sustained him in life. The Father suffered with the Son in death and raised him from the dead. The Father placed the Son at the Father's right hand, a place of honor.



The Son obeys the Father. The Son depends on the Father and does his will. The Son gives glory and honor to the Father. At the close of the age the Son gives the kingdoms of this world to the Father. This is a functional way of saying that the Son loves and honors the Father. The Spirit is sent by God and faithfully represents the presence and power of God. The Spirit worked in and through the ministry of Jesus. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit who bears witness to Jesus. At every point there is a divine deference. Paul told Christians to prefer one another in honest, honorable ways. The persons of God provide our perfect example for doing this. John told Christians to love one another. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are a perfect pattern of circular love. Each gives to the other the fullest expression of unselfish love. An all inclusive love suggests three components. Two persons could be so bound up in each another that all else would be forgotten. Three persons give a circular interaction that reaches out to draw all things into its love. The most effective way to express the Trinity and also bring out the divine unity of purpose may be to point to the unselfish love which is displayed in the three manifestations of God himself. We find it very difficult today to think in terms of one substance being poured into three interlocking vessels. There is an ancient formula for the Trinity which tried to preserve the threeness and the oneness of God. It was one substance in three persons (as the Latins said it) or one essence in three manifestations (as the Greeks said it). The language seems awkward, but the issues, or rules of the game, it tries to describe are essential. The very idea of godness implies one, final supreme. The necessity of being there and here, eternal and historical, universal and particular, requires a threefold rhythm of creating the world, reconciling the alienated world, and redeeming the world. This seemingly contradictory state of affairs is brought together in the doctrine of the Trinity. A seemingly contradictory state of affairs is called a paradox. The deeper we probe into any subject the more we see that its explanation requires the bringing together of apparently diverse ideas. We need to hold the oneness of God or we will lose the idea of God's unity. We need to hold to the threeness of God or we will lose any way of bringing together all of the rules required in the game of establishing redemptive relationships. Obviously we are playing a very involved game, and the best way of describing the rules is very important.

IT TAKES THREE TO PLAY Ways to Describe the Rules

Unsa tisfactory R ules


You who help children understand about God can appreciate the frustration the ancient Christian community had in trying to express the idea of the Trinity. There is an element of a riddle and a puzzle in talking about the Trinity. We are trying to discover the rules of a game in which we are caught up, namely the game of God's redemptive purpose. While we participate in the game, we do not do so in equal partnership with God himself. The ancient Christian community tried to state the rules of God's participation in a variety of ways. They settled on the formulas I have given because alternative rules did not cover all the plays in the game. Let us explore some of those unsatisfactory rules so that we can avoid them. These alternative rules are widely suggested by religious groups today. And the Christian community must still say that these alternatives do not adequately cover all of the divine action. If we understand the sonship of Jesus in the usual meaning of son, then God would be Jesus' father physically and he would be older than Jesus.2 But that alternative rule would bind God to our historical rules, and it would not give equality or a full divine nature to Jesus. This is why I insisted in the section on fatherhood that we must not read God's fatherhood in terms of human fathers, but rather in terms of his unique relationship with Jesus. Another way of figuring out the rules would be to suggest that Jesus is less than God and that God sent a special power upon him at some point (baptism is usually suggested) and adopted him as God's Son.1 A third alternative rule seems to solve the problem. This alternative rule says that there is only one God and that he plays in separate, successive stages all three parts. In other words first he was the Father. Then he was the Son. Now he is the Holy Spirit.4 However, this would mean that the Son had no one to pray to nor anyone to raise him from the dead. This would also mean that the Spirit had only a historical
2. The Mormon community holds this interpretation today. 3. This view is called Adoptionism and it is held today by Jehovah's Witnesses, who deny the threefoldness of God. 4. This is called modalism because it suggests that God existed in three separate and successive modes. The "God is dead" theology in America was an expression of this alternative rule.



memory and not a living mediator, Jesus, to point to. The Christian community has wisely rejected this unsatisfactory rule. Another unsatisfactory rule said that God the Holy Spirit is less important than Jesus because he was sent by Jesus. 5 Where the rules have not given a full place to God the Holy Spirit, there has been a kind of binitarianism, that is a two-person idea of God. This will not do because it provides no effective means of making the Bible come to life. This unsatisfactory rule has also been wisely rejected by the Christian community. I mentioned these alternative rules and the reasons they were rejected because your children will find that the religious beliefs of some of their friends are formed out of these alternative rules. We need to discover some positive ways of talking about the threefold fullness of God.

Preferred Rules Some rules in describing the threefoldness of God are preferred. The preferred rules take account of the following facts. We are involved in the cosmic game between good and evil. The patient persistence of God has been working itself out in our history. The account of the acts of God is in Scripture. The central focus of Scripture is what God did for us in Jesus Christ. Words must come to life so that we too are involved in playing this crucial game. Our observations about the game require that we take full account of God who is beyond us, God who came into history on our behalf, God who opens us to a redemptive relationship with himself. The ancient Christian community, drawing its clues from the Bible, spoke of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. They talked of these manifestations of God as being on the same level (coequal), as having the same nature (coessential), and as being above and beyond time (coeternal). The Christian community tries to talk about God in such a way that his unity and his threeness are held together. Putting the rules down in ways that every following generation will understand them is not easy. The ancient church felt things were best interpreted in terms of being. Our
5. This rule about the subordination of the Holy Spirit is illustrated in the beliefs of both Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses who give a prominent place to the Spirit of God but seem unable to affirm the full redemptive work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness to Jesus Christ who is both fully divine and fully human.


preference has been for relating. Therefore, to us, describing what or how the threefoldness of God comes together is less important than giving the purpose and functions of the fullness of God. Several suggestions are helpful to those who share the idea of the importance of talking about God in terms of function and relationships. Use positive personal analogies, not impersonal ones. Do not say God is like ice, water, and steam or like the shell, the white, and the yellow of an egg. I mention these because both are used widely in teaching children about the Trinity. I feel these are not appropriate because they are impersonal. It is better to use expressions drawn from the distinctive creativeness of personal interactions. God is like mind, memory, and the thing remembered. Or God is like an integrated person who does different tasks, for example a husband, a father, an attorney. You will want to know before you begin that all analogies fail because there is no other being who is like God, one in three manifestations. Verbal ways of expressing God's threefoldness have been beautifully supplemented by visual representations of the Trinity. Among the best known are the equilateral triangle and the trefoil which convey the idea of unity and threeness in basic geometrical figures, even if they do lack the personal expression. Better still, Christian worship in prayer and praise give us a functioning way of relating to God. Teach children to pray to the Father, in the power of the Spirit, and in the name of Jesus. Balance the lessons you use and the songs you sing so that all manifestations of God are included. Use the term Lord, as Paul does in the New Testament, as a way of referring to all "persons" of God. The threefoldness of God is best expressed in Christian worship. There are no references to the term Trinity in the Bible. But the verses that require a threefold interpretation are contexts of Christian instruction and worship (Matt. 28:19-20; 2 Cor. 13:14). Lead children to coordinate expression of the divine relationship in their lives. When we abstractly try to make three into one, we are bending the rules of math. But when we demonstrate a love that invests time and patient concern for children; when we do for them what they, at this stage of their development, cannot do for themselves; when father and mother move out from their exclusive love for one another into an inclusive love for children; then God's fullness is in some way being demonstrated. A child's first lessons about God are from an overflowing



love that comes from father to mother to child. A child's highest experiences with God will be the culmination of love that flows from Father to Son to Spirit and beyond that in ever-widening concentric circles of the divine game which touches all creation. It takes three to play the game. The three are one in purpose. How we describe the rules by which God plays the cosmic game of redemption is important. Good rules have to exclude unsatisfactory rules. The threefoldness of God is best seen in Christian worship and in acts of allembracing love. Much time has been spent talking about God. Now the time has come to talk about us. The knowledge about God and the true knowledge about ourselves fit together. The divine drama and the game of human existence fit together in our world, the real world, the world of a child.

Start with a Capital and Continue in the Lines

Writing is an experience learned by most children. There is a certain fascination about making written symbols that make sense to other people. Writing is a basic form of communication in which relationships and meaning pass into words and records. We have already seen the importance for writing and records as they pertain to our knowledge of God through Scripture. Language, the spoken word, and writing, the written wordthe language arts as they are referred to in education are limited to humans. Writing is a creative endeavor. It is one way people are different from animals. I feel that taking the common but distinctive experience of writing as an analogy for aiding children to understand creation and providence will be helpful. Creation is about beginning and dependence. Providence is about caring and preservation. In these areas we enter the arena of human experience where children can and will want to use their own observations. Good observations will fit together with the biblical pictures of our world and of God's creating and sustaining it. Biblical faith will help us understand our world and its processes from a spiritual viewpoint. Obviously we can see our world in many other ways, such as through the eyes of the natural sciences, through the social sciences, and through the study of human history. The Bible and these other ways of looking at the world are all different ways of looking at one reality. The spiritual view of the world and the view seen through the other windows are like different styles of writing: printing, Gothic script, and handwriting. There are even script typewriters. All of these methods can convey the same message. Help your children see that the message of God can be written in a variety of ways. Make a poster of a simple message written, typed, or printed in a variety of methods and/or languages. Through this illustration guide children in understanding that the message about God and the truth of God can be seen in a variety of ways.




Many methods or styles of writing can bear the same message. It is not wise to mix the styles. You can make a sample of a mixed style or script using the phrase, God is love. The children will take longer to read a mixed script. (Jumping about in a variety of writing styles distracts from the message and prevents clarity of meaning.) This mixed script message is a good way to teach children that staying with one script is better than mixing scripts. Theology and the natural sciences both can teach us about the grandeur of God. But the scripts, or the methods, of one should not be mixed with the other. You can help children learn this very important lesson while they are young. It will save them a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding later. The script of theology is the script of meaning and spiritual insight. In religious education we come to the message of the truth about God and the world with the script of faith and meaning; and we will use that same script throughout this chapter.

The Big and Little Lines

When a child is first learning to write he is often given paper with big and little lines. The reasons are good and obvious. We write in a horizontal line from left to right (remind your children that some of the world does not) and if our writing is to make sense it needs to flow in one direction on the same plane. Furthermore, our writing needs to stay in lines in order to do that. Lines can be seen as frustrating things that box us in. Help children to have a positive outlook on lines which make it possible for us to write. We have to have lines in order to write. Even printed materials depend upon the mechanical lines of typesetters and typewriter carriages. On the lined paper the big lines are for capital letters and the little lines are for small letters. Capital letters are important. Capital letters help us identify names and places. Capital letters are also used to begin things. Creation is God starting the sentence of the meaning of life with a capital letter. There is something mysterious about beginnings. Whether it's the birth of the individual child or the birth of a nation, we celebrate and remember beginnings. To speak of the beginning of the world is to enter into the special mystery of the possibility of all things. We assume that everything had a beginning sometime or somewhere. Even when we cannot date the beginnings of things in our calendar way of dating, we have to speak about a start. Stories must have beginnings


so we say, "Once upon a time." To ask what time the world was created in our modern, clock-calendar terms is to mix the script of science and the script of theology. Creation is the act in which time began. The Bible account of creation in Genesis 12 describes creation in terms of the appearance of things, not in terms of how they came to be. The instruments of creation are the Wind and the Word. The initiator of creation is God. With great beauty, the fullness of God initiates God's world and us. The breath of God stirs the waters. The word of God is spoken. Things fall into place. In Genesis 1 what was created comes in logical sequence. In Genesis 2 mankind, as the center of the creative concern of God, is given the central place. All that exists and all that is needed to sustain what exists has life because God spoke his world into existence. And it is good. It is very good. Children, and we who teach them, need to remember the mystery of beginning and the vision of goodness it affirms. Creation and re-creation apply not only to beginning but also to the vision and possibility of future goodness. For the present, when speaking of creation, affirm the goodness that God's original creation implies. Creation is about beginnings and about goodness. Many early Christians also saw that creation was about dependence on God. Philosophers and theologians speak of prime movers and first cause. Children will understand, in a world where everything has a cause, that the world itself had to be caused. Early Christian leaders spoke of God making the world out of nothing (ex nihilo). Nothing is not a substance out of which God made something. Nothing is not a reduced condition of existence. As children know, nothing is nothing. When we say God made the world from nothing, we are not talking about the process by which God made the world. We are talking about the fact that everything which exists necessarily depends upon God for its existence. Remind your children of what happens to a balloon when the air is let out. The world would fizzle into nothingness once more if God withdrew his creative breath from it. The Hebrew people captured the notion of God in tune. For the Hebrews meaningful actions needed to be related to tune. The time of creation is placed in a symbolic week of which the seventh or the sabbath day is the finale. We are once more in danger of mixing scripts if we try to locate one week on the cosmic calendar as the tune of creation. The importance of time in the Old Testament is not its shortness or its



duration. The importance of time is that God acts in the actual world he created. If creation was God bringing things into being, one of the things he brought into being is time. Time and our world begin together. God reveals himself in our time. Time becomes meaningful history when people are aware of and record special events in time. The Bible is an account of the special event of the creation of time and of God's further revelation of himself in special events in time. You can help children understand the vast difference between time and eternity by the writing device of brackets. Creation brackets the beginning. There is another bracket at the end of time, and we shall explore that later. On the outside of these beginnings and endings of time and over and below the lines on which God writes in history is God's presence in eternity. In this "space" outside of time, which surrounds time, is God's dimension of existence. When he writes for us who live within the lines, he comes into the time that he has made for us and reveals himself to us. This is what I meant when I said earlier that revelation is historical. When I said in chapter 4 that God's holiness tells us about his otherness, I was referring, in part, to the fact that God's dimension of existence is eternitywhat lies before, after, and around time, but is not in time. Time takes place in the lines. Creation is a necessary doctrine in the Christian faith. Creation is about beginnings. It is about goodness. It is about dependence on God. Creation is about the start of time. Speak of creation with your children as a fact to celebrate. The seasons, with their varied beauty, are natural celebrations of creation. The birth of every child celebrates a new, actualized creative possibility from the hand of God. Use a capital letter for creation. Creation is God starting the world with a capital. Creation is God drawing the lines in which the world in time moves. He drew the lines. In Jesus he enters our world to write in our history the message and meaning of life itself. The big lines are reserved for special events. Creation is one of those special events. Begin creation with a capital.

Those Who Help Draw the Lines

In listing types of created things earlier, we listed angels. In terms of our analogy to writing, angels might well be called those who help draw the lines. The process of creation is one with ongoing consequences. Creation is not only about beginning but also the continuing possibility of everything that can exist. As history moves on, God writes the re-


demptive story of the divine drama of redemption. The Bible indicates that there are those who help him in his own dimension of eternity. Those helpers are called angels. The term angel means messenger or one who is sent. Much has been written about these helpers that is not in the Bible. Some of the expressions about angels in the Bible have been woven into elaborate theories that say more than the Bible says. I want to look at what angels do. Pictures of how they look are not our concern. For the children's sake stick with plain rather than Gothic script in discussing this doctrine. We do not know when the angels were created. A reference in Job says that the morning stars sang together at creation. Extra-biblical writings refer to the angels as stars. From this some argue that the angels were made on the first day of creation. The Bible begins with God. It assumes that, like every king, he has his court. The book of Job refers to angels as sons of God. This term reinforces the idea that everything, whether in the created world or in the eternal dimension, depends on God for its existence. Angels, as their name implies, are used as messengers of God in the Old Testament. The angel of the Lord spoke to Moses from the burning bush, then the preliminary presence of the angel seemed to fade into the presence of God himself. This is a dramatic and effective way of introducing the reality of God into human history. The angels who appeared to Abraham serve much the same purpose. In the life and ministry of Jesus, angels announced his birth, strengthened him in temptation, stood ready to aid him at death, and announced his resurrection. The book of Daniel says that the affairs of nations are supervised by angels. The book of Revelation says angels are assigned to churches. The book of Hebrews says that God's angels are ministering spirits who help people. Scripture does not indicate how angels work. There is only the affirmation that they help. What can we most effectively tell children about angels? Don't say too much. By this I mean that Christian art and history have often drawn and written pictures of angels that did not have a solid biblical basis. The fact of angels is meant to reassure us of the fullness and richness of God's eternal dimension. Heaven is no solitary, lonely place. Leave the angels in heaven unless God himself chooses to send one. Do not paint so vivid and populated a spiritual world that a child will feel a sense of fear and dread because of the possibility of angels invading his space. An important fact to realize is that the angels are God's own messengers.



Children may be taught that the spiritual world is rich and filled with good beings who assist God. But children also need to know that since we have the Bible and the full presence of God, the Holy Spirit, we have a more direct access to God and a more comforting presence from God than any angel could provide. We should stress the acts of helping, news bearing, reinforcing of the divine purpose which the angels do. The way in which these helping acts are accomplished is unknown. That it is done is reassuring. Strictly speaking, God does not need any help. He can do what he wants without angels. But we are grateful that he has chosen spiritual beings in his world and human beings in this world to help him. To be a helper of God is to reinforce God's purpose and to add to the general store of goodness which God is accomplishing. Angels are his helpers. The world of children and adults would be a poorer place without the angels. The world of children can be threatened by portraying too extremely the presence of angels in our time and space. Music has been associated with the angels, although this too is an extra-biblical idea. The Christian community has written some of its best music to words which angels spoke in Scripture (see especially the four Christmas "songs" in Luke 12). By teaching the children the "Doxology," you are reminding them that God's creation is fuller than that which the eye can see. Angels are those who help God draw the lines. It is good to sing Praise him [God] all creatures here below; Praise him above, ye heav'nly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

One Who Writes Outside the Lines

Children learn at an early age that some people write outside the lines. At one time or another we all go over the bounds of where we ought to be. But there is one whose writing is always and intentionally outside the lines of God's redemptive purpose, the lines on which the story of his love is written. The Bible has many names for this one. I will use the title "the evil one" because it is both biblical and functional. The evil one is evil because what he does is evil. The intriguing name given to the evil one in the Old Testament is Satan. Satan, too, is a functional name. The word satan is a Hebrew term that means adversary. Satan is the adversary who opposes God and God's purpose in creation.


The best-known designation for the evil one in the New Testament is the devil. Devil is a compound word from the two Greek terms which mean to throw against. Therefore, the devil is one who accuses or throws something against God's people and God's purpose. The evil one is described by many manifestations. One idea, shared by Israel with other nations, is the association of evil with a dragon or a snake. Menacing animals, both real and imaginary, are used as metaphors for the evil one. The Leviathan is mentioned in Job 41 and the dragon in Revelation 12. Every child and adult has been menaced by dreams in which threatening animal forms rise up to do us harm. There is something both elemental and appropriate in conveying the idea of evil by means of threatening animals. The reverse is also true. God is variously represented in Scripture by a lion, a lamb, and a dove. In teaching children about manifestations of both good and evil through the symbolism of animals you are, by images, relating all of creation. Be careful that you do not teach children to fear harmless animals or regard as friendly animals which can be harmful by making an actual identity between animals and good and evil. Reinforce the ideas of symbols and the symbolic use of language in relating good and evil to the animal kingdom. The most skillful use of animals to describe good and evil I know is The Chronicles ofNarnia by C. S. Lewis. The popularity of both Lewis and Tolkien, who used similar devices to stimulate imagination, is a healthy corrective to the mechanical emphasis of a technological society. I suggested that stressing the function of angels is better than stressing their appearance. This is certainly the instance with the evil one. Indeed, we are given no clues in the Bible as to what evil looks like. It is intriguing and helpful to point out that God has a supreme incarnation in history. Evil has only fragmented and fractured manifestations. The evil one, who writes outside the lines, tempts all of mankind to disobey God. In his role as tempter, the evil one has been variously described as a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8) and as one in the disguise of an angel of light who confuses good and evil (2 Cor. 11:14). Even Jesus was tempted by the evil one to write outside of the lines of the purpose of God for his life. But he did not yield. Jesus met the evil one in all areas of his ministry. Everything which frustrates God's good intention for his creation may rightly be called evil. In the New Testament sickness, death, moral



lapses, mental collapse are all spoken of as evil. This does not necessarily mean that those who had these misfortunes had, in every case, caused them by their own sin. It is correct to say that all calamities which threaten God's good creation may be called evil. (See more on this point in the concluding section of this chapter.) Jesus met all manifestations of the evil one with the power of God. We, too, face individually and as groups the distorting force of evil in every area of our lives. We, like Jesus, can ask for the strength of God in overcoming evil. This is what we mean when we teach children to pray "deliver us from evil." When properly translated that phrase reads, "deliver us from the evil one." The Bible gives no specific details about the creation of the evil one. If we are to say that all which God created was good, then we cannot say he created the evil one as an evil one. Since the evil one is a "spiritual force and being," as opposed to a human, limited person, we conclude that the evil one was an angel of God. Since God did not create evil, we have to assume that by God's permission one of his good spiritual creatures fell. When we use the phrase "to fall" in a theological sense, we mean to become less than one was intended to be. Some people use Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 27 as proof texts for describing this fall of the evil one. I doubt that these historical accounts about ancient kings should be used in that way. I suggested in the section on angels that we should not dwell on the subject unduly with children. However, we need to say more about the evil one, for each child will be concerned with manifestations of evil in our world and with choices between good and evil. Nevertheless, we will do a great deal of harm if we stress the power of the evil one to such an extent that a child's world is more threatened by the evil one than it is blessed by God. Recent public attention to demon possession and exorcism was ill-advised at two points. (1) The superior, overcoming power of God was not given adequate attention. (2) Demon possession, in the sense of an evil spirit jumping on a person without that individual's cooperation, is a theological impossibility. This fatalistic view of demon possession is theologically impossible because God himself does not coerce the human will. If we were to give the devil the power to do so, then the devil would be stronger than God. The New Testament referred all illness and mental disorders to the demonic because these illnesses and disorders frustrated the divine purpose. The type of demon possession which contemporary Christians


should guard against is that gradual possession by the evil one which binds us to the force of destructive habits which only God's grace can break. Children need to be taught that writing outside the lines can become so habitual that life will have no meaning. The evil one, who always writes outside the lines, has already been overruled by God. And those who claim God's power in Christ may also overrule the senseless scribbles and misplaced "words" in their lines too. Finally, God will completely control and confine the evil one so that God's lines of what things are good, true, and beautiful will prevail. In the meantime, we need to reassure children about God's power in overcoming the evil one as much as we need to advise them of the persistent cleverness of the one who writes outside the lines.

Retracing and Extending the Lines

Creation is God drawing the lines in which the created order lives. Creation is God beginning things with a capital. Providence is the continuing implication of creation. Theologians speak of providence as God guiding the world he has made to the end he desires by the means he has chosen. Children will understand that providence is God retracing and extending the lines of purpose in his creation. Creation speaks about the world's dependence on God. Providence speaks of God's loving care and concern for the world. Creation and providence are two sides of the same coin. They both require the other. Use examples from gardening, from housekeeping, from caring about toys, to illustrate for boys and girls what happens when things we make and value are not cared for. The simple and apparent logic of these illustrations will help children see the necessity of God's providence. To see the logical necessity of providence is good. Better yet is to see providence at work. The care and concern of God for his creation is one of the easiest doctrines to be illustrated. A child's table grace is profound.
God is great God is good Let us thank him For our food

Creation teaches us that God is great. Providence teaches us that God is good. Our food is one evidence of God's providence. Perhaps the best



single word to use for providence is can. God's providence is his care for what he has made. God's care is illustrated in nature (Job and the Psalms). God's care is seen in the big things (Isa. 40); "He's got the whole world in his hands." God's care is seen in the little things (Matt. 10:29); "His eye is on the sparrow." God's care is seen in the orderly processes of his world (Job 38-39); "This is my Father's world." God's care is seen in the special acts of his redeeming purpose (Acts 8); "It took a miracle." Both the Scripture and Christian hymnology have given us many references to the care God has taken in retracing and extending the lines of his creation. The doctrine of God's care and the living of our earthly lives go hand in hand. God's caring is the most visible part of God a child can see. Providence takes place now between the beginning and the end of creation. Know enough about the lives of the children you teach to help each of them talk about some evidence of God's care in his own life and circumstance. One way of becoming better acquainted is to listen to what children perceive as evidence of God's care in their own lives. This exercise will strengthen their belief and awareness of God's care. Remember to stress that there have been several capital letter occasions of God's providence in his redemptive drama. Moses, Abraham, David, the prophets, the apostles, and Paul are all examples of God's special acts which we should begin with capital letters. There have been examples of capital letter names also throughout the history of the Christian community. The name Jesus should be written entirely in capitals because he is the central figure written in the lines of God's redemptive purpose. Children need to understand that they too are included in this story of the care and concern of God. We are not always aware of God's care at every moment. Yet, as we reflect on even the brief duration of a child's life, the whole of it is seen as a combination of God's caring acts. We do not know how, in the technical sense, God effects his care for us aside from the laws of his world. We do know that he uses these "laws of nature"the lines he has given to accomplish his care. When it is necessary and for good reason, he goes beyond those lines to show his care in special ways.

Working with a Special Pen

Children learning to write soon see a need for special pens. Special pens are those which can make fine marks or larger ones when a panic-


ular situation requires it. I like to think of miracles as God's writing with a special pen. The term miracle has been badly used by those who want to deny the possibility of miracles. These people define miracles in such a way that it sets a magical, supernatural god over against the natural order of a reasonable world. The term miracle has also been badly used by those who want to claim the miraculous as proof of their special status with God. These two mistaken views have fueled the fires for arguments and have left some Christians confused about miracles and their possibility. The phrase mighty works would be a good one to use with children in order to avoid the two distorted ideas about miracles just expressed. You will remember in the section on God's power that one term used to express his power is might or mighty work. A good way to express the extraordinary with children is to build on the idea of God's power. He who draws the lines in which the stories of creation and redemption are written can write over the lines on which his drama of creation and redemption is written. Even when he writes over the line for some special purpose he does not write outside the lines in a contradictory or nonsensational way like the evil one does. The lovely illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages could serve as an illustration. Use a picture of an illuminated manuscript (usually found in encyclopedias or books available at any public library) to show your children how the large letter that takes up several times the normal space is a beautiful exception to the other letters. The large initial letter is also an integral part of the first word and must be read with the word to make meaning. John's Gospel gives a good illustration of this integration of God's special works and his ordinary writing. In John's Gospel are seven mighty works and each is put together with a teaching fronr Jesus. John's Gospel calls the mighty works signs. The term sign as a designation for miracle gives us another helpful insight. A sign points to something beyond itself. The signs (miracles) of the Bible point to what God ultimately will do for his creation. When we look carefully at the mighty works in the Bible most of them deal with six topics: deliverance (the Exodus miracles), establishing the message and purpose of God (the miracles associated with the prophets), healing, nature miracles (bringing the world itself within the purpose of God), raising the dead (an evidence that God will overcome death), and exorcism (God casting out and confining evil). Help the



children see these classes of the mighty works of God. The mighty works point to what God is finally going to accomplish for his creation. Seen in this way, the mighty works and signs are integrated into the larger whole of God's purpose: In writing his "script" for his world God can and did/does do special illumination. But these special letters (the mighty works) are designed to fit into the larger message. Miracles are redemptive in purpose. These special signs of God point beyond themselves to what God ultimately will do for his world. This view is true to a biblical perspective of miracles. This view will avoid the two mistakes about miracles mentioned above. This view of mighty works, which includes them in the script, makes them a part of the larger intention of God, who has the whole of his creation in mind. The view of mighty works, as signs as to what God will accomplish for his creation, avoids the claim that people should expect miracles for selfish purposes. Children need to know that when God writes with a special pen he fits that writing into his larger purpose. Children have little difficulty in understanding that he who constructed the lines and writes the story can use a special pen for the larger letters. When children see that the special signs of God point to what God is finally going to accomplish, they will have a reinforced sense of his purpose. As a practical exercise, list the six categories of the mighty works. Select miracle stories from the Bible and ask the children to fit the stories into the appropriate topics. Children may feel that certain events they know or have heard about are mighty works. Fit these also into the topics. When you are expressing the power of God in mighty works and signs in our lives today, be sure children see that the mighty works and signs fit into a larger redemptive purpose and are not just special favors for certain people. Do not elevate the usual and natural things of life to the class of special mighty works. But, on the other hand, do not forget to point out the remarkable planning and the extraordinary quality of the ordinary and usual experiences of life. God can write with a special pen. But it is his usual writing that we will be reading the most.

Reading: The Difference Between Sense and Nonsense

Learning to write is a companion to learning to read. Reading is making sense out of what is written. Throughout this chapter I have been talking mostly about writing. Yet the implication always applies to


reading as well. One must move with the lines while reading. Boys and girls can be taught to learn the grandeur of God from creation and the care of God from redemption. The evil one writes nonsense outside the lines. There are the large letters written with a special pen. The nonsense writing outside the lines brings up a particular problem. It is the problem of evil. Why does God allow the evil one to write outside the lines, to smear the boundaries, even to copy what seems to be pages, from the divine story? Why doesn't God do mighty works for everyone? Why did God heal Jane's daddy and let Lorn's daddy die? A classical philosopher phrased the problem this way, either God is not good or God is not strong, for if he were both he would not permit evil. A little boy asked, "Mom, why doesn't God pinch off the devil's head?" Both were getting at the heart of the problem. The problem of evil is like a triangle. One side says, "God is powerful." The second side says, "God is good." The third side says, "Evil is real." If we could do away with one of these sides we would have solved the problem of evil intellectually. But that would be cold comfort because emotional problems of pain and despair are not satisfied by intellectual answers. It is better to leave the problem of the triangle of evil intact than to suffer the consequences that would happen if we removed one side. This can be illustrated for children with a triangle labeled as suggested. Ask, What happens if we remove God's power? What happens if we remove God's goodness? Evil is real. You need only to read a newspaper to establish thatl Human experience will not let us remove the side of the triangle which represents evil. Children often refuse to admit that some problems are indissoluble. You would be wise to help children see and accept the fact that some problems have no logical solutions. In formal terms problems which have no solutions are called absurd. Evil is absurd. It makes no sense; it has no right to exist. Yet it does. Many brilliant people have tried to "solve" the problem of the triangle by attacking each side. The solution was either too weak (to say God does not have all power), too unsatisfactory (to say God is not good), or too unrealistic (to say that evil is not real). The first thing a child needs to know about evil is that it is one of the problems of life that cannot be intellectually resolved. It has to be lived with. Learning to live with the fact that nonsense is written across the script of life is not easy. Some insights and attitudes will help. An important



step is to define adequately what we mean by good and evil. I use the following definitions. I feel that they are drawn from Scripture and that they can be related to our experience. Good is he who desires and leads to life, health, unity, wholeness, and peace. Evil is he who/and that which desires and leads to death, sickness, divisiveness, fragmentation, and upheaval. When you apply these definitions to the original and the final intention of God, you will see why sickness and death are evil. Evil is more than immorality. All evil and pain are not directly caused by those who suffer them. Yet, the New Testament is perceptive in calling both physical and mental illness demonic. Illness is demonic because it denies God's original and ultimate good intention for his creation. Help children see how serious and significant evil is. Avoid saying that evil is merely some personal inconvenience. For example, do not say that the devil made it rain at Sunday School time to keep some people away. God sends the rain on the just and the unjust. We do a great disservice when we define both evil and good in small terms that reflect only our own convenience. Both good and evil are to be determined by reference to the intentions of God, as found in his drama of redemption. We will be helped to live with the nonsense writing of evil if we see our own part in it. Evil can be caused by people cooperating with the evil one in temporarily spoiling the divine intention. When people cooperate with evil and do what is bad, we call those attitudes and acts sin. Mankind's intentional evil acts are sins. All sin is evil. But not all evil is caused by the sin of those who suffer it. Children soon leam that the selfish decisions of one person affect others. A boy or girl who intentionally and constantly disrupts the learning of others penalizes all of the class. Adults who grasp more money than they need at the expense of poor people are causing suffering to the poor. Mankind's decisions about how to use the soil and natural resources can create natural disasters and the destruction of the environment. One primary characteristic of evil is that it spreads out and pervades through all it touches. This can be illustrated by a drop of dye in a glass of water. Both good and evil are contagiousthey affect all they touch. In stressing this pervading principle of good and evil, reinforce for children that good is the stronger. Good is the stronger and evil is defined in relation to the good. The reverse is not the case. Good was first, for God is good. Evil is second and less powerful because it receives its definition only from the good. The evil one often copies good. (The

START WITH A CAPITAL AND CONTINUE IN THE LINES 145 Bible calls this appearing as an angel of light.) A copy depends on the original. Writing outside the lines depends on the existence of the lines. Evil is reading life as nonsense. Reading nonsense depends on a meaningful sensible message. Evil is real. It receives its definition from good. It is not as strong as good. These affirmations will help children live in a world where things are wrong. People who have decided that there is no solution to the problem of evil have nevertheless tried to make the best of things. The Christian community has said some things about the nonsense of evil that help in living with the problem. One of the affirmations that Christians have made in the midst of sin and evil is that God will finally overcome evil. The hope for justice and the securing of what is right and good become stronger as evil becomes more real. People in political oppression, mental anguish, and physical pain long more passionately for a final resolution of evil. These people know more surely than others that our hope lies only in God. We need to tell children that God will make all things right. Be sure that the circumstance in which you promise this is large enough to contain the promise. Do not promise that God will make right what he expects us to make right. The assurance that God will make all things right must not be used as an evasion of human responsibility. It may be used as an ultimate promise in very difficult circumstances. We can learn some things from pain. If we could not feel pain, we would be unaware of our medical problems. But senseless, crippling pain of body and mind, which should not be glossed over, also exists. Children can spot pious platitudes that are applied too cheaply to grave and difficult circumstances. The Christian community should not try to stifle or surpress grief or pain. The deepest truths we have to offer those who grieve and suffer become cliches if we use them too frequently or without a genuine understanding of the situation involved. People should be able to learn from pain, but often they don't. There is a demonic compulsion about gluttony, drunkenness, and sexual excess which seldom learns enough to ease the pain by stopping its cause. The whole point is to take evil seriously. Do not answer a child's despair glibly in the name of the Lord. He may accept for a time your ready and too light resolution of his problems. However, the child may well harbor a lingering resentment toward you and God, whom he supposed you represented, for not really entering into his problem. Children can hurt,



too, even about little things. Psychologically oriented helpers have suggested that many adult problems stem from unresolved or too cheaply resolved childhood hurts. Sometimes others are helped through our suffering. To know that can help us live with suffering. Heroic acts by patriots, parents, and friends help children see that suffering can have a purpose. Theologians call this suffering to bring good to another a vicarious act. Children will understand that good can result when you do something for someone else even when it hurts you. Suffering on behalf of others reminds us of the death of Jesus. Jesus' death and suffering were to help us. From the seeming tragedy of his death, God triumphed in Jesus' resurrection. The cross and the empty tomb are the silent and effective signs the Christian community gives to those who ask if God can bring good out of evil. One final hint is given to deal with the problem of evil and children who ask about it. Help them convert their question from, "Why has this happened to me, O God?" to "What now is my relationship to thee, O God?" The why question has no satisfying intellectual answer. God did not give Job twenty logical reasons why Job was suffering. Rather, God stood with Job in Job's distress. This assurance of God's presence, his being with us, is the best answer Christians can give to people caught up in the tragic circumstances of life. When death and/or divorce comes to threaten a child's security, explain that the abandonment by mother or father was necessary (or at least expedient). In all of the situations which are so terrifying to the young, remind them that they have a Friend. The most effective way to do that is to be their friend. The promise of God's presence may seem remote and abstract to children. It will not be so if you bring the promise of God's presence by your friendship and understanding. God set about to write the story of the world, and he's still writing it. All of us, the children too, are a part of that story. Help them to see the lines along which God's purposeful drama is written. Point out the double focus of his beginning the world and his constant caring of it. Let them see the occasional and purposeful letters he wrote with a special pen. Don't hide the fact that there is one who writes outside the lines and fills a lot of good space with nonsense. This nonsense makes it difficult to read the sense. But with patient guidance and an honest awareness of your human friendship, they will soon be reading and even learning to distinguish the sense from the nonsense.

Looking in the Mirror

Looking in the mirror is an experience which is common to children. Infants observe movement and reflection. They try, at first, to reach through to the reality that is there. Mirrors soon lose their enchantment and are reduced to functional uses, such as seeing if one's hair is combed and looking to see how well clothes fit. This chapter holds up a mirror of how we look theologically. There are many ways of measuring and describing people. The biological sciences tell us how we come into being and what is necessary to sustain healthy living. The psychological sciences and arts help us relate our inner reflections to our outer person. The sociological sciences suggest patterns of behavior among people. Among these impressive studies is there anything left for religious educators to say? Yes, indeed! Our task is to see the person as whole. You need to tell boys and girls how they look in the mirror of life's meaning. A theological mirror is both larger and smaller than all the other mirrors in which persons are reflected. It is larger because it reflects our relationship with God and with all the world. It is smaller because it reflects our innermost, individual selves. Very significant insights can be gained by holding up a mirror of how we all look in God's sight. The insights in this chapter could be taught to children very effectively by the use of several mirrors. Looking into a mirror intensely is always risky and fascinating. We discover something about ourselves. Our self-identity is not confined to what we can see in a static view by looking in the mirror. To study ourselves in a mirror, to try to see what is behind what we do see in our reflections, is a very serious and difficult business. Most of us settle for using mirrors to see if our appearance is acceptable. We will be talking about a much deeper look in the mirror than that.1
1. For further insights about this chapter see my, The Doctrine of Man (Nashville: Convention Press, 1977).



A THEOLOGY FOR CHILDREN The Individual in a Very Crowded Mirror

If you hold up a mirror before a group of children, each child will want to see himself only. Each would like an individual look. When looking at our appearance, we want to see our own individual self.2 But a theological mirror is first a very crowded mirror, for all people are reflected in God's looking glass of the world. The time and place for an individual look will come later. First, we need to see the entire group reflection. All of the sciences provide general rules which are then applied to particular individuals. Theology is no exception. It may be difficult for you to work with the need for looking in a crowded mirror. The extreme individualism that holds up a microscopic magnifying glass only to the individual is a modern problem. Biblical faith traces the relationship of all persons, as well as provides a full-length view for each person. Your own training and temperament might also rebel at seeing individuals as part of a larger whole. Yet obviously the recognition of the group and its characteristics provides our recognition and concern for the individual. To speak of the value of each individual child, and I hope you do, is to recognize that childhood is a general, corporate condition by which you come to recognize the individual. I want to stress very strongly this need to see both the group and the individual. Unless we see ourselves as part of the group, "humanity," we will feel no responsibility or kinship with the group as a whole. If humanity has achievements and the possibility of a unique destiny, then we may share those. If humanity has weakness and all are in need of God, then all who are human have weakness and are in need of God. If, on the individual side, God cares for each person, then we are all recipient of that care. Since God has chosen certain individuals to bless all, we may leave our lives open to our particular callings before him. If one can be Savior of all, then one by one we may choose to accept that salvation. Our task is to help children pick out their individual reflections in the midst of a very crowded mirror. The Bible keeps the individual and the group together in very important ways. First, the group of all humanity begins with the account of two individual humans called Adam and Eve. What these individuals
2. Gestalt therapists make extensive use of this idea in psychology. They call it the "figure and ground" approach in order to see the whole self. See Gestalt Therapy Frederick Peris et al. ed. (New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1965) p. 258.


did had an influence on all creation around them and on all who came after them. The first setting of human responsibility is an unspoiled garden. The first choice for good or evil was the choice of innocence. Innocence is an original condition which nothing has influenced. In innocence is unhampered choice. In innocence are no bad examples, no harmful environment. It is necessary to have one situation of absolute innocence to insure genuine and absolute human freedom. The Garden of Eden represents that absolute state of innocence. Our expression "innocent as a babe" means that an infant has not yet come to the individual time of decision about right and wrong. Absolute innocence no longer exists, for this would require a world in which only ideal conditions exist and no previous decisions for or against good and evil (another Eden) have been made. What is most important about the Genesis account of Eden is that all people are responsible to God and all people are interrelated. In the story of first man, we find the truth that individual actions affect not only ourselves but also others. In the account of Cain and Abel, we discover that we are our brother's keeper. In the attempt of Adam and Eve to flee from God, we see the futility of any person fleeing from God. Once absolute innocence is removed, Adam and Eve enter into our kind of world. Since the first pair, all persons have been born into this kind of world. The early chapters of Genesis stress very significantly the balance between individual actions and the general actions of what all mankind does. The biblical expression that we are all in Adam means that theologically the story of the first persons is the story of all persons. From the beginning of the mirror of humanity there are corporate consequences for individual actions. A second way in which the Bible holds together the individual and the group is seen by the idea of tribes and nations and their leaders. God dealt with Israel as a whole. Being born into a certain tribe meant being born into Israel. The promises to Israel were appropriate to all who were born Israelites until as individuals they either accepted or rejected their heritage. Unless we have this understanding of belonging to the whole, we will have a very difficult time grasping why entire tribes and the whole nation were blessed or punished because of the obedience or disobedience of their leaders. This principle of the leader affecting the lives of his people is a foundation stone in understanding the Bible. The biblical idea of individuals belonging to groups is being fortified in our



own time by the many attempts people are making to identify their ancestors and to join groups in order to provide meaningful relationships. Theologians call this relationship of the individual to the whole, corporate personality. Children know what it is to need to belong. The Christian community, following the Bible, has extended this circle of belongingness to all humanity and to God's world in which we live. The third and highest way in which the Bible illustrates the necessary relation of the individual to the group is seen in Jesus Christ, the representative of all of us before God. Jesus includes all of us in the possibility of becoming the children of God in a full redemptive relationship. This helps us to understand why Paul called Jesus the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:45-47). The first Adam represents what all men are in our fallen world. Jesus Christ represents a new beginning of mankind in a redemptive relationship with God. Unless children see all other people as related to the mirror of life, they will not identify with the achievements and mistakes of the human race. Unless children can identify with the many who are represented by Jesus, they will not see the relationship between the death of this representative friend and themselves. None of us can look into the mirror in isolation. We need to learn to see ourselves as individuals in the midst of the group. If children are not taught this valuable lesson well, they will tend to see themselves only in a self-centered light that does not relate their failure to the common experience of mankind. Such a selfish individualism will not relate salvation to the larger body of the church through the representative individual Jesus Christ. Theologically we need to see that we are individuals in a very crowded mirror. The mirror is crowded with the reflections of all mankind.

A Full-Length Mirror
It is nice to have small mirrors placed where we can see our faces. It is better to have full-length mirrors where we can see our total selves. Sometimes Christians suppose that biblical faith shows only a small part of a person called "the soul." It is then necessary to have another mirror for the body and still another one for the psychological part of the self. That is too many mirrors; and the picture they give is too fragmented. Earlier I listed the biological, the psychological, the social, and the spiritual as dimensions of mankind. A dimension is not the same as a part. A dimension is one way of being. To explore a dimension means to


ask one kind of question about a total being called a person. All of our modern areas of study are pointing out how important it is to consider the whole person. Theology is no exception. We deal with the biblical terms body, soul, spirit, and flesh. When we do we are not talking about parts of people. We are talking about dimensions of people. It is helpful to a child to know that who he is in relation to God at church is related to who he is in school, at play, in all areas of life. All of our relationships help us define who we are. It is important to know also that all dimensions of life affect one another. This is why Christian education will say something about healthy bodies and clean creative minds as well as something about worship.

BodyOur Shape
Let me try to relate, in terms a child can understand, the religious terms we use to describe what we see about ourselves in the full-length theological mirror. The body is the form or shape a person is. Human bodies are particularly significant because they are the highest physical creation of God. They are our way of being in God's world. A false opinion about the body, held by some religious people a long time ago, has persisted until today. Please do not pass on this mistake to children you teach. This false view is that the body, of itself, is bad and evil. Children who are taught that the body is of itself evil will have a very hard time liking or accepting themselves. If children cannot accept themselves, in the person of their own body, they will experience great difficulty in feeling or affirming their acceptance by others and by God. Bodies are part of the creation which God originally intended to be absolutely good. Bodies will be made absolutely good by God when he concludes his drama. In the meantime, some things are wrong with us. Things go wrong with our bodies and our bodies cooperate in doing bad things. Nevertheless, our bodies as such are not bad. If a person sins he will do so with his body. If a person is redeemed, his body will also be included. The body is the shape a person is. Help children to accept their own bodies. Help them also to accept the bodily appearance of all other people. Bodies can cooperate in doing good and in doing evil.

SoulThe Total Self A second theological word used to describe a person is soul. The term soul is very often rriisunderstood. People sometimes suppose that a soul



is a type of spiritual inner lining, like a lining of a coat which can zip out. The classical Christian community has often used the expression "the salvation of the soul." From this expression some have assumed that God is interested in or will secure only a part of us. This is not true to biblical faith. A good, one-word definition for soul is self. In fact, the Bible words for soul are often translated as self. Self is the totality of who an individual is. Soul involves the body too. 9 Soul is all that we are. When we speak to children about a redemptive relationship with God, we need to help them understand that this relationship involves every part of all of their lives.

SpiritOur Life's Force Our third word is spirit. We have noted earlier how difficult it is to define the elusive term spirit. Spirit means "breath," "force," "the motivating power of life." When used of God Spirit applies to the dimension or way in which God has his existence. Human spirit is unique. The force of life God gives to people symbolized by God's breath to us is a special gift. Just as we spoke of Spirit of God, we can also speak of spirit of a person. The spirit of a person is his motivating life force. Human spirit is a gift of God's Spirit. To be humanly spiritual is to have our way of being which involves thinking and deciding. Because we are spiritual, we can remember, decide, and be responsible. Mankind's spirit makes possible our fullest redemptive relationship with God's Spirit. To say that mankind is spiritual is to say that all persons are responsible before God. Another way of asserting our responsibility before God is to say that we are made in the image of God. Spirit is our capacity which lets us relate to God. Spirit is not just a part of us. Spirit is the possibility within us which can relate us redemptively to God. FleshCooperating with Evil The fourth biblical word to describe each person is flesh. Ordinarily we would equate flesh with our bodies. Yet the New Testament sometimes uses this word in a different way. Paul's special theological use of the word flesh suggests that flesh is our ability to cooperate with evil and the evil one. If we use this meaning of flesh, we can contrast flesh and
3. Death calls this totality of the being into question. For further discussion about what happens at death and how we may help children see the ultimate wholeness of their being see chapter 12.


spirit. Spirit is our ability to cooperate with God. When we use flesh and spirit in this way, we should not make the mistake of thinking that body equals flesh and soul equals spirit. Flesh is a possibility for evil which involves the cooperation of all of our self (soul), including our shape (body). Spirit is a possibility to cooperate with God which involves all of our self (soul), including our shape (body). Reread and work with these definitions until you can explain them to children. When you express these theological terms in the way I have described, you will help children understand that God relates to and is redeeming all of them. Their relationship to God will then be a whole one, and it will not be just a matter of religious ritual or of a premature commitment of part of life to God. A full-length theological mirror is needed to reflect the totality of who each person is. Each boy and girl needs to see himself as an individual related to the whole of humanity. A close look in the full-length mirror reflects a self (soul) shaped in the form we call body. Within the self is the possibility of relating to God and the good (spirit). Also within each self is the possibility of relating to the evil one and evil (flesh). Our next look in the mirror needs to reflect what happens when we exercise the possibility for evil.

Looking at the Reverse Side

A not-too-nice trick of boys and girls is to tape signs or notes on the back of friends. This creates the embarrassing situation of walking about with something added that the victim does not know about and makes him seem different from the usual smiling face one sees in the front. Humanity has such a tag on the back, and it reads sin. It is an added sign that we were not intended to have. Unfortunately, it is no laughing matter. One can scarcely smile at others or judge them because on the back of each of us is the same tag written in our own shape and illustrated in our own particular ways. When one looks in the mirror and turns front to back, he sees both sides of the story. It is important to hold up the biblical mirror so that children can get a complete look at themselves. This involves some discussion about sin. Have you ever looked in the mirror and found on your back an unexpected sign on your clothes or some bruise or blemish which was causing pain and irritation? The first instinctive question is, Where did I get that? In reality, that is not the important question. The



important question is, How do I heal that, or What do I do to get rid of it? Nevertheless, we do ask the question, Where did I get that tag, that mark, that sore, that wound?

Where Did We Get That?

The mirror of biblical reality about mankind reflects a threefold image in answering our question. We are all born into a world that is less than it was intended to be. The Bible refers to our coming into this kind of world in Psalm 51:5; Ephesians 2:3; and Romans 5. Theologians call this disability which we share by virtue of being born in an imperfect world original sin or Adamic nature. Children, by their acceptance of limitations which each person has, such as size, strength, limited abilities, can accept the idea that we are all born with a disability. A Disability.This disability is a very important but a highly controversial insight in the Christian community. Many Christian bodies feel that this theological disability from birth is best cared for by a ritual of grace, baptism, which washes away the disadvantage of being born in a world that is less than it ought to be. Baptists feel that the disability is a part of each child's developing person and that the disability will later be coupled with two other causes of sin mentioned in Scripture. In Romans 5, part of the debt which humanity receives from those who went before us is the fact of death. We all die. That is a mark of our disability. We are not correct when we say that we all actually sin because of those who went before us. Romans 5:12 explicitly says that death spread to all people because all persons actually sinned themselves. Infants and children are born into a sinful world. The Bible reserves the tag sinner until one actually commits sin. The disability of being born into this kind of world, namely the fallen conditions of our existence, is joined with two other causes to give each of us the wound of sin. A parentheses on responsibility.Before discussing those two other conditions that contribute to sinfulness, I want to remark again about the status of children in God's sight before they actually become sinners by their own choice. The Bible is very clear about the point that the world is God's world. The world as it is now is not what it was intended to be. God is going to make it what he intended it to be. His basic impulse toward all of his creation is love. These affirmations are the cornerstones of God's drama of redemption. Children of his ancient


covenant with Judaism were a part of the whole nation until the time when each was expected to affirm the covenant for himself. Children, who have not yet reached an age when they are individually responsible for rebellious and disobedient acts against God, are within his mercy of the new covenant made with all humanity in Jesus Christ.4 We need not grieve about the fate of those who die young. They are with God. Christ receives them to himself. We need to lay a careful groundwork with children who grow toward the age of accountability. We should not push children toward premature conversion when they show the first glimpses of theological awareness. To do so shows a lack of our confidence in God's love and justice. To do so is to create problems for the child as he grows older and faces a deeper level of awareness and a more involved relationship in sin. I will speak about conversion in chapter 10. The purpose of this section is to explore what it means that all persons become sinners. The evil one.The evil one is the second factor in answering the question of how we got our sin. An active, personal force of evil seeks to lead us astray. In the last chapter I described evil and the evil one as being all pervasive. We also need to note that another characteristic of evil is its consuming desire to corrupt good. In giving good gifts to people, the Holy Spirit shapes the gifts to our interests and abilities. Conversely, when the evil one tempts us, he fits the temptation to our weaknesses. A fascinating and an awesome parallel in the working of good and evil enables us to see that our strengths are also often the occasions of our weaknesses. In the scene of the first temptation, the serpent represents an outside, external reference for sin. In Jesus' temptation the evil one is also an outside reference to sin. The evil one is with us also. Most of our temptations involve mental reflection and grow out of our natural created functions. The "one who writes outside the lines" lures us toward writing nonsense in our lives which are originally the gift of God. The evil one is another contributing factor in our sinning. Ourselves.We ourselves must take responsibility for our own individual deeds of rebellion and disobedience to God. We are the third factor in why we are sinners. Our capacity called flesh (see previous section) joins with the evil one and follows the inclination we receive in
4. For a fuller discussion of these ideas see Appendix C taken from Children and Conversion ed. by Clifford Ingle (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1970).



being born in a world like this. The conjunction of these threethe world, the flesh, the evil oneanswers the question, How did I get my sin? All three elements are needed to answer the question, Where did I get my sin? If we stress only the role of the world about us in shaping our actions of disobedience, we tend to lose any idea of our own responsibility. If we tell children the devil can make them do things against their will, they will reason that God cannot hold them responsible. To assert that we only are solely responsible for our sinful actions is to forget about the complicated part heredity and environment play in who we are. It is a very complicated diagnosis to say theologically what is wrong with us. We need to affirm that we are responsible for our sins. We also need to affirm that we have unwelcome help in becoming what we should not be. We may gloss over the sign sinner and the wound of sin which each of us wears. However, it is better to see what we can do about the situation.

What Does the Reverse Reflection Actually Reveal?

We need to ask the question, What does the reflection of our back in the mirror of biblical faith actually reveal? Do we merely have a tag sinner which religious people (who need to read their own tags too) have given us? Is our disability some uncorrectable defect with which we must live? Is our problem merely a bruise which will heal in time? Or is there something really, badly wrong with humanityall peoplethat requires help? A careful diagnosis is needed as to what this condition of sin actually is. When explaining this diagnosis to children, use terms they can understand. Do not force symptoms upon them which they do not yet have. Describe the problem carefully in terms of what will happen so that they can recognize the marks of the problem for themselves when it occurs within themselves. It may be helpful to describe various characteristics of sin with the four simple mathematical signs with which boys and girls work in school. Using these signs the human dilemma could be described as follows.

A Subtraction One of the chief means of identification of the human problem is that something is missing. What is missing is the goodness which God origi-


nally intended for his creation. What is missing in our present world is the perfection toward which God is finally moving his creation. What is missing in us as individuals is the difference between what we are and what we might be. One of the saddest characteristics of sin is its deprivation. Sin is a subtraction of the fullness and delight which God intends his creation to have. Our failure to cooperate with God in achieving life's fullness subtracts from what we could be and what we were intended by God to be. Theologians call this phase of sin sloth. Children would recognize it as not caring. Not caring subtracts from life in many sad ways. When we do not care, we miss the friendship of God and others. When we do not care, we lack the vital curiosity necessary to creative living. When we do not care, we do not use the full strength of our gifts to enrich our lives and others. All creation suffers by the subtraction of people who do not care.

An Addition Sin is also an addition. Our problem is that we also add things to life which should not be there. The attitude of adding to ourselves is called pride. When we casually look into a mirror, we often see only those things we are looking for. We look for our strong points. We imagine that we are better than we are. We add up excuses for our weaknesses and try to justify ourselves. We play the game of adding up our real or imagined good points while we are subtracting from the strengths of others. The additions of pride give a very distorted picture of what we are. Pride adds up points for us that we do not actually have, points about our goodness, points about our importance, points of how better we are than other people. In its worst form, pride adds the notion that we do not need help. This leads to rebellion and defiance. The sin of pride often keeps us from asking God and others to help us. The promise of the addition "you shall be as gods" was a great temptation in Eden. It still is. There is a charming poem by Robert Burns, the Scotch poet, which will help children understand the distorted reflection of the self which the addition of pride gives. The poem is called "To a Louse." The story is that Burns observed a woman in church, dressed hi a large pretentious bonnet. She was very pleased with herself. What she could not see was a small louse crawling on the back of her bonnet. Burns' concluding lines, in today's English, are: "Oh would some power the gift give us to see ourselves as others see us." The point of Burns' poem is not



to laugh at the problems of others which they cannot see. The point of the poem is to inspect ourselves very closely for problems we have. An honest look in the full-length mirror of Scripture will show us that we have added things to life we should not have.

Multiplication Greed is a kind of multiplication. Greed is wanting things for our own sake or to satisfy our own desires. The mirror of Scripture is like a triple mirror. It shows us honestly all sides of the self. And the self each sees in the mirror is indeed a multiplying self. Our favorite pronouns are /, me, mine. The Bible says that we often want even the good things for selfish reasons (Jas. 4:3). An interesting and somewhat innocent way to illustrate this multiplying problem of the self is to ask children how strong/ pretty/rich they would like to be. Parents should listen carefully to the responses; for often they reflect the parents' own attitudes in these areas. Children need to be questioned carefully as to what they would do with their strength/beauty/wealth. Multiplying in order to reach large sums is not itself sinful. But the attitude with which we multiply and the ways we plan to use the increase easily become greed. Cells multiply to grow. Too rapid a multiplication of cells at the expense of other parts of the body becomes cancer. The attitude of multiplication easily becomes greed. The problem of greed is selfishness.
Division Division is the fourth sign of elementary mathematics. Division is a wrong procedure when it pulls apart things that are meant to be kept together. To divide life into unrelated segments is a wrong kind of division. Separating the intellect and the body in such a way that one is overstressed and the other is neglected is wrong division. Our competitive society, which demands super athletes and super brains, contributes to this division of the self. To separate God from any part of life is to hold out that which can enrich and fulfill. To divide our attention and affection so that most of our strength is spent on the self is a selfish division. To divide our money so that the poor and needy receive little if any
5. For a different way of explaining the fourfold essence of sin see The Doctrine of Man, William L. Hendricks (Nashville: Convention Press, 1977), chapter 6.


of it is a wrong division. Our human problem is related to how we divide our priorities.5

Stick with the Overall View in the Mirror

When viewing the self as sinful in the mirror of Scripture, we should stress the overall picture. We should not concentrate on just a few flaws or sins. Go to the essence of the problem of sin for a definition rather than limit a discussion of sin to a few examples. Sin is the deeper attitude which produces sins. If you confine your discussion to certain acts, the child may suppose that only those acts are sinful. If we only list things that children should not do, according to our preferences, they will miss the complicated character of sin. Sin is doing what we should not do and not doing what we should do. Sin is also doing things we should with the wrong motive. We run the risk of leaving with our children the idea that certain cultural customs we do not approve of are the essence of sin. This breeds a sense of self-righteousness. This cultural definition of sin also gives a much multiplied sense of guilt over acts that may be only culturally conditioned rather than essentially wrong. It is, however, necessary to give some illustrations of these essences of our human problem. My opinion is that when we have adequately described the essence of what is wrong, let the children talk. They will have many intuitive and perceptive illustrations. We can listen and ask leading questions which will keep them from identifying their own biases as the major essence of sin. I was talking with a six-year-old child who was preoccupied with sin. He had had some help with this nonnormative preoccupation for a six-year-old. When I asked him for a specific example of sin which he felt he had done, his response was, "I spat on the sidewalk." His answer reflected the mistaken notion that cleanliness is godliness. This painful example also illustrates the need to use religious instruction and sanctions for deep and meaningful matters. Do not try to coerce the cooperation of children in minor social and healthy biological conduct by bringing the full weight of God to bear on the problem. One mother told her child, at least by implication, "Don't do this or that because I disapprove, Daddy disapproves, and God disapproves. If you do this or that, Mommy, Daddy, and God will not love you." Children need instruction about social customs and biological health; but threatening them with God is not the proper approach. It is not true that God will not love them if they do this or that. Where would



people who do wrong be if God did not love them? The essence of the Christian idea about God is that he loves us even when he knows we have done wrong. You need to help children see the complexity of sin. To do so backand-forth thinking is required. The mathematical signs used to describe what is wrong can also be used to see what is right. Subtracting the harmful things from life is good. Without the addition of a proper sense of pride we could not reach our full potential. The growth of multiplication can make life strong, as well as cancerous. The division of life so that undesirable elements are excluded is necessary. It is not always easy to determine which is the positive and which is the negative function. Do not leave the notion with a child that good and evil are always clearly separated and can in every case be instantly determined for himself and for all others. Determining what is wrong with humanity is a very subtle process. It requires careful scrutiny in the mirror which Scripture holds up to us. Determining what is wrong with the individual requires full attention to attitudes and actions. A marvelous cure is available for what is wrong with us, but it is too costly to be used on mere surface blemishes. One of the major causes of overlooking the gravity of our human problem is to identify the problem with a simple sign, a surface blemish, or a small wound. The true dilemma is an infection that affects the whole system. Children, as they experience life, will discover the human dilemma. They will learn that everything is not right. When they do, be prepared to help them to know why the problem is there and how deep it goes. Do not give them premature and radical descriptions of what is wrong with life. The back side cannot be hidden. Nevertheless we should stress the good. God's love is regulative of all his ways with us. A careful look at the back of us in the mirror of biblical faith shows that all of us have a problem all of us but Jesus.

The Man in the Mirror

Good is determinative of what is evil. Some people may reason that if all have the wound or infection which affects all of life, maybe that's the way life was intended to be. The account of innocence in Eden gives us a different picture. But we cannot put ourselves back into that picture. However, one man in the mirror that reflects all faces does not have the wound. He is Jesus.



Boys and girls need to know that Jesus is the clearest picture the world has of God. They also need to know that Jesus is the ideal picture of what mankind should be. We need to have a model somewhere. It's helpful to have a picture of what the puzzle is supposed to look like. Review the main features of the man in the mirror. Do not overlook the fact that some of those features, such as sacrificial love and kindness to all, can be very disturbing and irritating. The portrait of Jesus you give to children needs to be as winsome as possible. It needs to be true to the facts as well. Only this man could do his job, which was to provide us salvation by his death. Those who follow him are, however, expected to be like him in their own way and as best they can be by his help. The man in the mirror is infinitely helpful and also somewhat disturbing. The man in the mirror points out, by being who he is, that we are not what we ought to be. The man in the mirror offers us the possibility of becoming what we ought to be. Because of his acceptance, we do not have to fear the comparison. Because of his help, we have much to hope for. Our long look in the mirror has revealed: (1) that we are individuals in a very crowded mirror; (2) that a full-length look will show that we are total selves in a form with capacities for good and evil; (3) that something is wrong with us; (4) that One among the faces in the mirror is our model and helper. We have a Friend.


Choose a Body

Children enjoy choosing and being chosen. When captains are elected and first choice comes, there are glances of uncertainty. Will my friend choose me? Will I be the last one chosen? To be last often means to be least skilled. To be first often means more strength or ability. Being chosen for games is a very tense tune. Choosing is a serious responsibility. We want to choose the best to suit our purposes. We want our team to win. Choosing and being chosen are familiar experiences of childhood. Wouldn't it be fun to choose our bodies? Choosing a composite body is a fantasy of all people who would like to be different in some way. And all of us would. You may want to ask children to play the game of choosing a body. Be sure they remember characteristics of the inner person, as well as features of the outer person. Choosing a composite body can be an interesting game. When we have played the game long enough, we can also be somewhat discouraged, for none of us has the ideal body and characteristics we would like to have.

The Fun of Being Chosen

What if God were to choose a body? What kind of body would God choose? We might suppose that he would choose only perfect people, all strong, all good, all whole. God has no need of a physical body for himself. But God would choose a body, a group, a team so that the individuals in it could embody his cause and purpose. If God were to choose a body or group to represent him in a physical way, what kind of people would be in this body? Once more we would suppose that the strongest, the best, the most desirable people would be chosen. What fun it would be to be chosen of God. Yet who of us could claim to be worthy of that choice? Those who feel they are worthy to be chosen of God because they are rich or wise or strong are surely to be faulted for their pride and presumption.




God has chosen and does choose a body. He chooses a body to represent him. It is good for children to realize the solemn fact that God has chosen a body to embody his purpose. He has come into history to write the drama of his story. In order to spell out his purpose for the world, God has chosen things, places, and people in the world to become those who embody his purpose. I talked about God's redemptive drama of purpose earlier. You may want to review the threefold way in which God pulls back the curtain to reveal the divine drama of redemption. We think of such well-known actors in this drama as Abraham, Moses, David, Peter, and Paul. We tend to put too much makeup on them until they become almost superhuman beings who do seem to be stronger and more nearly perfect than other people. When we read all of the Bible very carefully, we discover that these people were thoroughly and completely human. Their stories show weaknesses as well as strengths. Among these Bible heroes is one who misrepresented who his wife was in order to save his own life (Abraham), one who did not want to deliver God's message to people in bondage (Jonah), one who committed adultery (David), one who denied his friendship with Jesus (Peter), and one who was self-righteous and persecuted God's people (Paul). That is not a very promising cast for a divine drama. It is much to the credit of the Bible that the weaknesses, as well as the strengths, of its main characters are reported. Children should learn of the faults and failures of people in the Bible. That is an important lesson. Children need to know just what kind of persons God chooses to represent him. This comes as a surprise. God chooses all kinds of people to represent him. He chooses the weak and the unlovely too. In fact, when Jesus was announcing God's message, he most often went to very unlikely people. Jesus was greatly criticized because he associated with sinners and undesirable people. When Jesus chose people to follow him, he chose fishermen and even a tax collector. When God chose a special people, he did not select a large, powerful, well-known nation. He chose an insignificant and very unlikely group called the Israelites. In the Old Testament God is more often on the side of the poor, the oppressed, the sick, and helpless than he is on the side of the rich, the powerful, the strong, and self-sufficient people. There is something very mysterious and very wonderful about God's choice of a body, a group which embodies his purpose. God's choice is mysterious because we cannot see or understand why he would choose such unlikely



people. There is no satisfactory human answer to the puzzle of why God chose whom he did to accomplish his purpose. God's choice is wonderful. It is wonderful because it says something important about God and about what he wants to do. God wants to help people. God chooses ordinary people, and he does extraordinary things through them. God even chooses losers and helps them to accept their losses and to become winners. If God chooses people like the people in the Bible, children will understand that he will choose them too. Evangelism is announcing the good news that God chooses people, very unlikely people, all kinds of people to be his body, his group, his special people. Theologians call this special choosing of God election. Children will understand and be delighted to hear that God chooses a body. Being chosen is fun.

Are Some Left Out?

Does some being chosen imply that others are not chosen? Not necessarily. The good news announced by Jesus Christ is that all may come to the Father through him. You have both a solemn obligation and a joyful opportunity to tell all children that God chooses them in Jesus to be his body, his group. When we speak of God's purpose in terms of choice and privilege, the meaning is positive. God does have the initiative. God, by the force of the Spirit and the message about Jesus, enables persons to receive and respond to his choice. So far as we can determine from the evangelistic proclamation of the New Testament, all who desire to come to God may come. Those passages which speak of some as being chosen as vessels of dishonor (Rom. 910) are looking back on the way people did and did not consolidate their opportunities before God. Passages which seem to stress the forward looking knowledge of God (predetermine, foreknowledge, predestine) such as Colossians 1:9-14, stress that God's one predetermined one is Jesus Christ. "In him [we are elect] before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4) says more about Jesus and God the Father's plan to draw the world back to God than it says about our individual decisions. Jesus' invitation to a group of first-century children to come to him gives twentieth-century children's workers a strong example in inviting today's children to accept children's chosenness of God. Only when theologians have sought to step outside of history and determine how God's determination of his purpose works do we have problems with a so-called rejection of anyone by God. Children soon learn that not all of



their actions and attitudes are acceptable either to God or other people. Children also need to know that despite those actions and attitudes, God chooses them. And it is wonderful to be chosen. It is fun to be chosen. While God chooses us one at a time, he does not do so because he prefers one above the other. God's choice is offered to each at a time that is appropriate for the individual. God's choice tells us of his acceptance of us. His acceptance of us enables us to accept ourselves and to feel good about our being chosen. The Christian doctrine of election says more about our self-esteem than it says about our special privilege. It is fun being chosen. It is not fun being left out. Anyone "left out" of God's chosenness is left out because he would not accept God's choice. God initiates our being chosen. We may cooperate with him. It is particularly nice to be aware of and cooperating with our chosenness by God.

The Responsibility of Being Chosen

Why would God choose anyone in particular? Why does he not choose all automatically? These are good questions. I have been working on the principle that we need to reason out what God is doing by what he has done rather than by suggesting what he might have done. The game of theology has given rules, and this is one of them. It is apparent from reading the Bible that God has chosen to choose a certain people and particular persons. God has chosen to accomplish his general task of bringing his creation back to himself by the special means of choosing particular people and groups of people to embody his purpose. This principle of choosing the particular to accomplish the general is the only way humans can operate. Apparently it is also the way God has chosen to operate. For example, give your boys and girls a challenging puzzle and ask how they can put it together. They will rightly tell or show you that the general task of putting the whole puzzle together can be accomplished only by putting individual pieces together one at one tune. In this puzzleworking process the border and the patterns begin to fit together as the individual pieces fall into place. God, in fitting together the pieces of his fragmented world, has not decided to do it all at once by some general, magical way. God has very patiently and persistently been choosing separate pieces of the puzzle so that the overall pattern of his purpose can emerge.



Being chosen is fun. Being chosen also implies responsibility. When anyone stresses the privilege of being chosen and forgets the responsibility of being chosen, he commits the serious sin of spiritual pride. If the pieces of the puzzle forget that they are connected to a larger purpose, they are not filling their places well. They are not really into the picture. Religious leaders in Jesus' day stressed the privilege of being chosen and forgot their responsibility. All religious people struggle with this same temptation. Help boys and girls hold together the fun of being chosen with the responsibility of being chosen. Responsibility is a big word. It is an abstraction that is hard for children to grasp. Children will not have a hard time understanding that they will feel a loyalty to the one who selects them. The group God chooses is built up one piece at a time. Yet each piece needs to be held in perspective, in relation to the whole. Good evangelism will talk about the total picture God is paintingthe full and complete pattern he is designing through us. The good news of God's choosing us involves both the joy and the responsibility of being chosen. Loyalty is one part of the responsibility of being chosen. Loyalty is necessary to the spirit of any group or team. Nations dissolve when national loyalty is not present among individual citizens. Athletic teams do not win when they do not function as a team. They do not function as a team when they think more about their individual performance than they do about the combined effort of the group. Individuals do not perform well when their interests and energy are spent in contrary efforts. Responsibility is loyalty to the one who chooses us and to the others who are chosen for the same purpose. Theologians call this corporate electionthe election of the individual within the group. Children will understand that being chosen means being loyal to the one choosing and to others chosen for the same purpose. When children see their relationship to God as also involving their relationship to all brothers and sisters in Christ, they will begin to understand about the body of Christ. To understand about the responsibility to the body of Christ is to understand about good churchmanship, which thinks less of individual membership privileges and more about group responsibility. This process and this kind of understanding needs to be stressed with the very young so that when they grow older and are members of a chosen body they will not take that loyalty to the body lightly.



The responsibility of being chosen also involves doing our part. Each person has distinctive gifts and talents. All people can contribute their own special gifts to the chosen body. In your work with children be sure to help them explore and develop their individual gifts and talents (Eph. 4:11-13). One of the primary purposes of God in choosing a body is that this body may serve others. Israel was chosen to be a light to the nations. John the baptizer was chosen to bear a special witness to Jesus. Disciples were chosen to go to all the nations with the good news about Jesus. Losing ourselves in order to find ourselves is a lovely way to combine both the fun of being chosen and the responsibility of being chosen. Serving God does not mean that we are called to do things we cannot do, are not good at doing, or do not even want to do. Serving God means that while we are doing the things that help to paint his full picture we are also completing and fulfilling ourselves. This is another example of creation and redemption fitting together. As members of a chosen body there is one vivid example we dare not forget. That example is Jesus. For Jesus the service of God meant suffering. Christians, even young Christians, need to know that the pattern of service in a chosen body may well involve some difficult tasks. Suffering service is not to be sought artificially. When the suffering service of responsibility comes to us, we do find strength for it. Other people will not misunderstand God's choosing as a special favor of a privileged group if they see that a chosen body is characterized by suffering service. The reason God chooses some is that all might be blessed. If some do not choose to receive his blessing, they bear the responsibility for that choice. A part of the responsibility of God's chosen body is to instruct and give example to others in the body that our chosenness involves loyalty and service. Being chosen means hard work. To be chosen also means to be accepted and to work with God in accomplishing his work. We consolidate God's choice for us one at a time. Our acceptance of his acceptance of us includes an acceptance to fit into our place in the body.

The Forming of the Body

The science of biology and the art of medicine are making us vividly aware of how all children are conceived, developed, and brought to birth. Even children are learning through pictures and museum classes about the development of the human embryo. If this knowledge is



gracefully and appropriately given, children may have a relaxed and natural awareness of their own growth and development. We also grow toward spiritual birth; and it is important that we who hold to a conversionist theology have some awareness of the development, birth, and spiritual growth of the person. Human birth is a natural process, and it will take place whether people have studied it or not. Nevertheless, most parents are grateful that obstetricians and well-trained nurses or midwives are available to assist in the birth process. Pastors, children's workers, and parents need to be aware of how to assist in the process of spiritual birth. Creation is the work of God and so is conversion. In both arenas he has chosen processes and persons to provide the human instrumentality in accomplishing the divine purpose. There is the planting of the seed and the watering so that the "increase" can come. Those who guide the spiritual birth and development of children need to know what is essential to healthy birth. 1 There is an irreducible minimum a child needs to be taught in order for lively and healthy spiritual birth to take place. We must not, for the sake of the kingdom of God and of the children we seek to lead into it, succumb to the siren voices which tell us that children do not need to "know anything" to have a redemptive relationship to God. Those who believe in a genuine conversionist theology cannot be satisfied to have adults ask children leading questions and then accept a programmed, minimal response from the child. This practice compromises the freedom of the person in responding to the grace of God. It is crucial to have some guidelines as to what is necessary knowledge in order to affirm and receive the grace of God in an authentic conversion experience. Evangelicals have long been aware of this necessity for a "heart of the matter" in order to be converted. Several versions of a "plan of salvation" have been suggested at different times. I would like to suggest five elemental "facts of the spiritual life" which I deem are needed by anyone before a meaningful redemptive relationship with God takes place. The process of spiritual birth involves both the conditions which make life possible and the actual entering into life. In this section I want to talk about the conditions which make spiritual life possible. I call this discussion "The Forming of the Body." It involves what I consider to be
1. You may want to review chapter 1 and Appendix A to realize the importance of good theological childhood development.


the essential and minimal biblical affirmations a child needs to have in order to enter into a redemptive relationship with God. These elemental conditions of spiritual birth need to be coupled with the actual experience of breathing the breath of life. In the next section, I will talk about the external experience of conversion and the expressions that accompany it. I will call that section "How the Body Works: Breathing the Breath of Life." In both of these sections the individual is the focus of the discussion. But I would not want you to forget the inevitable larger picture. The chosen body of God is the church which is brought to life by the Holy Spirit. A discussion of conversion and the theological conditions for it takes place only inside the broader framework of what it means that God has chosen a special people to bless all people. In the preaching of the earliest church, as presented in Acts, five points about God's action in Jesus Christ are stressed. The five sermons of Peter are: Acts 2:14-40; 3:12-26; 4:8-12; 5:29-32; 10:34-43. These sermons set out the facts of the gospel in slightly differing words but always with the essential sameness of content. The points are: (1) Jesus Christ came from God and is God's Son. (2) Mankind is involved in the death of Jesus. (3) God raised Jesus from the dead. (4) Jesus sends the Spirit. (5) God in Christ through the Spirit will conclude what he has begun. These are theological affirmations which can be translated so that children can grasp them and reflect on them, even as God uses this message to open their lives to his grace. These theological affirmations can also be translated into the most intellectual and challenging terms to express to well-educated persons what the Christian message is. The task of the Christian community is to make both of these translations. My purpose in this book is to translate for the children and for those who instruct them.

Jesus Came from God Christmas is important to children and to all Christians. Christmas is a time of celebrating the gift of God's coming to us in a special, definitive way. The term God is only a general word with vague content. Christmas gives God a human face. Jesus came from God. Jesus is the clearest picture and the highest clue as to what God is like. A redemptive relationship with God is made possible through a personal manifestation of God in Jesus Christ. We move on to a more mature relationship with God only from the biblical affirmation that Christ represents God



to the world as no one else does. Christ is God's Son, the unique and fullest manifestation of the Father. A Redeemer helps us where we cannot help ourselves. To say that Jesus came from God means that creation and redemption are tied together. He who made the world is moving through Jesus Christ to draw the world to fulfillment in himself. To say that Jesus came from God who made heaven and earth means that life has purpose and meaning. God stands for the meaning and fullness of life. To say that Jesus is God's distinctive Son is to say that through Jesus' invitation to us we may all become sons and daughters of God. As I have said, children know what it means to have a friend. It is reassuring to know of the care and concern of our one heavenly Father as demonstrated in the person of his Son, our beloved Elder Brother. The first thing anyone needs to know in order to become a Christian is that God the Father extends himself to us through Jesus Christ his Son. All Mankind Is In volved in Jesus'Death Peter's blunt statement "you . . . killed [him]" (Acts 2:23) is conditioned by his audience of persons who had been present when Jesus actually died. This direct accusation is tempered with the further awareness that the permission and purpose of God was also at work in the death of Jesus. To teach children the general truth that Christ died to make things right is better than to place upon the young the accusation of any specific responsibility for Christ's death. When children are told that Christ died because things are not right, they will begin to have an awareness that they too contribute to the world's not-being-rightness. Let individual children from their particular circumstances apply their own connections between their own wrongs and the general affirmation that Christ died for our sins. To put it another way, it is doubtful if a child is ready for conversion until he senses estrangement from the goodness of life which God intends because of some specific attitudes and actions which that child has or does. It is better for the child to recognize and verbalize his own concepts of sin than for him to repeat, without understanding, our adult formulas and classifications about sin. Listen long and lovingly to children. Affirm their growing awareness of what is wrong in life. Do not rush to a spiritual stillbirth at the first preliminary pangs of guilt. On the other hand, do not hold out for an adult awareness of what is wrong with the world. When specific


wrongfulness of attitudes and actions are recognized and when these become harmful and destructive patterns in life's relationships, the awareness of God's help becomes meaningful. Even adult Christians too often speak of Christ dying for their sins in the abstract without applying this and the grace of forgiveness to specific attitudes and actions in their own lives. In proclaiming the death of Jesus to children, the desired response is one of gratitude that God accepts us by this act of his suffering love. This response will include an awareness that our own worst acts and attitudes are of the same kind that brought about this act of God's suffering love. The cross is a symbol children should learn to love because it is a promise. It is a promise of forgiveness, of continuing concern, and of God's care for us. Since the Bible represents the cross as the highest act that God has done for us, we can only conclude that it is the necessary way in which God is taking care of what is wrong with the world. Tell children the positive word about the cross. The cross is God's way of making things right. Help children figure out and apply the negative implications of the cross, namely that the wrong and sinful things we as individuals do make this cosmic event of suffering love necessary.

God Raised Jesus from the Dead Talking with children about the resurrection of Jesus only at Easter is not enough. Every good new beginning is a shadow of Jesus' resurrection. The annual renewal of the natural world places a hope within us that God has acted for us in Jesus' resurrection. Recovery from illness, waking from sleep, the possibility and promise of tomorrow are practical preludes to resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus is the point of the story where we can see that everything is going to turn out all right. The resurrection is the climax of the Christian story. The plot of God's purpose for all of his creation is unfolded in the resurrection of Jesus. It is historically accurate and theologically necessary for resurrection Sunday to be closely tied to Good Friday. It is a mistake to tell children about the tragic circumstances of Christ's death without also, at the same time, telling of the triumph of his resurrection. If the cross reminds us of what is wrong with ourselves and the world, the resurrection assures us of what God will do to make everything right. Without the cross the resurrection is only frosting on the cake, a plus to an unrealistic and hopelessly optimistic view of our human existence. Without the



resurrection the cross is a senseless tragedy and a sign that evil could triumph over good. Children will receive gladly the good news that the sad death of their Friend has a happy outcome in the reality of his resurrection.

Jesus Sends the Holy Spirit You may want to review carefully all that has been said about God in chapters 4 through 7. In those chapters ways of presenting the Holy Spirit and the theological necessity for the threefoldness of God are presented. The Holy Spirit as God's breath blows life into the story of Jesus. The Spirit also stirs our spirits to be able to respond to the gospel. This work of the Spirit in bringing together God's provision and our response is the deepest mystery of spiritual birth. The facts and operation of physical conception are known and described by biology. The mystery of biology is the fact of life itself. The mystery of theology is the fact of conversion itself. The process of bringing together the facts of God's redemptive drama and the actual needs of our lives can be described. The mystery of how God and the individual interact is the indescribable miracle of our redemptive relationship. Since this is so, we need to avoid prescribing how children should feel or respond or express their participation in their interaction with God in the redemptive relationship. There are external and predictable things everyone may know (these basic facts of the gospel), may accept (a particular time in which the individual accepts the facts of the gospel), may do (make a public profession of faith/be baptised), and may express (Christian testimony and Christian life-styles). There are also nonprescribible ways in which the Holy Spirit makes us open and alive to the presence of God in our own lives. The Christian message is a message about the threefold fullness of God. The Father sent the Son and the Son sent the Holy Spirit. We tend to tell children only the first two-thirds of the Christian story. It is easier to describe and express the actions of God the Father and God the Son than it is to find ways to tell children about God the Holy Spirit. Children themselves could give us helpful vocabulary and analogies about what is real beyond the physical facts of history. Earlier I presented the case for valuing and cultivating the imaginative, creative capacities of children. Now you can see the need for that plea. We find it difficult to


speak about or imagine as real anything which lies beyond the physical dimensions of life. This is not so with children. Children have some advantages in grasping and some expertise in expressing "things not seen." Our best service to children, in the area of describing the Holy Spirit's actions in their lives, is to serve as good listeners, correcting images that do not fit biblical norms. We also need to supply the ethical models for the child's understanding of what Jesus, to whom the Holy Spirit bears witness, is like. Jesus sent the Spirit to bring to life the biblical drama.

God Concludes What He Has Begun The fifth fact of the good news children need to know is that God concludes what he has begun. In chapter 12,1 will explore the need for conclusion and the particulars of God's conclusions. At this point, I want to include this firm biblical affirmation as a part of what children need to know in order to become Christians. Children tend to relate beginnings to the past. They also tend to expect future promises in the present or in the very near future. A wise parent does not begin talking about Christmas gifts in July or summer vacations in December. The best way to express that God is going to conclude what he has begun is to show evidence of his continuing now to do what he set out to do. From these present acts of God and their bringing to life his earlier promises, we can confidently build upon and wait for the future. The final manifestation of Jesus is not intended to immobilize us in the present. It is intended to vitalize us now. Children are bored by games that do not challenge, puzzles that are too easily worked, and by an idea of God that holds no surprises or future promises. The question is, How do you explain to a child what we mean when we say that Jesus came to judge the quick and the dead (Acts 10:42)? It means that God can do what he set out to do. It means that God will do what he set out to do. It means that God, who is the one who guarantees justice and gives mercy, is going to demonstrate and secure his justice and mercy when all the facts are in. Children need to have the assurance which confidence in God's ability to do the ultimate things can give. They do not need the confusion and fantasy of our viewpoints about the particulars by which we surmise he will do "the last things." Bible language speaks of Christ coming to judge the quick and the dead. Chil-



dren will understand that God is going to complete what he began in Jesus. Children will understand this better if we stress confidence in God's final acts on the basis of his past acts, especially his present acts with us through Jesus Christ. These five salient points of God's redemptive story are remarkably comprehensive. They speak about the God of beginning and ending. They tell us about what's wrong with the world and what God is doing to make it right. The threefold fullness of God is expressed in these earliest Christian messages in the individual acts of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Both the provision of the cross and the power of the resurrection are included. Christians who want to share their faith will explore different ways in which these basic facts of what is needed for spiritual birth can be expressed.

How the Body Works: Breathing the Breath of Life

Life is the gift of God. Physical life comes about in natural ways and follows the rules and rhythm of physical development. When the time is full, the child is born. Nature and grace have many analogies. Grace bears witness to a basic messagethe good news of the gospel. There is, in grace, an individual fullness of time when grace brings into conscious, responsible being our acceptance of God's gift of eternal life. This individual fullness of time for birth also has certain predictable features about it. Let me suggest a few. 1. Conversion requires enough conscious and intentional relationships to build a climate of trust, an awareness of the possibility of estrangement, and a sense of responsibility. Conversion is entering into a redemptive relationship with God through Jesus Christ. All redemptive relationships require trust. Ordinarily a child learns the element of trust from the continuing and sustained care the parent(s) give. Every adult Christian needs to realize that every contact and experience with a child is an opportunity to build the trust factor, necessary in all redemptive relationships. Abandoned and abused children provide particular opportunities for adult Christians to build a climate of trust. Some trusting relationships are used to exploit those who trust. God only is worthy of absolute trust. Commonsense biblical passages express the obvious need for trust as an element in a redemptive relationship. "He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek


him" (Heb. 11:6, KJV). "He who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen" (1 John 4:20). The meaning is obvious: Trust in God is necessary to have a redemptive relationship with God. Trust in God is analogous to and made believable by trusting in human relationships. The conversion of a child is a process which begins in the cradle and which is actively accomplished when the child or young person, aided by God's Spirit, confesses and acts upon a faith commitment to God through Jesus Christ. The earliest conditioning for conversion is a climate of caring love and of faithful acts which enable a child to trust. A context of trust requires a teaching about what is good and what is hurtful to life. Trust relationships involve mutual responsibility. Children who break trust relationships are aware of the barriers they put up between themselves and those they trust and who trust them. The breaking of a trust relationship causes estrangement. Estrangement can be the emotional estrangement of guilt or the actual physical estrangement of rejection and being excluded from the home or friendship. Neither the home nor society can include persons in unrestricted ways in their midst who continually break the bonds of trust. God, more than mankind, trusts and persists in his trust for those and in some ways that is all of uswho are untrustworthy. Estrangement from God is from our side. We break his trust in us. Estrangement involves all of each of us. Our minds and bodies persist in doing those things which are harmful to ourselves and to a redemptive relationship with God and others. In the midst of and with an awareness of this possibility, conversion takes place. Conversion is not an instantaneous movement from sinfulness to perfection. Conversion is the reestablishment of a personal trust. God makes this reestablishment possible by the good news that he accepts us as we are and will help us to become what we are capable of becoming. Conversion requires the awareness of estrangement from God as a necessary condition to conversion itself. In other words, one cannot be converted, literally turned toward something, until he is aware of going in the wrong direction. One cannot be "saved" or "found" until one is aware of being in peril or of being lost. There can be no playing down of this point in a conversionist theology. Biblical faith requires, at some point in life, confession, acceptance, conversion, and responsibility as the full meaning of a redemptive relationship with God.



It seems to me inconsistent to speak of a child evangelism which confirms the trust of a child but delays, in principle, any awareness of guilt, confession, or responsibility. I do not see the difference between this position and the liturgical view which confers an approved status on a child by infant baptism and expects a later personal "confirmation" of this status. The idea that a young preschool child should go through the rituals of confession and baptism and later have a meaningful experience through rededication is a dangerous halfway house. This practice is a halfway house between classical infant baptism and historic Baptist conversionist theology. This halfway house is dangerous because it sidesteps a necessary personal confirmation of faith as required by liturgical communities. It may also sidestep a full, meaningful conversion, in the understanding of that term in Baptist heritage, by leaving the implication that the child is genuinely converted when he is not. Baptists have some serious self-examination to do in the matter of preschool-age conversions. Genuine conversion requires both awareness of trust, the awareness of the reality of estrangement, and the ability to make a responsible decision which will reinforce trust and overcome estrangement. 2. Conversion can be effected when the trustfulness of God is understood as accepting and overcoming the estrangement of our failure to trust and be responsible. The trust factor is necessary in a redemptive relationship. The good news is essential to conversion. Children need to know more about God's trustworthiness than they know about their own inadequacies. The error of an extreme child evangelism is to overlook the estrangement factor. The error of a "Puritan" stress on the sinfulness of mankind is to stress estrangement and guilt rather than God's good news. Do not tell children how bad they are. Tell them how good God is. When the word of God's goodness is visualized and embodied in the life of Christians who try to "tell children about God," children will rightly begin to understand about God. Any plan of salvation that does not begin with and lay predominant stress on God's good act on our behalf is out of focus. When children hear what God has done, they will ask about and begin to make connections between their own experiences of inadequacy and estrangement and Christ's death. The necessary article of faith, "Christ died for our sins," requires individual application which only the individual can make.


Listen carefully to children when they express what they perceive as wrong in their own being. Help them distinguish what is merely a breach of cultural and social conventions from those destructive and deep-rooted attitudes and actions which are the essence of sinfulness. If you listen carefully, you will discover a great deal about yourself. You will also be aware of the shallowness of some teachings about what sin is. Stress the goodness and acceptance of God. Tell the children candidly and matter-of-factly about Christ's death and its relation to human willful error. Then listen patiently and with as discerning an attitude as possible to children's questions and applications. In time children will ask about their part in that cosmic drama. In time they will be able, with help and careful instruction, to understand their own attitudes and acts which estrange them from God. In tune they will understand that God's continuing act of trust can accept thenown breach of trust. In time they will be convinced that his trust can help them in trusting him, themselves, and others. When this time comes, the child is ready to be born again. 3. Conversion is possible when children distinguish between religious rituals and their meanings. It is a mistake to play down the external ritual elements of our faith. Christian commitment involves something we do with our bodies. Our bodies do something in baptism. Baptism symbolizes a death, a burial, a resurrection. Our bodies do something in the Lord's Supper. We physically partake of bread and the fruit of the vine so that we can remember Jesus' sacrifice and be renewed "in the inner person" by reflecting on the physical act. Mere ritual is empty of meaning. A mere reflecting on meaning without a visible reminder is thought without substance and action. Children act out adult rituals as part of their game of growing up. The roles children play are interesting and revealing playbacks of the roles they see adults play. An inevitable part of learning is to know what objects are and what they mean. It seems entirely appropriate to show preschool-age children, and definitely those involved in the show and tell of school activities, the rituals of Christian community. Bring the Lord's Supper service to the Sunday School hour. Show children the baptistry. At each of these occasions explain, on a level appropriate to the child, what these things mean and why Christians do



them. In the next section I will talk about the "inclusion-exclusion" factors and make suggestions for reducing the tensions of that problem. In my opinion, it is wise to let children see the rituals of faith, to provide full explanation, and permit full questioning about them. The two primary external rituals of faith are baptism and the Lord's Supper. Both of these take place in the broader, external ritual of worship. The Christian community also provides meaningful rituals for all of the "rites of passage" in the human community. There is celebration and dedication on the occasion of birth. There is the ritual of Christian marriage. There is Christian funeral and burial. My opinion is that children should see all of these rituals. These times of observation should be taken as serious seasons for explaining the meaning of the ritual to children. If your minister or church has a custom of the celebration of the birth of children and the dedication of the home, brothers and sisters of the infant should surely see this ceremony. Such celebrations are teaching opportunities about God's gift of life and the value of each life. Children are often "used" in weddings. Flower girls and ring bearers should be told more than where to stand. The implications of the beauty of marriage symbolized in the flowers and the integrity of marriage symbolized in the ring also need to be pointed out. A Christian wedding is a ritual which provides a full opportunity to teach something about Christian homes. Death is an inevitable part of life. The father of the Gautama Buddha tried to shield the Buddha from all of the unpleasant aspects of life. It didn't work. On the contrary, the shock of discovery led to the Buddhist repudiation of all desires and the avoidance of intense, personal involvements. A funeral, even a Christian funeral, can and does represent trauma for all. This is especially true for children. But children die also. They, too, must be buried. It is problematic as to whether children should see the lifeless bodies of loved ones. I have serious reservations about the public showing of the body at funerals even for adults. The larger dilemma is whether children should attend funerals. Parents must make decisions about what age children they will bring to funerals. I have strong feelings that children should be included in the family ritual of grief. This public observance makes more realizable the later actual absence of the loved one. A Christian funeral is an opportunity for serious and extended sessions of


instruction about God's gifts of life and eternal life. Some of our desires to protect children from the reality of death may stem from our reticence or anxiety about explaining death to children. Christians do have physical rituals. These should not be devalued. They should be used as times of instruction of the young about the all pervasiveness of faith into every arena of life. Our more immediate concern in this section is that we should help children separate the ritual and the meaning. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are lovely and desirable actions. They are the primary religious rituals of the Christian community. These rituals express in symbol the basic meaning of the Christian faith. That meaning is a redemptive relationship made possible by Jesus' death and resurrection. That relationship involves, on our part, an identification with Christ's death, burial, and resurrection and a continuing reflection of what his sacrifice means to our life in Christian responsibility. So long as a child only wants the ritual, he is not at the time of conversion. Parents and those who work with children need to match every inquiry from the child about baptism and the Lord's Supper with a response about their meaning and significance. When a child couples the ritual and the meaning, conversion is possible.

Signs of Life
This chapter is about choosing a body. God chose a body of people to embody his purpose in the world. God chose Christ to give body to the fullness of his purpose. Christ chose the church to be his body. Being a part of the body of Christ involves two levels of choice. They are the levels of God's inclusive choice and of our responsive choice. The whole body is formed and renewed when individuals are born into the larger body. Individuals breathe the breath of spiritual life. The possibility of this life comes with the hearing of the Word of God and the help of God's Holy Spirit, who enables us to breathe the breath of spiritual life. Breathing the breath of spiritual life is conversion. Conversion is followed by signs of life which show our Christian commitment and vitality. This extended metaphor about being a chosen body and choosing to be in the body is an explanation of election, the church, and conversion. That is what theologians call it. Children would understand these things as being alive in and to God. There are signs which accompany our life in the chosen body. These signs are baptism and the Lord's Supper. These primary signs are in-



eluded in the broader ritual sign of Christian worship. Children need to know some especially rich and meaningful things about these signs.

Baptism is a physical, visual act which a child can participate in to express his being in the body of Christ. Instruction for and about baptism needs to include what is expected in the actual physical process itself. Most pastors see the need to take a child to the baptistry and to explain carefully the physical process of baptism. Even more explanation is needed as to the deeper symbolic meaning of baptism. Those who explain the meaning of baptism to children will want to review the section on signs and symbols in chapter 12. Baptism may be explained as standing with a friend. In the baptism of Jesus (see chapter 5) we saw that Jesus, the Friend, came to stand by us. In our baptism we consciously and intentionally stand by him. By symbolic action we also reenact his friendship for us. That friendship was shown in his death, burial, and resurrection. When we are immersed (laid back) under the water, we illustrate death and burial. When we come up out of the water, we symbolize Jesus' resurrection. Baptism has a meaning for us as well as being a visual reminder of Jesus' acts of friendship. Baptism is our public declaration, observed since New Testament times, that we are the friend of Jesus. It is a custom in Baptist congregations to make a public decision for Christ by responding to an invitation at the conclusion of a worship service. This is a very helpful way to give people an opportunity to do something external about their internal acceptance of Jesus Christ. This response has made it possible for us to stress the whole process of becoming Christian. First we are drawn by the Holy Spirit to acknowledge and accept the good news about Jesus Christ. Accepting God's acceptance of us in Christ is a personal, individual decision. We register this decision with a group of fellow believers. They have also been chosen and been born into the body of Christ. This registering of the public decision is a preliminary step to the New Testament way of making a public confession of our birth into the body of Christ. In the New Testament the public act of confession was baptism. Children can be taught the significance of the process in being born into Christ's body and giving the first sign of our life in his body. Three steps are involved in the beginning of the Christian life. They

CHOOSE A BODY 181 are: (1) acceptance (the act of believing and receiving the good news of the gospel), (2) acknowledgement (sharing the decision of acceptance with fellow believers in order to receive guidance and the support of fellow Christians), and (3) baptism (the formal New Testament way of confessing one's faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord). In the New Testament the person who was being baptized often gave an oral confession of his faith at the tune of baptism (see Rom. 10:9-10 and Acts 8:37fc). My personal preference is that this public, oral confession should accompany the act of baptism. I ask those being baptized to quote (Acts 8:37) "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" or to give a personal, verbal affirmation of their faith at the tune of baptism. Children who are old enough to believe in and accept the good news about Jesus can also see the full significance of combining words with act at the tune of baptism. Baptism is standing with a Friend and reenacting his standing with us. The personal meaning of the symbol of baptism is that we pledge to act like our Friend. This means that by the help of Jesus, the Friend, we will "die" to those things that harm and keep us from being full and complete people before God. This pledge also means that we recognize and accept the promise of Jesus that he will be with us in a "new" (resurrected) kind of life. In baptism we acknowledge that we have received the good news of Jesus and we promise that we will live a kind of life which does away with the bad and encourages the good. An adequate theology of baptism will stress a two-way friendship. First, Christ's great friendship to us and second, our own friendship to him. I like to think of baptism as sharing the good news about this double friendship between God and ourselves. Children enjoy sharing. Both the exuberance and the shyness of sharing in baptism should be balanced. The exuberance of sharing can become too much if children are not also advised about the solemn meaning of baptism. Laughter at baptism is appropriate if it is the laughter of joy and not the laughter of embarrassment. Sometimes children are unable to distinguish between these causes of laughter. At such times adults need to accept and understand this mixture, for we ourselves display it in many ways. The shyness of baptism can be overcome if a child senses the importance of the act and is assured of the help and acceptance of Jesus. One dilemma arises in the matter of children sharing the good news of their friendship with Jesus in their baptism. That dilemma is the



premature desire of other children for baptism. Christian parents in a believer's-baptism heritage often find themselves with the difficult task of explaining to their child why he is not being baptized like other children. I would suggest that we stress the individuality of the act of birth into the body of Christ and baptism. The baptism of a child's friend can be an opportunity to present again the facts of the gospel and the individuality of each spiritual birth. Children can understand that their friends have different birthdays from themselves. This analogy may help boys and girls to understand the individual diversity of spiritual birth as well. Peer pressure gives opportunity to talk over the entire meaning and process of being born into the body of Christ. Peer pressure should not be an occasion for baptism for those who have not yet come to a necessary understanding and a free, willing acceptance of salvation. The acknowledgement that individuals have different spiritual birthdays, just as they have physical birthdays, and the understanding of the privilege involved in viewing baptism as an act which each can do individually, may help to relieve peer pressures about baptism. Believer's baptism is the first symbolic sign of life of those who are in the body of Christ.

The Lord's Supper The second symbolic sign of life in the body of Christ is the Lord's Supper. Meaningful baptism is an act done once. The Lord's Supper is an act which is done many times in the life of the Christian. The Lord's Supper is a meal with memories. The original meal was a supper Jesus had with his friends just before his death and resurrection. He gave them broken bread and the fruit of the vine as symbols of his body and blood. These symbols need to be tied to his death and resurrection. In the Supper, as in baptism, a physical act is involved which provides believers a chance to do something that demonstrates their belief. The act of eating is essential to human life. Jesus tied this necessary act of eating to his necessary act of salvation on our behalf. The memories which accompany the meaning of the Lord's Supper are the cumulative memories of his death, of our acceptance of his death on our behalf, of our promise at baptism to live a new life, and of the spiritual nourishment which God has given us in our Christian life. One remembrance of the meal of the Lord's Supper, which is often overlooked, is



the remembrance that other friends in the body of Christ have been nurtured and sustained by these memories. The Lord's Supper reminds us that the body of Christ is made up of very large and different groups of people, all of whom are the friends of Jesus. This memory of the other believers in Christ's body keeps us from the mistaken idea that the Lord's Supper is merely a private meal. The Lord's Supper is a shared supper. It is shared with all of the body of Christ. The Lord's Supper is a meal with memories. They are the memories of what Jesus did for us and how he helps us by our remembering his help. The focus of the Lord's Supper is present as well as past. Each time a Christian takes the Lord's Supper he has the opportunity to reflect about his Christian life. A Christian needs to ask questions when he takes the Lord's Supper. How well am I fulfilling the promise of a new life made at baptism? Do my thoughts and actions show appreciation for God's gifts to me? Do the things I do and say cause joy or sorrow to Jesus, whose death I am remembering? What positive things can I do in the light of taking this Supper that will change the bad actions and attitudes of my life? Adults often ask children who are coming to the dinner table if their hands are clean. In the deeper, spiritual dimension this is a question all Christians should ask themselves as they partake of the Lord's Supper. The psalmist spoke about this kind of physical question when he declared that those who come into God's presence are those who have "clean hands and a pure heart" (Ps. 24:4). Every observance of the Lord's Supper provides an opportunity for all of God's children in the body of Christ to ask if their hands are clean. The Lord's Supper has memories for the past and probing questions for the present. It also has a promise of good things to come in the future. The Lord's Supper is a reminder that we shall all fully share the messianic meal with Christ in heaven. Promises of good things to come are happy occasions. The Lord's Supper is a celebration. Joyful hymns should be used in connection with the Supper. The Lord's Supper should be done in a context of happiness and joy as much as in reverence and solemnity. This Supper celebrates the fact that God who has supplied all our needs, physical and spiritual, in Jesus will continue to do so. Paul said we should continue to celebrate the Supper until Jesus returns (1 Cor. 11). This means that the Supper is a reminder that Jesus is coming again.



There are practical considerations about children and the observance of the Supper. One of the major considerations is how to express to a child who is not yet a believer and a member of the body of Christ that he need not take the supper. This problem is compounded by the fact that children who are members of the church do receive the Supper. The suggestions made about baptism would also prevail here. Since baptism itself is the prelude to participation in the Supper, this condition can be expressed to the child. In the endless circle that is the learning process, patient explanation needs to happen on each occasion that a child raises questions. I was faced by the statement of an exasperated parent that his child was not accustomed to be denied anything. The obvious response to that too frequent experience is "that's too bad." The response is not meant to be flippant. It is meant to curb the indulgent attitude of a generation that would take everything, including the kingdom of God, by force. Parents need not give children what are, to the children, the meaningless elements of the Supper in order to mollify their children's possessive-ness. Since for these children the elements are spiritually meaningless, parents and others should not make a major scene if by accident the children receive the elements. One of the joys of childhood is having something to look forward to. One of the joys of being in the body of Christ is the first, meaningful sharing of a meal that points to memories, invites current reflection, and promises good things to come. Worship A third and, for children, prior visible sign of the body of Christ is corporate worship. Worship is making special acknowledgement that all of life is lived in the presence of the gifts of God. A primary gift of God to his creation is his presence. Worship is the primary way of acknowledging the gift of God's presence. Worship involves our presence no less than God's presence. To be chosen and to be in the body of Christ involves gratitude and responsibility. Children's first and formative ideas about God are received from parents. Second comes religious instruction in a home or churchly setting. Third is the corporate worship which the body of Christ gives to God in his threefold fullness. Adequate Christian worship involves several insights and actions. Adequate Christian worship involves an awareness and recognition of all persons of the threefold fullness of God. The Father, the Son, and


the Holy Spirit is/are the object of Christian worship. Children need to sing "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." They also can sing "This is My Father's World" and "Holy Spirit, Faithful Guide." The "Doxology" is a balanced word of praise to God. Children who have become accustomed to singing the "Doxology" will more readily apprehend its meaning when they begin to perceive the fullness of God. God, in his fullness, is the object of worship. Good worship experiences help children to grow toward God. Adequate Christian worship provides a context for the full range of our interactions with God. Worship includes praise, confession, commitment, and resolution. The acts in which these elements of worship are expressed are prayer, Scripture reading, music, and moments for reflection and resolution. Religious education and Christian ethics are the necessary, auxiliary acts of worship. The gathering of the body of Christ for formal worship is the dynamic for these auxiliary acts and gives them motivation. No phase of the body of Christ, no matter how active, is really exhibiting the necessary signs of life unless it is worshiping also. Children should be taught about and involved in the church's experience of worship. Obviously much of every worship service is too advanced for preschool children and for many school children. We are finding ways to correct this. One way is to have "children's church." The structural advantage to children's church is that it permits mobility and informality. The educational advantage is that children can be taught at a level of their own comprehension and abilities. There are two areas of concern about children's church. The first concern is the possibility of unbalanced evangelistic pressures which are not adequately matched with a full theology of worship. The second is the dilemma of too much agegroup segregation in church experience. The best counsel from child developmental psychologists is that intergenerational activity is necessary to healthy childhood social development. It is, in my estimation, a mistake always to segregate children from adults in the work and worship of the church. Sometimes children need to be in adult worship. The frayed patience of the pulpit minister or the irritation of older persons are not adequate reasons to exclude even the very young from an occasional experience of corporate worship. A second method of handling the children-in-worship issue is to provide some elements hi worship services for children. Ordinarily this is



confined to a "children's" sermon. Some children's hymns need to be sung by all. Some of the theology of children's hymns is very perceptive. Children should be given responsibilities in worship as they are able to assume them. Children who are members of the church have traditionally had voting privileges on all items of church business. I question (in the name of common sense) the soundness of this in issues of church leadership and finance. There was one instance where the prejudice of a fourth, fifth, and sixth grade worker occasioned enough negative votes that a pastor declined an invitation to a church where he could have done a very helpful ministry. It is dubious if third graders should vote on multimillion dollar building plans or sophisticated annual budgets. All of these structural problems are matters of recent tradition and not theological principle. They could, therefore, be decided on grounds of common sense and common consent, as we do most of our structural matters anyway. If one were to consult the children on this subject, I suspect they would be glad to be relieved of these heavy responsibilities. Children need to find in worship a balance of the "holy and the happy." Holiness and happiness are not antithetical. Incumbent on worship leaders is the responsibility to plan and perform worship services in such a manner that reverence and responsiveness, the dignified and the spontaneous are given full expression in formal worship. The value of various styles of worship services is that they provide expression for differing tastes in worship. Every denomination, that intends to serve all people, needs various types of churches and worship styles. Worship style is a matter of preference. The necessity of having both the holy and the happy is a theological requirement. Children who worship in a well-balanced worshiping community will have a better foundation for Christian theology than those whose worshiping community does not involve both the holy and the happy. This chapter has been long and involved because of the extreme importance of its subject matter and the variety of issues it raises. The central idea of election and the church is captured in the chapter title, "Choosing a Body." God has chosen us in Christ, and Christ in the Holy Spirit has chosen us to be his body. In that choice we gladly participate. Into his body we are happily born. The prescribed signs of life in the body of Christ give us ways to check the vital signs of our churches. In this choice and to this body are added children. We should carefully



nurture and listen to the enriching sounds of their expressions of description and delight about becoming part of a chosen body.

Footnote: a Special Choice

It is appropriate to place a brief footnote at the end of this chapter about a special choice. This special choice is the calling of God to vocational Christian service. Every theological discussion of calling and the church needs to include a section on ministry and every child needs an understanding of those who minister to him. The idea of a called ministry needs to be placed before children so that they might be aware that they could, at some future time, entertain and express that special calling. There should be a special friendship between children and those who are chosen as ministers to serve God. Through the care and concern of various ministers, the child will become aware that some people choose and are chosen to serve God as a vocation. The role of minister is a special calling, and it represents a special chosenness. It would be doubly tragic for those who minister to children in vocational ways to distort or misrepresent themselves and their calling. The minister of childhood education is a special phase of ministry that is emerging as a serious vocation in Christian community. Not all churches are large enough to have one. Both men and women serve as ministers of childhood education. Their primary task is the religious education of the child. In this calling they are to interpret God to children and to interpret children to the adult community in the church. It is important that this role in ministry have the dignity of divine calling. A call to ministry is a call to serve. Others in Christian community must not interpret the service of ministry to children as a second-class type of ministry. Preparation for ministry to children requires both theological awareness and a grasp of the developmental growth of children. Parents and other ministers should lend all possible support to the ministry of childhood religious education. Another Christian vocation is minister of music. Music is, or can be, a delight to children. Singing and playing instruments makes both joyful noises and happy hearts. Through the selection of music and careful attention to texts, the minister of music also shapes the theological views of children. Ministers of music who surrender too quickly to a musical utilitarianism, that is, always singing what children like, are not guard-



ing their opportunities in the theological education of children. Children regard their pastor as a special person. The pulpit and pastoral roles in ministry provide the immediate formal theological context in which children grow. The pastor ordinarily counsels with the child about conversion, baptism, and, later, all the major decisions of life. It is especially important, given this role as one who is especially chosen of God, that the pastor not manipulate children. A loving pastor in his visible presence represents to children the unseen Friend about whom the pastor speaks. This is a heavy, but it seems to me inevitable, burden. Therefore, a pastor should explicitly teach that to be called of God does not remove a person from humanity. The calling to ministry places that person under the awesome task of responsibility for guidance and care for others. Unfortunately, the servant role of pastor is not widely practiced. In relationships with children, a pastor should be relaxed, warm, and human. The role of an officious cultic figure will impress a child. It will not, however, make it easy for the child to relate either to the pastor or to the God about whom the pastor speaks. Children are perplexed and confused if their ministers do not respect and support one another. Whatever ideological and structural differences may occur among various ministers who touch the life of a child should be worked out privately in a context of professional courtesy. Children can understand God better when they have a "godly" pastor. The special choice of God for vocational ministry brings special responsibilities and special joys. Children need to know about both the responsibilities and the joys of ministry. Good models in ministry can provide patterns that children will consider later in reflecting on their own vocation. Parents have an important role in interpreting to their children the special calling of God for ministry. This role involves two facets. First, dedicating children to God, as a covenant between the parents and God that the family will provide Christian nurture and atmosphere, is appropriate. As the child grows, the calling of God to salvation will be presented. The calling of God to vocational ministry needs to be honored and put forth as a possibility for career. To place a human, parental call to vocational ministry upon a child is inappropriate. This parental calling sidesteps the divine initiative and creates an unjust burden of expectation upon the child. Parental prayer that God will call a child to ministry is surely to be encouraged. Such prayer is to be done in private.


Otherwise the child will feel a dual pressure of parental desire, heightened by the sacredness of prayer. A second facet of parents respecting and reinforcing the idea of a special calling for vocational Christian service is the attitude which parents have toward those who serve them in ministry. Both ministers and parents are human and only human. Both make mistakes of judgment, attitude, and morals. Obvious ineptness and moral indiscretion among ministers is not to be glossed over. "My pastor right or wrong" is as dangerous an idolatry as any other idolatry. These larger and more difficult problems are best discussed in the adult arena where they arose. Ordinarily a parent needs to be supportive and respectful about those who minister to their children. A less traumatic but more pervasive problem exists. It is the problem of criticizing the minister in the presence of children. Parents who openly criticize those who minister with children are inviting disrespect for both the individual criticized and the office he holds. The indirect criticism of negative attitudes is quickly picked up by children, who early become specialists in detecting their parents' feelings. The choice for ministry initiates from God. The acceptance of this special choosing can be made more or less desirable by those in ministry and by parental attitude toward ministry. Theology and ethics go together. They should go together in all Christians. Children see theology and ethics especially focused in the persons of their ministers. That is both a burden and a blessing of a special Christian vocation.

Building a Life

Children's play is serious business. It is serious because children take it seriously. And it is serious because their play is preparing them for later stages of life. Blocks are perennial toys. Children's blocks are used to form structures, as puzzles, even to learn ABC's. A marvel of learning can be observed by watching a young child explore the shape, size, and texture of blocks. With blocks a child experiments with relationships of one block to another. Blocks are mobile and can be arranged and rearranged. As the child grows older, more sophisticated toys, such as Lego and erector sets, replace blocks. Both boys and girls need mobile, easy-toarrange toys so that they can make a variety of shapes and patterns. The stationary adult world freezes things into locked positions. When parts of a stationary item are moved, the thing is broken. Blocks and their more refined successors provide an ideal analogy to follow the chapter on birth. This chapter is about growth and development. Growth is a developmental and changing pattern of all things in the created order. Scientists even speak of an expanding universe. Human birth implies growth. Growth is not only an enlargement but also an enrichment. The developing child needs many patterns and models for growth. These various models will provide a fuller range of possibilities for bringing out the individuality of the child. A tactical error has been made by applying a singular, frozen idea of Christian growth for every child to attain. Each Christian is a "little Christ." But each Christian is a little Christ in his own way. Sometimes we speak of God's will for an individual as a blueprint or as a design for a solid structure. The problem with this analogy is that it lacks flexibility. If a builder makes a foundational mistake while following the blueprint, the whole structure has to be redone. Life cannot operate on that analogy. We cannot be "born again" each time we make a mistake. The building blocks of life must be sturdy enough to support large and useful structures. The building blocks of life must also be mobile and 190

BUILDING A LIFE 191 versatile enough to build several shapes of life. There is a sameness to our lives and experiences. We have to live with ourselves all of our lives. Yet the patterns and variations we make with life's building blocks are many and delightful. You will be helping children understand about models of Christian growth. Let them know that there are individual differences and distinctive patterns which can be made with the building blocks to be used in all Christian growth. The biblical passage which best captures this idea of permanent and necessary building blocks which can be arranged individually into a living whole is 1 Peter 2:4-6. "Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture: 'Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious,/ and he who believes in him will not be put to shame.' " In this passage the permanence of Christ and his body is also given a dynamic dimension. Christian life should be both. Life is a biological organism undergoing experience. The Christian life is a human organism undergoing experience and relating every experience to God through Christ. The growth pattern of Christian life involves the inevitable dilemma of wrong decisions, frustrations, and failure. Both sin and sanctity, both tragedy and triumph must be related to God. We saw in the section on evil, that Satan cannot be made a second god, for there is but one God. Even in the midst of our sin, and precisely because of our sins, we need to be able to relate all of our life to God. For these reasons I choose the analogy of building blocks for the permanent components of Christian life. Building blocks can and may be used in a variety of ways and designs. The blocks which form a part of the structure of the Christian life are: faith, repentance, awareness of God's acceptance, the need for striving, prayer, Bible study, ethics, evangelism, Christian education, and worship. These blocks are the stable components out of which Christian lives are constructed. From these building materials the body of Christ is built and nurtured.

The English language has no verb for faith. We must use "to believe." This is regrettable because believingis a weaker term than faithing. The Old Testament idea of faith places an important stress on the faithful-



ness of God, the one who alone is worthy of our human confidence. The New Testament term for faith carries with it the threefold ideas of: (1) affirming with the intellect, (2) commitment with the total self, and (3) appropriate actions which grow out of this affirmation and commitment. Problems have come up in the Christian community when only one of these three meanings of faith is stressed. Faith that is only an intellectual exercise or an affirmation of certain propositions is creedalism. Faith that is only commitment without a clear notion of its object or adequate attention to ethics is emotionalism. Faith that is only "works" which does not ask for reasons or take time for necessary nurture and relationship is activism. Children need to know that faith involves all three focuses. I sometimes refer to these aspects of biblical faith as involving the head, the heart, and the hands. All are necessary to saving faith. Faith is a relationship of confidence which provides a basis for life. The object of faith is the threefold God. The objective part of faith is the knowledge we need about God in order to trust and affirm him. Theologians call this objective part of faith the faith that is believed. The subjective part of faith is our own commitment to God. Theologians call this subjective element of faith the faith that believes. The logical outcome of faith is a Christian life-style. In our relationship with God, two persons and wills are involved God and the believer. So far I have discussed the believer's part in faith. God's part in our faith is also threefold: (1) God has shown himself trustworthy. He has proven his friendship for us in Jesus Christ. (2) In some unknown but necessary way, God has enabled us to believe on him and respond to him. (3) God who is for us and opens us to himself also enables us to continue in our faith and to live out of it. Crises of faith arise for individuals and groups when they change the object of their faith and no longer affirm the necessary beliefs of the Christian community. Crises also arise when commitment and practice are not carried out. The story of biblical faith is that mankind, illustrated by Israel, is always less stable in the relationship of faith than God is. True biblical faith is a relationship with continuing consequences. Paul paralleled the relationship of faith to marriage (Eph. 5). Ups and downs are experienced in faith, as well as in marriage. When we talk about a relationship of faith from the human side, pulling out of the

BUILDING A LIFE 193 relationship seems possible. When we see the faithfulness of God in the relationship of faith, we see the permanence and stability of faith. Children who have been taught to trust by persons who are trustworthy will be able to trust God more easily than children whose trust level is low. Our part in facilitating the faith of children is to provide for them the necessary picture of the faithful God and to nurture them in a context of truth and trust which will make their commitment to God easier. In explaining faith to children, we need to tell them both about God's part and about our part. We tell boys and girls how to make public professions and how to participate in the public demonstrations of faith. We also need to tell them about the "cost of discipleship."

Three phrases taught in childhood are "thank-you," "please," and "I'm sorry." Unfortunately we leave these phrases and the relationships that can grow out of them too much in childhood. The "I'm sorry" phrase is called, in theological language, repentance. Repentance, like faith, has three dimensions. (1) Repentance requires a concept of worth that when violated needs to be made right. We repent to God just as we have faith in God. Repentance presupposes both self-esteem and a good estimate of others. Cruel people who do not seem sorry for hurtful behavior are selfish. They do not have self-esteem. Repentance does not grow out of the abasement of the penitent. Christian repentance is not groveling on the ground as a slave before an Oriental ruler. Repentance comes from caring for the other and the self enough to ask forgiveness. The need for repentance is best seen when we realize that what we are and do keeps us from being fully what we might become. I am convinced that children, and everyone else as well, are brought to a need of repentance more by the positive affirmations of what God wants than by the negative nagging as to what is wrong with them as individuals. The "knowledge" that brings about repentance is parallel to the knowledge necessary to faith. (2) Repentance involves an act of the will which brings one to the point of saying, "I'm sorry." Lack of communication is one of the largest barriers to satisfactory relationships. Friendships have floundered and marriages have failed because people did not communicate. An adequate relationship with God is dependent on our communication with



him. Paul expressed the frustration which arises when there is no repentance and no adequate communication with God. The largest reason people do not say they are sorry is pride. We need to see the identity of this attitude that will not repent with the active force of pride that "puffs up" and raises the self above others and God. Teaching a child to say "I'm sorry" when there is just cause to be sorry is to help his concept of worth. Teaching a child to say I'm sorry whether he is in the wrong or not is to promote resentment and injustice. God does not like for people to say they are sorry in order that he may have a sense of being right. God hears our confessions in order to help us be the kind of people we ought to be. The person who can honestly say "I'm sorry" to God has a good sense of self-worth, as well as a redemptive relationship with God. Repentance involves volition, a conscious and intentional saying "I'm sorry" to God. The knowledge of repentance is analagous to the knowledge necessary to faith. These involve the "head." The volitional aspect of repentance is parallel to the commitment aspect of faith. These involve the "heart." (3) Repentance includes reformation. Children soon learn that saying "I'm sorry" is a cheap, verbal way to make things all right. A jealous older brother was always picking on his younger brother. When the pestering precipitated a crisis, the older brother would quickly say, "I'm sorry." One day the younger brother asked, "When will you be sorry enough to quit?" Being sorry enough to quit is reformation. The basic Old Testament word for repent means to turn around. Divine forgiveness is inexhaustible. Our human forgiveness is much more limited. People who say they are sorry but persist in whatever occasions the need for repentance presume upon both divine and human forgiveness. Children need to know that being sorry involves stopping whatever brings about the need to say, "I'm sorry." This important part of repentance, called reformation, needs to be stressed in childhood before deep-seated habits and undesirable patterns of action are formed. It is appropriate to protect children from those situations, customs, and commodities that easily form habitual dependence. A child can more easily reform than an adult. Explain to children that repenting means saying, "I'm sorry." And a necessary part of saving "I'm sorry" is to act out of that sorrow in such a way that demonstrates one's sincerity. The



reformation aspect of repentance is parallel to the ethics aspect of faith. These involve the "hands." Faith and repentance are building blocks of the Christian life. They are not blocks to be discarded after the beginning of Christian experience. We come into a redemptive relationship with God through faith and repentance. We also continue our redemptive relationship with God by faith and repentance. Many times in life children will reassess and enlarge their faith in God at the levels of heart, head, and hand. Many times in life they will recognize God's worth, remember to say they are sorry and reform their actions.

A third building block of Christian growth is an awareness of God's acceptance of us in Jesus Christ. Theologians call God's acceptance of us justification. Justification is God declaring and making his creation all right. Acceptance stresses the declaration part of God's relation to his creation. God's ideal for his creation is that it shall be good. When he made it, he declared it good. When he is through with it, good will prevail. God's declaration that the world is good is, as strange as it may seem, found in the cross. In the cross of Christ, God actively drew the poison of sin and hatred to himself; and he suffered the consequences of it. Paul said that Abraham believed God and Abraham was justified (Rom. 4:2-3). Abraham believed what God promised. A future focus to faith looks beyond the present to what is promised. This faith accepts as true that what God intends he has begun, is doing, and will complete in Jesus Christ. Justification means that God accepts us as we are. God's acceptance of us gives us courage and confidence to accept ourselves. Christian growth is the logical outcome of birth into the body of Christ. This chapter contains a further development of ideas expressed in the previous one. To say we are accepted by God means more than psychological confidence. God's acceptance of us is a primary fact of the gospel. God's acceptance of us becomes effective for us individually when we accept his acceptance. His acceptance of us continues even when we do not feel accepted. This is an ultimate kind of acceptance. It is the acceptance of God himself. It is the acceptance of one who knows us and still accepts us. As in faith, so in acceptance. Children who have experienced acceptance will find it easier to accept God's acceptance of them than



children who have not known human acceptance. Children need not suppose that they can earn God's acceptance. The good news of the gospel is that God does accept us. Acceptance precedes striving.

Striving Striving follows acceptance and grows out of it. Striving is trying, with God's help, to be what he wants us to be. Children try very hard to please. When the standard they are expected to attain is unattainable, they quit trying. When their attempts to please are never acknowledged, they become discouraged. Persons whose predominant feelings are frustration and discouragement do not feel accepted either. Christian life combats this inevitable circle of goals and achievements by holding together God's acceptance and human striving. To be good in the sense God requires is to be perfect. None of us can attain that. To avoid our frustration God accepts us as good in Jesus Christ. He has confidence in us. Out of this confidence, and by his help, we strive "to be good." Acceptance-striving is the double block for building the Christian life. To say that acceptance is God's part of the relationship and striving is our part is not correct. We need to accept his acceptance and he helps us in our striving. Unless this joint action of God and mankind is stressed, we fall into some serious mistakes. One mistake I have already mentionedthe mistake of supposing we must strive before we earn God's acceptance. This is the mistake of legalism. Another mistake is supposing that, because we have his acceptance, we do not need to strive. This is the mistake of libertinism. Libertinism means that we take too much "liberty" and not enough responsibility. A common mistake Baptists make is failing to hold together acceptance and striving as the dual blocks for building the Christian life. I call it the time mistake. The time mistake means that first one is accepted and then he must strive. This is saying that one is saved by faith and then transferred to a basis of works. God's acceptance not only initiates the Christian life but also accompanies it. The healthy Christian life will combine striving and acceptance. In areas of our lives where we need to strive, God helps us. In areas of our lives where we have striven but cannot attain all that is desirable, God accepts us. Children can see the help of this dual block. It combines a necessary dependence on another and an equally necessary desire to help ourselves. Both dependence and



independence are essential to the growth of a child. They are also essential to the growth of a child of God.

A fifth block of stability in Christian growth is prayer. Prayer is talking with God. All of life should be such a conversation. The types of prayer are public prayer and private prayer. Children need to be encouraged to participate in both. Elements of prayer are adoration, thanksgiving, confession, petition, and intercession. Any time and posture may be used for prayer. Special times and postures promote prayer. Children often learn and recite childhood prayers such as table grace and a bedtime prayer. The Model Prayer (sometimes called the Lord's Prayer) is a model prayer in every way. It combines the various elements of prayer and provides an easily remembered prayer. In a public, verbal recital of the Model Prayer, there is a corporate sense of worship. All Christians pray the Model Prayer and have for nearly two millenia. There should be no objection to children memorizing or reading other well-thought-through prayers in addition to the traditional childhood prayers and the Model Prayer. Individual prayer may be done in family groups or by oneself. It may be oral or silent. Children need to be encouraged to express themselves to God. Their childish prayers give opportunity for amazement and amusement. For the child's development of a natural and full expression of prayer, proud or embarrassed parents should not make a public fetish of repeating what the child has said to God. Both the mechanics and the language of prayer are taught to children through the customs of the Christian community. The words of prayers should be carefully explained and/or clearly understood. Often adult prayers are couched in a special religious vocabulary which is either hopelessly archaic or very obscure. Children can learn to repeat beautiful phrases. These phrases can become meaningless cliches. Then, they are not prayers. On special occasions in life, some of the particular elements of prayer will be stressed above others. Meals provide times for prayers of gratitude. Sickness provides a time for a prayer of intercession. Intercession is a prayer on behalf of others. It is a particular and especially lovely type of petitionary prayer. Petitionary prayer is the general requests we make to God both for ourselves and for others. Children, because of their physical and social dependence on others, may be more sensitive to



prayer and its implied dependence on God. Repentance involves the words of childhood "I'm sorry." Prayer includes those words in the prayers of forgiveness or penitence. Prayer also includes the words of "please" in petition. The "thank you" is an important part of prayer. "Thank you" is the element of thanksgiving in prayer. "I love you" is a spontaneous and voluntary statement of childhood. "I love you" is a prayer of adoration. Children have the language of prayer in their ordinary childhood speech. Encourage them to use it. Special postures of prayer are the bowed head and closed eyes. These are traditional signs of reverence designed to show respect and to exclude distracting sights. Kneeling is a posture of prayer designed to stress the glory of God and the recognition of that glory by the pray-er. All of these postures of prayer can be used with children. These postures should be carefully explained. The failure to use them should not be singled out as a sign of disrespect. A wise teacher or parent might ask children how they feel we can show respect to God by our posture in prayer. Children in Protestant and Evangelical churches do not often kneel in prayer. Children in liturgical churches do kneel in public prayer. Explanation of prayer customs of both groups should be given. Just as stilted theological language should be avoided when teaching children to pray, so should overly familiar or trite expressions be excluded. Conversation with God may be casual and informal. It should not be banal and trite. Many adults in crises have reverted to childhood prayers. That is not bad. Enlarge the prayers of childhood so that they become a solid building block for adult conversation with God.

Bible Study
The authority and theological significance of the Bible for Christian growth was developed in chapter 3. Reread that chapter and reflect on the essential place of Scripture in our knowledge of God. This section is the appropriate place to apply the significance of the Bible to Christian growth and to make specific suggestions about the use of the Bible with children. Children are sensitive to and copy the attitudes of adults. The appropriate attitude toward Scripture is reverence. Reverence involves a way of handling the Bible physically and a way of using and interpreting the Bible and its contents. The overabundance of Bibles and the casual way


in which they are brought to church, left there, and scattered about contributes to a nonchalant and careless attitude toward Scripture. A gift of a Bible should be a lovely present. The actual physical care of Scripture needs to be adequately modeled for children. When Bibles are put in the same category as Sunday School literature which is periodically used and discarded, the child's appreciation for the uniqueness of Scripture is lessened. Bibles should be frequently and liberally used. They should not be used in a take-forgranted, commonplace way which unconsciously but inevitably diminishes the worth with which we regard them. There is a painful contrast between the care given to the holy books of Judaism and Islam and the casual way in which some Christians in an affluent overpublished society treat the Bible. A too reverent treatment of the book at the physical level can lead to a superstitious magical aura about Scripture. Such an overemphasis is also misleading. Baptists seldom err in this direction. Ministers need to exercise care in their physical use of Scripture in the pulpit. Children are understandably confused by pastors who wave the Bible about, even thumping it or treating it in a careless way, while declaring its worth and value. In addition to a reverent physical use of Scripture, children need a systematic and clear presentation of the contents of Scripture. Children need an overview of what kind of book the Bible is and what its central themes are. Children need an awareness of sequence of biblical events. That is, boys and girls should know that Abraham comes before Moses and David comes before the prophets. People who work with children should be careful to explain all religious and theological terms that occur in the Bible and in conversation about the Bible. Such commonplace expressions as lawgiver, prophet, messiah, and apostle need to be defined in such a way that children can understand them. A considerable dispute arises as to the level of understanding a child needs in order to memorize, appropriate, and relate the contents of the Bible. One perspective is that children cannot be expected to memorize or relate to abstract insights unless they can grasp them to such an extent that they can rephrase the ideas into their own words and experiences. The other perspective is that children need to learn as much Scripture as they can at an age when their memories are more able and retentive. Later they will be able to define and apply these abstract ideas to their practical experience. Both views have some validity. An



ideal balance would be to explain and rephrase each passage of Scripture a child commits to memory. Those who work with children need to work toward this ideal. If one errs on one side or the other, it seems better to have children memorize Scripture at a time when they are best able to do so. Contemporary insights about learning stress the value of previously learned material as a basis for later experience even when the material learned is not fully comprehended. The reasons we need to learn Scripture are apparent. If we believe God expresses his purpose and pattern for his creation in the redemptive drama recorded in Scripture, then we need to know the plot and the characters of that drama. The Christian community lives out of the conviction that the Bible covers all facets of the human dilemma. God has provided answers for our human problems in the good news about Jesus Christ. Memorizing Scripture is more complicated today than it was formerly. This is so because of the numerous versions, translations, and paraphrases which are available and which are widely used in our churches. The variety of translations is, in itself, a good thing. Different versions and even paraphrases in modern English can aid in children's understanding of Scripture. But the memorization of large amounts of Scripture can be done more effectively from one version or translation. Memorizing biblical paraphrases is not desirable since much material has been added to the best biblical manuscripts, and often what has been added is not designated as such. Each home or each church needs to handle this dilemma of multiple translations and memory work in as satisfying and consistent a way as possible. One suggestion is to take one standard, classic translation or version for memory work and to use that version in all memory work. The reasons I would recommend a standard classic version such as the King James Version or the Revised Standard Version are that: (1) these have become a part of the cultural and literary context of our society and quotations from them are widely used in many areas of our culture; and (2) these versions have weathered the test of time and traditional use and are employed widely by all English-speaking Christians in the body of Christ. A child profits by specific biblical instruction in the home and at church. He also needs to enjoy and derive spiritual strength and guidance from individual personal Bible study. Personal Bible study will aid a child in making direct applications of biblical insights to his own life.



This is greatly desirable. The danger is that the child will make farfetched or too subjective applications that misunderstand the basic biblical message. In those instances, guidance and understanding are needed. In no instance should a child be lead to believe that his application of Scripture is the last word and unerring understanding of the Bible. The Bible came into being through the community of faith, and its normative interpretations grow out of the concensus of the community of faith. The normative interpretations take into account the use of Scripture hi the heritage, the interpretations of Scripture by scholars and ministers, and the consistent application of these interpretations by many Christians. The body of Christ lives out of the redemptive drama described hi Scripture. Bible study is one of the basic blocks in building the Christian life.

Inevitably society passes on its values and morals to the young. In societies that are family centered this task is usually assigned to the parents. We have assumed in America the family-centered society. This may be an assumption we need to reappraise. The break up of nuclear families and the complicated social structures of modern life are putting pressure on many parents to such an extent that they are leaving moral and ethical teaching of the young to schools and churches. Schools hi a pluralistic secular society are limited as to what ethical and moral insights they can or ought to teach. Churches, who may touch the life of a child in an hour of Sunday School instruction once a weeksometunes once a month or less frequently, are unable to provide consistent and sustained guidance. The neglect of a society to teach adequate values to its young is disastrous. The church needs to hold out for the ideal of close-knit families actively involved in the life of a vital church. In this way the parental teaching, which should be the major force of ethical instruction, can be guided and reinforced by regular religious instruction in the churches. The way in which ethical behavior is taught is as important as the content of what is taught. Parents can err in two directions in ethical instruction of children. On the one side they may make absolute all of the parental mores and customs. This absolutizing of the parental lifestyle limits both the horizons and freedom of the child. It "captures in amber" many of the foibles and culturally tune-bound patterns of the



parents. It invests the whole way of life with the sanction of divine approval. The child must either carry it intact in a burdensome way which is inauthentic to him or radically rebel against it. When parental ethical patterns have been made identical with God's will and way, the child will also rebel against God. This is the way of absolute rigidity. It usually causes great frustration and heartache. A second mistake parents can make about ethical instruction is to provide no guidelines for the child. Some parents choose this route for fear of misshaping the child. In reality they are leaving the child without direction and at the mercy of forces and people who may shape the child in harmful ways. When parents abandon the responsibility of teaching their children ethical values, the child is an abandoned child. And he is abandoned at a vital point in his existence. A better position is the painful middle road of taking the risks of parenthood. This means teaching children by precept and practice. Oral instruction needs to be accompanied by good examples. Wise Christian parents will refrain from sanctioning all of their own lives as being always right and the best course of action. Christian parents need to acknowledge their humanity with its errors, sin, and mistakes. Christian parents should maintain an humble attitude of searching and striving to do the will of God. Children and parents can become partners in the adventure of Christian living. Wise church leaders and persons who teach children about God will see in this discussion of parental relationship advice about their roles. Pastors, religious educators, and teachers at church can make the same extreme mistakes in ethical instruction that parents do. The worst mistake any church could make in teaching children about God is to fail to teach them that theology and ethics go together. Church programs for children that teach theology and no ethics will reap a crop of irrelevant religion. Church programs for children that teach ethics without theology will have rootless actions. The building block of ethics in Christian life will be well-worn in the course of Christian life. Ethics is the block of application that needs to fit all circumstances and provide practical expression for Christian belief.

Evangelism is an essential building block in the Christian life. Without evangelism, humanly speaking, the body of Christ would diminish



and disappear. Without an adequate concept and practice of evangelism the individual Christian life will be incomplete. The evangel (gospel) is the good news of God's act in Jesus Christ made real by the Holy Spirit. Evangelism is the embodying and sharing of that good news. Good evangelists embody the good news. Sharing the good news is done by deeds and words. A child who embodies Christian actions and attitudes is an evangelist. A child who can express and explain his beliefs is an evangelist. A child who is concerned about the total welfare of other persons is an evangelist. A Christian child gives a communal witness for Christ in baptism. Baptism is the first evangelistic witness of every believer. The sharing of a child's faith with others is a natural and desirable outcome of faith. Each boy or girl needs to be able to express the meaning of the good news which brought him or her to faith. This will involve, in some form, expressing the essence of the gospel expressed above in chapter 10. Crises arise in the evangelistic efforts of children when they discover that some people are convinced unbelievers and that alternative belief systems exist. Children need to be told that some people do not believe in God and that many people have belief systems and religions that are different from Christianity. I suggested earlier ways of regarding the beliefs of others. Use the way of winning love with nonbelievers whom God has given the freedom not to believe. When confronting unbelief or different beliefs, a child needs special understanding. A child's need to feel right and secure is threatened by these circumstances. Adult believers who do not provide support in these situations create a context of doubt for the child. Adult believers who provide a climate of dogmatic trauma, which shows that they too are threatened by such beliefs, are likewise creating a context of doubt. Parents and children's workers need to reassert their own convictions about their beliefs. They need to do this in a way that does not discredit the beliefs or lack of beliefs of others. Disgust, dismay, and angry disagreement with those of different beliefs are not good contexts for vital Christian evangelism and mission. Through life, through compassionate caring, and through effective words Christian children can effectively use the building blocks of evangelism in their Christian lives. When children witness the profession and baptism of friends, the children realize that the block of evangelism is being used to build up the body of Christ.



Religious Education Education comes from a word which means leading out of a person his fullest potential. That is religious education in the deepest sense of the term. Religious education is another of the blocks we use in constructing the Christian life. Religion comes from a word that means that which is ultimately binding on a person. By definition and not just prejudice, we can say that religious education is bringing out the potential of each child in areas that matter most. Given this broad definition, religious education is about attitudes in life, as well as facts about life. All of the standard and best manuals of secular education and child development can and need to be consulted by those in religious education.1 The formal content of what is taught to a child about God is rightly determined by churches and parents. This is not a book of methodology in religious education. The reader can consult some of those for himself. My entire argument in this book is that we need to have a theology to teach children. We need to phrase that theology in life-related ways that children can understand. We need to make it as appealing as possible. This task will involve dedicated and well-informed parents and church workers. The religious education of children needs to be a primary concern of every pastor, as well as children's teachers at church. Religious education, like all education, involves formal and informal procedures. It involves listening to children as much as it involves talking with them. Above all, adequate religious education of children invites application. It invites application of theology to life in such a way that God's gift of physical life is enriched and completed by God's gift of eternal life. The building block of Christian education is an ever-expanding one. Many of the children you teach will spend a great deal of time later in formal education. Some will spend a lifetime in careers in education. The foundation stones of their religious education prepare them for other areas of education and for mature Christian education.
1. See Appendix A for a description of a crisis which arises when religious educators, whether parents or church workers, ignore these sources.



Worship In ancient numerology the number tea signified completeness or wholeness. In that vein, it is appropriate that worship is our tenth building block for constructing Christian life. A few practical suggestions about formal worship for children were given in the last chapter. The content and rationale for worship is the subject of this chapter. In this brief section I want to talk about the dimensions of worship. These dimensions are particularly present in childhood, and they need to be formally connected to theology. The dimensions of worship are wonder, openness, and expression. Wonder is a sense of awe in the presence of the overwhelming, the mysterious, and that which cannot be adequately explained. Openness is a curiosity about the unexplored and an inviting attitude to the unknown. Expression in worship is any attitude or action which permits the individual or group to bring to consciousness or utterance an awareness of the divine presence. Both public and private worship are necessary. Various worship styles have grown over the centuries. The biblical worship literature of the Christian community is found in the Psalms and in New Testament hymns embodied in various places such as Philippians 2 and Revelation 45. The different Christian communities have developed manuals of worship and customs of worship. Children draw from corporate worship experiences the attitudes and dimensions of worship which they need as worshiping persons. Children also have natural capacities for worship which can be encouraged and enlarged with proper training. Wonder and awe keep the human spirit alive. When there is nothing about which to wonder, to question, to be impressed with, boredom sets in. Both theology and the natural sciences are motivated by wonder. The desire to know, to probe, to explain is a God-given ability which enables mankind to master the universe and to acknowledge God as the ultimate Master. Children bring bright-eyed wonder to even commonplace experiences. Once an experience is understood and mastered, wonder is tamed into habit. When worship becomes merely habitual without a sense of wonder, it loses its effect. When God is explained in too-easy terms and the child has mastered the facts about God, the



mystery of godness is gone. J. B. Phillips's phrase "your God is too small" is appropriate to those situations. Children learn by discriminating. They use one muscle for certain things and not another. They choose right answers and not wrong ones. They are correct. Being correct is important. To be both correct and right about everything in all areas of life is humanly impossible. The awareness of this human impossibility of always being right opens the possibility for meaningful belief in God. God above is correct and right (see section on the holiness of God in chapter 4). When people close down too quickly on their own correctness and rightness, they lose their openness. The curiosity of openness about all things, even God, leads to deeper explorations. Children are bundles of curiosity. Two-year-olds can ask questions wise men can't answer. Impatience with childhood curiosity is an abortion of mature worship possibilities. God can endure the questions of men. We should endure and welcome the questions of children. Older children need to be permitted to question received notions about God or they will remain locked into immature childish notions of God. Good worship invites openness. God has nothing to fear from openness, and we have everything to gain. Expression in worship is as varied as the people who worship. Childhood noise and laughter are ways of signaling delight. Music releases something in a child that springs up from his inner being and innate desires. All of these expressions need to have a time and a place in order that our insights about God can be expressed according to the full range of our feelings. Even children's verbal expressions about God which seem inappropriate must be permitted in order that such expressions can be corrected and woven in positive ways into the fabric of faith. If expression is forbidden and not rechanneled, it will pour out in other ways. Worship requires honest, open expression. This facet of worship may be done more easily with children in individual worship experiences or in children's church. Occasionally including the exuberance of childhood in public worship is also appropriate. Children who wonder about God, who are curious and open to all areas of life as God-given possibilities, and who express their thoughts and feelings about God are worshiping. Worship needs to happen in church and at home, at school, and at play. It can happen when a child hears a hymn or eats a meal which has been lovingly prepared. Worship is reflected in the child's



delight at the snowfall and in the somber expectancy of meeting a stranger. These are ten blocks for building a Christian life. Explain them to a child. Help put them together. Then stand back and watch the child tumble them about to make skillful and lovely patterns you had not even imagined.



Conclusions are important. Just as children learn to start sentences with a capital letter, they also learn how to conclude sentences. Three ways of concluding or finishing a sentence are: with a question mark, with a period, or with an exclamation point. As we view the conclusion of the divine drama, we will need all of these marks to express what has not yet happened. In discussing the last and final things which God is going to do, we will use these finishing marks. The question mark means uncertainty. Some details and particulars of God's finishing act are unknown to us. The period means finality. Some details of God's finishing act are nailed down and further discussion is unnecessary. The exclamation mark expresses an element of surprise. Some of the decisions of God will call forth deep delight even though one is expecting the experience. Elements of all three ways of concluding are in most of the topics we call the last things. No one living in our world was present at creation. No one living hi our world has yet experienced the end of God's drama. We need an end, however, as much as we do a beginning. The end of things and the beginning of things go together. They round out and complete tasks begun. A brilliant philosopher, Kant, suggested that the need to have things finished and wrapped up was one of the strongest reasons for believing in eternity. Children who are given impossible tasks to which they can see no end grow discouraged and begin a series of new things without completing anything well. Adults who start things and never complete them become depressed and are always looking for something new. Unfinished projects are psychological hangnails that catch on all further work we try to do. If we know a child cannot complete a project, we need to acknowledge the fact and help the child accept the fact that the project will not be completed. An honest acknowledgment that jobs begun will not be completed is a clipping of the psychological hangnail. We do not complete projects because we do not have the ability, the 208

resources, the time, or the interest to do so. The drama of redemption recorded in Scripture assures us that God lacks none of these things which would keep him from completing what he has begun. It is reasonable to believe, since God's way with his creation is to complete it by drawing it to a higher level, that even eternity will provide ever-enlarging possibilities. God himself is the beginning and the end. He makes possible all things and guarantees their completion. God is true to his purpose as expressed in Scripture. He has given clues and promises as to what he will do. Based on the faithfulness of what he has done and informed by the promises of what he will do, insights about God's finishing things can be given. Children have a deep sense of the need for completion. Their games and toys express this need. Games have goals to be reached, scores to be kept. Puzzles need to fit together. Grades are attained and exams are passed. Sometimes the attainment is stressed at the expense of the actual experience. The ideal is to achieve a balance between anticipation and achievement. In the last chapter achievement was discussed. In this concluding chapter anticipation is the focus. Without anticipation achievement would lose its interest. Boredom is the result of achievement without anticipation. Without achievement anticipation is merely fantasy. Escapism results when there is anticipation without achievement. Children need to know about both the present possibilities of achievement in Christian life and the anticipation of finishing satisfactorily. The end lies beyond our experience. In Scripture the events of the end are expressed in poetic symbols. Read carefully the section on language as symbolic in chapter 2. When we discuss God's finishing act, we need to remember this deeper level of symbolism. If we do not, we will turn honest question marks and delightful exclamations into flat, declarative periods. God only knows all about the final act. If humans were to "know it all," they would be either very arrogant or terribly bored. Theologians call the study of the last things eschatology. This English word is derived from a Greek term that means last or ultimate. This study is about matters which are both last in the sense of time and highest in the sense of value or importance. Both the unknown factors of this notyet-experienced state and the resultant poetic expressions we use to describe it make this discussion very difficult for children. But the inherent need for completion and the biblical promises about God's fin-



ishing what he began make the discussion necessary. The topics included are serious ones. God's "finishing" implies something about the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is what God wants. God's concluding act involves Christ's final coming. Christ's final coming is the keeping of a promise. Death is a very final and certain fact of life. Death is opening a door. Resurrection is coming to life in God's time. If justice is ever secured, there must be judgment and decision which is able to separate right and wrong. Judgment is God making a decision. If people are really free, their responsibility has consequences. Hell and heaven are the consequences of the way in which people have used their freedom. To fail to talk about these matters with children as the need arises is to fail to prepare children for the fullness of the redemptive drama. To discuss these items too frequently and too knowingly is to rob the present for the sake of a future too glibly described. The general question about God's finishing what he has begun is, Where will it all end? The answer is, In him with whom it began. In a discussion of the particulars, we will need all three concluding marksthe question, the period, the exclamation.

What God Wants

We rightly distinguish between what a child wants and what a child needs. That is a peculiarity of our language. Wanting is to us a larger category that includes not only necessities but also the things we desire and even luxuries we do not usually have. When a person's needs are not met, that person can think only of those basic needs. Children whose basic needs are met learn to express their wider "wants." Wise parents soon learn that all wants are not possible. They often are not even desirable. God has "wants." God's "wants" are to supply our ultimate needs and to redirect our wants so they will fulfill us and not destroy us. Explain these distinctions between needs and wants to children. Let them make lists of their needs and wants. They may be surprised when asked to make a list of God's "wants." After they have expressed what God wants, help them fit together God's "wants" and the creation's ultimate "needs." The theological term for what God wants is the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is a very important idea in the Bible. The idea of a real kingdom is a little-known concept in modern society. Children may be

able to tell you that a kingdom involves a king, a territory, power, and the rights of a king to rule. All of these ideas are involved in any concept of kingdom. They are involved in biblical insights of the kingdom of God in a somewhat different way. The king of the kingdom of God is the threefold God. The force of evil would like, to put a question mark after that sentence. As Christians, we will put a period there because of our belief in the uniqueness and superiority of God. The territory over which God is king is all of his creation. But his actual kingship over creation is, indeed, followed by the question marks which sin and evil raise. As an example of his rulership over all the earth, God chose a special people in a particular place in the world in which to demonstrate his care for all the earth. We sometimes call those people Israel. Israel herself sometimes felt that she was chosen to such an extent that nothing could harm her or her particular land. The sad experience of ancient Israel's exile taught her that God's rulership extended over even the power of unbelieving earthly kings. Some Christians feel that the kingdom of God is now the territory of the church. That is, that the aggregation of all believers wherever they are is the territory of the kingdom of God. Some Christian interpreters would put a period after Israel as the necessary geographical territory over which God's rulership must be exercised at the end of history. Other Christians would put a period after the belief that the church is the kingdom of God. I would want to put a question mark after both sentences, for I feel that Israel is a geographical model of God's concern for the physical world he has made. I also feel the church is a spiritual model of the citizens of God's kingdom. But I must assert, with an exclamation point, that God's love for a special people and a special place is a special sign of his concern for the whole world he has made. God's love for the body of Christ is a love which accepts the obedience which God desires from all persons. Both Israel and the church are in the kingdom of God. The whole world is in his hand. God's kingdom rules over all. His kingdom is primarily his right and worth to rule and not the territory over which he is actually seen to rule. God's rulership extends even over evil and those who reject God. For Christians the kingdom of God is good. For those who refuse to obey God, the kingdom of God is the thing most dreaded. When one defines the kingdom of God as God's right to rule and his



power to do so, all places are included and all people are involved. In the sense of right and power, God has always been king and his creation is his territory. Evil and the brokenness of creation question this right of God. God confirms and continues his right and power hi the history of Israel, the supreme event of Christ, and the obedience of the church. God will continue and conclude his rule by exercising the power of his redemptive love. Then the kingdom of God will have come hi its fullness. Then the reality of God's rule will be apparent to all. Then evil will be confined and good will prevail. Then the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ (Rev. 11:15). At the last day God will make a new heaven and a new earth. The physical symbol of this promise for renewal is Israel. The spiritual symbol of this promise is the body of Christ. This is why Israel loves the land. This is also why Christians pray that God's will be done on earth as it is (and will be) in heaven. God only is king. Put a period. God's kingdom involves Israel and the church? Put a question mark because Christians are still trying to define that relationship. The fullness of the kingdom of God will demonstrate both his power and worth! Put an exclamation mark because the fullness of his kingdom will be larger and more spectacular than we can imagine.

Keeping a Promise
"You promised." Children repeat that phrase in attempting to make good their claims on what we said we would do. "Do you promise?" is a question designed to make certain that what is pledged will be fulfilled. "You promised!" is an unbelieving exclamation uttered when someone does not do what he said he would do. All expressions about promise contain strong hopes and desires. Jesus promised that he would send a Helper to be with his friends (John 1516). Christians say he kept this promise by sending the Holy Spirit. God promised that he would send a Redeemer. He kept his promise in Jesus Christ. All of the promises of God given in Scripture, which are appropriate to us, have been fulfilled for us. For this reason Christians who observe the consistency of God's creation and have realized the fullness of his promises speak and sing about the faithfulness of God. Realized promises are periods to what formerly were question marks about not yet experienced events. In the sense that it has not yet

FINISHING?.! 213 happened, the final coming of Christ is a question mark. From the viewpoint of previously fulfilled promises Christians put an exclamation point about Christ's final coming. This exclamation point expresses certainty on the basis of previous promises. This exclamation also expresses delight in the prospect of the coming of a Friend to keep a promise. Children are people of particularities. Many children want to know when Christ will come to conclude the age and fulfill his promise. To this question we must put a full question mark(?). Jesus himself said that we do not and cannot know the time of his coming (Mark 13:32). Our confidence in the promise of a Friend to come for us should extend to honor his word about that coming. The certainty of Christ's final coming is more significant than the time of his coming. In the meantime we have the reality of his presence hi the Holy Spirit and the promise of a Friend. That is enough! Children who are surrounded by a context of constant discussion about Christ's final coming may find the interval of anticipation upsetting. Children will be confused by numerous schemes about Christ's final coming. Most children enjoy the present. For them to image a future under conditions they have not yet experienced is hard. Wise workers with children will apply the promise of Christ's final coming enough to maintain anticipation. Children need to realize that the promises of Jesus' return means that they should be careful about their past and present performance. To say that Christ will return again is enough. He is our Friend. His return is keeping a promisel Put an exclamation point(I).

Opening a Door
Jesus' final return is a Friend keeping a promise. The specific promise was to return for us, to be with us, to take us to the place prepared for us. This being with the Friend gives excitement to the promise. The promise of Christ's return was given a long tune ago. And we do not know how far in the future it will be actualized. Meanwhile life goes on. So does death. Some people may not choose to discuss other facets of the last things with children. Death is not an option. Death seems to be an unqualified period. Talking to children about death is difficult. It is difficult more because of our emotional involvement and lack of adequate explanations



than because of any inability of the child to understand. The observant child will have seen representations of death and some instances of it long before formal discussion comes up. Violent death is regaled in the public media. Children's cartoons avoid the subject by subterfuge that the bad guys just disappear or disintegrate. The latter part of the twentieth century is preoccupied with a study of deaththe technical term is thanatology. Awareness of and study about death do not, of themselves, prepare people for their own death or the shock of the death of a loved one. Death seems, indeed, to be a final period that concludes all our sentences. To me, an appropriate way to help children first observe death seems to be just as they observe lifethrough the experiences of the natural world. Perhaps the least emotionally trying plane of death for humans is the plant cycle of death and rebirth. Falling leaves are beautiful. They are dead and will enrich and nourish the tree which bore them and will bear other leaves like them during the next growing season. Plants die when they lack proper soil, nutrients, sun, and water. To speak with children about dead things being worthless is not wise. The association of dead and worthless is unfortunate. As it pertains to plant life, this is not true. If this association is carried through to all levels of existence, there will be no way to respect memory. Manufactured and fabricated things also become "dead." They can no longer fill their functions. They can be retained as mementoes. Where would the antique trade be without this! They can be scrappedecologists tell us this cannot continueor they can be recycled. Children can learn to value childhood possessions and retain them or memories about them which give a place of value and worth to possessions even when they are gone. The abundance of inexpensive and easily obtainable manufactured items makes gluttony of possessions easy. Gluttony of possessions is having so many things that most of them take on no meaning. Death of things is not usually traumatic to children. The casual discarding of manufactured goods affects the value systems of children. A regrettable result of our technological, manufactured society is that individuals and craftsmanship are often excluded. When people become like things and things become expendable, people become expendable. One dilemma of modern society is the risk that children may become hardened to death to such an extent that the dis-



carding of people will become as dispassionate as the discarding of things. To avoid this problem parents should not overbuy manufactured things or treat commodities, even when they can be afforded, in ways that devalue quality and service. Cars should be driven with a care to our preservation and theirs. We consider our possessions as extensions of ourselves. When we fail to treat them carefully, we are saying something about ourselves. Manufactured goods do die. Their value and meaning can still be appreciated. Children are more emotionally involved with the death of animals, particularly animals which have been loved as pets. With the loss of a kitten, a dog, or another pet that has involved care and shared affection, death becomes a personal and a sad occasion. The care and disposal of deceased pets can be carried to extremes which overstate the importance of animals in relation to people. Yet, a too casual or seemingly callous disposition of the body of a pet can cause anguish to a child. A Christian may confidently say to a child who mourns the loss of a pet that everything which God has created will fulfill its intended function and be preserved by God. Human death poses the deepest anxiety in children. The loss of one on whom we depend and whom we love is a very final thing. When friends and loved ones die, children grieve. Let them. Let their grief be quick and appropriate. The active "memories" of childhood are balanced by active "forgetters" also. Forgetting does not mean devaluation or loss of fond memory. It does mean a resilient way of coping with crisis. Connections can and need to be made between death of persons and death in all other planes of existence. Human death is special because people are special. We need to expect and experience grief when people die. The inevitable question of a child is, Will I die? The only honest answer is, Yes. We need not embellish this yes with a series of exclamation marks which heighten a child's anxiety. What we need to do is to define death for children in such a way that the horror and dread about death are diminished. Christians can describe death as the opening of a door. Opening doors is an everyday occurrence. To open a door is the basic way to get into something new and to get out of a place which may be very, very painful or unpleasant. There is no honest way to remove the apprehension about the unknown. There is a way to guarantee that what waits for



us through the doors of death is good. That way is to insure that children know that the God who gave life is also the Lord of death. God's Son, our Friend, walked safely through death. God has promised that Christians shall also. We have no assurance that we can avoid the door. We have every assurance that he who waits beyond can be our Friend. This assurance enables us to change the punctuation of death. The seeming finality of death invites the conclusion of a period. The awareness that death is not final enables us to place a question mark after our questions about death(?). The promise and reality of a Friend who meets us beyond that door enables us to place an exclamation mark at the end of our discussions about death(I). The exclamation mark expresses some apprehension about the unknown. It expresses more confidence about him who is known to us and to whom we are known even through the open door of death!

Coming Alive in God's Time

Resurrection is coming alive in God's time. Children know what it is to wake up from sleep to a new day. Resurrection is a coming to life in God's own dayhis time. Resurrection is a gift from God who gave us life. The experiences of children in waking up to a fresh day on which something special has been promised and the experience of receiving a promised gift are experiences we may use to help explain resurrection. The Friend who greets us through the open door of death is the Friend who gave us the gift of life. He is the same Friend who has begun to renew our lives here and now with the gift of meaning to our life in this world. This gift of meaning in life is eternal life. Eternal life is God's own kind of life where the good, the healthy, the purposeful, and unity are found. This kind of life is ours here and now in a preliminary way. When we pass through the door of death, this greatest gift of God becomes fully ours. The reason eternal life is incomplete in this life is that we are hampered by the limits of this life, limits such as lack of physical strength, lack of ability, of knowledge of time. Eternal life is the removal of all these limitations. Eternal life, God's highest gift, is not a static ungrowing state. God's way with us in the present life is the way of growth and enlargement. God's way with us in his own time and in his place for us is also the way of growth and enlargement. Children cannot relate to an idea of perfec-

FINISHING?.! 217 tion that is static and always more of the same. Use the reality of God's way of enlargement and growth in this life to illustrate and preview God's gift of eternal life. God's way with his world now is a way of patient love. His way with us in his eternal dimension is a continuation of this' patient love. We may surely put a period to conclude the sentence that God's intention for his world is always the same(.). We know about this sameness of God's purpose through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrected Jesus was recognized by his disciples as the same Jesus they had known in his earthly life. This sameness gives us a reason to say that we also will have a sameness about us in our new life in God's completed world. We will have to put question marks about the details of this life(?). The guidelines are that all limitations are removed and we continue to grow in God. Expressions about age, actual appearance, and other physical characteristics bear a question mark(?). These have question marks because their answers lie hidden with God in his world. To know them hi this world would be to remove the primary distinctions and differences between history (our kind of time) and eternity (God's kind of time). Jesus' resurrection gives us the pledge and promise of our resurrection. The details of our resurrection remain question marks for us(?). The fact of our resurrection is so secure that we may conclude our expressions about resurrection with an exclamation point(l). Resurrection is God bringing all his creation to life in his own kind of time. Resurrection happens at the end of tune when God renews his world and makes a new heaven and a new earth. Resurrection comes at the end of history. What happens to people who die in history? There is, from our view, a time gap from the moment of death in history to the final resurrection at the end of history. Children will be quick to see the problem. There are three solutions to this problem which theologians call the intermediate state because it speaks of a stage between this life and the final form of who we are at the end of tune. One solution is to say that we "sleep" until resurrection. This solution is difficult to accept because of our desires that those who have died should be with God in a conscious way. Those biblical passages which give expression about those who have died suggest that they are conscious and alive in God's time. A second solution is to suggest that when we die we enter God's time and since our timehistoryand his timeeternityare different we cannot contrast the two. A great deal of truth



is in this view. The problem is that we still live in time and God's revelation to us is in terms of our time. From the viewpoint of our time, this second solution leaves unanswered the questions about where loved ones are. Moreover, this second solution, with its time/eternity distinction, deals only with individuals. Resurrection is a coming to life in God's time that involves all of creation. Something happens at the end of time to all of God's creation that has lived in time. Resurrection is a general and a corporate coming to life before God. The third answer about what happens to individual people between the time of death and final resurrection when our time and our world are changed into God's world seems preferable to me. This third answer is that when we go through the door of death as individuals we go into the presence of God in conscious awareness. We have some form similar to our present form and similar to our final resurrected form. This is an "intermediate state." Paul's expressions in 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 seem to indicate that we always have some form before God. We must put question marks about that form(?). We need to put a period after the fact that the God who gives life is also the Lord of death and calls all of his creation to life in his time(.). The wonder of this will deserve an exclamation mark!

God Making a Decision

Making decisions is hard. Making final decisions about important things that really matter is particularly difficult. Somewhere and sometime a decision needs to be made about what is ultimately right and wrong. All of us, especially children, became nervous and indecisive about large, final decisions. Whom can we trust to make the last decision? Who knows enough, is just enough, and cares enough to agonize over the final decisions for all the world? These questions are answered very happily with a period after the statement that God alone is able to make the final decisions about all the world. The bible's word for making decisions that matter is judgment. Judgment is God making the final decisions. Ever since God began things with a capital letter he has been making decisions. He decided to make this kind of world and not another kind. He decided to make possible a redemptive relationship with his world through Jesus Christ. All along God's creation has been living with judgments, the decisions of God. One of the most significant decisions of God is that humanity would

FINISHING?.! 219 have freedom. God decided that people should be free. That was an important decision. This decision has a great deal of meaning for us. God's decision that we should be free means that we can, with his help, decide to have a redemptive relationship with God. The decision that we are to be free also means that we can decide, much to the divine distress, that we will not have a redemptive relationship with God. Priorities are ways of lining up what is more important and what is less important. Human freedom is a top priority decision of God. God has decided that he will let our free decisions about him enter into his decision about us. Children need to know that their decisions about God affect his decisions about them. In Jesus Christ, God has decided that he will make the world good. God's first judgment about the world (Gen. 1) was that the world was good. God's last decision about the world (Rev. 20 22) will be that it is good. In order to make this decision real, God has decided to control evil. He has decided that the possibilities of selfdistortion and divisiveness which exist in evil will have to be controlled so that his world will be good. God's decision about sin and evil is that it will bear the judgment of its own nature. To keep evil from harming his good creation again, as it has done now, God will shut evil away. Children who have been frightened by a dangerous dog or another animal or sinister person can understand and be glad about God's decision to shut evil away. In one powerful incident in Pilgrim's Progress, the character Christian, who is walking a difficult journey toward God, has to pass between two lions. He is much afraid. When he draws closer he sees that the lions are chained. Seeing the lions chained brought great relief to Christian. To know that God's final decision is to keep evil shut away from good is a great relief. A final decision about anything can be made only when the facts are all in. The facts of God's world are not all in until the conclusion of our time and our world. When the facts are in, God makes a final decision. That decision or judgment is final because there is no where else or no one else to go to for any other decisions. God's decision is the last word. It is the period which concludes the sentence God started writing about the world when he began creation with a capital C. As Christians, we may feel a sense of gratitude and relief when we think of God's final decision. We may feel gratitude because God has decided to let our free decisions for him enter into his decisions about



us. We may feel relief because we do not have to judge or make decisions about other people. God will make decisions about them. In fact, we are infringing on God's freedom when we make decisions about other people, when we judge them. Our deepest gratitude comes when we realize that the one who makes the final decision is the one who has come to us in our Friend, Jesus Christ. The final word belongs to God. That's good newsl

Truth and Consequences

How shall we speak to children about hell and heaven? Very carefullyl We should speak carefully because the Bible does so. We should speak carefully about the final possibilities of human existence because so much has been said too quickly and in misleading ways. Throughout the book I have suggested that the games and learning experiences of childhood are good analogies for explaining theology. The final game may well be called truth and consequences. Many children's games are built on the notion of forfeits and penalities. The game "Truth or Consequences" is a game which seems to me to tilt the table toward the side of the consequences. That is, if you tell the truth, know the answer, its not so much fun to play as if you don't know the truth and must pay some funny trick as a consequence. Some Christians have painted sin and its results in such a way that these sound much more exciting than the truth. This is a mistake. In life consequences flow from both truth and its opposite. The consequence which flows from not knowing the truth of God is the sad limitation of missing the best. Knowing the truth about God brings life into the larger drama of God's redemptive purpose. Christians are asked to share this truth with all so that all can enjoy the consequences of truth. Being confronted with truth and rejecting it has many serious consequences. Jesus stressed the deeper consequences of rejection in his saying about the Queen of Sheba and in his contrast of the religious leaders of his day and Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt. 11:23-24; Matt. 12:41-42). To exclude and reject truth (John 1:11-12) is to suffer the consequences of having missed what is important in life. Children can and need to grasp in everyday circumstances the meaning and results of choosing evil rather than good. When boys and girls spend money for things that do not give the value promised, they learn about the consequences of bad economic decisions. When time is wasted and no moment is left for

FINISHING?.! 221 doing what is better and more desirable, children experience the consequences of unfortunate use of life. When friends are chosen who want to exploit them and influence them in ways that present problems, boys and girls know the consequences of ill-chosen friends. The consequences of wrong choices are an analogy to what the Bible calls hell. The refuse place of Jerusalem, a valley filled with awful memories about past mistakes, is a physical analogy of hell in Scripture. Life's losses and refusals of what might be are the prelude and beginning consequences of an endless existence of having missed what counts. Children can best be taught about hell by observing the consequences of their own unfortunate and unwise decisions. To have to live with the loss and frustration of knowing one did not make the right choice is an awful consequence. A sad question mark can be placed by the fact that people do make the wrong decisions and continue to do so. Why does God, who is finishing what he has begun, permit people to make the wrong decisions? That is the question raised by the reality of hell. The only answer can be that it is solely in this way that people can be free. If people are not free, even their love to God would be a determined thing that would not be true love. Evil has its consequences. Wrong decisions must be lived with. These consequences are permanent. They are not simple forfeits. The worst consequence is to disappoint and disobey one who loves us. Children, who have received love and confidence, know the punishment of disobeying and disappointing those who love them. God's love and wrath are, as I said previously, two sides of his consistent holiness. To disobey and disappoint his love and confidence in us is to face his wrath, his disapproval. To live forever with the disapproval which disobedience brings is an awesome consequence. Always place before a child the affirming period that, with God's help, the right decision can be made. The consequences of truth are more impressive than the consequences of evil. Both are permanent. The consequence of truth is to fulfill the purpose and meaning of life. The consequence of truth is to know that things fit together, that all is or will be right. The consequence of truth is heaven. Heaven has its preludes too. The prelude of heaven is a redemptive relationship with God. This relationship enables us to have an accepting relationship with ourselves and a caring relationship with others. The promise of a Friend (John 14:7) will finally secure this consequence of truth for us. The presence of the Wind



(Spirit) of promise encourages us to continue making the right choices. The best way to explain heaven to children is to build analogies on results of their right decisions. Being true with others can lead to the kind of friendships that falsehood never can. Spending the substance and abilities of life will bring health and a sense of accomplishment. The Bible pictures heaven as a place where safety, full provision, and satisfaction are experienced. Revelation 2022 express these consequences of truth in terms of a strong, high wall (safety), a lovely garden (provision), and full fellowship with God (satisfaction). In presenting the concept of heaven to children, stress the dynamic growing implications of life in God's dimension. Perfection is not a static state of doing nothing because one has attained everything. Perfection is an everenlarging fulfillment of unhampered abilities. Permanent rest sounds like a valuable promise to older people who are tired or suffer. Heaven is rest from weariness and infirmity. But heaven is not inactivity. It is intensity. It is the intensity of doing what is desirable without the disadvantage of limitation. A wise worker or parent will not make extravagant promises to children about heaven on the basis of the children's desires, which are incomplete and changing. An appropriate suggestion is that part of the growth of heaven is the ever-changing and enlarging deciding for truth. The deepest truth of heaven is that "truth" is a friend. Theologians speak of seeing God as the beatific vision, the highest blessing of heaven. Paul referred to this blessing as "knowing even as we are known." He suggested that this is the result of the Spirit's gift of love. Boys and girls will understand what it means to see a friend. The consequence of God's truth which is heaven is the completion of what he began to do when he created the world and what he effectively began to do through Jesus Christ in securing the world as good. This involves all the world. Freedom is the consequence which will permit some to deny God's purpose in their lives. The consequence of evil will be shut away in the prison that freedom makes possible. All else will be brought to completion (Rom. 8:24 ff.). God's concern for his creation is not confined only to people. All that he began will be completed. All forms of life will be renewed in such a way that God can say in a new and permanent declaration, "It is good!" Children need to know the final score of the game, the conclusion of the story. All the created order has an ending, a period. The end will complete the drama which God

began. This sense of completeness and accomplishment is one of the most helpful consequences of God's truth. This is called cosmic redemption. Tell children that the world is going to become what God intended it to be. This is the consequence of truth. There are individual consequences as well as cosmic consequences. As individuals in history, our happiness lies partly in knowing and loving others as well as ourselves. A reasonable belief is that our individual self and the others who are part of our place in God's redemptive drama will be kept as individuals before God in his time and place. Any child can ask questions about our "appearance" and existence in heaven which science can deny and theology cannot explain. Nevertheless a very ancient statement about what Christians believe is right includes the phrase, "I believe in the resurrection of the body." One instance of resurrection of the body, has taken placethe resurrection of Jesus. After his resurrection he was known as that "same Jesus." This is the basis for affirmation that we too will have a sameness of identification in God's time and place. Of necessity, Jesus' resurrection body involved the chemicals of his earthly body so that the disciples could see and believe. The chemicals of human bodies have undergone many transformations. God can unmix and sort out all of these chemicals. He can also bring into being our resurrection bodies without them. Our hope of continuity and of eternal life rests in God. He is the one who gives life. He is the one who gives eternal life. Both gifts come from the one who proved himself our Friend in Jesus Christ. We have to put question marks about the details of God's "finishing." That is just as well, for a faith without the mystery of questioning would be dull indeed. When we project and imagine the lovely consequences of truth, we want to put an exclamation point(!). This exclamation point serves to maintain the element of surprise and joy. There is surprise and joy because God who began the game and drama always gives larger consequences than our understanding of truth can imagine. God's finishing involves question marks, periods, and exclamations(?.I). The final conclusion will be an exclamation pointl I have used games, drama, learning experiences, and situations from the life of children to provide ways in which to speak about God. I am thoroughly convinced that it is one of life's rarest privileges and also one of its most awesome tasks to talk meaningfully about God to children. Now it is your turn. It is your turn to take these insights, as they com-

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Appendix A Theology and Children: Remarks on Relationships Between Christian Theology and Childhood Developmental Psychology*
The child is of considerable interest in himself, but interest in psychological investigations of the child is increased when we realize that the child explains the man as well as and often better than the man explains the child. While the adult educates the child by means of multiple social transmissions, every adult, even if he is a creative genius, nevertheless, began as a child, in prehistoric times as well as today.1 The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is the record of God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. It reveals the principles by which God judges us; and therefore is and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ.*

Between these two affirmations lies the task of the church in articulating and implementing a theology for children. It is no small matterl There is a world of difference between the contemporary definition of a task rigorously undertaken by a social science and a determined statement of faith which can acknowledge but one remedy and source for the ultimate well-being of all persons. Despite this world of difference, the church must find a small world of similarity as it pertains to the needs of all persons and their fulfillment. The pastor, in particular, must be able to translate both the
*William L Hendricks, "Theology and Children: Remarks on Relationships Between Christian Theology and Childhood Developmental Psychology," Southwestern Journal of Theology, 20, No. 2 (Spring 1978), pp. 60-72. Reprinted by permission. 1. Jean Piaget and Barbel Inhelder, The Psychology of the Child, trans. Helen Weaver (New York: Basic Books, 1969), p. ix. 2. The Baptist Faith and Message: A Statement Adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention (Nashville: The Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1963), p. 3.




ancient Holy Book and the modern developmental manual into a language where what is common to both is apparent and makes sense when applied to the lives of children. This translation and transformation of biblical theology into corresponding ideas of developmental psychology and vice versa requires a fine balance. Compartmentalization is not adequate. A determination to use the two types of treatment without correlation is counterproductive. Integration is required and the lines of balance must give full weight both to the affirmations of faith and to the research of childhood developmental psychology. There is both a world of difference and a small area of agreement between the two.

A World of Difference
Modern man seems destruction bent on finding out how everything works. It is a mixed blessing. The curiosity which pries loose the agricultural secrets of germinating seeds can perfect and develop crops to the point of overproduction and the resultant economic parity problems. The biomedical experiments of our day can prolong life almost indefinitely and from that same possibility emerge lawsuits asserting the right to die with dignity. Contemporary developmental psychology describes the differing and emerging phases of childhood; and there is a likely possibility that educational and parental procedures are geared to bringing on and intensifying these stages of childhood. There is a fine line between observation and manipulation. And there is an even finer line between manipulating people with observations about themselves and especially about their children. There are two schools of thought about developmental research. One is the phenomenological school of Piaget which draws its conclusions from observations and makes a synthesis of the result. The second school of developmental research is the behaviorism represented by B. F. Skinner. The behavioral school affirms a preferred pattern for all children and sets up theories and programs for accomplishing the ends desired.5 Skinner's controversial baby-box and his planned communities are examples of a preferred behavioral development. Between these extremes lies various plans for behavior modifications
3. Cf. B. F. Skinner, Beyond Freedom and Dignity (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1972).



from less desirable personal and social behavior to more desirable forms of behavior. The norms for determining the less and more desirable forms of behavior seem very fluid indeed. Modern developmental study of children seems a whole different world from what the Bible says about children. The developmental theories are based upon elaborate case studies of individuals; they observe the total growth patterns of a child physically, socially, emotionally; they have produced skill performances charts; they have worked in conjunction with the medical arts to insure the physical wellbeing of the individual child; and they have projected learning goals in conjunction with educational specialists to promote the educational procedure. Conversely, the Scriptures seldom mention children. Children are viewed as part of a tribe or group. Children are seen as a favor of God and a mark of a full and productive life for the parents. The only individuals highlighted in the Old Testament are the children born as special gifts from God (Isaac, Samuel, etc.). Instruction of the young is demanded, especially in matters of faith (Ex. 13:14 ff.). Common sense moral and ethical instruction is conveyed in the Wisdom Literature (Proverbs). Children are to be obedient and submissive (Eph. 6:1-4). Specific concerns about the developmental life of persons in Scripture are found in the somewhat pessimistic expressions of Ecclesiastes (chs. 3 and 12). There seems indeed to be a world of difference between the perspectives of modern child developmental psychology and the general and casual insights about children found in Scripture. A parent's view of this world of difference might be expressed as follows: MODERN CHILDHOOD (1) Can give me scientific information about the life and development of my child. (2) Can work with the medical arts to keep my child healthy. (3) Can diagnose and project adequate psychological development for my child. (4) Can provide me recognizable descriptive stages and phases in the growth and development of my child. (5) Therefore, I will gladly listen and respect these results in guiding my child. In fact, I will seek out and follow the advice of professionals in this area. The counterpoise is a way in which religious parents view Scripture.



(6) If not, I must acknowledge for both my child and myself that religion and faith are special parts of life that don't readily relate to what happens in the development of the rest of our lives. a. I want my child to be a Christian even if he/she can't relate that experience to the rest of life. Or
(7) One thing is sure (depending on the individual parent)

(3) There is the traditional religious affirmation that all persons are sinful. I can accept that for myself, but I cannot readily agree that my child who is not yet able to make moral decisions is sinful. (4) I will therefore place my faith in God and give my child over to developmental psychology in the pursuit of life and will trust my child to the minister and the church requirements for his/her religious life. (5) Surely my pastor and children's Youth worker are equipped to know how to help my children be saved so that this experience will fit into the rest of life.

(2) But there are no scientific specifics in Scripture about children as individuals.

(1) Are the basis of my religious faith and I want my child to show that faith.

b. I don't want the church to disturb the developmental process of my child with false notions of guilt and poor self-images such as lost sinner, etc. I submit that the above "world of difference" is a very unfortunate one but a very well-known, if little acknowledged, one among us today. Both worlds are based on exaggerations of the two sides. But the exaggerations are not so pronounced as to invalidate the basic thesis that there is an unresolved tension between secular developmental psychology and current methods of children's theological or religious education. These two different worlds are separating the experiences of our children and are creating a number of practical problems in church life today. The following is a list of practical problems in the lives of our churches which grow out of the unresolved relationships of our views of child development and biblical theology. (1) There is the parental tension between admired and trusted specialists, i.e., the physician, the psychiatrist, the pastor, the Sunday School teacher.



(2) There is the separation of religion from life. (3) There is counterproductivity between church educational materials which are developmentally oriented and much church evangelism which is not. (4) There is a staff problem between childhood education specialists and pastors who do not integrate conversion and development. (5) There is the growing dilemma of the converted child who cannot or has not related his/her conversion to all of his/her life. These tensions are especially noticeable in conversionist religious communities. In liturgical communities where a child is set aside by the rite of infant baptism, guaranteed a religious education by the godparent (today more of a ritual than a reality), and given catechetical instruction by the church which follows with further confirming sacraments the tension of development versus relationship is not evident. It is precisely in evangelistic circles where physical birth must be followed by a theological awareness of a "fall" and then a spiritual rebirth of conversion that the tension is most apparent. Baptists have a great deal at stake in this entire discussion. There are only a given number of logical options as to what we can do about this tension between the developmental view of childhood and the demand for religious conversion. Our options are: (1) To continue on two tracks, that is, to have the lives of our children directed by developmental perspectives in all "secular" areas of life and to insist that religious conversion is related to this process. This produces religious schizophrenia and irrelevant religion. It is not an advisable option. (2) We can opt out of developmental insights concerning the growth of our children and place them in a determined religious context where all of their lives are shaped by our insights and perspectives. This absolute projection of a context on another is called heteronomy. That is, the self is guided and dominated by the desires of others. A heterono-mous religious context implies a provincialism that requires constant nurture and insulation. A religious heteronomous view requires private schools, like-minded educators, parochial physicians and professors, and no concourse with a secular society. Intentional religious communities such as the Amish have preferred this position. Many other religious fellowships, threatened by the invasion of radical pluralism and the secularity of our age, are adopting a partial approach to heteronomous



religious education through special schools, vigorous social programs, and centering all life around the church. (3) We can opt for a total developmental approach to religious education and conversion. This is accomplished by an institutionalizing of the time and appropriateness of baptizing and of receiving children into the church. It may occur by a reshaping of the radical demands of conversion into developmental "soft" language or a giving up or attenuation of the theological distinctives which are required in a conversionist theology. Elements in a conversionist theology are: a declaration of grace, an awareness of divine provision of salvation, a conscious acknowledgment of guilt, and an acceptance of salvation. It would be ironic indeed if Baptists and other purely conversionist groups would opt for a developmental view of religious insights at a time when others are widely recognizing the values of conversionist theology. (4) We could, by conscientious and intentional study and reflection, determine how developmental psychology and conversionist theology can correlate. This would call for openness and a large effort from both camps. There must be a candid evaluation by religious education specialists about the presuppositions, methods, and goals of their developmental views. There must also be a renewed vitality among these persons to search the Scripture for parallels and possible interrelationships. Some agreement about priorities will have to be expressed. The question must be asked in the process of behavior modification who and what norms have precedence. Conversely, pastors, evangelists, and others will have to submit themselves to the disciplines of how children are shaped and develop in all dimensions of life. The terms and demands of conversion will have to be translated from the religious vocabulary of the church community into equivalent and recognizable everyday experiential language. There will have to emerge a richer understanding of grace. "The plan of salvation" will have to be applied in all dimensions of life rather than being a few statements about which we gain a child's verbal approval. More time and attention will be required for discussions among children's workers, pastors, and parents. There will have to be more listening to children themselves as to how they perceive and understand the "revealed requirements of salvation" in the particular circumstances of their lives. A perceptive reader would already have guessed that my option is number four. Since this is my preference, it is incumbent on me to

suggest some areas where modern developmental insights and biblical theology do or can meet to integrate the religious experience of the child with all other areas of his/her life. I am more competent to do this in the theological area than in that of childhood education; and I welcome the response and input of those childhood developmental scholars who can assist in the building of mutual bridges.

It's a Small, Small World

The world of developmental child psychology and the world of a biblical conversionist theology are very different worlds in many ways. In other ways the reality expressed in both disciplines leads to an awareness that it's a small, small world.4 I see at least three areas in which childhood developmental psychology and theology (by which I mean conversionist theology which calls for a conscious religious commitment and continuing interaction between the individual and God) can fruitfully interact to describe and promote the religious dimension of the life of children. A. We must explore what "development" means in the discipline of childhood developmental psychology and what the term "conversion" implies in a conversionist theology. B. We need to ask how children acquire and perceive religious and moral values according to developmental psychology and we must ask what kind of a discipline is theology and what type of experience is religious experience. C. The third bridge is to ask each discipline what it does for the child and, in turn, to see how the disciplines have separate and complementary tasks.

Development and Conversion

If by "development" one means an inevitable, nonvarying pattern by which every child must develop and does naturally and invariably do so, then the gap between the disciplines is serious. If by "conversion" one means a supernatural relationship that is qualitatively different from other experiences in life and which experience does not build on any
4. This phrase is drawn from America's childhood myth-maker, Walt Disney and the catching tune played in the pavilion at Disney World, which exhibit pleads for mutual understanding and the advancement of child life on a global scale.



previous experience of a child, then the gap between the disciplines is uncrossable. A developmental science is based on limited experiences and observations of controlled experiments. When it is true to itself, such a science speaks in terms of generalizations, norms, and usual patterns. It avoids absolute, deterministic categories and it acknowledges variations and the interaction of its disciplines with others. The developmental psychology of a child seeks to provide a holistic schema as to how children leam, think, internalize, and act. It suggests a process which feasibily applies to how the individual child develops. Developmental psychology is intensely aware that it is working with a "broad outline" because ideal conditions are unattainable and there are many fluctuations and interdisciplinary involvements which affect the life of a child.5 In other words, religious workers should not perceive developmental psychology as a naturalist, predetermined system which regulates and virtually predestines how all children will learn in every area of their lives. Developmental psychologists are aware of social anthropology and of varieties of religous experiences all of which may be generally described but none of which can be mechanistically prescribed as in the instance of sensorimotor learning. For religious educators this means that patterns of learning and appropriating provide categories for working with and describing children's religious experience. If "development" is understood as a studied description of how children experience and relate to reality, then developmental psychology can assist religious educators in evaluating and explaining religious experience and the child's religious "conversion" experience. Christian conversion is an awakening of the self by God the Holy Spirit to a grateful acceptance and response of God the Father's acceptance of us through the action of God the Son. Conversion implies a turning of the entire person from a destructive pattern of existence of a redemptive pattern. Since conversion is a reorientation of the entire child it will have affective (practical and action-oriented) aspects and cognitive (mental, prepositional) aspects. Conversion is a rebirth, but the rebirth is a new orientation of the previous self. It is not the supplying of a new body, a new way of learning, or a new pattern of perceiving reality. Whatever evangelical theology says about being born
5. Piaget, Psychology of the Child, pp. 92-96.



again, it must say that it is essentially the same person who is converted. Saul became Paul and his body and emotional patterns were continuous. It was his relationships, motivation, and basic outlook on existence that was new. A conversionist theology that is biblically based will relate nature and grace. It is God who is behind the physical and mental development of children, and it is God who effects the possibility of that child's ultimate redemption and fulfillment. However fallen and sinful evangelical theology perceives nature to be, it must not suppose that nature is replaced by grace. Grace does not repudiate nature, it redeems it. Religious educators can relate developmental psychology and conversion if they have an adequate biblical theology of the relation of nature and grace. In fact, there are sociological and anthropological studies which describe and ascribe positive functions to the various phases and rites of the human community.6 These religious "rites of passage" are today being studied as to their positive function and not, as formerly by certain psychological schools, as aberrant behavior.7 Religious conversions as experienced in evangelical Christianity are certainly one such "rite of passage" in a large segment of modern American Christendom. Developmental psychology could help evangelical Christianity locate, describe, and express its conversion experience. But this contribution cannot be made by those who understand "development" in terms of naturalistic determinism or "conversion" in terms of an experience of grace unrelated to human nature.

Values and Wholeness

A balanced developmental psychology will take into account all phenomena occuring in a child's life, including his/her moral religious values. According to one school of developmental psychology, values and moral feelings are learned by children like other social and conceptual systems are learned. Values and morals are passed on from respected sources. They are received first in a unilateral way as objective responsibility. In the process of maturity, the value system and moral teachings are broadened by a mutual respect between the giver (parent,
6. Margaret Mead and Martha Wolfenstein, eds., Childhood in Contemporary Cultures. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955). 7. Piaget, p. 122 ff.



minister, church) and the receiver (the child). In mature religious experiences, the child moves from the heteronomy of the obligation of what others place upon him to an autonomous experience in which he/she participates and intentionally accepts and lives out of his/her religious values. Sabatier many years ago described mature religious experience in very similar terms.8 The Christian community should welcome psychological studies that describe the learning process. From the holistic implications of developmental psychology, we may be reminded that religious learning also grows out of the actions of all of life and reflection on the meaning of those actions. Only those schools of thought which understand theology to be a body of truth to be learned and agreed upon would resent the integration of developmental psychology and Christian theology. Such tensions arise because of a compartmentalized view of theology. The theological disciplines including religious education must ask what kind of disciplines they are and what type of experience religious experience is. Theology has been styled a divine science. Nevertheless, its productions and practice are very human endeavors. As to formal classification, theology is an art in the area of humanities. The science of theology is churchmanship. As to its religious significance, Christian theology is the systematic and doctrinal expression of a revealed religion. The value claim of Christianity to be revealed religion does not necessarily conflict with the theoretical designation of theology as an art in the area of humanities. The point is that developmental psychology as a social science uses different categories and criteria to describe the child's experience than does churchmanship, the science of theology. The two may complement each other if each recognizes the validity and province of the other. Both developmental psychology and Christian theology are agreed that the experience of a child should be a holistic and integrating one. Theology should not be interested in a religious conversion which does not have affective and cognitive elements, rational, and emotional elements. All of this is to say that religious experience is at least full human experience. At most, religious experience may be described as the fullest human experience because it enables the person to be fulfilled in an absolute sense and from the perspective of the divine intention for life. Christian religious experience is experience
8. Augusta Sabatier, Religions of Authority and the Religion of the Spirit, trails. Louise Seymour Houghton (New York: McClure, Phillips & Co., 1904).



with God the Father by virture of the act of God the Son and through the medium of God the Holy Spirit. Granted the uniqueness of a religious conversion, there are analogies for an encounter between God and the child. The most immediate analogies are the experiences of the child with parents, with friends, with his religious educators. Children who have never known human love have no models for conceptualizing divine love. Developmental psychology reminds Christian theology that a child's religious symbol-making capacities and his/her appropriation of religion grow out of those same processes whereby he/she relates to everything else in life. The subject and significance of religious experience are unique, but the vehicles of experiencing the realm of religion are those same capacities we bring to all other experiences of life. Our conclusions about value and wholeness as these relate to developmental psychology and theology are: (1) Developmental psychology can describe how children learn and appropriate values. Christian theology should express the content and rationale of the religious values. (2) Developmental psychology stresses the integration and wholeness of all childhood experience. Christian theology must assert its content in such a way it can relate to and be regulative of all other experiences of the child. (3) Religious conversion is a unique experience because it is an experience with the divine in terms of content and character. But religious conversion is like other experiences (described by developmental psychology) as to its operation and description.9 (4) Religious conversions can be studied and described in order to normalize basic elements and to facilitate presentation of these to children. This does not mean that conversion experiences can be stereotyped, induced, or have the element of mystery removed from them. It does mean that pastors, evangelists, and parents can and must articulate what is essential for conversion, both the cognitive and affective elements.10 For example, it is a sound biblical principle that a child must know some matters of historical theological importance which he can affirm cognitively. Such elements are, Jesus came from God, Christ died for us, God brought him to life, Jesus sent the Spirit, and God will conclude the world he began along the lines of the love expressed in
9. Langdon Gilkey. Naming the Whirlwind (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1969). 10. Clifford Ingle, ed., Children and Conversion (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1970).



Jesus Christ. It is also important that a child recognize the affective elements involved in and subsequent to conversion. Theologically and ritually expressed, those are the attitudes of faith and repentance, the public act of confession and acceptance. It can be a small, small world where the bridge of developmental psychology and Christian theology meet in the areas of value and wholeness in the life of the child.

To Each Its Own

When the terms "development" and "conversion" are adequately defined, the tensions between developmental psychology and religious conversion are lessened. Developmental psychology describes the process of understanding value and Christian theology assesses religious values to be believed in such a way that conversion affects the whole of a child's life. Thus far, we have dwelt on the complementary and overlapping aspects of developmental psychology and Christian theology. A word must also be said about their specific areas of concern and what the one discipline cannot or should not do in relation to the other. There is a to-each-its-own aspect of these two disciplines. Developmental psychology can and very ably has described the way in which children develop in all areas of life. However, developmental psychology should not try to determine the essential content of what a child should learn in any prescribed discipline, including theology. For example, developmental psychology prescribes desirable ways in which children learn about numbers, serialization, etc. This does not mean that developmental psychologists should determine the content of mathematics courses taught to children. Especially in the realm of moral values and religious teachings developmental psychology should not determine content. My preference for Piaget above Skinner arises at this point." Piaget considers his task as primarily descriptive. Skinner is prescriptive. He not only describes human development, he also insists that this development is deterministic and he asserts, overstepping the boundaries of his discipline, that he should prescribe the curriculum for morals and values. Christian theology should, for its community, provide the content of moral values, should prescribe the meaning of salvation and the means for appropriating it. However, Christian theology should not ignore or
11. Skinner, Beyond Freedom and Dignity.



deny the insights of developmental psychology as to how much and what types of cognitive and affective experiences a child may appropriate at any give age. This is a very important point. Granted, Christian theology can specify its content and prescribe the norms for conversion. Nevertheless, Christian theology cannot produce evidence that the very young child can or does adequately appropriate material beyond the level which developmental psychology has suggested, by virtue of its experiments, that it is possible for a child of a certain age to attain. For example, Christian theology should not claim that the perception of its value system or the rationale of the "plan of salvation" is understood in its abstract relationships and its logical meanings by the very young child. Religious conversion of a heteronomous nature may occur in the young child who accepts, out of respect and the desire for approval, the information and values given to him by his parents of the church. But this experience needs to be followed by the deepening process of autonomy by which the child willingly and of his/her own accord, based on a fuller understanding, reaffirms his/her commitments. This is, in effect, what happens in conversionist theological groups who acknowledge child conversions and nurture these commitments through "rededica-tions" and other expressions or reaffirmation which occur as the child matures in his/her religious experience. Simply stated, developmental psychology can advise the sciences as to how the child learns and at what ages various types of learning usually occur. Christian theology must always insist on defining her own content. But if the polarities we described in the beginning of this article are not to intensify, Christian theology should listen very carefully to the descriptive insights of developmental psychology as to how and how soon children can "think theologically." My personal conviction, as a conversionist theologian, is that our best theological heritage is wise in insisting on a religious conversion. My personal conviction, as a churchman, is that we need to spell out more carefully for children exactly what we mean by conversion. This would include a description of both the cognitive and affective elements. My personal conviction, as a neophyte reader in child developmental psychology, is that that discipline has described very well how and at what chronological stages children learn, and we in the church would do well to pay attention to what they are saying and to try to ascertain what this means about the religious conversion experience of children.

Appendix B The Age of Accountability*

Introduction and Definition of Terms

The term "age of accountability" is not a biblical expression. The closest biblical reference to express the idea of accountability might well be Romans 14:12 "So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God" (KJV). It is important to note that the Bible word used for account in this passage is Logos. It is the same word used by John 1:1 to describe Jesus as God's Wordhis account or expression of himself to man. As Baptists and some other Christians have used the term, "age of accountability" means a time or period of life when one is aware enough of God to respond to him. This response is inevitably rejection of God on the part of all men (Rom. 3:23). The relationship of one who consciously rejects God is estrangementawareness of sin and limitation. The problem of "the age accountability" is particularly significant to Baptists because (1) they stress the necessity of conversion before church membership; (2) they formerly, in some instances, set arbitrary ages at which children were accountable; (3) and they are facing today the dilemmas posed by "child evangelism." It is not possible to answer the question, "What is the age of accountability?" until other, related questions are seen. These questions are: In what sense are all men responsible to God? What about the group and the individual in biblical teaching? How have succeeding ages brought changes from Bible times? What does the Bible specifically teach about the religious status of children? What are the minimal requirements for belief in God? We must also survey our contemporary Baptist practices in child evangelism and evaluate them carefully. These considerations will compose the bulk of this chapter. At the conclusion guidelines and
*William L. Hendricks, "The Age of Accountability" in Children and Conversion, Clifford Ingle, ec. (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1970), pp. 84-97.




suggestions will be made about dealing with children and assessing the "age of accountability."

In What Sense Are All Men Responsible to God?

Children are for real. They are people. C. S. Lewis in his remarkable books, The Chronicles ofNarnia, has the white witch ask a child: "Are you human?" The answer, of course, is yes. Since children participate in humanness, in what sense are they responsible? The larger question should be approached first. In what way are all men responsible to God? Genesis 1:26 indicates that man was made in the image of God. In Christian history there have been many diverse views as to what "image of God" implies. To this author the image of God means that man is capable of response to God. This response may be acceptance or rejection. The ability to respond to God is dependent on God's revelation of himself and God's help for every individual who responds to him positively. The revelation of God to man is most clearly seen in Jesus Christ. Revelation comes into our world in Jesus Christ. The world, as we now experience it, exists in a lower key than God created it. We speak of this as "the fall." Sin as pride, rebellion, and desire are characteristics of all men. As pride, sin manifests itself primarily in man's refusal to accept God as God. Pride causes man to rely wholly on his accomplishments and to measure all things by his own discernment. Rebellion is manifested in rejecting the claim of God for ultimate allegiance to himself. Rebellion is more than the infraction of rules. It goes against the grain of what human nature itself really ought to be. Sin as desire is characterized by drawing all things into oneself for selfish purposes. In these dimensions sin affects the entire structure of man's existence. Man raises himself to ultimacypride. He resists the just and ultimate claim of God on his liferebellion. And he distorts all relationships of life by seeking them for selfish purposesdesire. It is to a world, less than ideal, and to men, distorted by sin, that the revelation comes. Since the clearest revelation of God is Christ, man is fully responsible when confronted by Christ. Since responsibility is obtained in using the ability to respond, the actions of a man facing Christ and deliberately relating to him or refusing to relate to him brings the full status or responsibility. The Gospel of John states expressly that one is accepted or rejected by his belief or unbelief on the Son (16:8-11). It is further-



more stated that Jesus is "the way, the truth, and the life" (14:6,KJV). The clearest expression of the Christian faith is that men face God in the claims of Jesus Christ. In this confrontation full responsibility is attained. But this clear expression is hedged in by pressing questions. Do men see God only in Christ? What of those who are never confronted by Christ in the proclamation of the gospel? When are children confronted by Christ? Do men see God only in Christ?Christ expresses the fullness of what God is and what God desires to do for men. However, there is within man himself a "desire for God." This void in man is a preliminary preparation for the confrontation of God in Christ. This inherent religious bent is man's destiny. It is the crater or void which God fills with his love. Ironically enough, man seeks to fill this void of life with other things. This is tragic because only God can fill that place. In addition to the religious void in man's life, there is an awareness of both the grandeur and wretchedness of the world, that things are both greater than man could invent and worse than he can endure. This awareness points man to God; but again, only in a preliminary way. It must also be seen that the line of special events in Israel leading up to the coming of Christ has much to say about God. The record of these events is the Old Testament. The Christian faith must retain the Old Testament because: (1) it acknowledges that he who created the world is involved in redeeming it; (2) it asserts that he selects certain men and events to express his wider purpose; (3) it claims the promise of a fuller and complete revelation of God is yet to come. In relation to this faith men of Old Testament times were redemptively related to God by faith in hope. What of those who are never confronted by Christ in the proclamation of the gospel?Full redemptive relation with God is unknown outside of Christ. This is the scandalously particular claim of the Christian faith (cf. Matt. 11:27). Men who are unconfronted by Christ find no adequate fulfillment of life's religious void. They likewise make wrong conclusions about what the world means and what life and destiny are about. They relate to God negatively by giving only human answers to the complexities of man and his destiny. This is a "lost" kind of existence. If they should learn of Christ and reject him, they are brought to

APPENDIX B 241 full responsibility and full condemnation. This is the danger inherent in the Christian mission enterprise. Christian teaching and compassion is motivated toward those who have not heard by three insights: (1) It is the specific intention of God that those who know him in Christ are under obligation to share him (cf. Matt. 28:19-20). (2) Judgment, or final status in lifehere and hereafterhas degrees. Tyre and Sidon will be better off, in the last analysis, than the Pharisees who faced Christ and rejected him (cf. Matt. 11:22 and parallels). (3) Ultimately the fate of all men is in the hand of God, whose wisdom and justice is greater than that of men (cf. Isa. 40; Job 38-41; Rom. 14:12; John 5:22; 1 Cor. 1:18). When are children confronted by Christ?full answers to this question can be given only after the larger considerations of this chapter have been explored. At this point several suggestions may be given: (1) Children are confronted by Christ when they receive Christly actions and attitudes from those about them. (2) Children are likewise confronted with Christ when they are taught and nurtured by the proclamation of the gospel of Christ. (3) They are confronted by Christ when the values and shape of their environment are formed by Christian insight. However, these confrontations are preliminary and preparatory. In the sense of full responsibility Christ confronts any individual in the proclamation of the gospel, by the power of the Spirit, at the time when the individual is aware of the message and meaning of the Christian gospel.

Two Biblical Insights

Biblical faith is always related to the individual and the community of faith. These emphases form two poles of God's ways with men. In the Bible both are emphasized. For example, Moses, the psalmist, and Paul are illustrative of God's concern for the individual. The covenant agreement with Abraham and Israel, the corporate concern for the kingdom, and the New Testament concept of the church as Christ's body are illustrative of God's way of using the community of faith as an instrument of service and a witness of grace. The individual and the corporate are well illustrated by the biblical expressions about Adam. Adam is an individual man, but he also is inevitably a picture of all men. His transgression is his; it was first. At



the same time, it is a picture of what all men do. In him, as typical of what all do, men die and sin. All men do crystallize their own rebellion against God. No one is good when he is judged by what he ought to be. The Christian affirms that what man ought to be is seen truly only in Christ. One of the most persistent errors about original sin has been the attempt to establish how we and Adam are connected. Historical theories of original sin have run the gamut. Some suppose sin is passed on by heredity like the color of the eyes. Others indicate that children have an inherent bent to sin. Still others decry any liability to a child from his forebears. In this view men are neutral until they decide yes or no, pro or con. These kinds of theories are intriguing, but they do not rise from the Bible so much as from our curiosity. The biblical view expresses the life of man as it exists. Individually men differyet, as a group and as individuals, they share a common lot. Man is sinful because he chooses to be. Two things are certain in the biblical picture of man: (1) He inevitably does sin. (2) He, as an individual in sin, must respond to God's grace in Christ for full redemptive relationship. The Bible simply does not say ultimately why man is a sinner. It does state unrelentingly that he is a sinner. In ancient Israel it was felt that children were covered by the covenant of God within the elected community. This meant that individual children were considered under the protection of God until, by personal rebellion, they failed to obey him or refused to become a son of the covenant. Evangelical Christians of the modern world share unusual and sometimes unwarranted anxiety about their young children and their status as individuals. This will be explored more fully in the next section. Ancient Israel assumed a covenant mercy of God to apply to their children. Jesus indicated his love for children and used their implicit trust as a model for what is required in biblical faith (Matt. 18:2-6). It would be unwise for us to become unduly anxious about the individual young child. We could do this to such an extent that we would not see him as part of humanity which is not yet capable of coping with grace. We must keep the biblical balance of the individual and the corporate. Each child is born into a sinful humanity. All individuals eventually confirm themselves as sinners. It is God's purpose to save all. It is



his manner to relate to humanity individually. This twofold biblical insight must be maintained. It must be maintained before conversion. We might say children are sinful because of their humanness but sinners because of their own choice. We must also maintain a perspective of the individual and the group at the time of conversion and after. One meets God individually because of the witness of the gospel borne by the community of faiththe church. The community proclaims the witness and the individual bears his witness in this larger framework. This is an indispensable insight to biblical thought. To place the individual in isolation from his common lot with humanity or from his place in the community of faith is not biblical.

The Shape of Things Since Bible Days

It is impossible to get "back to the Bible" without taking some of our own current concerns and interests with us. All men wear the glasses of their day and the outlook of their time. Several developments have risen since Bible days which complicate our view of children and their religious experience and expression. Humanism.Humanism arose in Western Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Humanism is a way of looking at life which says that man is the measure of all things. There are certain similarities between humanist beliefs and the Christian faith. Both emphasize the individual. Both place high value on man and his abilities. However, the differences between humanism and traditional Christian belief are more pronounced than the similarities. Christianity sees man as the crown of creation but not as the measure of all things. The Christian view of man assesses his worth but is also very aware of his weakness. For the humanist, man himself is the reference point for all value. For the Christian, God is the reference point for value. Modern Western man is very much influenced, formally and informally, by the idea that man is the measure of all things. From this conviction have grown the modern sciences dealing with man and his distinctiveness: psychology, anthropology, sociology. Sometimes these studies and the ultimate concern with things human have so stressed the individual and his development that the corporate idea of humanity as a unit has been lost. Psychology.With the rise of modern psychology, the age of introspection began. Man has been studied from the view of the development



of the self, the rise of his consciousness, and of the sources of his guilt. Complexes and neuroses are diagnosed and dissipated by those competent in helping man understand himself. Modern churches and parents reflect these insights when viewing their children's development. This is not necessarily wrong. However, caution must be taken lest we forget the broader biblical concerns of the whole of mankind, man's relation to the rest of creation, and man's obligation to God. Christians feel man's deepest obligations come objectively from outside a manfrom God. They are not merely the product of man's inner reflections of guilt or anxiety. More rapid maturation of children. In recent times we hear of "the technological revolution" and the "knowledge explosion." Accelerated methods of transmitting vast amounts of factual materials are being perfected in education. Machines designed to teach and entertain are opening the universe and human nature before the eyes of children. One need look no further than the television set to find a reason today's youngsters are better informed about life at an earlier age than ever before. Churches have been wise in using these perfected educational methods and devices. Children are maturing at a younger age today than formerly. Tests of children's alertness and ability are illustrating that children mature at different ages and according to their individual capacity. This fact does away with all attempts to establish a given and fixed chronological age as the time of accountability. However, some problems also arise from this technological maturation. Are religious value and understanding given adequate exposure? Does the child see enough "value-building" programming on television? Are we forcing guilt on the young which is a guilt born from breaking the rules of our particular society rather than actually rejecting God in Christ? Are the "sins" children confess born of their despair in estrangement from God or are they born from the fear of displeasing those who demand a certain culturally conditioned way of life? The above developments have all risen since biblical days. This does not mean that these concerns are not correct. Nor is it to imply that they do not have merit. However, it must be admitted, for example, that the meticulous searching of the "conscience" of a very young child has no biblical precedent. An abiding biblical insight is that God speaks to man at man's own level and in terms of a given man's own time. How-

ever, there is a core of belief which is essential to salvation in any age. The New Testament itself gives indication of this.

Requirements for Biblical Faith

Legalism is an abiding danger to biblical faith. The Pharisees of the New Testament evidence this. An equal danger to biblical faith is uncertainty or lack of belief. It is impossible to have saving faith in the fullest sense without certain minimal beliefs and awareness of those definitive acts which brought Christianity into being. Faith implies confidence in the object of faith. For Christians this means trusting God. Faith includes: the depth-level giving of oneself to Godthe heart; the full willingness to pattern one's life according to the will of Godthe hands; and a knowledge of who God is, what he has done for us, and what he requires of usthe head. In the New Testament there is a basic, simple message (kerygmathe proclaimed truth). It was first delivered when the Holy Spirit came to complete God's revelation of himself and honor the work of Christ. Acts 2:14-36; 3:12-26; 4:8-12; 5:30-32; 10:36-43 contain, in embryo, what the remainder of the New Testament clarifies. The basic points of the message of the early church are as follows: (1) Jesus came from God, the God of Israel who made heaven and earth. (2) Men killed Christ. The idea is later broadened to assert that all men and man as a unit in his sinfulness is responsible for Christ's death. (3) Yet, Christ's death was according to God's plan. That is, God was acting through Christ's death to bring man to himself. (4) Christ is raised. God in Christ has conquered even man's last enemy, death. (5) God through Christ has sent the Holy Spirit to bear witness to what God in Christ has done for man. Without these facts the Christian faith is unintelligible. In these simple facts lies profundity which none has fully explained. This basic Christian gospel has been expanded; even in the New Testament itself further interpretation is given. This author feels that the message (kerygma) outlined in the early chapters of Acts may not be reduced. In other words, this is the heart of the Christian gospel. Menall menchildren as well, must have some awareness as to what this basic Christian message means to man. In addition to hearing and affirming these facts man must do one other thing in salvation. That is, he must have faithfaith in the God



who brought these things to pass. This faith in God is accompanied by despair of oneself and all other created things. This despair is evidenced by repentance. Repentace involves sorrow for sin. It is sorrow for having trusted in oneself, for having rejected God as alone worthy of our confidence, and for having sought all things for our own gain and desires. Contrast this notion of repentance for sin with the above threefold definition of sin. It must be asked whether a child can understand, believe, and accept these things. This of course depends. It depends upon the child, his ability, his age, his capacity to grasp thought and make decisions. It depends on the language used to express these ideas and the illustrations used to clarify them. It depends on the family in which the child is reared and the interest of the parents in his education in things religious. Does a ten-year-old child understand and conceptualize these acts of God as he might at twenty or thirty? The answer is no. Can a child express the Christian gospel in adult terms and experiences? Again, the answer is no. A further question should be explored: Are there perhaps two ways of relating to God, one for children and one for adults? Here we must give an emphatic no. An ancient heresy, gnosticism, taught that there were two types of salvationone for those who were given holy knowledge (gnosis) and one for common men. It is perennially the temptation of the learned to ask that too much be believed. The converse mistake is for men of good faith to suggest that one doesn't "have to believe anything to be saved." Trust God, it is enough! But what is trust, who is God, what has he done that man should trust him? Even the simple expression trust God or love Jesus implies some understanding. It is a Christian presupposition that no man can "understand" the Christian faith except that God by his Spirit aids him to do so. It is also a way of God with man that God aids man to the extent of man's ability. Therefore, the matter returns once again to what God requires. He requires the proclamation of the gospel and its acceptance by man, by any man whom he enables to trust. The requirement is not less for children; there is only one essential gospel. The age of accountability must be related to the ability to grasp and accept the basic truths of the gospel.

APPENDIX B 247 What the Bible Says About Children

Children are for real. They are people, even if people in the miniature. If there is but one way to God, they too will come by the message of Christ. It is instructive, and somewhat surprising to discover exactly what the Bible says about children. Most of the biblical references to children are descriptive of some particular child. References are found to the child Moses, Ishmael, David's son who died in infancy, and Samuel. There are children in the Gospels, largely unnamed, whom Jesus calls attention to for purpose of teaching and in illustrating his own compassion. A few general instructions about the training of children are found in the Old Testament Wisdom Literature. References to Jesus as a child are present in the Scriptures, but there are not many. An interpretation of biblical references to children would reveal the following conclusions. The childhood of important biblical figures is noted. Instruction of children by precept and example is commanded. There is a great compassion for the young displayed in biblical literature. As a whole, Bible references to children are descriptive rather than theological.

Questions We Should Ask

In the light of these larger questions there are many practices among Southern Baptists we need to explore more fully and evaluate carefully. Baptists have historically insisted on believer's baptism and regenerate church membership. Baptists today, in some ways, are more sensitive to the needs and capacities of children than were our forefathers at the turn of the century. We are definitely lowering the age at which children are baptized. In 1966 there were 1,146 children five years of age and under baptized in Southern Baptist churches. In that same year we baptized 34,026 children ages six to eight, 139,211 children ages nine to twelve, and 59,569 children ages thirteen to sixteen (The Quarterly Review, Oct., 1967). However, it must be asked if there is not serious tension between our historic principle of believer's baptism and our radical lowering of the age of those baptized? In the light of the above discussion there are other probing questions we should ask. Are we holding our children responsible to God beyond their capacity of belief and before the age of life commitment is possible? It is entirely



possible that many expect the adult religious expressions and technical terms of the Christian faith to be meaningful to children. A young child would have much difficulty in comprehending words like: propitiation, atonement, repentence, or even faith. Full comprehension of these terms is often never reached by adults. Careful explanation and clear illustration should be given our children to aid them in grasping the "vocabulary of faith." It may well be asked if a life kind of commitment to God can be made by children who are not accoustomed to making significant and lasting decisions of any sort. Much of our theological anxiety about very young children is a projection of our own concern for them. There is no biblical reason one should not trust the compassion and mercy of God to extend to children until they can make meaningful and depth-level decisions for themselves. In fact the covenant of grace between God and mankind expressed in Christ, gives us every reason to presume that the young are kept by God in his compassionate concern. The shape of things arising since Bible days poses other serious questions for us. Do we heighten the guilt of a child by our serious disapproval or rejection of him before he is able to comprehend why we feel he is wrong? Often parents commit serious errors by equating their cultural and social desires and values with the will of God. It is neither good procedure nor good theology to tell children God will not love them if they do thus and so. Is not the heart of the gospel God's love for sinners? Often we leave confused and uncertain minds by giving contradictory views of God. It is unfortunate some teach children only of God's goodness and love. When these children become a bit older, God is immediately portrayed as wrathful and angry. This is quite a confusing change in one weeks's timethe week of promotion. What is needed is accurate and balanced presentations of God to all age levels in our churches. If the minimal requirements of faith are the basic demands of the gospel, are we insuring that those who express faith in Christ Jesus are aware of these requirements? In some way any regenerate person must be able to express and to relate them in a meaningful way to such notions as: who Jesus is; what he has done on our behalf; that his death for men is followed by resurrection; that God's Spirit honors the work of the Son in drawing men to God. We must ask if our concern for children will permit us to have two



ways of salvation, one for adults and one for children. Is it not possible we will price salvation so cheap that it will neither change our children nor sustain them through the troubled days of adolescence? These questions and like concerns must occupy Southern Baptists as we look at the demands of biblical faith and the rising percent of our members who are unrelated to local congregations where they live.

Some Tentative Guidelines

To these complex problems there are no simple answers. However, some suggestions of a very practical nature may be steps in the right direction. We must place more emphasis on a serious view of accountability than on the concept of age. In the light of the demands of biblical faith we must present the one gospel as simply as possible. However, we must not reduce the full biblical expression of what is needed in salvation. It is highly doubtful that many children below the age of nine can express or have experienced despair for sin as radical separation from God. One cannot be "saved" until he is aware he is "lost." It is a mistake to set an arbitrary age for conversion. It is likewise a mistake to ignore the capacity of given age levels.Children do mature at different ages according to ability and background. God's Spirit does work with the individual in conversion. These considerations make it impossible to set any arbitrary age of accountability. Likewise, studies of age groups and their experiences show that abstract concepts cannot be grasped before a certain level of understanding is attained. It is also one of God's ways with man that he does not remove a person from his circumstances and ability in his work of grace. Both age and accountability must be considered. This is our perennial dilemma. We should seek to be more responsible in every way toward our proclamation of the gospel and in our guiding children toward conversion. However, it must be stressed that if we continue to "invade the Preschool and Children's departments" for evangelistic prospects we are risking serious problems for the future. In doing this, we are also moving away from an adequate perspective of believer's baptism. Better and more intensive counseling programs should be provided for children. Conversion experiences, like all of God's ways with men, are highly individualistic. We must nurture children more carefully in their experiences of grace. There are incipient expressions of sin which



are signs of a growing awareness of estrangement from God. We must not force these first feelers of conviction into a traumatic crisis for which the child is unprepared. In other words, children learn most things gradually by experience and over an extended length of time. The moment of guilt, acceptance, and conversion is some specific moment. However, to attempt to force that moment by confronting a child with an experience he has not had and a full understanding of the gospel which he cannot comprehend is disastrous. It is disastrous because of later doubts he will have about the reality of his conversion. It is disastrous because many parents and churches will consider him "safe" and press on to other "prospects," leaving the child without further guidance or exploration of his experiences. It is particularly disastrous because this kind of pressure often disallows the indispensable role of the Holy Spirit in the conversion experience. More time spent with each child in preparation, conversion, and Christian growth is one effective means to correcting our noninvolved membership in Baptist churches. Baptists must stress a theological awareness of the covenant mercy of God toward children to help allay the extraordinary concern of parents of very young children. In many cases parents of very young children become anxious beyond the reason of biblical teaching for their children's salvation. In turn, they convey this anxiety to their children, who, eager to please, respond to what is expected regardless of the child's own comprehension. Baptist pastors are put under enormous pressure by some parents to insure the spiritual birth of their children. How is a pastor to respond to a parent who says: "I live with Johnny and know him well. I know he is ready for salvation, but I wish you would have a little talk with him?" Such "little talks" are often less than ten minutes in duration. If a pastor is hesitant about the child's experience, many parents are outraged. If a pastor confirms this experience, it is taken as an external assurance for the parents' own feelings. Baptist pastors should preach specifically about children, their status before God, and what is the minimum requirement for salvation. If both child and parent hear these particular issues discussed from the pulpit and the biblical basis for all conversion taught carefully, they will have better grounds for making decisions. We must have dialogue among pastors, evangelists, children's

workers, and theologians. In every walk of life there is a tension between the ideal and the practical, the theoretical and the actual. This is no less true among Baptist leaders who work with children. The deep emotional problems of adolescents about their religious experience are forcing Southern Baptists to explore what it means to be saved and to evaluate the age levels and experiences of those converted in early childhood. It would prove very helpful to have statistics showing ages of conversion of those now active in Baptist churches. What percent of early experiences were followed by serious doubts and subsequent conversion experiences? This is not to suggest we should change the biblical norms because of our experiences. In reality all such changes should move in the other direction. One thing we can and should do is to explore the idea of "age of accountability" with concerned and experienced people. Pastors, evangelists, children's workers, and Baptist theologians need to talk together candidly and with mutual appreciation concerning this problem.

The idea "age of accountability" has no definitive, biblical answer because it is not specifically a biblical question. Biblical materials do provide norms for what is required in salvation. A wise course is to correct our practices which do not preserve the full biblical meaning of salvation. The time of accountability is the moment of grace when one is brought to a decision for or against Christ by the Spirit. This moment requires the proclamation of the Word, the drawing of the Spirit, and the yielding of the individual to God. Until this moment is possible, one may leave children in the hands of God. Evidences are that we are holding very young children accountable for too much and not holding adults, who have professed Christ, accountable for enough.

Appendix C Spiritual Gifts*

Tongues, prophecy, and healing are much in discussion today. There is tension within all denominations because of the controversial nature of these "special" spiritual gifts. Persons receiving special spiritual gifts are often called pneumatics, a term derived from the Greek word for spirit. Many pneumatics feel that their special gifts give them capacities and experiences that others, who lack the gifts, cannot know or evaluate. The tension is heightened when Christians, who experience God's presence as an integral part of ordinary life, accuse pneumatics of spiritual pride, divisiveness, and making Christianity merely an expression of emotional fervor. Extremes are present in both groups. Some Christians who experience grace as a part of daily life deny the possibility of the spiritual gifts claimed by the pneumatics. And some pneumatics deny the possibility of one "really" being Christian unless he experiences the special gifts (charismata). The presence of both extremes creates a polarization in the fellowship of the wider Christian community. None of this is new. Nor is the idea of Christianity as an interpretation of man's life versus the idea of Christianity as a specialized form of emotional expression unfamiliar in Christian history. Jesus combined a faith which insisted on a conscious reflection about all of life and an awareness of special moments of communion with God and compassion for men. The biblical materials do not portray him as involved in ecstasy or caught up in overwhelming emotional experiences. The tempestuous apostle Paul presented strong rational arguments for Christianity and advised the Corinthian pneumatics on the basis of his own experience. The writings of John knit together a highly

William L. Hendricks, Spiritual Gifts, "Biblical Insights" (Nashville: The Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1972). Reprinted by permission.


APPENDIX C 253 spiritualized interpretation of life, emphasizing the practical needs of man (life, light, water, bread). Only in Acts and 1 Corinthians is speaking in tongues discussed. Luke's interpretation of the mission outreach of the early churches is the motive behind the Acts accounts. And it is the specialized problem of the mystery religions at Corinth which provides the background for Paul's interpretation of tongues in 1 Corinthians. A survey of New Testament materials indicates that both ordinary and extraordinary experiences are related to the gospel and grow out of the Christian community's understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit. Christian history has had difficulty combining the ordinary and the extraordinary. The church has embraced both the practical and the ecstatic, the "modern man" and the mystic, the rational and the emotional. In fact, this creative tension has helped to keep the Christian community from being, on the one hand, too pragmatic, structured, and legal; and, on the other hand, too emotional, otherworldly, and individualistic. All of this is to add commentary to the biblical insight that the "Spirit blows where he wills" (John 3:8). Our purpose here is neither to enforce a sweet and safe reasonableness on all Christians nor to deny that a highly emotional experience can bring spiritual satisfaction to the participant. My purpose is: (1) to set the entire discussion in the broader biblical perspective of God's giving and his gifts; (2) to suggest an order of priorities, drawn from this biblical perspective, for spiritual gifts; and (3) to point out some weaknesses in current discussion about spiritual gifts. I feel it necessary to express my presuppositions very plainly: The Bible serves as a necessary standard for all forms of contemporary Christian experience. Varieties of Christian experience are inevitable and are to be freely accepted in the broader Christian community. The well-being of the total church and the fullness of its witness in the world are more important than the expressions of any special group or generation of Christian witnesses. Christian tradition holds valuable clues for those seeking solutions to the dilemmas of the contemporary Christian community. Reread and consider these presuppositions carefully. Deep or meaningful agreement and/or disagreement usually arise at the point of presuppositions.



A gift may be defined as something given voluntarily without charge. The presentation of a gift is the act of giving. The motivation behind the presentation of gifts determines whether the thing given is a gift (freely given), a wage (justly earned), or a bribe (given to procure favor). The Old and New Testaments are explicit that what God gives to man is a gift. God gives neither wages nor bribes. When Israel or the church has sought to earn the gifts of God or to interpret God's favor as a bribe for good conduct, a religion of merit has replaced a religion of grace. God himself is the source of all gifts (Jas. 1:17), and men are to respond with gratitude for God's gifts by giving gifts to God in return (Matt. 10:8) and by giving to one's fellowman, especially the poor (Ps. 41:1). The gifts God desires from men are: repentance, humility, and obedience (Mic. 6:8); a good account of the stewardship of all of life which God has bestowed on man (Luke 16:2); and the free response of man in acknowledging the right of God to rule over his creation. This is called "giving glory to God" (Josh. 7:19; 1 Chron. 16:28). God's first gift to man is the gift of life (Gen. 2:7). God's highest gift to man is eternal life through Jesus Christ (John 4:10; Rom. 6:23). God has given man all that is necessary to man's existence on earth (Gen. 1:29) and gave the Promised Land to Abraham's descendants as an inheritance (Gen. 12:7). What God requires of man, the voluntary gift of self, God himself has given to man. God gives himself to man in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 9:15) and in the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). All of these above passages were referred to in order to illustrate that the terms "giving" and "gift" imply a certain outlook about life and a certain attitude which should prevail between God and man. A synonym for this broad view of God's gifts to man is "grace." Both "gift" and "grace" connote the free and benevolent attitude with which man has his life, his being, his destiny from the hand of God. The Christian tradition has always insisted that the gift of life given by God the Creator is brought to its fullness by the gift of eternal life given by God the Redeemer. Yet the Creator and Redeemer are one, namely, the God and Father of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:3). Christians who have not related their salvation experience to their life in general have not understood the deepest of all Christian expres-



sions. Man's life, both here and hereafter, in all of its dimensionsgood and badis to be related to God in Christ. The gift of God is always special because it is the gift of God. This is the usual way in which Christian tradition has viewed salvation and the Christian life. All of life is given value and meaning in the cross of Christ. God's highest gift, salvation through Christ realized by the Holy Spirit, is the touchstone for interpreting all of the gifts of God to man. This broader, biblical setting of the gifts of God is essential for any adequate discussion of the special gifts of the Spirit. Please do not read further until you have made some decision as to how you interpret the terms "gift" and "giving" in relation to God.

Special Gifts of the Spirit In Acts the term "gift" (dorea) is used with special reference to the Holy Spirit three times: Acts 2:38 asserts that the Holy Spirit is the gift of God; Acts 10:45 refers to the gift of the Spirit given to Cornelius and recognized because of Cornelius' speaking in tongues; Acts 11:17 is Peter's account of Cornelius' experience. To these three references must be added the related expression of speaking in tongues in Acts 2, at Pentecost, where the situation implies not ecstasy but the hearing of the gospel in the dialects of the nations represented (Acts 2:8-12). A final reference involving tongues and the Holy Spirit is Acts 19:6. In this passage the Ephesian elders, who had become followers of Christ without the full knowledge of Pentecost, are instructed by Paul about the Holy Spirit and are given an experience in which the Spirit comes upon them in power and they respond with the phenomenon of tongues. These references in Acts to the Spirit and tongues trace the missionary development of the gospel. In symbol, at Pentecost all men hear the gospel in their own language. The universal gospel is proclaimed by a common language of the Spirit. God, who confused the tongues of men at Babel (Gen. 11) because of man's prideful attempts to reach up to God on man's own terms, has now reunited men by reaching down to unify man in a common language of the Spirit. Pentecost is Babel revisited. As the gospel actually moved out into new territory, it was accompanied by a dynamic expression of the Spirit. In Cornelius the gospel comes to the Romans; in the Ephesian elders God sends his Spirit also upon the Greeks. What is implied in all of this is the original power and



pervasiveness of the Christian message as it permeated the earth. In Acts, speaking in tongues is a phenomenon which accompanies the full proclamation of the gospel "unto the uttermost part of the earth." Christians in the twentieth century may interpret and appropriate the meaning of these references in the following ways: (1) the gift of speaking in tongues in its first-century form still may be observed as the proclamation of the Christian gospel moves to new mission territory; (2) these were once-and-for-all occasions which occurred at the beginning of Christian history and they are not to be repeated today; or (3) the power and forcefulness of the Spirit represented in the first century by the gift of tongues still resides in Christian proclamation. However, it takes different forms in our time: in conversion experiences, in joyful reception of the Christian message, or in some unusual manifestation of the working of God in the lives of men enabling them to understand the Christian message. I prefer interpretation number three for the following reasons: (1) Speaking in tongues did not continue, even in New Testament times, as a necessary part of missionary proclamation. Nowhere, other than in Ephesus, was Paul's missionary endeavor accompanied by glossolalia. (2) It has not been the experience of the Christian mission movement, in the broadest use of that term, that glossolalia accompanied the initial preaching of the gospel into new areas. I reject the second interpretation because it tends to deny the ever present forcefulness and power which are characteristic of the Holy Spirit and which accompany Christian proclamation in every age. One thing must be stressed. Interpretation of glossolalia in Acts must be related to the special mission enterprise of the Christian community. There is no validation in Acts for applying the gift of glossolalia as a requirement for all believers or for all congregations. The second body of references in the New Testament to special gifts of the Spirit, in the sense of ecstasy or tongues, is in 1 Corinthians 12 14. The word used as gift in these passages is charisma (hence the term charismatic). In the seaport of Corinth there were many adherents of the Near Eastern mystery religions. These people were accustomed to think of worship exclusively in terms of emotion and ecstatic utterance. Paul frankly recognized this background in these Christian converts. The assumption in the New Testament is that the Spirit of God spoke to

APPENDIX C 257 individual men according to their capacities and cultural conditioning (this is also true today). Given the awareness of this background, we move next to a listing of the basic insights in 1 Corinthians 12 14. (1) The Spirit of God alone enables man to believe in Jesus Christ (12:3). (2) Diversities of gifts are similar to various parts of a human body (12:4-24). (3) The various parts of the body (gifts of the Spirit) must be expressed in harmony and demonstrate a concern for all other parts of the body (12:25-26). (4) All gifts are not the same; each has his own gifts, and this fact is to be recognized and accepted (12:29-30). (5) Some gifts are definitely preferable to other gifts, and faith, hope, and love are the highest gifts of God (12:31 to 13:13). The supreme gift of the Spirit is love (13:13). The gift of prophecy is preferable to that of tongues, for prophecy is controlled speech and edifies the church. Tongues are individual, ecstatic speech, and the heathen neighbors in Corinth may recognize what the tongues-speakers are doing, but the Christian community itself is not built up by such ecstatic sayings (14:14). Private ecstasy, groaning before God, is highly desirable (14:18), but within the congregation intelligible expressions are preferred (14:19). If one does speak in tongues in the congregation, it must be done in an orderly fashion, and a fellow believer should interpret for the congregation what the tonguesspeaker is striving to say to God (14:27-28). Women may not speak in the congregation either intelligibly or unintelligibly (in tongues), for if a Corinthian woman spoke publicly in a mixed assembly, she was usurping man's place and being a bold person (14:34-36). A man may be without the gift of tongues or of prophecy, and he is not to be looked down upon because he has no knowledge of these gifts (14:38). Prophecy is preferable, but speaking in tongues is not to be forbidden (14:39). The rule for preserving the functioning of all parts of the body is that everything should "be done decently and in order" (14:40, KJV). There are three possible ways of interpreting the Corinthian passages. (1) One may insist that the particular gifts, in the historical form mentioned there, and the instructions given in this passage are to be reproduced exactly in Christian communities today. Unfortunately this



would require the silence of women in church as well as the use of glossolalia. It is not consistent exegesis to say that all of 1 Corinthians 1214 applies to Christian congregations today except 14:34-35. (2) One may indicate that this passage of 1 Corinthians, with its historical particularities, applies only to Corinth in the first century. Unforunately, this would also apply to 1 Corinthians 13, which is an integral and inextricable part of the passage. (3) One may indicate that this passage speaks of the consistent vitality and life which the Spirit gives to the churches. However, the specific forms of the gifts listed and the particular shape of the instructions (women may not speak in church) are open to reinterpretation in keeping with the ongoing march of God through history and in consideration of changing cultural expressions. This method seems preferable to me. In this section we have given attention to the biblical norms concerning special gifts and have sought to express how they may be interpreted in the Christian community today. In the concluding section, specific and practical suggestions will be offered for relating the gifts of God to the special gifts of the Spirit and for applying both of these today. At this point, let me ask you to read carefully the biblical passages cited from both Acts and 1 Corinthians and to determine your method of interpreting these passages.

Receiving and Applying the Gifts of God Today

One of the dilemmas raised by the pneumatic versus the general approach to the gifts of God is the method of relating the general gifts of God to the special gifts of the Spirit. The question is one of priority and interpretation. Is the special gift of God the same as, totally different from, or related to God's general gifts of life? Is the "new person" created in man by the Spirit of God, who effects our redemption, radically other than or based upon what man is in his actual life experiences? Two extremes are evident in theological discussion today. Some insist that God's Spirit accomplishes a whole new creation through the salvation experience. One's former life-style, consciousness, and mental orientation of life are changed by the special gift of the Spirit. There is a radical difference in man after conversion. The opposite extreme is the assertion that the meaning of the Christian gospel may be discovered by looking perceptively at the life of secular man. What is needed, from this viewpoint, is not conversion but

APPENDIX C 259 reorientation, not revelation but wider interpretation of the experience of man. I prefer that the gifts of God should be interpreted differently from either of these views. Christian experience is, indeed, a special form of human experience. The truth and validation of the Christian gospel can be apprehended only in faith. Faith (as the ability to believe and the commitment of believing) is the gift of God. Redemption is the reclaiming of a life given to the individual by the Creator. Man is separated from God because of his sinfulness and his need of redemption. When this life is reclaimed, the newness of the man in Christ is not so new that nothing of the old is recognizable. The same body is involved and the heredity and cultural conditioning have not changed. It is a mistake to make such a radical break between creation (God's general gift) and redemption (the highest of God's special gifts) that there is no relationship between them. Such a view obliterates creation by its stress on redemption. It is also a mistake to assert that the natural life of man is so unhampered that it does not need redemption. This view obliterates redemption by its stress on creation. The specialized gifts of the Spirit, such as tongues or healings, are related to redemption just as redemption is related to God's general gift of life to man. One extreme view would insist that speaking in tongues, baptism in the Holy Spirit, healing, or the second blessing are so different from usual Christian experiences as to be of an entirely different kind. The other extreme is to insist that all spiritual experiences must be closely regulated by the norms expressed by the largest group of Christians. This extreme would deny the possibility of any type of spiritual experience which could not be related to and required of all Christians. I must reject both of these interpretations. The pneumatic view does not account for God's continuing and interrelated purpose for man, and the required norm for all persons does not allow for the freedom of the Spirit and the possibility of highly individualized means of being apprehended by God. I stoutly defend that any gift of the Spirit is to be related to God's revelation in Christ and that the Spirit is not bound by any specialized or frozen forms of expression. Several pressing and practical questions remain in the current discussions of "pneumatic" versus "normative" Christians. One must ask the pneumatic why he wants a special expression of the divine such as



tongues? Does he have any choice about receiving the gift? If the experience comes to him without his conscious participation, is this compatible with God's enabling man to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in his salvation? If he is oblivious of what he is doing when he speaks in tongues, why or how does he use this as an expression of his active Christian life? Are all of his experiences with glossolalia related to the rest of his life and do they promote active and ethical conduct in his everyday actions? Does he seek to help others have the gift of glossolalia? Does he feel all Christians must have this gift? Does he intimate that those who do have the gift are spiritually superior or "better" Christians than those who do not? Is he able to integrate this gift (glossolalia) with the worship of his fellow congregation members? If not, does he feel hostility because others do not accept or appreciate his gift? Does he tend to be drawn to others who participate in glossolalia? How, specifically, does he relate his gift to the person of Jesus Christ as portrayed in New Testament Scriptures? Candid questions must also be asked of the "normative" Christian who feels that certain forms of Christian expressions must be excluded from the Christian community. Is his experience and expression of Christian worship appropriately and properly emotional as well as rational? Does he feel threatened by the pneumatic? If so, why? Does he deny that the Spirit of God can, if he chooses, utilize first-century forms in the modern world? Is his tolerance of differences in the Christian community adequate enough to include expressions of worship and service other than his own? Is social embarrassment the real reason for his denial of glossolalia, rather than deep theological conviction? One abiding question persists to all within the Christian community. Are they, as Christians, exercising their giftswhatever their shape, form, or namein the spirit of love? Practical suggestions are in order. (1) Never presume that your individual experience, or that of your immediate circle, is the norm for all Christians in every age. (2) Understand that the biblical materials often contain norms of the first century which may take different forms today. For example, I feel that intense personal devotion and prayer to God are appropriate and adequate ways to express, in modern worship, the essence of what was expressed by the external ecstasy of tongues at



Corinth. (3) Exercise all of God's gifts (general and special) in a spirit of love and understanding. (4) Be guided by the biblical norms as to what gifts are more significant than others. For example, faith, hope, and love are to be desired and practiced in the Christian community much more than tongues, interpretations, and prophecy. (5) Do not disturb the community of faith in order to call attention to yourself. (6) Likewise, however, do not so structure or participate in worship experiences (individual and corporate) that are so stereotyped and frozen as to preclude any spontaneity. (7) Reflect seriously on the fact that all of the New Testament expressions about the special gifts of the Spirit are addressed to the churches and not to individuals. (8) Do not divorce the general gift of God lifefrom the highest special gift of Godeternal life. (9) Do not let some specialized gift of God so control and motivate your existence that you miss the grace of God in the commonplaces of actual existence. (10) Be aware and be grateful that God himself is both the best giver and the highest gift man has known. We have talked about gifts and giving, about general gifts and special gifts. To this we added biblical passages and ways of interpreting them. Finally, we have asked questions designed to put the idea of the gifts of the Spirit into the widest context of the Christian life. Now you must decide about your gifts and how you plan to use them. Hopefully, both your interpretation of the gifts of the Spirit and your application of them will be additive to and not divisive of the Christian fellowship.

Appendix D A Theology for Children*

The text for the morning is found in Matthew's Gospel, chapter 19, beginning with verse 13:
Then there were brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence (Matt. 19:13-15 KJV).

That's a strange passage in a strange place. You see, it's in the midst of an adult world when things are rather sticky. It's approaching the climax of Jesus' ministry. Those who were opposed to that ministry were pressing in upon him from all sides. His own disciples were too concerned about his schedule, and everything was beginning to fly apart. In the midst of all of this, who wanted to be bothered with sticky-fingered little children? They came, brought by doting mothers; they always are, wanting, you know, to shake hands with the preacher or clutch at your white suit or something. And Jesus said, "Why not?" And he took time for them, graciously, individually, blessing them. Whether the placing hands on them is a kind of formal, liturgical act, is highly doubtful. It was probably a ministry of touch about which Jesus was so very good. And they went. And in the midst of it all there's sort of a stirring resentment from everybody; the adults, the children, the workers. The mothers were mollified, but the disciples said, "We've lost an hour from the schedule." The other people said, "We came here to talk to you about credentials and now we've lost fully two hours with portal to

'William L. Hendricks, "A Theology for Children," chapel address, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, April 18, 1977.




portal pay from our busy schedule. We'd appreciate it if you'd get on with the business at hand." This strange intrusion in the midst of the climax of Matthew's Gospel is not a word about child evangelism. It is not a word about the fact that God loves children. God has always invited his creation to come unto himself. You do not need isolated passages in Matthew for that. What it does indicate is that there is something going on for the least of God's creation. In that day and time, if a boat were to sink on the tempestuous Sea of Galilee, the expression would have been "women and children last." In our own day and time, there is that triage effort of "women and children first." In the midst of all of it, of course, the delightful, uncomplicated, simple trust of the children was the lesson Jesus wanted all of us to learn. What shall we do about teaching children? The text tells us, learn from them. And of course we, in our pedagogical patterns, have got it somewhat backwards. This morning I want to talk about ABC's and the Four R's. It's not as simple as it sounds. It never is.

THE ABC's A. Getting Across Religious Ideas

The A is how do you get across religious ideas to kids. Every religion has three parts. They are: the doctrine, the cultic or the worship practices, and the ethics. In seminary we suggest to you that you'd really better know the doctrinal structure. That's what religion all hangs on. At least those of us who teach doctrine suggest that. Then we suggest that you work into a firm and believable worship concept, and then we suggest you go forth and embody this in the world. I want to suggest that if we are going to "teach theology to children," we are going to have to work from the opposite end. We're going to have to go first to those children embodying the kinds of ethical concerns that Jesus himself embodied when he took the time for them to come to him. If you want little children in a modern, urban society to know what shepherding is like, you must take time to nurture and love them, rather than just get their attention while you're explaining to them a picture of a man in a woman's dress with a bunch of little animals around him on a Sunday School card. You'd be amazed what children think! You need to start with ethics and then move to some kinds of worship activities. Those of you who are preaching ministers, as you are rearing



your children, by all means let them play church. And if you can violate the Christian ethic just a little bit, why don't you listen in on what they're doing. You will learn a great deal about the worship of your church. You will learn a great deal about how children are perceiving what you are saying and how what they think is important. I suggest that after we have involved children in worship we get feedback by listening to them at their play. It seems that we will be better able to tell children about the doctrine and the teaching when we have first moved from ethical embodiment of Christian community into desirable and fun worship customs in Christian community. Then we can begin to teach them by moving from ethics, to worship, and finally to doctrine. But the problem with that is, how do you teach people to believe? We have been told that you should not teach children abstract concepts. If you can't teach children abstract concepts, they're never going to be able to move from a level where they are to a level where they'll be able to perform what the society is expecting from them today. It seems to me the best way to teach children these concepts is to give some concrete kinds of expressions and examples and to move from them into abstraction. Then listen to the children for feedback so that you can know if your ideas are being perceived. Let me give you an illustration about how you get abstract ideas across to children. Some years ago, I was often away on weekends, preaching at a nearby town. My family usually remained in their church for their worship, but it was Easter and they were going with me. Our son was three, and he said, "Oh, goody, today I get to see Jesus." He had been told his father was at a town nearby introducing people to Jesus. Obviously, if his father were there and Jesus were there, he could see them both on Easter. We had a religious crisis at our house. Finally, in desperation, I told him what was true but what I am not sure I wished I had said hi later years. I said, "Son, if you're going to see Jesus, you will have to see him through Mother's smile and Daddy's kindness." Well, that was right but it wasn't the best approach and yet maybe it was. How else? How else? B. Believing We are going to have to teach children to believe by enhancing their imaginative capacity. Those of you who have not read C. S. Lewis' The



Chronicles ofNarnia have missed elemental, theological reading. Those of you who do not learn to think in rich, warm fantasies about your ministry and desire all kinds of extravagant things from the hand of God need to temper your realism with a fresh vision. Those of you who are destruction bent on squeezing all imaginativeness out of children when they start thinking of things that are extensions of their own personalities should have your tongues cut out. The one indispensable quality seminarians lack today is imaginativeness. Without it there is no firm and abiding believing. There was a three-year-old grandchild of a woman in my congregation. He was incarcerated with her all day, every day while the parents were in the fields and working at school. He invented an imaginary playmate. I don't blame him. But his grandmother blamed him. And she said, "If you speak of Herman one more time, I'm going to bat you. Now come in here and let's have lunch." She was a good and pious Baptist grandmother. She bowed her head to pray, and when she got through he said, "Grandma, who are you talking to?" We are not going to be able to teach children to believe if we squeeze from them all of the imaginativeness that is required for believing. We cannot come up on Christmas and Easter and talk about marching to sounds of different drums and reorienting all of life by values we cannot see if we're going to tell the kids the slide rule does it all.

C. Continuity And then there is continuity. That's the Cin teaching children theology continuity. There is no theology of children in the Bible; I hate to tell you that. Children are just considered to be a part of the human race. Everybody is considered to be a part of the human race, and the Bible speaks more in corporate terms than in our modern fragmented, individual ones. There is no special theology for children. Those of you who assume there is, the burden of proof is upon you to find it. What is incumbent is that we teach the only theology that is in the Bible, a theology of God's mercy, love, and redemptive purpose for his creation. We must teach this to children, and we've got to begin to do that in such fashion that we do it with continuity. Let me explain that to you with the following example. I observed some years back, and I'm glad these things are in the past and I hope they are in your congregation, that we were stressing with



children through the third grade all of the love, the goodness, the kindness, the mercy, the grace of God's world. We overlarded them with flowers and beauty and blocks and loveliness and goodness and kindness and mercy and justice that poured down through our unctuous words. And then when they got into the fourth grade, the church was in revival and we had the evangelist who came to speak to them. In one fell swoop he reminded them of the torment of the damned and assured them that they were destined for it, and the poor souls longed for the good God of the Primary department. This kind of theological schizophrenia is inappropriate. You need to speak a little bit about the dark side a little earlier and a little bit about the bright side a little later. You've got to have a balance and continuity. I well remember the mother who said to me with great indignation, "I would not let my child come to church on Easter." I said, "Oh, that's a shift, why not?" She said, "Because you talk about death and suffering and pain and all those ghastly things." I was about ready to leave the congregation, and I said to her pointblank and face forward, "Wanda, cut that out. Your child has seen enough death, destruction, and bloodletting on television on Saturday night to save lost China." The church cannot afford to be unrealistic either at one end of the spectrum or the other. So let's begin to provide a theology of continuity. But, how do you do this? I'm glad you asked. It gives me a chance to go to the Four R's.

The Four R's

There is a new book out called One Potato, Two Potato. It's written by children's workers who have observed children's games and have experienced what we can learn from them. Observing children playing games is a fascinating experience. Children can say things in games and play things in games without the ultimate seriousness of having to be afraid if they should make a mistake. When you lose the fun of games is when you make recreation a profession where if you drop the ball, you've lost the club $10,000. That's not a game. That's a profession. And children will open themselves to you in games and you can open yourself to them. You can have theological input in games more so than in any other way. Let me take a few gripping illustrations from childhood games and childhood experiences.



The First RRemind Them About Creation The first R is to remind children about creation. How do you remind a child about creation? You weren't there when God created the world, though children think you're that old. How do you bring to remembrance? You stress the importance of getting started. Every child knows that if you're going to play a game, if you're going to do anything, there is a real significance attached to getting started. That's what God was doing when he brought us into being. He was getting started. Getting started is a perfectly natural experience of a child. He is conscious of getting started all the way from father with the car in the morning to teacher with the class at school, to that marvelous invitation, come to the feast, let's play. It's a beautiful thing to suggest that we can remind children of creation by saying, "You've got to get started." If you're ever going anywhere, it's necessary to get started. Or you can even revert to that marvelous childhood experience that always heralds the beginning of a story, "Once upon a time." Children don't care what year it was. Adam was created on a Thursday, 4004 BC, October 28, eight o'clock in the morning, said Archbishop Ussher. "Once upon a time" is good enough. Children don't sit up and ask, "And what year did you say that was?" The beginning of things is important; and the once upon a time means that it's here and it needs to be enjoyed, not extrapolated and analyzed and cut into little segments. If they've gone to school, they have some awareness of punctuation. Ask Johnny, "What did you learn today?" "I learned that you start a sentence with a big letter." "Hey Johnny, guess what? That's the way God started the world." Now that doesn't necessarily lead to the scientific extrapolation of the bang theory. It's just that you're trying to say to children that something existed before them. There is a time of beginning and the one who is responsible for every good beginning is God. And he starts it in a great way. Now I submit that from this children can be reminded about creation. The Second RRepetition of God's Concern in Providence Children need to be reminded of the repetition of God's concern in providence. The sun comes up, at least in children's terms, and it goes down. Children need to be reminded of this repetition of God's providence and care by things that they like and feel familiar with and enjoy. Teddy bears and favorite blankets are dependable and comforting



things. By their wanting of favored things, you have an affirmation to the children. Guess what? Like your teddy bear is to you, that's the way God's world is to him. He really wants it to be close to himself. The daily routine and schedule is important to a child. Children appreciate knowing what to expect as long as it is done with courtesy, kindness, and a lack of rigidity. There is a necessary kind of schedule, now we do this, and then we do that. Now it's time for this, and now it's time for that. This provides a good analogy to express the seasons of God's concern and relate it to the repetitive regularity with which you do things that are fun and loving and kind. There's a sense in which the very repetitive, regular, acts of a child's life can remind him at every point of the concern and care of God's providence. The very repetition of the good is an evidence of God's concern and love. The Third R Reassurance of God's Redeeming Love The favored R is the reassurance of God's redeeming love. The reassurance of God's redeeming love can best be explained to children in a variety of ways. One example comes from the child's game, hide-andseek. In this game there is the marvelous cry, "allie allie outs in free." Remember when you played hide-and-seek and it was getting dark. Nobody had found you yet and you'd been so clever that you had hidden yourself in a dark place and you were afraid they wouldn't find you, you were remarkably glad to hear the cry, "allie allie outs in free." That means you can come home and there aren't any penalties, and you can feel good about it. What else is redemption besides that? Or going to a big, grown-up establishment and someone peering down at you and saying, "Are you with somebody?" Yes, you can reassure them, "I'm with my father." You know, he is here to care for me, I'm really with somebody. Or that elemental experience of childhood, "Do you know the way home?" All of these. A feeling of location, a feeling of having something to come to. These are concepts bearing a reassurance of redemption. The Fourth RRealization of God's Promises in Eschatology How do you teach a child about pre-trib-rap-pre, post-trib-rap-pre and the seven dispensations thereunto? I hope to goodness you never do. But there are a lot of things you can tell children about the last things. When do you get the prize? When the race is won, when the game is over, That's when you get the prize. Yes, it really is, isn't it? Aunt Martha who died last week is getting the prize for having been so good



to us all this year and all our lives. Getting the prize. Let's finish the game. And somebody has finished the game, or they can't play the game anymore. The illustration I like best is the one I want to leave with you because at this stage of the year even grown-up seminarian children need it. How is God going to conclude the world? "Johnny, what did you learn in school today?" "Oh, we learned how you end things." "How do you end things Johnny?" "Well, you can end things with a dot," that's what they call periods, "or a crook," a question mark, "or a bat and ball," an exclamation point. If you were wise, you would tell a child, "You know, just as God began things with a big letter, he's going to end them." Now you can take your choice, but as for me and my house, I would say God is going to end things with a bat and ball! There you have it; a beginning outline for guidelines toward a theology for children. There are the ABC's and the Four R's.