Childish faith vs. Childlike faith

A childish faith is not the same thing as a childlike faith.

  • A childish faith shuts the brain down.
  • A childlike faith ramps the brain up.
  • A childish faith says, “I believe, so I don’t ask questions.”
  • A childlike faith says, “I believe, so I’m going to go find my answers.”
  • The motto of a childish faith is The Santa Clause’s “Just believe!”
  • The motto of a childlike faith is St. Anselm’s “faith seeking understanding”.

A childish faith is one that never grows out of glib, bumper-sticker answers and thinks that wrestling with questions is wrong. It says, “If you had enough faith, you wouldn’t ask any questions” and stays a shallow thing that can’t stand the test of life’s pain or skeptical interrogation. Childlike faith is a trust that says, “I believe God, so I’m sure there are very good answers for my complex questions. I’m going to go find them.” Over time, it becomes a deep-rooted tree. The only way you’ll ever grow into intellectual Christian maturity is by rejecting a childish faith to embrace a childlike one. Francis Schaeffer, prolific Christian philosopher-apologist at the center of the 1970’s Jesus Movement, said

“But someone will say, ‘Didn’t Jesus say that, to be saved, you have to be as a little child?’  Of course he did.  But did you ever see a little child who didn’t ask questions?  People who use this argument must never have listened to a little child or been one.  My four children gave me a harder time with their endless flow of questions than university people ever have. . . . What Jesus was talking about is that the little child, when he has an adequate answer, accepts the answer.  He has the simplicity of not having a built-in grid whereby, regardless of the validity of the answer, he rejects it.”

The Scriptures urge us to “have mercy on those who doubt“, so what we should do with our questions isn’t shut them down. Just as there’s a difference between childlike faith and childish faith, there’s a difference between childlike faith and unbelief. We should approach our questions with an attitude of trust (faith) rather than an attitude of suspicion (unbelief). Here’s the difference…

  • An attitude of suspicion sees something in the Bible that troubles it and says, “See, I knew it. The Bible says that because it’s unreliable and / or morally regressive.
  • An attitude of trust says, “I’m sure God has good and righteous reasons for this that I don’t understand; I need to go find out what they are.

That’s “faith seeking understanding”. That’s questioning as an expression of faith rather than a deviation from faith. We should stand in our faith and examine our doubts rather than standing in our doubts to examine our faith.

I believe; help my unbelief!

Mark 19:24