Aug 11, 2010

"I Put Away Childish Things"

The challenge of reconciling intellect with faith is what gave life to the Bloggernaccle. Virtually everything that is discussed in various Mormon blogs and forums is somehow connected to this subject.

In Mark 10:14, Jesus says:
"I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
1 Corinthians 13:11 says:

"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."

So what does the scripture in Mark really mean? The standard Sunday School answer is that it means that we need to be humble, obedient and submissive -- like children. But is this what God really wants from us?

Children are innocent. They are smart. But they are also gullible. Their brains are not yet fully-developed and they therefore lack the judgment and wisdom of an adult. They are humble, obedient and submissive -- not because they necessarily want to be, but because they don't have much choice in the matter.

So, while Mark quotes Jesus as saying that readily accepting the Gospel (which for most Mormons is synoymous with the institutional Church) as a child is the only way to get into Heaven, 1 Corinthians seems to indicate that, for adults, thinking or acting like a child is a barrier to the entering the Kingdom of God.

I remember how I used to think as a primary child. It was easy to accept what I was taught because it was never challenged. Am I really supposed to go back to that? And if so, isn't the verse in Corinthians at odds with Jesus? Is the author of Corinthians imploring us to develop our childish minds into something more intellectually mature, or is he simply telling us to give up our childish behaviour and temper tantrums?

How do you apply these scriptures to real life? Are childlike traits like obedience, humility and submission more important than adult traits such as questioning, seeking knowledge, intellectual development, or personal integrity and authenticity?

I recently came across an interesting quote:

"If your theology doesn't match up with your reality, there's nothing wrong
with your reality."


Reality is reality. And sometimes we just can't match it up with our theology. So why the heck do we keep trying?

9 comments:

Drew said...
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Drew said...

I wondered recently whether there isn't a completely opposite interpretation of that scripture in Corinthians. It's always interpreted that it's GOOD to put away our childish self. But perhaps that is what our mistake is? After all, the next verse after putting away childish things describes looking through an opaque glass....

There are so many ways to view what "childish" means. Yes, children are submissive, but they also are notorious for asking "why, why, why?" Yes, they throw temper tantrums, but also ask the most sincere questions like "if we have an extra bedroom and that man doesn't have a home, can't he come stay with us?".

FD, have you ever ready The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz? It's not quite a religious book, but it is spiritual/philosophical. I have found his views to most closely parallel my own, and it was his view of "childish ways" that made me rethink my interpretation of this scripture.

J G-W said...

Perhaps the "receiving the kingdom of God like a little child" means receiving it without defensiveness, without prejudice, without judgmentalism.

Paul definitely wrote with a sense that Christians were in different stages of spiritual development. Paul also talks about the "milk" vs. the "meat" of the gospel. We also see this in the teaching of Christ, when he says "Let those hear who have ears to hear." Christ taught in parables because some were better able to understand and accept the deeper truths of the gospel (i.e., were more mature or advanced).

I don't think Christ's statement about children is meant to imply that we don't need to grow and mature in the faith... But it does suggest that growth in faith requires a kind of simplification, a stripping away of the extraneous, becoming simpler rather than more complex.

Papa D said...

I also look at it as stages of development - being open like a child to new things and ideas when we first discover the Gospel of Jesus Christ (even if that means understanding only what others teach), but then being open to new things and ideas in a "study it out and pray about it" way as we progress in a maturing faith (thus developing our own faith that will be slightly or radically different than that which we accepted initially, built according to the dicates of [our] own conscience).

I see the idea as being open in different ways as we progress and grow - with the underlying foundation being openness to new light and knowledge and growth.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Drew, I haven't read that book but it sounds interesting.

"There are so many ways to view what "childish" means. Yes, children are submissive, but they also are notorious for asking "why, why, why?" Yes, they throw temper tantrums, but also ask the most sincere questions like "if we have an extra bedroom and that man doesn't have a home, can't he come stay with us?".

That's a very good point, and one that I hadn't really thought of.

"Perhaps the "receiving the kingdom of God like a little child" means receiving it without defensiveness, without prejudice, without judgmentalism."

I like that, JGW. I suppose we all think that we're doing that, but very few really are. Maybe no one, in fact. If we don't think we have issues with the Gospel, then we probably have issues with our fellow human beings.

PapaD, yes, conscience is an important thing. I think that very little else in life matters if we don't have personal peace of conscience.

thefirestillburning said...

I really like the point that when theology conflicts with reality, it's usually theology that's messed up. I think that the scriptural emphasis IS on learning to put away childish things, because adult life is so much more fulfilling than childish life.

FireTag

Jonas said...

To put away childish things is to literally put away the toys and grow up. To remain as a child is to remain open, honest and teachable. JGW mentioned too briefly the idea of judgment. Children are very observant, but they are not judgmental about what they observe. The child might ask, “Mommy, why are those two men (or women) kissing?” The answer from most parents is something akin to this: “Because they are bad, sick, and wrong. Turn away, don’t look and don’t ever associate with people like “them”.” Bing! Judgment has just been introduced to the child – one more time. But if we ask a child why those two are kissing we might hear something like this, “Because they love each other. That’s what people do when they’re in love.” One of the problems with judgment is that when we are in it, we are no longer teachable.

To be childlike is also to always question and to listen to the answers to the questions. Children are good at that. Unfortunately as parents, most of us just get tired of the questions, but it seems the Creator of us all never tires of our questions, at least as long as we remain open and willing to learn.

In Gratitude, Jonas

Panjah Jesus said...
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Panjah Jesus said...

Here is a wonderful article on what childish things in Cor. might mean versus what Jesus meant in Matthew regarding child-like faith and submission, for your enjoyment: http://www.sigler.org/Riley/childishthings.pdf