Theology: just for grown-ups?

CHILDREN are natural theologians. They seem to have an almost intuitive sense that there is a God and that He is loving and good. They also have a natural curiosity about life that often leads to their asking the ``big'' questions, such as where did everything come from, and why are we here? The answers we give will largely be shaped by our concept of ultimate causes, and for many, this means by their concept of God. How important, then, that our answers about God reflect His true nature and not human conceptions of Him. It's tragic when a child's often clear, innocent sense of God is adulterated with dogma -- with man-made creeds that portray a wrathful, inscrutable God who is less good, less lovable, and less approachable than any good human parent.

Where can we look to get the clearest picture of our creator? To the Christian, Jesus presents the clearest idea of God. When the Master talked of God, he wasn't just theorizing; he knew God as intimately as he knew his own being. As the Son of God, he was Godlike -- not physically but in the Godly qualities he embodied.

Jesus said, ``Whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.''1 Wouldn't one way to ``offend'' be to give children a false, limited view of God -- a view that has no basis in His true nature?

As we look at Christ Jesus' life and character, what can we tell children about the divine nature? Surely that God must be absolutely and totally good -- good without bad, good that allows no evil in its all-presence. Also, that He is divine Love itself, Love so infinite, pure, deep, and powerful that to be embraced by it is to be healed and to feel utterly blessed.

I will never forget the first time I got a clear sense of God as absolute divine Love, ruling out all evil. I was in grade school, and one morning at the breakfast table, sitting in my robe, I accidentally poured scalding liquid all over my bare leg. I received extensive second- and third-degree burns on my thigh.

My parents, who were Christian Scientists, quickly came to my aid, comforting me and taking care of the wounds. Their tender, solicitous concern and loving care immediately helped quell my fear, but the pain seemed unbearable. I remember saying, ``Mommy, Daddy, make it stop hurting!'' From past experience I knew they would do something that would make it stop. And they did.

While my mom silently prayed, she began talking to me about God's love. She reassured me that He was right there with us and that I could no more be hurt or in pain than He could, because seen in the spirit of Christ, Truth, I was His spiritual image and likeness. I knew this was true from reading the book of Genesisin Sunday School. Meanwhile, my dad called a Christian Science practitioner to ask for her spiritual support and prayer. As my mom tenderly held me in her lap, rocking me and comforting me, my dad sat by silently praying. Despite the pain, I could feel a gentle powerful presence at work. My mom told me to turn my thought to God and to try to hear what He was telling me. In an innocent, childlike way, I did just that. I trusted God's healing power and listened. And I will never forget what happened. The most wonderful feeling of God's love and peace seemed to pour over me like a cool balm. I could literally feel the heat and pain drain away as I became filled with the spirit of God's loving presence.

Within a few minutes, the pain was gone. The damaged skin began to heal in what seemed a dramatic fashion, and less than four days later there was no evidence of the blisters or of the open wounds. There were no scars, either.

As wonderful as this healing was, perhaps the most meaningful thing about it was how it bolstered a young child's faith in the ever-available healing power of God, divine Love. Children need to know that God is real, that He is their loving Father-Mother, that He is the great Physician. As Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, puts it: ``Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need.''2 Jesus loved little children because of their innocence and natural receptivity to spiritual truth. Shouldn't we love them as he did by giving them positive proof of the infinite Love that meets every need? This is a theology for everyone.

1Mark 9:42. 2Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 494. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Suffer the little children to come unto me...for of such is the kingdom of God. Mark 10:14

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