Re-examining Child-like Faith
Questioning the Mystery of Christianity
I first experienced ‘Christianity’ through a ‘charismatic’ church’s ‘sunday school’ program in Singapore – where a traditional, Asian cultural influence existed.
Christ is not ‘Christian’?
I distinguish my experience of ‘Christianity’ from my experience of knowing Christ – the man who once walked on this earth, who claimed to be the Son of God, and whose life, teachings and works are recorded in many historical texts (even that of opposing faiths).
He also claimed to be part of a Trinity – He was the Son, or God in human form; there is a sovereign, omnipresent, omnipotent God; and there is a Holy Spirit – God dwelling within us, in spiritual form.
The Real Christ
The recorded work of Christ is amazing – if one would read it, and believe, and contemplate on it. It speaks of both a divine power, and immense, unconditional love. It is the very power of Life itself. And not of a mere component of life – including family, relationships, professional and financial success.
And he claims that this Life, this Power, this Love, is given to us. It’s a compelling reason to believe everything else that he said, and pointed to. On top of that, he explains that those who are not ‘redeemed’, who do not truly believe (and act in accordance with their belief) will be cast into hell for eternity. There seems no good reason – not to follow.
The Apparent Distinction Between ‘Faith’ and ‘Religion'
At the same time, several religions debate over a multitude of issues on faith (there is a distinction between ‘religion’ and ‘faith’).
We are subtly and profoundly divided by language; and we selfishly resist different perspectives – because we think that ‘difference’ is ‘opposition’.
We forget the parable of the four blind man feeling an elephant.
In this article, for ease of personal reference, I will refer to Jesus Christ – the man and Son of God that the English Bible referred to; in it’s (the Bible’s) interpretation of historical events.
When Following Seems an Impossible Task
Jesus Christ presents a very compelling reason to believe him, and to follow him (as he commanded). Yet the demands of following him seems near impossible to follow (do not even think sinful thoughts? Give up everything to serve the poor and needy? Everything?)
And so begins a life of searching for exceptions.
At the same time, the mystery of an invisible, sovereign God seems all too hard to believe. What’s spiritual? What’s emotional?
Combine the impossibility a supernatural God, with the division between AND within religions – and you have a good reason NOT to follow the teachings, and the way of Christ.
I often try to reason that God does not truly exist, that nature was naturally splendid for no apparent reason, that Christ was (and is) the most profound and elaborate conspiracy.
But my finite mind is incapable. And for all my faults, at least I recognise in part – my fallibility.
And so I try to believe.
In my attempt to believe (and know), I am troubled by the cost of inquisition. I simply don’t want to have to find out everything for myself. The mystery and complexity is too much to examine. I have a wife, two children, family and friends, a company to lead, and so many other things I love to do with my life.
And in my Asian-influenced, charismatic sunday school, we were taught to have “child-like faith”. Several biblical verses seem to back this commandment. And the implications were – “just believe”, “have blind, unquestioning faith”, “come as a meek and lowly child”.
Blind, unquestioning faith – Check.
A life of unsatisfied answers – Refer to the point above.
Blind, “faithful” obedience to an intellectually challenging faith – was preferred to a lifetime of skeptical questions. Even the word “skeptic” sounds oddly unpleasant in the English language.
“Have child-like faith.”
It was easy to believe, it was easy to teach, it was easy to relate to others, it was easy to form a church. Not having that version of a ‘child-like faith’ was going to be too costly, and too uncomfortable for everyone.
But for me – it was the root of a conflicted belief system.
Until this morning.
I was speaking with an artist in the resort (I am currently on a detox retreat in Phuket). And I was sharing with him, the work I was doing on The Commissioned.
We spoke about art, artists, curators and galleries. When we started speaking about the expertise of curators, he said something that jolted me.
He said that it’s not the curators that are the smartest… “it’s the children in the museums that are the smartest… they keep asking why, why, why, why, why…”
And it seemed like some scales fell from my eyes. God calls us, not to blind obedience to what we already know, but to continual seeking.
And yes, it’s costly. And we may not find a reward at the end of the journey. But what if we do? And what if this journey is the reward? The freedom – as a child – to keep asking ‘Why?’
Part 2: When Children Fight
Am I a Christian?
When people ask a question concerning my faith (I say “a question concerning”, because there are many ways to ask the same question) – I tell them that I believe in Christ, and I aim to follow his ways, and his teachings… along with other complementary teachings.
I don’t often say that I’m a Christian, or not.
I do, however, attend a Christian church, and I belong to many communities of people who choose to identify themselves as ‘Christians’.
We share many similar beliefs, and a common theme in our set of beliefs – is the acknowledgement that there is a God, Jesus Christ (as referred to in the Bible) truly existed according to historical record, and we desire to learn his ways, and follow him.
This (the above) is my statement of faith.
But I resist the labels: ‘Christian’ and ‘Christianity’.
There is a distinction between a ‘Label’ and a ‘Statement of Faith’.
In the biblical New Testament, “the believers were called ‘Christians’”. ‘Christian’ was a label given to them. It was not their statement of faith.
I resist the ‘Christian’ label – mainly because, unfortunately, the Christian Church is marked by divisions. Divisions are created with labels – Baptists, Charismatics, Methodists etc.
There is also a distinction between ‘Difference’ and ‘Division’.
There is a beauty in differences – it creates curiosity… it nurtures inquistion… it encourages child-like faith – continual seeking and questioning.
There is no beauty in divisions. There is pride, hate and fighting.
Have you seen kids at play? They love each other when they learn together. They build one another up.
But before long, they start to form opinions. And when unguided (as they often are), they identify themselves with those opinions. And they argue. And fight. And build walls.
There is sadness, when as parents and adults, we observe this change in behavior. But the tragedy lies in our constant forgetting that – we, are no different. We all do this – but with more severe consequences.
While I have many close friends who share the same statement of faith, and who are often, with me, labelled ‘Christian’ – I also have many good friends who choose different labels or statement of faiths.
Muslims, Buddhists etc., and I enjoy their company very much. I love them, and I have a deep appreciation for them. They too, seem to be seeking the very same thing, only different in a way that seems constrained by language and culture.
But sometimes, with labels and stories in the media, I fear others who share similar labels to these friends. And that fear is divisive.
Somewhere in the Bible, however, is a statement that claims “perfect love drives our fear”.
Part 3: The Original Sin
I’ve written a lot more than I originally intended, and while writing, I thought about many things – from what I’ve just written, to the tragedy of Man, the sinful nature of Man, and the evolution of the human race.
And I thought about the Garden of Eden, and the original sin.
We often speak of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. Why didn’t they simply obey God? Why did they doubt God’s intent for them, and “resist the Devil”?
Was it simply all about possessing ‘a child-like obedience’?
And now I wonder… What if in child-like inquisition, Eve had questioned, and had asked the serpent – Who are you? Where do you come from? And why are you telling me this?