Bedtime theology with my daughter

I am getting practice in ‘bedtime theology’ these days. As I was tucking my daughter into bed tonight we had the following talk about whether or not God cries. Any thoughts for explaining God’s suffering to a four year old?

Hannah: Daddy, does God cry?

Me: Well, Hannah, I know that when God’s Son was on earth he cried because one of his best friends, Lazarus, died. Then, he raised him from the dead.

Hannah: But does God cry now. Not just when he’s sad, but when he’s really happy too. You know, joyful cries.

Me: That’s a great question. I can’t say for sure, but I know this: the same Jesus who cried joyful tears and sad tears  is now in heaven with God the Father.

Hannah: Who else is in heaven with God?

Me: Well, for starters, God the Father, his Son Jesus, and there is a whole bunch of angels who worship Jesus day and night.

Hannah: Do angels ever sleep?

Me: Definitely not, but you need to…now. Goodnight.


On theology, church, & children’s spirituality

I just received two eagerly anticipated volumes on children’s spirituality that kick off some research in a new field. My exploration is triggered by a couple simple but not simplistic questions – as a theologian, pastor, and parent, “What does it look like to think well theologically about childhood and parenting?” and, “How can the Church best serve the perennial needs of parents, families, and children?” I will write more on these titles in the next few months.

Nurturing Children’s Spirituality: Christian Perspectives and Best Practices is a book of collected essays from the 2006 Children’s Spirituality Conference edited by Dr. Holly Catterton Allen. Some of the main themes for this conference included the concept of children and the kingdom of God, views of children in Genesis and the New Testament, and the spiritual needs of children around the world. The essays are divided into three broad categories that explore historical and theological issues, promote best practices for nurturing children’s spiritual development, and look toward future challenges.

The second book, Let the Children Come: Reimagining Childhood from a Christian Perspective by feminist theologian Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore, is more of a constructive theological exploration of childhood and parenting that draws specifically from Christian, psychological, and feminist resources. She explains the purpose of the book as follows:

This book…is about that convulsing ground on which children and caring adults stand: the images that are failing us; the battle over new ways to understand children; the distortions toward which many people, including myself, are tempted; and the attempt to assert healthier, richer moral and religious visions. Reimagining children, I am convinced, will lead to a renewed conception of the care of children as a religious practice (xxvi).

Considering she advances this contention along a “feminist maternal theology” I am quite intrigued to see where this leads her.

Does anyone have suggestions for other helpful resources on the subject (not parenting books but theological works on children)?

Asking Jesus into your Heart??

Why do many Christians say, “Ask Jesus into your heart”?

I understand what this refers to, a relationship with God through Christ, but find it curious that non-biblical and potentially misleading language is the most important language for evangelism among many evangelical Christians. In a recent blog post, Klyne Snodgrass reminds us that neither Jesus nor the other New Testament writers come even close to saying, “Invite Jesus into your heart so you can go to heaven.” He continues,

Paul rarely speaks of Christ in us-at most six times, but at least 164 times he has the Greek expression en Christō or its equivalent, which can express a variety of ideas. Clearly though, being in Christ is a much more powerful image than Christ being in us. Faith is not merely a mental activity. As Sanday and Headlam’s old ICC commentary on Romans put it, faith involves “enthusiastic adhesion” (p. 34). Faith is that which attaches you to Jesus. Nothing less is saving faith.

John’s language focuses too on attachment to Jesus. While he speaks both of Christ being in us and our being in him, he expresses both ideas with the word menein, “to remain.” Christians are people so attached to Jesus that he remains in them and they remain in him. (emphasis mine)

Assuming Snodgrass is right (and I think he is), how could we speak about life with God in ways more disciplined by the Scriptures – ways other than “Ask Jesus into your heart”? For the purpose of this discussion, let’s focus the issue specifically on children for three reasons. Continue reading