For the record, children are simply the best. I’m pretty sure I provided some evidence for this statement last week when I shared Giselle Graney’s Triduum artwork. Of course, I have ample reasons beyond her demonstration. One of the reasons can be seen in the Lord’s words from Matthew 18:4, which is when Jesus told His disciples that to be great in the Kingdom, one must bear the humble faith of children.
Having revisited the whole chapter this morning, I think what strikes me is that, unlike adults, children receive information differently. Adults tend to reshape information to fit what they already know. For example, if an adult believes baptism is nothing more than a symbolic washing, when that same adult crosses paths with biblical texts describing it as so much more, he or she will find a way to cram those texts into what’s already believed. That’s called eisegesis. When it comes to studying God’s Word, eisegesis is not humble. It’s self-serving. It imposes preconceived meanings upon a text. The opposite of this is called exegesis. Exegesis means to take meaning from the text.
Personally, I think one of Sin’s definable fingerprints is mankind’s tendency toward eisegesis. Indeed, Scripture poorly read or heard resulting in bad interpretation is Sin’s perpetual revenge.
When it comes to information intake, children don’t necessarily do this. At least not until adults show them how. I think Jean Piaget, the infamous child psychologist, more or less proved it. He’s the one who showed children as the truest exegetes. We see it in their attentiveness leading to adaptability—how they’re always on duty with information—how they can take two pieces of information, and when the pieces don’t fit, they adapt. They let the facts change them rather than laboring to change the facts.
I’m sure plenty of parents have seen this happen in real-time. For example, a child sees a dog for the first time. He learns to call it “dog.” He sees a snake. It’s far different from a dog, so he asks what it is. He learns to call it “snake.” But then he sees a squirrel. It looks absolutely nothing like a snake, so he knows it isn’t one. That’s easy. And it’s little more than honest observation. Still, his categories are limited. He has to put the squirrel somewhere into his knowledge base. Therefore, he notices its fur. He sees it has a tail. He watches it run across the yard on four legs. Only knowing dogs and snakes, he points proudly and says, “Momma! Dog!” When the mom clarifies it’s a squirrel, the child creates a new category based on fact. He doesn’t argue with his mom for the squirrel’s dogness. He doesn’t try to convince her that the squirrel is really a dog trapped in a squirrel’s body. It’s simply not a dog. It’s a squirrel. The facts change the child. He adapts. Piaget showed that adaptation is innate to child development, being more so relative to natural law. Every normal human child does it instinctually.
Piaget demonstrated that there are only two reasons a child would deliberately think a squirrel is a dog. The first is if he was completely ignorant of squirrels, and because he is attempting to grow and learn in truth, he adds the animal to the only available categories he knows. The second is if an adult lied to him, interrupting the child’s ordinary course of development and confusing the categories.
Theologically speaking, it’s there you see an essential distinction between the faith Jesus describes and the kind of faith the world promotes. One receives truth. The other bends it. To bend truth is to change facts. To change facts is to lie. As Christians, we know lies are the devil’s offspring (John 8:44). Unfortunately, all of us are often more than willing to be a part of his family.
Apply what I’ve written however you’d like. There certainly are plenty of things happening in the world around us right now that make all of this worth considering. But as you ponder, be aware of your interpretative process. Are you being shaped by truth or opinions? Is God’s Word imposing on you, or are you imposing on God’s Word? For example, if God’s Word plainly says that each of us is biologically male or biologically female—and God Himself is the author of this grand design—could it be true that any of us were born with or in the wrong body? Going a bit further, is God’s Word to be counted truthful when it labels homosexuality a Sin, or is the Bible’s perspective on the topic suddenly pliable because the issue hits close to home? For that matter, is adultery a Sin? Is gossip a Sin? Is theft a Sin? Or are these activities somehow made justifiable when my spouse is inattentive, or I have a juicy scoop on someone else I feel needs airing, or I don’t have enough money?
God calls these behaviors “Sin” because that’s what they are. God’s Word does not lie. It gives you the truth. A squirrel is a squirrel. A dog is a dog.
Of course, the Sin-nature shows itself to be powerfully eisegetical in each of life’s tempting circumstances. It despises truth, and so, it imposes itself during information intake. In my experience, I’d say it doesn’t even want to know the truth. Truth is dangerous to its narrative. And if the truth does arrive on the scene, the Sin-nature will try to manipulate it, doing what it can to fit truth’s facts into its deliberately unadaptable categories. That’s unfortunate because, in the end, and as has been said, a squirrel will never be a dog. A male will never be a female. Adultery will never be Godly. And what’s more, at the divine conclusion of all things, the One who established the truth’s borders won’t be found adjusting any of them for individuals (Romans 2:11). Truth will be truth. Sometimes it will be hard. Other times it will be easy. But either way, it’ll always be what’s best.
I ask the Lord daily for a faith that knows and accepts this. Thankfully, He accomplished everything necessary to answer my prayer before I even asked the question. It was a strange truth He gave. Through mortal eyes, it appeared to be a criminal’s death. But God’s Word defined it differently. The Word imposed itself upon me, establishing an entirely new category. The man hanging on that cross was no ordinary man. He was God’s Son. He was not being punished for His own crimes but mine. And by this brutal event drenched in everything dreadful, I have been given that which is most wonderful: eternal life. By the power of the Holy Spirit given through this imposing Word of God, He continues to make me His trusting child—a Christian adult desiring to be in complete alignment with everything His loving Savior says is true.