Engaging views and analysis from outside contributors on the issues affecting society and faith today.

CP VOICES do not necessarily reflect the views of The Christian Post. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s).

Childlike faith vs. childish thinking


It’s pretty common for atheists to accuse Christians of being infantile in our thinking. For example, Richard Dawkins once said that we have our, “Bronze Age myths, medieval superstitions and childish wishful thinking.”

To hammer home their point that Christianity is not a mature, thinking person’s worldview, secularists will occasionally throw out Jesus’ admonitions about the need to be like a child: “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt 18:3).

Needless to say, it’s a big swing-and-a-miss to think what Jesus means by that statement is that we empty our heads of logic, reason, and critical thinking in order to be His disciples. But what does He mean?  

Get Our Latest News for FREE

Subscribe to get daily/weekly email with the top stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.

The Bible’s prescription for right thinking

Let’s be clear about one thing: Scripture isn’t shy about telling us that we need to be mature in our thought life:

“When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things” (1 Cor. 13:11).

“Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Cor. 14:20).

“… we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (Eph 4:14-15).

“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent” (Phil. 1:9-10).

This being the case, it’s very common for believers to come to the faith or remain in it because of critical thinking.

As an example, someone recently wrote apologist William Lane Craig saying, “From the bottom of my heart, Dr. Craig, thank you for your ministry and your ongoing example. Some years ago your published doctoral thesis, 'Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus' was, I believe, the greatest factor in preserving me as a Christ-follower in the midst of a critically oriented curriculum in my secular divinity degree.”

Yep, you read that right — a very sophisticated, long, technical doctoral dissertation kept that guy in the faith. It happens more than you might think (OK, maybe not with reading dissertations).

This type of thing is why it’s important to understand the difference between a childlike faith and childish thinking. The latter is anathema in Christianity whereas the former is a requisite.

Faith like a child

The key to understanding what Jesus means about us coming to Him as children is found in the very next verse of Matt 18: “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven” (vs. 4).

Commentators Hendriksen and Kistemaker provide a good synopsis of what this signifies: “Spiritually, therefore, babes are those who humbly confess their own nothingness, their emptiness and helplessness, and who, being thoroughly aware of their absolute dependence upon the might and mercy of the heavenly Father, betake themselves to him, trusting that from him they will receive whatever is necessary so that, enjoying salvation full and free, they may live lives of gratitude to his glory.”

This type of humility may be why Jesus, speaking of the arrogant religious leaders, said earlier in Matthew: “I praise You, Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants” (Matt. 11:25).

All these things point to the fact that we should possess a trusting faith and humbleness towards God yet be adult in our thinking.

Even so, it’s important to understand that critical and evidence-based reasoning alone isn’t enough to get a person over the finish line to having a childlike faith. There are brilliant people who believe in God and brilliant people who reject the idea of Him.

So why do some believe, and others don’t?

A. W. Tozer provides a good, succinct answer: “The faith that saves is not a conclusion drawn from evidence; it is a moral thing, a thing of the spirit, a supernatural infusion of confidence in Jesus Christ, a very gift of God.”

In other words, some are gifted with a will to believe while others retain their will to reject. This isn’t surprising as people act contrary to evidence all the time.  

This brings us to the simple conclusion penned by evangelist Ken Boa: “There are essentially two kinds of people: those who seek to know God and those who seek to avoid Him — and both will succeed in the end.” 

Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.

Most Popular

More In Opinion