Childlike is precisely what a child should be. It is, in fact, the highest estate to which a child can ascend. It signals a deep, implanted wisdom: “This is my Parent who understands what I do not, and so I will trust—and grow wiser.”
Childish is another matter. Childish behavior has been threatening to destroy our race since the beginning. In Genesis 3:5, a serpent approaches the childlike Adam and Eve and says, “If you eat this forbidden fruit, you will be able to discern good and evil for yourselves and will no longer need your Father.” Tragically, our primal parents exchanged childlike for childish.
And we have followed in their footsteps ever since.
In Exodus 4, Moses brings glorious news to his fellow Hebrews: “Our divine Parent loves us and has made a way back to Him!” Together they form a Covenant. But before long, they begin perverting that Covenant, once again choosing childish over childlike, insisting on going their own way.
Within the last few chapters of Judges alone: a wealthy man “buys” a priest and offers sacrifices to an idol in an effort to manipulate God; then the Danite tribe steals that priest and murders their neighbors, expanding their “promised land” (into an area not promised). Next, that same priest visits a Benjaminite city (Warning: graphic biblical imagery). The men of the city demand to have sex with the priest. The priest’s host says, “No, that’s a sin! Take my virgin daughter instead.” But the priest nobly offers his concubine, so they gang rape her throughout the night. In the morning, after a good night’s sleep, the priest finds her dead. The Benjaminites refuse to repent of this, so the other Hebrew tribes go to war with them. So many Benjaminites are killed that they are on the verge of extinction. Solution? Find wives to replenish their bloodline. So a Hebrew city that failed to participate in the war is completely wiped out, except for 400 virgins who are given to the Benjaminites. The book of Judges ends with the line, “In those days, everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” God save us from our versions of “religion.” God save us from us!
In my twenties, I began moving away from my former atheism and cobbling together “my own religion” (how many times have you heard someone say that?). I read all sorts of religious and philosophical texts—everything but the Bible, which I considered shallow (I’d never actually read it), and did what was right in my own eyes.
Then one night, as I wobbled home drunk after a party, a Campus Crusader began talking to me about our Father’s unremitting love. I admitted I liked the idea of a Father-concept and said I might even consider adding it to my religio-philosophical construct. But lying in bed that night, I kept thinking,
“What if I don’t need a Father-concept? What if I need a Father?”
To read Part Two, click here.