The Child in Christian Thought

This book will soon have graced our shelves for 15 years. Many have been written since which explore in even more depth its key themes. So why review it now? Well, for one thing many may not yet have come across it. But there are some other reasons why you may want to set aside some time to read it.

The Child in Christian Thought
Edited by: Marcia Bunge
Eerdmans  9780802846938

: Dave Roberts. Dave is the editor of the Aim Lower Journal. He has 20 years experience in children’s ministry training and helped establish Europe’s biggest annual children’s ministry training event.

It makes you think
The various chapters are written by different Christian scholars and cover a wide diversity of important figures, from the early church fathers right through to figures from the last 100 years. As you read through you get a very clear picture of the roots of debates about Christian discipline and nurture that continue to this very day. 
 For me all of this was formative. I help facilitate training for those who work with children and had been running on instinct much of the time until I read this book. What was great about it was that it made me happy and sad. You will need to be ready to feel the same.

It is not a book of ready answers and polite theology. Some of the of the people you meet in it’s pages you will not like, others will help shape your life and ministry. This is one of the strengths of the book. It helps you refine your own thinking, discover new directions for reflection and research and really start to explore what the long term foundations for your work are.

It was a symbol of a new era 

The book should also be seen against the backdrop of wider developments in the Christian world. As the new technology of the internet and email quickened the pace of communication, global movements of thought and action could spring up and find influence much quicker. 
 While there had been reflection on children and mission in previous generations it had been muted in recent times – but began to gather pace in the late nineties. with popular movements such as Sidewalk Sunday School and multiple family orientated projects emerging into view. Another group called the Child Theology Movement would soon emerge.

It was the right time for a book such as this. Many of us wondered how we could help change the understandings of church leaders, Bible college principals and our own staff about child spirituality, mission to children and the biblical patterns which underpinned these insights. Passionate pleas for action can open the door for change but the hard work of looking at scripture and church history has to be done and then applied to the current situations in our towns and districts.

This book suggested that this was possible and that the fruit of that reflection could be substantial. It made change plausible and suggested to the door keepers of church life that there was substantial theology to be wrestled with and lived out in our local churches and family homes.

Who will it help? 

It is a 527 page book. It is not for the faint hearted or the time poor. Your local church volunteers would not thank you for making it required reading. 
 It also requires a certain security about one’s own day to day theology as one is introduced to divergent views of the human condition and the spirituality of the child. The readers who may benefit will be highly motivated people who lead projects or ministries or hold responsibility for children within denominations. It will also benefit those undertaking study courses with respect to children and family ministry. There are some books that echo through the decades, rich with insight for new readers. This is one of them.