A little while ago, the Challister posted some thoughts he’d been working through on why it is that children of believers are more likely to believe the gospel–and in particular, why they are likely to believe at a young age.
Here’s a part of his conclusion:
A person’s spiritual condition, it seems, is much like the condition of a patient with systemic sclerosis. While all humans are born sinful, children have less of the pollution and less of the hardening of adults. While the extent of our depravity cannot change, for from the moment of conception it encompasses all that we are, the degree will and must change. Life without God progresses much like the disease. It causes increased hardening. What was once soft becomes hard; what was once supple becomes stiff and stretched. The longer a person denies God and the more his internal pollution increases, the more hardened he becomes against God and against His gracious offer of salvation.
I agree with what Tim wrote in this post, and recommend you give the whole thing a read.
I was thinking about another reason today, though. The gospel is ‘good news.’ It is good news of the grace and mercy of God. The trouble is that most people in our world find grace and mercy irrelevant anyway, since they don’t need them (at least from their perspective). I think another good reason why children of Christians might well be quicker to receive the gospel is simply that they have categories for thinking of issues like right and wrong, sin and holiness, law and justice.
A little while ago Stacey and I were at a playground with our kids. One of the kids that were there playing had decided to go run and jump in a big mud puddle. He played around in it for a little while, getting himself into a disgusting mess. When the mother / caregiver / guardian / nanny / keeper of some sort saw what had happened, she was upset. She yelled at him from across the playground: ‘Didn’t I tell you not to do that? That’s not a good thing to do!’
I thought to myself ‘That’s not a good thing to do’? Why would she say that? And then it occurred to me: ‘What else could she say?’ Without God, categories that are absolutely necessary for raising children disappear. If that had’ve been Susannah, we would’ve had a talk about authority and obedience. We would do everything in our power to enable her to understand that there is a definite ‘right’ and a definite ‘wrong’ in that situation (obeying being right and disobeying being wrong), that she had chosen what was wrong, and that the necessary consequences would be meted out.
What would we be doing there? Is the important thing mud on the clothes? No, not at all. The important thing is her heart. If we are going to have useful inroads into her heart for discussions about the gospel, she’ll need to be able to understand that there is an authority over her who has established right and wrong, that she has chosen what is wrong, and that apart from grace and mercy, the consequences will be severe.
The Christian parent who takes biblical categories like discipline, instruction, authority, obedience, submission, law, etc. seriously is building avenues into their child’s heart everyday so that someday they’ll be able (by God’s grace) to think through their impending judgement and their need of mercy from the Judge.
Obviously, none of this will guarantee that a child will come to know the Lord. But I think if we’re faithful to use the Lord’s appointed means (discipline and instruction, establishing authority and obedience, etc.), he’ll be honoured by our choices–and what’s more important than that? But in addition, it gives us opportunities to preach the gospel to our children now–before the hardening is finally fatal.