You must have faith like an infant

10 Mar

“At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children [nepiois].  Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. (Luke 10:21, along with 18:16 [brefe], of course)

These little ones are the height of foolishness in the eyes of the worldy-wise.  Despite Jesus’ absolutely jarring words, they are, quite frankly, utterly unworthy our time, because even theologians want to hang out with the philosophers.  And yet, we can see that infants wonderfully reveal both human nature and the instrumental nature of faith in God – and they do this better than anything.  Though infants, like the rest of us, are filled to the brim with original sin, they illustrate marvelously not “trust and be destroyed”, but rather “trust or be destroyed”, i.e. human relationality.  This is human nature – we can’t not trust other persons. 

Further, infants illustrate absolute receptivity.  They are undiluted un-discernment.  They are not self-conscious and do not make conscious choices – they are not picky and choosy at all!  Show me a discerning, non-conformist infant and I will show you, I don’t know, a female Orthodox priest.  Certainly, as they grow older, they *start* to make conscious choices (as my youngest son has been doing for a while now) and yet this is only gradual: “…before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right” (Isaiah 7:16). 

Lutheran theologian Norman Nagel’s dictum “one must be willing to be nothing but given to” is more true of infants than anyone.  In sum, infants are not even “willing” to do anything, but simply receive faith by hearing.  Further, the Word of God does not meet with any rational understanding from the infant, and likewise, its capacity for a “natural” trust in God was shattered at the fall, taking God’s image with it.  With the infants inborn lack of original righteousness, it now desperately needs someone else’s abundance – namely, a Gospel Word – to create in it true faith and understanding.  God uses one’s neighbor to create that trust ex nihilo again. 

On the contrary, on the other side of this fallen world, there will be no lack, but a simple giving and receiving of abundance for abundance.


Posted by on March 10, 2009 in Uncategorized


5 responses to “You must have faith like an infant

  1. nathan

    March 30, 2009 at 2:55 pm


  2. Jason

    April 4, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    Nice post. I’m not sure I’ll have time to interact with it from an Orthodox perspective as I’ve been busy interacting with Fr. Jonathan on faith from a Lutheran perspective! I hope this note finds you doing well.

  3. FrDaniel

    May 24, 2009 at 4:19 am


    Thank for the heads up on your blog. I am interested on your thoughts as to why an infant may or may not be able to receive communion as they are able to “receive faith by hearing”. This is not a trick question, but an honest inquiry.

    • infanttheology

      May 26, 2009 at 12:36 pm


      Thanks for the note. This is something I would enjoy studying more. My thought is that infant communion should be encouraged, although I would like to hear the best arguments from both sides. It seems to me that Paul’s words in I Corinthians about “examining one’s self” are not there in order to exclude infants! Context is important here – I think as regards “examining one’s self” this is something that we are to “naturally” grow into. As the infant’s faith in God grows it comes to more fully entail the elements of assent and knowledge (in addition to trust).

      Thanks for the inquiry.

  4. samwise57

    January 25, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    Luther was (and so we should be) all about being as an infant who trusts ever in his Everlasting Father to produce Christ in us–the Hope of Glory!

    In the Lamb


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