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Rediscovering Child-Like Faith

Adrian Patenaude

My second column for The Optimist, Abilene Christian University's student-run newspaper.

Most people experience some kind of faith crisis in college. Our childhood beliefs are shaken when we are confronted with the brokenness of the world. Here at ACU, we are also faced with the apparent contradictions of the Bible and the fact that many of our churches are built on a delicate structure of cultural assumptions. Everything we thought we knew about God suddenly seems so fragile, like the grown-up equivalent of Santa Claus.

ACU does a better job than many Christian universities of embracing the questions that come with an honest faith journey. The floor is open for intelligent debate as we grapple with this puzzling thing we call “God.” However, we are at risk of believing a dangerous lie: that faith comes from understanding God, rather than trusting him.

We are an academic institution in a western culture where logic is paramount. And while there is nothing wrong with applying our minds in matters of faith, we forget that salvation has never depended on our ability to comprehend God.

Why do we even attempt to understand a being whose very definition implies an inability to be grasped? Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 1:25 that God is far beyond us, “…the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom.” Even the Bible – the inspired word of God himself – does a poor job of explaining. And yet we have such confidence in our ability to reason our way into faith.

For us academic folks, it’s incredibly fulfilling to philosophize, but in 1 Timothy 1, Paul warns us not to get wrapped up in idle arguments and to focus instead on having a “sincere faith.” But in an environment that is so skeptical of fundamentalism, it can be hard to embrace the simple faith of a child. So we act like our beliefs are logical, ignoring the fact that every religion ultimately requires us to be a little bit crazy.

The Bible tells us to have the faith of a child. A child doesn’t have a Ph.D. A child believes in Santa Claus – because faith flies in the face of reason. For all our arguments and all our study, we can’t avoid that step into the void.