Seed for the Harvest
Children in the Image of God
A recent study tells us that babies know the difference between good and evil at six months. Many people find this interesting because it challenges the long-held assumption that children are born as ‘blank slates,’ with their morality waiting to be formed by parents, experience, and society.
According to the author of the study, “A growing body of evidence suggests that humans do have a rudimentary moral sense from the very start of life.” It appears, in other words, that the ability to distinguish between good and evil is hardwired at birth.
This study, while interesting, does not reveal anything essentially new. It simply has observed and measured what’s been true from the beginning. All people born in this world come with an awareness of right and wrong written on their hearts.
Why is this so? Because every human being is made in the image of God.
Being made in the image – or likeness – of God means various things. One of which is that babies are born with a certain moral understanding, whereby they are able to discern between right and wrong from the very beginning of their lives.
This ability, of course, is imperfect, for a couple of reasons.
One reason is that babies are born into this world with the fallen nature of their father, Adam. So, even though children come into this world in God’s image and bear a moral compass, that compass has been made defective by sin. The other reason that babies cannot discern perfectly between right and wrong is that they need opportunities to learn and mature.
How we understand the moral nature of children has significant implications for how we approach them.
If children come into this world as ‘blank slates,’ they are often left to themselves to find their way or are manipulated for the purpose of another. The sad result, in either case, is children who are morally impoverished.
But, if we see children as born in the image of God, we can understand the need to bring them up in a direction consistent with their hardwired design. The way this direction is followed is by nurturing children in the grace of God to overcome the effects of sin, and providing them with godly instruction to show forth the path of righteous living more clearly.
From this, it becomes obvious that children – especially in terms of their moral development – cannot be brought up in a neutral fashion. They must be reared in a definite direction under God if they are going to mature morally. This point is one that parents and educators need to give further thought to because it bears on how they fulfill their own teaching and leadership responsibilities.
Even though the recent study about babies does not reveal anything essentially new, I’m still thankful for it. It brings to the fore truth about children that needs further consideration in our day.
Let us marvel at the way God has created children in His image, and let us bring them up in keeping with His design.
Questions or comments? Email davidjbostromATgmail.com or visit his blog at dbostrom.wordpress.com.Weather Data for Sunday, May 16th, 2010
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