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Hebrews 5:11-14

04.14.2011

Battle childlike is set up thusly:  Jesus says we should be like children, while Paul comes along and says we need to grow up!  Ready, set…

Allez théologie!

I use this head-to-head matchup construct* to highlight the temptation to see this as a possible example of areas where the faith laid out by Jesus was ‘developed’ and ‘expounded’ beyond recognition by Paul, where the faith professed by today’s Christians bears little resemblance to the teachings of Jesus thanks to the interpretive distortion of Paul and later theologians. 

I think that this passage, written either by Paul or someone heavily influenced by him (such as Apollos), nicely demonstrates why the assumed dichotomy between childlike and childish is a false one.  Rather than seeing innocence and immaturity as the same thing described from different perspectives, I think they’re different enough that you can have one without the other.  Jesus calls us to be childlike without being childish, innocent without being immature.

Okay, fair enough.  Where does this week’s Hebrews passage come into play?  Notice in v. 12 that the author is calling his audience back to the basics principles.  He chides them for being childish and immature, but does not call them to more sophistication but rather back to fundamental principles of the Gospel. 

Additionally, by using the language of ‘skill’ and ‘practice,’ the author is discussing much more than how knowledgeable they are about the ideas of the Gospel.  He wants them to reject the milk of resting in the satisfaction of their salvation and move on to the solid food of working out their salvation in fear and trembling.  He’s talking about activity and energy, doing the Gospel, as it were.†  And as we mentioned on Tuesday, who does Chesterton point to as the icons of energy?  Children.

So there’s no conflict here.  We’re not even looking at two sides of the same coin.  The Pauline argument aligns with and emphasizes Jesus’ argument.  Our author is calling his audience away from the immaturity of know-it-all self-satisfaction (the immaturity not of children but of teenagers) and towards the innocence and energy of a child embarking on a new adventure.

———-

* Quite humorously, I’m sure you agree…

† Not as a means of attaining salvation, of course, but as a means of living it out, embodying the Kingdom in the here and now.

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