Jesus said that unless you become like little children you cannot enter the Kingdom of God. In Mark 10:15 he says, "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
Hyper-intellectuals on the atheist front perceive this approach as intellectual suicide. They see a passage like this as prima facie proof that religion, Christianity included, is childish. One wonders if these folks have children or ever spent any time around them.
I've got four of them and if Jesus means to include them in the pattern of 'little children' then a revision in our traditional, sentimentalistic interpretation is called for.
First of all, my kids aren't uncurious. In fact, they heckle me and harass me and chase me around the house asking questions. The same questions. Over and over until finally I answer them. "Does 'story' start with 'S'?" "Will you staple this?" "Which city is bigger, Milwaukee or Green Bay?" Faith like a little child apparently does not mean not asking questions. It apparently does not mean desisting from learning about reality. It apparently does mean driving your father batty with endless questions about every minute aspect of reality. (See Luke 18:1-8)
Second of all, my kids are... well, thugs. Oh sure, they are soft and sweet and cute for a minute here and there. The rest of the time they are careening off of walls, smacking each other in the nose, swiping cookies from a sibling, distributing legos evenly across the floor in a twenty square foot area... we aren't talking about innocence distilled, here.
I'm sure that most readers have seen the 'Panzy Jesus' paintings out there, including the one where the soft and angelic children are being carressed by Tender Jesus. I can't say for sure, but personally I wouldn't be surprised if the real picture was a bunch of kids jumping on the shoulders of a muscular carpenter, plucking at his hair and tumbling about in brutal frolicking, all the while with Jesus grinning from ear to ear. Or maybe that's just my house. :)
My point is that if Jesus meant that we were to receive the kingdom like children, I suppose he meant like real children. So what does this mean?
I think what Jesus is driving at here is attitude. Adults are over cynical and over analytic. And why not? If you ask questions long enough eventually you'll find someone who does you wrong- a teacher, a government official, an attorney, etc- and you get burned. Also, adults may continue to ask questions about the world but it often isn't about the pure joy of knowledge but rather information for manipulating things and people. Curiosity doesn't drive their questions; greed and pride does.
My children ask me questions do so trusting that I will not lie to them and that I am in a better place then they are to come up with answers to the questions. Atheists flat out don't trust God (if he exists) and don't like the answers that have apparently been given, acting as though they are in a position to get better answers on their own.
In sum, I think receiving the Kingdom like a little child means asking questions and accepting the answers that are given.
If you are interested in my take on this topic I blogged on it at my own apologetics blog some time back as well. Enjoy.
Anthony Horvath is the Executive Director of Athanatos Christian Ministries. He is the author of the Birth Pangs series and blogs at sntjohnny.com. He is available for speaking and consulting. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.