Monday, November 12, 2007

Four Levels of Maturity: Infancy, Part 2

Last week we considered the characteristics of infants, both physical and spiritual. But now comes the big question: how does that affect the boundaries of fiction?

To answer that we must first identify the advantages and dangers of this maturity level.

Advantages: Infants are teachable and absorb everything.

Danger: Infants are very susceptible to wrong information/fallacy.

In short, an infant needs truth and lies clearly delineated. Does that mean infants can’t enjoy fiction?

By no means! Fiction often conveys the truth the most effectively. What this does mean is that the boundaries must be set very strictly and must be supervised.

With a physical infant, this is usually not a problem: parents must pick out the stories, read the book, turn on the video. They select what is appropriate for an infant, and any story that claims red is green or squares are circles will be instantly discarded.

Baby Christians, on the other hand, range from preschool to elderly and most of them are old enough to choose what they read or watch, at least to an extent. This makes them unusually vulnerable to fallacy.

After all, how many films advocate disregard for authority, whether parental or otherwise? How often do novels say it’s okay to sleep around? Yet the Bible says, “Honor your mother and father; submit to authority; do not commit sexual immorality.” But a baby Christian doesn’t know the Bible says all those things and doesn’t have the discernment to pick out the subtle messages they’re absorbing even if they do know.

Therefore, if you’re a baby Christian, does that mean you can never read your favorite authors again or go to a movie?

Not necessarily. But you must do for yourself what a parent does for an infant. You must be very selective in what you watch and read. This may mean you need to shelve that favorite author for a while or abstain from certain kinds of films for a period. In fact, you will probably need to restrict your fiction diet to the stories with a clear Christian message that borders on preachiness (not all “Christian” books have that), just like an infant can only drink its mother’s milk at first. I don’t normally recommend that route (click here for why), but because of the dangers, stricter content boundaries are required for baby Christians.

Also, it might be helpful to find mentors who can keep you accountable in this realm and answer any questions that arise, much like spiritual parents. Take them along to movie, read the same book together, ask for guidance and recommendations. And listen. Allow them to say, “No, this isn’t healthy for you at this time.”

Yes, this is very restrictive. It’s supposed to be; the guardrails are set far from the edge so that if you cross them accidentally, you won’t fall to your death.

So drink the milk, grow, and soon you’ll be entering the freedoms of childhood. But more on that next week.

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