Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Four Levels of Maturity: Infancy, Part I

Playing with little chubby fingers and toes, listening to the babble of nonsensical words, coaxing out giggles—there is just something about babies that brings smiles and transforms perfectly sane adults into masters of gibberish.

Of course, babies aren’t all fun and joy, as anyone who’s changed a diaper or held a fussy child knows. But we each began as a baby, and as a baby we built the foundation we needed to learn and grow-up, physically as well as spiritually. And since that’s where we started, that’s where our views of the world—and fiction—began.

But before we can understand how our boundaries of fiction are impacted by this stage of maturity, we need to first understand the characteristics of infancy:

Infants are completely helpless. They know little and can do even less. They must be helped in every arena, and if it weren’t for the provision of the adults in their lives, they would die.

Yet, this dependency isn’t all bad. Not a place you want to remain perpetually to be sure, but with dependency comes a deep sense of trust. The concepts of right and wrong, good and evil, even fact and fiction, are completely foreign to babies. What they see and hear and taste and touch are the things that exist. Everything is taken at face value.

That affects how an infant learns in three primary ways:

  • It must be concrete. That’s why board books are about fingers, hair, and nose instead of atoms, molecules and elements.
  • It must be simple. You don’t tell infants about germs and how they make you sick when they pick up food off the floor. You say, “No” or “Don’t.”
  • It must be true. Infants absorb anything new and they have no discernment. If you tell a baby the sky is green, then that’s what they’ll believe even if all the evidence is to the contrary.

Baby Christians have many the same characteristics as physical babies. Fresh out of the darkness of the world, they are helpless, lacking both knowledge and discernment. The line between truth and lies is often blurred for them.

Therefore, this makes them dependent on the mature Christians around them. Is it any surprise then that new Christians tend to take whatever a trusted mentor says as the unshakeable truth, no questions asked?

Finally, Christians new to the faith have a similar learning style as their small counterparts. Abstract theology doesn’t work well—they want to know how does it apply to their life today. And they need it simple: do not steal; do read the Bible. All the reasons why and the gray areas often only confuses and frustrates the infant Christian.

This all leads us back to the original question: How does this affect the fiction boundaries of infants, whether physical or spiritual?

That’s what I’ll be looking at next week.

1 comment:

Rachelle G. said...

Wow. Thought-provoking post! First time visiting your blog - I'll be back!