‘Child Theology’ has, in the short history of the term, defied easy definition. It has been used as an umbrella for many types of theological reflection or activity involving children. One of these, associated with the Child Theology Movement, has been the theological endeavour of rethinking Christian doctrine and practice in light of the child and childhood. In this sense, it seeks fresh and constructive thinking about God and God’s kingdom informed by and attentive to children in their various global contexts.
But in another sense, Child Theology is less clinical, and more an attempt at discipleship, a grasping after the kingdom of God, with the child not as the centre of its work, but as offering clues to the divine calling to Christ and kingdom, and as a challenge to radical conversion in the process.
Some who identify with ‘Child Theology’ therefore wrestle with questions like: How might attention to children and childhood better help us to seek and understand and enter into and witness to God’s kingdom? As a result, how might it prompt us to rethink or re-evaluate current understandings of central Christian beliefs and practices? Such attempts recognise that Child Theology is not an end in itself, but a means to the end of knowing and understanding and living with and toward God. To such an end, by Jesus’ own example, the child may act as a pointer or sign.
In this regard, while there are different approaches to Child Theology, to date it has often drawn on the example of Jesus’ action in Matthew 18, in which he called and placed a child in the midst of the disciples when they were having a (theological) argument about greatness in the kingdom of God. It seems here that Jesus intended the child’s presence to point the disciples towards some essential truth or truths they were missing. Bearing this action of Jesus in mind, then, Child Theology seeks as part of contemporary discipleship to ‘do theology with a child in the midst’.