6 and counting: Biblical reasons Christians should love children

May 20, 2015

I love newborns. Once children begin to crawl and toddle around, though, they’ve entered a running-interference stage that I don’t really care for. Push through to three, four and five, and we’re back to having a good time. There’s a reason the show “Kids Say the Darndest Things” was so popular.

If you call yourself a Christian, you should love children—whether you have children of your own, still long for a little one to call you “Mama,” have lost all hope of being called by that name, or haven’t given it much thought. I recently came across an article that reminded me of this truth.

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, in an article titled “How Christianity invented children,” recounts the deep counter-cultural revolution Christianity wrought, particularly toward children. In fact, in ancient Rome, it was the Christian community that rescued children from abandonment and exposure. Those who were once despised and abused in a largely accepted manner are now mostly romanticized and protected (of course, we have to take into account the atrocity of abortion and the ongoing abuse of children that, tragically, still happens in our society).

Loving children is deeply rooted in God’s breathed-out Word. It gives us more than enough proof that, if we want to be more like our Father and our Savior, we should pray for a heart that loves these little (and big) ones. Though the following list isn’t exhaustive by any means, I pray it has just enough truth to leave a child-shaped imprint on your heart. According to the Bible, we should love children because:

1. They are the future generations (Gen. 1:28).

In the beginning, God didn’t create adults that spawned into ready-made adults through some kind of bio-genetic engineering process. And he didn’t put a cap on the population. Instead, through the old fashioned (God-designed) way, God said, “Have children.” This is a good thing and the only God-ordained hope we have of carrying on physical generations from every tribe, tongue, and nation, some of whom, by God’s grace, become the spiritual generations who enter into God’s family through adoption (Rom. 8:15).

2. God’s Word extols them as a gift (Ps 127:3-5).

It’s hard to deny the value of children when God just outright spoke it: “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord.” They have great worth because they are created in the image of God—whether at seven weeks, seven days, or seven years old. And the same worth holds true at 17 and 70.

3. Our Savior came as an infant (Luke 2).

How could a child be despised if our Savior was one? Granted, he is the only sinless child who has ever lived, but undeniably his appearance in the flesh as a helpless infant gives us every indication that children are precious, purposeful, and a welcome addition to our lives.

4. They imitate how we are to relate to our Heavenly Father (Matt. 18:3-4).

Over and over again, God’s people are likened to being his children—and that we are (1 John 3:1)! He created us in the womb (Ps. 139), recreated us spiritually (James 1:18), provides for our needs (Matt 6), and protects us (John 17), among other things. What’s more, Jesus, our Brother, tells us we are to be childlike with our Father—humbly and vulnerably running to him with our every need and care, without hesitation. We even have permission to be a little pestering (Luke 11).

5. Christ receives them (Mark 9:36-37).

The ESV Study Bible puts it this way when commenting on Mark 9:36-37: “The attitude of heart [that] Jesus is teaching [about] does not even overlook a lowly child (at times marginalized in ancient societies) but receives, and thereby cares for, such a little one in Christ’s name.” As Gobry mentions in his article, Jesus turned the prevailing attitude of the times toward children on its head. And let’s be grateful he did, for each of us only made it to adulthood because we were given life and, in some way, nurtured as a child.

6. True religion is marked by caring for them (James 1:27).

There’s not a child in the world who, if bereft of caretakers, would not be helpless in one form or fashion. Whether it’s an infant who can’t feed himself or a 12-year-old who becomes vulnerable to trafficking just so she can eat a meal, these helpless ones need our advocacy and tender care. We can’t claim to have Christ and, at the same time, turn our faces the other way when it comes to children. The two are incompatible.

I realize that we can take good things and make them idols. We have been doing this since the beginning. Particularly, in our churches, we can move from loving children to idolizing them, so that, if you don’t have children—whether you’re single, unable to have them, or have chosen not to have them for some selfless purpose—you are seen as “incomplete” or “less than.” While this isn’t right, it also shouldn’t warrant hardening our hearts and writing off children all together.

If we know what’s good for us, children will always be a part of our lives. Giving birth to two children, babysitting for a friend, giving money to feed an orphan, investing in teenagers, or mentoring young parents—all of these are ways we, as the church, can love the ones who are marks of a sweet, blessed heritage from the Lord.

We shouldn’t be naive. Loving children doesn’t come without it’s challenges of all sizes. In my case, loving my friends’ children is often a reminder that I don’t yet have my own. But, at the heart of embracing what God loves is a faith that trusts in His goodness and provision. Our Father has different plans and purposes for his children, but He’s not in the business of giving stones and serpents and scorpions to the ones who unabashedly come to him—even if we are a little pesky at times.

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24