» » The Mystery of the Child (Religion, Marriage, and Family (RMF))
eBook The Mystery of the Child (Religion, Marriage, and Family (RMF)) ePub

eBook The Mystery of the Child (Religion, Marriage, and Family (RMF)) ePub

by Martin E. Marty

  • ISBN: 0802817661
  • Category: Christian Living
  • Subcategory: Bibles
  • Author: Martin E. Marty
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Eerdmans; 1st edition (April 23, 2007)
  • Pages: 269
  • ePub book: 1755 kb
  • Fb2 book: 1984 kb
  • Other: mobi lrf docx lrf
  • Rating: 4.7
  • Votes: 105


Much of today's writing on children treats the child of any age as a problem or a set of problems to be solved, effectively reducing the child to a complex of biological and chemical factors, explainable in scientific terms, or regarding children as objects of adult control. In contrast, Martin Marty here presents the child as a mystery who invokes wonder and elicits creative responses that affect the care provided him or her. Drawing on literature as new as contemporary poetry and as old as the Bible, The Mystery of the Child encourages the thoughtful enjoyment of children instead of the imposition of adult will and control. Indeed, Marty treats the impulse to control as a problem and highlights qualities associated with children -- responsiveness, receptivity, openness to wonder -- that can become sources of renewal for adults.The Mystery of the Child represents a new tack for Martin Marty -- universally respected as a historian, theologian, and interpreter of religion and culture -- but displays the same incisive, erudite quality marking the fifty-plus books and thousands of articles that he has previously written. Marty's broad, thoughtful perspective will inspire readers to think afresh about what it means to be a child -- and to be a caregiver. This book is sure to claim a wide readership -- parents, grandparents, schoolteachers, theologians, historians -- engaging anyone wanting to explore more fully the profound realm of the child.


Gadar Gadar
This is an excellent book for people concerned with the development of children, especially those who are Christian. The book does an excellent job of characterizing how viewing children as a 'problem-to-be-solved' can be limiting in how one cares for children. It has helped me look at my own relationship with my children and seeing my children in a more complete context. In addition to opening up the way one cares for children, it also advances a theology of hospitality through the lens of how Jesus saw children. The core ideas of this book are easily extended beyond caring for children to caring for anyone -- after all, we are all children.

I taught an adult Sunday School class from this book. It took about 8 weeks to complete. Most of the adults in the class have young children. The book's ideas stimulated a lot of excellent discussion, but it is a more difficult book to use for a Sunday School class setting because of the density of the material -- expect to spend some extra time distilling the ideas.
GawelleN GawelleN
Outstanding resource for thinking about children and caregiving with the child as a mystery with depth which needs to be explored rather than as a problem to be solved.
Murn Murn
This book is one of the results of a research project at Emory University School of Law entitled "The Child in Religion, Law, and Society". This book is unlike the vast majority of books that deal with childhood, children, and parents. It is not a how-to book for parents, and is sharply critical of approaches to children which take them primarily as problems to be solved. The author, Martin Marty, is a historian who argues that while there are problems to be solved regarding children, we should see the child as a mystery surrounded by mystery. It is sometimes difficult to cash out what he means by this, but then that is the nature of mystery I suppose. I think he is onto something very important here, insofar as when we reduce children to their biological, chemical, and physical components, Marty rightly points out that we will miss out on other important factors that make up the child and which should inform our approach to children. Children are biological, chemical, and physical beings, but like other persons I would argue they are also something more than this. It is a mistake to believe that scientific language can fully account for human nature, including the nature of the child. One important implication is that when we understand these things, we no longer see the child as something to be controlled or as something that should often be controlled, but rather as something to also be cherished and enjoyed. This sounds like a cliche, but this is one of those instances, I believe, in which what seems like a platitude to many is more than that. It is a significant truth that should guide our personal, social, and political treatment of children.
Kiaile Kiaile
The objects of church historian Martin Marty's affections these days are not philosophical abstractions--they are real children, playing on swings, kicking soccer balls, and trying the patience of their parents.

Children are "the great disrupters, the great interrupters, who humanize us along the way," says Marty, who has crafted his most recent book, The Mystery of the Child (2007, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.), as an antidote to the ubiquitous "how-to" guides for caretakers.

This profound, inspiring examination of the child is the culmination of Marty's stint as co-director of Emory University's Center for the Study of Law and Religion's (CSLR) three-year research project, "The Child in Law, Religion, and Society." It is also part of an eleven-book series on "Religion, Marriage, and the Family," edited by Don S. Browning, Alexander Campbell Professor of Ethics and the Social Sciences Emeritus at the University of Chicago Divinity School, and John Witte Jr., CSLR director and Jonas Robitscher Professor of Law at Emory.

Most writing about children, says Marty, begins with a particular problem that needs to be solved.

"The child is undisciplined, abused, autistic--whatever the case may be, the child in some strange way is reduced," says Marty, a great-grandfather as well as Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago. "I propose the alternative: that children are mysteries who invoke wonder. Problems have potential solutions, but mysteries don't. The deeper you go, the deeper you go."

As co-director of the child project, Marty began to reflect upon not just the ways children are defined under the law and through religious writings, or how they can best be protected or educated, but on the very essence of the child.

Children, he concludes, are "something more and other than the combination of parental genes--indeed, they are constant sources of inspiration and renewal."

Marty admits to drawing upon his own broad experiences as father of six children (including two who were adopted), nine grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren, although he steers clear of providing personal childrearing anecdotes.

Instead, he uses references from contemporary poetry, religious scripture, philosophy, Christian ethics, psychiatry and biology--as well as heavily quoting other writers who "behold the child as a subject of intrinsic worth"--to construct a wide-ranging exploration of the qualities of responsiveness, receptivity and openness that characterize children's interactions with the world.

Marty urges caretakers to approach children with appreciation and respect instead of as objects to be controlled; he argues for the thoughtful enjoyment of children rather than the arbitrary imposition of adult will. "This is not a book against discipline," Marty emphasizes. "It is simply against beginning with the idea, `My job is to discipline the child.' Don't do that simply by the fact that you're bigger, older, and more powerful."

Education of the child, he says, should be based on imagination, creativity, and playfulness. Children are intuitive philosophers who often ask deeper and more profound questions than they are given credit for: "When a child asks `What's behind the sky?' and you say, `Oh, isn't she cute,' or `That's a dumb question,' you start killing it off."

Marty, who is approaching 80, also encourages adults to maintain a childlike attitude and sense of wonder about the universe. "Aspects of having been a child--or of keeping alive through the senior years something of the being of the child--should color all the phases of later life," he says.

Parents must take special care not to view their children as a hedge against their own mortality, whose lives they can shape and safeguard and preserve. The child, like all else in life, is temporal, and will grow and change, encounter chance and accidents, and "will someday disappear without a trace, be this day in a decade or after millennia."

Marty pauses in the interview to look out his studio window and comment on the sun glinting off Lake Michigan, a moment that is soon gone and will never come again. "You cannot control the mysterious," he writes. "It will always be finally beyond reach."

The only thing to do, he maintains, is to appreciate the child here, in the moment, as she swings, arching her way up toward the fathomless sky.


The Center for the Study of Law and Religion is home to world class scholars and forums on the religious foundations of law, politics, and society. It offers expertise on how the teachings and practices of Christianity, Judaism and Islam have shaped and continue to transform the fundamental ideas and institutions of our public and private lives. The scholarship of CSLR faculty provides the latest perspectives, while its conferences and public forums foster reasoned and robust public debate.
Downloaded Downloaded
I am used to reading a different bype of book from the author and have come to enjoy that type of book immensely. this was a switch and a difficult read for me. The thesis of the book has ably been covered by others. It was worth the effort that it took me to get through the book. Others who are unfamiliar with this type of reading will find it a bit difficult but rewarding.

J. Robert Ewbank, author of "John Wesley, Natural Man, and the 'Isms'"
LivingCross LivingCross
This profound and illuminating book should be the "bible" for anyone who has care for children. The theme of the book, evident on almost every page, is that, instead of seeing a child as a 'problem' faced with problems, she be seen "as a mystery surrounded by myatery." This book is not a hand book for solving problems faced by children, but a guide to seeing and exploring the mystery of the child, focusing on the child for her "distinctive ways of being regarded, experieicng reality, and responding." It will help the reader be open to the mystery of all people.