A Reexamination of Pastoral Theology and Practice Concerning Children and Conversion
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This dissertation argues that a pastor can confidently and effectively counsel a child in the matter of conversion. Chapter 1 deals with the formative experiences of the author which led to the study, as well as with an examination of existing writing on the subject. A survey of current literature reveals that while many authors deal with the subject of children and may make vague references to their souls or their salvation, very little exists that would inform a pastor on how to proceed when counseling a child through this time of decision. Chapter 2 focuses on the scriptural passages that provide the foundation for this study. The study is based primarily on four biblical texts: Matthew 18:1-14, Mark 5:21-43, Mark 10:13-16, and 1 Corinthians 7:12-14. These texts provide confirmation that indeed children are spiritual beings who have the capacity, as drawn by the Spirit of God, to be converted. Having established that, the study then turns to the cognitive and social development of the child, which is the topic of chapter 3. Recognized experts in the field of child psychology, such as Erikson and Piaget, offer insights into what a child can reasonably be expected to process at various levels of development. While there is often a perceived conflict between psychology and theology, this study combines the two fields of study. A proper understanding of a child’s cognitive and psychological development can prove of great value to the pastor. A pastor need not undergo extensive psychological training to properly counsel a child, but a basic understanding of the cognitive and psychological development of a child will enable the pastor to more effectively communicate with the child and guide him through this process. Once the scriptural and cognitive psychological foundations are laid, this study turns, in chapter 4, to a basic discussion of soteriological matters, to ensure that there is no confusion as to what the various terms are referencing. In chapter 5, all of this information allows the development of certain signposts of development for which a pastor can watch. Children should be seen as candidates for conversion. The pastor who is able to properly analyze the child’s development can then effectively consider how to minister to the child in this most crucial of moments. This study aids the pastor in that pursuit and informs the pastor on how he should proceed through the process of counseling a child in the matter of salvation.