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Philipp Otto Runge, detail, The Morning

Every Child Is a Thought of God

The Secret at the Heart of Education

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When we receive a little child from God, a soul is entrusted to humankind from eternity. No matter how often this happens, each time it is a powerful event, something unbelievably great.

We love little children because Jesus loved them. And from him we know that the kingdom of God belongs to them – in fact, that the kingdom is nearer to them than to the millions of adults.

Seen in this light, educa­tion is no arbitrary molding of a child, as the unbeliev­ing world imagines. We cannot shape or form our children however we like, according to our own preferences. If we are to serve them rightly, we will form them only according to the way God has already thought of them.

Every child is a thought of God. We can only perform the service of education when we understand the thought of God for each child – a thought that God has had in eternity, and still has, and will always have just for this child. This thought of God is the holy “So be it” for this child.

God knows what each child is intended to become. It is the task of the parents, the church, and the educators to help this child become just what he or she should be, in accordance with the original thought of God. Through a reli­gious sensitivity, we must attain a vision of this thought of God, which is still apparently hidden, and must learn to understand it more clearly from moment to moment, from day to day, from year to year. Then the forming of the child will not be something we undertake ourselves; rather, our role will consist solely in assisting in the formation intended by God. That is the secret of this task.

It is the same in our relationship with every individual adult. We must see each human being just as he or she is intended in the heart of God, in the holy purpose of his “So be it.” Above all, we must wish for each person that he or she is integrated into the ultimate thoughts of God, so that God’s final will may be revealed among humankind: that is, the church and the kingdom of the complete unity of Jesus Christ.

We thus bear a crucial responsibility to live in reverence for the Holy Spirit. This is true for all aspects of the church’s life, but it applies in an especially holy sense to the bringing up of children. Reverence for the Holy Spirit means reverence for the father, who is to represent Christ as the God-given head; reverence for the mother, who is to represent Christ in the like­ness of Mary and the church; and reverence for the child and for the wonderful mystery of being a child and becoming a child.


From remarks at the dedication of a newborn, September 30, 1934. Translated by Nicoline Maas. www.eberhardarnold.com

 Detail from The Morning by Philipp Otto Runge Philipp Otto Runge, The Morning (detail)
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Contributed By Eberhard Arnold Eberhard Arnold

Eberhard Arnold was a theologian, educator, publisher, and community leader.

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