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The Mystery of the Child (Religion, Marriage, and Family) [Hardcover]

By Martin E. Marty (Author)
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Item description for The Mystery of the Child (Religion, Marriage, and Family) by Martin E. Marty...

Much of today's literature 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 to someone who is the object of control by adults. 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. Encourages the thoughtful enjoyment of children instead of the imposition of adult will and control. 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. Engages anyone wanting to explore more fully the profound realm of the child.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Pages   257
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.46" Width: 6.62" Height: 0.97"
Weight:   1.23 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Apr 30, 2007
Series  Religion Marriage And Family  
ISBN  0802817661  
ISBN13  9780802817662  

Availability  0 units.

More About Martin E. Marty

Martin E. Marty Martin Emil Marty (b. February 5, 1928, West Point, Nebraska) is an American Lutheran religious scholar who has written extensively on American religion. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1956, and served as a Lutheran pastor from 1952 to 1962 in the suburbs of Chicago. From 1963 to 1998 he taught at the University of Chicago Divinity School and latterly held an endowed chair (the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professorship). Marty's doctoral advisees at the University of Chicago included such religious scholars as James R. Lewis, Jeffrey Kaplan, Jonathan M. Butler, and Vincent Harding, as well as Shimer College president Susan Henking.

Marty served as president of the American Academy of Religion, the American Society of Church History, and the American Catholic Historical Association. He was the founding president and later the George B. Caldwell Scholar-in-Residence at the Park Ridge Center for the Study of Health, Faith, and Ethics. He has served on two U. S. Presidential Commissions and was director of both the Fundamentalism Project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Public Religion Project at the University of Chicago (sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts). He has served St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota since 1988 as Regent, Board Chair, Interim President in late 2000, and now as Senior Regent.

Marty retired after his seventieth birthday and now holds emeritus status at the University of Chicago; he additionally served as Robert W. Woodruff Visiting Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Emory University 2003–2004. Widower of Elsa and married now to Harriet, he has seven children (including two who joined the family as foster children), among whom are Minnesota State Senator John Marty and Rev. Peter Marty, who is currently the host of the ELCA radio ministry Grace Matters.

Martin E. Marty currently resides in the state of Illinois. Martin E. Marty was born in 1928 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Professor Univ. of Chicago Divinity School in Illinois Emeritus, Univ..

Martin E. Marty has published or released items in the following series...
  1. American Circumstance
  2. Company of Strangers Ppr
  3. Emory University Studies in Law and Religion
  4. Exploring Christian Faith
  5. Lives of Great Religious Books
  6. Modern American Religion
  7. Penguin American Library
  8. Penguin Lives Biographies

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Children's Studies
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Social Work
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > General

Christian Product Categories
Books > Christian Living > Relationships > Family Concerns

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Mystery of the Child (Religion, Marriage, and Family)?

An excellent read  Feb 20, 2010
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'"
Much needed work on children  Feb 9, 2010
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.
Marty's Book Explores Mysteries of the Child  Oct 9, 2009
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.
The Mystery of the Child  Dec 27, 2008
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.
The Mystery of the Child  Nov 11, 2007
Martin Marty challenges the reader to reflect at deeper levels the state of the child in the 21st century. I found the book to be highly engaging and thought provoking.

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