Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 05/30/2009 by Bob Kellemen.
Recommended. A highly recommended antidote to the dumb-downed, frills, and cotton-candy approach so prevalent in American Evangelicalism today.
When someone like Bruce Ware, professor of Christian theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and 2009 President of the Evangelical Theological Society, writes a book on theology, I take notice. When he writes it for parents and children—my interest is truly sparked.
Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God is a modern-day Evangelical catechism. Ware’s purpose is to equip parents to raise their children to know and love God through raising them to know and love theology. How sad that such a goal seems so foreign in so many Christian circles today.
In many ways, as indicated by the precious foreword written by Ware’s young-adult daughters, Big Truths for Young Hearts is the “Theology 101” he taught (and modeled and lived) for and in front of his daughters. He’s just graciously sharing it with the rest of us. There is no grander testimony than their words, “Dad really believes the things that are in this book. His theology shapes the way he lives, as we have seen many times." There is no greater parental challenge than their challenge to us: “To parents: it may sound cliché, but we followed our father’s teaching in part because he practiced what he preached. Like all children, we needed to look up and see our parents looking up at a great God who has great things in store for those who love him."
Ware’s own testimony about the origin of the book mirrors his daughter’s memories. From the time they were toddlers, he tried creatively to teach them the same theology sequence he was teaching his seminary students. Ware has crafted his two-decade-long instruction of his girls into a theology book for parents and children.
The book covers the classic core doctrines of systematic theology. (Shh. Just don’t tell the children the “theological terms” in the parentheses below!)
Chapter One: God’s Word (Bibliology) and God’s Own Life (Theology Proper)
Chapter Two: God As Three in One (Trinitarian Theology)
Chapter Three: Creator and Ruler of All (Theology Proper, The Sovereignty and Glory of God)
Chapter Four: Our Human Nature (Anthropology) and Our Sin (Hamartiology)
Chapter Five: Who Jesus Is (Christology)
Chapter Six: The Work Jesus Has Done (Christology/Soteriology)
Chapter Seven: The Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)
Chapter Eight: Our Great Salvation (Soteriology, Election, Sanctification)
Chapter Nine: The Church of Jesus Christ (Ecclesiology)
Chapter Ten: What Will Take Place in the End (Eschatology)
Big Truths for Young Hearts is meant to be read together—parents and children. Each chapter is like a series of brief “theology devotionals,” each about three pages in length, and each concluding with "Questions for Thought" and memory verses.
Frankly, as I read each chapter, I kept thinking, “Now this is how theology should be taught to adults and to seminary students!” And I’m a seminary professor who teaches a class on theology for biblical counseling. In other words, any adult, no matter how well schooled in Evangelical theology, could and would benefit from this book. The book is beautifully written, Bible-saturated, Christ-centered, creatively-illustrated (word-pictures), and theologically-comprehensive.
As a parent of two adult children, and as a parent who attempted to do similar training with our children, I repeatedly asked myself, “At what ages would this book ‘work’”? The reading level is likely best suited for the late elementary to the young adult. I would imagine that most children—toddler through fourth grade—might have somewhat of a difficult time staying with the reading.
I was a little surprised that the book did not include “Instructions for Parents.” This excellent book could benefit from a “Parents’ Manual” which could give parents ideas for how to “teach” and not just “read” these truths. What creative methods might a parent use? How could a parent best engage a child in the material? What personal life applications could parents and children discuss? How could parents apply the Deuteronomy 6 principle of “throughout the day” inculcation of truth applied to life? Big Truths for Young Hearts is a “what to teach book” (and does it extremely well). It is not, per se, a “how to teach” book. Perhaps a companion training book is in the works.
That said, Big Truths for Young Hearts is still a tremendous book for adults, young adults, middler schoolers, and high schoolers. It is an excellent book for parents to explore and apply with their pre-teens and teens. It would make a fine Sunday School book for teachers in grades 5th through Senior Saints! Youth groups, small groups, and homeschooling groups all will find Big Truths for Young Hearts very attractive, informative, and beneficial.