Thursday, February 10, 2011

Apologetics for Children

My last post alluded to the book I'm going to review today.  One of the first questions I ponder when I begin writing a book review is :Who is the intended audience?  My second question is whether or not I think the intended audience is the best audience for this book, or if I would recommend it to a more specific audience.  That question is the crux of this review.

Book to be reviewed:  Who is God? And Can I Really Know Him?  by John Hay and David Webb, published by Apologia

From the description of the book's publicity materials:  "the audience is children ages 6 to nondenominational in content and is suitable for families belonging to any evangelical or mainline church."

From my perspective, the best audience for this book is families who are attending nondenominational churches who have children who are 10-13 years old.  I would not recommend this book to:  families who attend denominational churches or with younger children, unless you are able to read the book ahead of time and selectively read sections to your children.  It is very difficult to write a book for such a wide age range, like 6-14, because 6 year olds do not understand what 14 year olds do.  It is also often inappropriate to discuss topics that are appropriate for 14 year olds with 6 year olds.  They are not able yet to understand such difficult concepts and ideas.  It can be confusing and upsetting.  I have several friends who attend nondenominational churches.  I think they would like this book a lot.

The theme of this book is to examine the central, core essentials of the Christian faith.  It is essentially a book of apologetics for children.  I believe it is important to note that this book would be best used to encourage and strengthen a child's faith.  But, apologetics do not lead a child to faith in God--We cannot reason our way to faith in God.  There must be a step of faith.  As Ravi Zacharias has said, "God has put enough into this world to make faith in him a most reasonable stance, but He has left enough out to make it impossible to live by reason alone.”

The topics covered in this book are the Truth and how we can know what's true (I did think this was a wonderful explanation), what God is like, who the trinity is, why there is sin in the world, why God created us, will God take care of us, and if Jesus is the only way to God.  I think many kids have these questions and this book answers these questions better than others I've read.  The book itself is a large textbook with great formatting and wonderful, real pictures that bring the stories to life.  It will be much easier for children not to dismiss the stories as simply fictional because of the photographs.

If you attend a denominational church, I wouldn't recommend this book.  Though the authors strove to write this book in a way that would relate to all Christians, there are some key differences among what believers do believe--that is why there are denominations.  When I read Everything a Child Should Know About God by Kenneth Taylor several years ago, I felt that it would be helpful for all believers.  It did not go into many doctrines of the faith that are taught differently in different denominations.  This book verges on going there because of the perspective that it is written from.  The issues I am referring to are free will vs. predestination (this issue isn't talked about, but rather affects how much emphasis is put on one's will); how much emphasis is put on grace and how much is put on obedience and works; and what you believe about how someone comes to know God (free will and the sinner's prayer or by God's grace that worked in one's heart).  I suppose all three of the things I just listed all come back to the ramifications of what one believes about free will and predestination.

My husband's concerns with this book are specifically the perspective the authors have towards the world in their introduction and in how they teach children philosophy in the worldview sections.  He works almost entirely with people who don't believe in God.  They are smart, educated people.  If a young college graduate were to enter his office and begin scoffing at what the other workers did over the weekend, think that they are dumb for believing whatever they do, or mock what they believe, they would build up some significant walls.  It would prevent them from loving their coworkers well.  We are to love both our friends and our enemies, as Jesus calls us to.  We do need to stand up to evil and proclaim the truth.  But, it crucial to speak this truth in love.  In the introduction, the idea is alluded to that if more people in our country believed a Christian worldview it would be more influential in swaying people through the media, entertainment, education, and business sector.  My husband struggled with this belief because as he explained to me--our goal is also not to create heaven on earth--it is to proclaim the truth of the gospel and glorify god.   My husband's feeling is that we do a disservice to our children and leave them illequipped to handle challenges to their faith when we portray other faiths and beliefs like evolution and completely rediculous.  His preference would be rather to simply give our children a strong grounding in their faith and leave the door open to discussion when they come across views and opinions that challenge what they believe.  As they walk through these challenges to their faith, their faith will become their own and will be strengthened depending on how they and we, as their parents, respond.  

This has been a difficult book for me to review.  I do not want to be divisive, but rather respectful about differing views.  I hope that I have done that.  If you attend a nondenominational church, this series may be a good fit for your homeschooling Bible curriculum.  It is the first of four books, each addressing aspects of living life as a Christian.  I think the idea behind the series is wonderful.  It is the execution that my husband struggled with.  This book may be one that has a lot of great stuff in it that you filter through before you present to your children.  I would caution homeschoolers about introducing the worldview sections to their children before they are old enough to understand philosophy and before they believe in God.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Apologia Press.

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