The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New

IMG_2658 by Marty Machowski, illustrated by Andy McGuire

This is another book of all of God’s story, but with the purpose of introducing children to systematic theology in the consideration of the whole of scripture. A storybook for children about systematic theology?? I had the same response and that was why I could not resist reading this book.

Marty Machowski begins with the person of God and his existence outside of time. He moves through the attributes of God to Creation, then Sin, the Promise and the Law, the saving power of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, adoption into God’s family, change, the church, end times, and God’s Word. Whew! It is a very thorough introduction for any child who might be so inclined to learn more about the meaning of God’s story for all of creation and especially him or herself.

Andy McGuire’s simple illustrations seem wonderfully paired with such a dense work of literature. Scripture verses float around the outside of the illustrations to give the reader somewhere to go directly in scripture that connects with the theme of the particular aspect of theology.

IMG_2661

I do believe and have known some young children who have really deep theological questions and for them and their families this book may be a treasure trove...

While I appreciated this book’s desire to lay a strong foundation of theological understanding in our children’s minds and hearts, I had a hard time imagining a child that would seriously engage with the book itself. I do believe our children can understand theology. As a matter of fact, I actually believe that sometimes our children understand more simply and purely concepts of theology that many of us as adults have particular difficulty grasping. I believe that children “do theology” all the time (more on that in another blog post)! However, I’m not sure they come to it with a book on their lap spelling out the specifics. I’m more a believer in the idea of storytelling.

The Ology makes a feeble effort at story on its beginning pages as it lays the premise that this book was found in the church cellar by a little boy and girl named Timothy and Carla and magically the words within were revealed to them. From there the book launches into the foundations of Christian theology with only a cursory return to Carla and Timothy. Hardly, a storybook.

I appreciated that most of the theology seemed broad enough to encompass Christians from many denominational backgrounds though some of its attempts lean more to the Armenian line of thinking about salvation than a Calvinistic one. Illustrations of concepts such as justification, faith, atonement and other particularly challenging theological themes abound and in this respect can be helpful to a parent or caregiver who wants to explain something to a child in terms they can understand.

I do believe and have known some young children who have really deep theological questions and for them and their families this book may be a treasure trove, but I don’t think it’s a must have. I think we should always be careful when we try to provide children with just the “right” answer to their deep spiritual questions. This book should be used carefully when helping children understand God. Systematic theology isn’t the last word on our children’s spiritual journey. It can be a useful tool. The Ology is important because it acknowledges that all children can be, and I believe are, theologians, but it falls short in providing the engaging story that will draw children and adults into the deep, deep love of the Father which is truly the foundation for meaningful, life-changing theology, the study of God.

- Traci Hoover, Blacknall Director of Elementary Children’s Ministries