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Book List Catechism Reformed Reads for Kids Theology

Book List: Systematic Theology for Children

Whenever someone would ask about how they are to teach theology to their children, my first instinct is to tell them to teach catechism. The next thing is to ask your pastor or elders about how to teach it faithfully. Not many realize that the first step to teaching theology is by guiding children to put the catechism questions and answers into memory at the earliest possible time. How soon, you may ask? The moment children are starting to learn how to speak is the best time to start with catechism. We teach children rhymes and silly songs anyway. Why not give the best possible teaching when children are the most eager to learn how to communicate? Let them speak God’s truth as soon as they are able by providing them with Scripture and catechism, theological categories that will arm them for life. After all, the Psalmist exclaims, “Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength…” (Psalm 8:2, ESV) I also write about recovering the lost art of catechism over here, if you’re interested to learn more.

Perhaps what parents actually mean when they ask about theology, is that they are seeking for a curriculum to guide them through the catechism. Not many understand how to teach it, especially when tricky questions pop up from time to time. The remedy for this is to find a faithful local church that preaches the Gospel and trains parents to be the main teachers of Bible and theology to their children at home. Nevertheless, this is not the case for many. So I have done the next best thing by rounding up a few items to help parents who do not know where to start.

But first, let me try to define some terms before we get to the resources:

  • Theology quite literally means that the study of God. Each one of us has a working theology, which is how we view God and how God relates to everything else.
  • Systematic Theology is a study of God in a more orderly manner, dividing up doctrines into different sections or systems, which contributes to our overall understanding of God, God’s Word and God’s world. So a systematic theology would go through different topics such as, theology proper (that is the doctrine of God), theology of sin, theology of salvation, etc.
  • Doctrine means teaching. Doctrine is anything that is taught about a certain topic.
  • Catechism is an old teaching tool or pedagogy using the means of questions and answers to teach and train students about a certain material or doctrine.

Now that we have those sorted out, here are some of the materials you could use to teach systematic theology, beginning with the littlest ones at home.

Disclosure: I only recommend books or products I use myself. All opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission.

Big Truths for Little Kids

by Susan Hunt and Richie Hunt

Big Truths for Little Kids: Teaching Your Children to Live for God (Crossway Books, 1999) by Susan and Richie Hunt has been one of the earliest resources that I have acquired and used with my own children. Each chapter begins with a number of questions and answers from the First Catechism, a story that brings the catechism to life through Caleb and Cassie’s day-to-day experiences, and it ties it all up with discussion questions at the end, along with a suggestion on how to pray.

WHO IS IT FOR

Toddlers and Pre-K Students

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT IT

It is a gentle introduction to theology. Parents could choose to help children memorize the catechism, or not. But you could get the fruit of this resource the fullest by helping children memorize the catechism. Another thing that I like from a Presbyterian point of view is that it acknowledges covenant baptism and explains it clearly to small covenant children, making it a very rare resource, I would say. Here’s an excerpt from the book to give you a glimpse of the conversation:

“Why were Cassie and I baptized as babies?”

“Well, Caleb,” explained his mom, “some churches do not baptize until a person is older, but we believe that baptism is a sign and seal of God’s covenant to be our God and the God of our children. When you were baptized, that did not mean that you would automatically become a believer. You did not even know what was happening… But it did mean that you are part of a covenant family. By having you baptized, Daddy and I were saying that we know you were a sinner and that you needed Jesus to be your Savior. We are saying that we trusted Him to one day give you a new heart so that you would repent of your sin and trust Jesus to be your Savior. We promised to teach you about God. And the other members of our church promised to help us teach you about the Lord Jesus.”

Aside from this clear explanation, Big Truths for Little Kids is also 2C-compatible, which means that it does not try to portray the persons of the Trinity in any manner. The timeless truths laid out in the book still remain relevant even though it has been published many years ago.

WHAT I DON’T LIKE ABOUT IT

My first impression about the stories is that the children are both at their utmost best behavior. Do not get me wrong, the stories reveal how they fall into sin and temptation at times. But the way they react to problems could be seen as ideal at every turn. But I later realized that this is how godly children should operate in a covenantal home where the redeeming work of the Gospel is seen and experienced. It actually provides a wonderful picture of how Christians should operate in God’s world. All in all, that could be a good thing when you see it in that light. So in a sense, the stories bring theology to life—a sobering goal that we must all, both young and old, strive for in this life.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Ology

by Marty Machowski

If there is one book that I often see getting recommended in Christian circles, it is The Ology: Ancient Truths, Ever New (New Growth Press, 2015) by Marty Machowski. It has garnered this acclaim because it provides an excellent format for teaching theology (the ology) at home. It offers different topics such as the ology of God, of sin, of the Promise and the Law, of Christ, etc. There is a Glossary at the back, as well as a list of questions to guide parents in tackling theological questions. The Ology also offers an answer key with Scriptural references to help point to Biblical support for the doctrines in question.

WHO IS IT FOR

The parent guide in the book recommends it to the early elementary students (ages 6-9) and to upper elementary students (ages 10-12). But it is also helpful for both teens and adults.

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT IT

The Ology is great for families with children of different stages. It could well work as a systematic theology or Bible curriculum for your homeschool because it provides Scriptural texts to support each doctrine. Likewise, it could serve as an introduction to theology, especially to parents who did not grow up learning these truths from their youth. I love that it tackles doctrines such as election in a winsome manner, that even those who would otherwise have a distaste for theology, would find it a welcome resource. Machowski’s way of writing does not talk down on children at all or undermines their intelligence. Instead, it offers a clear and concise explanation for each portion or topic. The caring and thoughtful tone all throughout the book is apparent. I believe it to be a must-have in a Christian home library. It will later prove to be a resource you would be referring to ever so often. The Ology is also 2C-compatible, which means that it does not try to portray the persons of the Trinity in any manner.

WHAT I DON’T LIKE ABOUT IT

If your children have learned catechism before they started going through The Ology, they would find that the contents either reiterate the catechism teachings or find that their catechism offers a better explanation over all, which is exactly what happened to my children. The Ology is great for beginners. But it would be good to find materials with considerable depth in order to serve a growing appetite for godly truths in theology, if that’s where your children are at.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Leading Little Ones to God

by Marian M. Schoolland

Leading Little Ones to God: A Child’s Book of Bible Teachings (Eerdman, 1981) by Marian M. Schoolland has been a Christian classic because it has served generations of parents and Sunday School teachers by providing an orderly format in teaching the Bible. Each chapter contains the lesson proper, some questions to help with discussion, Scriptural texts for further reading and study, a suggested hymn to sing, or a prayer to close the day’s lesson.

WHO IS IT FOR

This resource could work for an early to upper aged elementary level.

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT IT

Leading Little Ones to God offers scripted lessons which is always fantastic, particularly for parents or teachers who aren’t endowed with extraversion. It’s an open-and-go curriculum which makes it a ready resource for those who want a quick guide for each topic. I also love that it offers a variety of themes. It does not only offer basic theology lessons, but it also provides teaching on practical Christian living, making it a well-rounded material for your home or Sunday school. No wonder it has been a go-to resource for decades. It may not be distinctly Reformed in theology, but the lessons are conservatively Evangelical in general.

WHAT I DON’T LIKE ABOUT IT

While the illustrations are big and colorful, characterized with a vintage aesthetic, there are some pictures of Jesus in several of the chapters in this book. This resource may not work in your favor if you are careful about honoring the second commandment. There are some things in the book that I could easily let go, except for one thing that I noticed in Chapter 32 about “Jesus Came from Heaven,” as it tackles the incarnation of God. What I did not like was the statement in page 69 where it states, “Adam and Eve were wonderful; they were made in God’s likeness. But sin came and spoiled it all. God felt sorry about the sorrow and trouble that came after that.” (emphasis mine) I am quite particular about using anthropomorphism in teaching the Bible. Thus, I avoid it when it is not explicit taught in Scripture, such as this case, because it may not portray a faithful witness to God’s attributes overall. You will certainly not miss a lot, if you don’t go through this book. Perhaps there are better theological resources that are available now. Having said that, however, Leading Little Ones could serve as a reference for hymn suggestions in your library.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Emblems of the Infinite King

by J. Ryan Lister

One book that I’ve seen circulating locally is the Emblems of the Infinite: King Enter the Knowledge of the Living God (Crossway, 2019) by J. Ryan Lister. I was curious to see why it made a lot of rounds especially since it really wasn’t on my radar until recently. At first look, the book design is highly impressive, which made me even curious to buy a copy for myself.

WHO IS IT FOR

The format could appeal to upper elementary aged children up to early high school teens.

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT IT

The design by illustrator Anthony M. Benedetto is utterly impressive. The gold foiling which clads the cover as well as the gilded edges make it appear to be an important book to behold. It reminds me so much of Peter Voth‘s style which has become a mainstay in modern Reformed circles. I appreciate how Dr. Lister worked hard to make theology accessible to younger readers. And I love that he introduces the idea of the small letter c catholic in the book. I reckon that that is one doctrine that is often neglected today.

WHAT I DON’T LIKE ABOUT IT

There are times when I feel like the book tries too hard to make theology approachable that some of the details become muddled with the poetic attempts, e.g. the gift of the keys, Death Killer, Door of Conversion, Stairs of Sanctification, etc. Perhaps my biggest disagreement is how the book explains baptism as “the God-designed megaphone the church uses to announce to the world that the faith-filled’s loyalty lies with the King.” The Reformed believe that God makes the covenant to His people and is the one who announces (not the recipient) the covenant promises when the sign and seal of baptism is placed upon His children. The book also has a number of portrayals of the persons of the Trinity, which makes it not a 2C-compatible resource.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Big Beliefs!

by David R. Helm

If there is one systematic theology resource that checks all the points in my book, it is Big Beliefs!: Small Devotionals Introducing Your Family to Big Truths (P&R Publishing, 2016) edited by David R. Helm. It may not have been on your radar because it is so unassuming, but it packs a big punch. It is basically a family devotional based on the chapters of the Westminster Confession of Faith with discussion questions at the end of each lesson. It does not get more systematic than studying the Westminster confession, arguably the highest point of Reformed confessional theology.

WHO IS IT FOR

Because it is designed to work for the whole family, Big Truths! can appeal to smaller children (early elementary aged children) all the way up to high school students or teenagers.

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT IT

It is a confessionally grounded and doctrinally faithful resource without the risk of dumbing down theology. Each devotional or lesson is short enough to keep small children’s attention, but deep enough to interact with older children. With suggested Bible reading before the start of the lesson, it might just be one of the near perfect Family Worship resources when you have mixed aged kids in tow. It is so simple to use, that dad (or mom) could pick it up and start as you go. It does not have second commandment concerns, because it presents no illustrations at all.

WHAT I DON’T LIKE ABOUT IT

Perhaps the strengths of this material could also be its weakness. It does not offer pictures or illustrations so the multi-modal presentation is out of the picture here, pun intended. Sometimes I feel that the material is too short. While the message clearly explains the doctrine, I find the need to look for more examples at times in order to facilitate more discussions. But I figured that I could open up and read the portion of the confession of faith that is being discussed in the devotional, which may (or not) garner more questions and comments along the way.

Rating: 5 out of 5.


Have you used any of these resources? What you do think? Is there anything you would like to add ?

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