Can I start this review with the story of how Big Truths for Young Hearts came to be? It’s origin is in the bedside discussions Bruce Ware had with his two daughters when they were children.
“I began,” Ware writes, “in those early years spending ten to fifteen minutes with each of our daughters at their bedside, going through the doctrines of the Christian faith.” What he was doing was teaching them the same systematic theology he taught at seminary, but gearing it toward his children. His daughters are now adults, and they encouraged their father to write a book based on his bedtime talks with them, so he did.
The result a good gift to the church, especially to parents who wish to teach the faith to their children. As far as I know, there is nothing else like it—a systematic theology for children. There are, of course, children’s catechisms, but catechisms focus more on what is so and less on why it is so. A systematic theology gives us the reasons and tells us how everything fits together. If your kids are like mine were, they want to know the reasoning behind the doctrines, and that’s what you’ll provide when you read this book to them.
Big Truths for Young Hearts contains six sections—Bibliology through Eschatology—but with child-friendly titles instead of the technical theological terms. The section that contains Bibiology and Theology Proper, for instance, is called God’s Word and God’s Own Life as God. (You’ll find a quote from that section here.) Each section has six short chapters, two or three pages each, explaining and defending a doctrinal truth, finishing up with two questions for discussion and a memory verse or two.
There may be a few places, depending on your own viewpoint, where you will disagree with what Ware teaches. He is baptistic, for instance, so if you are a paedobaptist, you’ll disagree with some of what he writes on baptism, but I think you’ll find he is fair in his explanation of your view.
Many believe that the infants of believers should be baptized by sprinkling them with water—this is called infant baptism or paedobaptism. This is meant to show that they are part of the community of those who believe in Christ, even though they still must personally trust Christ later in life to be saved….[L]et’s be gracious with those of a different practice, and yet let’s work to understand and follow as best we can what the Bible teaches. Baptism matters, to be sure. But the truth that baptism points to matters even more. Our hope is in Christ, who died and rose for our salvation. Praise be to Jesus, the only true Savior of sinners.
That’s even-handed, don’t you think?
I asked the commenters here their opinion on the right age for this book and a couple of them were already reading it to children 6-8 years old with good success. If I were to give a minimum age where I’d expect most children to understand all of the content, I’d go with an age a little older than that—9 or 10, perhaps. Children a few years younger will probably understand enough of the content to justify purchasing the book and choosing appropriate sections to read.
But here’s the thing: This book is good for everyone. I enjoyed reading it for myself and I’m not exactly a newbie to the doctrines of Christianity. If you hid the cover of the book and changed a few of the illustrations, this would make an excellent resource for teaching teens, young adults or even older adults. There are, you know, more than a few believers who don’t know the basics of Christian doctrine, which is why I’d like to see Bruce Ware edit the content of Big Truths for Young Hearts a little and publish it as a simple theology for adults.
Big Truths for Young Hearts gets the highest recommendation I’ve given a book in a long time. (The last book I’ve recommended this highly might be the only other book by Ware that I’ve read—his Father, Son and Holy Spirit.) If you have kids 10 or up, you need this book. Even if you are confident in your knowledge of theology and your ability to explain it to your children, I’m betting you’ll find Ware’s explanations helpful to you. If you teach Sunday School to upper elementary aged kids, you’ll want this book for reference. If you teach youth, you would probably find this book useful as well.
Besides the quote linked above, I’ve posted these quotes from this book:
You need to know that, as with most of the books I review, I received this one as a freebie in return for my review of it. And as always, I tried not to let that influence my review. In addition, if you click on the image of the book above, you’ll go to the page at Monergism Books where you can purchase this book. If you do, or if you purchase anything else after clicking through my site, I receive a small commission which I put toward the purchase of more books.